I stalk a wonderful blog called Dymphna's Road on a daily basis. She doesn't update daily, but when she does, you can be sure that a gorgeous gem of artwork is going to stimulate your soul.
A couple weeks ago, I found the one posted above. It's called "Moral Suasion" and it was painted by a Roman artist by the name of Nikolai Nevrev.
When I first saw it, I was absolutely taken by the woman's angry defiance. It was obvious this was a married couple. Lord knows we've all worn the same expression on our faces. Husband or wife, we have ALL felt exasperated, worn down and angry with our spouse. We may have even wanted to throw in the towel and walk away.
However, if we're lucky, we'll feel the connection forged through our vows during the Sacrament of Marriage.
In this image, that connection is symbolized by the priest who is holding their hands, effectively using himself to physically bridge their divide. God provides the connection even (maybe especially) when we angrily turn away from that which He wants for us.
This is the image of marriage - husband, wife and God.
God is present EVEN when we don't want Him there.
Marriage, after all, isn't always a pretty picture. It's important to show the reality of marriage. Folks need to walk into this vocation with their eyes wide open, because marriage IS FOREVER, regardless of how much society tries to teach you otherwise.
If more folks would do away with the ridiculous notions of Disney "happily ever afters," methinks we'd be so much better off.
Marriage is beautiful, yes, but it's also gritty, hard work and the couple MUST be connected to God in order to stay faithful to their vows.
So yeah - I love this painting!
A coworker's father has been very ill for the last few weeks. We decided to send a Mass card with messages of love and prayer to him and his family during this difficult time.
I noticed something interesting. Some of us were writing things like "You and your family are in my prayers." Others wrote "You and your family are in my thoughts."
Given the fact that we work for the Archdiocese, "in my prayers" wasn't a surprise. As I stumbled over more and more "in my thoughts," however, I wondered what that even meant.
In my mind, it's a politically-correct, sterilized way to unload responsibility.
Sympathy cards contain a message of unity ("I'm sorry for your loss") that conveys a sharing of grief. They also contain a message of help ("I'm thinking of you / praying for you").
So what does thinking of someone actually do?
To a person of faith, prayer DOES something. Prayer can cure illness, speed recovery and shorten the suffering of those on their final journey. Prayer can also comfort the family and friends who mourn the suffering of their loved ones. Prayer is an active participation in both the grief AND HOPE of both the person suffering and that person's community.
Thoughts, on the other hand, do nothing. Unless you've got some sort of telekinetic power, thinking about someone means absolutely nothing. You may as well be telling them that you'll be going out to grab a burger later on.
So why say it at all?
When I mentioned this conversation to my friend, Mary, she said that prayer, in her opinion, does nothing. Given her belief that prayer is pointless, substituting "thinking of you" is a more honest approach for someone like her who wants to extend sympathy but not to the point of patronization.
I conceded that her assessment made sense to me, but I wanted to push the idea further. If you want to actively participate in helping the grieving person / family, what will thoughts do?
She responded that the "good vibes" would eventually help the cosmic universe get itself in order. I'm paraphrasing, but that was the idea.
I then wondered if the coworkers who wrote "Thinking of you" instead of "Praying for you" felt the same way. Maybe they did think their thoughts could somehow create "good vibes" that would offset the bad ones (like some sort of karmic see-saw).
If that's the case, I wonder if these folks would contend that there is a higher-power that collects and balances universal energy. Wouldn't that, in effect, be God? So wouldn't thoughts, in effect, be something akin to prayer?
After my conversation with Mary, I asked some of my coworkers what their thought-process was behind it. Many gave similar responses to Mary or simply said "Meh, just seemed like the thing to say."
I just find the entire semantic discussion to be one of political-correctness. No one wants to say "praying for you" because it implies that you believe in God and His ability to help (and only the loonies believe in God anymore). Yet those who say "Thinking of you" are effectually saying that they are somehow demigods who, by the sole power of their meager, fleeting thoughts, are able to effect measurable change in a given situation.
Prayer is admitting that you believe you can ask God to make something happen.
Thought is admitting you believe YOU can make something happen.
To a person of faith, prayer is preferable because prayer means something. To a person who does not necessarily share in religious faith, "thoughts" may be preferable because, as Mary pointed out, "prayers" mean diddly to them.
And she's right. My prayers would likely mean very little to someone who thinks prayer is pointless. Maybe they'd even find my offering of prayer a lazy means to unload responsibility for doing "something useful" like making dinner or babysitting the kids or something.
I've got no real solution. I'm just intrigued by the shift in diction. Whereas it used to be appropriate and expected that folks join together in prayer for those suffering, it's now shirked. In its place is something I don't wholly understand, and I'm trying to. The problem is, it doesn't seem like those using the term fully grasp its context either.
You guys have all seen this by now, right?
Heck, let's be honest. I'm willing to bet we've all got stories like this. Smack a hidden camera to follow any woman and you're likely going to come up with something similar.
I grew up in North Philly. At birth, you're instantly gifted several things as a Philly girl.
These are all non-negotiable:
You are also gifted an invisible layer of titanium skin that shields you from the onslaught of cat-calling you will inevitably learn to ignore with the skill of a ninja.
I've worn this armor well. I don't think I remember a time in my childhood or adolescence in which name-calling, cat-calling or even outright bully-ish language used against me caused me much grief. I always just shook it off and kept going. I never - EVER - cared about what other people thought of me.
However, it does eventually take its toll. There have been times where I've felt thoroughly unsafe as men approach to "compliment" me. Plenty of times. There have been times where I've had to physically defend myself against these entitled jerks who believed it was their right to touch me because I happened to have curves. There have even been times where male friends of mine have had to step in to protect me against another imposing male who would not accept that his "harmless flirtation" was inappropriate, unwanted and incredibly degrading.
This is not an experience that is unique to me. It is shared by many (if not all) women.
I'm not suggesting that all men have thus been guilty of this phenomenon, but enough seem to think this sort of behavior is acceptable / appreciated that the majority of women are nodding their heads in agreement with me.
A few months ago, I was the victim of a particularly upsetting cat call. I remember being so upset about it that I didn't go straight home. Instead, I drove to a store - pointlessly - just so I'd have an excuse to not go home right away.
When I DID finally go home, my husband asked why I was so upset. I explained I was fine, but I just wasn't ready to talk about it yet. He understood and let it go, knowing I'd come around (our communication has gotten SO much freakin' better!).
Anyway, later that night, after crying in the shower like an idiot, I came downstairs and had this conversation with John:
Me: I'm ready to talk now.
John (putting his video on pause): Okay. Come sit down next to me.
Me (sitting down with him): I get this is going to sound really ridiculous, and I KNOW it's going to be a funny story later, but try not to laugh just yet because it really upset me. I'll be able to laugh about it later, but I can't right now.
John (curiously): Okay...
Me: While walking home [through Center City Philadelphia], a man started yelling at me from across JFK Parkway [which, BTW, looks like this:]
Me (cont.): I ignored him, obviously, but he sprinted across all 5 lanes to catch up to me. He kept saying, "Hey baby, you got a black boyfriend?"
I walked faster, but he started jogging until he was right next to me. I finally said, "I've got a husband. Just stop."
He said, "I ain't mean anything by it. You're just built like a black woman. I could be your man."
This guy was African American.
I didn't respond, because what the heck do you say to that? He continued, "You've got a negress ass."
A NEGRESS ASS.
Again, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!
I ignored him and kept walking as if I hadn't even heard him. But I did, and I couldn't stop churning it over in my mind.
So I tried to explain to John why I was upset. When he first told me I was built like a black woman, I was incredulous for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed like an incredibly racist thing to say. I know he was implying that I was curvy, and I know for certain he thought he was complimenting me, but saying I was built like a black woman somehow implied that white women don't have curves.
Secondly, this guy suggested that I must have a black boyfriend because my physical appearance wouldn't be attractive to white men. At least that's how I took it. I didn't know how else to take it.
Finally, the "negress ass" comment just blew me away. I felt like that was a generally racist comment not just against me, but against black women. I mean, again - WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
He was obviously trying to tell me I had a large butt. He was obviously implying that black women have notoriously large behinds which again, by default, means white women don't (or at least shouldn't) have large rear ends.
I admit that really upset me.
While not normally a vain individual, I know I've gained a few pounds (15 to be exact) this past year. I didn't need some stranger pointing it out to me on the street.
The fact that he had to run across 5 lanes of rush-hour traffic to do it just rubbed salt in the wound.
And I know he thought he was complementing me which just drives me even more insane.
I just don't understand why men feel the need to be this aggressive. Do they think women will want to date them after an interaction like this?
I assure you, I didn't think to myself, "Well hey! This guy thinks I've got a nice butt. I should totally drop everything I've got planned - including time with my husband and son - and run off into the sunset for some cheap sex. 'Cause wow... I'm just SO turned on by his complete lack of decency and superfluous racism!"
It's just - ARGH!
At this point, John's giggling. I was near tears, but I was grinning, too, because I recognized just how ridiculous the situation actually was. In my mind, he called me fat. I don't think he intended to call me fat, but that's precisely how I translated his cat-call. And it frustrated me that I was upset about it.
It's not like this was my first rodeo. However, this was the first time I was feeling especially self-conscious, so his aggressive comments forced their way through my armor and crawled under my skin.
I've been annoyed, frustrated and even slightly scared of some cat-calilng situations, but I've never been legitimately upset by it before. I subscribe to Eleanor Roosevelt's paradigm "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
I had somehow given this man consent, and it frustrated the heck out of me.
Ah well. I'm able to laugh about it now, but that's the only experience I can think of where I was actually upset by something a man yelled out at me.
That being said, I still find the entire idea of yelling out at women to be degrading and off-putting. If you want to say "Hi" or even complement me, fine. I'll smile and nod appreciation. Just don't be a creep and expect some sort of flushed praise for being intrusive as I'm trying to make my way home (or to work, or to pick my son up from school, etc).
How about you folks? What sort of scenarios stick out in your minds with cat-calling?
And if men are reading, can you offer some sort of insight into WHY men do this?
My son is obsessed with Link (from the Legend of Zelda). There are more than 10 variations on the character, so I took some liberties and put together the costume you see above as part of his 5th Birthday.
Since we were going with a Link-theme, I figured it'd be cool to have the costume for use at Halloween. John picked up the Master Sword a couple months ago and I found the shield online. He freaked out when he saw them at his party!
Since John and I don't like the idea of doing huge birthday parties every year, we agreed to focus our energy on the "big" ones. Since he was turning 5, we got everyone together to celebrate. We chose to host the party at Johnson's Corner Farm, so in addition to the party, everyone got to enjoy a hayride, pumpkin picking, feeding the animals and the sprawling park.
To anyone who is in the S. Jersey area, Johnson's Farm is a GREAT option for a day trip. There is so much to do (bouncy house, live music, maze, park, splash pad, pedal carts, and even a tiny town for the toddlers to play around in)!
Anyway, his party was a blast. We was dressed in a Link shirt and spent the morning running around with the inflatable swords that were given away as part of the goody bags.
Here are some fun shots of the day!
I had been struggling with sharing my miscarriage with others. On the one hand, I knew for a long time that I wasn't ready to open myself up to the questions, the judgement or the sympathy that goes along with it. On the other hand, I knew that being open and honest was the only real way for me to help other people struggling with the same thing. It was the only way to prove to myself that I could do right by the daughter I'd lost.
I wasn't sure how to go about doing that on my own, so I chose October 15th - National Remembrance Day - a day on which thousands of women go out of their way to remember these little ones and come forward to share stories to help support one another in the effort to cut down on the taboo of speaking of miscarriage.
It was time to share mine.
The feedback started slow. A "like" here, a comment there. Then the messages started. The texts. The e-mails. The phone calls.
Suddenly, the "1 in 4" statistic that seemed to be mostly faceless came into sharp, unyielding focus.
Friends, family, coworkers and even classmates I haven't spoken to in years started filling my inbox, phone and FB page with their stories. I was expecting the gates to open for some, but I was taken aback by the amount of women close to me who have experienced this loss and struggled - silently - for so long!
I felt terrible, then, for waiting so long to break my own silence. Had I said something sooner, I might've been able to reach out to these women who obviously needed support. I had been selfishly oblivious to the plight of others, content to stew in my own personal misery. Not only did I disenfranchise others from supporting me through my grief, but I disenfranchised myself from helping those I love and care about through theirs.
It was a sobering realization, one that I'm sure Myla facilitated for her struggling mother.
Myla is not my secret; she is my daughter. I wanted to stop treating her memory like something I was ashamed of, afraid of, or even burdened by; I am none of those things. I love my daughter and want others to know that she has blessed me in ways unimaginable. Her life was, is and always will be precious to me.
Society may not be willing to bear witness to such love, but that will no longer stand in the way of me proudly sharing her with them anyway. After all, it's no longer just about me or even Myla; it's about opening the door so other women don't have to feel so alone in this.
Welp, I've had a thoroughly cathartic past few weeks. I did a lot of "coming clean," and not just with the blog. I also decided it was time to open up about my miscarriage. To me, that felt a whole lot like strapping myself into a rickety zipline and hurling myself through the jungle whilst praying the thing doesn't snap just to spite me:
Surprisingly, and maybe unsurprisingly, nothing snapped. There were no burning bridges, no one brushed my broken heart aside, and there was no indignation that I'd waited so long to say something. I don't know what I was expecting, but none of the above happened. Instead, things felt like they'd fallen into place.
In addition to being the month of the Rosary and Sensory Awareness, October is also Respect Life Month. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and whereas last year I spent the day in passive solidarity with others who have borne this cross, I wanted to become an active participant, encouraging others to share their stories and raise awareness amongst my circle of friends.
(Click any of the above images for more information.)
Personally, I know of at least five other women my age who have suffered miscarriage. Two of them do not speak of the miscarriage at all, one has a supportive husband who enables her to vent in short bursts, and the other two haven't even felt comfortable sharing their miscarriages with their significant others - the fathers of those little saints.
I've tried to encourage through personal contact, but I have done a terrible job of leading by example. How can I suggest opening up to others when I find the task so incredibly difficult?
Thus, I embarked on the task of opening up about Myla to my two SILs.
To this point, I had only ever told my MIL what had happened. I didn't know if she'd mentioned it to anyone else. I asked, and she said she'd only told Danielle.
Thus, first up on the docket was Danielle, the pretty blonde you see to the right. She's my age and has a little girl, herself (the gorgeous and ever lovable niece you've seen me post about before). Since she already had some idea of my miscarriage, I messaged her through Facebook (since we were having an ongoing discussion there anyway). I apologized for not coming to her - in person - to tell her, myself, sooner. I then asked if she'd told Nikki (the pretty redhead to the left) so I could do so if she hadn't.
The entire time I was writing my message to Dani, I was shaking. I couldn't word anything correctly and finally gave up trying. I clicked "send" and just said a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to get my point across for me since I was too emotionally incoherent. That worked out well because she responded with support. She had not told Nikki (which surprised the crackers outta me).
Thus, I knew I'd have to bite the bullet and do it myself. That's how poor Nicole became the first person I explained things to face-to-face.
That's right, folks. I'd somehow managed to go more than a year without having this conversation with anyone without the aid of a computer. Sure, I mentioned the miscarriage briefly to my MIL and a very tiny number of friends, but I'd never had the full conversation with anyone - BY DESIGN.
I never wanted to have this conversation with anyone. To be honest, I didn't think it was possible. How was I supposed to have a conversation when I could barely breathe, let alone speak, when it comes to Myla?
I stumbled over myself as I made last minute plans to talk to Nikki before I changed my mind. Fear is crippling, and though I wasn't afraid of her treating me poorly, I was terribly afraid of showing such vulnerability. Tears? Incoherent strings of babble? A very plausible moment of pushing things onto the floor in outright frustration? None of those options are particularly appealing to me, but if I wanted to help other women, I'd have to start by helping myself.
So, shaking like a rusty old washer chewing through your favorite comforter, I walked into her office and promptly realized I had no idea how to actually begin the conversation. Heck, she wasn't even sure why I'd asked to meet her, so I can only imagine what she must've thought when I started choking on sounds that refused to form words.
I'm still frustrated with myself for that.
Annoyed at myself, I just came out with it. To her credit, she didn't bat an eye. She steadied herself on both feet and crossed her arms as if bracing for impact. I think she knew I needed to get through this, so she patiently waited until I'd gotten it out. When I had, she walked around the desk and hugged me. She is her mother, that one. She didn't have two seconds to process things, herself, but she made the move towards me just the same.
Again, it's moments like this that I know I married up. You don't just marry a man - you marry his family. It's one of the reasons I knew John was for me... I fell in love with them right alongside him.
Anyway, after trying to make sure I'd given her all the pertinent info, I realized that I'd done it - I'd come clean! That was a liberating thing, because I knew I could then take that back to those friends of mine struggling to find their voice.
And I was finally honest with the people I care about. There's only one person left who should know if he doesn't already - my FIL.
In all honesty, I don't know that I'm able to say anything to him. Of all the people I feel I'm disappointing most by not having more children, he and my mom top the list. Telling him that he'd had another chance at a grandchild seems cruel, especially with all the loss the poor guy has experienced this past year.
But one step at a time. For now, I've inched forward Neil Armstrong style.
And it feels pretty darn good.
I encourage those of you who struggle with miscarriage to voice your feelings. It's a terrible burden to carry alone, and there are people out there who love you enough to WANT to carry it alongside you.
I speak from experience now. :)
Plus, don't our children deserve to be made known?
A musician my son is not - yet. In truth, it's doubtful he ever will be because I haven't a musical bone in my body (well, at least one that works well, anyway).
Then again, his great-grandfather was quite the musician, so maybe there's hope for him yet. That being said, watch this until the very end... the last couple seconds make his "song" so worth it. Ha ha!
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