Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pregnancy Thoughts

I am starting to enjoy being pregnant now. I have a wee belly, I have felt the baby move! I'm still struggling with my physical limitations, but I'm starting to realize that there's a little person inside that I get to meet in just 21 weeks! I'm already so attached to this person, and planning for their life is one of my greatest joys. Pregnancy comes with it's own set of dos and don'ts, and since I posted one after I had my miscarriage, I thought I would post just two considerations for those of you who deal with pregnant women and need some pointers...

1) We are not "mommies to be." If any phrase bugs me, it's this one. I'm not a mommy to be - I'm someone's mother already. I feed my child, make sure they're warm, I know when they sleep and wake. I play music for him/her, decorate their room, and do everything I can to ensure they have the best life. I am a mom already; the fact that I cannot yet see my child's face does nothing to diminish this. To deny this is to say that women who miscarry are not mothers, and that would be horrifically cruel.

2) We don't need your judgment. Pregnant women have a great deal of information available to them regarding their health. Chances are, they have read most or all of it already - that we are not supposed to drink anything that even thinks about being alcoholic, eat cold cuts or soft cheeses or sushi, use any medication without prior doctor approval, do any exercise besides walking slowly, lift anything more than our handbag. But the fact is that pregnant women are adults and science is not a monolith. So if you have a pregnant woman over to your home, offer her the full range of drinks - and don't blink if she asks for a beer. Do not gasp when you see her eat sushi or brie or hear that her most recent vacation included kayaking. Unless the woman is being blatantly careless (scuba diving, for instance, is almost guaranteed to cause miscarriage), trust her judgment or at least, don't lend her yours.

But don't worry. I promise my sangria last night was sans alcohol. In other words, I am a grown woman that drinks fruit juice with dinner.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Freedom of Catholic Culture

Yesterday, I had an awesome Holy Spirit experience.

I was reading the blog of Sara Janssen, whose amazing photo montage of the homebirth of her daughter makes me cry every time I watch it  (which might be...way too often to be healthy!!). The more I read her blog, the more I really admired her spirit - her desire to be truly radical for Christ, to be unafraid to be countercultural. She's uber-crunchy, and very serious about her walk with Christ...which I think are two things that go together easily.

It got me to thinking how wonderful it is that there is "Catholic culture" that one must be a part of to be Catholic. Catholicism, unlike Judaism, is not a culture or a race. Unlike other religions with a strong moral code, we do not require our members to worship in any one language, to dress a certain way, or to even agree on most things. Catholicism is incredibly diverse. One can be Catholic and be single, married, gay, straight, a working professional, a homeless radical, black, white, Asian, super crunchy, super corporate, rich, poor, middle class, imperfect, intelligent, dumb, educated, uneducated, homeschooled, public schooled, unschooled. We are not limited by anything, and we are united by the Greatest thing: our ancient, deep, and forever new Faith.

Anthony van Dyck

Unlike what most people say of us, Catholics are incredibly free, and that freedom is frightening. We want to choose labels and stick to them: conservative Catholic, Tridentine Catholic, peace and justice Catholic. These give us comfort, but not holiness.  God only calls us to be ourselves: united in belief, we do not have to be anything. It is not holier, objectively, to be any one thing (married, working, religious, priest, head cover, poor) - but it may be a holier choice for one person or another, subjectively. That vastness of options can be so overwhelming: we long for community and to a degree, conformity. We want to belong. Being comfortable belonging by virtue of belief is difficult: we must realize that we are not called to conform in any outsider consideration, but are called instead to be one in the Spirit, one as we are all single-mindedly devoted to the Gospel.  

This reflection has really given me a sense of a deeper freedom, and a desire to claim that freedom in my own life. As I shared with some friends lately, I have felt slightly confined since being married - wondering if my role as wife meant embracing a new personhood separate from who I had always been. And while I think my role has come with greater responsibility, and hopefully greater holiness!, it does not mean changing who God made me to be - it means deepening that vision.

I am so blessed to have received this message in time for Pentecost. I hope that wherever you are, you experience the freeing power of the Holy Spirit to bring Beauty to the world - that which God gives you to give to the world, cannot be given by anyone else! Come, Holy Spirit!

Jean II Restout, Pentecost 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Living and Learning: Home Ownership

I have never owned a home before, and neither has my husband. Thus, many of the aspects of homeownership have proved to be a surprise to us - unfortunately, mostly unpleasant.

Isn't it cute? This is when our house as it was when it was first on the market, probably 2 years before we bought it! 

Our property was left abandoned for several years prior to us purchasing it. In south Florida, as I may have mentioned, that means the vegetation exerts every effort to reclaim the land and draw it back into the wilderness. We have made slow progress in fighting off the marauding hordes, but we finally had to call in big guns. We had several trees that needed to be trimmed, and a couple more that needed to come out. Unfortunately, many homeowners plant trees without checking with a landscape architect or even as much as a garden book. The guy who owned the house before we did planted some beautiful trees...right next to the house. They became huge hurricane hazards.

Today, while grinding the stump of a huge tree, the workers hit our an irrigation pipe. I got a call at work, saying they had to turn our water off, because they didn't know how to turn the irrigation system off. To be honest, neither did we! We've never messed with the sprinkler system at all. So when we got home at 9pm tonight after choir, we discovered the water in our house was turned off, we had no idea how to turn off the sprinkler system so we could turn it back on, and several of my favorite plants were killed because they were too close to the stump and must've got sucked into the grinder.

So here's in the future, I will certainly remember to 1) remove any and all plants from anywhere near the trees to be removed; and 2) I will ask for information about any systems in place (irrigation, alarm) before I buy so that I know how to fix/work things!

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 1

Many thanks to Jen over at Conversion Diary for hosting...and this is my first time, so I'll try to learn to be "quick."

Growing up, I found my name horrifically embarrassing and old-fashioned. It had no cool nickname that I knew of to go with it (only after my Grammy died when I was in grad school was a I bequeathed her nickname, Marti, which I love). All of my friends were named cute things like Nicole or Jessica, making me surrounded by "Nikki"s and "Jess"s. So, in our search for a baby name, I've decided I want to make my child's name also a cross that they bear unwillingly as a young child, but then grow to embrace as an adult. 
I'm very happy now that my name is Martha, both for its Biblical significance and for the fact that I could sit on the Supreme Court and no one would giggle (except at my ridiculous credentials). I would really like to give my kids a crazy Old Testament name, just to remind them that the Christian connection to Judaism is very real and should be honored. So far, Tom is not onboard with Adah, Bildad, or Enoch (real names, I'm not kidding). 

From time to time, I assist my husband in his work by singing a funeral. My voice is passable and when our regular cantor can't make it, I step in. When I first started doing this back in August, I would get so nervous my vocal chords would collapse and you could hear the deceased's family moaning, "the only thing worse than losing Grandpa is listening to this broad sing!" Now that I have actually attended a couple of Catholic funerals and know what is expected of me, I am not so horrible. 
Today, however, is the funeral for a woman who was quit prominent in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. For this reason, several rabbis will be in attendance and our Bishop. What? Yeah, that's right - OUR BISHOP. I get nervous singing in front of our pastor, but the Bishop? He frightens me! He wears better hats than I do! And his white hair is so distinguished! And my lung capacity has been reduced by 20% because of this baby! 
So please send out some prayers that I don't hyperventilate and pass out, during a funeral, in front of our Bishop, and pastor, and some rabbis. 

In case anyone ever wants to talk about how horrible it is that lawyers make so much money, I would like to point out to you that I went to the cheapest Tier 1 law school in the country and the total cost of attendance for three years is $60K, before books and everything else, and you sign a form for the first year that says you won't work. Also, the bar preparation course that everyone has to take because law school doesn't actually teach you to practice law (little known fact!), is $4,000! I would know because I just wrote a check for that! And then taking the Bar itself costs $1500! 
My point is, after all that, we still have to hang out with other lawyers!! And that can be a real drag... So don't begrudge us our $175 an hour! (and that's a cheap going rate) 

I started my baby registries, at the behest of my shower planner. And I realized that registering is a) scary, and b) a public airing of your parenting choices. Do you register for cloth or disposable diapers? Formula or (gag) nipple butter? A crib, or one of those side-along sleeper things? Just a stroller or a Moby wrap, or both? Seriously, you're basically just telling everybody everything right there. All I have to do is create a custom registry site that says "WE WANT TO HOMESCHOOL" in a banner on top and I can complete my TMI  life-choice sharing. 
The thing is, the closer this babe comes to making his or her entrance, the more I really don't want to talk about these things. I have a sense of how we're going to try parenting, but I always have an inkling that it probably won't work out perfectly and we'll end up doing some sort of hybrid approach that works for us, and I'm okay with that. I have zero interest in all the uber-opinionated people that materialize out of the woodwork when you get pregnant and scream at you about what you're eating or reading, and how you're birthing, feeding, sleeping, or schooling. It makes me want to grab a Coke slurpee and a nap! Zzzzzzz. 

Bar studying is supposed to start on Monday. I don't know how I feel about that, but I do know I need prayers because this 12-month break from studying has made me a major slacker! 

For those of you who don't know, I have been a youth minister for the past several months while our parish searched for a new one. Well we just hired a new one! This is exciting...but also makes me realize that I should have been praying all this time about what God wants me to do with my (professional) life in the near future. In praying about this lately (and rather frantically), I suddenly realize that I enjoy teaching. Why is it that all the things I swore off as a young girl I am now coming to desire? 

This morning while getting ready for work, my husband was singing "Beauty and the Beast" to our confused dog, letting me sing the Belle parts, and doing his best Gaston eyebrow. I love this trait in Mr. Oram. God knew exactly what I wanted in life - a husband who has the ability to sing, knows musicals and Disney movies very well, and isn't gay. I finally have someone to sing the boy parts! God is very, very Good!! 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To Love is To Burn

Where does the time go? Like Anne says of sleep, maybe it is "over the mountains of the moon. Down the valley of the shadow. Beneath the waves of the deep gulf stream." But I suspect that, just like heat waves shimmering off Florida asphalt, it's not real at all. 

Suddenly I blinked and I'm 17 (almost 18) weeks pregnant. My job as interim youth minister is drawing to a close since we hired my replacement yesterday, but I'll stay on as his assistant. I'm beginning my Bar prep class next week and am headed to Virginia for an ordination in two weeks. I have two baby showers and the Bar exam to take before August. 

Busy, busy summer. 

Some aspects threaten to overtake me. Whereas I was incredibly excited to register for our wedding, I feel helpless when thinking of registering for my baby showers. What does my baby need? I don't know. Even after I read lists, I don't know. I don't know how I want to decorate the nursery or what "style" diaper bag to have. It seems like so many decisions to make for a tiny person I don't even know very well yet. In my mind, I had always designed my dream home, so getting married was just bringing that to fruition...and of course, I'm still working on that. But when I imagined myself as a mother, it wasn't ever a mother to a newborn; it was a mother like my mother or sisters, complete with four children at various stages of growth and a perfectly calm aura of control. 

I didn't think this out too well. 

My thoughts are converging and cascading in an endless landscape of wonder. This Fall, by God's grace, I will become a mother: the job I have wanted with my whole heart for my entire life. And yet, as I walk away from the job I've held as youth minister, I wonder if I am supposed to work out side the home; as I begin to study for the Bar, I realize that not all my professional ambitions are gone. What do I do with this full heart, these gifts from God? How do I become the woman he is asking me to be? 

It's certainly not by worrying. As I am drawn deeper into the Word of God in this season of my life, I am finding great comfort in realizing that blazing a new path in one's life doesn't mean that I messed up somewhere before. Reading through Acts, I realize that what Luke is describing are the Apostles building the Church, brick by brick, with the Holy Spirit to guide them. Jesus was not there to speak to anymore, but He had not abandoned them, and they were doing His work. I too can do God's work - even though I feel frightened and often very alone, with no path to follow. The fire of the Spirit will blaze a trail for me and I will follow it, and that will be more than enough.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why Do I Care?

Well, I am at the point I dreaded, already. I am 16 weeks pregnant, and I have (a few, little) stretch marks on my stomach. (I tried looking up a comparable picture, but the search results horrified me so deeply I gave up) This has caused me complete and total panic.

This is not an option, unfortunately.

Despite my struggles with weigh over the years, I have always been very happy with one thing: my midsection. My stomach has always stayed shape-defyingly flat, or flat enough to make me happy. It was a point of pride, really, and a way of realizing that everybody gets a few nice things physically but most don't get everything.  Obviously, that is changing now. Rapidly. And it's really hurting my pride me. On one hand, I'm so excited to have a belly! It means I'm way preggo! On the other, so terrified that I'm never going to look the way I enjoy looking, again.

Tom has asked repeatedly, "why do you care?" He points out that he loves the way I look and I don't even wear bikinis so no one will see my stomach anyway. And while I appreciate that, really, this isn't about those concerns. This is me being frightened that I will never like the way I look again. Is it petty? Women were created to want to be beautiful - we want to be the lovely wife, we want to be described like the bride in Song of Songs (well...maybe not our teeth like newly washed sheep...that's weird). And what if I don't ever feel that again - never again enjoy the feeling of my skin, never want my picture taken again, never again enjoy feeling my body be strong and fast? What if I lose myself? And maybe I could get back to feeling healthy after the first baby but...what about the second? or third? or seventh? I don't know what God has in store for us! Since PCOS makes weight control challenging, and I have to be super careful in order to be healthy, will a big family make it neigh on impossible?

Children are a blessing that women sacrifice for: we give our very bodies in complete service to them, and that's an incredible thing. I am willing to do it, because I believe I am called to do it - and God has put this desire on my heart. But I'm still frightened because I don't know yet what's on the other side - will I still be "me" after the sacrifice...or will I be able to enjoy being whoever the new mom-version of myself turns out to be?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lucky Star

I've kept trying to blog, but it hasn't really gotten to the point of full bloom. I guess I have just been wanting to keep living and not get too wrapped up in my thought process of things.

It was a heck of a spring for us, and summer promises to be just as exciting. At 16 weeks now, I am eager to move into the next phase of this pregnancy, eager to get the energy rush and know the sex of the babe, eager to show more (right now I'm in the "pregnant or fat?" stage), eager to feel the baby move. This summer we'll head to Richmond for a dear friend's ordination, and see my parents, have the baby shower, spend more time at the pool (under an umbrella) than humanly possibly.

Some of you may know, April 27th marked the 1 year anniversary of the tornado that ravaged my beloved town, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I lost my home and most of my belongings in that twister, and gained an appreciation for the goodness of the human spirit and the beauty of my Alabama law community. I was born under a lucky star; I survived and nothing I truly needed was lost to me: not my passport, myself, my wallet.

My house, moments after we crawled out of the basement; the top floor was my room.

It is hard to look back on where I was a year ago and take it all in. I was homeless, I felt completely lost and numb. Neither my then-fiance nor my parents were with me; I couldn't sleep. Law school suddenly disappeared, just like that; finals were postponed, graduation was moved but still happened, everything changed. And two weeks after the tornado hit, we packed up my dad's white pick-up truck and my rental car (my car was destroyed) and drove to Florida - and I haven't been back since. 

Graduation from law school, Mr. Oram and I 

Since then, I have done nothing with the law. It went from being my entire world, to being an odd memory wrapped up with pain and loss. Mr. Oram and I did not plan for me to work right away, and we already knew I wouldn't take the July bar. But...but then avoiding those three years became a necessity for my mind. The law became part of a life I wanted to block out, to forget about: somehow, my entire three years there became tangled up with the sound of shattering glass, the devastation of my favorite oak trees, the loss of my first grown-up car. I hadn't walked away from my decimated town, but from my entire career. 

Now it seems I don't want to go back. Every time someone mentions taking the Bar or how important it is that I do that, I have a knee jerk reaction against it. I didn't take it in July, I put it off in February, and here's a new July already almost upon me. My first thought when anyone brings it up is always, "how dare you make me go back there!" I don't want to; all my legal knowledge and ambitions are now tied inextricably with the greatest fear of my life: dying, dying helplessly in a basement, in my underwear!, while the sound of  tearing sheet metal drowns out my frantic hail Marys. 

My neighborhood, as seen from what used to be my room, but then became an observation platform. This used to be a view completely obstructed by oak trees that were centuries old. 

I pushed past that enough to take the MPRE in February and passed it handily. But the July bar looms, and my mind rebels at the thought. I am frightened of all that: of having to study, of having the concepts come back to me like I know they will and remembering where and how I learned them, of knowing that I loved a place and then it was wounded and then I left it and never looked back. I abandoned my town, my friends, the whole life I had been building in the state I loved so much - and now I have to face it. 

So amidst the joy of my summer, the growing child that I am so feverishly thankful to be alive to bear, I will be facing down a demon, by God's grace. I don't know what God wants me to do with my law degree, but I guess acknowledging that I have one will be the first step in finding out.