11 December, 2008

Wow...August...That's Pathetic...

I can't believe that I haven't posted since August! So sorry people!!!

Well, as you can see, our life has been busy! John Ross Boerschinger was born on November 28th, 2008!!!! He is such a sweetheart!!!

I decided I wanted to take the opportunity to blog about our birth and adjustment experience. I don't want to get so far away from it that I forget!

We were told by our doctor that if baby was more than a week late, we were encouraged to induce. This was not something I was hugely in favor of, but I trust my doctor explicitly and I figured she knew better than I. We opted for an induction the day after Thanksgiving. We spent our last night as "just the two of us" at my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner (small for me) and a game of cards. I was SO ready for the baby to arrive!!!

We awoke at 5:00 on Friday morning. We had a hearty breakfast of eggs, fried potatoes and toast and then headed off to the hospital. We arrived to discover that our doctor had accidently called our orders into the other hospital in our network and had to wait while they had the orders transferred to our hospital.

At about 7:30 they hooked me up to the monitors for my contractions and the baby's heartbeat and started the pitocin to induce contractions. I was already having small contractions fairly regularly, but not enough to know when things were going to pick up. Kevin and I spent the morning watching TV, the movie Elf, and just talking. I enjoyed several yummy popsicles...:)

At about 11:30 Dr. Mary arrived to check on my progress. I was already 2-3 centimeters and she asked our permission to break my water. After breaking my water, the contractions got stronger. They were still tolerable, but definitely more intense. We switched our viewing choice over to a Deadliest Catch marathon.

About 1:30, the pain started to intensify to a point where I couldn't focus or relax as much as I would have liked. We consulted with our nurse and although we had hoped to go completely natural, we opted for a dose of the narcotic Nubane. It immediately started working. Not only did it focus the pain to a point that I could breathe through, but it allowed me to relax to the degree that I slept through the time between contractions. Kevin was a rock. He stood beside me the entire afternoon and provided both mental and physical support (I literally pushed against his hands as a breathed through contractions). I think Kevin had the more intense experience to be completely honest.

About 4:00, I opted for a second dose of Nubane. Again, I was trying really hard not to have an epidural, so this was a good option. Although the second dose isn't quite as effective as the first due to the stage of labor, it definitely helped.

Much to all of our surprise, I was started to feel the urge to push. Our nurse, Jacqueline, helped us through the first hour or so of pushing. By about 5:00, it was clear that baby was ready to come. It got a bit frenzied toward the end because it all happened faster than we expected. They had to call Dr. Mary down from the desk 3 times because it happened THAT fast. When she arrived in the room it was about 3 pushes and he arrived!!! The last 20 minutes or so all I kept saying was, "I can't do this...I just can't keep going...it isn't going to happen", but Kevin kept encouraging me and telling me how he could see the head. I couldn't have done it without him. Seriously...John Ross Boerschinger was born at 5:37 p.m. after only 10 hours of labor!

When John was born it was several minutes before I even thought to ask what HE was! They put him on my chest and I just kept saying, "Hi baby, hi baby, hi baby..." It was truly amazing! Kevin couldn't believe how quickly I went from "I can't do this" to "That wasn't so bad", but truly, the experience was so powerful. I've read and heard from several sources that birth is the completion of the female sexual experience and I can totally support that idea. It is amazing to be a co-creator of this little being.

Our first night was a bit surreal. I was on a bit of a high and Kevin was SO exhausted. Like I said before, I think his experience was actually more intense than mine...but he was amazing and no one has a husband as fabulous as mine. It was a little challenging because the nurses are constantly in and out of the room and John was still adjusting to life outside the womb.

I did start nursing him almost right away. He and I spent much of the night trying to figure out the whole feeding/eating thing. He slept through most of the night and although I tried, I don't think the hospital bed manufacturers have actually ever slept in one of them...the second night I opted for a spot next to my hubby on the pull-out sofa in the room.

We had a few visitors on Saturday and spent the day adjusting to the idea that we were parents...diapers, feedings, little fingers, little toes...crazy!

On Sunday John had started to show a bit of jaundice, but they discharged us and made us an appointment to see the pediatrician the next day to check on it. Walking out of the hospital as 3 instead of 2 was completely unreal. Both of us were very emotional for the first few days. There was lots of laughter and lots of tears as we tried to make the adjustment.

On Monday we saw the pediatrician and were given the green light on his jaundice. He had already lost 1 of his 8 lbs which isn't unusual, but it is slightly more than they would have liked.

John didn't take to nursing very well. This was really sad for me. I had really wanted to nurse him for awhile, but despite lots of effort and suggestions from the lactation specialist, he wasn't seeming to get enough to eat or enough sleep. So, I've opted for supplementing. I pump breastmilk to make half of his bottles and use formula for the other half. It really broke my heart the first time he took a bottle. No matter what I told myself, I felt like I had failed him.

In truth, what I discovered, was that I had met his needs in a way that only a mother could. After several teary nursing sessions and the pathetic "I'm hungry" cries that he gave me, how could I do anything but whatever was necessary to meet his little needs? If that meant formula, how could I feel guilty. After a day, he was a completely different baby. He was content, eating well, and sleeping peacefully. I couldn't argue. And truthfully, any amount of breastmilk he gets is amazing for his little body. Any amount he gets is giving him the antibodies he needs.

Some women believe that breastfeeding and attachment parenting are the only "Catholic" way to care for a baby. It is certainly one great way to do so, but it is not the way that we choose to parent. We assessed our baby's needs and responded in a way that tells him that we will provide whatever he needs. It is easy to feel guilty or less qualified when you are being told that this is the best way to be a mom, but in truth, I know by my baby's response, that I did exactly what all those mom's are telling me only their method provides; a sense of commitment, attachment, attention, and love.

I type this because I have heard too many new moms, including myself, feel guilty because of comments other mom's have made about decisions we've made. We need to support each other as best we can in whatever parenting style we choose. New moms need confidence, not questioning, and I wanted to share our story as a positive and supportive witness.

Truly, becoming a parent is transformational. My marriage is completely different and so much stronger. I am even more in love with my husband and in a way so deep I couldn't even imagine. It changes what you think about and when you think about it. It changes how you function mentally and physically. It is overwhelming and intimidating, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

26 August, 2008

Baby Update...

So, long time with no update...here goes!

Baby's room is done. Painted, that is. The stripes turned out beautifully and it looks just wonderful with the woodwork and all of the natural light in that room. We still have to clean out one of the "bachelor" closets to make room for baby, but we still have three months. Furnishing is also still in process, but we figure we'll wait until the shower in October to finalize those things.

Yes, I said 3 MONTHS! Our due date is three months from this past Saturday! It is amazing how quickly the time has passed. We had our third (and hopefully final) ultrasound on Friday to check on a small cyst that had previously been noticed on baby's brain. The cyst, as expected, had disappeared as baby grew. Baby was 2 pounds 1 ounce and in the 49 percentile for growth. We are so very pleased! We got to see baby open and close his/her mouth, but didn't get a completely clear shot because it was giving us an elbow to look at! I am feeling a lot of movement now as baby becomes more active. Kevin is also able to feel (and recently SEE!) a lot of the baby's movements. It is kind of strange to look down in the middle of a strategic planning meeting and see your stomach literally rolling...sometimes hard to keep a train of thought on track!

I am feeling well. I can't stand for as long of periods of time as before and I do have some trouble with leg cramping and pulling hips during the night, but overall I am quite healthy. So far no sugar or protein issues, healthy weight gain, and no fluid retention. I still have a lot of energy and feel like my brain is shifting into a good "mommy rhythm". I may not have as much energy as before, but I seem to be able to prioritize, remember, and accomplish more of my household tasks on a more regular basis. I guess it must be one of the ways that God blesses us in preparation for our little ones!

Besides baby, and amongst a large strategic planning process that I am co-chairing here at the parish, I am preparing for the International Catholic Stewardship Conference in Chicago in October. Not only were Bishop Morneau and I asked to present a seminar at the conference, but our parish was also selected to exhibit some of our stewardship materials and information during the conference. We've also applied for an award for our annual stewardship renewal materials. Suffice it to say, I've been busy and it isn't going to slow down anytime before baby arrives!

Kevin is also doing well. He is VERY busy with the start of his fall class, teaching Confirmation, finishing some big house projects before winter, and of course, working. He is now working 4 10-hour work days which is a blessing. This summer I have been able to spend Friday afternoons with him and after baby arrives we'll have one more day of childcare covered (my biggest worry at the moment). He was working nearly that much already, so this is just a nice configuration change. He is also gearing up for hunting season...He's got to get the big one early this year just in case Baby B decides to come right on time!!!

So, that is our story. For the most part, healthy and happy and ready to welcome the newest blessing of our marriage. God is providing for us in powerful ways and there aren't enough ways for us to show our gratitude.

We hope this message finds you well and blessed. Please feel free to pass it along!

Hugs and Prayers,

Amberly and Kevin and Baby Yet to be Named (oh, and our kitties too...they'd feel really bad if they didn't at least get a mention in the by-line! They are already a little wary of the impacts of the "furless wonder" they can sense is impending...)

31 July, 2008

Internal Blahs in the Heat of Summer

Well, what more can I say? I have a case of the inner blahs...

I feel like I have a lot to do.
None of it is any fun.
I prefer to do other things.
I cook, I bake, and I organize random areas of the house that are not priorities.
Then I rest because I can't work at any one thing for more than 20 minutes without a rest.
None of the things that need to get done do.
And yet I feel like I am always working at something.

And the vicious cycle continues.

I like to believe scheduling my tasks on my Outlook calendar will help. At least I can't pretend to forget about the tasks, just push them off ONE MORE DAY...

Any suggestions?

Caffeine, alcohol, or high sugar incentives are not eligible for consideration.

09 July, 2008

You've got to stand for something...

...or you'll fall for anything.

Yep, once again, the country music scene has the sentiment correct.

I don't care where you stand on the Obama/McCain debate. The reality is that we aren't getting anything out of their multi-million dollar campaigns that could be dreamed up by a technical writer with an active imagination. It is all a bunch of feel-good, tell-me-what-I-want-to-hear-and-don't-let-it-hurt, mumbo-jumbo.

The following passages came from an article in this week's Newsweek.

"It is one of our fondest political myths that elections allow us collectively to settle the "big issues." The truth is that there's often a bipartisan consensus to avoid the big issues, because they involve unpopular choices and conflicts. Elections become exercises in mass evasion; that certainly applies so far to the 2008 campaign..."

So in essence, the political environment is just a macro version of middle school. The most popular people say enough to set themselves apart from the wallflowers, but avoid anything that makes them too unique for the other loud-mouths. Fortunately, many students outgrow these platitudes when they enter high school. That or at least they find a group of others who truly share their opinion, seek to explore its depths further, and come out even stronger on their particular point. Unfortunately, I don't think our presidential candidates ever mentally graduated the eighth grade...

But let's not place all of the blame on the candidates...WE are the ones telling them what WE want to hear...and our demands are exactly sensical...

"People complain about governmental gridlock. But what often obstructs constructive change is public opinion. The stalemates on immigration and retirement spending are typical. We avoid messy problems; we embrace inconsistent and unrealistic ambitions. We want more health care and lower health costs; cheap energy and less dependence on foreign energy; more government spending and lower taxes. The more unattainable our goals, the more we blame "special interests," "lobbyists" and other easy scapegoats."

Look, if you expected life to be all roses, guess what? It is. By any standard, Americans live in the proverbial land of milk and honey. But the reality is simply this, you can't live an oxy-moron. You have the best the developed world has to offer even though you don't have cheap, domestic, and renewable energy all wrapped into one neat package.

You can't have it all, so stop expecting the government to give it you. If we start setting priorities, making choices, and voicing our specific opinions, not just adolescent platitudes about the unfairness of life and our desire for utopia (duh), we might give our candidates the courage and message to show us who they really are and what they can really do and we might actually get some where.

"In this campaign, we have a candor gap. By and large, Americans want to be told what government will do for them--as individuals, families, consumers--and not what it will do for the country's long-term well-being, especially if that imposes some immediate cost or inconvenience. Grasping this, our leading politicians engage in a consensual censorship to skip issues that involve distasteful choices or that require deferred gratification. They prefer to assign blame and promise benefits. So elections come and go, there are winners and losers-- and our problems fester."

Might I conclude however, that this little article has more applications than simply the political arena. Make your words count. If you have an opinion, specific and educated, share it. That is productive. However, whatever you do, don't talk for the sake of talking. That is, unless you are sitting on a bar stool with a bunch of people who have time to listen to your random blathering.

Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't be better suited to go back to the days of the Englightenment when dialogue and opinion was reserved for the Universities...more on that later...

10 June, 2008

"If you'd stop using your private parts as toys..."

"If you'd stop using your private parts as toys, you'd be a grandfather by now!" Quote about fellow driver's immaturity from truckdriver on Ice Road Truckers.

I am so tired of reading about the fight between "abstinence only" and "comprehensive sex education". I really am and here is why.

I was raised by a nurse.

It is as simple as that. From a very young age (when she was expecting my sister when I was about 3 1/2) I learned about sex. Certainly, the terms changed. I specifically recall, "special hug" being a phrase used for my growing toddler mind. But my parents never shied away from teaching us about sex and our bodies.

When I got to pre-adolescence, my mother bought me a book about my body during puberty and opened up the dialogue. I read about things like masturbation and contraception (natural and artificial) and I asked questions. She answered them. Dad answered them (sometimes with discomfort, but never a refusal). Mom taught in my health classes at the Catholic school. I distinctly remember a hands on tampon demonstration with a glass of water that was a huge hit for the gathered group of young women. At 13, I knew more about sex and my body than most 65 year old women.

But my mother also taught me respect. She taught me that my body, like hers and my dad's, was special and unique. She taught me that I need to learn my body and trust it above all. She taught me that someday I could carry a child. She taught me an undying respect for the procreation process and for the man that was going to walk that journey with me; my husband.

The reality is that there is no avoidance of knowledge in this day and age. So how to we manage their acquisition of knowledge? How do we want them to learn about sex and all that goes with it? They are going to learn it, but do we want them to learn it with an attitude of respect and awe, or from an attitude of flippance and disregard. If we don't teach them about condoms, they are still going to know they exist. But do we want them to view condoms as candy: quick, convenient, and with little consequence, or do we want them to view condoms as expensive champagne: available, but much too costly in multiple respects??? (I don't want any grief over comparing condoms to expensive champagne...I am not making a complete analogy here, just partial...I am not implying that condoms should be considered a luxury for special occassions...so don't be so silly as to suggest it.)

There is a physiological science as well as a material science involved in sex education. Sex during fertile days without natural (abstinence) or artificial contraception makes babies. To deny that is to show a certain level of ignorance. My point is, the knowledge is available, but should the debate hinge on the level or amount of scientific and material sex knowledge a program provides, or how the act of sex itself affects the person and interpersonal relationships?

First teach them the respect, then give them the knowledge, then give them some credit.

I am sure that most will find it interesting that my parents chose to use birth control. I did not know this until I had to wrangle with the idea of birth control to manage a health condition at the age of 18. Even as an adult, we had conversations around the issue. She supported me when I reluctantly (on moral grounds) chose to begin taking "The Pill" and she supported me when I triumphantly chose to quit "The Pill" because of the way it was affecting the natural rhythms, physcial and emotional, of my body.

If I hadn't been taught about all of my options I might have felt trapped, confused, and alone when faced with such difficult medical decisions. Instead, I made two opposite choices that I have never regretted and in fact, I have felt empowered by. Moreover, I was a virgin on my wedding night even though I had learned about artificial contraception and sex. And if that isn't enough, I can now personally testify to my husband,that NFP is the ONLY way to go for us because I refuse to be controlled by a substance that also impedes my ability to accept the gift of children God wants to bestow on me.

And I don't want to hear, "...you're different..." or "...you're special..." or "...you're an exception...". The only reason I am different, special, or an exception is because somebody taught me to be.

I don't want to teach my kids to simply avoid sex or use a condom. I want to teach them to be different and special by respecting themselves, a future spouse, and the amazing emotional and physical union that is sex.

22 May, 2008

My TODAY Show Obsession...

I blame my mother.

In my case, there aren't very many things I'd use the words "blame" and "mother" for in the same sentence, but I think even she would have to accept fault for this one.

I am a TODAY Show junky!!!

That's right! I'll admit it. A morning is not complete without a hour or so of the TODAY Show.

I wake each morning at approximately 6:30.

Out of bed at 6:45 to make Kevin his instant oatmeal and lunch and pour his coffee. I typically toss a Toaster Strudel or a bagel in the toaster and reach for my share of the coffee (nowadays I reach for luxury of the top-shelf orange juice bottle...) I pad my way from the kitchen to our living room couch and coffee table. I dig, sometimes frantically, for the missing remote, longing for the familiar warm buzz of the TV warming up. As I flip closer to my favorite channel, I catch fragments of other news shows and balk at their punny, childish attempts to sway my loyalty with witty "millenial" batter and snazzy graphics. I land on NBC26 and settle comfortably into the first 15 minutes of news and updates while munching away at my solid sustinance. By the time the vitals are over, I cast aside my slippers, tuck my feet up underneath me, pull the fleece blanket across my lap, and begin the beverage portion of my flight service. For the next 45 minutes I move in and out of current events, entertainment, health updates, stock reports, and political exposes with my favorite morning people Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al. By 8:00 I am prepared to truly begin my day.

And the only person I can imagine blaming for this is my mother. She branded me with countless mornings of Katie, Bryant, Matt, Al, and Ann all depending upon the year. I don't remember a single morning that started with *gasp* Good Morning America *gulp*.

Now, I know how product marketing works. If your mother used Tide regularly, you are likely to do the same. If your father used Dial soap, you are likely to buy it for your husband. Do networks realize how this works to their advantage??? Did I actually fall for a generational marketing scheme??? I mean, seriously. I am the same with my news. Doesn't matter the market, NBC always seems to have the best news for me.

Either way, I am hooked. Way to go NBC. Here is your props. Take it and run because I am a fickle friend and the whole political campaign coverage issue is biting at my ankles...

Maternity Leave - Expansion

Sorry for the delay..."tonight" apparently meant something else to my brain.

Kevin and I have had several conversations about maternity leave since my last post. We've concluded 2 things.

#1: Men and women are both equally deserving of paid parental leave in order to best fulfill their callings as father and mother.

#2: I can only talk about my frustration for so long before I need to do something or become like every other whiny American.

In regards to the second point, I've made the first step beyond talking. I mentioned my concern to my boss, the pastor of our parish. I don't think he was really even aware of the situation or even the possible need. I simply expressed a concern that our maternity policy practice does not align congruently with our moral and doctrinal stand on family life. I acknowledged that I certainly have leave, and am grateful for it, but that I have additional concerns for and beyond my own personal situation.

I also mentioned that although the pattern of employment on our parish staff is that of older women beyond their maternity years, both myself and the newest addition to our staff are and very easily could be eligible for this type of benefit over the course of the next few years. This needs to be considered as more than a current employee issue, but also as an issue of attracting more young and fresh blood to this career that is Catholic ministry. It is hard for any young person to consider working for the church when they consider the hours, the minimal pay, and the expensive benefits. A benefit like this paired with the job-flexibility that many parish jobs provide might just be enough to sway some otherwise elusive candidates.

I don't anticipate any significant movement on my concern before our baby arrives. That being said, it sounds like the issue may come to light at our next human resources committee meeting. I can only hope that this is the first step in a powerful witness to putting our collective Catholic money where our large Catholic mouth is. I'll keep you updated.

On a more inspirational note, I came across this beautiful quote the other day that brought further meaning to my cause, but more importantly my vocation.

"A mother is the most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body."
-- Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

As for the continued conversation on feminism, there is a great article about the phenomenon of feminism in the Catholic realm called "Is it Time to Dump Feminism?" here: http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3324&Itemid=121&ed=3

15 May, 2008

Maternity Leave - Talkback

I typically post my reflections both here and on my facebook page and these are some of the comments I have collected through that page. They provide some interesting reading. A follow-up/expansion is in the works for this evening...stay tuned.

That's absolutely MAD! Across the board women in Ireland get 26 weeks statutory paid maternity leave... and get this... Northern Irish women get 39 weeks statutory paid! The organisation subsidises our entitlement so women in Ireland can get the same as Northern Ireland. Can't believe you have to make that choice!

You should send this to the Bishop or The Compass. We ran into this same problem when Joseph was considering working for Church and we looked at the insurance plan (in GB) and found that is was crap and would run a family into the ground. I do think, however, some Churches do give some paid leave--it is just not required by the diocese. It is so important for our Church to have leaders who show good example to the masses. When you create an enviorment where the only people who can work for the Church must be those who are not the family breadwinner, but those bringing in a supplemental income, you disqualify so many gifted people who may be called to lead the faithfull:( I remember when I was in my first year of working for the Church, with a masters degree mind you, and Joseph and I were dating--he had to pay my rent some months because I was not making it. If we believe motherhood is the spiritual gift of the woman, we must start acting like it!!

the sad truth is that on issues of just wage and fair treatment of employees the Churches stance is basically, "Do as I say, not as I do." It sucks, but there you have it.

My response to the previous comment:
And that's okay with us? I guess my point is, we, parishioners, are the church. We as members of the Body and members of our parish committees, staffs, and ministries have the power to raise the questions and the issues. Not only that, but we as members of the parish have the ability to contribute in idea and finance to causes we feel are important by way of our contributions both monetary and intellectual. In fact, in our parish it would be a great question of stewardship. To a certain extent if we don't voice a dissatisfaction with the lack of hierarchical congruency between word and deed, why should we expect anything to change?

04 May, 2008

Unpaid Maternity Leave...To Work or To Work?

So, I have a bit of a soapbox...it is one that has been rolling around in my head for weeks now.

Kevin and I are expecting our first baby in November...and I have NO paid maternity leave. Given, I am entitled to up to 12 weeks of Family/Medical Leave, but need I remind anyone that it is UNPAID??? Now, my salary is far from bread-winning, but it is certainly a supplement. Yes, I have 3 1/2 combined weeks of vacation and sick days, but that is only if I don't take any between now and then...

Need I mention that I work for the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church is by most standards the organization at the very top of the moral high ground when it comes to fertility and family life. It is an organization whose values, to even the least educated, include no artificial birth control and marriage vows that include a commitment to "willing accept children and raise them in the faith."

"The family is the cornerstone of the Church," the documents read.

And, "parents are the primary educators of their children."

And yet as an organization we have no PAID maternity leave?

If the the Catholic Church as an organization does not support paid maternity/paternity leave how are we to expect any secular organization or government to do so?

Some of you may be saying, "Wait, several European countries have paid maternity leave and even special incentives for bearing children." Let's be clear. This has nothing to do with the church and everything to do with their plummeting birth rates. True, the US and Australia are the only two developed nations in the WORLD that don't have some form of a paid maternity leave. However, it is also no coincidence that we haven't seen significant decreases in our birth rate. Don't worry, we will. And as soon as we do the government will decide what a fabulous idea maternity leave and child-bearing incentives are. We're so progressive...

Companies that have independently planned and funded maternity leave for their employees have seen great responses. They see more men and women returning following their periods of leave which means less turnover. They've also seen an increase in women in their higher level positions because women stay...what a concept!!!

I have to wonder though...did we women bring this upon ourselves? I think our lack of maternity leave and to be quite honest, the lack of effort toward it, was carved into stone during the feminist movement of the former generations. For years we women tried to tell society that we were equals and that there was no difference between men and ourselves.

In my opinionated reality, we don't want to be equals. All we wanted was a fair chance at voting, jobs, wages, benefits, and opportuties to advance. That does not equate to equal. It equates to fair chances for inherent dignity and a job well done by woman or man, black or white, Muslim or Christian.

But really, whatever happened to, "I am woman, hear me roar"? I am woman. I am beautiful. I have curves that no man could ever bear presence to. I have a thought process that few men or computer can master let alone understand. I can carry a life within my womb for 9 months and then give birth by shear will and strength. No man can ever do that.

Why would I want to be considered his equal? Why wouldn't I want the special treatment that is due to me after pushing something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a lemon? Why wouldn't I want 3 months of nourishing my child and bonding with it to be considered "my job" and be paid accordingly? Ladies, in some ways we are simply superior and deserve to be treated as more than an equal. And this is one of them.

I am not equal. I am different. I will work hard to earn my keep, but I believe that my work, especially for the Church, is not simply what I do from 9-5, and should be compensated as such when I am a part of an organizaton that values my contributions both as employee and (at least according to their documents) as a mother.

I'm not the only one with eyes on this issue...here's the blog post from BBC News that inspired me to actually move from thinking to writing on this topic...http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/nickbryant/2008/05/baby_bonus_blues.html

And ladies, you may not have a "bun in the oven" yet, but I guarantee you that when your time comes you will be wondering many of the same things.

So let's step up. Let's ask our government and our companies to dance. Let's claim our femininity and its rights. These curves can take whatever you throw at them.

11 Words of Vocation

Our vocation is “to respond fully to the spiritual fullness in our immediate situation.”

These words were shared with Kevin and I at a recent business dinner. Our pastor stopped in the middle of dinner, quoted these words, and asked for our thoughts.

These 11 words could merit an entire dissertation.

And yet, somehow, it spoke to the very thing Kevin and I have been struggling with. Both of us have a tendency to get caught up in the "what ifs". We also get caught up in what we need to do next.

Can you imagine what it would truly mean to "respond fully to the spiritual fullness in our immediate situation"??? Let's just evaluate a few pieces...

"Respond fully..." That means that we turn our complete attention to the moment or issue at hand. There is not room for a half-hearted effort. We cannot be distracted by our other issues.

"Spiritual fullness..." We must be aware of and respond to God in each situation. This means forming a discerning conscience and spirituality that is prepared to identify the spiritual fullness of a given moment or situation. Spiritual fullness is also not a quantitative statement...meaning that spiritual fullness may be obvious or it may require additional prayer and discernment.

"Immediate situation..." Doesn't this mean completely re-ordering our lives in order to respond to the immediate situation? I believe it would mean a severe simplification and discipline of living in order to have the emotional and mental wherewithall and presence of mind to respond to the immediate situation. You don't get to "think about it" or "take a minute". You must clarify your life and your priorities ahead of time and then trust the movement of the Holy Spirit.

How prepared are we to live this definition of vocation?? I am pretty sure I am not as much as I might like to be. It certainly seems like the way I want to live. It sures seems a lot simpler and less manic than our current pace of life in the long run. I suppose the question now is, how do I get there???

The only answers I can come up with are prayer, trust, and the very grace of God. Probably in the reverse order...

Long Time...No Blog...

I guess I've just been busy...March and April virtually disappeared in all of the planning and execution of our parish's Stewardship Month.

But...I'm back now! With a vengence! And a baby-on-board!

So that is the topic of this first long-anticipated diatribe...our baby!!!

Before anyone asks, natural family planning (NFP) worked just perfectly. We used the standard days method for the first 9 months of our marriage and decided this spring that we were ready to welcome a baby into our marriage. And if you know anything about NFP, once you've determined your fertile days it is pretty straightforward when you start trying to conceive...as long as everything is healthy. Many health professionals are now recommending NFP methods as methods of conception not just prevention.

So no, NFP worked great! We still swear by it and I have every intention of going back to it after this baby.

That little soapbox aside, the next question is, how do we feel about being parents?

We are thrilled! We feel so blessed. I think we were both surprised at how easy it was with all of the stories of infertility floating around us. We can't wait to welcome our new little life.

We are anxious...what is it going to feel like? Why did that happen? Is the baby healthy? All sorts of questions are swirling around us and causing constant thoughts and conversations.

We are thoughtful. What does this mean for our marriage? How will it change our relationship? Did we make the best of our time as a couple? What kind of marriage do we want to have after the baby comes? We love each other and want the best for our family and our marriage.

I am sick. There are days when I wonder if I will ever want to have another baby. I feel like I am in an alien body. There is no rhyme to my rhythms. There is no way to prevent my all-day sickness. There is no way to anticipate my teary responses to the slightest comment. I have sore hips and I am constantly using the restroom. AND I'M NOT EVEN SHOWING YET!!! I am beside myself just wanting to get back to some semblence of normal. And then I realize that my estimation of normal is never going to measure up again...cue teary response.

And yet, we are grateful. More than anything we are SO grateful. God has given us an amazing gift to care for. He has given us the great joy of loving and guarding this child of His on this earth for however long He intends. He has given me the strength and the breath to nurture this child for the past 11 weeks. He gives us each beat of our baby's heart which is strong and beautiful. God gives us our wonderful family who is showering us with love, support and affection.

And our heavenly Father has given us each other. Kevin is a gift for which I cannot even find the words. Our marriage is a foundation that will sustain us through anything. My vocation is first as humble daughter of the Most High, second as loving wife to my husband, and third as dedicated mother of the child in my womb.

20 February, 2008

Stewardship of Winter

Tired of shoveling? Yes, I think most of us are tired of most things winter. I woke up this week to water flowing into our front room from the ice-dammed eaves. After removing every piece of furniture, relocating the cats, and sopping up the water-logged carpet, I sat down for a sip of cold coffee. As I sat there seething about our 70-year-old house and all of its wonderful “charm”, I looked out the window.

There to greet me was the most beautiful sight of snow blanketed trees and icicle draped homes. As the February sun fell warmly upon my lap, I realized that amidst all of my griping I had forgotten to thank God for this beautiful gift.

If you are like me, and perhaps you saw your kids’ snow day as anything but a “day off” or like my husband, you have retired from snow removal “…even if it means never leaving the house again!” here’s a thought for you. Even snow is a gift from God. A snow day can mean a few stolen moments with our children, our spouse, or even a good book. Snow removal can build our physical health or allow us to reach out to a neighbor. It just depends on how you look at it.

How do you handle the “snow” in your life? With griping or gratitude?

25 January, 2008

My "March for Life"...What's Yours?

I read a wonderful piece this morning on the pro-life march in Washington. It really brought a different thought process to my end of the dialogue.


For those of you, much like me, who don't have enough time to link to the article and read it (although I highly recommend doing so), the just of the article is as follows. Why does the march end at the steps fo the Supreme Court and not the steps of the Capital? The pro-life efforts must first be legislative not judicial. If they are judicial we simply lay any decision that is made in our favor in the path of overturning. This is the same reason we have hopes for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And that is why he didn't march this year. Now Steve Skojec is much more eloquent and detailed in his writing on this issue, but I hope I've acurately represented the basic tenets of his thoughts.

And here is my response...

What an interesting viewpoint and addition to the pro-life dialogue. I have often felt an outsider because I don't march or pray outside the clinics. It isn't because I don't think there is a place for it, but because I find that God is calling me with my gifts and talents to serve in other capacities for the cause...like changing diapers, feeding "birdy" mouths at midnight, and contorting my 24-year-old body into a commercial airplane...

You see, I come from a family that cares for foster children. I come from a family that when the youngest biological child was 17, my parents adopted a 2-year-old boy who was in their care. I come from a family that regularly witnesses to this ministry to faithful and unchurched alike. It is that kind of pro-life witness that changes hearts. I've seen it.

There is a much bigger illness in the world that can't simply be changed through legislation. All the laws and enforcement in the world will not change the mind of a desperate, jobless, mother of five when she discovers she is pregnant with number 6. Laws won't soothe the heart, mind, and soul a women faced with an unexpected life in her womb when she must make the choice to carry her baby 10 months to term and then be tragically seperated from it in its better interest or to end its life before she thinks she will bond with it, forever scarring herself and her relationship with the world.

I suppose, at least in my mind, it comes down to one thing. We are Catholic. We are all parts of one body and the hand does not serve the same purpose as the foot. However, we should be aware, grateful, and respectful of the abilities and efforts of each part of the body, knowing that we all come from God with a unique purpose. It is out of our gratitude for God's greatest gift, life, that we must pray and serve on its behalf.

13 January, 2008

Worry Warts...

I am so glad that there is no such thing as worry warts...there are worry lines...but those I can handle...

Why my sudden concern with with bumps of viral persuassion that are supposedly caused by worry? Well, maybe because I am a perpetual worrier.

Those who spend time with me may or may not realize this. I tend to be a very upbeat person, but the reality is that on the inside I am a bundle of anxiety. My upbeat nature isn't false, in fact it is my effort to change the world one crabby, anxious person at a time, but it doesn't always completely represent what is going on inside.

For example, last night, I was in a perfectly good mood. I was pleasant, jovial, and down-right pleasing to be with. And then I went to sleep. My inner being started to turn and worry and writhe. Literally I drempt about work all night...I was up every two hours...You see, we have this big survey going on at work right now that I am responsible for. So far we've had a great response so why I worry, I don't know. I just do and it affects me.

I often ask myself, knowing the internal turmoil, "Amberly, just how do you manage to get through the day without imploding???!!!" and my answer always comes back to, "Because you have faith."

Most of the time that answer from my soul isn't good enough because then I feel like I must have only a little faith if I am still anxious inside. Then there are those precious moments in life where I realize that yes, I am human. I am anxious and worried. But my faith in God's ultimate and loving plan is still there.

This from the woman who sat in the back of church pleading with God, "Your will Lord, not mine. Your will, not mine. Please, please make this work!!! Oh, and by the way, bring me peace..."

But that is what sets me apart from despair. I might not always get it right and I might not always get it complete, but I know where to turn. I know where to start. And God hasn't failed me yet. Each day I am given a new opportunity to offer my worries up to God. Each day a loving Father tries to teach me how to walk with Him and trust Him. And, I think I am learning. It is slow...probably the slowest I've ever learned something, but it is growing and God is patient.

I guess my point is, God doesn't let us get worry warts. He doesn't feel the need to give us ugly scars from our learning curve. He does however allow us to form gentle "worry lines", or as I prefer to call them "character lines". It is a reminder of His faithfulness as we try each day to bring Him more and more into our lives and offer Him our greatest hopes and our greatest fears.

And maybe someday my effort to change the world one person at a time with my upbeat attitude will do just that...it will change me.