Today I've got a treat for you guys - a guest post on Annulment!
I sent out a request to those who've experienced annulment firsthand to share their stories; this is the first one in.
Allow me to introduce you to Candace. She runs Popes and Pirates blog on Blogspot. Curious about her blog name? I was, too, until I found out why her aptly named slice of the internet had a pretty amusing story behind it. Click here to satiate your curiosity! She also writes about parenting, her miscarriage experience and going (and staying!) green.
Candace was kind enough to share her annulment story with you fine folks. Please feel free to leave questions in the combox (you may stay anonymous!). I ask that you leave questions there so other readers can benefit from Candace's responses. I've had several readers write in to ask about annulments, but since I don't have direct experience, I was hoping others who did would share! Thanks, Candace!
Without further ado:
The Marriage That Never Was
My husband and I recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the convalidation of our marriage on October 27th. Convalidation is the official recognition of our civil marriage by the Catholic church, elevating our marriage to a sacrament. Originally, we were married civilly in a small ceremony in October 2008. We have been blessed with a son and are currently expecting our second child. Marriage means so much more to me now than the first time I said "I do." I now know that marriage is a gift from God, and not to be entered in to lightly.
Most of my friends and family know that I was "married before." My ex husband and I dated for five years before we married. We lived together beforehand, and although we were both cradle Catholics, neither one of us lived a very religious life. We had a Catholic wedding ceremony, attended the required Pre-Cana training months before, and then continued on with life as we normally had. Nothing we learned or experienced changed our thoughts or feelings about the values our lives should hold important, or what marriage meant.
We civilly divorced less than two years after our wedding day. We chose to do this as amicably as possible. We had no children and didn't share any bank accounts or property, so the physical separation was easier than many couples experience. I didn't begin the Catholic process of annulment until two years after that, when technically, I was already civilly remarried to my husband.
The process of civil divorce is quite different than the process of annulment in the Catholic church. Depending on the state you live in, civil divorce is mostly about filing the correct paperwork and paying the required fees. Divorce doesn't actually exist in the Catholic church. Annulment means that your marriage never truly happened. It was missing one or more of the required pieces to make it binding in the first place.
Many people believe that if you offer the church enough money, you can get an annulment no matter what. This is simply false. I paid nothing to the Church in the process of my annulment. Others offer large donations, but there is no guarantee what the results will be. You have to wait and hope throughout the process.
And process it is. You are required to meet with a priest who is part of a marriage tribunal and verbally recount your story. You also do this in writing. Your ex spouse is also encouraged to participate. Other friends and family on both sides are asked for their testimony. It can take years. Mine took two years from start to finish. Every piece to this process is inspected closely to come up with a final determination. There is a back and forth with the responses to each inquiry.
It is a challenge to wait, especially if you have already moved forward with another relationship in your life. I also couldn't receive communion during this time which made me feel like I was missing out on the grace that might help me get through this ordeal. But, I feel it was totally worth it. There were many times I simply wanted to give up and tried to convince myself it didn't matter. But, deep down I knew it did. You are forced to make peace with your past and this is a blessing in itself. My husband and I celebrated when my annulment was granted, and then began the next phase of having our marriage recognized.
To all those contemplating starting this process, or who are already in it, stay the course. No matter the result you may find consolation and healing. Pray often and ask Mary for help and courage to make it through. I will be praying for you as well.
In the morning, I drop Vince off at school. I sign him in at 8 AM. John picks him up between 3-5 PM depending on the day and signs him out.
We've begun leaving one another notes in the sign section. Instead of leaving our initials (like we're supposed to), we've taken to leaving each other tiny phrases:
It makes me laugh because no one ever checks this thing, so these tiny scribbles are like secret notes passed back and forth between class.
This particular morning, he'd been feeling rough on account of his wisdom teeth being removed the day before. I knew seeing "Feel better" would give him a smile when he picked up Vince, but imagine my surprise when I saw "Thanks beautiful" in the box to greet me the next morning. Such a small, tiny gesture, but those are the gems that make me happiest.
He and I might not see eye-to-eye on religion, but we do love one another deeply, take our responsibility as parents seriously, and are committed to one another and our family.
I truly believe John and I were made for one another. We met young, fell in love young, and married young. I believe this was by design, and I am grateful for the spouse I've been blessed with. He is a good man, a good father, and a loyal friend. While I know the religion issue is a tough one, I hope you don't use that as the only stick to measure him by.
If tomorrow he decided to teach Vincent all about Atheism and telling him that Stephen Hawking agrees that there's no need for God when science explains everything, I'd be incredibly upset. He feels the same way about Catholicism. Because he views it as something akin to a fairytale, he sees it as a crutch... something fine for children to believe but necessary to outgrow (like Santa Claus). Adults can't rely on God for things. Adults shouldn't need direction in things from a book predating most civilization. Adults also shouldn't base social lifestyle choices on religious rationale.
I understand his mindset; I do. However, I simply don't share that viewpoint and, though he doesn't understand my point of view, he vowed to support me, so he does it as best he can. I must recognize the difficulty he faces as well when he watches me teach our son what he views to be fantasy and unnecessary superstition. At the same time, he recognizes his promise to allow me to raise our children Catholic.
Believe it or not, this is what love looks like. Love isn't always the romantic, happily-ever-after fodder you see in the movies. In reality, love is dirty, sweaty and yes, even tearful at times. It is also beautiful, and the appreciation we have for one another... the trust we've developed precisely because of our struggles... the knowledge that we've survived the dreaded "D-word" and come out stronger... this is love, because love endures.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated; it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13: 4-8)
These words were chosen by me for our wedding Mass. I recently read them, myself, at the marriage of two other friends. These words of Saint Paul are so crystal clear to me whereas before, I'd only understood them in a sterilized, Disney-shaded sense.
The day I married John, I heard these words as "Be nice to one another because that's what lovers do. They aren't rude or arrogant, they don't hold grudges and they don't act selfishly. The lovey-dovey feelings you have today will carry you through everything because love never fails."
Oh, Gina... Saint Paul was no Nora Roberts. How naive of me to fancy him one! When I read those words now, I hear something so much richer... so much deeper. Saint Paul might not be Nora Roberts, but if the above snippet doesn't embody the truth of love, there is no such thing as truth and no such thing as love.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
~Shakespeare, Sonnet 116~
I must've written and rewritten this entry a dozen times. I've come to the realization that there's simply no neat and tidy way of being fully honest, especially given the circumstances. Thus, I apologize for the mess you're all about to find yourselves in.
A lovely woman named Anne is a Catholic woman who is dating an Agnostic man. She believes they are a perfect match in all things but religion. He was born and raised Catholic but now views Catholicism as something akin to a fairytale while she obviously has deep reverence for her Catholic heritage.
She asked us for our advice on what to do given she's looking to marry this man.
I've been wrestling around a lot with this one. She commented her plight at the end of August to my "I Married an Agnostic" post from 2011, and I'm half afraid she thinks I've forgotten all about her!
Anne, I promise that I haven't. I just didn't know how to write this without upsetting you. My advice, I fear, is not what you're hoping for.
My advice, in fact, is to get out now.
I realize you might be surprised to hear that from me, but I've walked in your shoes. For miles. I'm STILL walking in them which is precisely why I'm telling you that unless you know for certain you are being called to convert this man through a lifetime of marriage (which, itself, carries the reality of conversion not happening and your struggle having an adverse effect on future children), cut your losses, give your heart a healthy time to heal, and ask God to put the right man in your midst.
You might be wondering how I could say such a thing when my own marriage hasn't fallen apart and my son is a (mostly) willing participant in the Faith.
This was not without toil, tears, a very real threat of divorce, and an intense overhaul of my entire relationship with John. That's not even counting the amount of prayers and work that still go into it.
Am I saying I wish I hadn't married John? Of course not. I got two children out of the deal and undoubtedly grew closer to Christ. However, I was significantly less spiritually mature than you currently are when I answered the call to marriage.
You fully understand the importance of your faith and the necessity of a father to be a spiritual leader for his family. I didn't understand that; worse, I didn't even think such a thing was necessary! As a result of my ignorance, my family started out with a distinct disadvantage. We were not a cohesive unit in what would become a very large and important part of our lives. That friction reached its tentacles into everything, especially as I matured in my faith and realized the depth of my ignorance.
John's refusal to accept my religious beliefs as valid directly - DIRECTLY - correlates to his refusal to be open to more children.
So Anne, if you plan to have children, be prepared for a similar fate. It is an excruciating,
at-times-unbearable, cross to shoulder.
Readers who have been following me for a while might be incredibly unsettled by this.
When I first learned that this was the driving reason behind my husband's reluctance to have more children, words couldn't possibly express the emotions that coursed through me. In fact, it's been over a year since I learned that this was my reality and this is the first time I've voiced it beyond my two closest friends.
It's also the prime reason why responding to you, Anne, has been so challenging. I couldn't be honest with you without being honest about the depth of my own struggle. This is a tragic, brutal and incredibly bigoted reality, and it's a reality I want so much to protect you from. I wouldn't wish this sort of sacrifice on anyone.
It's a sacrifice that I willingly make, yes, but it's a willing sacrifice only because I've already made my vows. You have not. Please understand that this is what you'd be saying "I do" to... not just for yourself, but for your future children.
And before you think to yourself that your boyfriend would never do such a thing, again, I've walked in your shoes. My husband said he accepted my Catholicism.
Seeing Vincent's participation alongside me must've shifted that for him, because Catholicism was no longer some harmless fairy tale. To John, it became a bitter irritant. Prayers at bedtime are nails on chalkboard. Sunday Mass can solicit anything from an eye-roll to not-so-secret vindication when Vince cries that he doesn't want to go.
Catholicism has become such a hated thing to my husband that he does not want to see it replicated in his children. Because he cannot love that part of me, he cannot love that part of our children. Thus, the only way to stave off such irritation is to stop having children. To poison one is enough... to poison more than one is unthinkable to him.
And that is his mindset. Through tears, I demanded to know how he could hold such a bigoted notion in his head. He is not what I'd consider a bigot. He's otherwise incredibly tolerant and accepting. In fact, should any of his friends read this, they'd probably think I was somehow mistaken - that I'd misunderstood his motivation.
I assure you I have not. I had him spell it out for me. That was one of the most painful and damaging conversations I've ever had with anyone in my entire life. It still stings when I think of it.
I couldn't understand. I still don't to a certain degree. I asked him what part of Catholicism bothered him so much that he couldn't stand to see it played out in me... in Vincent. He couldn't answer me. He noted prayers at bedtime or his little sayings of "Jesus loves me" irritated him, but our son is wonderful. Him being baptized Catholic has not somehow made him less wonderful, but for John, it was enough to make him resent and yes, even hate, Catholicism. Hate it to the point where he willingly allows me to suffer an enforced infertility so as not to bring forth any other children who would suffer the fate of *gasp* Baptism and a Catholic education.
It is not fear of finance... fear of time constraints... fear of love or capability that has condemned me to this cross of infertility. It is my husband's hatred of Catholicism.
He shared this in a moment of deep and unfiltered honesty just over one year ago. I appreciated his honesty, because it showed a level of trust that we'd never come close to understanding. However, I've lived with this knowledge, completely unsure how to proceed. When I thought his decision was based on finances and such, the cross was easier to bear. At least his rationale made sense. This, however, was almost insurmountable. It is still a daily struggle.
It is a struggle I want to preserve you from, Anne. It's a struggle I want to preserve your future children from.
My husband and I have since discussed things. We both agree that had we known then what we know now about the importance of faith to one another, we likely would not have gotten married. I had, after all, broken off the engagement at one point when he tried to get me to agree not to baptize our future children. We should've known then that faith was more important than we were giving it credit for.
But we didn't, and we publicly vowed to love one another every day for the rest of our lives. Love doesn't begin and end with tummy butterflies. It is an active choice to respect, honor, protect, nurture and support your spouse - every day.
So that is how I find myself in this situation. I love my husband, Anne. I love him, respect him, support him, and do my best to nurture him in ways that will ultimately make him a better person. He obviously tries his best to do the same for me. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't warn you of the heartache that comes with this sort of union.
Take my story to heart. For as much as you love your boyfriend (and I have no doubt you do), you will also love those children you create, and you need to be thinking of them. The best decision you can ever make for them is who their father will be.
In all things, you have my prayers. Other readers, please feel free to chime in with your advice for Anne.
I was at a wedding this past weekend for my cousin. It was a nice little ceremony with a splendid reception.
However, I have to admit that during the ceremony, I wasn't quite sure when the rite of marriage actually took place.
In a Catholic ceremony, it's cut and dried. You know precisely when you've completed your vows and are husband and wife.
In my cousin's ceremony, however, I had absolutely no idea when the union actually took place. There were two sets of vows, there was a sand ceremony that "symbolically united" them (similar to unity candles), and there were two blessings offered. There was also the ring-exchange. My niece kept asking me "Are they married yet? Are they gonna kiss now?" and I had no idea what to tell her because I didn't know, myself!
Granted, that's not a huge deal in the scheme of things. It was a nice ceremony - much nicer than some others I've attended - but it made me appreciate my own Catholic ceremony so much more.
I knew precisely when our Sacrament was taking place. Though our vows weren't "super unique" or funny, or quirky, or any other number of extravagant things couples try to put forth to show everyone just how special their love for one another is, I now fully appreciate the timeless aspect of our simple (and deeply rich) vows. After all, these vows have been around for millennia. They've provided the basis for countless blessed unions. Our marriage, in effect, became a part of this tapestry. It's a comfort to know that our vows are the same ones made by the strong family lineages that produced us. They are like tethers to our ancestry.
Just a musing. Again, I thought my cousin's ceremony was nice, but it struck me as odd that I wasn't sure when the actual marriage took place given the amount of circumstantial "fluff" that's sole purpose was to give everyone the warm fuzzies. And I'm cool with warm-fuzzies, but I feel that for a marriage, you should KNOW when the rite is taking place. It's such an important step in your life (two becoming one and all) that there shouldn't be confusion as to when the moment comes to pass.
Ah well. Regardless, prayers of blessing for them, please - they're good people. :)
All three of my cats think they're human. Maybe it's because we've had them since they were itty-bitty kittens found clinging to life in a drain pipe. Maybe it's because we've spoiled them absolutely rotten. Maybe it's because they're cats and they simply think they own the place anyway. Regardless, all three of my cats (Piper, Zoey and Lucy) see no issue with climbing into bed with us, attempting to sit next to us on a dining room chair as we eat as a family, or plant themselves firmly on the couch with us as we watch TV.
Obviously I love my little furbabies. I'm a die-hard animal lover who has fostered more than 70 of them since moving to Jersey in 2007. I've spent sleepless nights nursing them back from the brink of death, I've cried over heartbreaking medical prognoses, and I even carried Zoey around in a sling - directly next to me or sitting on my work desk - for more than a month as her legs healed from a terrible accident.
That all being said, I still do not place these three cuddle-balls into the same arena as Vincent or Myla. I love my cats - to the point of stupid - but I don't place human dignity on their shoulders.
Should a fire break out and I'm forced to save Vince or Lucy, I'm going to save Vince. When someone asks me how many children I have, I don't list Vince, Myla and then my three cats.
Yet the Pope's recent message to married couples about having children (and not pets) apparently ruffled more than a few feathers. Even in the comments of the linked article, people who supposedly "loved" the Pope turned their nose up in disgust at this particular message.
Given the amount of couples opting for pets vs. children these days, it's no surprise some would walk away from his remarks feeling called out.
Now, before I continue, no one (I repeat - NO ONE) is calling out infertile couples, couples struggling with serious chromosomal issues, or even couples who are truly not called to be parents (and I do believe there is a very small population of people who are simply not meant to be parents).
The pope is, however, calling out folks who are seeking to continue a life of self-centered irresponsibility.
Adults don't make children; children make adults. This is so incredibly true. After all, nothing says "responsibility" like taking on the care of someone wholly dependent on you for everything (every moment, of every day).
This sort of responsibility shapes a person and forces him/her to see the world from another's perspective. It demands sacrifice. It demands COMPLETE sacrifice.
In our culture, this level of self-sacrifice is avoided like the Plague. Having a baby will ruin weekend plans for, like... ever, right? And who wants to deal with sleepless nights, potty training and vomit in your hair?
I know you guys have seen me write about this a billion times, so I'm going to try really hard not to beat the dead horse, but I'm just so incredibly sick of children being seen as roadblocks to happiness.
They're not. They are happiness and love personified (in the truest sense of the word).
No amount of pet-responsibility comes close to that which a human child presents. I should know. I've had more than my share of pets, and not one (not even Zoey) compares to a child. That being said, not one of the 70+ animals that have come through my doors have helped me to grow as a person the way that Vincent has. Not one has given me fulfillment in the way that Vincent has. Not one animal has given me joy, happiness and love in the way that Vincent has. And not one has deepened my relationship with God in the way that Vincent has.
So no - for all those folks out there who want to run around claiming Fido is your child, just stop. The only people who think its cute are those who, themselves, are terrified of taking on responsibility for future generations.
As you can see, I talk to my cats (I'll have full-on conversations with them), I love my cats, and I consider them "furbabies" because they have me wrapped around their adorable little paws, but again... they're no substitute for children. Yet so many couples use them as the "next step" in their marriage... as if keeping a goldfish alive is somehow proving grounds for their ability (and desire) to parent.
It's just... ay.
It's incredible to me that society has created this sort of mindset regarding children. I really am baffled by it.
I know not all people are as desirous of children as I am, but to substitute pets as a realistic replacement???
The pope is right on this. Married couples who want to solidify their sacramental marriage would do best to allow their love to create a tangible symbol of that love - truly personified - that not only grows and changes with them through the years, but HELPS them grow, change and love more deeply than they ever thought possible.
After all, that's what marriage is all about. White dresses, cake, toasts and favors are temporary. Creating a person (and with that person, a soul) is forever. That child will FOREVER be a lasting testament to your love. Forever.
Fido, Sparky or Chuckles will never be able to claim that.
John and I have been through a lot the last few years. A whole lot:
So these, among other random bits, have caused us to grow, change, and love more deeply. Looking back at this journey has made me so incredibly appreciative of the marriage I have and the friends and family who have supported us these last ten years.
As a result, I want to throw a special party this year. It's only our 7th year as a married couple, but it's our 10th together as a couple.
I want to throw a fire hall banquet, invite all those who have supported us through love, prayer and example and celebrate the blessings they've all been to John and I.
I want this to serve as both a THANK YOU to our family and friends for being so supportive over the years, and as a "Marriage is Worth It!" witness.
So many of those in our group of friends are incredibly jaded about the institution of marriage. They are vehemently against marriage on the grounds that it's an archaic, pointless practice that only ends in divorce, they are indifferent, or they look at marriage as something they can't do until they've amassed enough golden eggs (whether that be money, a house, career satisfaction, etc). Very few of our friends look at marriage as a sacrament of power, love and beauty.
That makes me sad. It really does.
So while I want to thank everyone for their support of us, I also want to show our friends that marriage IS something worth investing in. And once you are married, it's worth fighting for. It's a constant choice to love one another, every day. The honeymoon fades and the cutesy names will sometimes turn sour. However, with support and love, a married couple can weather the natural dips in romance and find a deeper, truer connection than they started out with.
When I asked John if he'd be OK with this, he was, but thought the idea of "throwing ourselves a party" was tacky. He said he'd feel like an idiot explaining to people the purpose of the celebration.
I can understand his hesitation. I mean, who the heck throws a 7th anniversary party?
To me, though, it's perfect timing. Usually the 7th year is associated with the "7 Year Itch" in which couples are often teased about the eventuality of affairs stemming from the stagnation of marital relations.
For us, this 7th year - though incredibly emotional - has been anything but stagnant. John and I love one another better now than we ever have.
And I say "better" because we both make the conscious decision to be better spouses to each other.
So I do want to celebrate that, especially given the fact that we have the added bonus of me being cancer-free (assuming the annual test comes back clear which I'm sure it will).
We've got a lot to be thankful for, and I feel my gratitude overflowing. As such, I want to use it to thank others and share those blessings we've received with others.
Is a party a bad idea? Do you think maybe I should rethink how I go about doing this? I'm not looking for gifts or anything. I don't want anything from anyone. I want to do this FOR everyone. Our anniversary just happens to provide a perfect backdrop.
These are my in-laws. I love them both. Ridiculous amounts. I always have. I've always respected their love for each other and their family. I've learned a lot about marriage just from watching them interact. I've learned a lot about John that way, too, let me tell ya. He's got so many traits that he shares with his Dad that watching his mom interact with her husband has given me a few ideas how to go about interacting with John.
Anyway, given the incredibly emotional coaster this family has been on the last few weeks, I've been dying to see them and just hug them close. Natural circumstances prevented this, but when we DID finally see each other, I was so happy to just physically hug them. However, Dad wasn't too keen on any sort of emotional exchange. He was probably too drained from grieving Uncle Billy and worrying over his mother's rapidly declining health. Also, given his status as the leader of the family, he took upon himself the responsibility of shouldering the fear and anxiety of his brothers and sister.
Oh, how my heart breaks for him. He always takes on so much responsibility. But again, it's something I deeply respect him for. He goes out of his way to make things easier for his family, but at such personal sacrifice.
However, he doesn't like to let on that his strength wavers, too. Instead of reaching out, he'll vent in short, off-the-cuff ways. I want so much to help him, but I can't just say, "Dad, I love you. Punch the wall and yell at me if it'll make you feel better."
I'd love to, mind you, but I can't. He'd never let on that he's hurting, and I would never make things worse by letting on that I know.
But I still want to support him. So I'm supporting him the best way I know how - through his wife, my mother-in-law.
In the car on the way back from Uncle Billy's funeral, my FIL had to make a tough decision. My MIL said something that I pray will stick with me until my final days.
My FIL had to decide if he'd go away for a few days on business or if he'd stay behind in case Nanny passed away. He asked my MIL what she thought, and her response was beautiful. She basically said she would go wherever he decided because no matter what, she wanted to be with HIM when and if he got news about Nanny.
It was then that I realized I could support him by supporting her. She was, is and always will be, his rock. They are incredibly blessed to have found one another.
She knows her place is with him so that she can support him in any way that she can. She wants to be there, holding his hand, letting him cry, even letting him get mad at her so he could, in some tiny way, vent the torrent of emotion eating away at his heart.
I actually teared up when she said that. It was so loving... so perfect... that is what I want my response to be to John always. Whatever you decide, I will stand by you. I will be with you because that is where I need to be. I want you to know that you will always have me to lean on.
Such love. Such incredible, faithful love.
So I made it my personal mission to support him by supporting her. Since she'll be bearing the weight of the world in conjunction with him, I can lend my assistance to her. I might not be able to reach my FIL the way I'd like, but I can reach my MIL, and if she's a little less stressed and a little more rested, she can be a better support for him.
I love these two immensely. I really do. I wish I could do something to magically wave a wand and make life perfect again, but we all must endure this valley of tears. Thankfully, God gifted us families so we could walk this valley together and not alone.
"Turn then, oh Most Gracious Advocate, thine eyes of Mercy towards us, and after this, our Exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Please keep them in your prayers. Nanny, too.
Last night, John and I were watching the latest episode of HIMYM (again, if you don’t want spoilers, STOP READING THIS). I’ve always loved the characters of Marshall and Lily. For those of you who don’t know the show, Marshall and Lily are college sweethearts who consistently exemplify unconditional and sacrificial love. They really are the perfect example of what marriage should look like, and I love that the writers have always been dedicated to the success of that relationship.
I’ve always related to Lily’s character. She is a strong woman with very maternal instincts. She loves her husband deeply, adores children, is brutally honest when necessary, and is fiercely loyal to her friends. She's even a teacher! Lily is me with red hair and a much hotter body.
Anyway, in last night’s episode, we come to find out that Lily has been harboring a secret. I immediately said to John, “She’s pregnant!”
Turns out I was right. The way the writers allowed the story to unfold was beautiful. Marshall, upon learning he was going to be a Daddy again, rushed to Lily’s side and confronted her with the news. However, he didn’t confront her angrily. Instead, he was emotional – 120% caught up in anticipation, hope, joy, and above all, love. Love for Lily, love for his son, and love for the new life he and Lily had created.
And when Lily said she “just felt like” the baby was a girl, I was instantly a wreck. I chewed my lip to the point of bleeding trying to keep myself from openly sobbing in front of John, but he saw I was upset and came to sit next to me on the couch to hug me. He probably thought I was crying over Myla.
In truth, I sorta was, but my tears were lamenting more than miscarriage.
Marshall said something that stabbed my heart. The exchange came after a very emotional argument Marshall and Lily had regarding moving to Italy vs. staying in the States (pitting Lily’s dreams against Mashall’s dreams). Marshall selfishly wanted to stay in the States and made the decision without ever asking Lily’s input. Lily, rightly hurt by this, angrily demanded to know why her dreams weren’t considered as important as Marshall’s. The argument ends with Lily sacrificing her dream of Italy for the sake of the family she loves, and Marshall apologizing for allowing his selfishness to come before his love for her.
However, upon learning that Lily is carrying their 2nd child, Marshall exclaims:
“Lily, we have to [go to Italy]! You’re gonna live in Rome, and you’re gonna get your dream because you’re giving me mine, again.”
Cue tear cascade.
Lily had already given up her dream of Italy to support her husband and their (now growing) family. That was a very, VERY difficult thing for her and she knew she’d wrestle with that baggage for the rest of her life. But she did it. Why? Because she loves Marshall and their family enough to sacrifice of herself.
And in that instance, Marshall realized his erroneous thinking. The whole season, he was focused solely on how he could convince Lily to make the sacrifice because his dream was, selfishly, what he wanted.
Until news of the baby. News of the baby's existence caused Marshall to instantly realize his priorities were skewed. A judgeship was not his dream. It’d be a nice goal to reach, but Marshall’s dream was, and always has been, to have a big family, the same as he’d grown up surrounded by. Family is Marshall’s true dream, and he recognized that Lily had known (and been working towards) this all along. Lily had always sacrificed for their shared dream of family, while Marshall simply enjoyed the fruits of that sacrifice.
Realizing this, he took responsibility for sacrificing. He wanted Lily to have the same opportunity to grasp her dreams because it’s what she’d always done for him. He loved her and their family to the point of sacrificing the biggest goal he’s ever set for himself: judgeship. He pushed his fear of leaving New York aside and trusted that his love for his family would be sufficient to weather the journey.
They are like the married couple in O. Henry’s story The Gift of the Magi. Lily willingly handed over her hair (Italy) and Marshall gave up his watch (the judgeship). Deep, personal sacrifices in both cases that were gift wrapped in love.
And Marshall only understood this lesson after rearranging his priorities into their proper order: Lily first, family second, self third. What caused the paradigm shift? News of the baby and his overabundance of love and excitement.
THAT is why my body rocked with sobs. Marshall’s response was what I’ve always envisioned for myself as a child – my future husband being just as excited and joyous as Marshall at news of a pregnancy… my future husband seeing these children as dreams come true. I had visions of him jumping up and down in the bathroom with me as two little pink lines surfaced from a plastic stick.
I cried because my husband was so diametrically opposed to Marshall in this.
There was no moment of joy when he learned of Myla. There was no realization that his priorities were misaligned. There was no moment of clarity in which he appreciated the terrible sacrifice I make on a daily basis so his dreams can be sought after. Instead, there was disgust, fear, annoyance and frustration.
How that wounds my heart.
My dream, from my very first memories, revolve solely around a family. Myla was, in many ways, my final chance at that family. So when I mourn for Myla, I fully understand that I’m mourning for her and all the other children I’ve been denied.
And I was angry. Frustrated. Jealous. Desperate. All because of a television series that showcased the response I long for but will never have. Not even with Vincent. On both counts, John’s first reaction was fear and annoyance. Disbelief.
Never love. Never joy.
And that is what absolutely kills me.
I felt so unappreciated that I free-fell into an intense depression. My mind wondered if John even loved me at all. How could someone who loves me simultaneously seem to hate me so much?
Do I think John hates me? Of course not. But in that moment, it felt that way. Maybe because I hated myself being in this situation. I don't know. It's easier for me to turn the upset feelings inward rather than outward.
Anyway, after the show finished, we watched a 30 minute comedy to lighten the mood. It worked well enough for John to think things were okay. I was sour, though. The self-loathing, anger, jealousy and despair were percolating in my mind the whole time. So instead of watching another show, I went to bed. Not that I was going to sleep. Lord knows I wouldn't be doing much sleeping. But at least I could shut myself off in the dark.
John came up after me. He grabbed me close in bed and snuggled there. He's a snuggler. I hate snuggling. Loathe it. It's okay for all of three seconds before I get annoyed and want my space back. However, I allowed it because I knew that was his way of trying to make me feel better. I knew he needed to feel like he was helping. Maybe that's all he thought he could do. After all, John responds to touch, so it makes sense why he'd think I would react the same.
Honestly, though, I wanted no parts of myself let alone any parts of him.
I'm terrible, aren't I?
Anyway (and really, Mom, if you're reading this, just go ahead and avert your eyes), I realized in that moment that I did need John. I needed to feel loved, because there was a part of me (the logical side?) that understood he loved me, but my heart was so full of hurt and grief that I couldn't feel it. I couldn't process that he could love me given the broken and hurting state I was in.
So I kissed John. I wanted him to kiss me back, to give me some tangible sign that he loved me. He dutifully kissed me, but laid back on his pillow. I pulled his face back to mine and whispered, "No. Make love to me."
I don't normally do that. I'm not the romantic type who whispers sweet nothings into dusky skies as my hair whips gracefully in a gentle breeze. But in that moment, I recognized the marital act of making love as the only balm to soothe the aching desolation in my heart. I needed my husband to love me. I needed him to physically, emotionally and spiritually LOVE me, and a few pecks on the cheek weren't going to cut it. Not when I was feeling so incredibly unloved.
That was the first time I've ever "needed" sex. I've enjoyed sex, sure. I've wanted sex, definitely. But I can't remember a time in which I urgently needed to give the fullness of myself and receive the fullness of my husband in the way that only married love can do. Sex isn't just some repetitive thrusting based solely on biology. That we, as a people, have turned it into so base a commodity is a travesty. Looking at sex as a means to better know and understand the love of my husband... it was eye-opening for me.
In an effort to quell the wave of judgement I fear some folks might be inclined to reign down upon my husband after my last entry, he's a good guy. He just really, REALLY doesn't get Christianity, and that's not his fault. Remember, faith is a gift, and not everyone gets it right away.
So, to balance out the whining I just did (and help me remember why I love him), a list of why he's awesome.
He ALWAYS makes me laugh. Every day, there is some ridiculous thing he does or says or suggests that will solicit a giant, belly-quivering laugh out of me.
He's not afraid to make a fool of himself to get a laugh. In fact, he takes great pride in the lengths that he will go to get a giggle.
Laughter really is how our marriage thrives.
Really. Look at him. He's tall, dark and handsome, looks just as good in a suit as he does in his PJs, and he isn't super vain or worried about trying to keep himself looking good.
He just does it naturally.
I just love the dimples. Vincent's got them, too!
He's not afraid to try new things.
Even horseback riding at my request. Through a jungle and into the ocean. The poor boy's butt hurt, but he did it and he enjoyed it.
All because I thought it'd be fun.
He's a good dad!
It might've taken him some getting used to, but once he caught on to the whole "dad" thing, he went to town.
He gets up early with Vince, plays dress up, takes him to the park to play basketball, teaches him the ins and outs of various sports, disciplines and soothes like a pro.
He works hard to provide and always, always, always plans for Vincent's future.
He has great friends.
And yes, you really can learn a lot about a man by who he keeps company with.
That was one of the first traits I loved about John - his friends and his undying loyalty to them.
I'm so blessed to call these folks friends, too. Each one of them is amazing. <3
The list could seriously go on and on. John is a great man with amazing talents and drive. Sometimes we butt heads over the issue of religion and children, but he is my perfect match. I love him immensely and am appreciative of all the psychotic things he puts himself through for the good of our family.
Even if he sometimes thinks I'm out of my Christian-lovin' mind. :)
Last night, I sorta-kinda-totally flew off into a seething fit of rage against my husband and his incessant need to confine my personal thoughts and feelings into a tiny, misshapen box labelled "Force-Fed Ideologies of Christianity: Brainwash Edition."
I fully admit that I lost all semblance of sanity in the brief war of words (which wasn't a war so much as a massacre), but even whilst waging verbal warheads at his lackluster logic, I was able to cling to the truth of my Faith, and I think he'll reflect a little longer before attributing my personal opinions to the dusty religious textbooks of my childhood.
How did this all start?
Well, a quick refresher: John is an independent filmmaker who has sold two films and is working on two others. One of these latter projects we watched together for the purpose of draft-correction.
This is a period in post-production where you watch a film thirty billion times to check for any sort of lighting errors, sound issues, continuity problems, music arrangement, etc.
Seriously. It's like drafting and redrafting your novel to make the best possible product. However, since you can't use a red pen on DVDs, you sit in front of the TV with a notebook and take notes until your hands fall off. Then you use your feet.
John is in the early stages of that, and he asked for my opinions. We watched the draft together a few nights ago, and I offered various comments on the different characters, story lines and technical issues I saw. He seemed to take them all in stride, and by the end of the movie, we were both ready for bed. It's an exhausting process.
Last night he had a meeting with the director to go over his (and my) notes from the draft screening. The director is a good friend of my husband's and we both adore taking him and his wife out to dinner. They're good people whom I like and respect.
When I asked John how the meeting went, he said it was fine. He explained how he presented our notes to the director, and the conversation sorta blew up from there.
You see, I felt that there were too many "main characters" in the movie. I only ended up caring about two - three characters (instead of the 6 - 7 that were vying for attention). I said, "I wish the movie was only about Tom and Steve. I don't really care about anyone else."
John took that to mean, "Gina only likes the 'wholesome' characters and doesn't like the ones with immoral lifestyle choices because she's Catholic."
He accuses me of stuff like this all the time. I think last night was the last straw because he imparted this to the director and his wife which, in my mind, made me look like some sort of brainwashed space cadet who has no capacity to reason for herself.
That drives me up a wall.
I hate when my religion is blamed for things he doesn't agree with me on.
She doesn't believe in divorce? Oh... must be all that Catholic guilt. Couldn't possibly be due to the fact that my wife loves me and believes that love can endure even the most difficult of burdens.
She wants a big family. OBVIOUSLY that's because her Church tells her she can't use birth control and should shoot out all the babies she can possibly make. There's no WAY it could be an intense, natural longing that she's harbored and documented since she was a child.
She doesn't believe in homosexual marriage? Pfft - her archaic old Church is homophobic so she must step in line or face excommunication. If she could, just for a second, think for herself (poor girl) she'd realize that children don't have the natural right to a mother and father. All those studies that have proven children of homosexual couples face higher rates of suicide, depression, social integration issues and gender confusion couldn't have had anything to do with that, right? Right?!
She doesn't like characters in my movie. There's no way the characters are just poorly shaded out or make themselves sound pathetic or egotistical, especially in an early draft. No way! Can't possibly be anything wrong with how we've chosen to tell the story. Obviously her brainwashed Christian values are to blame, because Lord knows she can't formulate her own opinion.
I hate being made out to be some brainless moron. My husband of all people should know better than that. So I flipped out. Majorly. And to my surprise, he did an about-face within minutes. He gave me a sincere apology and admitted he deserved the verbal backlash I'd unleashed.
He doesn't understand why I accept Catholic teaching because it doesn't make sense to him. However, I don't understand how he thinks football is entertaining but I don't hold that as prime reason for him hating HGTV.
Anyway, when I reiterated my reasoning WHY I didn't like (or was bored by) certain characters, he admitted his mistake and apologized for instantly blaming my dislike for them on some pointless connection to Christianity.
It's just frustrating sometimes when he auto-jumps into thinking I consult with a Bible before I make every decision.
Thankfully things haven't gotten to that point yet, but sometimes it feels like he really does think I'm a mindless moron. He KNOWS I'm intelligent and he prides himself on marrying a woman with smarts, but when it comes to my conservative slant, he can't help himself when thinking it's based solely on my religion (because apparently conservatives can't be anything but Christian).
Ah well. I felt better after he'd sincerely apologized, because I know he realized his mistake. But it just drives me up a wall that he could've painted a picture of me to friends as some sort of bumbling idiot with no opinion outside of a Catholic coloring book.
Why is it that folks can't just accept that we are Catholic because we've looked at the world and wanted better? Expected better? Loved better?
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this much of a failure as a parent.
I got a call from Vincent’s principal this morning. My soon-to-be-four year old son was sent to the principal on his 3rd day of school.
Regardless of the situation, how can any parent say “Not my fault.”
On some level, it’s my fault. I did or didn’t do something right that caused him to act out in a negative way.
Friday afternoon, I was stopped by Vincent’s teacher and warned about his behavior. He was acting out by swatting at children and screaming at his teacher. He refused to follow directions and insisted on going off by himself over and over again.
When she said that, my heart practically tore itself in half.
“Going off by himself over and over again.”
Immediately images of him playing by himself in a room full of children as I picked him up from daycare flooded my mind. You guys have heard me talk about this before. I can’t help but feel responsible for my son’s social immaturity.
Aside from the fact that he was hearing-impaired his first two years (which stunted his speech and comprehension), he didn’t have much interaction with children his age outside of daycare. Why? Because he was never given a sibling.
I feel so angry and so guilty for this. When I heard the teacher cite the same exact symptom I was so keenly aware of every time I’d pick Vince up from daycare, I knew in my heart just how disadvantaged Vincent was made by the situation between my husband and I.
I immediately became livid. After putting Vince into the car, my blood pressure must’ve soared as I had visions of tearing into John for his selfishness… his thoughtlessness. How could he not see the damage he was doing to Vincent? All I wanted to do was scream and yell at him, myself. I wanted to punch and kick him. I wanted to do everything that Vincent had done as if John feeling it would somehow make him realize how incredibly wrong he was.
I quickly realized I needed to cool down. I almost felt like I wasn’t in my right mind. On a logical level, I fully understood that my rage was simply masking the root of my emotional maelstrom. I felt guilty and depressed; sad and hopeless. All of visions I had in my head of creating the perfect family environment for my children was taken away from me and I’d let it happen. I never provided Vincent the sibling I wanted him to have. Little Myla, the sister he has in Heaven, slipped away under my watch. All of the anger and rage that I was directing at John was simply a bait and switch. If I was able to focus on him, I didn’t have to realize how much of the blame I shouldered for his deficiencies.
Logically, I fully understood all of that. Emotionally, however, I didn’t give a hoot. I wanted to call him and tell him that if he was home, he should leave. Maybe find a friend to spend the night with ‘cause I didn’t want him home with me. I wanted so much to lash out in the most spiteful, angry way I could to make him feel just a fraction of the hurt I carried.
Thank God my logical side fought back, because my emotional side was gunning for separation. It really, truly was. That is not, however, the Christian way of handling problems, and I really have tried so hard to grow myself into a better example of what it means to be truly loving in my actions, especially with John.
Plus, in my heart, I know that’s not the answer. It’s not fair to John who is not entirely to blame. So I forced myself to calm down. I forced myself to refrain from spewing lava the moment he walked into the house.
However, he could quickly tell I was upset. I said we’d talk after Vincent went to bed, and he backed off. Somehow, by the grace of God, he actually backed off. Normally he will push until his curiosity is satiated, but in this instance, he did not. That gave me enough time to collect myself and slowly vent, alone, until I was ready to discuss things in a manner that was fair to both of us.
So after Vince went to bed, he asked. At first I didn’t know how to delve into it. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to restrain my tongue. I wanted to be fair, but I was still emotionally raw. I have no doubt I didn’t handle myself perfectly, but I can say I made the right decision. I’m glad that I waited until Vince went to bed, and I’m glad that I resolved to talk things through with John rather than remain dedicated to heaping blame and anger on him without his knowledge.
I explained what the teacher said. I explained my experiences picking Vince up from daycare. I then explained that I truly believed Vince wouldn’t be as socially behind if he had a sibling. I felt guilty for not providing him one, and I was angry that John couldn’t see how damaging that was to him. I explained why I didn’t say anything earlier, and I also explained how incredibly angry I was on the way home. However, I also explained that I understood anger is my self-defense mechanism, so it’s the emotion that crops up most strongly when I feel sad or guilty.
In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that the angrier I am about a given situation, the more upset I am about it. Anger, to me, is a controlled force. I feel empowered and in-control when I am angry. I’m able to speak eloquently and my mind is razor sharp. However, the second I allow the sadness, guilt or despair creep in, my eloquence goes out the window, I feel as if I’ve lost control and I am left weak and vulnerable.
Doesn’t that seem strange? But it’s true. Angry Gina is like a brilliant lawyer poised to tear into a guilty convict. Upset Gina is the babbling convict who wants to cry in the corner. Very, very seldom does Upset Gina come out to play.
So through my conversation with John, I felt a tug of war going on between these two sides of myself. I knew that in order for John to understand that I didn’t hate him or fully blame him for everything, I had to be honest about my feelings of failure and guilt. However, in order to get my thoughts across in a clear manner, my words were edged with anger – not to reprimand John, but to help me keep my composure.
To my surprise, John did not defend himself or try to make me understand that my view of siblings was wrong. Instead, he apologized. He said that he understood I was in a terrible situation. He sympathized that I felt guilty for having failed Vincent in this manner. He did point out that there were other ways of giving Vincent the experience of other children his age, but he didn’t counter me when I said the experience of siblings is without equal.
He just apologized and said he wished he could change his mind on the matter. I waved him off, not because I didn’t appreciate it, but because I was still caught between Anger and Upset.
The upset side of me wanted to reassure him that I didn’t hate him for how he felt. That side of me fully understood where he was coming from and wanted to let him know that he didn’t need to “wish” he could change his mind.
The angry side of me realized it was about to lose its edge and decided bypassing that statement altogether would be a safer course of action than responding, because how can anger respond to love?
That is, after all, how John answered me. He listened to me, really heard me, tried to understand my point of view, and sympathized. He didn't agree, and he didn't have to. You don't have to agree with someone's perspective in order to sympathize. THAT is the response I've been waiting for.
I never wanted to force John to change his mind. I'd like him to, sure, but that was never the crux of my frustration. It was always his stubborn refusal to even give my point of view air time. I was wrong, and that was that. This is the very first time I felt as though he'd not only heard me out... he'd allowed himself to accept that my point of view wasn't entirely off-base. That doesn't mean he agrees with it, and that's okay. However, it does mean that I'm not the outright manipulator that I think he felt I was regarding children.
Thus, the conversation petered off. John apologizing for his part in my sadness, me accepting that I was stuck trying to figure out a way around this for myself and my family. As a mother, I have to figure out a way to help Vincent grow into a more socially adept little boy. I accept his current difficulties on account of his verbal / comprehension deficits, but I do not accept that these are permanent limitations. They are certainly not excuses for bad behavior.
So today I vowed to work with both the teacher and the principal on getting Vince better transitioned into his new environment. I’ve enlisted the help of his previous teachers, and I’ll be talking to my mom (a kindergarten teacher) later this afternoon. Obviously I also talked to John and we both agree that we’re giving this at least two weeks before throwing in the towel.
Maybe we find out that Vince really is just too young to begin. I, for one, will not make that decision without giving it a real try. Two days is not enough to judge a child’s ability to meet the expectations of an entirely new environment. The principal agreed with me, and we’re going to see what the next two weeks bring us.
Keep us in your prayers, folks. It’d be much appreciated. This entire experience has been so much more challenging than I’d ever imagined.
UPDATE: Since I was asked - Vincent was practically deaf for the first two years of his life. Given that therapy only got him so far, he's still behind his peers when it comes to communicating his fear or frustration. As a result, he relies on physical outbursts sometimes. Physical outbursts include swatting at others or stamping his feet. Both are negative behaviors that could potentially hurt someone, so they are serious. However, he's not maliciously threatening anyone and is reacting, in my mind, as a child of his cognative level would respond. Our job, as parents, is to teach him new coping skills and help him develop beyond physical response. We also need to work more on his willingness to share the attention of adults with other children (again, something a sibling would've helped with). He consistently demands the attention of the teacher, and if he doesn't get it, he simply shouts louder and louder until she's forced to give him attention (even though it's negative attention).
My background is education. I fully understand the dynamics of what is going on and why my son is acting out in the manner in which he's acting out. It makes sense, but my difficulty is how I can help re-teach him better behavior.
Anyone have any tricks or tips?
I wrote this out several times. None of them quite stuck. I'm always so concerned with saying the wrong thing or having folks unfamiliar with the situation immediately view John in a negative light.
Truth be told, my wonderful husband can be a bit of a rockhead when it comes to my emotions. It's not entirely his fault given I rarely show them. I'm normally a very even-keeled individual whose emotions range from happy to happier (to stark raving mad when I'm driving through traffic). I'm not prone to falling into crying fits or getting depressed or staying miserable. It's just not who I am. I really have been blessed with an inner peace and joy that anchors me no matter what's going on in life. It's why I'm so good at masking my emotions in times of grief. So long as I focus on that tiny spot of joy, I can be okay.
So again, I don't fault my husband for his less-than-stellar handling of me in the aftermath of the miscarriage. In addition to the situation being foreign to him, my own emotional response was foreign to him. As a result, instead of confronting them or trying to handle them, he shut himself off from the situation and just ignored it in the hopes that it would rectify itself.
As I stated in previous blog entries, I'm trying really, really hard to break him out of that habit. A man (or woman for that matter) cannot simply ignore a huge issue in the hopes that it magically goes away - ESPECIALLY in a marriage.
So I cornered him in the car. He had no method of escape and was forced to handle the conversation for a limited amount of time (which I know was helpful because he'd've panicked otherwise). I explained what I felt and what I believed he felt. I explained I understood his reasons for ignoring the situation... for dismissing my insistence that I was pregnant... for walking away from me when I was visibly upset. I also explained that I didn't hold it against him as I understood that's his MO when handling foreign situations.
That being said, I told him he could no longer just ignore things in that manner because doing so was hurtful to me and to our relationship.
He tried to defend his actions. He tried to say he wasn't dismissive or insensitive. He just "didn't believe what I believed."
This, mind you, is in reference to the fact that even had I been pregnant, John wouldn't have concerned himself with that child being a real life. Babies, to him, aren't "really real" until they show up on a sonogram... at the very least on a home-pregnancy test.
I responded, "John, you don't have to believe a child existed in order to help me through my emotions. You don't have to believe she's in Heaven in order to help me come to terms with what I know to be true."
I mean, does he have to lose a parent, himself, in order to comfort a friend who just lost his? Of course not. In that analogy, he realized his mistake.
He was so worried that I was trying to change his mind about children that he blinded himself to my very real, very intense emotional struggle. I was forced to "go it alone" when I should've been able to rely on him to help.
That really, really bothered him and he was silent for some time before grabbing my hand and apologizing.
But I wasn't waiting for an apology. I'd forgiven him before he'd even responded to me in such a manner. I understand my husband and what he needs from me. It's why I didn't press the issue and only gave him what I thought he could handle.
Even in my grief, I sought out the response from me that he'd need. As his wife, I expect him to try to respond in like fashion. Even though he might be struggling to handle things on a personal level, his job is to seek out a response that I'd need. After all, that is what marriage is about... each putting the other first so that both people's needs are looked after and taken care of in a loving manner.
I'm very pleased with the flow of the conversation. I felt heard and validated, and I think he felt understood and loved. I also believe that should an emotionally taxing situation arise again, we'll both be better equipped to handle one another.
In the end, that's all I can ask for, because this sort of loving reciprocity is the foundation for family life, and that's what marriage is all about!
I was talking to my best friend, Mary, yesterday. She wanted to check in and see how I was doing since we hadn't really been able to touch base since everything happened.
I explained the situation and, as usual, she gave sound logical support. Good thing I fell in with the chick who grew up to be a trained psychologist, huh?
Anyway, in speaking with Mary, I found myself coming to a very clear understanding of how I was handling my husband in this situation. Some folks have suggested I lay off bringing up my emotions to John given the precarious situation we find ourselves in. My mother wondered if I might be pushing too much... some of you wonderful readers suggested via e-mail / commentary that I might want to reign back my expressiveness... even Mary thought it might be a good idea to "get myself sorted out" before attempting to wrangle the Elephant in the Room between John and I.
However, let me assure folks that I haven't really been pressing the issue with John. I've brought it up in tiny bits and pieces. We've spoken about Myla three times. Once when I told him I was sure I was pregnant. Once, a few days later when I told him I was sure I had miscarried. Finally, I spoke of her when I told him I'd named her.
The longest of these conversations was the first. That lasted about 10-15 minutes and it consisted of me explaining the changes in my body that assured me I was pregnant, him going off about a vasectomy and how another baby would be the implosion of his world, me countering with all the wonderful things a baby would bring, and finally his acceptance that he'd be a good father to this one just as he is to Vince.
The second conversation was less than half that time. After a day of the cramping and nausea, I realized what was happening and told him. He said, "I don't want to say I'm happy, because I know you're upset, but I'm honestly relieved."
Even though it hurt to hear him say that, I understood his point of view and didn't hold it against him. However, I couldn't really say much more to him on the subject given how incredibly emotional I was. He left me to my tears and I left him to his video games.
Finally, the night I spoke to him of her name was the shortest of all. Two, maybe three minutes.
Each of these conversations was difficult for me to start, difficult for me to have, and difficult for me to walk away from.
But I realize in my conversation with Mary that I did it both for myself, and for John.
For John? How, you ask?
Remember that 3 Part Series I did involving my mother-in-law? Secrets Aren't Secrets Forever was the title I went with. Brief synopsis, John had ignored his mother's prodding for more grandchildren for YEARS. Finally, she took matters into her own hands and asked me directly. I then handled the conversation John couldn't and eventually explained to John the importance of NOT ignoring situations in the hopes they go away.
The best way of handling problems is to work THROUGH them.
Well, what you readers don't realize is that not even one week later, he did it again.
We were out with one of his clients and his client asked us when we'd be having more children. John PROMPTLY walked away from the table we were at, knowingly leaving me in an emotionally vulnerable position. However, I took that opportunity to model proper behavior for him. I called out to him, "John, wait a minute." He stopped, hung back, and listened to me respond. After we left the client's presence, I explained that it felt terrible for him to leave me stranded in such a way, ESPECIALLY after we had just had a conversation about how to handle these questions since they're so hurtful to me. He acknowledged I was right and resolved to use my response as a guide for next time.
"Next time" occurred about two weeks ago. He proudly came home and said, "Another client asked about me having more kids and I actually answered him. I handled it!" Then he proceeded to tell me the conversation which, to me, proved he COULD learn if someone was willing to patiently teach him a strategy outside of "IGNORE."
So as I was talking to Mary, I pointed that out to her. She felt he might've been too stuck in his ways to get past his "Ignore" defense. However, as his wife, I feel it's my job to help him develop beyond such a juvenile response. So I've brought it up in tiny snippets so that if he ever feels ready, the door is open for him to look at this situation from a different perspective - one that isn't drenched in the culture of death.
As I was thinking more on my conversation with Mary, magazine covers kept popping into my head. They looked a little something like this:
Notice that every single one of them has a headline about sex?
We've all seen these magazines. Cosmo isn't the only one guilty of it. However, this particular screen shot served my purposes.
Women are CONSTANTLY bombarded with how to express themselves sexually by getting men hot and bothered, by feeling sexy, themselves, and by being vocal about what she likes and doesn't like in the bedroom so that both partners come away feeling "satisfied."
Barring the stupidity of most Cosmo-type trash, they do have one thing right - women need to express themselves (and their likes and dislikes) if they're going to have a fulfilling sexual relationship with their spouse.
However, if we need to be upfront about our sexual desires, how much more upfront must we be about our emotional and spiritual ones?
Or do those not count?
I say they count just as much (and more) than sexual desires. So if society is telling women they need to coach their men into being better lovers, it should be telling women they need to help men be better listeners, supporters and friends.
In fact, that's what a marriage is. It is a husband and a wife consciously helping one another develop into more mature, loving human beings. It is our JOB to coach one another through times of confusion, discord and strife, even if we're not entirely sure of the way ourselves.
So I'll keep on keepin' on with John, just as I'm sure he'll keep on keepin' on with me. I'll keep chugging along trying to teach him coping mechanisms that exist beyond ignoring issues, and he'll coach me into being a more financially sound adult.
Thus, even in the midst of my own struggle with grief, I find it necessary to push him just far enough to see past his own "comfortable" perspective. I don't push him enough to have him run for the hills, but I push him enough to widen, even a smidgen, his own comfort zone. In doing so, it widens my own comfort zone because I'm forced to confront my own dislike for emotional confrontation. I am forced to make myself vulnerable to him, and even though he's not the most delicate with me right now, I can see that he's making a good effort.
And again, I love him for trying. At the end of the day, that's all I can really ask - that he loves me enough to try.
I almost cannot believe a year has passed. I think it's because I'm in such an entirely different place in my life. When the bells rang to welcome 2013, it almost seemed they were for me.
At this point last year, my marriage was ravaged. We were both depressed, incredibly bitter and mostly unhappy with our lives. Everything from work to friendships to our personal lives seemed to be dead set against us finding any joy. So to look back and realize how far we've come... what a transformative year 2012 has been... it's mystifying. It's like I'm looking back on someone else's life.
2012 was the year John and I pulled each other, many times kicking and screaming, into loving one another again.
You see, no one tells you this during marriage prep courses. No one mentions the all-out war you sometimes need to wage in order to build and maintain a relationship that seems so easy to new couples. They say marriage is hard work, but they don't tell you that this particular brand of hard work has the ability to take you to your deepest breaking point, smash it into a billion pieces, and then introduce you to the even deeper breaking point you didn't realize your other breaking point lived in fear of.
So 2012 was the year we confronted those breaking points. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was terribly cruel, ugly and painful. I’m still not entirely sure how we survived such a traumatic reconfiguration of our marriage. I attribute it to the prayers of those who understood the heartache. They were the likely source of strength the two of us unwittingly fed from as we endured the agonizing process of cleaning house and facing the truth of our own destruction.
Most people are unaware that there were tremors unsettling our nest. I’ve always kept such things very close as I don’t believe there is benefit in airing dirty laundry to family or friends. I never uttered a word to my family as I didn’t want them to view John in a negative light. I also didn’t want anyone worrying over my relationship when there were more pressing things to keep them occupied.
So I turned to my spiritual director and my best friend. The only two people who knew the full extent of the emotional agony I endured, I held nothing back from them. I was candid, frank and colored. I would spit fire one moment only to fall into a river of tears the very next. I also poured myself into writing. Venting to my two trusted confidantes and banging out article after article on my keyboard – those were my coping mechanisms. Some folks might be upset to hear I didn't turn to them with my emotional tidal wave. May it suffice to say that voicing that wave to one person - let alone the two I chose - was difficult enough.
I’m still not entirely sure what John did. He eventually told his family. It was a huge mistake – and he fully admits that now – but I don’t fault him. His family dynamic is vastly different from mine, so while I was afforded the distance necessary to keep my personal life adequately private, he was not. I know he vented to his friends a bit (because it had the direct effect of once close-friends pulling away from me), but again… I understand he needed to cope in his own way.
We mucked along in this awkward venting dance, but it was a temporary fix (if one can call it a fix at all). We knew we needed to seek professional help, and John surprised me one day by agreeing to see a counselor. He even came up with a list of folks he felt would be good. We found one we liked and began to see him twice a month.
We only went a handful of times - not because we didn't like him (in fact, he was great) - but because John and I had really committed to trying to work things out ourselves. All of the advice the doc gave us were things we were already accustomed to doing. He helped us tweak things a bit so we didn't keep hitting the same walls over and over again, but it felt good that a professional was able to walk us through some of our darker areas and point out that we had, in fact, done a lot more for ourselves and each other than we had taken credit for.
So yeah, having spent over a year battling the demons of our marriage, I look back and almost cannot believe that the same marriage is now back to being happy, satisfying and loving - maybe even moreso than when we were first engaged. I'm incredulous, really.
This is the reason I felt the urge to post my experience online. No one likes to admit their marriage isn't perfect. No one in their right mind wants to admit that their spouse wanted to divorce them. I sorta hate the fact that this is going to be out there now with people judging me or John one way or the other for whatever ridiculous things they'll conjure up to judge us on.
The end result is something important enough to highlight, though. I see several of my friends (now that they're marrying off) coming to terms with the fact that marriage really does suck sometimes. For as amazing and wonderful as this vocation is, there are some seriously challenging and downright terrifying aspects of it that make you think you're slightly insane for having ever said "I do" to begin with.
I'm here to tell you that even through the most terrifying and horrible moments, you can and MUST fight for your marriage.
Every time John brought up the "D" word, I'd let it roll right off me. I never for a second gave divorce a thought because I simply do not believe it exists for us. When you can show me the seam that binds two souls united at the altar, I'll show you divorce papers. Until then, the only recourse is war.
So I went to war.
And I told John I was going to war.
And all of you out there who love your spouse but feel the pressure to divorce mount against your sacramental union - you must go to war.
And that is how it must be in a marriage. If your relationship is of any worth - if there is anything of value there (and there must be... you married one another once upon a time after all), you will wage war to defend it... even if you must defend it from yourselves.
That is precisely what John and I did. I explained to John that I would never - NEVER - sign divorce papers. He, exasperated, asked me why. I told him the truth. For as much as I sometimes wanted to punch him repeatedly in the face, I still loved him. For as angry and as bitter and as resentful as I sometimes felt towards him, I would always still love him. I would always be able to see the good-natured humor in him. I would always respect the responsible and hard-working man he is. I would always see the light of love in how he raises our son. Thus, in my mind, divorce can never be an answer. I was confident that one day we'd look back on this miserable point in our lives and be better for it.
And ya know what? He needed to hear that. I knew it all along, and I assumed he understood it, but no. He needed to hear that from me. He needed to hear me lay it all out there - to place myself out in such a vulnerable, honest position. I think it was then that he realized we had something to fight for after all. It wasn't just a "Gina's being a stubborn Catholic who doesn't believe in divorce." It was Gina being a stubborn wife who doesn't believe in throwing away a husband of value.
So night after night, day after day, tearful yelling session after tearful yelling session we somehow reached a fuller understanding of one another and our needs. We were no longer the same people we were 8 years ago. We had changed, and we needed to recognize that, appreciate it, and nurture each other in all new ways. We needed to learn about one another again and in trying - really, truly trying - we little by little learned to love each other again.
And it's been quite the experience.
So to those of you facing down what seems to be the barrel of a divorce gun I say there is hope. Be the hope for your marriage if you wish to see it succeed. Pray, pray, pray and work towards finding the common ground necessary to build from again. 2012 was our year. Make 2013 yours.
Banana? Of COURSE I want a banana.
That's right. I got "The Look."
Ya know... the one you get when the person you're talking to says something that you're supposed to understand on some innate, personal level?
It was a look that said, "C'mon, Gina. You're married. You've got a husband. You know how much it sucks to always have a man around."
I was absolutely dreading it. I didn't want to laugh them off and join in the man-bashing they were so keen to take part in. I also didn't want to ruin the dynamics for the rest of the day by telling them that the only reason they were having this "yay divorce" session was because they were still - after 10 and 6 years respectively - attempting to get past the fact that their divorces STILL hurt and weren't as rosy as they kept trying to convince themselves they were.
But that look was like a line in the sand. I saw the line. I understood it for what it was. Crossing it meant I'd be on their side. I'd be a woman who understood just how much being married sucked. I'd be in their club - the one reserved for angry vent sessions about men and all the things they do to make women miserable.
If I stayed on my side, however, I'd be the enemy. I'd be the naive, young and pompous twit who rode her high horse around the world because I was too stupid to understand that in a few short years, I'd be joining their ranks. And then... oh... staying on my side of the line would ensure their constant vigilance for the day I'd wake up and find myself alone and miserable. They'd both be waiting to pounce on my broken, bleeding heart with a victorious "I told you so, now come with us so we can tear into men together again!"
That pause - it only lasted a moment. It felt like forever because I fully understood the war I was about to wage by speaking the truth of my feelings. I was trying to calculate the words and what effects they'd have so I could do the least amount of damage while still conveying my point.
"I can't really complain about John. My marriage isn't perfect, but I'm pretty sure I'd be up Crap's Creek sans both paddles without him. He's a good guy. I'm happy to be 'chained down' with him. I even got a cute kid out of the deal."
Chained down is their term, not mine, but I figured I'd hit home the point that even though I understood their feelings, I didn't share them. I then tried to buoy the response with our shared love of children - their living reminder that once upon a time, their marriages were good, too.
Unfortunately, it didn't work. Go figure.
As I had anticipated, I was immediately seen as the enemy. What did I know? I've only been married 5 years. That's all honeymoon. Just wait until he gets that 7 year itch. I'll see. And when I do, they'll be there with margaritas and cyber-dating for me to chase off the self-loathing.
After that stellar session with the Cynic's Crystal Ball, they physically turned their backs to me and continued their husband / marriage bashing.
Our culture is replete with these Divorcee Clubs. Every divorced woman gains automatic entry while every other woman is assumed to simply await the day they, too, become part of the club - because even if you don't divorce, you'll still know enough about men to think they're generally terrible.
I get that sometimes it's fun for girls to get together to poke fun at the guys. I partake of it myself. However, I tend to limit it to slight jokes that don't actually call into question my love for my husband or my appreciation for my marriage vocation. I'll roll my eyes at some of the more ridiculous things his mind wanders off to while I'm trying to have a conversation about Honey To-Do's, but his eyes are probably rolling just the same as my eyes glaze over when he starts talking about football.
There are inherent differences between men and women. I enjoy poking fun at the stereotypes or even pinpointing some of the more ridiculous highlights that John and I play out in our marriage. I don't like the conversations that devolve into hating on ex-spouses for the sake of hating on them. Venting is one thing, but when you start bragging about how awful he was and how much better you are without him (several years AFTER the divorce), the entire conversation just comes off as pathetic.
Ah well. I hate those situations. I never know how to properly extricate myself from them.
Divorce shouldn't be something we strive for. It also shouldn't be something we accept as joyous celebrations. Again - as Dom so rightly put it, divorce is a terribly painful, life-altering act that defies the very act of God who brings forth the union of two souls.
Now this entry was not to say that all divorces were created equal. This is not delving into abusive relationships or marriages that took place when there was something fundamentally wrong with the couple. This is more about negative trash-talk than divorce itself. It's more about glorifying what is essentially a terrible thing in order to overcompensate for the desecration and destruction one feels at the hands of such a travesty.
My prayers are with all of those couples who have experienced divorce. They are with all married couples who daily struggle to take the hard road of their vocation. May we all be granted the strength to find the Will of God in our lives - and in our spouses.
I've been sitting on this post for a week now. Actually, it's been brewing for longer than a week, but last Wednesday really sparked up some irritation regarding a few divorced women I know and their overt "We're awesome because our ex-husbands are evil people" pride.
I was at a meeting that devolved into a debate over our deacon's homily the previous weekend. I'd gone to a different parish that weekend on account of being sick (I missed my normal mass by an hour), so I was all sorts of curious to know what the hullabaloo was about.
Apparently our deacon preached about the sanctity of marriage and decided to use his God-given vocation to state, unequivocally, that homosexual marriage goes against the Law of God, and that to participate in such unions is a mortal sin. He also delved into the murky area of divorce and why those who sought Communion with the Church after such civil proceedings were dealing with mortal sin. Considering so many people are unaware of this, it's important to teach these things from the pulpit every now and again (especially with divorce rates being as high as they are).
I must've had the most confused look on my face. At first I thought the person relaying the "problem" was joking.
I actually said, "So people are upset that he's speaking the truth?"
I looked over to my council-mate who gave me the same stunned look of confusion I knew I was wearing. He said, "I was there. I heard the homily. I have no idea what the problem is, either."
This was met with the response of "Deacon Strong (as henceforth I'll call him) needs to learn to be more politically correct. You don't just alienate a bunch of parishioners by throwing that stuff in their faces all the time. He didn't need to talk about marriage at all. It was pointless, and he upset a lot of people. A LOT of people."
Now, you need to understand the dynamics of the table at this point. I was sitting at the head with our pastor, a great and wonderful priest. He was relatively silent at this point since I think he was genuinely trying to understand the complaint being lodged. On one side of the table, there were a few council members who seemed to agree with the complaint being lodged against Deacon Strong. On the other side of the table were those of us who were confused that there was a complaint at all.
How strange is that? We all ended up sitting in such a way that we actually split ourselves down the middle regarding supporters and not-so-supportive supporters of Deacon Strong ('cause everyone loves Deacon Strong - just not that particular homily).
Anyway, still being completely confused, I pointed out the fact that all of the readings for that weekend were, in fact, about marriage. Of course his homily would reflect that. Of course he would want to talk about the sanctity of marriage in light of those readings. Him speaking the truth in light of the readings is not "throwing it" in anyone's face.
Plus, I've heard enough homilies between he and our pastor... that would've been the first peep I'd've heard from either of them (from the pulpit) regarding homosexuals marrying / divorcees lining up for Communion. So to accuse Deacon Strong of "throwing it" in anyone's face is absolutely LUDICROUS.
I then pointed out that we were in the middle of the 40 days for Life event that's been pushed by the Bishops. Marriage is considered the foundation for life. It is through marriage that the gift of life is supposed to be given to the world. It is through marriage that this gift can be fostered and nurtured into another vessel of love which can continue the cycle of love through marriage and subsequent children. In fact, to hit home that point, many parishes throughout the country were doing special blessings over married couples during the Mass.
So yes... again... MARRIAGE WAS THE POINT OF THE HOMILY THAT WEEKEND.
After pointing that out, the response was "Jesus didn't come to condemn anyone. We need to love everyone as God made them."
I immediately retorted with "Jesus came to DIVIDE. And He did! He said some really hard things that got a whole lot of people angry. In fact, it's why He ended up dying on a cross."
And to her credit, the woman lodging the complaint was simply trying to do her job as a council-member considering there were "lots" of people upset with the homily. I wasn't upset with her so much as the fact that people were getting this up-in-arms over something that EVERYONE KNOWS.
Catholics don't believe in homosexual marriage and we don't believe that divorce is copasetic in the Eyes of God. As this entry so clearly expresses, divorce is a painful, messy business. Homosexual unions very obviously undermine the sanctity of true marriage. These are basic truths of our faith. They shouldn't come as surprises to folks. I mean, do people feel as though the Blessed Mother's virginity is thrown in their faces every week (considering it's part of the creed and all)? So when these issues of homosexual unions or divorced Catholics come up once in a blue moon, why all of the sudden the theatrics with storming out of the church or declaring yourself an Evangelical?
You have no right to act surprised, offended or indignant that no one told you about this part of the faith.
I'm all for walking out the door when you come to terms with the fact that you don't believe in what we preach. But attempting to vilify the person who is telling you what you already know simply because he's saying it out loud and not pretending like the Church teaches something different?
No no, good friend. Methinks you're at the wrong party.
And what finally solicited this particular entry was the fact that one of the women at the meeting took this opportunity to glory in her role as a divorced Catholic.
I've heard jokes in passing on several occasions, but I typically keep my mouth completely shut when it comes to folks talking about their ex-spouses. I, like most people, I'm sure, steer clear of that topic like it is the Plague.
However, the joke was timed to coincide with the bragging of a different woman altogether. This woman is someone I speak to often. She divorced about 10 years ago and was - that very morning - bragging about how she was so glad to be rid of her husband, how much better she was doing without him, wishing him nothing but misery, and touting herself as free and able to be with who she wanted, do what she wanted, and not care one way or the other. Oh, but isn't it so great to be divorced???
She was doing this with a mutual friend of ours, another divorcee. I was in the room, and was by default assumed to be part of the conversation. I simply kept my mouth shut. Both women were gloating about their freedom and how much it sucked to be married to such terrible men. Then they turned their attention to me - silent little Gina - and I got exactly what I'd been dreading.
I've been blessed with several artistically inclined friends. Being someone who can't draw a straight line with a ruler, having these artistic friends has always given me a bit of a boost. I can live vicariously through their skill set. Ha!
Long-time readers of this blog know that I absolutely adore paintings. I'll try to sneak them into most entries and sometimes I'll even go on wild tangents trying to figure out their layered symbolism. I just really, really enjoy that sorta stuff!
Anyway, an old friend of mine dropped me a line this weekend. (I've already had this discussion with her, so no worries about wading into a public battle of wits. We've reached an understanding and she gave me permission to post this.) This friend, "Lilly," is a pretty incredible painter. I've linked to her material on my page in the past, and I've attended two of her shows in the last year. We don't really talk much, but I tend to comment on her albums as she posts new work. Every now and again she'll comment on a pic or two of Vince, but that's about the extent of our communication.
I was thus happy (and surprised) to hear from her this weekend when she called. She said that she'd been reading this blog for about a month and has been debating asking for my help with selling her paintings. She said that in exchange for selling her artwork on my page, she'd share my blog with her friends.
Now at first glance, that's not a ridiculous offer. However, I admit that I took offense to it simply based on a conversation I'd recently had with John.
Let me explain:
I've been posting to Facebook about my husband's upcoming movie release. Many of my readers already know that he sold his first movie to Lionsgate and the release is this week. In my attempts to support him in his dream to make and sell movies, I not only agreed to be in the movie (with Vincent), but I helped make the food, solicited help from my best friend, Mary, and have been plugging the movie left and right for it's various screenings, releases, and news-bytes.
Now, what most of you don't know is the name of my husband's movie. The reason for this is that the content in the movie. It's rated R, but it should really be closer to NC-17. It's very "The Hang Over" in content. Thus, I've never promoted it on my page, even after John's begged me to write up a horrible review and rile all of you fine readers up into a tizzy so you'll buy it and yell about it, too.
*Shakes head* My husband - "No publicity is bad publicity." Ha ha!
Anyway, I've made the conscious choice NOT to promote his movie on this page based on principle. He was feeling slightly unsupported because I didn't want to use this medium to promote what I was already promoting through Facebook, Twitter, etc.
As I pointed out, however, I was supporting him in every other way known to man. I was telling folks about his project, I was linking to the various news articles about it, I cooked for the cast / crew, and I agreed - against better judgement - to take part in it. That's about as supportive as it gets, right?
Then, on top of that, I pointed out that for all the unsolicited support he got from me - publicly - he had yet to link to my jewelry page. So I really shouldn't hear word one about being unsupportive.
(Mind you, pointing this out promptly solicited a "Check out my wife's page" post to his feed; I was quite appreciative).
I go out of my way to support the various projects he or our mutual friends get involved with. I'll re-post teasers, I'll comment on promotions, I'll share tasting / jewelry events. Why? Because that's what friends do, right? Even with stuff I'm not entirely excited about because it's not about my excitement regarding a project - it's my level of excitement regarding the success of a friend.
So I re-post - ad nauseum, I'm sure.
Yet I have not received similar treatment and the answer is always the same. "I'd totally repost your stuff if it weren't so religious."
Now this is not an entry whining about how little my friends repost my store. I'm honestly not looking for that. You fine readers have done a wonderful job of spreading the word, and for that, you have my prayers and appreciation. However, I take offense to the fact that there are those among my group who have the audacity to claim I'm unsupportive or unwilling to help because I'm embarrassed by X, Y or Z when they refuse to help me out because they're embarrassed by God, or who would have no problem reposting my jewelry so long as they're getting something out of it. As Lilly pointed out, she'd "make the sacrifice" of posting about God in order to access my "audience."
Something just doesn't really sit too well with me when you put it like that.
I don't mind coupling up with others who want to reach a broader audience. I've had similar discussions with Dom, a wonderful artist, and even my friend, Mary. I don't mind sharing wonderful items that I think my readers would be interested in.
What I DO mind, however, is being used and then allowing my readership to be used. Looking to ride the coat-tails of the year and a half I've spent churning out entries, battling against mean-spirited trolls, and pouring out my personal life for what I hope will be the benefit of others... it amounts to being used.
Telling me that you'll "make the sacrifice" of sharing my hard work so you're able to make good off the readership I love, appreciate and respect? I'm sorry, but that just seems downright arrogant.
And I explained it in those terms. If my page isn't good enough for you to "like" or share on its own - or even just because you would like to help me find success - your artwork isn't going to make it any better. Your artwork isn't going to somehow change or overshadow the fact that this blog is Catholic, and everything about me and what I do is firmly rooted in that Catholicism.
So again - this isn't a pity party asking folks to share my page. I don't want it shared by those who simply feel guilted or shamed into sharing. I want it shared by those who either enjoy my work (both written and crafted), or who believe others will find value in this calling.
I apologize for the long vent. It's just that I've been approached by so many folks over the last week or so who were interested in utilizing this page either for ad-space, sales or information (and no, I never have and never will allow 3rd parties to take your information).
It just really drove me up a wall and I ended up feeling very frustrated. Since speaking with Lilly, she agreed that she hasn't exactly been the most stellar at recognizing that my work was just as valid and time-consuming as hers. And maybe that's what folks who don't blog / craft tend to forget.
I've gotten a lot of questions about the history regarding John and myself. For those of you who are curious, here it is! An entire page dedicated to the history between John and I.
Click Here to Enjoy!
It's also now a page under the "About Me" tab (in addition to my reversion story).
So last night was an impromptu date night for John and I. Instead of a movie, however, I wanted to do something active. We decided on bowling.
We were lucky enough that two friends, Jake and Jay, were able to come along for the ride.
I haven't been bowling in forever. I'm pretty terrible at it, but I always have fun. John's a stellar bowler, and Jake's pretty darn good, too. So it was fun times!
It was also a cute reminder of our dating days. I know John's pretty amazing at most sports, but it never fails to re-surprise me. He pointed out that I wasn't impressed with his litany of strikes (4 in a row now being dubbed a "rhino" with 6 in a row being a "double rhino") so much as his spares. His ability to aim for and knock down pins on the edge of the alley actually make my heart flutter with pride. Ha ha. He thought that was silly because in his mind, strikes are more impressive. For me, though, it's the control he shows by zeroing in on a singular pin and rocketing his ball along the edge of the gutter. I just find that incredible. Maybe it's the thrill of possible failure. I dunno. It's incredibly sexy either way.
But I digress.
We went to our old stand-by diner afterwards for a bite. I can't even express how much fun it was to simply hang out with my husband and friends like we used to. I felt a little silly for being so excited about it, but the small things like that are what made our relationship so wonderful. The jokes, the swapping of advice, and yes, even the talk about the effects of instant-porn on today's youth all create a tapestry of memories that blanket our relationship. This interaction between the two of us, then the two of us (as a couple) with our friends, and then the two of us individually with our friends... it's so much more worth-while, in my opinion, than seeing a movie.
Sure we have fun at movies and gain something from the discussions we have after them, but interaction through an activity like bowling and then actually communicating over dinner... it's so special. I really, really enjoy that sorta stuff.
My oldest friend from high school, Theresa, got married last weekend. I can't wait to see the professional pictures of her because none of the ones I snapped do her or her dress justice.
As a married woman who was over the moon for her own wedding dress, I can honestly say that Theresa's out-shone mine by at least 10 light years! Her train was beyond magnificent. The lace, jewels and satin made her look exactly like the princess she's always wanted to be. I was (and am) so happy she and John finally exchanged vows!!!
Vince was her ring-bearer. He escorted a beautiful little girl named Allison down the aisle. They were SO CUTE together!!!
Unfortunately, Vince was a bit of a terror during the service. During rehearsal, the priest allowed Vince to run around the sanctuary. I had specifically corrected Vince three times, but the priest told me not to bother each time. He said, "Don't worry - it'll make for a cute photo op."
I knew, as any parent of a toddler would, that allowing that behavior during rehearsal was just about the worst idea ever. Vincent doesn't understand the difference between a rehearsal and the "real thing." Thus, if it's okay to run amok in a church Thursday night, it should be perfectly fine to do the same on a Saturday.
As predicted, that's exactly what happened.
I wonder how long it's going to take me to re-teach him that we don't act that way in a church. *Sigh*
Luckily he didn't knock the candles over or rip Theresa's dress. He basically ran up and down the sanctuary steps a few times during the exchange of vows and climbed into Father's seat, evading the attempts of groomsmen to wrangle him in.
Ah well... at least he was attempting to mimic a priest. I can't be entirely upset about that prospect. Ha ha ha!
Speaking of priests, the one presiding at Theresa's wedding Mass was the president of our now defunct Cardinal Dougherty High. It was fabulous to see him. He looks wonderful and his personality is still gentle and welcoming. As I watching him go through the rehearsal, I couldn't help but think that his handling of people was the primary reason God chose him to be a priest.
He is so incredibly genuine when he's in priest mode. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone feels welcomed and cared about. It's rare to be able to pull that off with a huge group of people so effortlessly, but he's incredibly consistent (which is probably why they made him President of Dougherty).
Anyway, his homily was great. He should make it available to other priests as a general "go-to" wedding homily. He gave a lot of good advice - chief among them to remember that God blessed them with one another. In order to make it to Heaven, they NEED each other. They need to rely on one another precisely because God brought them together for the purpose of reaching Heaven. The unique challenges they each bring will compliment the unique strengths they have, and together, they will live a life which aims for Heaven.
Married couples would do well to understand this. Our spouses are NECESSARY. They are the ones we are given precisely because they will challenge us to grow in love. They will challenge us to sacrifice... to hope... to trust.
It was a wonderful reminder to me, and it made my heart sing a hymn of thanks for such a beautiful reminder that I've been truly blessed with John. He has challenged me to trust... to hope and to sacrifice. All of that has deepened my capacity to love and has very much led me down the road towards my rekindling of faith. I am a better Catholic today because of John (something he'd probably be loathe to acknowledge - ha).
So yes... your husband or wife is a blessing sent directly from God, Himself, for the express purpose of ensuring your soul gets into Heaven. How wonderful is that? :)
Laws no longer protect but intimidate.
Thanks to Catholic Vote for seeding. This article details the plight of a young photographer who refused her services to a lesbian couple looking to have photos taken of their commitment ceremony (since homosexual unions aren't recognized or legal in New Mexico).
Instead of simply finding another photographer, these miscreants took Elaine (the photographer) to court. Apparently their poor little feelings were hurt because Elaine didn't want to take pictures of their ring-exchange. So what's any rational couple to do?
Silly me, if faced with such a decision, I'd simply type "photographer" into Google.
Apparently it's way more entertaining to sue the person. With this being the great country of America, it's incredibly easy to do considering we don't understand our own Constitution!
*Grumble grumble grumble*
As I said, the homosexual lobby is attempting to manipulate laws into forcing folks to accept their lifestyle choices. Instead of simply finding another photographer to take photos of their "special day," they wanted to drag this woman through the mud to make an example of her in order to put pressure on others who would deny services to protect their consciences.
Since when did people become so entitled to having the world conform to their opinions? Are they so really so insecure and desperate for acceptance that they're willing to stoop THIS LOW in order to intimidate folks into a false posturing of agreement?
For shame. For absolute shame.
Our 1st Amendment rights as US Citizens... for now.
I'm successfully irritated. My charity level is low to non-existent right now, so I apologize in advance.
There has been yet another striking blow to religious freedoms today... this time in Denmark. All over the world, governments are attempting to put religious freedom to death, and no one is any the wiser. Why? Because it's all being done under the guise of social justice.
Danish parliament has just passed a law making it MANDATORY for all churches in Denmark to provide homosexual marriage ceremonies.
Take a second and let that process (if you're not too busy hurling).
A government is attempting to FORCE entire religious communities to utilize their sacred houses of worship for a ceremony that goes directly against their religious beliefs as a people.
I'm beyond disgusted.
Once again the issue of religious freedoms is ignored because folks are too busy crying foul over the issue of homosexuality.
I don't care if two men want to get hitched through civil unions. Be my guest. I draw the line, however, when those two men attempt making a mockery of our Sacrament by committing such a sacrilege in front of the Blessed Sacrament in a Catholic Church.
As I said on Facebook, welcome to the reason I refuse to vote in favor of anyone trying to push this through our court system.
As I said in a previous entry, Australia is quickly following suit. The US won't be far behind.
I'm all for homosexuals getting hitched in churches that condone it. I am NOT okay with a government stepping in to force ANYONE to accept a union that cannot be recognized by aforementioned religion.
Catholic priests cannot "consecrate" a union that is considered abhorrent and inherently sinful. No matter how much a government wants to kick, scream and cry, a faithful Catholic priest cannot (and will not) call a blessing down upon that which is mortally sinful.
Even if one tried to, do you think God would say, "Ya know what? Alright... since you asked so nicely, I'll be sure to go against that which I've stated - repeatedly - and reward you for your impressively arrogant disobedience."
Again, Lord, mercy.
Theresa and I
Today I got to help throw my friend, Theresa, her bridal shower. It was a blast!
I even wore pink for the occasion (she's a huge fan of pink).
Anyway, it was really nice getting to meet all the wonderful ladies who've been dropping me messages and phone calls these last couple months with their respective RSVPs. Putting a face to the lists of names I now seem to have memorized is nice. Ha!
Anyway, since this is one of the five separate parties I've been helping to coordinate, one of my friends asked me to list some of the things I ended up doing that weren't trashy or marriage / bride degrading.
May this help her and the rest of you looking for fun things to do for a shower!
Vistaprint. Seriously. For anything printed, I use Vistaprint. It's like the Salvation Army of print shops. I chose a postcard format with a butterfly backdrop (since she loves butterflies) and went to town.
I stayed super simple on this one. I created my own crossword puzzle using an excel spreadsheet (for the blocks) and Word for the clues. I used clues that were unique to Theresa and her fiance, but I tossed in some general "wedding" hints in there, too.
We also had a candy counter filled with Reeses Pieces (due to Theresa's sometimes nickname in high school - Reeses). Folks could guess how many pieces were in the dispenser and the closest number won the dispenser. We ended up giving it to a woman to take back to her 1st grade classroom. :)
Finally, little things like winning a prize if the bride opened your gift first, if you had a sticker on the back of your poem (part of the favors), or best "First Kiss" story (done at the individual tables) kept folks entertained as Theresa opened the line of presents.
I don't know if this'll help anyone, because these were really, REALLY specific to Theresa, but who knows?
Keeping the butterfly theme going, I found these incredible Murano glass butterfly keychains online. I tried to get them in pink (her favorite color), but they only made them in purple / blue. I got them anyway, because I knew she'd still really like them (especially since they matched the invitations).
From there, I knew I'd want to make her chocolate keys to go along with the keychain. I found the molds online (Amazon, I think) and purchased the meltable candy from AC Moore. I also got little pink heart candy to spruce up the key molds a bit.
Finally, to tie everything together, I wrote a poem entitled "The Key to Love."
Back in high school, I used to keep a book that would keep tabs on all the poetry I'd write. Theresa would sometimes keep track along with me, and after I hit the 200 mark, she said I'd have to write her wedding vows one day. I replied that I wouldn't write her vows, but I'd definitely write a poem for her. This was that poem, and it tied together the favors nicely.
This is what it all looked like:
Prizes - I admit I went a bit overboard on these, but I like variety!
I ordered a bunch of yummy smelling candles online. They were wonderful, a great price, and who doesn't love a yummy smelling candle? Theresa and her mom love those things, so I figured if we had any left over, they'd be more than happy to take them.
A couple nice accessory scarves found their way into the prize bags because I found them on sale while I was at AC Moore.
Two pretty (and sweet smelling) perfume spritzes were also found on sale, so they, too, found their way into the prize bags.
Oh, and the cake - Theresa's mother wanted to provide the cake, so when she asked me what should go on it, I said, "Just make sure it's pink and has butterflies."
This is what she came up with:
So that's about it. Lots of fun was had by all. Happy planning to all you ladies out there!
Oh! And the wording to the poem:
The key to love is simple
yet so very hard to find -
For some it's in a sonnet
or two roses intertwined.
For others it's a mystery
with an ever-lasing quest
to find "the One," a soul-mate
or the man most richly blessed.
There are those who search in vain
amongst novels, songs or plays
for this key that's ever hidden
in an ordinary haze.
The key is not some trophy
or a prize that's won and done.
It's a friendship that rekindles
with each rising of the sun.
So search out not a soul-mate
or a lover, god or spouse
Look not in romance novels
or in bankrolls, cars or house
The key is there before you
in a friendship strong and true
Love, sacrifice and compromise
The vows of "Yes, I do."
(She's a fan of rhyming quatrains... at least those were her favorites back in high school).
Mattie, a reader, started an avalanche of thought for me last week. Ever since, I've kinda been on the hunt for answers to the many questions that've come from her simple, "Can ya just go get IVF?"
The short answer is No - for a variety of reasons.
IVF is considered immoral by the Church. Every child deserves the right to begin life at conception through the loving embrace of both parents who are in a stable, dignified and ordered marriage. In fact, a beautiful quote from the Church in Her DONUM VITAE states as much:
The child has the right to be conceived... to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.
That, my friends, is true respect. That is dignity. To acknowledge the right exists, even before this tiny person comes into existence, for a loving, sacred and nurturing place of refuge proves the respect and care Catholics take in our role as stewards of life.
This is why the Church so staunchly defends marriage and sexuality. These two unalienable gifts from God are the building blocks of healthy procreation. It is through the ordered marriage relationship that true sexuality reaches fulfillment - that fulfillment being the union of husband and wife and thus the creation of the physical, living sign of their love - children.
These children, having been created in the ordered and sacred manner in which God decreed, will be blessed to grow up in an ordered, loving household in which their own development can best be discovered, ordered and reach fulfillment.
This is not to say, however, that children from single-parent households, children of rape, children of adoption, etc cannot grow up to reach their full, ordered potential. Through the grace of God, anything is possible, and He certainly loves these cherished souls as much as those co-created in the marriage embrace. However, He desired that we order ourselves in the aforementioned manner because it is through this ordering that we afford our children the best chance for emotional, psychological and spiritual stability.
Thus, IVF (specifically the act of joining a sperm and an egg in a laboratory setting) is considered immoral because it removes this dignity and order from the person(s) created.
Credit: Glassanos - Click image for info
However, this leaves a really big question wide open, and the Church has yet to get entrenched in the details.
After answering the above question for Mattie, my mind traveled down the rabbit hole a bit farther. Since IVF has already been utilized countless times by infertile couples looking to have children, what happens to all the embryos created that are simply frozen in time?
There's no easy answer for this - and I've looked!
I've taken several key folks to task over this. Priests, two professional theologians, an incredibly smart and spiritually sound couple, and a smattering of ordinary lay-Catholics who have been touched by issues of infertility, adoption and even eugenics. None were able to provide a concrete answer because as of yet, there simply isn't one.
The married couple, however, provided the best resource I've yet seen on this! My special thanks to them for their incomparable knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge with others. I link it here for your own illumination.
In it, you will find two heavy-weight Catholic ethicists duke the issue out at a bioethics conference late last year.
Though I take issue with the attempt of Father Pacholczyk to denigrate the discussion into one of spousal rights (since this isn't so much about fertilization so much as adoption of a life that's already been created), what he says about causing us to tumble down a slippery slope is certainly a concern I agree with.
However, most of what Dr. Smith relays (comparing this to adoption / breastfeeding) falls right in line with my own views.
As a person who believes that God opens a window every time we close the door on ourselves through sin, I can't help but wonder if embryo adoption is God's way of answering the problem we created through the sin of IVF.
This is a question that, as of yet, has no real answers. As one of the women I talked to put it, though, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn a married couple who bore a child in this manner. Granted, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn anyone for anything, but I digress.
I can't help but wonder if God allowed infertile married couples to exist specifically so they could answer the call of these poor children stuck in a frozen limbo.
There is a woman on Facebook who has taken my Darkest Secret entry into over-the-top territory. I just found her posting the below questions on yet ANOTHER wall. Granted, she's driving traffic to my site, but I'm really wondering at what cost.
The insinuations she's making and the threads they then spawn (based on how she words her questions) have ended up turning this discussion very ugly. These are the threads in which people end up accusing John of being the spawn of satan or me being an inept child stuck in slavery caused by my blind zeal for religion.
She did end up asking a really great question at the end, though.
Anyway, a priest ended up answering one of her pointed comments. I felt the need to redirect a bit of that conversation (so that others didn't fall into erroneous thinking), so I responded. I'm going to post that here because apparently answering them in the commentary repeated times did absolutely nothing to satiate her curiosity.
I'll bold her commentary and leave as normal my responses. For the love of all that's fluffy and golden in the world, if you still have questions, direct them to me.
Please answer this as no one else seems to give a satisfactory answer.
The Catholic woman in the blog below is being forced to remain childless because her non-Catholic husband refuses to have more kids. A bunch of women have written in to comment and many - MANY - of them are struggling with a similar situation (myself included). I think you should do a segment that deals with how to answer this question from a Catholic standpoint.
1 - Is she committing a mortal sin by allowing him to do use birth control?
I'm NOT in the state of mortal sin. I'm not in the state of sin at all by being forced into a contraceptive union. My illustration is thus: Mike hits Jane. While Jane feels the pain incurred by Mike's slap, Jane is not at fault for his sin. Jane is blameless. So while I feel the emotional pain caused by John's decision to do this, I will not be held accountable in God's eyes because I'm not the one contracepting.
2 - Should she refrain from having sex if he's going to continue to use bc against her will?
To refrain from sex in order to "punish" my husband or guilt him into children is akin to breaking my wedding vows, so dear Father, I must disagree with you on this.
Sex is not just for procreation and it is not just for pleasure. It is also an important renewal of my wedding vows which serve to strengthen our relationship as husband and wife. He is already using one barrier to our union through his choice to use contraception. I will not be a party to creating another barrier through refusing to unite myself more closely to him through the act of sex.
That would be akin to Christ refusing me in the Sacrament of Holy Communion because I consistently fail adhering to His Will as we're called to do. I still lie, I still struggle with pride, and I don't accept the crosses He gives me with charity. I'm failing to uphold my end of the Catholic deal, right? Would Jesus ever refuse me (barring mortal sins) in the Eucharist? No. Thus, how can I place myself above His example and react to my husband in such a way?
No - it is better to leave this in God's Hands and continue to be the best wife I can be to him. Maybe through my example of love, he will come to know something of God's Love.
3 - Is she a candidate for an annulment since he's breaking one of his marriage vows?
I'm NOT a candidate for annulment as John changed his mind after marriage. Also, we're not LOOKING to separate as we still love one another and wish to remain a family. As Father stated, if John had lied during our vows and never had any intention of creating children, that'd be different. The fact remains that his mind changed and regardless, we still love one another.
4 - Since her husband is refusing, if he remains obstinate, would she be allowed to go to an IVF facility and "adopt" an embryo without facing a moral dilemma?
I'm actually on the fence with IVF. That's actually a REALLY interesting point that I never thought of.
Father is correct - IVF itself is morally objectionable due to the fact that science is not how God decreed life to initiate, but if an infertile married couple chose to "adopt" a life that was already made through the sin of another, wouldn't this be kinda like adopting the child of a rape victim? Or adopting a forgotten / abandoned child from an orphanage?
Since these embryos remain in a state of frozen suspension, a loving, infertile couple who are open to life but simply unable to conceive may have been created infertile by God specifically so they could be the Hand of Divine Providence for those forgotten lives.
I honestly have no idea about that one, but it's definitely something to think about. Anyone else have opinions on this one, 'cause it's actually a really interesting point.
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