Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Prayer Request

We just found out this morning that Ryan O'Hara, Danny's second cousin, was killed in a tragic car crash. Ryan was one of three brothers in a very close knit family. He was a college student with a bright future. Please pray for Ryan, his brothers, and his parents, Barbara and Terrence.

Ryan, may you be in peace with Christ.

Friday, February 9, 2007


I just caught this headline from Drudge:

Elie Wiesel was attacked by a Holecaust Denier

What is wrong with this world? Why do we feel it's necessary to violently assault those who hold opinions opposite to ours?

I read three of Wiesel's books in my Literature of the Holocaust class at Hollins University. I can't tell you how beautiful yet painful they were to read. Night should be required reading.

Unfortunately, the man taking credit for the attack believes differently:

In a posting Tuesday on the anti-Zionist Web site ZioPedia, a writer using the name Eric Hunt takes credit for the attack: “After ensuring no women would be traumatized by what I had to do (I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks), I stopped the elevator at the sixth floor. I pulled Wiesel out of the elevator. I said I wanted to interview him.”

Wiesel grabbed at his chest and yelled for help, according to the posting. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you want people to know the truth?’ His expression changed, and he began screaming again. …” the posting reads.Police reported that the suspect tried to force Wiesel into one of the rooms, but ran away when Wiesel started yelling.

The online posting states that the writer intended to “bring Wiesel to my hotel room where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, Night, is almost entirely fictitious.” Later in the posting, the Holocaust is portrayed as a “myth.”

Elie Wiesel has gifted the world through the sharing of his experiences. He could just as easily have lived his life while doing his best to forget what he experienced. He does not deserve to be assaulted yet again. I hope that there is a special place in Hell for Eric Hunt and everyone like him. They are a pathetic lot.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

“Mommy, where do names come from?”

I love S@m’s Club. It’s nothing to look at. I know. It just makes me happy to be there. Color me certifiable if you must. Yesterday I had a chance to take my lunch break there because I needed to pick up a prescription. They have cheaper prescriptions and lunch with a 500 ounce drink for $2.50. Who can beat that?

I had no sooner walked into the warehouse when the loudspeaker came on. Normally I don’t pay attention to that. However, when the person calls your first name, it’s a little disconcerting. When that person is on a loudspeaker, it’s disconcerting and creates paranoia. God? Am I hearing things? Who’s watching me? What have I done? It's the verbal equivalent of having a teacher slam a ruler on your desk when you're trying to hide the fact that you're reading Nancy Drew during geography. During my lunch break, some Jennifer was called no fewer than five times. Therefore, I was startled out of my shopping/eating bliss four more times before I left. Although the signs were right for a relaxing and enjoyable lunch break, that was not one of my better S@m’s Club experiences.

In my age group, Jennifer is probably the most popular female name. The technical meaning of the name, which comes from Genevieve, is “white wave.” In the early to mid-70s it became a generic word for girl. It was like naming your dog “Dog” or your cat “Cat.” Not very creative to say the least. You strap that to a middle name like Ann, Lynn, or Marie and the girl really start to fade into the wallpaper (In my parents’ defense, they were at the head of the charge. It’s not like I was born in 1974 for crying out loud.)

All things being equal, Jennifer is a beautiful name. I think it suits me. I can’t really think of another name that would fit me better. Still, every time someone yells “Jennifer” in a crowd, I stop what I’m doing and turn toward the voice. Very infrequently is that person trying to get my attention. Over time it gets annoying. Even if I legally changed my name I doubt I’d ever lose the “Hey, Jennifer!” reflex. Let’s face it, it’s my curse. The daily cross that I bear.

It is experiences like I had at S@m’s Club that made me not want to name my children with terribly common names. True, I wanted their names to be recognized as names, but out of the ordinary enough that there wouldn’t be a [name] A, [name] B, [name] C, etc. in their class. What I didn’t know at the time was that I would be fighting a futile battle.

When Danny and I first discussed the name Emma, you never heard it. While we were waiting for a child, Jennifer Anniston’s character on Friends named her daughter Emma. I knew right then that the writing was on the wall. Our first child was not yet born, but a female child was already Emma in our hearts. There was no turning back. As it turns out, just as I am a Jennifer, Emma is an Emma. It’s just the way it is. Hopefully Emma and Emily won’t remain as popular as Jennifer was 30 years ago. If it does, Emma will probably be blogging on this subject in the 2030s. Allison isn’t quite as popular, but even her name is becoming moreso, not less.

Unless you’re willing to saddle your child with the life-long agony of having to repeat and/or spell their names for every person they meet, you might as well give up. We are under the control of Collective Unconscious. You think I’m crazy? I have four nieces and nephews who were born in the last 18 months. With the possible exception of Trent, Mallory, Sophia, and Caden (especially when it is spelled with a C instead of a K) are relatively hot names these days. Unless you can demonstrate how my lovely but not famous siblings have started a nationwide craze, the persuasion of the Collective Unconscious is just as rational a theory as anything else.

Parents don’t pick their children’s names independently. I’m not talking about relatives here. They are just pawns in the game. Somewhere in the night the collective unconscious is there whispering sweet names in our ears. When we awake, we can’t part with them. They've become jewels in our hearts. Don’t be fooled by those parents who burn through a thousand names during a pregnancy or wait until the moment before being discharged from the hospital to name the newest member of our universal family either. The CU deals with the fickle in its own way. There is nothing left to chance. The only escape is insanity. Yes, Gwyneth, Courtney, Nicolas, and Ginger Spice. I’m talking about you.

“Oh Lisa, you picked such a beautiful name,” Kristin gushed over the basinet. “I just love Jayden.”

Pshaw. We all know what’s going on here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Judge Not ~ Part I

Uncle Randy, one of my dad’s older brothers, fell into a deep well of depression and anxiety in the mid-80s that began with medication for high blood pressure. This condition went on for years before things got so bad that he checked himself in to a medical hospital during the fall of1992. There he was told that there was nothing they could do for him. The chemical balance in his brain had been permanently destroyed. Within a week of being discharged Uncle Randy took his own life.

After finding her husband’s body hanging in their garage across the street, Aunt Elaine called the ambulance and then called our house. Dad answered the phone. The panicky caller identified herself as Elaine and told him that she needed his help right away. Our backdoor neighbor’s name is Elaine. Dad dashed through our backyard and over the fence as quickly as he could. No one was home.

His eyes were full of alarm when he returned. My mom wondered out loud what he had been thinking, “Could it have been our Elaine?” I picked up the phone and called their number. Another woman answered and confirmed that Aunt Elaine needed my dad as quickly as possible. He immediately left in the truck having no idea what was headed his way.

After reading the faces and reactions of my parents, I realized that I was out of the loop regarding the seriousness of Uncle Randy’s condition. We all saw a change for the worse in his demeanor. His teasing went from fun to downright mean. I didn’t want to be around him if I didn’t have to be. I knew that Uncle Randy had checked himself into the hospital. We lived 45 minutes away from Conklin. For Aunt Elaine to call Dad so frantically, this had to be bad, really bad. Had he beaten Aunt Elaine and then run off? I can’t remember if we vocalized any possibilities. I do remember that we held hands in a circle and prayed the Our Father.

When Dad reached Uncle Randy’s house in Conklin, he learned what happened. Aunt Elaine asked that he go to the morgue to identify his body. She just couldn’t ask one of his sons to do that. After identifying the body, my father drove two hours up north with Uncle Rex to tell his parents what happened. Unfortunately and unintentionally, the day of the suicide was also Grandpa’s birthday. The mixture of seeing the rope burns around his brother’s neck, mourning the death himself, worrying that Grandpa would start drinking again, and bearing witness to his parent’s shock and bereavement did not lead to much sleep that night. After morning broke, Dad and Uncle Rex drove Grandma and Grandpa back to Grand Rapids.

I was the only one there when Dad got back home. I couldn’t imagine all of the details that occurred since the last time I saw him. By the look of him, I didn’t want to know. I told him to go to bed and get some rest. He couldn’t. He had to go to the florist and buy some flowers for the funeral. I offered to do it for him, but he said that this was something he needed to do. He didn’t fight me when I told him that I was driving.

When we arrived, he told the florist that he needed to buy an arrangement for a funeral. She asked him what type of arrangement he wanted. “I don’t know.” He tried to clear the lump from his throat. “I’ve never had a brother die before.”

I couldn’t stop the tears. In that moment, the shock of the situation wore off and turned into anger. I probably even used the word hate at some point though I never really felt that strongly. I just couldn’t believe that Uncle Randy would do this to his family. To this day, Grandpa still thinks that Uncle Randy did this to get back at him for some unnamed and perhaps unknown fault. Over time, I did forgive him, but I never understood why he would do that to his family ~ until one early morning in mid-December of 2004.

As Allison lay asleep on my shoulder after a middle of the night feeding, I begged God to let me die. I didn’t care how. I just couldn’t keep living this way. After weeping and rocking for what seemed like forever, I came to the realization that He would not fulfill my request. If I died, there would be no one else who would or could love and care for my baby. In the dark of my absolute hopelessness I thought of Uncle Randy. I knew why he killed himself. I wouldn’t have been able to bear the thought of living if I knew there was no hope of ever living another happy, carefree minute. After the fact, it scared me that I reached a point where I understood my uncle. In the moment, I felt more love and compassion for him than I ever did in the days after his death. I’d never felt closer to him in my whole life.

The family lived through and with the result of Randy’s suicide, but it wasn’t about us at all. After a long battle, he chose peace over despair and anxiety. Death was the only place he could find rest. Who among us could pass judgment on him for that?

Click here for an introduction to the Judge Not posts.

Author's Introduction to the "Judge Not" Posts

I have been struggling with a post for about two weeks now. The idea started with Trista’s post about the crunchy granolas. It intensified with Her Bad Mother’s post about drinking socially in front of your children. What took me so long to even get started on this project is that it was too large on its own to come up with a starting point. I wrote and trashed several opening paragraphs/pages. I finally had to write something after reading this post from Kim.Kim. I can’t imagine being in so much pain and not feel comfortable telling people around you for fear of their judgments. I once again tried to wrap a single post around all of the ways people judge women and mothers. I was going to throw in the towel again until I wrote a single sentence about not judging another person until you’ve walked in the same pair of shoes.

Thus, the “Judge Not” Series has begun. I’m not sure how many parts there will be or how often they are posted. Although I have a particular statement I’d like to make, I can’t be certain where these posts will take me.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I'm Not Sure I'm Ready Yet

I have been seriously thinking about writing a book ever since I got back from my trip to Grand Rapids in January. Trista and I spent a lot of time talking about mother related issues and both she and Mark recommended that I write and/or edit a book on mother-daughter relationships. I’ve also wanted to write about book about my experiences with natural childbirth/breastfeeding zealots, post-partum depression, and finding my way back to myself.

Trying to decide where to get started has been difficult. Do I need to recap the childbearing experiences of humans from the beginning of time to counter the claims of midwives that tell first time mothers that “your body knows what it’s doing” when in many cases it does not? The little bit of Internet research I did on the history of childbirth brought me face to screen with the story of a woman whose midwife birthed her baby’s arm. In order to save the mother, they had to amputate the baby’s arm, then amputate the leg that was birthed next. As my stomach was turning, the diary of the doctor writing this story mentioned how strong the mother was during all of this. I decided that I really didn’t need that level of specifics.

Today I thought I would look for the books that my doula, C, lent to me while I was waiting for Allison’s birth. There were two books in specific that I was looking for: one was written by a midwife who ran a place she called “The Farm” where low-risk women could come to give birth. Why didn’t I find the name of that place as demeaning then as I do today? It was this midwife who posed the idea of the “orgasmic” delivery. The other was written by a British or Australian midwife. Her book, if I remember correctly, venerated childbirth in Africa and came pretty darn close to worshipping the cervix. When I found the first book, my heart rate sped up, I started to feel hot all over, and I began breathing heavy. It was as if I was seeing someone who hurt me or my children. I stopped looking any further. If just seeing the front jacket of this book and reading the comments from the publisher can get me that worked up, am I ready to reread it with a more critical eye? Am I ready to write about my experiences at all?

On a related topic a few weeks earlier...

Danny and Emma were looking at family pictures on the computer when I happened to walk into the office. About that time Emma asked, “What’s that on Ally’s ear.” Danny replied, “That’s where she got stuck inside Mommy."

I looked at the picture. It’s one I’ve seen hundreds of times before but didn’t notice the bruising on her ear and on that same side of the top of her head. Instantly I thought, “It really wasn’t my fault!” It made me really happy until I realized that I still apparently had issues with the birth. If I was healed, so to speak, why would my first thoughts be about fault? Then I wondered why in the world I never noticed that before. This proof that Allison’s head had been positioned wrong for birth and was being clamped down upon by the muscles of my uterus has been there all along. She wasn’t even two hours old in this picture. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Was I so sure that I caused this that I didn’t register any evidence to the contrary? Did I not want to see it? I think I still have some work to do here.