Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For What It's Worth

One of my favorite legends of all time has been that of Robin Hood. What's not to love about a man who forgoes worldly comforts to take from the unjust excess of the rich to give to the poor? Throw in a love story and boom, I'm sold. Recently, the hubs and I watched the BBC's "Robin Hood" series on Netflix and, besides being very well-done, struck some unexpected chords with me. (Be forewarned of spoilers. So skip all the Robin Hood paragraphs if you care. But that would mean you'd pretty much have to skip my whole post. So, go watch the series first if you care about spoilers and then come back).

Over the past few months (few years) my faith has been shaken and stretched. My understanding of suffering and the militant nature of our journey on earth has been tested. I've doubted, I've cried, I've reconciled, I've fallen, I've been confused, and I've kept on believing. All of my issues seem to come from the same place: Is is all worth it?

In seasons 1-2 of "Robin Hood", Robin and Marian fight, steal, and save for the good of England. They uncover plots to cheat the people out of more money and livelihood and one to kill King Richard, who is away in the Holy Land. While their relationship goes through ups and downs, it is obvious to anyone who has ever heard the Robin Hood story before that they will end up together. Why? Because they are better together. Robin says as much when he proposes to Marian (quite possibly the best proposal I've ever heard. Yes, I know it's scripted but still. Dude. Check it out here. And men, take notes). At the end of the season, once they have saved the King, they do marry. With her final breaths, Marian recounts that she is proud because she has given her life entirely for God, country, and love.

In season 3, Robin Hood returns to England and basically has a crisis of self. Throughout the (not as good by a long shot) season, Robin struggles, implicitly, with the question "Is it all worth it?". He has given his entire life for the good of country and in the service of the King and God and has lost everything he has loved and cherished-- his lands, his life, his love. But what has he gained?

For Robin Hood, as for me, this question was not fully answered (though we see him die peacefully, with Marian meeting him to take him into heaven). Maybe this question isn't meant to be fully answered in this lifetime, maybe it's proving the point that our home isn't here on earth. Any good Christian will answer the question for you: "Of course it's worth it! Christ died for you. He clearly thought it was worth it, so you should, too." And while I know this is the Truth, I can't help but struggle with it. A priest friend and spiritual director of sorts once told me, "Not all of your questions have answers...yet."

As she was dying, Marian said to Robin Hood that they will have all the time they need in heaven because they certainly didn't get enough in this lifetime. How I long for her certainty! And that is the purity and certainty that she conducted her whole life with. If the situation had been reversed and it had been Robin dying, I am positive that Marian would still have continued on with the same certainty until her own life came to an end. I don't have that certainty, that grace. It is said that St. Francis of Assisi was so remorseful for his sins and so worried that he would not be granted heaven because of them that God gave him the grace of knowing that he would go to heaven, a grace usually reserved for those in purgatory. Certainty is a consolation I am not afforded.

"The route on which I am has no consolation for me, and nevertheless it brings me all consolations since Jesus is the one who chose it, and I want to console Him alone, alone!" - St. Therese of Lisieux

I'm often drawn to Mary, especially as Our Lady of Sorrows, in my questioning and in my fear and sorrow. But one aspect I have just not gotten over or made sense of was that she was without sin and only had to wait three days to be with her love, Jesus, again. I am far from sinless and have to wait much longer. I turn most often to my patroness, the Little Flower, as her simplicity always gives me comfort and direction: "Sanctity does not consist in saying beautiful things, it does not even consist in thinking them, feeling them! It consists in suffering and suffering everything." Sanctity is suffering. Gold tested in fire is not purified until it has come through the fire. This is the fire. This earthly life is the fire testing me, purifying me. But I will not be purified until I have passed through this life and I will not know the answer to my question until then, either.

Until that time when I am afforded the answers to my questions, I must merely walk on, must merely struggle and suffer. In the recess of my mind, in the farthest corner of my heart I know that it must all be worth it or it wouldn't be so elaborate. If it wasn't worth it, I would not find hope in the time spent with my husband, looking at my little girl, in receiving the Eucharist. The specifics, though, are still a mystery. "Without complaint, everything shall I suffer for, in the love of God, nothing have I to fear." -St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart. Before I really started questioning and doubting, before so much was taken from me, I lived by this exclamation, and I must live by it again. However, it says nothing of not doubting or not struggling or not questioning, but it says to live without fear. Though it doesn't quite seem to make sense, the answer to "Is it worth it?", on earth, is "Live without fear".

For what it's worth, live without fear.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Check Out My Store!

Just a quick little post today to let you know that I have new items up in my jewelry and accessories shop Ruby & Zoe. Like this great piece to help celebrate St. Patrick's Day:

Also, the hubs said that if I come up with enough money, we can take a family trip to Walt Disney World. I am in love with that place. It's definitely my happy place and nothing could make me happier than being able to share it with Ruby for the first time (even though she'll be like a year old. Whatever. The trip would definitely be more about me but there's nothing wrong with that! Indulge the mommy!). So buying my jewelry and scarves will help us get there. Or, if you don't want to posses any of my lovely items (I don't know why you wouldn't...) then you can just donate to help us get there at our Go Fund Me page.

Not that I'm trying to solicit you awesome readers for money, but remember that charity is a virtue!

In other news, there is nothing going on and I am a lazy blogger. Nothing has changed. I have a few ideas for some posts, so maybe I'll get around to making a real post later this week. Time will tell.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: The Non-Post

So I was going to start participating in another link-up this week called "What I Wore Sunday" hosted by the lovely gals at Fine Linen and Purple. It's all about posting pictures and descriptions of what you wore to mass on Sunday to encourage each other in dressing our best for the Lord. Unfortunately, we didn't make it to mass yesterday--hubs came down with a horrendous cold/fever after having been on extra overnight duty, Ruby wasn't feeling well, and I was tired from taking care of them (plus, I was a little under the weather, too). So what I wore Sunday was my oversized Dodgers t-shirt, a tan PA State Police hoodie, hot pink Disneyland sweatpants, and my black and white plaid Roxy slippers. Super comfy, but not mass attire. So, I will be participating in this link-up next Sunday. Happy Monday to you all and may you be happy, healthy, and blessed!

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday 1/11/13

This is my first ever 7 Quick Takes and the first time ever I am participating in a blog link-up! So exciting! I like this because it is giving me a solid reason and subject to blog about so that I can start blogging more regularly. Blogging more regularly was my "resolution" (I don't really make New Years resolutions) last year and I kinda bombed. Not so this year! 

One of my first thoughts this morning was, "Is it time to potty train yet?" I found a onesie in a shopping bag that she had pooped through a few days ago which I had forgotten about. Crap. Literally. Nothing worse than dried baby poop. I'm starting to get really tired of cleaning baby poop off of clothes...and Ruby is only 3 months old! Sigh. Thank goodness she's cute.

Speaking of cute...
I finally caught her smiling! Even though the picture is blurry. Also of note, she is stinkin' standing! 3 months old and standing unassisted. Can you spell trouble? I can...R-U-B-Y

This week I've been applying for jobs that I can do from home so that I can continue to stay at home with Ruby. I actually love being a homemaker. So we'll see. I've applied to be an online tutor and to a number of freelance writing gigs. Here's hoping!

In case you didn't know, I own a crafting business and mainly make jewelry and scarves (I also make baby blankets, beer coozies, and hats). If you'd like to check it out and maybe help me out, you can do so here. Ruby & Zoe-- where every handcrafted piece tells a unique story! You can also become a fan on facebook.

We still have our Christmas decorations up. Partially because we didn't put them up (well, we had the Nativity scene up) until we came back from PA/OH on Dec. 26th but mostly because we like them, the Christmas season isn't over yet, and we like them :) Ruby loves looking at the Christmas tree; I swear she could stare at it for hours

I joined a moms' group at my parish this week. I'm not sure exactly if I love it or not yet, but I think I'll keep going for a while. I sometimes have a hard time feeling like I fit in places, but this one more so because I'm the youngest in the group and I also have the youngest child. I feel like maybe I am in just a different place than the other moms. We shall see. I am going to go to their "Moms' Night Out" at the end of the month and that should be a great way to get to know everyone better.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Be Ye Not Discouraged

Oh masturbation, will you ever leave me alone?

Probably not. Because I am a sexual person made for sexual interaction and relations (of course I'm not, nor are you, exclusively this). Since I am thus, I will probably always be tempted by masturbation, at least a little bit.

There's a notion that marriage cures masturbation. This is true only to a small extent. It is true in that marriage satisfies what masturbation itself cannot, making it irrelevant. But marriage is not salvation, marriage is not a fix-all cure. It is the answer. But what about the times when he's too tired or you've had an extremely stressful day, or you've had a fight, or he's away? Lots of things come up in marriage and it's not always a smooth, I-can-always-see-the-rainbow-and-want-to-eat-chocolates-and-cuddle-with-my-love-all-day-long ride. It's bumpy. Those moments are when the temptation sneak in. When I'm lonely, when I'm sad, when I'm frustrated, when I'm overly excited (not that way, just the normal way) are when I am tempted.

I understand what St. Paul meant now by begging the Lord to remove the thorn from his side. The thorn isn't masturbation, it was the temptation. The Lord doesn't remove our temptations, He helps us deal with and overcome them but He doesn't just take them away. It's not that He wants us to sin, it's that we need Him to not. St. Paul was begging for the temptation to be taken away because it is the temptations that can often weigh us down and drag us into depression. Sinning on top of that just feels like an anchor tied to the chains. But God gave the answer to letting temptation weigh us down: "My power is made perfect in weakness". Being tempted means we are weak, means I need a savior. That means that God desires to be my Savior and pull me out of the temptations when I find myself surrounded. Once again, He pulls me out of the lion's den.

I used to get very discouraged when I'd be tempted to masturbation or even masturbate after I became engaged and especially after I was married. People had always said, "Love is the answer! Marriage is the cure!" They are the answer to masturbation, not to temptation, and the only cure for temptation is a God willing to face the lion and drag me out of its den.

A great thanks to Distracted Catholic for reminding me that I am doing a worthwhile thing by engaging in this conversation!

A little note: starting next week I will begin involvement in some blog link-ups. Very exciting. I think it's a good way to help me make sure to blog more often. The link-ups will occur on Fridays and Sundays. Why am I not starting this week? Because this week is the end of me "getting my shit together" and next week begins me "putting my shit to work". Can't wait!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Not the Road to Calvary I Was Expecting: Ruby's Birth Story

While pregnant, I tried not to think about labor and delivery. It scared me. All I knew is that it was going to hurt A LOT and somehow I was supposed to work through the pain to get to the "goods" of delivering my baby girl. I thought of birth as a medical procedure and that I needed modern medicine to take care of me so that I wouldn't have to suffer or to feel as little pain as possible. It was about a week prior to birthing Ruby that I had an attitude 180. I learned so much about the birthing process and what medical interventions can do to help and how they really can be too intrusive. I found that labor wasn't going to be one long, agonizing contraction and then a lot of pushing--there would be breaks in between contractions, I could get up and move around, I could even listen to my favorite music! Something beautiful happened within me and I began to be joyful about labor, not just about finally having my little girl in my arms. 

woke up at 2am on Thursday, Sept. 27 with some contractions. I moved to my rocking chair in the nursery at about 3am and stayed there until 730am. My ritual for dealing with the contractions was to rock in the chair and, when one came on, sniff a scented stuffed lamb that we received as a gift for Ruby (it smells like lavender), start the contraction timer on my cousin's phone, and go to my meditative happy place. I was able to sleep soundly in between know, all 7 mins at a time ;) The remarkable part of this phase of early labor was that I finally was able to find my happy place after having spent months trying to find it to no avail. What did my happy place end up being? My parents' living room with Jess and I on the couch and my mom in her recliner. My dad was also in his office down the hall and would periodically pop in and my sister was upstairs and came down once. But all sorts of people came to visit us there as we all awaited the arrival of Ruby. It was great because it is a place that I know vividly and am so comfortable in. 

All three of us (me, Jess, and my cousin Paula who was my doula) got us for the day at 830 and got ready to go to my non-stress test, which was totally stressing me out. By the time we got to the appointment, my contractions were 6mins apart but I thought I would be sent home--I didn't think that this was the real deal at all (neither did Jess or Paula, I later came to find out, because I was coping so well). Well, as it turns out, I was 4-just-about-5cm at my appointment and my provider determined I was in active labor. I also won the battle about my due date--it was put on all of my sheets that I was 40w5d at the time I went into labor (another story...this one's already going to be long). Anyway, I was sent to lunch and to walk around and I was to report back at 3p. So we went out for pizza. At one point while in the restaurant, I scared most of the wait staff because every time I had a contraction I would close my eyes, hold my rice sock (literally a sock filled with rice and scented oil to be used as heat or scent therapy) to my nose, close my eyes, and go to my happy place. In the end, they treated us to a dessert with a birthday candle and we all sang happy birthday to Ruby!

When I reported back at 3p, I had progressed to 6cm so I was admitted. The next part traumatized me and was the only part of labor that brought me to tears. My hospital's policy is that every woman admitted for labor has to have a hep lock in the event that she needs an IV. I was GBS positive so I definitely needed an IV so I had been preparing myself to deal with the needle...but to no avail. The first nurse tried sticking my left wrist, but the vein blew, at which point I thought to myself, "I just told you I'm scared of needles, why would you say this aloud?", so she tried sticking my right hand. That vein also blew and so she called over another nurse. At this point I just started bawling. I absolutely could not stop crying but somehow kept still enough for that nurse to successfully stick my left hand. It took 30mins to get the hep lock in place and 10 more for me to recover. 

Having finished that, I was sent off to my labor room with all the support and praises of the nurses for wanting to use all other methods of coping before having an epidural. Let it be known that I am not against epidurals nor having one (at any stage of labor) but I knew that there were other methods of coping that would be better for me, especially since once you have an epidural, you have to stay in bed and I knew that laying down/reclining was not the most comfortable way for me to deal with contractions, hence my initial basis for not wanting an epidural. Anyway, so once in the delivery room, we set up shop--got out the birthing ball, set up my laptop and started playing music (my specially made "labor and delivery" playlist of all of my favorite songs), had my focal points on hand, and put my rice sock on the bed. I was able to sit on the birthing ball for all of the fetal monitoring and other questions and answer sessions they put me through. It was kind of funny, different people would be talking with me and then I'd have to cut them off as I had my contraction and then would pick up right where we left off when the contraction was over. It felt so good to be so incredibly lucid. I was coping so well no one could really tell when I was actually having a contraction. 

At 7:30, my attending doctor decided that they couldn't get a good enough read on the fetal monitor and that I would have to lay down in the bed so they could. Another of my hospital's policies is that every woman must have continuous monitoring unless recommended for intermittent monitoring, which happens basically never. Well, side-lying hurt like nobody's business because my hips are out of line, which is how the doctor wanted me to remain for the rest of my labor. This clearly was not an option for me. So my nurse and I negotiated that since I was completely healthy and had a non-complicated pregnancy and was going without an epidural that if we gave them 20mins of continuous monitoring that I would then only need to be monitored intermittently. I came to find out that I was only the 2nd woman in the history of that hospital to successfully negotiate intermittent monitoring. So, those 20mins were very hard for me, but they were so good. Jess and Paula were each on one side of me and my nurse would put her hand on my hip for some opposing pressure every time I had a contraction. I got through it because of those three and my ridiculously awesome playlist. At one point, "Tiny Dancer" came on (which is probably my most favorite song) and I started singing along and I sang the entire thing, even through my contractions. It was just such a happy, joyous environment and it made it all the better for me. 

At 10:45 I was 7cm, 100% effaced, and +1. After a few more contractions, though, I decided that I was too tired to do the rest of this labor unaided, so at 11p I decided to get an IV of the narcotic fentinal and an anti-nausae med as I was having some pretty bad acid reflux. I got "beer goggle eyes" with the first dose of fentinal and so I had to close my eyes. Well, the big joke in my house has been the Packers/Seahawks game (we're Packers fans) and had seen one meme of Stevie Wonder with the caption "Roses are black, Violets are black, Everything is black, Touchdown Seahawks!" and I impersonated that while I had my eyes closed. At a later dose, Paula was tying my bandana onto my head and it ended up looking like a babushka. I was fairly incoherent at this time, so while Paula was comparing me to Little Red Riding Hood, I was babbling about babushkas and porch-sitting Pittsburgh grandmas and started singing "Matchmaker Matchmaker" ala Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. Good times were had by all! And there are some pretty hilarious pictures from all of this. 

At midnight, I was still 8cm and my doctor was getting antsy to get me going. She started demanding that I be put on pitocin because not only was I not progressing but Ruby was in Right Oxciptal Postterrior position meaning the crown of her head was facing to the right which is not a good position for coming out. My nurse went to bat for me and got us an hour to try other positions to help Ruby move. I had to move into another side-lying position which seemed to help her move quite a bit, but left me in a lot of pain. I had my last dose of fentinal at this time. Just before 1a, without my knowledge (although this was for the better and Jess and Paula knew), I was put on pitocin...just as the fentinal wore off! These were the worst contractions ever--having ridiculous pitocin contractions with no medication is no fun! However, it was also a really productive time. My whole body was shaking all of the time and it was very hard to get to my happy place. At this point, I gave up actually making it to my happy place and just imagined my mom and saying to her, "Don't go yet, I'm bringing Ruby to you. I'm bringing her as fast as I can." I started bearing down without knowing or trying and the nurse was very concerned because they didn't think I was fully dialated yet. As it turns out, I was which was at 2:22a. At some point before I moved into a comfortable sitting position for pushing or after, I'm not quite sure, I remember saying that I just didn't have anymore to give, that I couldn't do anymore. I was assured that I could do more and would have to--I hear most women go through this sort of thing, a moment when thy just want to give up, when it all is too much to bare. I call this the "God moment", when you meet your Maker and just turn everything over to Him. Reflecting on my labor, I thought this moment was so profound, that at my moment of surrender I said I didn't have anything else to give, that I had spent myself for the sake of another. And that is when God took over. I couldn't give anymore but He can give endlessly and it was with His strength, His perseverance, His love, His joy that I continued.

 At 2:45 they could see Ruby's head, just a tiny bit. Around 3:05 they could see about 3cm of her head and thought that I would deliver her head on the next contraction. Now, in each contraction I would push about 2 or 3 times. On this contraction, I went for the third push which should have delivered her head. Instead I delivered Ruby in entirety! Literally we went from seeing some hair to having a baby in the doctor's arms. So, at 3:07a on Friday Sept. 28th, after exactly 45mins of pushing, Ruby Mae Anastasia was born. 

I also noticed that there were about 15 people in the room besides Jess, Paula, and I at this time. We joke that they just shouted down the hallway for anyone who wasn't doing something, but in reality they had a bunch of the med students in there as part of their observations and training--I did deliver in a training hospital, after all. The looks on everyone's faces were priceless! I'm so glad I saw them LOL. It very much looked like everyone was thinking, "Holy shit! This is not how the video depicted it!". 

So then for the repair. It was officially recorded as a 2nd degree repair but it was just about the worst 2nd degree tear you can have before it is a 3rd degree. I tore in an unusual way, too, so the doctors had to call in a specialist to teach them how to do the types of stitches they needed to to repair me. I continually had to remind the doctors that I was unmedicated and could feel everything they did so I needed more lidocain. A great distraction was holding Ruby in my arms while it was happening.The two doctors and their sidekick would talk with me and ask me questions totally unrelated to what was going on, so that was nice. The sidekick and I were even able to joke a bit! In all, it took them an hour and a half to repair me.

This was absolutely the coolest experience of my life. I loved labor! Sounds kind of odd, I'm sure, but I never felt like it was an ugly process that I had to get through to get the awesome gift of Ruby. Instead, I felt like labor was such a joyous event and that Ruby was the cherry on top. Not at all like the road to Calvary that I thought it would feel like. Of course, Our Lady of Sorrows is Ruby's patroness and I could feel her presence. I totally feel like the most accomplished woman in the world. Also, this has done loads for my confidence. Absolutely every nurse and doctor that saw me in recovery (and everyone that had been in the delivery room) not just complimented me but made sure I knew how remarkable I was and what an incredible job I did. Honestly, I never thought much about all of it. I just did it because I had to and I wanted to. And honestly, I have a skewed sense of pain and have a high pain tolerance, so when I say 4 on the 1-10 scale, normal people would say 6, so I really never did think much of it. So anyway, I've never thought much about my capabilities until giving birth to Ruby. I realized that I am much more capable than I give myself credit for and that if everyone else can see it, I should too. So I've started to and it was made life with Jess and with Ruby that much better. I feel awesome! I feel awesome not just because my confidence has been boosted but because I have come closer to my God. For the first time in my life, in my meditation of the Passion I did not unite myself to the sufferings of Christ--I united myself to Christ's self-gift and in that there is true joy and pain doesn't matter. I did walk the road to Calvary, but not as one suffering, rather as one living. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The In Between

When trying to beat my addiction to masturbation, I had to find the root cause of why I was masturbating and dig it all out from the root up. And I did-- I did not feel like I was lovable. So I feigned intimacy through the fantasy of masturbation, simultaneously cutting myself off from that which I really wanted-- to be loved and know I was lovable and intimacy. Thankfully, I was able to dig up that root and gain healing from the wound it left. But sometimes I still feel the way I did when I was addicted.

There is a lot of stuff between the root of something and what it is protruding as (feeling unlovable to masturbation, for instance) and sometimes that stuff can be overlooked. I overlooked it definitely. All I saw was: Root. Root! Root! Dig it up now!!!! Gone! NO MORE MASTURBATION! YAY!!! VICTORY!  But really, the wound leaves scar tissue related to the injury. Hence, I still deal with some of that "middle stuff" that was always lodged in between the root of my problem and the addiction itself.

Sometimes I still feel like I'm on the outside looking in, that I can never have something that I want, and this is in all areas of my life, not just relationships (friendship and romance and familial all alike). A dissatisfaction with the here and now because I worry I will not have the other things I want and, even more so, cannot have the things that I want. That has led to a rebellious heart and a lot of issues with God. I just want some proof that the things I desire are good things and that I am not just deserving but loved enough to be given good things.

So, I have to deal with the scar tissue of the in between. It's a work in progress. Some days I feel really good and other days are so so. But progress isn't linear, it's convoluted. There are steps to go through, in some fashion and sometimes more than once, and a lot of the issues probably have multiple layers. That's ok. I have multiple layers. I'm not one-dimensional. And in the hard times, I cling to the only things I know to be absolutely true: that God is good and He loves me.