Archive for the ‘faith’ Category


February 28, 2013

Day 5 of solo parenting, and of steering this ship solo at work too – Gimli and I are sharing directorship of this branch of the  church-based social service agency we work for and it’s definitely daunting to be at the helm without him.

In terms of the parenting part of it, the day-to-day has been fine but the nights are long and fractured and I’m feeling it.

A few weeks ago I was at a meeting, a circle of pastors holding one another up to the light, and in an opportunity for sharing about surrender and promises in our lives I was hit with a flood of emotion as I realized my need in the moment to release my children into that light. I confess that I cried, then and there, but that since that moment it’s been easier to let them go each morning, and I think they feel that too – somehow they have found their way to go with greater freedom and ease.

This morning the kids went to school in bright blue sweatsuits trimmed in yellow, the school logo embroidered on the front and their names embroidered on the inside of each pocket. They wore brand new rain boots – hers were ladybugs, his were Spiderman – and in their little backpacks were rain ponchos (Cars and Winnie the Pooh), change of clothes, crocs. In her pocket was a rubber ant she chose as her security object for their farm field trip today. I almost died from the cuteness.

Last night Oz sang to me in Spanish, to my thorough delight, a song about a green horse that rides a bike and wears glasses. Then he told me what it means in English. The two of them were playing ‘school,’ rolling playdough snakes and pretending to play miniature guitars.

I fall asleep sandwiched between them, waking every 2-3 hours when Oz talks through a dream or kicks me or asks to nurse. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep again, my brain squirreling through thought-nuts, burying and un-burying them to try to hide them somewhere else. Personnel issues. Budgets. A thousand little problems.

Right now I’m going to see if I can squeeze in a nap between meetings.


on making new friends in far-off places

August 12, 2011

I’ve been trying to write this post for, like, ever, and it’s not truly complete – I’m sure I’ll circle back to this again – but this is part of the friends puzzle that I’ve been pondering in my peripatetic life.

I’ll start with the confession that sometimes it’s hard for me to stay motivated to make friends in Albania, knowing that we’re here for a relatively short time – but at the same time, two years is far too long NOT to make friends. I do have one good friend – our nanny, who is a lovely woman a few years older than me, with two teenaged sons. She has worked for missionaries for years and years (that’s how I found her – recommendation from another American woman she works for part-time) and so although she doesn’t speak English, she’s adept at speaking very simple Albanian and at deciphering what I’m trying to say in my broken attempts at her language. She is generous, compassionate, kind, caring, and funny. I love her, and I already know it’s going to be really, really hard to say goodbye to her when we leave. She loves my children without reservation and they love her.

But it is kind of weird that the best friend I have here is someone I pay to come to my house. Occasionally money has become a source of friction, but not very often – it’s just really, really awkward when it does.

So far, the other friend options I’ve found have been either through Gimli’s work, or through the church we attend (and there’s some overlap between the two, since one of his co-workers introduced us to the church to begin with). There are three American women in particular who have little children who have been friendly towards me. One lives very close, less than a block away (she just had a baby). My main reservation in building these friendships has to do with the persistent feeling of hypocrisy that haunts me – not theirs, mine! All mine. I feel like I’m living a lie in letting them think I believe the same things they do. I was raised in this tradition, but I no longer believe a lot of it – although I do consider myself a Christian, I don’t believe that Jesus is the only path to God, or that homosexuality is a sin, or that God answers prayer. And I vote Democrat. So I know that all those things would be points of contention – and I don’t know if they’d still want to be my friends if they knew that. (Ummm… I’m not assuming all my readers here agree with me on these points either, so I’m hesitant even here to disclose these facts about myself, but I probably won’t feel as rejected if some of you stop reading/commenting than if some of the women here started to give me the cold shoulder – not that they would, but that’s what I’m afraid of, I guess.) There’s really only one woman I feel enough affinity for here that I’d risk being open with her about these things anyway, I just haven’t pursued it, because, also, isn’t it kind of lame to only make friends with other expats??? I haven’t made overtures towards the Albanian women I’ve met at church because they all work outside the home, so our schedules don’t really mesh, and they’re even more conservative even than the Americans. Like I’ve been shocked and repulsed by some of the things I’ve heard them say.

I’ve been hesitant to make overtures towards any of my husband’s more liberal, intellectual Albanian coworkers in part due to shyness, and in part because of the same working-mom/SAHM dilemma (language is not an issue since they speak English quite well). But I did bite the bullet this week and e-mail two of them about getting together for coffee and now I have a “friend date” at 6 p.m. tonight, which is not typically what I’d be doing at 6 p.m. but heck, it’s Friday, and the kids will survive supper with the nanny for once in their lives. So… hopefully I’ll be able to develop some kind of a social life here before we leave… just in time to cut ties and move again. But we’ll process that later, I guess.

The perfect opening? (Religion + December + Family + IF = MINEFIELD)

December 3, 2008

So, to follow up on the most recent post about my MIL, I just got this Christmassy forward from her today (and we all know how I feel about Christmas…):

Your December inspirational message from Mennonite Women is both below (in text) and attached (in format)

December 2008   

    •          As Hannah after many years, for Samuel’s birth dedicating him to the Lord.
    •          As Elizabeth, barren for many years when the unexpected happens in the birth of John.
    •          Like Mary after the divine visit from Gabriel announcing the coming birth of Jesus.
What are we waiting for? And how? Impatiently, as children, for time to pass till…? Expectantly for a long- anticipated event? Waiting, perhaps dreading the outcome of the test results? Regina Shands Stoltzfus: “Our culture does not honor the practice of waiting”(Rejoice, Sept.- Nov.,10). Can we modify or resist this influence in our lives?  
Along with the shepherds when the unexpected happens! How to plan for a meaningful Christmas when circumstances dictate a change of venue? Wondering, childlike, expectantly what new and wonderful experiences are in store?

    •          As we light our Advent candles, each Sunday morning before Christmas.
    •          In our Park View Church Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols.
Worshiping “the one whose birth we celebrate [who] called his followers to give up all their possessions and to go into ministry” (Byron Rempel-Burkholder, Rejoice, Dec.-Feb., 3). How will that call impact this year’s celebrations?
    — submitted by VK

 Barrenness?!?!?!?!?  Birth!!?!??!?!?!?!  WAITING, for crying out loud?!?!?!??!?!?!  THIS IS ALL ABOUT INFERTILITY!!!!! 

Here is the text of the message she sent with the forward:

“E, I’m forwarding this inspiration message on to you as I thought you
might enjoy these reflections in light of your having recently given birth to
Valerie. D”

Wait – what’s that supposed to mean?  Does she suspect????  Does she know???  Or is she just channeling the pervasive Christmas/pregnancy link?  I feel like I’m being paranoid… but sometimes they really are out to get you…

So… is this the time to open up about our infertility?  I’ve noticed that recently – in the past few weeks or so – I’ve been able to talk about it more frankly with a number of friends here at school.  I know it’s often said that children cure childlessness, not infertility – and it’s true.  But having V. has allowed me to in some measure come to terms with those years of trying.  And, possibly, with future x amount of time we’ll spend trying for #2. 

Am I prepared to deal with what will come through the metaphorical door once I open it to this topic of conversation with her?  I’m still so embarrassed to acknowledge that I have sx with my husband… is there a way to stay in control of the conversation once I admit that we struggled?  To say what I will and won’t talk about? Our relationship to date has been warm, but with a certain formality, a definite self-editing on my part.  I perform what I think is their idea of me.  I’m always just a little bit guarded.  Because I don’t completely trust them.  That’s it, really – at the bottom of it all – I don’t trust my in-laws to love me unconditionally, or to refrain from judging me.  I’m not sure entirely why that is. 

Well, I probably won’t respond to her e-mail until I’ve had a chance to talk with T. about it, because, after all, she’s his mother, and he has a say in this matter as well.  But you could have knocked me over with a slight nudge to the forehead after I read the opening salvo of the forwarded text.

At sea

August 13, 2008

This excellent post by Heather really moved me, and made me revisit my thoughts and feelings about faith.

A couple years ago, when depression had delayed our starting TTC, I had this mental image of my spiritual state of being.  Imagine a lake, with a dock, and a boat tied to the dock.  Over time, the rope that moors the boat has frayed, and, without warning, one day it snaps.  At first there is no obvious consequence; the boat continues to bob on the water and bump rhythmically against the dock.  But little by little, then, it slowly begins to drift away. 

The person in the boat (erm, that would be me) is staring at the sky.  Minutes pass, then hours, days, and weeks, until at last I look up and notice that I’ve begun to drift.  No matter; I have oars, it’s not far.  I can row back anytime I want to.  It’s just that… I don’t really want to…

And the next time I look up, I’m even farther from shore.

This time it looks too far.

I would hold this mental image in my mind and feel a tremendous sadness, at the loss of the secure mooring.  For several years, I kept thinking that soon, soon I would feel the desire to pray again.  But that moment never came.  The closest I’ve really come have been the times of despair when I would talk to my late grandmother, or the litanies I’ve said for fellow stirrup queens.

But now, today, I feel like my boat has sailed into the open sea, as it was meant to do – tacking into the wind, under a cheerful sun, free into the wild blue.

goodbye, old blog

August 1, 2008

Today I actually deleted the old blog, “The I Word.”  Even though all the posts have been uploaded here, it’s still a weird feeling.  257 posts over the course of 611 days.  Blogging has allowed me to connect to so many cool people, whose blogs I follow avidly.  People I think about throughout the day, tell my husband stories from, and … for awhile … even prayed for.  I’ve had a troubled relationship with faith, but for several months while TTC and then while PG, I used to pray a sort of version of the Hail Mary while trying to fall asleep at night.  I hope it’s not sacreligeous, but I would substitute in the names of people on my blogroll.  It seemed right, somehow, to pray to the Mother of God for all future and actual mothers.

A Stirrup-Queen friend of mine recently told me that she named her son Samuel because of her identification with Hannah in the Bible. 

Anyway… deleting the old blog has made me a mite pensive tonight.  Though, granted, it doesn’t take much 🙂

Taking the Bump to Church

March 24, 2008

T. and I had to laugh at ourselves yesterday – we went to church for the first time since Christmas, and even though the service started 45 minutes later than usual, we were still 10 minutes late. We had to sit on folding chairs in the aisle because the church was so full.

The day before, I was feeling self-conscious about bringing my bump to church – so T. suggested we wear T-shirts printed with the words, “Yes we had sex. But only once. And we didn’t like it.” A friend who is a single mom told me, “just enjoy it. I never was able to enjoy being pregnant because it was such an awful situation.” So I did. (Critter loved the singing, as always) 🙂 Only one person said, after the congratulations, “What took you so long?”

The youth pastor told us that there are 7 babies expected in the congregation this year. Of course that makes you happy, I thought. Keeps you employed! When did I become so cynical?

During the service, a lot of the songs we sang were ones I had learned at the church I went to during college – probably the one church I’ve ever attended that I participated in without reservations, without holding anything back. Singing the same songs yesterday peeled back part of my heart and exposed something raw and tender, and I didn’t try to stop the tears that slid down to drip from my chin. I thought about my late BIL, as we sang of resurrection. When my sister scattered his ashes on the beach in Hawaii, she saw a sea turtle surfing the waves nearby, and felt him near. What I have lost these ten years gone is the ability to find my rest in God, or in the idea of God – to find solace or consolation in that trust that I once had in him.

Driving back to NY in the afternoon, that rawness remained near the surface. My mind wandered back over other losses and griefs, though not (come to think of it) infertility. I guess it was a bit of emotional housecleaning.

Well, back to the weekly routine – I should get ready for class.

Sober thoughts

March 10, 2008

Why, as spring approaches, do I find myself thinking so much about death? The recent late-term losses that several bloggers have experienced had me crying over the keyboard, even though I wasn’t even a regular reader. I think it’s natural that reading these stories should evoke our own memories of loss and grief, though they be of a different nature. I hope I’m not being terribly self-centered in turning the reflections inward here.

When a friend of mine died in a bus accident in 1998, her husband said at the memorial service that we should all cover our loved ones with death – that we should always be mindful of their mortality, so that we would live in such a way that if they did die we’d have no regrets. I was 25 and in the early swirl of romance with T.; these words have stayed with me.

What I didn’t know at the time was that this event was the first in a series that would, by the end of the year, unmoor me from the dock of my faith and set me adrift for the foreseeable future. The thing with drifting is that you don’t even notice it at first; when finally you do look up and measure the distance, it has become to far to paddle back. I’m still watching for a promising place to dock. But maye the point is actually to flow with the river.

Thinking Forwards and Backwards

March 1, 2008

Rachel’s post about her baby dedication got me thinking. I haven’t been to church regularly for probably almost two years now; my participation was already waning previous to that, but when I started grad school again in the fall of ’06 I made a definite decision that I would not go to church again until I really wanted to. Forcing myself to go was mostly making me feel resentful.

For the first time in a long time, this week I started feeling like I kind of want to. I’m thinking of checking out the Quaker meeting on campus. I’m not sure how much of the desire comes from being pg, vs. meeting the parents of a Quaker friend here and really connecting (especially along the lines of their peace/justice commitments).

Meanwhile, I’ve been mulling over the baby dedication question. Not so much whether, but how. Specifically – does a conversation about IF come into it? Our church in VA seems to kind of ignore the whole realm of IF/pregnancy loss. Recently I came across an old Christmas newsletter from the three pastors and each piece of it was like a stab and twist of the knife, as the meditations focused exclusively on birth and parenting. I think there is zero awareness of how painful that could be for some people. I think it’s also an issue in the larger congregation, this taboo, because out of 400 members, a 12.5% statistic would suggest that around 50 people there have had their lives affected by infertility or loss. Or have those 50 people just stopped attending?

In all fairness, my issues with the church predate my difficulties conceiving; it’s possible if I had been in a better place faith-wise to begin with I wouldn’t have become so alienated. But what does it mean that we’re in a small group with our pastor and I haven’t felt able to talk about it even there?

I have a tendency to take on Causes. Part of me wants to make a potential baby dedication a platform for opening conversations in the church about infertility. But I’m also a pretty private person – we haven’t told our in-laws about our struggles, not even a hint. They attend the same church, so obviously if I shared some of our story in church this would be a big Reveal to them too. The thing is, I really don’t want to have that conversation with them at all – I don’t want to be subjected to a lot of personal questions, judgements, “why didn’t you”s, or the hurt they would feel knowing that we hadn’t told them, and being made to feel guilty about that.

So who knows. It feels like a long time in the future yet, anyway. But there’s still this niggling desire to want to educate people about IF.