Thursday, September 30, 2010

misfit vincit

I've been sort of absent from blogging for the last week or so. My sister has been visiting, and then my DH came home from his latest trip. It's easier (especially for them) to have one of them at a time, but I really have been enjoying having a full house. I feel like I have people to cook for and take care of (though my sister has been helping with the cooking - which is fabulous), and it's fun to have someone with whom to run my errands; and part of me is pretending that my sister isn't leaving in a week or so, and will be here at Hallowe'en, so we can plan costumes, and carve pumpkins, and revel in the opportunity to hand out candy. (She never gets trick-or-treaters, and for years, I didn't either, and missed them. My DH doesn't seem to be so invested in these matters.)

I love fall anyway, but this year I think I think I am getting more actual joy out of it. The other morning I was sitting at the bus stop and as I looked up, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw not the drab NoVA street, but the breathtaking town where I went to college, that I loved so much; and for a second I felt an incredible lightness, as though my whole body were held aloft by balloons, and I was only just grazing the ground. I think I have felt an internal heaviness for a long time, too long really to recognize or explain. I don't know how to release it, or whether, in fact, it belongs to the life of such an old person (28!), and lightness is the province only of the very, very young.

But that's not what I'm writing about. Last night I conquered squash bisque, I do believe, and I shall share so that you may do so also. And then I have something much more exciting to share, at the end.

So I've had good squash soup before, but not found a good recipe; my prior attempts have been OK, but not ideal. This time was quite good (and could be GF, but not DF - you have been warned):
  • Split an acorn squash in half (i.e., make a notch and then drop repeatedly from a great height), remove seeds, and put in the oven to roast at 350 for 45 minutes or so. (I recommend two acorn squashes, because this only made about three or four bowls.) Other winter squash would work too.
  • While the squash is roasting, chop a small onion and mince 2-3 cloves of garlic (these measurements are per single squash); saute them in a generous amount of oil, stirring frequently. (You could also saute some chopped celery.)
  • When the vegetables are transluscent, add 1/8 tsp coriander and 1/2 tsp ground mustard and cook just another few minutes.
  • Put a cup and a half (per squash) of water on to boil with a chicken boullion cube (or two) in it; or heat up chicken broth or stock.
  • Take the squash out of the oven when done and scoop aaaall of the insides out of the skin with a big spoon. Put the squash insides into the pot with the chicken broth and add the onion etc. Add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice, cover the pot, and heat the mixture on low for 20 minutes or so.
  • Stir a teaspoon of flour into a 6-oz. container of plain yogurt (again, per squash). (For GF people: this is ideally done with chick pea flour, but I used wheat flour. I assume any starch will do.) Stir well with a fork until quite opaque.
  • Add the yogurt to the squash pot and stir. Add milk or cream until the desired consistency (a bit thinner, probably). Grate in some parmesan (or sharp cheddar - whatever flavor you like). Stir over low heat until all these things are mixed in.
  • Take off heat and use immersion blender (or food processor) to puree everything.
  • Adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper, and lemon juice.
  • At this point, I added broken pieces of salmon filets I had poached in olive oil and butter (with rosemary and some Cajun seasoning); I got the idea of adding seafood from a cool restaurant in Richmond. I think crab meat (or imitation crab) or chopped cooked shrimp might be better, though. White fish would definitely be too flaky. But you don't have to add seafood (or, indeed, anything else).
  • And I also added chopped sugar snap peas for a little more color and bite. When I do it again, I might use green onions instead.
  • Garnish with grated parmesan and green onions and serve hot.
I usually make soup in giant batches, but was limited here by having but one acorn squash. So it was all eaten up last night (even by my DH, who hates seafood!). I made homemade bread to go with it, but unfortunately that didn't get finished till hours after dinner. Next time, I need to start my rising in the early afternoon! It was a lovely way to welcome the coming fall, and maybe someone else will enjoy it too.

Now, because I'm a tease, here is a far greater victory. You remember my email (see previous post). And maybe this will inspire you to send one of your own! That's right, I got a response (no, I haven't met with him yet as I wasn't able to last weekend, but will try to this Sunday). SEE:

Thank you for your email - it is beautifully written and very moving.

My first thought is to ask whether you have gone to the Tep.eyac center and consulted with their doctors. They are Catholic and totally in line with Church teaching. There are certain therapies that couples can use in order to aid the natural process of conception. [Ed.: In my reply, I limited myself to saying that I had consulted with them and was approaching the end of the road, treatment-wise.] Their website is [].

Regarding the request for a Mass November 5, I will speak with Fr. [] about it. Perhaps we could include petitions in the evening Mass that day and pray for those bearing the cross of infertility. Likewise I believe we could put something in the bulletin about the event in DC. I don't believe it will be feasible to have a special Mass on that day because we will already have the first Friday Mass that evening. [I was looking for the dedication of an already-scheduled Mass, so I have no complaints here.] Perhaps we could meet and talk about what could be done as a ministry or outreach to those suffering infertility.

If you don't mind, could you introduce yourself to me after one of the Masses on Sunday so that I can put a face with your name? Thank you again for the email and may our sweet Lord bless you abundantly.

[Fr. ___]

Friday, September 17, 2010

go big or go home

In this case, I suppose, I am hoping to do both. So as some of you know, I've been emailing the list of DC-area infertile (mostly) Catholic girls who originally became involved/interested in the support group founded by the blogosphere's own beloved Jeremiah 29:11.

The response has been underwhelming so far, but after so many months since last we met (I was planning to get in touch with Jeremiah about scheduling the next meeting, since she's been busy with Tommy, oh - six months ago?), I can't be surprised. Jeremiah kicked the group off with a widely-advertised opening event at Archdiocese of Washington HQ, and that was a big success (except for that annoying older lady who thought we should all attend a treatment center in Denmark, or whatever). So I thought maybe it was time for another similar effort. But I'm neither as energetic nor as well-connected as Jeremiah...

Anyway, here's what I came up with. I just sent the following email to the generic contact addresses for my parish (with a request to forward to the appropriate priest). Right now I think I am experiencing some of that intermittent tachycardia, but of course it's most likely to result in...absolutely no response of any kind. I tried, though (and may even try again if it doesn't work).

And I'd love to hear your comments (I already know it's too long - I tried - but if you have specific suggestions for cutting it down, I'm all ears). And if you wanted to copy it and send it to YOUR pastor (and let me know what parish, if you're in the DC area), I'd be beyond thrilled. Maybe someone will listen.


I write to ask for your consideration of an initiative that I think would be of great spiritual benefit to your congregation.

My name is [the misfit]. My husband and I are parishioners at [parish] (though I don't think we're actually registered!). We just celebrated our five-year anniversary, and have been trying to have a child throughout that time without success. One blessing that has made this struggle easier for me was getting in touch with other women suffering with infertility, many of them Catholic.

One observation I've heard from almost every Catholic infertile woman I've talked to, in every part of the country (and some other countries), is that her struggle is made more painful by the fact that infertility seems to be invisible to the Church. Studies show that approximately one in six American couples is infertile, but infertility is very rarely discussed, even more rarely by the Church herself. When infertility is mentioned by pastors, it's almost always the same message: don't use IVF. Almost none of the infertile Catholic women I know would consider using illicit artificial reproductive technologies - and yet they must grieve their vocation to motherhood, in relative isolation. Sometimes after trying all the licit treatments available, they must face the fact that they will never have children. The Church's public message offers nothing to help them deal with this and the resulting challenges to their faith. "Don't use IVF" is all they hear - but it is not all they need to hear!

I am alone among my Catholic acquaintance in that I have heard an intention offered at my parish for those suffering from infertility. And there may have been more mentions at [parish] which I've missed! But there is so much more that could be done.

Here is the initiative I request you consider. Friday, November 5 is the feast day of St. Elizabeth, mother of St. John the Baptist, and well-known as an infertile saint. I believe it would be of enormous benefit to celebrate Mass on that day for the intention of those suffering with infertility. This Mass intention could be advertised in the bulletin on the previous Sundays. A small and relatively unofficial support group for infertile Catholic women already exists in the area (it was initiated with assistance from the Archdiocese of Washington), and the parish might also advertise the fact that on the following day, Saturday, November 6, a meeting of that group would occur in the DC area which infertile men and women would be welcome to attend.

I believe that offering Mass for those suffering with infertility (at every parish in the diocese, if possible!), and advertising that fact beforehand, would provide two very important benefits. First, it would offer to infertile Catholics the spiritual solidarity of their Church; both her prayers and her companionship in the carrying of their cross. Second, it would make infertility, which is a widespread problem, more visible to Catholics generally: both to infertile men and women, who often believe, to their detriment, that they are suffering alone; and to the clergy and to "fertile" members of the congregation, whose increased awareness would enable them to have greater compassion and understanding for those who suffer from infertility.

I am more grateful than I can express for your consideration of this suggestion. I would be delighted to hear any response or comments you may have. I can be contacted at this address or at [phone number].

[the misfit]

Friday, September 10, 2010

on the other hand

A new post is owing about how I had to cancel my appointment for today (somehow I forgot I had to work today) and about how, in fact, Dr. L/C emailed me back the day before yesterday (yes she provided my thyroid results - but she seems to have no idea who I am).

However, I'm not going to post about that now. I'm going to post happy things (even if they're frivolous. Better to be happy and frivolous than unhappy). I may also post about henotheism, which is not frivolous. I promise there is a good reason for this.

So I have more or less despaired of the fulfillment of my housing dreams, of late. Nothing seems to work out and there's little new of interest (even though I should be sitting pretty to end up with a great house). But my nesting continues unabated. (Indeed, the house-nesting strongly suggests that the more natural baby-nesting is well able to translate itself to new fora when stymied in the first.) So I'm obsessing about items for my house right now.

For example:

It's really leather, with just a wee bit of wear. And my DH has complained for ages about how the white-painted chair I have for the desk is too small and insufficiently comfortable. He might have gone and bought one of those black contemporary office chairs that I do not love. So I had to buy it. It was the right thing to do.

And then visiting a girlfriend in Ohio, I saw a wicker-type chair at an estate sale. I don't generally like wicker, but this isn't what you're picturing. I had tried to buy an identical one around here through craigslist but wasn't able to make it there to pick it up. So when I heard this one was $25, into my car it went. Sadly, I don't have a picture. Soon though.

Oh yes. And you probably know that I've been looking for an armoire for ages. I wanted a good price. And something antique. That would fit on the wall and in the car (SUV). With lots of room for blankets (what it will store). And one of just a few styles that I really like. I wasn't all picky and insisting on a beveled-edged mirror; I'm not a prima donna, people. Tomorrow, I'm driving out to pick up this:

Yes. I know. I am disgustingly impressed with myself. (I hope I am not punished by being unable to pick it up, or the seller being a serial killer. That would seriously put a damper on my enthusiasm.)

And, in a demonstration of my extraordinary self-control and fiscal responsibility, I have not purchased either of these items (the pictures won't post - very very bad), though I confess that I may still buy the latter item (or at least this one).

Furthermore, though it had not occurred to me before, I think a peach wall color for a guest bedroom might be an absolutely perfect idea. If there were a lot of white molding (maybe even some wainscoting?) and the ceilings were really high, of course. See:

Maybe wallpaper could be incorporated - something like this? You know, because Farrow & Ball is so affordable. (It may be time for one of my forays into lookalike wallpaper.)

What else is pretty? Well. Aren't you glad you asked. I am outrageously charmed by this, for reasons I can't well explain:

And on that same subject, this is potentially very useful information for a certain select demographic to which I belong. I may buy one. Haven't decided.

So what's henotheism (as you can see, this is the perfect transition)? It was explained to me by my professor, a Reformed Rabbi, when I took Introduction to Judaism in college. The explanation got fuzzy in my head, so I looked on wikipedia. I think wiki lacks something of my prof's nuances, but here's the basic idea. Monotheism means you believe there's one god. A polytheist believes in many. Monolatry is when you believe that there are several, but one is the best or highest (Zeus in the Greek pantheon might be a good example of this, and I think Hinduism has something similar - not sure). But henotheism means that you believe that there may be multiple gods, but one is proper to you.

My prof said that the Old Testament shows the Israelites in transition from henotheism (there are lots of gods - Baal, Molech, etc., etc.), and they really exist, but the god proper to Israel is God (YHWH), and He happens to be the best god. Toward the end of the OT, you see much clearer statements of monotheism - the belief that there aren't any others. (I take his point about the evolution of language and symbolism in the OT, but I'm not necessarily convinced that the Israelites ever believed that Molech existed. Obviously, I wasn't there, but I can see a symbolic reading of the language. Anyway. Not my point.)

Another thing my prof said, which wikipedia does not mention, is that henotheism has strong geographic implications. If you believe that some particular god is proper to you subjectively, without being the best god objectively, there has to be a reason - an objective reason. National or tribal identity is certainly one possibility, and that's more or less the possibility that fits: YHWH was the God of the Israelites. But geography could also be a reason, and my prof said that this played a role with the Israelites - and explains why the Babylonian Exile was such a profound tragedy. The Israelites were being taken away from Israel - not just the land their God had promised them, but the land where their God is. He is not accessible in Babylon. That's why they have to come back.

With me, everything ties back into houses. That's why I started trying to dig up these definitions again in the first place. God exists, of course, outside of space and time. He doesn't have an apartment in Jerusalem, then or now. But He had given the Israelites to understand that it was essential they remain in, or at minimum return to, the promised land; and the Exile was a particular punishment for infidelity; and that land was, after all, promised by God specially, presumably for a reason.

I'm not concluding that I need to start a real estate search in the Holy Land. But I am thinking a lot about what's implied by a geographic location that's proper to God, and one where He wants His people to be. The NT places no emphasis on living any place particular, of course; and St. Paul was sent as the apostle to the Gentiles, so that everybody, living everywhere, could hear the Gospel; and Jesus Himself said that "foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head." The new covenant readily accepts the lack of many things that were considered essential under the old. Not having a home of my own may even be an additional cross I'm to carry. But I've been intrigued by all this business of a home, and Jerusalem the mother of her people (the city itself gets a lot of maternal imagery in the OT), and a promised land, lately. Time was, those concepts were important even during the earthly life. They may not be any longer; my time might be far better spent thinking of a home in the next life. But I haven't puzzled out the whole business yet, and I will keep thinking about it.

For me, home is essential, the Important Thing of which children and family were all to be a part. It may be the most important thing I needed for my adult life. It's certainly been one of the hardest things to reformulate in the absence of the life and family I expected. And I contine to feel that somewhere, hidden in the depths of ancient texts and random notions on the internet, is a path to having that all-important home, in the right way, and a meaningful way, regardless of the childless circumstances in which I somehow ended up.

In the meantime, I shall buy antiques. That look nice. And not too expensive.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

can I have 12 weeks' unpaid non-maternity leave under FMLA?

Because I think I need it.

Sometimes it seems as though the world is falling apart, even though, objectively, it probably isn't. I have a colleague with whom I cannot deal and although my boss (who really is good at this stuff) seems to have come up with an arrangement that will basically deal with the problem, I feel like I need a vacation just to decompress from that (and I just had a four-day weekend).

And I'm so tired of my husband being forever away. Our marriage does just sort of run on autopilot a lot of the time (and most marriages seem to when not in active crisis, right?), but give it enough time with him away, and I realize that it does not really function that way all the time. There are things I need to discuss with him for which email does not cut it.

And speaking of communication issues - guess who called me on Monday AND Tuesday last week? If you guessed that the office manager called me Monday (after a nurse called Monday morning to tell me that the office manager would be calling) and Dr. B called me Tuesday (the day that same nurse let me know he would be in - all in a tone of real concern), you would be WRONG. They haven't called AT ALL. No voicemails. No missed calls. Nothing. This morning, I left a message asking to be connected to the Patient Ombudsman. I don't expect a call back from that, either. I note that I also have not yet received the results of the thyroid bloodwork done in mid-July. I told them two weeks ago that I was increasing my dose of thyroid by 50% if I didn't hear differently, and I have done so, but it would still be nice to get the results, you know?

Also, I have an appointment scheduled with Dr. L/C this Friday, which should be awesome. I'm thinking of calling the records gal Thursday morning and telling her that I plan to pick up a photocopy of every shred of paper in my file when I'm there Friday - and she can just include the thyroid results in the stack. What do you think? Too confrontational? Not confrontational enough?

Also, at my physical on Friday, I meant to get a referral for an RE at the local hospital, but forgot. I'll call the internist and leave a message asking for a referral (complicated, of course, being that I'm asking about treatment other than IVF or IUI, but that's what I get for forgetting). I'd love to know if there's even anyone to whom I could be referred.

Oh, also also: at my physical appointment - at which I expected a referral to a dermatologist (check) and nothing else interesting, I got - something else interesting. Allegedly I have a congenital heart defect that causes intermittent tachycardia and really no other problems. (To be confirmed by a cardiologist, to whom I also have a referral.) I've definitely had that intermittent tachycardia, you know, intermittently - I just assumed that everyone did :). Isn't that exciting?