Wedding Dress Love

Betty Beguiles wants us to talk about our wedding dresses and while I’m late to the party, I will join in. Like a lot of brides, I knew what I did NOT want. I did not want a cathedral length train, strapless, or spaghetti straps. When I was a freshman in college, shortly before I met my husband, a suitemate of mine was getting married and we saw all kinds of magazines come through the apartment. Knowing that my suitemate was going to wear her mother’s wedding gown, I asked if she minded if I saved some pictures of gowns. I didn’t have a guy, but what could it hurt? In the first magazine I looked at, I found my gown. It was simple, no bling at all and an Alfred Angelo. Which meant there was no way it would be less than $5000. But again, at the time, no boyfriend/fiancé, so no worries.

Fast forward four years. I was going with my mother (for various and complicated reasons I had no bridal attendants except for flower girls and two junior bridesmaids in my wedding party…so no honor attendant) and her best friend during a sale to David’s Bridal. I had browsed their website ahead and was sad to find that they did not carry Alfred Angelo gowns at all (out of price range or not, I at least wanted to try on the dress of my dreams) and nothing similar to the style I had seen. But I found several pretty gowns to try on and had my pictures printed out. While I was waiting for my consultant, my mother and her best friend had been looking around the salon and found an almost identical dress to the Alfred Angelo I loved. And not only was it in price range…it was on sale. The consultant got that dress for me and it was the first one I tried on. I knew it was my dress immediately but wanted to make sure so I tried on many more dresses in various styles. In the end, I got the first dress. The only hitch was that I did not walk in it during alterations so it was too long on my wedding day and I spent the entire time walking down the aisle stepping on it. I also had to be sewn into it by my great-aunt as we were not told we should invest in a button hook to button the roughly 25 buttons that actually had to be buttoned.

It was an A-line in white with a jewel cut neckline. It was sleeveless with tulle covering from the top of the dress over my shoulders. There was tasteful beading only on the top of the dress with a chapel length train. I wanted to wear my hair up so my mother was kind enough to also spring for a tiara and a tastefully beaded veil. I wish I had a full length picture to share with you but sadly, my scanner isn’t working so this will have to do.

Eyes Wide Shut

 Last year Rachel Balducci blogged over at Faith and Family Live! about facebook. She talked about the love/hate relationship she has. Many agreed. Some disagreed because they either loved or hated it. One woman was exceptionally bitter:one of her family member shared her private news about a pregnancy on facebook.

The fault of that was not facebook’s but the relative who shared this information in such a public forum without permission. I could certainly understand this woman’s feelings although her target was somewhat misguided. This is probably a person who would have emailed a listserv, or put out a blog post, or written letters, called their entire contacts list or written letters, depending on the time she lived in.

I was reminded of a college classmate who was married and shared how her mother-in-law called her husband’s entire family to announce their engagement before they had a chance to let people know. It angered her husband so badly that he contemplated inviting his mother but not having her walk down the aisle and not to a mother-son dance. She eventually convinced her husband that was not the track to take but insisted they sit down with his mother to explain why what she had done was wrong.

It seems as though when someone has very personal information to share we should allow that person to share it themselves is common sense. What many people don’t realize is because they themselves were told, others may not have been. And things start to get sticky at that point.

About a month ago a post went up on a friend’s facebook page from someone congratulating my friend on becoming a grandmother for the second time. Her daughter-in-law announced a pregnancy on her facebook page and this friend felt it was okay to put congratulations out. Almost immediately a comment came up saying, “What?! When did this happen?!” Another friend was actually annoyed that someone knew about this before she had been told. While this was an altogether minor instance, it can get out of hand quite easily when family is involved.

When we announced our first pregnancy, my mother asked permission to tell my grandmother, who turned around and called all my aunts and uncles and informed them. I wasn’t upset, because I knew that would happen, but when the same thing happened to my brother and sister-in-law, it rubbed my brother the wrong way. He wanted to share his news. And you really can’t blame him.

My brother’s situation though, brings to light the complexity of “family news.” When a major life event happens, it rarely happens singularly, it happens to the whole family. A wedding means two people become husband and wife, but also means a family gains a son or daughter. A pregnancy means a couple welcomes a child, but grandparents also gain a grandchild, brothers and sisters become aunts and uncles. When/how do they get to share their good news?

Recently a status went up on facebook friend’s page that stated she had a new grandson. Of course people sent congratulations but when one ventured to ask the baby’s name, weight, etc she responded that that was information only the parents could share. She also mentioned that the parents did not want to share a lot of information via facebook because of how public it was. This was somewhat problematic because, of course, she has lots of friends who are not facebook friends with the new parents and didn’t even know them. And the questions this person was asking are fairly normal questions asked when a birth is announced, didn’t she expect someone would ask them? I was struck, why was the grandmother sharing news of the birth at all as now people who were virtual strangers to the couple now had that information. She stated she only posted this information because her daughter-in-law had posted the birth on her own page. Right, because she wanted her friends to see it, that was not giving permission for any family members to broadcast the birth on their pages…it becomes a slippery slope indeed. Especially for the woman to chastise the person asking in such a fashion. It might have been more appropriate for her to post something like, “My son and his wife became parents to a beautiful new baby boy today. To protect their privacy they have asked that no details of the birth be disclosed,” instead of assuming people would know that was the couple’s preference.

The bottom line is that EVERYTHING you communicate electronically, blog posts (even on “private blogs”), facebook, email, comments on a website or text messages are NOT private. And just because you deleted them does not mean they do not still exist. Hackers could expose them, worse, a friend could innocently copy something and accidentally distribute it. And, God forbid you are doing something illegal, the authorities will see it. If you don’t want pictures of your kids on the internet, don’t upload them, don’t email them. Print them at home and snail mail them to relatives. Don’t open a facebook account if you engage in activities of any sort that are frowned upon at your place of work. And don’t share information you aren’t prepared for the entire world to see or hear, even if your web page, facebook profile, and blog are private.

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it allows us to communicate with friends, family and even strangers more easily than ever before. On the other hand, it allows us to communicate with friends, family and even strangers too easily. Don’t expect privacy and don’t let out anything you don’t want to hurt you.

Love is not love, Which alters when it alteration finds…William Shakespeare

On our wedding Day Sonnet 116 was printed on the back of our programs. Today I have seen any number of quotes about love on facebook. About love involving accepting faults or being willing to change or not asking someone to change. While love may never change according to Shakespeare, our definition of love does change as our lives go on. Children introduce not only the love of being a parent into our lives, but a new kind of love for the mother or father of the child. Illness and struggle, similarly force us to see the people we love in a different way.

And while I never believed that love meant never having to say you’re sorry, I’ve learned that love does mean you learn to say you’re sorry if you are not used to doing so. I’ve learned that love can be tested in sometimes cruel and absurd ways, but real love can see beyond those things and that fighting against the other person vs working with them is fruitless.

Love sometimes means becoming someone you never imagined you would or could be. There may be a time when you are called on to be the strong one when you are used to being the “wreck.” You may become vulnerable in contrast to normally being reserved.

Love is not easy, it is not comfortable, it is not always romance.

Somewhere in all this is my personal definition of love, maybe someday I can condense it down to something pithy and quotable. But until then it will be as complex as love undeniably is.

In Defense of Education

Homeschooling parents…stop me if you’ve heard this one. A homeschooling parent, a public school parent and a parent with grown children are talking. The public school system where they all live has recently had some kind of bad publicity (low graduation rates, or something along those lines). The parent of children who are already grown sent her kids to public school and while she has no regrets remarks that if she still had her kids at home, she would turn to homeschooling or possibly private school. The public school parent now sets her gaze firmly on the homeschooling parent and starts in with a barrage of complaints (and sounding rather defensive) about how not everyone can homeschool or send their kids to private school…

 I’m in the unique position that one of my children will definitely be attending public school but we aren’t 100% sure about the other two we have now. For us, homeschooling them would be our first choice, with a co-op, but because I am not sure I am the greatest teacher, this may not work the way we want it to and we may be going down the charter school or public school route. But keep in mind, financially, homeschooling would be a huge sacrifice as if all the kids were in school, I would be working outside the home for sure.

When I hear arguments from parents in public school about not everyone being able to homeschool their arguments tend to be less about whether the parent is a good teacher of academic subjects and more about homeschooling being for those who can “afford it.” Meaning that a homeschooling family must be able to afford all the luxuries of the world while doing it on one salary. That, quite simply, is not true. While some homeschooling families may be independently wealthy, trust fund babies, or something else, quite a few make very big sacrifices to home school. These might mean living in less square footage for more people or eating beans and rice. Or even having to limit things like dance classes or soccer teams for their children. They become experts on how to stretch one paycheck to cover as much as possible. They may forego such luxuries as a second car, vacations or dental work. The truth is that most parents who homeschool believe so solidly in what they are doing (while not necessarily thumbing their noses—or looking down them for that matter—on public schools) that they make sacrifices others may just simply not be willing to make.

Everyone makes choices in life, either out of convenience, necessity or just pure want. Some parents may not be able to homeschool because they are not able to teach their children or have an illness or some other very important reason to them. Others may not feel they can send a child to public school because of bullying, a desire to impart religious or cultural teachings in with academics or because the particular public school their child might attend is in a woeful state. Regardless, it’s time for a lot of public school parents and homeschooling parents to face the music: your decision is only for your family. There is no need to be defensive about your decision. There is no reason to deride others for theirs.

Most recently someone with two children in public school told me (this was during a discussion of a report that less than 10% of graduating seniors in her district had above a 3rd grade reading level) made the statement to me that the public schools in her area were great. Right, but, evidently, others in the district were not so much. So, if one found him or herself, in the unenviable position of being districted to an under-performing school and decided they would rather take his or her chances on educating his or her child his or herself…well, then they may have some very important decisions to make such as not going to Disney World next year as planned, among others.

Parents need to start manning up about their choices in educating their children. Where there is a will there is a way. And if your decision is met with derision by friends, maybe it’s time to get new friends. A true friend will support you if what you are doing is truly best for your kids not force you to overstate your case for your way. Even uber-homeschooling mom Michelle Duggar has extolled public schools and a real need for them in our country right now. We can all really get along and not make each other feel like pariahs. After all, we all love our children and want what is best for them. And as their parents, we are best qualified to make those decisions for our own children.

But what about families without children?

I was recently reading where E! News Anchor Guiliana Rancic and her husband Bill are going to “stop trying” for a baby for the time being. After two years of struggles and tests and procedures (virtually all of it public by virtue of their reality show) they have decided they need a break. And who can blame them? Infertility is a grueling and depressing struggle to go through. Especially for observant Catholics.

One of the statements the couple has made is about the two of them being a family. In many Catholic circles, regardless of reason, this is a controversial statement. It is true that God’s very first edict to Adam and Eve was to “be fruitful and multiply.” But are there not also Biblical stories of women who could conceive? What of Elizabeth, Hannah and Rachel (to name a few)? Were their marriages less valid, their family units less important than those bearing children? Of course not. So how have we come to this idea now?

Mothers of many will note they seem to be a pariah either way. Either an insult to those who cannot conceive or a joke to those who just can’t understand why families would want more children. But for an infertile couple in a place like a Catholic church with many large families, being in the minority is decidedly less than fun as well. And unfortunately, even the most well-meaning of us put them on the spot sometimes. How many of us have casually with no ill-intentions asked a woman married more than a year when she plans on having a child?

And let’s face it, as if being the only childless one of your friends isn’t bad enough if you want kids, there are all kinds of obstacles to becoming a parent any way other than naturally. Cost being the first among those. But as Catholics know, not all medical options are ethical.

And then there is everyone’s suggestion, “Well, you could always adopt!” It might be one of my life’s goals to get people to stop saying that to infertile couples. Not everyone can adopt for assorted reasons and there are plenty of people who should not adopt either. In the case of celebrites like Giuliana and Bill, we tend to think they should adopt becase of their position in society and their financial status. I mean, shouldn’t all celebrities  be like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in this respect? But sometimes even adoption is not easy for a celebrity. Remember the story of Madonna’s adoption of her daughter Mercy from Malawi? World Series champ and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife Heidi also attempted a Malawian adoption and were deemed unfit because of Malawi’s strict policies regarding visiting the country. Actress Jaime Pressley was turned away by China and Korea in an attempt to adopt because she was single (in talking to a friend who helps facilitate international adoptions, sometimes the rules on things like single parenthood can change month to month in a country). If it is that difficult for these people to get a child, one can clearly see it can be a huge issue for those of us without the name recognition.

But the flip comment about adoption raises another question. We tend to judge infertile couples in a whole different way than we do those who can easily conceive. We tend to brand a couple who does not pursue adoption immediately as “selfish.” Would we dare tell an expectant mother that she was selfish for not choosing to adopt a child and have one of her own? Of course we wouldn’t, so why do so many infertile couples have that attitude (even if it’s not explicity said) have that thrown into their faces? Is it because we view the infertile who would like a child of their own as being childish and wanting what they do not have? If so, in most cases, that is an unfair assessment as many, many infertile couples have wanted to be parents their entire lives, before they would even have been physically able to become them.

We tend to equate the term “family” with “married couple who have children.” We do not typically like to extend that term to “married couple without children.” A good friend of mine had a letter to the editor of Red Book published for not demonstrating in one of their articles that she and her husband are in fact a “family” although they are unable to have children and have not been able to pursue fertility treatments or adoption. Perhaps it’s about time this attitude was changed not just in our country, but in our pews. A married couple is, in fact, family to one another with or without the addition of children and it, quite frankly, is none of our business as to why they do not have a child or more children. The stigmatization of these couples only leads to paths we don’t want to go down: divorce, estrangement, lack of love for our neighbors. Let us begin to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and this love will teach us to be sensitive and accepting of situations different from our own in regards to families.