Thursday, August 31, 2017

All Cards on the Table

We have a special guest poster today. JJ will be posting his thoughts and rebuttal to a Wall Street Journal article he recently read.  Before we go into that please please please pray for all those affected by hurricane Harvey. I have friends and family in Houston. My younger cousin's home was flooded but he was able to get to his family to his father's home in time and they are all safe. Praise God! It is so scary to think of everything being wiped away in an instant. Prayers ascending for all the flood victims!

 So, take it away JJ...

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      I recently read an article in a major newspaper[i] that really cut to the heart. It was about something the author referred to as a “brosectomy party”. Guys getting together to go to a doctor’s office where they eat, drink and get snipped. Though the article states that this type of thing is very common, I think that it was more of an advertisement. These “parties” apparently cost thousands of dollars for a procedure that is highly unnecessary. Unnecessary?! Here’s why: There is an alternative to the cut and paste treatment. Also, there is no reason to run away from your fertility! Being fertile is a state of health, not to be viewed as a disease that must be eliminated. And I say, “run away” because that’s what men are doing if they feel like they should mask the reality of the situation with booze and fancy ambiance. Trying to hide the guilt isn’t going to make it right. The guilt is there for a reason; a natural reaction to choose something that a person knows is not right. It’s the same for a woman contemplating similar contraceptive procedures.
It might be easy to wave the cloud of confusion out of one’s mind because there seems to be no other way around it. But we don’t have to go to such drastic measures; there is another way. One that not many want to talk about because a person must make an about face from what they have learned all their life; a way of thinking that has become the cultural norm. When a couple is faced with the decision to postpone or achieve a pregnancy, they ought not to look much further than their own bodies. The methods are written inside of our own DNA; on our hearts.
 Men are fairly simplistic, in that we are at all times fertile. Women, on the other hand, have a cycle of fertile and infertile days. This pattern, no matter how regular or irregular, only needs to be observed and learned to tap into the knowledge of achieving or postponing conception. There are various modern methods of learning about and keeping track of the cycle. These fertility awareness methods, sometimes referred to as natural family planning, are highly effective in their function. Statistics of one of these methods called the Creighton Model System[ii], has 99.5% effectiveness rate for postponing a pregnancy as well as a 75% rating for couples attempting to achieve a pregnancy after using the method for just one cycle.
  There are many marital benefits to being aware of your spouse’s fertility. One in particular is that men will be able to know, ahead of time, when their wife will most likely be more irritable! Time for flowers and chocolates! There becomes a hormonal harmony when husbands and wives are attuned to what is going on in their cycle. Communication improves, cooperation is more possible and marriage, over all, thrives. The practice of fertility awareness methods is becoming more and more popular with married couples as of recent because they are seeing these benefits and more.         
Men, we are not dogs! We have the ability control our passions. We don’t need to “get fixed” like some raging K-9 who can’t put on his pants one leg at a time. There is more to life than giving in to our base desires; living only for our selfish egos. If you have had a vasectomy, you are not to be condemned. Most likely, you have not heard of the alternative and probably thought it was the right thing to do. I do encourage you to get it reversed. No pain, no re-gain. Let’s man up and face the facts of reality; of nature. You got to have em’ if you’re going to want to put em’ on the table... How’s that for advertising?
-          J.J. Crow, Los Angeles, CA





[i]The Wall Street Journal: Monday, July 24, 2017 “A Vasectomy Doesn’t Have to Be a Sterile Affair”.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

7th Call... Baby J

We got our 7th call on June 15th at around 4pm. The social worker (SW) informed us of a 4 1/2 month old boy who needed a home. From the information given we thought this was not a possible adoptive situation but a very temporary foster situation so, we were leaning towards no at that point. So, our SW said she would get more info for us and get back to us the next day. I was on pins and needles all night and that morning. When JJ called me and told me what the SW said my response was "It seems that from the information given this situation does fit in our boundaries so all we have to decide is Yes or No." JJ responded with, "I guess it's a Yes. I will call the SW back." After that the SW said the transfer would happen on Monday the 19th!

I was so thrilled that we would finally be welcoming a child into our home! I also prayed so much that weekend for Baby J (Bug)* and his family. We actually had a private healing Mass for generational healing on Saturday the 17th for our families which had been planned for weeks and the priest said we should include Bug and his family too. The whole prayer time and Mass was 3 hours long! It was some intense prayer going on for those 3 hours and it was so beautiful! Later that day we had my goddaughter's 6th birthday party and our friends were all so excited for us. I could not wait to get to Monday!

So on Monday the 19th we ventured out to go pick him up.This first meeting was not as glamorous and idealized as I had in my mind. It happened in a parking lot and a SW just handed him to me and said "Here you go. Sign here." Wow, right? It really hurt my heart for Bug that he was being treated so coldly. So, I just held him with all the love my mama heart had, I whispered in his ear "you're safe" and then I fixed him a bottle for him to have on the ride home. He slept for the whole ride home. Good thing we brought some bottles with water already in it since there was nothing prepared for him! The little that he came with was truly heartbreaking. It was a diaper bag with a few items of clothing, most which did not fit anymore, a few bottles that were obviously for a girl, some diapers and half a can of formula.

Since then JJ and I got to work as parents. Feedings, diaper changes, teething, an ear infection and colic all came with Bug. But, so did cuddles, laughs, baby talk, kisses and the cutest eyebrow raise ever! I quickly remembered what it was like without Bug here and I thanked God that he was with us and safe. I quickly learned that first week that Bug would not be staying in our home and would be transferred out within two weeks. That was a blow to my gut, I did not think it would be so soon. I could not think of the grieving yet because I still had a 5 month old to take care of.

 For every middle of the night feedings or screaming cry Bug made I thanked God for this opportunity to be his mama. Every time I rocked him to sleep I prayed over him. When he was screaming his head off in pain from his ear infection and teething I just held him and prayed. Bug is such an active boy and a good eater! He gained 2.5 lbs and grew 1.5 inches while with us! He loves kicking his legs, rolling over and he gets so frustrated as he tries to crawl. He would love to dance with us to some latin jazz and salsa music and he would calm down with gregorian chant for naps and bedtime. Bug was such a blessing to our home. My hope has been that the time with us has been healing for him.

So from June 19th to July 5th we were Bug's parents/caregivers. After his check up on July 5th in the morning we said goodbye to Bug at the very cold DCFS offices. He was asleep in my arms as I handed him to the SW. He woke up a little when the SW took him and I just gave him his binky so he could go back to sleep. Then I gave him a blessing and said goodbye. After that I walked away crushed and numb. I was not even sure if I was breathing or if this was all just a bad dream. It has been a few days now since we said goodbye. I have had peace even with feeling the loss of him in our lives. The tears come in waves and I am just trying to stay away from major triggers at this point so I can heal. There is so much more to this situation that I just can not share and some that I am not ready to share. Please continue to pray for Baby J, he needs all the prayers he can get.

*I nicknamed Baby J Bug because we got him in June and I thought about calling him June bug but I thought that would be too girly so I went with just Bug. It totally fit too because his favorite place to be is outside. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Another call...


We got a call from our agency this past week. When I saw the number on my phone I did not recognize it so I did not answer. It was the adoptions coordinator at our foster agency saying "call me back as soon as you can. I have a possible placement for you guys." I had butterflies in my stomach listening to the message. So I said a prayer, took a breath and called him back! Immediately upon answering he apologized for calling saying that he did not read the full email he had received and got a little over zealous. The need was a home for a sibling set ages 9 and 2 years old. My heart dropped to my stomach as I had to tell him no and remind him that we are only certified for under two years old.

On that same day we got an email from private adoption facilitators we had been in contact with back in 2014. The email stated that there is a need for an adoptive home for a baby due in August. The birth parents would like a home that does not have any children yet. The facilitators did not mention the cost of the adoption. JJ and I looked at one another and JJ immediately said no. We have not felt called to private adoption primarily because of the cost and doors that have been shut in the past.  

So, we got a call and an email both which resulted in a no. Now we continue to wait...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Contemplative Life, the Cloister and Monasticism

    More and more I am finding myself wanting to live in a cloister. With what is going on in our world and in our country, it is not a surprise that an introvert like myself would want to head for the hills to pray. To reach the wild mountain woods and make my dwelling there would be a dream; except for the bears and mountain lions, which are not part of the dream. I recently went to the local Carmelite cloister to drop off some prayer intentions and dear sweet Sister Therese thought I was there because I was interested in entering! That totally made my day by the way.

    In reality, God is not calling me to that life; at least not yet. So, I have been meditating on how I can live this cloistered life amidst the life that God is calling me to live right now. I am so blessed that my husband shares these sentiments for monasticism so that we can make our home life a place of respite from the world. Now, we do not live our life according to a monastery bell or schedule, although that would be awesome!

    This Lent we changed things up a bit to promote a more monastic home atmosphere. Step one was getting off of social media which for us just meant FB since that is all we had. This step was primarily for me, as JJ could care less about social media or the internet for that matter. Prior to deactivating our account, I would only go on FB when JJ could log me in, since he changed the password. Taking this step prior to going off completely was very helpful for me. We decided to log off of FB for good. There are so many reasons behind this decision, but one major reason is so that we can have less of a distraction from living a more prayerful centered life. I do miss the easy acess to people interaction that comes with social media and the actual people I would interact with, but this has made me grow in intercessory prayer because, whenever I think about how someone might be doing, I pray for them and their intentions.

    The second thing we did was to stop watching television. We do not have cable, but we had an antenna that we would watch basic TV channels with. We unhooked the antenna so we can only watch a DVD when we wanted to. We did not get rid of our TV for Lent because my workouts are primarily on DVD and we still wanted to watch movies. This has made our movie down time with entertainment more purposeful and conscious. We also still watch shows online if we can get them, but if not, oh well, we just miss it. This has given us more time for prayer, reading and just connecting with one another. It has been making us more mindful of how much time we could be doing other things rather than watching shows. We are now trying to exercise temperance when we want to watch television.

    Daily exercise has been another thing to promote a more interior life. How so you say? Well a cloistered life does not exclude physical activity; it is actually a vital part of it. In cloistered life they have recreational time which often includes exercise or physical labor out in the garden. Movement actually helps our mind to calm down, which can help us focus more on meditative prayer. I find that my daily walks are often a time of stress relief and help me focus on mental prayer better the next day, since I often go for my walk after my morning prayer. The more vigorous work outs I do are especially helpful for building up endurance which reminds me to persevere in prayer. Plus, when you are on the 59th walking lunge or 3rd circuit of planks during your work out, it tends to be the perfect time to ask for God's help.

    Another odd thing I have subtly started doing has been to make more vegetarian meals at home. I have incorporated more legumes and fish for our lunches and dinners along with lots of veggies. You may not know, but often times, monastic life includes eating a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet. Why? Well, because the idea is to eat food that you can mostly grow yourself since monasteries usually have to be self sustaining and meat can be expensive. Having a garden of fruits and vegetables is easier to sustain than a cattle farm on site and it also takes up less space. Also, the monastic life is about cultivating a life of prayer and penance, so abstaining from meat was a commonly known monastic practice.

    Daily prayer has been key for me to be able to keep up mental prayer throughout the day. I usually take my prayer time right when I wake up, so I keep my missal and bible within arms reach. I usually wake between 6am-7am if not earlier and take about 1/2 hour for prayer time. In the past I have not been a fan of the liturgy of the hours. I have tried, but it is just not my cup of tea. I would like to incorporate the Angelus at 6am, 12pm and 6pm so that I am reminded throughout the day to continually turn my mind and heart toward God.

    It has been difficult to incorporate daily Mass for me, since I am slow to get going in the morning and I have to eat breakfast within an hour or two (at the most) after waking. I usually go for my daily walk after breakfast, which I could do after Mass. I am working on shifting my schedule a bit to be able to go to daily Mass at 7:30am at the local cloister.

    Another very important element of cloistered or monastic life is silence! Sometimes it is so difficult to be in silence without music, television or conversation. I know those of you raising little ones crave the silence and find it impossible to have silent time at home. I have been thinking of how to incorporate silence once we are raising children and all I can come up with is to have a quiet time after lunch either before or during nap time. When I was in a classroom with pre-schoolers and two year olds, we would have silent or nap time after lunch. If the children did not want to nap then they had to play quietly or read. Again, I am not sure how this would work at home, but I guess we will figure that out when we get there.

    Sometimes we are afraid of silence because it feels like and emptiness or absence. We are surrounded so much by noise from the world with social media, our electronics and our own need for self gratification that we often spend our prayer time chit chatting away or fighting the desire to get back to our daily tasks. After about 5 minutes, the silence can sometimes feel like we are alone or shunned by God or we do not know what to do with ourselves. At Mass on Easter, I heard a beautiful homily on the contemplative life and it was a beautiful confirmation for me to keep striving for silence. Here is a tidbit from that homily...

    "Silence is not an absence, it is a fullness.... Silence is the storehouse of prayer...Let us be like the candles we lit tonight. A candle exemplifies the contemplative life perfectly. It is a silent flame that burns brightly. Let us be a silent burning heart of prayer. " -Fr. DiRocco Easter Homily 2017

    Isn't that beautiful! What a powerful perspective on silence with regards to the contemplative life and prayer! God is waiting for us in those secret and silent crevices of our lives and hearts. He awaits to meet us there to love, heal and strengthen us. What a joy we can have by living our lives more closely connected to Him prayer both vocal and mental.

    I am no expert at a contemplative or monastic life, but I feel compelled and wooed to continue to seek it out. Perhaps this is because I will need all the strength and grace I can muster to deal with the foster care system and to continue on our own NaPro journey. I realize that all these disciplines we put in place during Lent have yielded so much fruit for me; and this has made me all the more grateful.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Yeses the Nos and everything in Between

I just wanted to give brief update on what's been going on around here. With regards to our foster to adopt journey we have not had a placement yet. We have gotten 5 calls from our agency though. Three of the calls we said yes to but they did not happen for circumstances that are out of our control. Technically we are still waiting to hear back about the last call we said yes to but it has been weeks so we are pretty sure that is not going to happen. Two of the calls we had to say no to due to the fact that the circumstances were way out of our comfort zone. It is an awful feeling to say no to taking a child in, I think it is the hardest part of this journey for me.

Another difficult part of this journey has been hearing the stories of trauma that these children are coming from and then to make a decision in that moment whether to say "yes" or "no". This has definitely made me grow in intercessory prayer for these children and their bio families. This journey is not for the faint of heart by any means! So, we await the call that will bring us a placement. We entrust ourselves to Divine Providence and rest in Christ's peace. Every time our phone rings and the number matches our agencies area code I tense and then answer. If JJ and I are together we look at each other like "Here we go! Ready! Ahhh!" and then he calmly answers the phone. I have to give huge credit to JJ for being so steadfast and peaceful when I am a ball of nerves at times. For the most part we are both pretty calm but I can get frazzled more easily than he can.

In other news we are making great progress with our NaPro Dr. and her treatment for my LUFS. I have ovulated 4 cycles in a row! Woohoo! The first cycle I ovulated I almost cried because that was the first real chance we had at conceiving in years. We definitely celebrated with some Chick-Fil-A when we found out. We wanted to do a fallopian tube study since my last two surgeries revealed that my tubes had been partially blocked so we have a hunch this could be the case again. We did the tube study this week and she was able to unblock one tube pretty easily but the other is completely blocked. So, we are starting the new cycle plan right away to take advantage of the having at least one properly functioning tube. Both ovaries are looking good though and we have had confirmed ovulations on both sides. So, things are looking up!

JJ and I have been working on our communication skills with one another, we thought we had this communication thing down after being married for 9 years and using NFP the whole time. I know you are rolling your eyes and shaking your head at me right now. Well, no matter how great you think you are at something you can always learn to be better. We still take an active role in Ma Crow's care and Pa Crow as well. I make dinner for them about 3 nights a week, I schedule their appointments, JJ handles the insurance stuff and medical bills, JJ checks in on them almost daily over the phone or in person and I go to most medical appointments with them. They keep us very busy! Hence the need for better communication as a couple.

It does feel like we are in a bit of a desert again as far as growing our family but then again it is appropriate to feel this way during this liturgical season. I am learning to let go of more control because there is nothing I can do to speed this process along. So it is just a bunch of waiting and preparing around here.

For Lent I decided to start eating the candida cleanse way again which means I cut out sugar. Very appropriate for Lent huh?! God will give me the grace necessary. I am allowing myself fruit so I did not cut that out and I did allow myself a couple pieces of yummy gluten free lemon raspberry cake I made for my mom's birthday and the Solemnity of St. Joseph. I also gave up FB and television for Lent. I have been pretty committed to my daily prayer time which was another Lent goal of mine so Lent has been going well.  Happy Lent y'all, I pray it is a fruitful time for you!