Thursday, February 28, 2008

I can haz nonsense

Humorous Pictures
As my 79-year-old mother would say, What in the world?!
In the category of most interesting thing to cross my desk today is the highly intellectual and stimulating website

The infamous LOL cats are on the loose, and they've even sunk their claws into this clueless housewife who's usually protected from such uselessness. I pride myself on spending my time with worthwhile endeavors (like reading Dean Koontz novels and even homeschooling children) and I'm normally spared the best (and worst) of pop culture.

It's anybody's call this time. I must admit when I first spied one of these critters, I was intrigued. Their nasty grammar reminded me of the difficulty I've been having teaching my boys their English lessons, and we all love cute animals, right? When a link appeared beneath the name of one of my future sons-in-law in my on my contact list, I had to check it out.

We really are a culture with too much time on our hands, aren't we? But I confess I laughed out loud when I visited the site. It's still OK to do that, right? Laugh at something just because it's silly and fun? That's all I can say today. Nothing profound, nothing important. It's just OK to laugh.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm dying

It's true.

I'm dying.

I'd like to say that I'll spare you the gory details, but that'd be a lie. There are lots of gory details. I want to say that it all began in December, when I had that surgery. OK, so it was only foot surgery and I'm fine now, but boy, was that rough. Six weeks on crutches! Then there was that nasty bout with the flu. Influenza! That's right, the real deal, the stuff that killed all those folks back in WWI.

Really. I'm dying.

I've still got a lingering cough, and my toe hurts. It pains me to reveal this, but I can't even wear normal shoes. No high heels, and not even my favorite clogs. It's misery, pure misery.

Yes, I'd like to say it started back in December, my demise that is , but the truth is it started long before that. About 43 years before that. Because, of course, like everybody else, I've been dying since day one.

We love to complain when we're sick, injured, or even just bored, don't we? We want everyone to share our sufferings. We're dying. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I uttered that actual phrase numerous times in the past couple of months. To my children, leave Mommy alone. I'm dying. To my husband, first thing in the morning, I'm dying. To my best friend, can you come over? I'm dying.
Of course it's all true. I really am dying. Wow.

We Catholics call them the Last Things: death, judgment, resurrection. Important concepts to be sure. Ones we'll all face someday. And since I really am dying, maybe I should give them a thought now and then.

I love to complain about the consequences of my fallen state (that nasty cough and painful toe, for instance) but I don't like to think about the real consequence that we'll all face one day. I will be dying one day, really and truly, and I must consider if the way I'm living reflects that reality.

It's Lent, a good time for this dying stuff. Instead of just dying with my annoying irritations, I should be "dying to self." Making some sacrifices. Doing good for others. Shutting up when I want to talk, stuff like that.

Next time I want to announce my mortality to the world, I hope I'll stop for a second to think what I'm really saying. I'm dying. So I better be serious about living. Damn serious.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

and baby makes....four?

This morning I happened to see a segment of a popular morning talk show (hosted by a middle-aged guy and a blonde -- is there any other kind?) I'm not much for TV, especially in the morning, but their conversation drew me in. It seems there have been some interesting developments in the world of genetic science, something even the audiences of mindless talk shows need to know about. It is now possible to create a designer baby, one with all those nasty genes that cause muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis and maybe even bad breath conveniently removed. We can even request the color of the perfect little darling's eyes and hair, and instill a love of Beethoven and a dislike for, I don't know, mindless talk shows. How wonderful, right?

At one point the hosts called it a "no-brainer." Everyone wants a world without disease, right? Who would want a child to suffer with imperfection and illness? The smug "infertility doctor" on their panel of experts, charming with a soul patch and expensive haircut, paled when asked if he was playing God. "This is about science, not religion," he announced, obviously annoyed. He spouted lots of nonsense about choice and how all can agree that any "imagined" negative consequences arising from the creation of a baby from the eggs of two women and one man were nothing compared to the positives: people can have the babies they want, when they want them, and perfect babies at that.

The ethicist on board, predictably nerdy and uncomfortable in front of an audience, spoke clearly to the ideas of right and wrong so easily put aside by the doctor making lots of money from the parents of those perfect babes. He had a tough task in front of him. How do I get them to buy the notion that right and wrong even matter? You could see his frustration as he tried to explain foreign concepts like natural law to a group of folks accustomed to hearing that what matters most is what they feel at any given moment.

The child psychologist, placed uncomfortably close to the woman next to her who had "designed" a lovely little girl for herself, brought up a pertinent point. What if those perfect children don't turn out so perfect? How disapointed will those parents be when little Mozart detests music and Picasso doesn't paint? Is it fair to create children with such high expectations? On another note, is it right to deny children the opportunity to know their parents? (In this case, all three of them?)

The conversation ended without resolution, as all conversations of talk shows must. They asked the audience to vote with a show of hands. Does this bother any of you? About half of the hands went up. On to the next segment.

I turned off the TV. I didn't need to ask myself if it bothered me. I was bothered, all right, but mostly by a question that had remained unasked. Do we really want a world inhabited only by the perfect?

I am most definitely not perfect, and neither are you. Last time I checked, there was nary a perfect specimen in sight. If we decide to literally play God and design children in our image, whose image do we choose? Some would say (as the hosts of the program did) that eliminating disease and illness is a no-brainer. But is it?

I have given birth to seven children. In the world's eyes, the first six were in good shape -- "perfect" babies. They were born well and remain in good health. They are not only healthy but attractive, intelligent and talented. (I swear I am being at least somewhat objective.) My seventh child was not so "lucky."

My seventh child, my third daughter, Celeste, was imperfect. She was born with a severely damaged heart, one corrupted and malformed by Ebstein's Anomaly. When she was four months old, we discovered that her brain was now imperfect as well. Dramatically damaged by a series of strokes, it was now so bad that she could not receive the heart transplant she needed. After a life filled with suffering, pain and imperfection, she died in my arms.

If I could have, would I have "re-designed" Celeste, healing her imperfections?

I wanted a healthy, "perfect" baby. I wanted a little girl to love for many years. Like all mothers, I wanted a child that would not experience any of the negatives of our fallen condition.

But if given the chance, I wouldn't change a thing.

God knew what He was doing when He created my daughter, and He did not make a mistake. Her tiny body and her pure soul were knit together by Him with only love. She was imperfect in the eyes of many, but to her Father in Heaven she was perfection: beautiful and worthy, sent to us as a gift.

I would not send back this gift, not for all the "perfect" babies in the world.

In my conversations with other parents of "imperfect" children, I have come to a conclusion, one I doubt they'll reach on a morning talk show any time soon. Children with special needs, those who are not "perfect" in their minds and/or bodies, add to the world's beauty with unimaginable power. They love purely. They teach us. They allow us to love them, training us to serve.

I am thankful such technology was not available to my parents (not that they would use it in a million years.) Maybe they could have saved me from my illnesses, addictions and faults. Maybe they could've given me the blue eyes I've always yearned for. But I would not be the person God wanted walking in my shoes. And that person is good enough for me, even better than I deserved.

People ask me if I'm angry at God for giving me an "imperfect" baby. Are you kidding? I didn't deserve her either. But thank God for His generosity, his patient blessings to His selfish, imperfect children.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Who am I?

Yeah, who am I?

I wish I could say I was asking this in some sort of profound metaphysical way, but the truth is I'm having a hard time deciding who I am. As in what my name is. Is it Cathy or Catherine? For those of you with simple names that do not lend themselves to nicknames, pardon this foray into nonsense. For the rest of us, those of us who could be called Cat or Cath or even Kate, or Cath or Cathi or Cathie, who the heck are we?

My parents gave me my name, of course, and astonishingly no one shortened Catherine Louise to Cathy Lou until I shared my middle name with a new friend a few years ago. (Thanks, Kath....yes, I call her Kath. She goes by Katherine and even Q, but that's another story.) My parents also gave me my first nicknames, Dolly and Cherby. Neither of those took (thank God) but Cathy, the classic shortened version that I shared with three kindergarten classmates in 1971, stuck. So like it or not, I was stuck, too.

Stuck, that is, between Cathy and Catherine. I never thought much about it when I was younger. Cathy seemed just fine. I grew up in the 70's and 80's, not an era in which young girls reinvented themselves by devising creative new names. (At least not in my neighborhood.) I was used to being called Cathy, and even when I ventured off to college (ok, drove across town to an urban commuter campus) it didn't seem necessary to adopt a more mature label. But now, I'm a forty-something mom with six children. I'm launching a writing career a (my first book was published in September) and I'm trying to establish myself as an inspirational speaker. Who does those kinds of things? Is Cathy capable? Or is it time to call on Catherine?

Truth be told, I like my name (both variations. ) I don't go by Cathy because Catherine isn't appealing. I answer to it because my ears have grown accustomed, and I don't want to suddenly appear lofty to everyone who's gotten to know Cathy and liked her just fine, thank you. So what now?

I suppose I should've made the leap to Catherine when my book went to print. It would've been a great time to do it, as I was meeting new people and effectively starting anew as a writer. Catherine actually appears on the cover. But throughtout the story, which is an account of my youngest daughter's brief life, Cathy takes over. And the back cover is filled with praise for good ole Cathy, once again.

You'd think the subject matter of the book would be enough to help me reach the maturity of Catherine. It is a coming of age story in that my daughter's life and death chastened, humbled and transformed me. But when I type my name, I type Cathy. When I reach out my hand, I introduce Cathy. When I talk to myself, I say that old familiar name.

So today I set up this blog, and several blank white spots cried out for my identity. First I typed Catherine in every spot, but it didn't look right. So for now I'm Cathy. But you'll notice the nod to Catherine in my signature, sitting there all formal and proper waiting for me to grow up. I know she'll be there when I'm ready.