Thursday, April 10, 2014

Don't Know Much About: Tithing

Tithing.

Something I don't know much about.

It's come up several times in recent weeks, so I want to learn more about it.

I'm trying desperately to get control of our finances (this is gradually happening, praise God!), and a book I've just read on managing your money talked a lot about tithing. The author is a Baptist, I think, and she advocates tithing on your gross income and every financial gain that you make. I realized that I have no idea what is deemed appropriate or desirable giving for Catholics.

Are Catholics are called to tithe in the literal "first tenth" sense?
How do you approach financial giving to the Church?
And on a personal note, if you have experience with this, we're kind of not really making ends meet without dipping into our savings a bit every month, but if tithing is important, is it something we should do and try to adjust down even more?

Talk to me, people! I'm very curious about this.

Thanks,
January

Friday, April 4, 2014

Being the Standard

This post talked about joy and happiness in parenting based on an interview of Jennifer Senior that I heard on Fresh Air. I want to continue to reference that interview in this post as well. It's a long interview, 38 minutes or so, but I really do recommend it. It was so interesting.

Something that really stood out to me in Senior's interview was the part where she talked about "being the standard." She said that men and women tend to have wildly different viewpoints on how good of a parent they are, and that it's because, as with so many things, they approach the question differently. She said that it was really put into words by one father, when he said that when he is in charge of childcare in his home, he thinks of himself as the standard. So, basically, he's measuring himself against himself. Women, on the other hand, tend to measure themselves not against themselves, but against others. And in today's connected world, we women have millions of other women we can access instantly to compare ourselves with. We end up thinking we are not doing a good job at parenting, because we lift up others as the standard, rather than making the best that we can do our standard.

Wow! I found this to be so deep! :D I guess in some ways it's kind of obvious, but I feel like I got so much out of this tidbit. I try to stay pretty positive about my parenting skills, but I have found that I can start to feel blue about my qualifications and it seems like the internet is out to make me feel like a failure.

For example, a friend asked me to join her facebook group for eco-friendly, attachment parenting sorts of moms. So I did. I mean, we cloth diaper, which is pretty green, right? And we don't co-sleep, but I surely love to babywear (G naps in her Moby wrap as I type this). So I figured I could fit in and learn new things. Well, to be honest, I think being in this group is making me feel worse instead of better. I am clearly not living as green a life as I could be, which is making me feel guilty. I don't DIY or craft or find miraculous new uses for stuff around my house, so of course, I couldn't go to the DIY exchange get together they had this week. I'm not out and about doing activities that are enriching to me, G, or the community. I'm feeling crappy and I really do think it's all because of this stupid facebook group. It's making me feel like there is this standard of green attachment parenthood that all these other moms are living up to that I am finding impossible. It's making me feel like my best is not a good enough standard to measure myself with.

Telling myself that my best should be my standard (or better yet, Christ should be my standard?!) is something I'm trying to do more now, when I start beating myself up. It really can be so easy to look at others and not see yourself as good enough. Things that have occurred to me just in the last few days include:

I am not a good enough blogger. Everyone blogs more than I do.

I am not maintaining my in/fertility perspective well. I am acting and thinking like I'm fertile now, and I don't know if I am or not! This makes me just as insensitive as the people who never struggled with fertility in the first place.

I am not a very good Catholic. It's been ages since I went to confession, but not since I received communion. I have not been doing anything to help the body of Christ. I feel so guilty (maybe I am a good Catholic, then? Kidding, kidding).

It's time to tell myself to remember what my standards should be. They should be me being my best self, not me trying to be like other moms, other bloggers, other people. They should be Christ and his mother Mary. My inspirations should be just that, inspiring, not defeating. Time to quit a certain facebook group and find myself a Lenten reconciliation service, perhaps. Do you ever find yourself in this spot? How do you move out of it?

-January


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Joy in Parenthood

Husband and I heard Jennifer Senior, the author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, interviewed on a public radio show, Fresh Air, a few months back. It was such an informative show, (here's the link to it http://www.npr.org/2014/02/04/271416048/are-we-having-fun-yet-new-book-explores-the-paradox-of-parenting) and I'd really like to read her book. Senior talked about how there have been studies indicating that people did not enjoy the tasks of parenting, and these studies have been used as proof in various, popular articles that state that people are not as happy when they have kids. I have encountered a few of these studies and articles and found them to be very frustrating, even before we had our daughter. They seemed like a direct attack on the culture of life, and of course they backed up with studies, so they must be true.

Now that we are parents, I find claims that our happiness is decreased simply to be laughable. Not to brag, but I don't think we've ever been as happy as we are right now.

Senior explained how one of the most frequently-cited studies arrived at its findings, which it turns out I am not the only person to disagree with. Apparently the person who created the study asked people to indicate their happiness level when doing certain tasks, like vacuuming, changing a diaper, watching a funny movie, and so forth. Changing a diaper did not rate very high, nor did a lot of other discreet tasks in parenting. However, things like watching a funny movie did get rated highly. It sounds like people weren't being asked to compare their happiness in parenting to other things, but rather to rate concrete childcare acts. This resulted in the entirety of parenting being given a happiness rating lower than watching Dumb and Dumber.

The author went on to explain that she has found that, as the title of her book indicates, parenthood isn't necessarily "fun" but it is absolutely "joyful." I loved the example she gave, that hearing your child laugh is way better and deeper than any cheap thrill, giving you real joy. She's so right! Getting up for the 5th time in one night to care for my child is not fun, but I'll be darned if any and every act of love and service I do for her doesn't result in my sincere happiness.

-January

Monday, March 24, 2014

The First Postpartum Peak

I've been using the Marquette method to track my fertility or lack thereof since relations (insert eyebrow wiggle here) resumed postpartum. It's obscenely expensive to buy those little sticks, but I have no confidence in my ability to use any other NFP method. I cannot interpret mucus to save my life.

When you are breastfeeding there's a different protocol than when you're cycling normally, because of how nursing can suppress your fertility. You create an artificial 20 day cycle, for reasons that I only sort of understand but I don't feel confident telling anyone over the internet. For my first couple of "cycles," everything just stayed low. Then they'd start out low, but begin reading high sometime during the cycle, but when I'd trigger a new cycle, they'd go back to low. However, this last time, when I triggered and then tested for a new cycle, they stayed high! This meant we were either in for a long period of abstaining (insert disappointed Husband and January faces here) or I was about to ovulate for real. Just a few days into the "cycle," the monitor indicates that I've peaked! (Insert shocked January face here).

A bunch of questions and feelings that were conveniently tucked away in my postpartum, non-cycling mind are starting to creep out.

I talked to Husband about some of the overarching issues yesterday without getting emotional. And while he specifically said that we didn't need to hash out the whole thing immediately, he was also more receptive of the conversation than I expected him to be. We laid out the scenarios of what could happen if IF happens again, even though it's not like we arrived at any sort of answers. I am quite positive that it's because I was sitting on the floor with G, holding her as she gnawed on my knee and played with some toys, but I was able to be rather dispassionate on the subject of IF.

Knowing myself, that won't last for long, but I am hoping to use this space to sort out my thoughts and any emotions that come along with them.

Love,
January

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Path I'm On

Ever catch yourself praying more when you are hurting or in need of something, rather than when you are happy and feeling satisfied? I am prone to doing that. I am also prone to not being much of a writer unless I have some anxiety weighing on me. As you may have noticed, when I feel good, I write either inanity or nothing at all.

My little girl, G, is now seven months old. She scootches around the floor, not with a fully developed crawl, but rather like someone doing the butterfly stroke in the pool. Arms, body, legs, arms, body, legs. She cannot stand to have me out of her sight, or even not looking at her for long. So, she and I spend all of our time together. We play on the floor in the living room, she bounces in a jumper in the kitchen, she sits in a little green chair with me when I use the bathroom or take a shower.

G's newest obsession is pulling up to standing whenever possible. Whether using my legs, the sofa, the edge of her little plastic bath tub, she holds on for dear life and pushes and pulls herself up. Then she lets go! She has this unwavering belief that she can balance on her own. This means there have been a lot of falls lately. I try not to make a big deal of them, just smile at her, scoop her up, and say "Kaboom!" Sometimes she cries, sometimes she doesn't. It's amazing how resilient little ones are.

* * *

One of those niggling little thoughts in my head when I was struggling to conceive was that maybe God didn't think I'd be a good mother. Maybe He knew that I didn't have what it takes.

I am relieved to find out that this worry was unfounded. I am a good mother. This is not to toot my own horn or anything. But it turns out that I am a good mother, and God was not withholding anything from me because He knew I would fail. It's not easy. I am challenged every day, throughout the day. We don't live close enough to family that I can go see my mom during the day, so she gets a lot of phone calls instead. I cry sometimes, mostly on days when I'm really exhausted. Thankfully, those days are fewer right now, as G grows and I get more experience. (I have been warned that just when you think you've got it figured out, everything changes on you again. But isn't that life?)

A friend of Novie who had three kids very close together asked me how I liked motherhood. I told her that I loved it. She looked at me very seriously and asked "But isn't it lonely? Especially when you have just one." Yes, it is absolutely lonely. Only you are the mommy, capable of giving your baby everything she needs. You haven't yet met other people home caring for their children during the day, so you don't have friends with whom you can sit and talk, who can hold your baby for just five minutes. But that changes; you meet people, your little one grows, the two of you get out of the house together.

What gets me through every challenge, though, is the waiting we had to do to get here. The wanting our child so much that it hurt. I get to look at my daughter and see a miracle. I draw on the strength I built up while trying to conceive, and I wonder what it's like to be a mother who didn't struggle to have her child. Obviously, it can be done :) but it's not the path I'm on, and I've realized that I am thankful for that. I can only imagine what I would be like if I were still a primary IF-er, and in the same way I can only imagine what I would be like if I were never IF at all.

Love,
January


Saturday, October 19, 2013

I'm a mommy!

It's been forever since November and I have blogged, and I'm not sure what we're going to do with this blog. I'm thinking that if we bring it back to life again we should include some additional bloggers - there are 10 more months in the year for our super awesome pseudonyms! Seriously, if you're interested in contributing occasionally, let me know. novieandjan at gmail dot com. Right now we are one woman who experienced primary infertility and is now a mother of one and one woman with a history of strong fertility and is now a mother of two with one on the way. (Yay, Novie!) If you're in a different "season" than we are, married or unmarried, primary or secondary IF, even mother of grown children or past your childbearing years, maybe you could join us! I was also thinking that this might appeal to bloggers who might want to share some more personal things anonymously. Like I said, get in touch if you are interested.

So, yes, I am a mommy! My baby girl was born August 20th. She was 7lb, 4oz and 20 inches long. She has dark hair and eyebrows like me, but I think she gets much of her looks from her daddy, which no one was expecting! She's napping right next to me at the moment and making occasional squeaks and sighs in her sleep. The newborn stage is slipping right past us; she'll be two months old tomorrow. When do they cease to be a "newborn" and become an "infant?" Her skin still has that newborn softness that you can't even believe skin can have, but so many other things about her have changed. She's gained lots of weight, of course; her ears have become real ears; her lips have grown and a few weeks ago started giving me beautiful smiles. She holds her head up often on her own; it becomes steadier every day. Gah! I love her so much! It's really quite impossible to comprehend.

My baby girl is definitely inspiring me to write again, if only to try to give words to the overwhelming feelings she brings to my heart. Then there is all this whole "mom" world on the internet that I was willfully ignorant of in the past. It inspires lots of thoughts. Birth, fertility, NFP, jobs, marriage...it's all been in my head, but my head feels like it's an entirely new one since this little one arrived. Coming back to blogging could be just the thing.

Thank you to all who prayed for me during my primary IF journey and my pregnancy. Friendship in this age of the internet is a strange and ephemeral thing, but it never ceases to be of great value. I've been quiet here, but I keep you close in my prayers.

Love,
January



Friday, April 19, 2013

Some January catch up!

To catch you up on my life right now (because I figure you should get to know the good stuff as well as the bad stuff):

Husband has a new job! He started it last week, after just over one month of being unemployed. A friend of ours has dubbed him "the job-hunting ninja." All I know is that we are incredibly grateful that he has been able to secure something so quickly. I have to keep telling myself that God's mercy knows no bounds, because sometimes I worry that we've used up all of our miracles.

We learned at the ultrasound a couple of weeks ago that Baby is a girl! I had spent most of this pregnancy thinking "boy," but Husband was sure all along that Baby would be a girl, and now we know it is so! Seeing her picture so clearly was incredible; the sonographer could probably tell how excited we were, because she printed out close to 30 pictures for us. I've given all of one away to my mom to put in a special frame that a friend gave her, but the rest, I don't know how to part with. I hold them up and give them kisses every day.

A number of people had told me that the pregnancy would get more real at the sonogram. I thought they were crazy; how do you get more real than first trimester ickiness and second trimester weight gain? And yet, the very next day, I became obsessed in a way I hadn't been before. Suddenly, I needed to make a registry and stress out about nursery colors and theme. I still don't think that the pregnancy became any more real, but I certainly became a little crazier.

I'm working at the bookstore a couple of days a week. There may be changes coming to the store that I'm not allowed to talk about yet, but I could be needed on a full-time basis as soon as a month from now!

The final update is that my uncle and godfather, Jack, had an operation to replace some disks in his back last Monday, but his spinal cord was bruised during the procedure. He woke up paralyzed throughout most of his body. He's now in an intensive rehabilitation hospital, and we're already seeing good things happen. Basically, there's no way to know the extent of the damage done to his nervous system until the swelling in his spinal column goes down, which could take quite some time to do. He has started physical and occupational therapy, and he's an incredibly tough man. I know there's so much to pray about these days, but if you could include a prayer for both my uncle and aunt, I would appreciate it so very much. Saint Gemma is known as a patron of those with spinal and back problems, if you're interested. Thank you so much!

-January