The decisions that last a lifetime

Names stick for at least a long time, if not “forever.” I’ve had the honor/burden of naming four children, and let me tell you: I have felt overwhelmed each time. When you’re pregnant, you can’t even look at the kid, but somehow you’re expected to know what name he or she should be saddled with for the next 80-100 years!

And what if they become famous?! Will their name be appropriate?!

Careful thought is important. Or it will destroy everything you hold dear.

We gave our dog a human name. We named him Jake, which is especially odd since our brother-in-law is Jacob. To be fair, we have never called Jacob by the shortened form of the name, so it came as a surprise when we realized what we had done. I wonder if that was ever interpreted as a deliberate jab? I hope not. That was not the intent. We could have used some careful thought.

Regrets also include Kid #3, who ended up being Claira. When she was born, she came out all sweet and snuggle-y and tiny. We literally had a conversation in which we concluded that she was “too sweet” to own a firecracker of a name like Eliza. Eliza seemed too sassy for her. Claira seemed like a sweet name to fit a sweet baby girl.

What we didn’t know has become abundantly clear in the ensuing four years: Beneath that newborn cuddly-ness lurked a catastrophic hurricane of a child! I’m often grateful that we stuck that rogue i into the middle of “Clara”. That tiny i returns some spunk that was lost when we nixed Eliza. Maybe we over-thought that one.

Self-absorbed navel-gazing

Is the name question as big of a deal as I make it out to be? I mean, Juliet didn’t care too much about Romeo’s name. There’s a chapter in the book Freakonomics on this topic. I admit that I have not read the book, but I did listen to the relevant podcast episode – which surely counts for something.

Basically, it turns out that names say more about the parents than the child. Or, presumably, the pet. The could-be “Eliza” wouldn’t have any edge that the is-now Claira doesn’t already have.

So now I’m wondering… what does it say about me that I’m still thinking about this, four years after the fact?!

In 2015, in the throes of naming the future hurricane and before we knew the answer to the boy/girl question, I turned to Sancta Nomina. I love her blog! She didn’t end up posting our name consultation, but she did email us with suggestions and some really interesting things to consider. It was cool! I’m not planning for any more babies, but I do love to think about names… obviously. And I still read her blog.


Living Laudato Si’ in the bedroom

Laudato wha?! Click here for a primer on
Pope Francis’ encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home

I have a secret. The Church’s teaching on sex and birth control is not what convinced me to start using Natural Family Planning.

Shocking, isn’t it? I was raised Catholic, and as a young adult I knew peripherally that contraception was a big no-no. Yet, I also knew (peripherally) that there was some controversy around the document that defined contraception as a big no-no. As such, I was not in a frame of mind that would blindly follow this teaching for the sake of being a “good Catholic.”

Let me paint you a picture…

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22

When Matthew and I got engaged…

…I was a staunch feminist (still am, actually!). At that time of my life I defined feminism as: never wearing makeup, knowing I could do anything I wanted, and the expectation that I would never be a stay-at-home mom. (I know. Not very enlightened of me – what can I say?)

…I was a staunch idealist (still am, actually!). The world was suffering, and we all needed to pull together to fix it. My idealism abhorred everything from sweatshops to Clorox bleach, and sooooo many things in between. I stood against a lot of things in the name of standing for human beings.

…we were 22. (We got married 13 years ago today, at the ripe age of 23!)

Here’s the thing –

The Church’s high ideals about “God’s design” for sex did not speak to me. Especially since the Church wasn’t exactly known for being in tune with the feminine mystique. Instead, my feminism and idealism led me to two distinct convictions:

  1. My fertility is not broken, and therefore does not need medicated
  2. Hormonal birth control had to be at least as bad as Clorox bleach

That’s it. That is ultimately why we (yes, it’s a two-person decision) decided to use Natural Family Planning rather than contraception.

Now, do I believe the Church is on to something? Yes… But I have a complicated relationship with this teaching. In my view, it’s the most feminist way in the world to have sex whether or not you want sex to result in babies. Seriously! NFP places the woman’s fertility at the front and center of the couple’s conversation. You can’t [successfully] practice NFP in any kind of relationship but an equal partnership between husband and wife.

At the same time, it’s an utterly chauvinistic practice that places undue burden on the woman. The most enjoyable time for the woman to have sex is during the fertile window. And if the couple is in a season of life when having [more] babies would be undesirable or irresponsible, then too bad. And I get a bit whiny. And maybe that’s why we have 4 kids. #justbeinghonest

Care for Creation keeps me grounded in NFP

Often NFP is great! Sometimes it’s difficult. In those difficult moments, the Church’s teaching on contraception doesn’t help as much as its teaching about Care for Creation. In Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, he talks about “integral ecology” — the fact that literally everything and everyone are inseparable.

For me/us, living Laudato Si’ in the bedroom is a simple recognition that our reproductive choices have ramifications beyond our four walls.

When something is true, it seems there can be more than one way to get to the right destination.

Memory | Memorial

Audrey, Pap, and Jonah | Christmas 2015 | #memories

My Pap died a little over 3 years ago, right before my daughter’s 1st birthday. I think about him a lot during this time of year because it’s close to the anniversary of his death, and because my parents have made it a tradition to visit Pap’s grave with my kids on Memorial Day Weekend.

When I was growing up, my Pap seemed mysterious; a stranger that I was more than a little afraid of. We only grew close when he moved in with my parents and I started seeing him often. I was an adult by the time I had the opportunity to just sit and listen to him.

what makes a life?

There’s this one story my Pap used to tell often. Okay, there were a ton of stories he told often… My favorite, though, is the one about how he grew up so poor that he used to chew asphalt like it was gum. This fascinated me!

It’s such a random detail of my Pap’s life. I mean, when he was 9 years old and picking up a piece of the road to pop in his mouth, did he think to himself: “I can’t wait to tell my grandkids about this!”? Probably not. But on the other hand, he was reticent to talk too much about the experiences we thought to ask him about: fighting in World War II, growing up during the Great Depression, etc. These were the big events us kids were learning about in school, but I think they were painful memories. He wasn’t too keen to bring those to the forefront of his mind most of the time.

What am I going to tell my grandkids about? What will be in their history books? Will they ask me about 9/11 (my freshman year of college)? The advent of the Internet (I was in 7th grade when dial-up came to my house)? These experiences were formative to a certain degree, but they also feel “normal” – not all that interesting. Maybe that’s because I lived it, and it doesn’t seem as foreign as chewing asphalt.

do something sweet!

Since I’m still in the “career” part of my life, I consider the most notable things in my history to be the kinds of things that I put on a resume. Degrees I’ve earned, skills I’ve developed, things that set me apart from the crowd… But if my experience of hearing Pap’s stories is any indication, my progeny might be more intrigued by the Tamagotchis I so diligently cared for when I was a tween. Probably, “real life” is made up of more than accomplishments and awards. That’s a mindset shift for me. When I look back and remember my life, I want to recall the *actually* important things!

To all the Tamagotchis I’ve loved and lost: “In memoriam fidelium defunctorum.