Infertility: Having an Advocate When You’re Too Weak to Be an Advocate

Since it’s Infertility Awareness Week, I’ve had our struggles (past and possibly future) with infertility in mind a lot. I’ve read some incredible posts already that have moved me, often to tears. I just want to say one thing to the kind souls making these posts: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

All of this has really brought to the forefront of my mind recently just how badly women and men suffering from infertility need advocates in the world. We need our friends, fertile and infertile alike and in every variation in between, to be a voice, to remind the world that we’re there.

Infertility is so often a silent, invisible cross that we bear. Maybe our closest friends and family know something about it, or maybe it’s just between us and our spouse. But it’s oh so very rarely that someone in the worst of it puts it all out there for the world to see and doesn’t keep it from anyone. And that is just fine, because we’re vulnerable. We’re already in one of the most painful positions imaginable and since people tend to be accidentally hurtful when they’re trying to be supportive, it can be that much harder to share a burning ache that most people, thankfully, have never had to experience.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re not desperate to be heard, to be seen.

I know that I always wanted (and often still do) to wave my arms and jump up and down screaming, “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here! I count too, and my vocation to motherhood is a real thing!” But I was always terrified of not being able to control the information once it was out there.

That’s the thing, for many of us, I think. We’re already in such pain and so much of what should be such a private process for us (just us, our spouse, and God) has already been picked apart and laid bare before our doctor’s eyes, our NFP instructors perhaps, and anyone who thinks they should have an opinion about our family size (specifically its lack thereof.) We’ve already been told when we need to be intimate, on what medications, and how. We’ve already had more trans-vaginal ultrasounds and blood draws than you can shake a stick at. They don’t even phase us anymore. But still, we feel vulnerable and raw. And it’s scary to share that and risk being under a microscope again.

That’s why we desperately, desperately need you. Most of us are too tender right now to be an advocate for ourselves, but we would give almost anything to have an advocate. Someone just to occasionally remind the world (especially as Mother’s Day draws near) that we are here.

We are all around you, even though we might be hard to spot between the cultural norm of waiting nearly a decade to have children or choosing to have “just one or two.” There are so many of us that have been waiting and hoping for motherhood and fatherhood since day one. We’ve been open to life in every way possible and we’ve sacrificed so much to adhere to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and sanctity of human life, despite our yearning to become parents however we can.

So if you can, whatever your fertility status is, say something. Acknowledge us–our presence and our struggle–this and every week. Share one of these amazing articles, a picture, a prayer. Just be a voice if you can be one.

Now that we’ve been given the gift of our miraculous pregnancy, I’ve been feeling called more and more to become that voice. As some of the intensity and utter rawness of our infertility begins to scar over (it will never leave us entirely, I know,) I feel the Holy Spirit asking me to step out one toe at a time and advocate for my sisters and brothers. I’m still scared, and scarred, but I’m trying to learn.

Will you join me, if you can?

Advocacy and Infertility

Post-Infertility Pregnancy Announcement Anxieties…that’s a thing, right?

I am a big fat chicken. And I’m not 100% sure why. But I need some advice, folks. (Beware, this one’s a bit of a rambler.)

Many of you have had the experience of being asked horribly rude questions like, “Are you pregnant?” and “When is the baby due?” when you were NOT expecting. It’s awful, even when you know without a doubt that the person asking you is well-intentioned and just excited for you. But when you’re not actually expecting (and worse yet, when that’s all you want in the whole wide world but you can’t do anything about it,) it’s really hurtful. I’ve mentioned all this before, I know. I’ve told you some of the stories of people coming up to me at my store, rubbing my belly, and then arguing with me about whether or not I was pregnant. Yeah, arguing. Those were rough days.

I'm not pregnant

But the issue that I’m facing now is that for once, praise and thank God, I AM actually pregnant. And I’m so, so happy, so overjoyed. But I haven’t figured out how to handle all the folks that are starting to ask again now that I’m starting to actually show. Because I still think it’s kind of rude of either a) complete strangers or b) Nosy Nellies who immediately spread it like wildfire around the place to be asking. Maybe I should be taking it as a compliment that they think I’m naturally skinny enough that any little bumps would have to be a baby (I’m not.) But I just don’t enjoy being talked about and I sort of feel as though cheerfully answering, “Yes I am! Baby’s due in July!” is rewarding bad behavior.

But the last thing that I want is to allow myself to bask in bitterness over past hurts. If infertility was my cross to bear before, then it’s because it was supposed to help make me a saint. Which means that if I don’t find a way to let go of the bitterness (the pain is one thing that will never entirely go away, but the bitterness is something entirely different and something that should be under my control), then I haven’t let God work in my life the way that He’s trying to.

I’m so scared (it sounds overly dramatic, but I am) of having hundreds of sweet, well-meant Catholics at my work asking in very pushy ways very personal questions that I may not want to answer. Even though all I want to do is celebrate this baby, I’m so anxious over the thought of being touched and exposed more than I already have been. Infertility doesn’t just disappear with a miracle–it leaves a few scars. (Don’t get me wrong–I’ll take those scars absolutely any day in exchange for my miracle!)

Is embracing this kind of nosiness part of embracing a culture of life? Is this kind of experience and anxiety unique to my situation as a fairly public member of my Catholic community? Is there a wonderfully charitable way of addressing my sweet but nosy customers that I haven’t thought of yet? Or do I just need to find a way to put on my big girl panties and throw myself into this touching/personal question asking/”I’m so glad you finally decided to have a baby!”-hearing experience and offer it up?

Advice…go!

What Not To Say To Friends Struggling With Infertility

Infertility: What Not To Say

Just as a disclaimer before we begin: I know that at only a year and a half of conscious infertility, I am far from an expert in how all women feel. Please remember that every woman is different and needs to be loved and supported differently. But these are some good guidelines for the well-intentioned. These are things that I’d like the people around me to know. I welcome additional ideas or questions in the comments.

 

 

Dealing with infertility is hard. If a friend or co-worker bravely opens up to you about her own struggles with any form or stage of fertility struggles, here are some things not to say:

Continue reading

Nothing and Everything to Write About…And Answer Me This #1

So, I can’t possibly be the only one with this problem. I get all of these great ideas for posts I’d like to write, posts that I feel simply called to write (’cause, you know, blogs are there to make you feel self-important…wait no,) smack dab in the middle of Mass. Occasionally it happens in other situations where I’m utterly incapable of either making a note to myself or beginning to type something out…but it’s usually in Mass. When I’m supposed to be contemplating and immersing myself in Our Lord’s most incredible of Sacrifices happening right. smack. in front. of me.

Yeah. That's happening.

Yeah. That’s happening.

But that’s how the cookies crumble, folks. I mean, these strokes of brilliance are usually a result of meditation upon Father’s sermon, but still. In the battle of blog vs. Calvary, the Mass is always supposed to win. So I make myself a mental note to jot this new idea down the second I get downstairs to the bookstore after daily Mass (yeah, I’m unbelievably blessed to have a chapel with daily Mass just above the bookstore–it’s literally upstairs.)

Unfortunately, no amount of telling myself to do this will keep that grand revelation in my puny little mind for the requisite half an hour before I get down there. Not once has it happened. I should really bring a notebook up there with me every day, just in case, but I a) forget and b) am kind of nervous about having people notice me scribbling something down in the middle of Mass and inevitably asking me what that was about.

Exactly, sir.

Exactly, sir.

 

So uhh, until I manage to come out of the First-Holy-Communions-Induced coma that I’ve been living in for the last few months, how about we use that long little excuse/rant to segue into doing some of these Kendra questions? ‘Cause we can and that’s about all that can be done, unless of course you’re dying to hear about handmade First Holy Communion veils, weekend FHC retreats at parishes, and which Catholic kids books and toys I find to be the most awesome of all and regularly steer parents to. No takers yet? Ok, questions it is!

1. What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

We usually go to the 9 am on Sundays because at our parish, that’s the Extraordinary Form, the Traditional Latin Mass. And we love it. Also, there’s the most knock-your-socks-off coffee & doughnuts hour ever afterwards complete with dozens and dozens of adorable small children of varying sizes running underfoot and between your legs. Heaven.

But seriously, if I could make that Mass start at 9:30 or 10 am…that’d be great. ‘Cause it’s almost a 45 minute drive to get there.

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Easiest answer ever. Too cold. You can always add on an extra layer of clothing, snuggle closer to the hubby, or sit near a fire with a warm drink. When you’re too warm, you can only get so naked. And we’re not even talking about modesty anymore–once you’re buck naked in your own home, there’s nothing left to take off. Give me an excuse to snuggle instead.
3. How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

I have one sister, but come from a large extended family that’s very close, so I never felt like I had a small family. Also, my sister is simply fantastic…very different from her terrorizing violent younger self. Thank God!
4. If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

Into someone who’s furious at me for something that I didn’t do. Or for no reason at all. I hate when people are mad at me, but I’ve learned to be a big girl and take it (mostly) when it’s rightly deserved. But my heart knows no sorrow like being inexplicably despised or yelled at.

5. Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Meh. I have no strong feeling about barbie dolls. When I was a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to what her figure looked like. I was mostly preoccupied with coming up with my own edition to market: Sky Diving Barbie. In my mind, she and her friends came packaged in a variety of attractive brightly-colored jumpsuits and looked so cool. In reality, I placed my Barbies in a sitting position on top of the blades of my bedroom fan, switched it onto high and hid in the closet to watch them fling themselves all over the room. I’d say that I was kind of a twisted kid, but I’m not sure that I’ve grown out of it.

6. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

I was really tempted to channel my grandpa and say something akin to, “You want a tip? Don’t stand in the rain.” hehe. Except the one great piece of wisdom that I’ve really managed to learn in all of these years is this: Be sincere in what you say and charitable in what you think. With your spouse and with the whole world. If only we would all say what we really meant and really felt to one another (instead of being passive-aggressive about it,) and would give one another the benefit of the doubt again and again, the world would be a much more pleasant place.

Not that I’m qualified to give advice or anything.

 

I have to admit, I feel awfully grateful to have an easy mechanism for writing built in at least once a week. Hopefully it’ll help me to get back into the swing of things whenever I’m able to pop my head up from First Holy Communion Season Chaos. Also, with Easter coming, I had tons of fun creating little sample Easter baskets filled, not with chocolate bunnies and candy (which I do love,) but with awesome Catholic toys, books, and dolls. Sometimes my job is too much fun. It balances out the crazy.

Here goes Holy Week! See you at Catholic All Year’s Answer Me This!

Sorry, I guess I’m just in a meme kind of mood.

What We’re Doing for Lent

After my last post about my biggest goal for Lent this year, I thought it would be good and fun to share with you what we’re planning on doing as a family this Lent.

Over the years, I’ve found that I really need to challenge myself to commit to both physical and temporal sacrifices during Lent. I can remember after my earliest practicing Lents when I gave up Coke (it’s a big deal for a girl from the South,) when I decided that it would be much better for my soul to give up my time, which I am oh so stingy about. I spent a few years trying out things like the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and reading the Bible daily.

But eventually, I realized that I’d fallen into a trap with that too. It was too easy. Because I am a great big wimp when it comes to physical difficulties. And I need to learn to master physical discipline if I’m ever gettin’ to Heaven. Seriously. So now, I try to make sure that I have a good mix of both things each year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far this year:

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

The Physical

Partial Abstinence

For the last three years, my husband and I have followed the traditional practice of partial abstinence during Lent. Partial abstinence means only allowing one meal a day that contains meat (except on Fridays, which have none at all.) We prayerfully considered doing no-meat at all during Lent, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t beneficial for our health at this point, and frankly: it’s a little too much to follow successfully. Partial abstinence for us is hard. Although our regular breakfasts don’t include meat, our lunches almost always do. And finding ways to cook lots of vegetarian/pescatarian leftovers or suffer the consequences of choosing between PB&J and tuna sandwiches every day is very penitential for us. It’s very hard, but it’s been so good for us! It was after practicing this for the first time that I felt really, truly joyous all through Easter (instead of just on Easter Sunday.)

Reducing Sweet Snacks

I can’t really cut out snacks completely due to my medications and health problems, but I can choose to have apple slices or crackers instead of that cookie someone brought into work. We don’t eat a lot of sweets around our house to start with (as evidenced by the stacks of old Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s candies on top of our pantry–from last year,) so giving them up isn’t a very big deal. We actually have been instead making it a point to add a special dessert on days when a solemnity falls during Lent (oh, how I love those days!) Just to make the distinction feel a bit more special.

Giving up Liquor & Cocktails

Oh Manhattans, how I love thee. (But seriously, wikipedia images… who wants to put Crown in a Manhattan?)

If you knew us, you’d know that this is kind of a big deal. Okay, now we sound like drunks. I promise we’re not. We’re just a family that loves the fun of a yummy, well-mixed cocktail over a glass of wine or a beer. We still enjoy wine and beer, but isn’t a Martini just so much better most nights? Or a Manhattan? My husband has gotten pretty good at mixing all kinds of cocktails over the last few years and they’re really our go-to treat. So we’re giving them up. Waaay harder than giving up candy, let me tell you.

The Temporal

Keeping Television Time to about 1 Hour a Day on Weekdays

We have a bad habit. When we both finally make it home on weeknights, as soon as dinner’s on the table, we’re exhausted. Done and ready to snuggle. So we watch one of our favorite TV shows on DVD. We don’t have cable or internet powerful enough to watch hulu on, so we own everything we enjoy watching together on DVD. While this is great, we often don’t keep it to one show (or a long show and a short one,) because we’re just beat and would rather keep watching and eat away at the little time that we have each evening. So we’re keeping it to one hour of TV time together on weekday evenings so we’ll have time to do some of these other fun things:

Reading the Gospels Together Daily

We’ve been wanting to do this for a while. The plan is to just start at Mark and work until we’re done with John (we’ll decide what happens after that when we get there.) We decided against a set amount of reading per night because every night is different in this house. Some nights we might get through a few chapters, but half a chapter might be all we can do on some nights when we work late.

Reading “My Catholic Faith” Together Weekly

I’ve told you about My Catholic Faith, right? If not, seriously, take my advice and go buy yourself a copy of it now from wherever you can get it. It is THE best family Catechism I have ever seen. And I run a Catholic bookstore, remember? Everything is so well organized and clearly written–no fuzzy gray areas for those without theology degrees. Bishop Marrow gives simply the best clarifications and elaborations on Church teachings you can find. Also, the pictures are beautiful and so, so informative. Just go get yourself one, dig? (P.S. I hear that if you get it through that link, they might throw me a couple of pennies. Which is cool. But no pressure.)

Best. Catechism. Ever.

Best. Catechism. Ever.

We’ll be reading at least one lesson per week during Lent, in the hopes that the habit sticks after the season is over. We’re deciding to keep the night flexible because when we’ve tried this previously, all it took was one wacky schedule change (which happens all the time) to throw off the whole thing. This way, maybe once a week will turn into twice a week.

In addition to these hard and fast commitments that we’re challenging ourselves with, we’re also planning to look for little opportunities throughout the day to offer extra little sacrifices. You know, the quiet little gestures of sacrifice for others that we ought to be doing anyway, or little extra penances like standing when we’d rather sit, doing our least favorite chores first, or doing things the hard way when the easy way is still an option. (Or big things like actually going to the gym.) This post has some wonderful ideas for just these kinds of sacrifices. I might even make some St. Therese Sacrifice Beads to help us along. I’ll let you know.

I’m so grateful to have had the season of Septuagesima again this year to help us prayerfully prepare for Lent’s coming. We were reminded with the readings and homilies in Mass that Lent was soon approaching and had the opportunity to do a “trail run” of some of our planned sacrifices to see if they’d really bear good fruit in practice. Isn’t that great?

There’s what we’re aiming for this Lent, what about you?

Cheater’s Michaelmas

I know, it’s still a day early for Michaelmas. But tomorrow we have plans that we can’t get out of that involve not being home all day, so we’re celebrating today and hopefully our dear St. Michael won’t mind much. On the up side, since I’m posting a day in advance, you can totally steal my oh-so-complicated and original feast day ideas. 😉 [Edit: It actually took me so long to get this written up that now it really is Michaelmas. Whoops!] Confession: I came up with these very cheesy ideas, did the shopping, and THEN found some super delicious-sounding and legitimately traditional recipes online that I simply don’t have the time, money, or energy to produce. So feel free to call this a “Poor Man’s Michaelmas Dinner.”

Firstly, a little history (because learnin’ is important):

Fierce.

Fierce.

St. Michael the Archangel is the angel who fought satan during the great battle. And won, of course. My favorite tidbit about him actually stems from the fact that he was so named because when the evil one, who was the highest of the Seraphim (thusly named Lucifer, “light bearer”–think the light of God) heard that God the Father intended to have a Son who would be human, a being far beneath the angels in honor and glory, he became enraged. He was so offended because, as far as he was concerned, he was the closest to God and would never be so foolish. He started to believe that he was not just very close to God, but rather like God. Which of course he wasn’t (and isn’t) remotely. “Michael” means “Who is like God?” Please note the question mark. Even though ancient Hebrew has no punctuation, it’s important to establish that it was a (rhetorical) question and not, as it’s often mis-translated, “he who is like God.” Because obviously, no one is. That’s the point, yes? In short, that question became the battle cry of Michael and the other good angels during the battle.

Good story, right? What’s that, you already heard it? Only someone else told it better? Well aren’t we catechized. Good job. 😉 In that case, here’s some other fun facts about the angels that you might not already know.

-You know how every person is assigned a guardian angel when he or she is born? Well, each family is also assigned one during the Sacrament of Marriage. Boo-ya. (Good thing too, ’cause I need all the extra angels looking out for me that I can get.)

-Devotion to the angels is supposed to be a mark of predestination. Which makes me feel like I should start asking for their help a little more often.

-The nine choirs of angels are divided into three hierarchies which are (highest to lowest): Seraphim, Cherubim, & Thrones, Powers, Principalities, & Dominions, Virtues, Archangels, & Angels. Although apparently it’s more traditional to list them in ascending order. But I thought this would make more sense.

-Michael shares a feast day on the new calendar with the other two canonically-mentioned Archangels, Raphael & Gabriel.

* All fun facts from the totally awesome book, St. Michael and the Angels. You should get it.

Beautiful image of the choirs, yes? Can you guess who that is in the middle?

Secondly, here’s some fun recommendations of my favorite angel items from the store. You should get them.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I've ever seen.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I’ve ever seen.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It's basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It’s basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

OK, we’re finally on to the food part. Here’s how we celebrated our early Michaelmas this year (in truly cheesy literal cheater’s fashion):

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Angelhair Pasta with three colors of peppers to represent Michael, Raphael, & Gabriel. It was crazy good. Initially, I’d intended to make my own white parmesan sauce for this, but it was late and I’ll confess I cheated. I got to try out one of those new recipe starters. It was great. And went very well with the wine. Also, it was way less expensive than roasted goose, which is apparently the real traditional Michaelmas dinner.

Drool.

Drool.

For dinner we had–of course–angel food cake! And since my husband informs me that apples are totally in season right now, I cooked some apples in a bit of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. That’s a scoop of frozen coolwhip, by the way. But it tastes like ice cream. And, yes, it was even more delicious than it looks. Especially after we caved and drizzled the caramel sauce on top.

Happy Michaelmas!

Epic Road Trip Pt 4: Coming Home

I know you’ve all been such troopers sticking with me through my ramblings about road trip after road trip. Probably you’re just grateful that you’re not anywhere near my laundry pile right now and are ready to hear about something more interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to that. But until we tackle the biggest and most important trip of the batch: our trip home to Atlanta for my birthday.

I’ve mentioned in an off-handed sort of way a few times that I’m a Maryland transplant from Atlanta, Georgia. I was born there, but my family is originally from New York, so I spent most of my childhood feeling slightly displaced. I don’t say “y’all” more than about four times a year when I’m so tired that I’m probably actually trying to say something else anyway. I have no Southern accent. I can put on a decent one, but it’s really not natural at all. (Actually, when I’m really groggy, I sound like I’m from Brooklyn. You can thank my grandpa.) I don’t speak slowly or like to be outside in the Summer (ok–Southerners don’t really like this. They like their air conditioners.) I don’t have a fried chicken recipe that I swear by or eat chitlins or do much frying in general. I have no relatives who fly confederate flags from the backs of their pickup trucks. While I do know how to make a nice pitcher of sun tea, I don’t like to tell people that I’m fixin’ it.

Deep, deep, down, I think I’ve always wanted to try a hoop skirt.

It wasn’t until I moved to Maryland that I began to actually feel Southern. Most likely this is a result of many a heated argument that my husband and I have had regarding whether Maryland can be considered “the South.” He’s from here and defends this little state’s Southern-ness (yes, not really a word, but it’s been too long a day to care) tooth and nail. He argues that they wanted to secede from the Union, but mean ol’ Mr. Lincoln incarcerated the entire voting body so they couldn’t vote to do so. He’ll remind you that it’s technically south of the Mason-Dixon line. He’ll even quote a president as saying that Baltimore was a city of “Northern charm and Southern industry.” (Nice, huh?)

It wasn’t until I moved here that I started getting defensive about what’s really the South. Here’s my argument: None of the cashiers at the grocery store strike up a regular conversation with me while I’m unloading my cart. Eighty percent of the restaurants and fast food chains have pepsi products (shudder) instead of Coke. “Sweet” tea up here tastes like unsweetened tea where I come from. For that matter, in the real South, when you ask for a tea, they just bring you a sweet tea (a fact that used to drive me crazy when I lived there and wanted a cup of hot tea and had to phrase it as such.) Every building there has central ac–no matter how cheap the rent is. The grocery store’s policy is that they carry your bags out for you and you’re not allowed to tip the guy. There is a Waffle House on every exit. The Braves are, and always will be, America’s team. I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already convinced.

Just try to tell me this doesn’t make you want to be a Braves fan.

We usually compromise by agreeing that Maryland is not the “deep” South. For the health of our marriage.

All this is to say that after our miraculously short drive down (13 hours down driving overnight), I was ready to soak up every last bit of my semi-Southern/semi-New York Italian & Irish hometown and family as possible. We did it right folks: two Waffle House trips, a Zaxby’s stop (how I wish they’d open one up here!), two big family parties, and going directly from our air-conditioned rental car to similarly arctic conditions wherever we were going. We had a blast.

The best part, though, was seeing my family for the first time since Christmas. We were supposed to go down for Easter, but between my surgery and the husband’s new job having just started, there was just no vacation time. We made dinner with my mom and sister, stayed up late talking and drinking tea (hot tea with milk and sugar for the record–Irish style) as we’ve always done in my family, and watched baseball movies.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I'm so lucky.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I’m so lucky.

We also had a family party to celebrate all of the birthdays from August and September (5, if you’re curious. Although we added the one October kid in to make it 6). I adore our family parties. There’s something about being just this one simultaneously very important and not really important at all person in a loud, loving, swirling mass of aunts, uncles, cousins, and children of assorted ages. I feel more grounded, more me, and more at home than I do just about anywhere else.

As long as I can remember, we would have one birthday party a month for any family members born during it (hey–it’s expensive to feed that many people,) except for the horrible, sad gap between New Year’s and Easter. There are only four birthdays during this gap and because we’ll have just lugged out the big bucks to afford Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s parties back-to-back-to-back, we have to take a break. It took me years to realize that I would often sink into a mild depression during this time of year because I needed the madness of my beautiful and crazy family to recharge. Turns out, I needed the physical closeness and volume and food and jokes and hugs to feel connected to my sense of self.

Our modern secular culture would not like my family or my reliance upon it. This culture constantly tells us that we’re supposed to be entirely self-reliant, self-contained, and self-important. Our identity should never be wrapped up in someone else, it says. We must be independent! Chase our dreams! Sacrifice for no one!

But guess what? Our faith teaches us that being interdependent, being consistently generous, and emptying ourselves for the love of others is how we get to Heaven. What my family taught me, without knowing it, is that it is better to be part of the love and madness of a family than to be self-contained. They taught me that sacrificing my eardrums and my personal space and spending hours over a hot stove to prepare a meal for twenty-something people to show them that I love them is the best thing in the world. When I’m home, I am just one very loved but singular component of the great, big, wonderful thing that is my family, for which I would give whatever is required of me.

My family prepared me for my vocation as a wife and, hopefully some day, a mother. Because the unconditional and sacrificial love that I’m overwhelmed by and surrounded by during a regular family dinner is a sign, a dim reflection, of the beatific vision that I’m stumbling towards, Heaven. And it’s a great thing if I can focus on yearning for that Heavenly home the way that I yearn for this earthly one.