Archive for February, 2013

Be sure to check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!


My sister got married! She is a beautiful, wonderful woman and she married a pretty great guy. They are adorable together and that makes me very happy. Her wedding was beautiful.  We danced a lot. People held my baby so I could party. Philomena was an unstoppable force, getting down with particular zest during Gangam Style.  I love weddings.


I’ve lived in the deep South for a while now, and it has thinned my blood. The aforementioned wedding was during the weekend following the March for Life. Cold. Cold. Cold.  It snowed a lot.  I don’t own nearly enough sweaters. Also, standing outside in nineteen degree weather in a strapless dress is not fun.


Don’t get the norovirus, or, as it is known by the fraternity of those who have had it, the East Coast Martian Stomach Plague. Especially when you are traveling with small children. It makes you violently ill, forcing you to stay the night at a North Carolinian motel and makes an eleven hour road trip last thirty six hours.


If you foolishly succumb to the East Coast Martian Stomach Plague, you will lose the equivalent of a pug dog in weight. There are better ways to do this. You will also not be able to eat anything harder to digest than chicken broth for days, have a bizarre craving for cornbread and no matter how much Gatorade or water you drink, you will always be thirsty.


Also, if you succumb, make sure your spouse does not get the East Coast Martian Stomach Plague at the same time. This will result in untold misery your whole family can enjoy.


The high fevers induced by the plague will make you have bizarre dreams and your least favorite song stuck on a loop in your brain. I had something by Kings of Leon on repeat for twenty four hours. Think about that. Twenty four hours. Kings of Leon. Also, I had been reading my dear friend Colleen Swaim’s new book, Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints shortly before I became ill and was certain that St. Gabriel Possenti was in the motel room with me. Maybe he was. I definitely needed the prayers.


Colleen got the plague, too.  She was a great comfort to us when she called to let us know that she had lived, and we, in all probability, would to likewise. Many thanks to her and her family for their hospitality in Maryland.


Read Full Post »


After writing about the Pope after a long break from blogging, I realized I had not yet said anything about our baby! This little bundle of joy is Bernadette Rose. She was born at 1:50 in the morning on November 14 after a fairly easy labor. Of course, by fairly easy I mean it was still labor and therefore painful and hard. Compared to Philomena’s birth, however, it was a piece of cake. She was and is completely adorable, mellow and happy unless it’s the two hours before dinner and you want to put her down. She doesn’t like that at all.

We waited a long time for Bernadette, who is a miracle baby. She came when I had resigned myself to secondary infertility. After she was born Will and I discovered she really is a miracle.


This is a picture of Bernadette’s umbilical cord. That is a true knot. It occurs in 1% of pregnancies and significantly increases the chance of what the nice scientists call “fetal demise”.  The attending midwife and the nurse had never seen one before and let me know how lucky we were. A week or so later we received a phone call from one of the nurses, who told us that h er heel prick blood test had come back abnormal and we’d need to take her in to get retested. Scary, no? My husband asked “abnormal how?” and she told him “cystic fibrosis”.


In that instant I was deeply frightened.  Deeply.  I got a a glimpse into what an adverse diagnosis feels like. My family is absurdly healthy.  Being an imaginative sort, I’ve always wondered what getting that kind of news would feel like, particularly if it happened to a child of mine.  It turns out the feelings are hard to sum up. Fear, grief, a weird sort of battle-mentality, anger all surged around my mind at the same time. There is probably a word for it in German.  Life seemed very, very different, very suddenly.

We took her in and got the actual lab results. The test had been invalid, which of course makes me want to know why they said abnormal when they could have said invalid. The new nurse did the new test quickly and well and then showed us the actual lab report. No cystic fibrosis. Mom and Dad are not carriers, you see. Apparently these false positives happen all the time. All the time.

Needless to say, we wanted Bernadette baptized as soon as possible. With the close call from the true knot in utero and the cute little false positive, Will and I were in a bit of a hurry to get the original sin cleaned up.  Fortunately, Will had set up the baptism time when I was four months along.  She was baptized in the basement chapel of the Cathedral, and, though we are not traddies, we asked for the old rite. It’s beautiful, and very, very thorough. The only time she cried was during the main exorcism. They always cry during the main exorcism.

Pagan baby


Almost there!


As soon as the water stopped pouring Will and I both exhaled. What a profound relief it was, knowing we’d done what we needed to do. We had a little saint.

Christian baby



Afterwards, instead of having a party, which would have required planning and consciousness, we repaired down the road to Clary’s, where we feasted on fine diner fare. It was good day. and the answer to many prayers.

Read Full Post »

I think it’s best to resume blogging without any apologetic fanfare for my lengthy absence. It has been a wild several months. The muse fled early on and pregnancy, weddings, illnesses and school life has been rather too busy to spend time tip tapping away at my laptop.

So, the Pope is abdicating.

I heard this news very early in the morning the day it broke. Will was dutifully checking Facebook while I made Philomena’s breakfast. It went something like this:

Will: WHAT?!?!

Me: Uh oh, what happened?

Will: (choking up) The Pope resigned!

Me: “What? No he didn’t. It’s bad reporting.”

Turns out, it wasn’t  bad reporting.

Oh, I cried. I deeply love this Pope. I’m a card carrying member of the JPII generation, and I loved him, too. He was the Pope when Iwas baptized and when I came back into the Church. He introduced me to the wonderful world of phenomenology, and to the truth of what the Church actually is.  Thinking about it, he was the Pope of my baby Catholic period-full of enthusiasm but not a lot of sense. i could cheerfully get behind his thought explained to me by others and it was grand and beautiful and made me want to  be Catholic. Benedict XVI is different. He’s the Pope of my agonizingly slow maturation in faith and I feel closer to him.

His writing is so clear! It’s not written in philosopher jargon or theologianese. Spes Salvi completely altered my way of believing because he emphasized the present tense of living in hope. Salvation wasn’t something “out there”. Faith wasn’t another thing you tick off your to do list. It was, instead, a mode of being.  Growing up with a muddled view of these things because of the odd churches we attended, I had a very non-Catholic notion of faith and hope and charity. Papa Benedict fixed all of that.

I  got to see him at my alma mater, The Catholic University of America. It was a beautiful day, six weeks after Philomena’s birth. We were right up by the fencing next to the east entrance of the Shrine. A perfect spot. We saw him go in and we waited around for him to come out again. The excitement you could have cut with a knife. When he came out an got into the big car that wasn’t the Pope mobile, he saw Philomena as I stuck her up in the air, and he smiled and blessed her from the car. Two days later, thanks to the awesomeness of the two gents who designed the altar furnishings, I got to go to his mass at the baseball stadium. I was about six rows back, four rows in back of Placido Domingo.  Again, the joy was simply unbelievable. And the funny thing was, I expected to be a bit star struck during mass and I wasn’t at all. I figured I’d forget all about Jesus in the Eucharist and when the time came for the consecration I was kneeling on the ground and I actually forgot who was celebrating mass.

That is how Pope Benedict does things. He turns your focus back to the Lord.

I’m sad to see him go, but I’m so glad he’s been our Pope. The humility is a different kind of humility from Blessed John Paul, but it’s still humility.  John Paul stayed on, an actor with a beautiful voice, living with that great gift slipping away every day, his movements slowly turning to stone. That takes courage, and humility. And if you know an actor, you know how had that must have been. Benedict, amidst all sorts of misunderstanding about motives and accusations from the faithful about how awful it is to quit the papacy, and from the world about how there must be something wicked going on, steps own from an immensely powerful position because he, one of the most brilliant intellects in the world and certainly one of the holiest souls, thinks the Church will be better served by someone stronger. And if you know a brilliant intellectual, you know how much courage and humility it takes to admit weakness.

We love you, Papa! Viva!



Read Full Post »