Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Friday, August 30, 2013

Preparing your adolescent for a trip to the doctor.

My most recent post for the Truth & Charity Forum is up. In this post I take a look at the latest statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics with regards to emergency contraception. Bottom line is they are for it. Any girl. Any Age. No cost. No parents. This policy joins their recently released statement that states homosexuality must be accepted and supported and there should be no attempt to encourage abstinence education for any adolescents because it would marginalize homosexual teens. Add to this the resolution passed by the American Academy of Family Physicians in support of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. And of course there is always the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology who has never met an abortion or hormonal contraception method it didn't like. The truth is that American professional medical associations have shed their advocacy for sound medical practice and become shills for the liberal sexual agenda. Anything that might put a crimp in someone's sexual expression is bad, no matter the consequences of that sexual expression.

So what is a parent to do? Ideally, you find a doctor that respects your values and your role as a parent. If the doctor is treating you like an adversary instead of an equal partner in the health of your child, run away fast. However, in these days of managed care, the choice of physicians is often severely limited or nonexistent. As a military family we have no choice in who provides our health care. When the kids got to that adolescent stage, there was always the "time alone" with the doctor at their sports physical visits. As a physician, I know this time is necessary. But as the mom of my children, I also know that I have their best interests at heart, the culture does not support our family values, and I do not need another person in a position of authority undercutting our parental influence and undermining our faith.

Think I am being paranoid? My experience is that numerous practitioners make erroneous assumptions about my children. They ask my thirteen-year-old daughter if she has a boyfriend or my thirteen-year-old son if he has a girlfriend. If they answer "no" then they proceed with questions to determine if they have same-sex attractions. Did these medical professionals ever consider that not every middle schooler is chomping at the bit to have an exclusive romantic relationship? A female physician fussed at my high school daughter for wearing a sports bra because it didn't enhance her bust. This woman wanted to see my daughter in something more Playtex--you know--"lifts and separates!" My daughter's choice was not a body-image issue. It was a matter of comfort. This same physician scolded me when I didn't jump at the chance to have my daughter receive the HPV vaccine. I said I wanted to wait until after it was in use a few years so I could assess the safety profile. She scoffed because the meningitis vaccine I was agreeing to was newer than the HPV vaccine. Why wasn't I waiting on that one? Because the results of foregoing the meningitis vaccine could be deadly while the results of skipping the HPV vaccine are minimal.  It was a simple risk-benefit analysis. Then there are the offers of contraception in spite of the fact that my child denies any sexual activity. "You know I can get you birth control. Your mother never needs to know." I know about these exchanges because my children told me about these exchanges.

I think the most successful approach is to prepare my child for these questions with words like this:

The doctor does not know you and does not know our family. He/she cannot tell who has a good relationship with parents and who doesn't. They don't know who is making good choices and who is making bad choices. So they treat everyone like they have a dysfunctional family and are making choices that are incompatible with our family values. Adolescents who are in these situations have special medical needs and the doctors do not want to miss helping these teens because they failed to ask. The fact that they ask you these questions does not mean they think these questions actually apply to you. If they do more than just ask questions and try to to convince you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, tell them you are not interested and tell them you want me back in the room. (As an aside--I have friends who reported physicians/PA's/nurse practitioners that tried to browbeat their daughters into accepting a prescription for contraceptives or who have suggested to their non-sexually active teens that they try masturbation Because these health care professionals often see young people in trouble because of bad choices, they sometimes forget that lots of young people make the same good choices you make.
I have taken care of the teens from the dysfunctional families as well as the teens who are making poor choices. I know that it is difficult to get important health information when their parents are in the room. But I do not do this teen any favors if I then normalize the risky choices and enable them to continue. I also do not help the situation when I marginalize parents. By and large, even the most imperfect parent loves and cares for his/her child more than any health professional ever can. Part of the job of providing health care to adolescents is also enabling constructive ways for parents to express this love. As a parent, you should demand such a level of cooperation.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just one more year!

We do not replace our cars very frequently. Basically, we buy a car and drive it until it is no longer road worthy. Alas, our 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is approaching that point. This vehicle has over 150,000 miles on it. The power doors quit working long ago. The air conditioner is flagging. The electrical system has gremlins and seems to be in need of an exorcism.  At this point, nearly every repair costs more than the car is worth so we are at that point where any time something goes wrong we ask ourselves if it is time to throw in the towel and send this vehicle off to minivan Heaven.

The latest issue was the driver's side window. We knew, after our experience with a 1990 Dodge Caravan, that the car would not pass the safety inspection unless the window goes up and down. We also knew that the repair bill to make the current minivan's window work would be astronomical in comparison to the value of the vehicle. It would effectively become a working window with a car attached to it. Enter YouTube!

My husband found a video that took you through a step-by-step replacement process and gave you a source to buy the needed part. "You can do this in 30 minutes!" the video assured. Now my husband has never been much of a car mechanic, but he is an electrical engineer and this seemed to be an electrical issue so he accepted the challenge and ordered the part. After six hours of work the part was in and the door panel was back in place. Turned the key and...nothing. Except for the fact that windshield wipers kept going even though the switch for the wipers was in the off position. Ugh!

At this point I would have poured a glass of wine and looked up the number for the nearest charity that would tow away a vehicle at no charge. But not my husband. He put his engineering thinking cap on and determined that he must have drained the battery during the repair process. He pulled my son's car up beside the van and gave the old girl a jump start. Voila! It started. Window goes up and down. Wipers work normally. He drove it around to charge up the battery and we called it a night.

The next morning, he went out and started the van, and all was still well. However, rather than just driving to the vehicle inspection station right then, he turned the car off and got the GooGone to clean the tape residue left on the window after the repair process. One clean and shiny window later he turned the key. The engine would not turn over. The windows would not work. The lights would not come on. But there was no funky wiper action and the radio worked!

I've got the charity number on speed dial by this point but he returns to Google and YouTube. Apparently, all the connecting and disconnecting of the battery that occurred during the window process messed up the computers. He found instructions that said to disconnect the battery and pull some fuse for at least 30 minutes, then reconnect and start. Sort of like a Microsoft reboot. It worked! He didn't press his luck. He drove to the automotive shop and left it for an inspection.

A few hours later, we got the phone call. The van failed the inspection. Something about too much play in the sway bar. Now what? After all the effort and energy given to that minivan over the last 24 hours, my husband couldn't bear to give up on it now. He paid the money, had it fixed, and we are now displaying a brand new safety inspection sticker.

But that's it. No more! Dear minivan--this is your last chance. Next summer when this sticker is expiring, do not expect us to jump through hoops to make you last. If you fail the inspection, it is the junk heap for you. Unless, of course, my husband finds another YouTube video for another "30-minute" fix.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The conversation on cohabitation continues

My Truth & Charity article on cohabitation has garnered nearly 10,000 views and 550 likes on Facebook. As is expected, when an article gets a lot of circulation the critics will eventually come out. One commenter, Monica, dismisses my article because she says new research shows cohabitation does not play as large a role in divorce. Other factors come into play.

I think Monica missed the whole point of the article. As I explained in my response:
I stand by the facts presented in this article. Nowhere did I state that cohabitation is the only factor contributing to the increased divorce rate. And the point of this article is not that cohabitation contributes to divorce. Rather, the issue is what do Catholics believe about cohabitation and marriage and do Catholic weddings reflect this belief. Catholics who faithfully wait until after the wedding to live together should be supported and encouraged by celebrating their wedding with the full Nuptial Mass. It is an injustice to these Catholics to make no distinction between their faithful preparation and those who flagrantly flout Church teaching by cohabitating before marriage. It also sends a mixed message about Church teaching on marriage and undermines the dignity of marriage to equate cohabitating couples with those who wait until after the wedding to live as a married couple.
Every time we "normalize" an aberrant practice we undermine the institution of marriage. Cohabitation is not in line with Catholic teaching. Divorce is not in line with Catholic teaching. Contraception is not in line with Catholic teaching. We are facing the threat of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples precisely because we did not hold the line on these previous threats. It is time to get serious about defending marriage from all assaults, not just the latest.

What do you think about making a distinction between couples who wait to live together until after they are married and those who cohabitate before marriage?

UPDATE A new comment at the Truth & Charity forum bears repeating:

Augustine:  Having been there done that in regards to cohabitation, I can honestly say that I would never advise a couple to go this route. It is truly a selfish existence shrouded in the appearance of being a couple. There is lack of genuine intimacy as no soulful commitment has been made. I commend your parish priest. May more priests man up and defend the sacrament. May more men man up and treat their future spouse and mother of their children with the dignity and respect they deserve. May more women grow a spine and tell men to take a hike when they try to pressure them into such relationships.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

And the two shall become one

I am sipping coffee and enjoying the morning quiet after the most amazing day yesterday. My daughter got married and the wedding and reception were everything we could have hoped for. Out of town guests began arriving on Thursday. After three trips to the airport we had gathered my oldest son, his wife, and their two children, as well as my dad and my brother. The house was full but not as full as the joy in my heart.

Festivities began the day prior with the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. My husband's parents were added to the group as we met to go to the rehearsal dinner at Trummers on Main in Clifton.

                                    The whole gang

                                     My husband, myself, and our brood

                                      John David bonding with Granddad

                                       Nothing compares to the sweetness of a grandbaby falling asleep in your arms

The next day was the big day! All the bridesmaids met at our home and helped Marie get dressed.
                                     Marie with her brothers just before leaving for the Church

Marie glowed as she walked down the aisle and my eyes were a bit moist with tears, but they were tears of joy. The Mass was beautiful, reverent, and prayerful. We were blessed to have both Fr. Kenna and Fr. Horkan concelebrate the Mass. I didn't take any pictures during Mass, but we will have some from the photographer.

Then off to the reception! For those in the DC area, I highly recommend St. Francis Hall at the Franciscan Monastery in DC as a venue. The hall itself has a medieval castle feel. The surrounding gardens hide any trace of urban DC. Truly wonderful!

I will now engage in some shameless bragging about my daughter's creative talents. She and Nick love to read and aimed for a literary theme to the wedding reception. She scavenged free hardback books from the local used book store and painted them. She used three books in the center of each table. The top book had the date on the spine. The second book said "Nick & Marie". The bottom book featured a famous couple from literature. The table was not just designated by a number, but by the title of the book associated with its couple. An image of the book cover was framed and placed on top of the books. In addition, there was a small bouquet of flowers and a single paper rose Marie made from the pages of a used copy of "The Once & Future King." This is one of her favorite books and one of the books she and Nick shared when they first met in high school English class.

The Game of Thrones table

 The Dark Tower table

The Gone With the Wind table

The literary theme extended to the cakes with the main wedding cake featuring quotes from some of their favorite books. It was a chai spice cake with vanilla cinnamon buttercream filling. Oh my!! The groom's cake was an amazing chocolate with chocolate mouse and raspberry filling. It featured elements from Nick's favorite book series, The Dark Tower. Again, for those in the DC area, Eloise's Pastries is incredible. The artistry of these cakes was only surpassed by their flavor.

 Groom's cake

 Wedding cake. Also note the book frames made from old books that were used to hold childhood pictures of Marie & Nick 

The dancing was so much fun. The dance floor was full from the beginning to the end. Of course there were some very special dances.

 First dance. Music was "God gave me you" by Blake Shelton

 The father-daughter dance. Music was "Little Miss Magic" by Jimmy Buffet

The words to this song are so appropriate for this poignant moment

I will just end with a few more assorted photos and just bask in the glow of so much joy.
 Brother-sister love

 Flower girls

 My oldest son and his family in the gardens of the monastery

Wesley, Misty, Trinity, & John David at the reception

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Justice for those who wait

On several occasions I have mentioned our pastor's policy of requiring all couples to live apart for three months before they are married. The Truth & Charity Forum just published one of my articles that discusses this policy as a matter of justice.

My pastor is not denying the Sacrament of Matrimony to anyone. He is acknowledging that the full Nuptial Mass is a grand and solemn celebration to mark a transition in the lives of the couple. It is only fair to recognize the very real and distinct differences between those who make this transition after the wedding and those who make it before the wedding.
Please read the whole article here.