Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Answer Me This {Vol 7}

Linking up with Kendra for Answer Me This!

1.  Beach or mountains?  Where would you rather be?

Beach. I love the mountains - my brother lived in Colorado for several years and it was always a great adventure to visit, but give me some sand and water. The closest beaches to is are lakes, the ocean is a plane flight or 15-20 hour roadtrip. 

2. Which is more fun: Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? 

I love Christmas morning. Long ago when we got married, Hubby and I set aside Christmas morning for us and our future children. We run to families and mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas afternoon/evening, but Christmas morning is pancakes, pajamas and presents. 

We celebrate the late night Christmas Eve mass, which is so beautiful and we go to bed sleepy and excited for the next day's festivities. 

3.  What's the most embarrassing childhood outfit you remember wearing? 

I can't remember being embarrassed by anything I wore at the time I wore it. But I grew up in the '90's and looking back, I've got plenty of cringe-worthy moments. Although most of them revolve around my naturally curly hair being permed to even greater volumes. It was so awesome :)

4.  Your house is quiet, you don't have to work (housework included). What do you do? 

Blog. Read blogs. 

Read a book. (Did you read Haley's latest? Great read. Because Catholic wives need to get back to reclaiming the sacrament of our marriage. It doesn't belong to Hollywood or Playboy.) 

Watch episodes of Once Upon a Time on HuluPlus. 

5.  What movie do you want to watch when you're feeling under the weather? 

I have been teased for the number of times I've watched Notting Hill. 

I really like to marathon watch tv shows when I don't feel well. 

6.  Did you have an American Girl doll when you were little?  If so, which one?

No, but I did get the catalog and dream about which one I would get every time the catalog came in the mail. Red hair and blue eyes is not so common - which is why my mom's 1960's red headed Skipper doll was my very favorite. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If I Never Have Another

Molly said something so great this morning.  As I prepared to head out to the gym at 5:30 this morning, I stopped by Facebook to read the feed and found her latest post.  Luckily, it was early, so no one could see me nodding my head as I read.

She just hit the center of it.  It all centers around that phrase, "so long as he/she's healthy".  I wrote about my heart opening past only taking the "perfect" ones, but Molly's take really resonated with me.

Because, there is a different kind of healthy for those of us who have lost a baby during pregnancy.  I still want a healthy baby.  God forgive me my flaws, I know life would be easier with a normal functioning child, and I'm in a place where I trust God with any differences my child might have, but I'll never feel "ready" for it.  Needing to box my kids up in bubbles because of allergies seems to be as close as God has called me so far, but I pray for an open heart.

Still, there's a different kind of healthy I pray for.  The kind that gets born.  The kind that grows and grows.  The kind that lets me meet him/her in this world, to revel in their existence here.  I have not mastered the level of holiness/detachment that would allow me to completely celebrate the soul, whether born here or in heaven. 

When I say I just want a healthy baby; I'll know you're hearing what my heart (and many of us who have experienced loss) means:  I want to meet him/her.  I want the gift of parenting this child.  I want to celebrate a birth without a burial. 

Thinking about loss, pregnancy, and the like today got me thinking about my current standings with fertility and NaProTechnologies.  Last month, I was diagnosed with VERY low progesterone levels. 

I was put on injections of HCG, which have restored my hormone levels to the appropriates natural shifts that occur throughout the month.  The doctor expects me to be pregnant imminently.  She was so optimistic based on my levels, she pushed my follow-up back 3 months!

So, now I'm standing in a doorway, and I'm praying it leads to healthy babies; the kind I get to hold.  My prayer life is eloquent, lemme tell ya'.  About a hundred times a day, I direct this prayer to God, His mother, and the saints:  "Twins.  Twins.  Twins."  I'm the equivalent of the toddler hanging on your leg asking, "why". 

As I stand here on the threshold, I know there's a chance I will have a baby.  There's a chance I will have more than one baby (my tests show very high estrogen, which is causing perhaps multiple ovulations each month).  There's a chance I will never carry a child again.  That's a real chance.  I acknowledge it.

But, here's the thing.  Even if I never have another baby, Creighton was good, being open to life, seeking to bring new life into the world; it was all worth it. 

My doctor told me my risk of breast cancer was very high with the imbalance in my hormones.  Fixing that will bring the risk back down.  These injections have made me feel clear, energetic, and just able to get through the whole day pleasantly and productively.  Previously, doing anything after about 4pm seemed ridiculous because I was burnt out by then.  Now, I have the whole day to work with.

God is so good.  Even absent the gift of another child, seeking life brought me to a happier, healthier place in my own body.  What a beautiful thing.  If I never have another, it was still so worth it.  I have found time and time again that openness and giving my fiat yield unexpected gifts. 

Prayers for you, my friend as you discover the unexpected gifts.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Answer Me This {Vol. 6}

Kendra is taking in France, so Haley is hosting Answer Me This! 

1.  What's the scariest thing that's ever been in your backyard?

An angry, trapped raccoon.  It got stuck, I have no idea what happened after that...not my department.  We also once had a mama raccoon and 5 babies pull off the vent over our dormant chimney and make themselves at home.  The chimney base is next to the laundry and it was pretty creepy.

Animal control specialists had to come and tranquilize/kill them (once they get into a house, they keep doing it and they're dangerous).  I was listening to the guys work and, "reload, she's still climbing" was said.  That job is not my calling...could you imagine an angry raccoon coming at you while you try to tranquilize it?!?!

2.  Beards.  Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs in the middle?  I like beards for about 2-4 weeks, then Hubby's beard starts to gets a little out of hand for my tastes.  He's cute either way, but the 2 week look is probably my favorite:

The girls are beard fans.

3.  If stuff breaks, can you fix it?

If it's not mechanical or electronic, yes.  I can fix clothes, walls, splint bones, lots of random life skills, but don't ask me to fix your computer or car. *well, you can ask, but I won't*

4.  What was your first car?

Pontiac Grand Am GT.  I bought it myself when I was 19.

Not mine, but looks just like it.  Source.

5.  How often do you eat out?

Until the last year or so, it would've been about once or twice a year.  Now that finances are a little easier, about once or twice a month.  

6.  Why is your hair like that?

Really good genetics.  It's naturally red.  It's naturally curly.  No, I don't wish my hair was straight, or blonde, or brunette.  I like it just as it is.  It's awesome....and I have nothing to do with that.  I put very little effort into my hair, it just grows out of my head like that.  

It's okay, you can kinda hate me for it.....everyone that isn't struggling to lose 80lbs of weight is getting a little envy from me :) 

*blogging with my sister-in-law about our weight loss journeys over at Losing It with My Sisters.*

Thanks for hosting Haley!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Link About Losing It

My sister-in-law and I are documenting and supporting each other on our weight-loss journey.  If you'd like to follow along, stop over to Losing it With My Sisters.

The adventure begins today!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Answer Me This {Vol. 5}

Linking up with Kendra-don't-call-her-Kenny over at Catholic All Year for Answer Me This.

1.  What's for dinner?

Mother's Day dinner was takeout.  In the fridge right now, I have chicken, bacon and some other sundry ingredients that will be turned into something the people around here can consume this evening.

Tasted even better than it looked

2.  What's the last thing you borrowed from someone?

I have muffin tins sitting on top of my microwave that I need to return to my mom.

3.  What is your favorite prayer?

I have a propensity for anxiety.  My prayer to calm those rough moments is, "Jesus, I trust in You."  Over and over and over again until the prayer becomes a reality.

4.  What is the oldest thing in your house?

I was tempted to say Hubby, but then I remembered a couple antique pieces of furniture in my attic.  My great-grandmother's dresser and my great-grandfather's rocking chair.

5.  What's the best concert you ever attended?

Ummmmm......not really a concert goer.  I have a friend who is a local musician and have been to a few of her shows, they were pretty awesome :)

6.  Do you have a nickname?

A few.  I am named for the Virgin Mother and her mother.  I am also named after my mother, I have a sister with the same first name, and even when I got married, my MIL had the same first name.  I don't use my given name much at all. 

That's why you'll notice the name here is "Annery".  Not what my mom named me, but actually an old nickname from high school.  In my day-to-day interactions, most people call me Annie, which is also not my given name.  My brother calls me Anne Marie, also not my name.  My dad is the only person in the world allowed to call me Anna Banana....although, I think everyone could say it at least the one time if I won this from Conversion Diary:

7qt259 contest1 7 Quick Takes about your awesomeness, saints working through Youtube, and me buying you a banana suit
I've entered, now we're all crossing our fingers!

Any one of those nicknames is much more likely to get my attention in a crowded room than the name I sign to my checks :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{WWRW} Why SOTG Matters

Linking up with Jessica over at HousewifeSpice for another installment of What We're Reading Wednesday.

I suspect my reading looked very similar to many, many bloggers this week.

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It

No doubt you've seen many pictures of this book floating around the blogosphere.

If you've read any other reviews, you know this is the conversion story of Jennifer Fulwiler, blogger at Conversion Diary.  It is fantastically written.  Just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.  If I hadn't found this absolutely stunning, I would have quietly put it on the back of my shelf and not mentioned it.  But you need to know about this book.  Because, perhaps, something written here will strike you as it did me.

I'm not going to give away any spoilers here.  I know many books were delayed in the shipping and if that had been mine, I would be so disappointed to stumble across a spoiler on a favorite blog.

So, instead, I will tell you not only that you must read it, I will tell you why.

Jennifer's account is warm.  It grabs you from the first moment when she recounts an experience as an 11 year-old atheist.  From the position of a cradle Catholic, I've never been so effectively placed in the shoes of an atheist.  Jennifer got to me.  From the very center of my being, I cringed when she spoke of feeling ostracized by Christians. 

That's not how we're supposed to be.  But too often, we just don't spend enough time loving and learning about someone; we try to place them into our boxes. 

Jennifer describes her struggle with the finality and futility of life so honestly.  I was so deeply drawn into her story, that I felt shock and elation as she crept towards the Catholic Church.  I sobbed like a big baby when read the story of her baptism.  I could just feel the saints in heaven singing, and for every parent or grandparent that worries about the faith of their children/grandchildren, I felt a St. Monica moment over that baptism story.  Jennifer's grandparents HAD to be singing with the chorus of angels when they saw her come into the Church.

For all that I love conversion stories, this one was special.  It gave me a better understanding and new appreciation for the atheist perspective.  All my life, I have sorted it into the box of "unbelief".  Atheists were classified in my mental stores as lacking in a belief system.  While perhaps that is the case with some I've encountered, Jennifer showed me how good people could be so convinced; how there is a mental construct that centers focus elsewhere, rather than not having a focus at all.  That was my biggest gift in reading this story.  It grew my compassion and understanding.  It increased my ability to love.  It renewed my hope that there is always a way home, from any direction.

In seeing how Jennifer was loved and reasoned into the faith by articulate, intelligent Catholics, it also renewed my desire to grow in the understanding of my faith. 

What Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home is to the Protestant convert to Catholicism, Something Other Than God is to the Atheist.  It is the path, forged and shared, making the journey more relate-able for us all.

Friday, May 2, 2014

{7QTs} Books, Blog Posts, and Getting Me a Banana Suit!

Linking up with Conversion Diary for another dose of 7 Quick Takes:

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about your awesomeness, saints working through Youtube, and me buying you a banana suit

{1} I need a banana suit.  Jen is giving one lucky blogger one:

7qt259 contest1 7 Quick Takes about your awesomeness, saints working through Youtube, and me buying you a banana suit

{2}  I'm loving Something Other Than God!  I'm about halfway through it, and I'm already trying to figure out what the non-awkward way of giving it to family and friends who are questioning the faith.....IS there a non-awkward way?  Lemme know if you think of it, because I'm seriously considering a bulk order. 

That gift card would buy me 2 more copies of Something Other Than God - just saying.

{3}  Speaking of SOTG - I was a little irritated to wait a couple days past the release to get my pre-order, but after hearing how early Micaela pre-ordered and that she still didn't have it, I feel like I should maybe be binge reading my copy.  But, it's so good, I want to read it thoughtfully.  I'm finding particular pieces staying with me as I go about my day, and I'm enjoying mulling them over.

Although I am hiding out a bit more to get some reading in.

Don't rat me out - k?

{4}  Have you ever had one of those moments when you've cringed about pushing the "Publish" button?  Fumbling Towards Grace had one of those moments that she shared with us, and I'm so grateful she did.  It was beautifully written and reminded me of where I fit into a more peaceful, more loving world - because I do, we all do.

{5}  Then I hit "Publish" myself on something that seems to have hit a few people square in the heart.  No greater honor as a blogger than sharing something that feels a little scary and difficult and finding that God used those words to speak to someone's heart.  A few of my fellow bloggers shared the post, and it's now gone my version of viral - with nearly 10x the views as an average post.  So incredibly humbled that I was used as an instrument to say something that mattered to so many.

{6}  Do you know Kelly?  She has one of the best senses of humor ever.  Go dig around on her space, and start with the really strange costume.  Maybe she needs the banana suit more....

{7}  And now, are you ready to be totally annoyed at yourself for having succumbed to curiosity and listened to this?  Do it! Click on it!  My girls and I rock out to this in the car on our satellite radio.  While you watch it, picture a 30-something mom and two girls dancing at the stoplight next to you. 

*Note*  If shaking gummy bear butts offend your sensibilities, avert your eyes at 1:02 and 2:18....or just listen while you surf other things. 

You're welcome for the brain rot!  Have a wonderful weekend - special prayers for all those making a First Holy Communion this weekend, and all the mamas frantically preparing for such festivities!

Now, go stop by Jen's!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How to Stop Coveting Your Neighbor's Baby

I have been on both sides of the fertility fence.  Enough to know that evil put the fence there.  There shouldn't be a fence, but our wounded broken hearts create a division.

I have been struggling with infertility for seven years.  Throughout those years, I have also struggled in my friendships with friends of normal and high fertility.

It took me six years to have SP.  Six. Years.  During that time, I struggled with finding joy in the pregnancies of others. 

There is no adequate description for the amount of sorrow, suffering and trial that goes into that indefinite wait.  I didn't have a handbook that said it would end after six years.  Every day I woke up, faced with that insurmountable burden, made just bearable by having one child, and I would try to dig out of my self-pity long enough to thank God for her, and pray for those women going through primary infertility.

Something happened though, when I was pregnant with SP that changed my heart.  Someone stopped speaking to me while I was pregnant because she was suffering with infertility.  I had suddenly jumped the fence.  I was on the opposing team now, and I felt hurt and abandoned.  I knew in my heart that it really and truly wasn't about me.  Still, after SIX YEARS of waiting, how could there not be an ounce of joy for my miracle?

The real kicker was, I'd done that myself.  I'd distanced myself from expectant mothers when I was struggling with infertility.  In many ways, I felt abandoned by both camps on the fertility front.  

I have two living children.  I'm at the "two and through" number for most of the world.  But that doesn't mean it's any easier to wait on that next baby.  The longing increases with each day, and despondency and doubt have a chance to take root in those dark moments.  Secondary infertility counts too.

It also gives me a glimpse at both sides of this struggle.  Enough of a look to know we have to kick the damn fence down.  Some convictions are worth swearing about.

To the women weighed down by the oppressive darkness that is infertility, I ask you to do a few things.

First, recognize that in our fallen nature, jealousy and anger are natural feelings.  Do not beat yourself up over it, you've had enough pain without torturing yourself some more.  Be kind to yourself first.  If you need to hide a newsfeed or unfollow a blog so that you can make it through the day, do it.  Just don't stay gone for good.

That means the second thing you need to do is fight for joy.  Find one thing, just one thing that brings joy into your life and do it.  You've likely been a pin cushion and feel more like a medical experiment than a human at this point.  Do something that makes you smile and gets you up on your feet.  I write here.  Sharing my sorrow and joy in this way brings me peace.  Scheduling one outing/field trip/playdate a week with my girls also helps.

Find a fitness class, a pottery class, a poetry reading, anything that taps into a different part of you than your procreative side.  It's so easy to be wrapped up in your worth as it relates to your ability/inability to procreate when you're TTC.  Find something that has nothing to do with that.  Do it just because you can.  It'll help build up those pieces of you that are shattered and disappointed in your own body.

Find someone who has walked the path of infertility as well.  This might be in person or on a blog.  It is so healing and helpful to know that this is not just your struggle.  So many women have stood where you stand.  They can be that light, showing you that slowly your joy will return.  That pang may remain in your heart, but someday you'll delight in all manner of things again.

Once you have found ways to add joy back into your life, dip your toes back into those friendships that have been strained.  The greatest success I had was in finding ways to be of service to those with large families.  Is someone having a baby soon?  Make them a meal, knit a blanket, drop off a few groceries, anything to help.  Do it in small pieces that you can handle.  Pray for them.  Trust me, they're praying for you too.

Finally, and what I've found the most success with, fake it til you make it.  Seriously.  Sometimes actions need to proceed the feelings you'd like to have accompany them.  Smile and congratulate that mother having her xth child.  Delight in her gift, and remember, there is no finite supply of children.  Her child does nothing to affect your likelihood.  That little one isn't one out of your pile, even if you'd be more than willing to take them home, thank you very much!

Be a friend.  Be a helper.  Be you.  What has most effectively taken the sting out of other mother's large broods has been getting to know those women.  It has taken me from seeing their newest addition as a troubling reminder of my lacking to a reminder of God's promise.  He so wants to bless us.  If we're busy looking for a blessing that remains unfulfilled, we'll miss the ones raining out all over us.  Those large families have been my blessing, and the secret to helping to heal my heart in infertility.  Holding their babies still makes me long for more of my own, but it's been the best gift.

I know there is so much heartache accompanying infertility.  To be missing something so central to womanhood is excruciating.  But please, please, come back.  We need to make just as many steps towards removing that dividing line.  You have so much to offer, and your friendship is a blessing.  Let those mamas of many in.  Let them pray for you.  Let them be your comfort.  Let their babies be a gift that reminds you that God is so good.  So, so good.  As hard as it can be some days, those bonds will actually be what bring you back to life.  Celebrate life.  God has a beautiful plan for us, and we will not let evil steal our joy, even in the midst of sorrow.

To the women who want to support us in our struggles:

Please don't complain about your children to us.  We love you, we know you need to vent, please find someone who is equally yoked for that vent session.  We want to be a part of your life, we do.  We want to know how you are, and we want you to share your day with us, but sometimes that complaining comes off like ungratefulness for something we would die for.  It's not you, it's us.  We love you so much and know that there can be just as much "hardness" in being overwhelmed, but we're just a little fragile.  Be kind.  That being said, that hilarious story about your toddler's crazy antics, share away! 

Don't ever offer us a child in jest.  Seriously.  I'll take them.  I'll take them all.  We know that there's probably a child or two who can just hit that particular nerve of yours and you're ready to send them away with the circus, but we can't truly empathize with that sentiment.

I was once told it's better to have too few children than be overwhelmed by too many.  That remains one of the most hurtful things someone ever said to me during my greatest struggles with infertility.  I went through six years of trying to get pregnant and then discovered I was expecting when we had a four week old foster daughter.  I raised a drug-exposed infant who needed to be held constantly while I was pregnant.  SB and SP were 10 months apart.  I had SB until December of last year, so I spent 18 months with kids closer than one year, one of whom was special needs.  I know what overwhelmed feels like.  It's better.  So much better. 

Be joyful in your vocation.  Celebrate your new arrivals.  If we can't handle it at that particular stage in our journey, we'll pull back.  Please don't take it personally.  We are loving you from afar and do hereby solemnly swear to plug back in as we're able.  Be that joyful voice that motherhood is beautiful and that we're struggling towards something that is worth the struggle.  Don't minimize the gift, we already know it's amazing, or we wouldn't be subjecting ourselves to medical interventions and/or adoption home studies.

In all things, know that we're trying to love you and your family as best we can.  And we'll trust you to do the same.

There's only sides if we refuse to budge from our particular angle.  Evil knows we're stronger together.  Let's do more to love and celebrate each other.