Catching Up: In Our Home And On My Mind

My posts have lately been too few and far between, so I thought I’d do some catching up on what we’ve been up to in our home. And on what I’ve been thinking on a slew of random, recent current events. Maybe that way I can settle my mind well enough to tackle properly focused, one-subject posts here soon!

That Blasted Knee

As far as home and family go, my mother-in-law (who lives with us) had her knee replaced in mid-February. Thankfully, the surgery went well and she suffered no complications. My husband’s brother flew in from Minnesota the very day Hilde came home from the hospital to help her kick off (no pun intended) her recovery. It was quite the busy week and I honestly have no idea how I could have managed it by myself. THANK GOODNESS my brother-in-law was here to help.

Besides being relieved for Hilde’s sake that her blasted knee has finally been fixed, we’re all so glad that the surgery no longer looms before us. I feel like I spent half the winter worried that we’d pass on our illness-of-the-moment to Hilde and the other half worried that we’d get some illness that we’d then pass on to her. The surgery could have been postponed! We could have been left without any help during her recovery! It was a nail-biter to the bitter end: Hilde beat a cold just in time and we had a snowstorm the night before the surgery, prompting my husband to hit the driveway with his snow-blower at 4:00 am so he could get her to the hospital in time.

Not the same storm -- but close.

Not the same storm — but close.

But! Now we’re past it and I want to CELEBRATE! Cue the margaritas and the music! Let down your hair! And LET’S BRING ON THE PLAYDATES! GERMS NO LONGER SCARE ME! Your child has a runny nose and a hacking cough? I don’t care! Get us sick! As long as we get some social interaction and views beyond these here walls before we’re felled by the sickness du jour, it will have been worth it!

[Would you believe that within two hours of typing these words, my son started throwing up? Perhaps I should have been more specific: Cold germs no longer scare me. Stomach bug germs most definitely do!]

But… My Back

So we get past the surgery and my brother-in-law’s visit and we get (mostly) back to our usual habits and routines. Then, less than a week later (during which we’d suffered through something like three snow/ice storms), I was just the kind of stupid, out-of-shape idiot to swing my ginormous baby (in his heavy, carrier car seat) into the middle seat of our minivan and WHAM. I injured my back badly enough that three days later I was pretty much immobile, unable to think of anything other than the pain, even while taking painkillers and muscle relaxers.


Mr. Massive

But the meds and the heating pad and time ultimately did their jobs (and my saintly mother came to help me so I could put off carrying Massive Baby for as long as possible), so by last Tuesday, I was pretty much back to normal. On Wednesday, I felt good.

Until some lady drove her car into ours.

We were parked in a grocery store parking lot – me crouched in the rear of our van, about to unbuckle the boys from their car seats – when a woman drove into us, head-on. She’d been trying to park, so the collision wasn’t that fast or that serious, but I was knocked over and my muscles knew it.

Blah, blah, blah… enough with my sob stories. The bottom line is that I was stiff and sore for a few days AND I’M REALLY READY FOR THIS SEASON TO BE OVER.

Come on, spring! Come on, activity! Come on, season of not being invalids!

(Alright, I think I’m done using ALL CAPS for the rest of this post.)

On Maybe / Kind of / Almost Being Considered A Smart Blog

Back in January, I told you that I’d been nominated for a Sheenazing Award in the “Smartest Blog” category. And then I never fessed up to the fact that I did not end up winning said award. I’m sorry for that. I should have updated the kind souls who voted for me.

But I’m not sorry that I didn’t win. Because I shouldn’t have! Mama Needs Coffee won, and I’m glad for it, because Jenny is one of the smartest things out there. She’s witty, she’s funny, and she writes about tough issues like the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage with great bravery and clarity.

I’m so proud that These Walls was listed alongside blogs like hers and like I Have to Sit Down, Unequally Yoked, Through A Glass Brightly, etc. It’s a great list to be on.

On Current Events

Maryland is one of several states currently considering legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. I think it’s a terribly scary idea. Such legislation is problematic on many counts, but the one that gets to me most is a “what if?” related to the idea of becoming burdensome. None of us want to become a burden to our loved ones in our illness or old age, but what if we really had a choice about it? What if physician-assisted suicide were to be legalized? What if it became normalized, even to the point of being routinely undertaken? What if people started to choose it, not because they don’t want to suffer, but because they don’t want to become a burden to the people they love? What if we started to expect our loved ones to choose physician-assisted suicide so they don’t become burdens to us?

Learn more about the legislation at Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide. And if you’re a Maryland Catholic who hasn’t done so already, contact your legislators via the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network.

My husband and I had a big argument the other day over the 47 Republican Senators’ letter to the government of Iran. I thought the letter was shameful and inappropriate; he thought it was a proper response to President Obama’s negotiations with that country. I like Michael Gerson’s take on the thing. (Just as I like his take on most subjects.) Brennan and I ended our political debate on the subject with a huffy sort of agreement: though we’re both Republican, neither of us will even consider donating to the party right now. He refuses to support one wing of it; I refuse to support the other.

The Diane Rehm Show’s treatment of the above-mentioned letter provided me with one of my favorite quotes ever, I think: “If your first reaction to hearing of problems of partisanship is to blame the other party, you’re not helping the situation.” (David Rothkopf) This has sort of been my thing, politically, for the past few years. I think people are right to call Washington broken, I just wish they’d recognize their own role in making it so.

And Hilary Clinton totally should have used a State Department email address for official business. Totally. Not only does choosing a personal account over a government one show disregard for the spirit of the rules (and maybe the letter), but it shows a serious lack of foresight. How in the world could she not have expected this to become an issue?

Oh, and this isn’t related to the political kind of current events, but it is current: I saw The Drop Box. The movie was beautiful and powerful and gave me so much to think about. However, I didn’t like that it was immediately followed (and preceded, actually) by a Focus on the Family-driven presentation on the film. That approach may work for audiences sitting in (evangelical) churches, but it felt odd for a public movie theater. As a Catholic, I found the tone of the presentation unfamiliar and (though I know it probably wasn’t, really) artificial. To a truly secular viewer, I imagine it would have been off-putting. The film would have been more powerful if it were presented on its own.

Well, that’s it for now! See you back here soon!

Few Things Are Better Than A Cross-Stitching Biker: Answer Me This (Vol. 2)

I made a few stabs at posting last week, but pretty much all I could think about was the fallout from our oh-so-lovely stomach bug. And by fallout I mean I pulled my neck muscles so badly that the pain migrated to my head and my ear and it felt like somebody was stabbing me with an ice pick. And I couldn’t stop crying – in the car, at the urgent care clinic, and (most dramatically) at the pharmacist’s counter, waiting for my muscle relaxer.

I wrote up a whole post on the matter, and then thought better of burdening you fine people with that tedium. Aren’t you relieved?

So to get myself over the obsessed-with-debilitating-pain-in-my-ear hump, here I am with another round of Answer Me This, a link-up with Kendra at Catholic All Year. She asks the questions, we answer them. Be sure to head over to Kendra’s to see who else did the answering.

Answer Me This3


1. How often do you take public transportation?

These days, just about never. Once in a great while I’ll get on the Washington Metro to do touristy things with out-of-town visitors, but that’s pretty much it.

When I lived and worked in the immediate DC area, however, I took the Metro almost every day. I mostly loved it. I didn’t like the hot, crowded, stressful days when you couldn’t get a seat and you barely made it onto a train, but I liked the boring, slower-paced days.

Not only did Metro give me great access to parts of the city I would never have attempted driving to (or parking in), it made commuting easy and (at times) even refreshing. Both my apartment and my office were within walking distances of stations, so once I grew accustomed to my route, Metro allowed me to not think much about the process of commuting. I had the freedom to daydream and read (I read far more in that period of my life than I’d done before or I’ve done since) and engage in some fabulous people watching.

When you commute on public transportation, you tend to see the same people over and over again. There was one gentleman who dressed all in white and had a head full of the craziest gray hair. He looked just like Mark Twain. Another man, immaculately dressed, would stand stock-still, so close to the doors that you swore his nose must be touching them. Once they opened, off he would go with maximum efficiency. And then there was a great, big man – a burly, biker-looking guy – who did the most beautiful cross-stitch on his commute.

Hands-down, the happiest day of my DC-commuting life was the day that Mark Twain sat next to Cross-Stitch Guy! I just about skipped into my office and squealed the news to my colleagues, I was so excited.

On my evening commute, I loved watching one young family with a small daughter. Sometimes her mom picked her up from daycare, sometimes her dad did. Regardless of which it was, they would pull out some beautiful picture book and read to her the whole way home. It was entrancing. I loved watching the parents’ tenderness, hearing their gentle voices, seeing that little girl so well cared for. And it was nice, just for a moment, to feel the warmth of being read to, even if the stories weren’t meant for me.

I also, unfortunately, can’t help but associate my metro-commuting days with September 11. I saw smoke rising from the Pentagon from one of those trains. I spent weeks being rushed past the Pentagon station, smelling the acrid smoke. And I spent years wondering what happened to the people I saw get off at that station on that awful morning.


2. How many cousins do you have?

More than you can imagine.

To begin with, I have 32 first cousins: 21 on my mom’s side, 11 on my dad’s. Though I’m one of the oldest grandchildren in both families (my youngest first cousins are only seven years old!), we already have quite a few cousins in the next generation: between the eight of us grandkids who are married so far, there are 22 great-grandchildren. Imagine how many there will be when the rest of my generation marries! (My boys, by the way, have twelve first cousins.)

Then there are my mom’s cousins. She’s got a boatload (I don’t know, 60 or so?), quite a few of whom I know, and some of whom I know well. And then they have kids, so I have those cousins too. (Again, some of whom I’m close to – one was even one of my bridesmaids.) And of course, some of them also have kids.

Then there are my grandparents’ cousins (again, scores of them), some of whom I know. This summer, I’m on a family reunion planning committee with several of my grandfather’s cousins. (It’s mind-boggling to me that the patriarch and matriarch of the family who will gather for the reunion are my great-great-grandparents.)

Crazy stuff! My college friends used to say, “Can’t we go anywhere without running into one of your relatives?” Umm… nope. Not in this region. That’s what you get when (1) your family is good at – ahem – propagating and (2) your family has been in the same place for hundreds of years.

My mom's side of the family at our wedding five years ago. Something like ten more family members have been added since then!

My mom’s side of the family at our wedding five years ago. Something like ten more family members have been added since then!

3. Have you ever fired a gun?

Yes, but I did not enjoy it. My family are very into hunting and shooting, and each year on Thanksgiving morning, my uncle and aunt host a “Turkey Shoot” – that is, a trap shoot for the adults and a turkey-shaped target shoot for the kids. My husband and brother and most of the menfolk (as well as some of the women) love it. I just love that they love it.

One year, the guys insisted that I give it a go. So I – begrudgingly – hoisted up a big ol’ shotgun and pulled the trigger. I liked absolutely nothing about the experience: the gun was too heavy, it was too loud, it kicked too hard, and I didn’t come anywhere close to hitting my clay pigeon.

Never again. (With a shotgun, at least. I do have a modest desire to learn how to shoot a handgun, just because I think it’s one of those skills that would be good to have.)

My preferred way of spending Thanksgiving morning.

My preferred way of spending Thanksgiving morning.

4. Do you ride roller coasters?

Absolutely not. I rode a few, many years ago, but they were not happy occasions. And as my motion sickness has gotten progressively worse over the years, I’d better not try them again.

5. What’s your favorite flower?

Lily of the Valley: they’re so dainty and refreshing and they smell so sweet. I tend to prefer other flowers that are clusters of small blooms too, like hydrangea and lupine and lilac. Oh, and I just love peonies and roses – what’s not to like about them?

6. Are you allergic to anything?

I’m allergic to three or four antibiotics and what feels like almost every skincare product I encounter. I have one soap, one lotion, one perfume, one brand of make-up, and one brand of hair products that I’ve been using for years. I dare not try new ones because it seems like every time I do, I have an allergic reaction.

That said, I am very grateful that neither my boys nor I have food allergies. Boy, does that make life easier!

And with that… we’re done! Stop over to Kendra’s for more!