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Archive for March, 2012

Money, money, money

Some days, what bugs me about having Interstitial Cystitis isn’t the big things – the pain, the diet, all that jazz. It’s the little things. The little things which add up into a big thing – money.

In one sense, IC isn’t that expensive. I pay about $20 for my directly IC related prescription medicines a month. But the money still adds up.

It’s the $43 co-pay on my sleeping pills I use once every few weeks because my bladder turns to flare when I travel. (I didn’t fall asleep till sometime after three last time I was on the road!) It’s the insurance company which requires a prior authorization because they want me to take the cheap pills that make me hallucinate. $43afterI got them to reduce the number of pills and gave them a $50 coupon. They left me with a “we can try to get you a refund” but I know that I would gladly fork over that muchto be able to sleep next time I can’t.

It’s the $120 co-pay because my pharmacy wouldn’t let me refill a prescription before I went out of town, and so I was left using another pharmacy which couldn’t get my insurance to cover my medicine.

It’s the $100-200 co-pays everytime I see a specialist because the school’s free clinic can’t deal with my problems.

It’s the money spent on supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter pain medicines that insurance doesn’t cover.

It’s buying organic instead of conventional produce. $2 a pound pears instead of 30 cents for bananas. $5 a pound for blueberries instead of $1 for grapes.  Red peppers instead of tomatoes. It seems that IC friendly foods have two things in common – they are low in acid and high in cost.

It’s taking last summer off so that I could concentrate on getting healthy (and getting my research done).

It’s getting take out on days that standing up long enough to cook seems impossible.

It’s buying my own insurance instead of remaining on my parent’s, because I have to see doctors out here too often to just have “catastrophe only” insurance and their insurance won’t cover any out of network providers.

These things all add up. And you know what the crazy thing is?  I have it easy. I have insurance. I don’t have cancer. IC can nickle and dime me all it wants, but we’ll make it through. But there are millions of other Americans without any insurance. Who can’t afford organic produce. Who don’t have the options I do. IC has taken it’s toll on us financially. Don’t get me wrong, we’re keeping up and doing fine (paid for my whole masters degree in cash & scholarships, thankyouverymuch), but it’s still not cheap. But even at the end of the day – we have it easier that millions.

Millions.

The Supreme Court is debating today whether or not the new Health Care reform law is constitutional, and you know what? I don’t care if its constitutional. Because it’s right. And there’s so much left to do. A new insurance company can deny me any coverage for my IC next year if it wanted to. That needs to go. And companies profitting off of my inability to sleep at night? That one can go too. Me crying at the pharmacy counter half an hour ago because the insurance company wanted to deny me coverage again? I’m ready to be done with that.  And even if this health care bill stays law, those things won’t change any time soon.

But we will have planted the seed the health care is something everone deserves. And we can continue to work from there. We can move away from a greed driven system to one that truly works for all Americans.

Because health care is a human right.

Because poverty shouldn’t be a death sentence.

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Which is French for “the time of the month.” Everything sounds better in French, non? Even though the French say “la course,” (je pense), that’s still what I call it in my head.

But first. First I feel like I should have some sort of disclaimer here saying something along the lines of:

Menfolk! Avert your ears! Turn your eyes! Listen not, lest you be defiled, ashamed, shocked at the mention of LA COURSE!”

Then, of course, the feminist in me thinks that men should stay and listen, that we as women should take ownership of our bodies, and they should not be freaked out by things like “menstruation” and “women’s issues” and “periods.” But let’s face it, men, and even a lot of women, are freaked out. And if you indulge my medical anthropological nature for a minute, I think that’s oaky. Mensturation is “taboo” not just because it is associated with women, but because it refers to something that once inside of the body but is not outside of it. And if you think about it, we have a taboo on most everything that comes out of the body – blood, poop, pee, snot, vomit, sweat, etc. Except babies. We’re generally okay with the fact that babies come out of our bodies. Because of this taboo, these things generally aren’t up for public discussion. And these things are taboo for a reason – they are generally considered “unclean” and in reality can transmit diseases. It’s probably been good for our society that we have thought of those things as “icky” cause we wouldn’t have lasted too long as a species if we went around eating our own poop. So as long as you’re leaving this page because you think “periods- yuck, I’ve been culturally indoctrinated to avoid substances out of my body for my own self-preservation” that’s fine.  But if you’re thinking “periods – yuck, women are gross and stupid,” then not cool, man. Not cool.

Moving  on.

I made a slight adjustment in my birth control regimen which has meant that I suddenly have started getting periods again which has meant I needed to restock my supplies. After one or two rounds of using conventional pads, which I repeatedly told my husband “felt like sitting on a chemical laden wet trashbag” I decided to ditch the Always in light of something new.

Enter….

Not the Diva Cup. Sorry ladies. Any of you who are left were probably just waiting for me to start writing about the wonderful amazing fantastic Diva Cup aren’t you? Sorry to disappoint. While it does sound fantastic (no waste! no chemicals! no frequent changing!) it won’t work with my specific internal structure. (And neither will tampons). It’s a bummer, I know. Plus, it seems that women who rely exclusively on pads are thought of having some weird hang ups about touching themselves or losing their virginity to a tampon. Not the case here, folks.

So what has been my solution?

Washable pads.

The verdict? So far so good. This particular brand is called Party in My Pants (eyeroll) and they’re actually pretty fantastic. They feel incredibly dry and are amazingly absorbent, despite being so thin. You can tell you are still wearing a pad, which makes me want to try out a few other brands. (I’ve heard good things about this Etsy seller). I decided against GladRags because it seemed a lot more work than the PIMPs. These don’t require any assembling or disassembling or special soaking (although I do rinse them out before tossing them in with the rest of the laundry).

I haven’t switched full time due to our lack of a washer/dryer and so I’ve been filling in gaps with Seventh Generation pads. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with them. The lack of chemicals is WAY easier on me than regular pads, and since I don’t go through too many in a month, they haven’t broke the bank.

Maybe one day I will switch to reusable pads full time in an effort to save the earth or something, but making these adjustments has greatly improved my experience ofle temps du mois.If you are up for it, I recommend one. If you are completely grossed out, I gotta point out that you probably don’t toss every pair of underwear that you’ve ever had a leak on, and it’s really about the same. But if that still isn’t your thing and you are looking to get rid of the wet trashbag filling, try the Seventh Generation pads.

So what do you use? Conventional pads and tampons? Diva cups? Sea Sponges? Just go camp out in a Red Tent for a few days?

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March

March is my least favorite month.

There. I said it. I feel very guilty about that since my husband’s birthday is March, but my dislike of March started well before I met him and hasn’t dissipated yet. March is a cruel month, stretching out the wait between winter and spring. And while I know that the spring will eventually come, March makes it feel as if it never will.

And seeing as how William and Mary hasn’t made it to the tournament in its past 320 years, the madness eludes me. Except that one time I did a bracket and won. Remember that, honey? And since I’m batting a thousand, I have retired.

March is long. It is cold. It is damp. It is unceasingly gray, with forecasts of low 40s and snow for the foreseeable future. It is the month of midterms and due dates, smugly nestled between the enthusiasm of a new semester and the promising glimmer of graduation. This weekend I have made it to page 98 of my thesis, an accomplishment made depressing by the realization my 3 committee members will be likely the only people to ever read it. But no matter how many pages I write (at least 20 to go), the sky outside of my office stays gray. 20120318-182329.jpg

And it’s in the middle of Lent. Somber, depressing, Lent. Lent is a time of fasting for Catholics (each person defines what their own fast is though), which lasts for about 40 long days.

But I love it. I don’t love it the sense of “oh my gosh! so much fun! this totally rocks!” love, but love it in the sense of I know it is good. It is hard, but it is good for me. It is amazing that no matter how spiritually subdued I am feeling, entering into this drab, dull season of the Church calendar can make me feel so alive.

I don’t enjoy it, but it’s good.

It’s what I always tell people about my time with JVC. Was it fun, awesome, amazing? Yeah, some days. But was it hard, challenging, stressful, overwhelming? More often than not. But it was good.

And I know that the earth taking this long, deep breath between snow and sun is good as well.

I might not enjoy it, but it is good.

 

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Why I am (still) a Catholic

The answer to why I am a Catholic is simple and would not be worthy of a post. I will not play ignorant to the realities of nurture, socialization, and culture – I am Catholic because my parents are Catholic.

The answer to why I am still a Catholic, however, is much more complex. I know my parents would still love me if I left the church. In my open and accepting community, I cannot think of any real social or financial repercussions if I was to go. So that’s not why I stay. I stay because the Church is where I call home.

The other day someone asked me how as a Catholic I can disagree with the Catholic Church on some topics. I will broaden that to a larger question – why do I stay if I disagree?

Catholics are called to believe in the dogmas and doctrines of the Church. Ask two Catholics what this means, and you will get three answers. In short, we believe in the truths of the Church and recognize that various practices of the Church may come and go; they may evolve over time. But I believe in the Nicene Creed – the first, the simplest articulation of our faith. I renew my baptismal promises without blinking an eye. Because I believe – I believe in a God, in a just and merciful God. And I believe in the Church.

On a logical level, I am Catholic because I believe in the “other”, becaue I look at the spiritual lives of people across time, across the world and believe it is something in our very soul, our very DNA that calls us to look for a life outside of ourselves. I believe in monotheism because a pantheon does not make much sense to me, as I believe in first mover theory. I believe that Judiasm suceeded while Zoroastrianism (the world’s first monotheistic religion) has largely died out, and I believe that Christ is the fulfillment of the Jewish law.  And I believe that the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox, I will split no hairs here) is the Church founded by Christ, founded by Peter, grown by Paul.

That is the Church I believe in.

I struggle with her. Some of her teachings, her decrees make me physically ill. I cried a bit when I heard that women would not be allowed on the altar during the Extraordinary Form (old school Latin style) mass. I cried because I care, not because I no longer do. But the Church does not call us to blind faithfulness to her, she calls us to Christ. James Martin, SJ, writes of people who are now saints who once were excommunicated. He writes,

The church’s long history of ”faithful dissent” offers both hope and perspective to Catholics in our time. It echoes the call of the Second Vatican Council, which, in 1964, declared that expressing opinions ”on matters concerning the good of the church” is sometimes an obligation for the faithful.

Each week at mass we pray for the leaders of the Church. We pray because we recognize the need for God, the need for God to prevent the likely failure and disappointment of our human selves. We are human. The Church is led by humans. She is the body of Christ, but a very human body.

We can see and justify changes in the Church in the past, but it is naive to assume those are limited to the past and we have already reached a state of perfection.  Were those who fought for the addition of the filioque to the creed heretics? What about Catholics who practiced the rhythm method before it was approved? Was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, a paleontologist who took part in the discovery of the Peking Man,  a sinner because his books were censured by the Catholic Church, even though they would later come to accept evolution? What about those who believed the mass should be in the Vernacular while it was still in Latin?

 And so I ask, is it a sin to believe that the Church might one day change it’s position on birth control since it has allowed it to evolve in the past? Is it blasphemous to believe priests should be allowed to be married, as they used to be?

Perhaps it is, and if so, I appreciate you allowing me the chance to struggle through anyway. But if a sin, a mortal sin, requires grevious matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will, I wonder if I really am fully consenting my will to blaspheme if I truly believe that I am attempting to follow the teachings of Christ.

On the other side of the proverbial aisle, there are those who feel as if I should leave as I profess to be a feminist, a liberal who believes in the rights of women and the righs of gays and lesbians. How can I lend my participation to an institution which discriminates so? I do not believe that abandonment is a solution. I believe in staying and calling for change. I believe in a Church which teaches love, equality, justice, and mercy, and believe that it will continue in its efforts to enact those ideals. I hope that my staying is not viewed as a statement of hate, judgment of condemnation of another group. That is not my desire; that is not my goal.

Some days I wish I had been born in to an Episcopalian family and I could have my church with female, gay, married priests and without all the controversy. Other days I am grateful I was born Catholic and do not have to make a decision about all of these complicated teachings before I decided if I want to convert or not. But it does not matter. It is not about me, it is about God and where I find him.

I am Catholic not because it is I believe in the perfection of each interpretation of its teaching, but because it is where I find God. I am Catholic because of the history, because of the richness, because of the mercy, because of the community. I am Catholic because I am willing to accept that I may be wrong, and no one has kicked me out yet. I am willing to follow the teachings of those who have spent much more time and energy reflecting on the complex issues than I have. I am also willing to accept that I am less mired in tradition, less pressured to conform, than many of these theologians, and believe I am no less a part of the Church than they. I am no less a daughter of God. But I do not want to strike out on my own, form a religion solely around what I happen to believe that day. I am willing to follow. But I am not willing to follow blindly.  I will call out what path I think is best, I will pray that are following God, and I will hope that no matter the path we take, we will end up with him. And that he will forgive us our missteps along the way.

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The Countess Speaks

My favorite post from the season.

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Non-religious hymns

TheRemember how we all read The Perks of Being a Wallflower in our angsty, need more Holden Caulfield days? The book, I could take or leave but there is one sentiment I remember. What it is like to be driving down the road and the perfect song comes on and you feel simply infinite. It’s as if your soul swells up inside you, and it’s more than you can handle.

There are some songs that make me feel that way that I would like to share with you. Songs that, despite their intended purpose, make me feel infinite. Or have some spiritual meaning to them for me. And I would love to hear yours, the songs that touch your soul.

First up, Mason Jenning’s I Love You and Buddha, Too.

I don’t agree with all the sentiments in the song – I am largely not a relativist, however there are pieces that really speak to me. “You are unnameable, you are unknowable, all we have is metaphor, that’s what time and space are for.” I believe that the search for God, the search for meaning is fulfilling and noble, but I believe we can only do so much, go so far. I believe that we can only come up with more questions than answers. And I find comfort in that, in knowing this life is not a quiz, not a test to see who has the best answers, but a continual search.

Next up, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel.

Okay sure, this song is a little bit about sex and drugs. But there is more to it than that. It’s about searching, about leaving pain behind for the hope of love. We’ve all felt that fire under our feet at some point in our lives, an indescribable restlessness, an urge for something more. In this song it takes the life of a lonely man driving through the country in the middle of the night to find his true love, and while I’ve never done that, I can relate to the sense of urgency to find something more.

Next, David Berkeley’s Little Fists

If you haven’t listened to this guy, drop everything you are doing right now and go buy his CDs. Or look him up on Grooveshark. I saw David Berkeley a million years ago opening up for Nickel Creek my freshman year of college, and he remains my favorite musician to this day. (If you want to hear a fantastic song about the Civil War – check out ‘Shiloh,’ which I would have posted here but I can’t find a video for it. Did you even know there were fantastic songs about the Civil War?) This song, Little Fists, is about the futileness of fighting against war. He tells us we’re asking the leaves to change. Which is pretty much what faith calls us to do – stand up and scream for something better, no matter how difficult or unlikely it is.

Jesus, etc. – Wilco

I’m sure this song is one that is too deep for me to understand what it’s about and so I don’t want to read into what the artists’ original interpretation is supposed to be. But when I listen to it, I hear how everything around us crumbles except love. Anything we rely on is temporary. Anything but love.

Flogging Molly’s Therefore the Grace of God Go I

I’ve probably seen Flogging Molly more times in concert than any other band. Okay, maybe more than any other band combined. And I can never decide where they stand – rebelling against their Catholicism, or standing up for it as a part of their Irish Heritage? Or some complicated mixture of both, as it is for all of us. But this song, more than any of the previous, is as close as you can get to a hymn. The sentiment is simple – Therefore the Grace of God Go I. And so it is for us all.

 

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I am not a slut

“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” — Rush Limbaugh

Hi.

We don’t know a lot about each other.

But I want you to know one thing about me – I am not a slut.

I am a woman. I am a woman as God created me, born from a woman, with the ability to have children of my own one day.

But I am not a slut.

I am a woman with a flawed body, as so many of us are. Ten percent of women suffer from endometriosis, a condition where the lining of one’s uterus grows on the outside of her uterine wall or on other organs. I was born this way. It does not make me a slut.

The treatment is prescription birth control, which does not cure,because there is no cure, but it allows women with this condition to have a life. To leave the couch. To love.

We can wax philosphically about how fertility is a natural process, not a disease to be medicated a way. But digestion is a natural process as well, and millions of people suffer from heartburn. Our bodies are not perfect. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, but they can trouble us and they can hurt us.

But that does not make us sluts.

I am a married woman who loves my husband. I am a woman who wants to have children. I am a woman who does not believe in “consequence free sex,” who does not see the birth control pill as a license to sleep around. I am bound by the vows I have freely taken to my husband and my God; I am not bound to fidelity by the fertile status of my uterus.

If my insurer did not cover birth control, for instance, if I had gone to a Catholic school, I would have spent $1200 while in graduate school just for the ability to attend classes not in pain, to cook my husband dinner occasionally, to attend church, to see friends and to volunteer.

That’s $1200 that covered the cost of two classes instead.

Or that allowed me to research my thesis full time this summer.

Or that allowed my husband to take a lesser paying job to fight for the rights of prisoners and the accused.

Twelve hundred dollars that we could put to supporting local farmers instead of large corporations who rely on underpaid workers.

Twelve hundred dollars that covered the cost of flights home for weddings and Christmases.

Twelve hundred dollars that went to my other medications as well.

I think it was money well spent. It was money, however, that did not turn me into a slut.

But many people think otherwise. They think that medicating the body that God has given me so that I can use it to its fullest potential makes me a slut.

A slut.

A prostitute.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter where you stand on this divide. If you take birth control or if you don’t.  If you think it is moral or immoral. If you think government should cover all of health care or none of it. It doesn’t matter, because a reproductive disorder does not make a woman a slut.

Call your representative.  Tell him or her to stand up for women. To not bar women from the discussion on what happens to their organs. To raise the level of discussion to one that respects all Americans, all people. To stop calling your sister, your daughter, your mother, your neice, your friend a slut.

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