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Gung-ho

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Most serious Catholics have had this experience:  all on fire for some bracing, difficult truth that seems central to our lives, we march forward in a fine, fervent frenzy, and rip a new asshole for everyone in the room — in service of the truth.  Because, as it says in scripture, “The Lord thy God wants you to rip everyone a new asshole.”

The problem with this approach is twofold:

(1)  People are generally not much swayed by the, “Listen up, jerkwad, and I’ll teach you something” approach.

(2) The truth takes a while to sink in.  Not into them, but into you:  just because you think you know something, that doesn’t mean you really know it.  Or, it doesn’t mean you know what to DO with the truth.

And so, for instance, gung-ho and ablaze with the information that we should be open to life, an obnoxious twentysomething brandishing her NFP manual in its original wrapper may think she has something to say to a crowd of grizzled old matrons.  She may think she’s stirring up a righteous flame in some old, moldering cinders by proclaiming the truth about what it means to be truly generous, truly compliant to the will of God.  She may think she’s doing some good (and looking pretty swell in the process!).  But more likely than not, she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Either she’s flat-out wrong, and just hasn’t got the habit of fact-checking yet; or else it turns out that life is a little more complicated than it seems when you’re an obnoxious twentysomething.

Just so you don’t think I’m lecturing you (and I had the idea for this post long before the “Why doesn’t the Church just make a list” discussion), I’ll share one of my most cringe-worthy example of some misguided gung-hoery.  This happened about ten years ago:

At Christmas every year, the local newspaper would print sob stories about needy families, to solicit donations so that unlucky folks could have a nice holiday for a change.  You know:  little Johnny is waiting for a liver transplant, and is hoping to collect 100 teddy bears; elderly Mrs. Smith is raising her grandchildren and would love to give the little tykes a pair of rollerblades and a new Xbox.

One year, they printed a little blurb about a young couple — a man and his perpetual “fiancee” –expecting their second child.  There were some problems, I forget what:  unemployment, disability, threatened eviction.  They weren’t asking much — just wanted to have a nice Christmas for their son, and maybe find a few baby items for the little one on the way.

So I got a brilliant idea.  I wrote to the editor and, in the boldest and most stirring terms imaginable, exhorted this wretched couple to offer the finest gift a mother and dad ever could to their offspring:  to get married.  I plugged in a few handy statistics about the relative happiness, educational and vocational chances, and dental health of the child of married parents.  I urged them to do what I knew was really in their hearts:  to take the leap, tie the knot, make it real.  I offered to pay for their marriage license, “and,” I concluded grandly, “I will even throw in a bottle of champagne.”

So, they took me up on it.  They came to our apartment.  They did want to get married, it turned out — they had just never had the chance, or something.  But, well, hmm.  As it turned out, the boyfriend had been married before.  In the Church.  Might he get an annulment?  Well, technically he was actually still married.  He was planning to get a divorce, but the mother wanted custody of the son, and there was also some complication about a warrant for his arrest  . . .

Well, I ended up buying the girlfriend some maternity shirts, and a couple of toys for the little kid.  I think they had to take a taxi to our house, too, but I was too embarrassed to offer to pay their fare.  The conversation was . . . a little awkward.  And now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure I bought her the wrong size shirt.  So, all in all, I believe the general message that this lucky couple got from Super Catholic me was:  “Merry Christmas, and here [rrrrrip] is your new asshole.  Now get out of my holy, marital house, jerkwads.”

So you see, the moral of this story is:  don’t be fancy.  Don’t be smart.  Do things the regular way, like by praying, being nice, and donating money to charities that know what they are doing.   If the Holy Spirit wants you to do something really spectacular, He’ll probably make it almost impossible for you to avoid it.  Remember Jonah?  Gulp.

So, good people?  How about you?  When’s the last time you shot your mouth off in the service of Truth, Justice, and the Magesterial Way, and got showed up for the know-nothing numb-nut you really are?

Or is it just me?

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My wild girl got hurt this morning.

This morning,  my three-year-old daughter apparently decided that, while she was waiting for me to wake up, she’d just go into the attic and jump around for a while.  Only she accidentally jumped on the trap door in the attic floor.  So I, sleeping in the room below, woke up to see her dropping from the ceiling onto the bedroom floor.

She’s okay, but has a really bad cut on her face.  We spent a few hours in the local ER, and now she and my husband are enroute to a plastic surgeon at a different hospital, an hour and a half from here.

I am very, very grateful that it wasn’t a worse injury.  She fell at least ten feet.  The poor thing can’t eat or drink until after they stitch her up (they will have to sedate her), and I can’t imagine that they’ll get that done until 3 PM at the very soonest.  Poor little baby.  She is so beautiful, so little.  I don’t know how mothers of heart patients and others deal with this.  I keep thinking about her little body falling and hitting the floor, and I keep seeing that terrible breach in her soft little face.  Anyway, she is okay, and going to be okay.

Grateful for good hospitals, excellent state insurance, kind nurses, cars that run, a husband who will know how to keep my baby happy and distracted, and no broken bones or apparent brain injury — not even a loose tooth.

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So tell me: Marriage Prep

All this talk about young married couples has sent me on a trip down memory lane, back to the old days when my husband was naught but a boyish husband-to-be, and I was a blushing maiden of 22.  And by “maiden,” I mean I was 22.  Ah, yoot!

We did go to marriage preparation classes.  They were held by another couple in their comfortable home.  It was a little too comfortable, as I recall:  they installed me next to the fire in a rocking chair, and I damn near fell asleep every night as they droned on and on and on.  Maybe I missed the good parts while I was dreaming, but I don’t think so.  My husband reports pretty much the same thing as I remember.

There are, we learned, two components to a stable, successful, loving, happy, and holy marriage.  Are you ready?  Here they are:

1.  Keep the lines of communication open.

2.  Invest in gold.

Well, there you have it.  Boy, were we prepared for marriage then, let me tell you!

So, that was, let’s see, 1997.  To be honest, I’m a little amazed at how many people mentioned that NFP even came up in their marriage prep — last I heard, most Catholics aren’t even aware there is such a thing.  I would be very interested to hear what your marriage preparation was (or is) like, and what year it was  – and also what your parents’ or older siblings’ was like, if you know.  Did you hear anything useful?  Anything nutty?  Does it seem like things getting better, overall?  Or worse?  Or what?

And why don’t we have more gold around here?  I guess it’s a good thing they didn’t say anything about NFP — I clearly wasn’t paying attention anyway.

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To war!

Thursday morning, I will have a post up at the Register about a new NFP charting app for iPhone/iPad.  (UPDATE:  the post is here.)  It’s a fairly straightforward and innocuous piece — just a review with a few lines of comment from the developer.  Doesn’t get into theology at all, or discuss sex or anything.

BUT, it’s about NFP.  I’ve been around that mulberry bush a couple of times, and I know that no good can come of this.  Or, rather, some good can come of it, only to be derailed by a handful of lunatics who see the letters N, F, and P, and instantly ride forth into war

with one of the following cries:

(a) NFP is from the debbil!  It’s nothing but Catholic birth control, a demonic liberal tool to chase married couples straight into the mouth of Hell!

(b) Welll, maybe it’s not of the devil per se, but I know for a fact that 90% of my friends who use NFP are abusing it, and have a contraceptive mentality.

(c) If the devil weren’t an artificial construct of the patriarchy, NFP would be from the devil!  It’s nothing but church-sanctioned slavery, an abusive conservative tool to turn women into baby factories!

(d) Ew, you said “cervix.”

(e) What a shame it is that these young whippersnappers take the mystery out of everything.  The whole world is becoming nothing more than a collection of bits and bytes on a screen.  There’s nothing Catholic about technology, and it needs to stay that way.

(f)  Shut up, Jew.

(g)  We tried NFP for two weeks and had a baby anyway, so I’m suing Dr. Billings and my husband is getting castrated.  Catholics are so lame!

Am I missing anything?  Which class of comment do you think is going to get the most traction?  Am I a big jerk, or what?  Maybe no one will care, and I’ll get three comments, and then I’ll have to pretend I’m glad.

 

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Double double this this

Double double that that

Double this

Double that

Double double this that.

Phew, now I feel better.  I’ve been listening to that chant for many a day now, and I’d just like to make it perfectly clear to the director of the school that, for every time I hear my kids start up again with the “double double this this, ” I deduct ten dollars from the hefty endowment I was thinking of maybe some day leaving to the school, where they learned the silly thing.  Think about it!  Get control of your school, lady.  This is madness.

Okay, second:  we saw a super duper movie on Sunday:  Insomnia from 2002, with Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank, and directed by Christopher Nolan, who did the wonderful Batman movies.  So today at the Register, I’m talking about what a good movie it is for Lent. Old sins!  Compromise!  Doubt, confession, and redemption!  And Robin Williams finally playing a creepy murderer, like he should’ve all along; and Al Pacino actually acts, instead of just acting like Al Pacino.

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Come tell me what you think. I don’t believe any harumphing will be necessary, but you never know — better bring a couple along just in case.

Third:  come see my charming and talented nephew, the ebullient Baron Torres as he launches himself into the horrible world of blogging for west and wewaxation!  “The Noble Bard: Music, sports, Catholicism and a whole lot more!”

 

What, you’re too busy?  Come on, it’s Tuesday.

You know, I think I finally have that stupid chant out of my head.  Now the only thing I’m thinking of is . . .

Gimme an X, gimme an O

Gimme a three in a row.

RO-SHAM-BO!

Echh, well, there are worse ways for kids to spend their time.  They could be doing drugs.  Or blogging.

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7 things I could resist

It’s a two-fer!  One:   Seven Quick Takes, hosted by the hostest with the mostest Post-its (get it?  In the picture.  What?), Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary (and, among other things, the Register blog).

Oh, so that’s one.  Two is that I am crapping things up at the Register today with a little Lenten Quiz:  JUST HOW HOLY ARE YOU?  Come find out! And see how long it takes before someone notices, and becomes offended that, there is no such person as the Venerable Scrupe!

So go see that, and I want to make sure I get a harumph out of all of you.  Then come back here and join me for:

SEVEN QUICK TAKES:  Seven things I could resist, actually

1.  Making wontons from scratch.  This is only a victory in that it shows that I have infinite capacity for feeling guilty (every time I open the freezer and the package of wonton wrappers falls out, and I have to tell them gently, “Not yet, not yet.”) over something that is entirely morally neutral.  Oh, does not making wontons make me feel guilty!  But that thing I said about that lady at Mass — well, I got over that pretty quick.

2.  Eating grapes impregnated with Nerds.  Although my five-year-old daughter is pushing me really, really hard.  It’s kind of like voting for Mitt Romney:  you don’t really have to try it, to imagine how awful it would be.

 

3.  Yelling, “YOU FORGOT YOUR PANTS!” at passing college girls.  You know the ones — sashaying along the sidewalk with their jaunty side ponytails (so boot-cut jeans, which flatter my hips, are out of style, but side ponytails had to make a comeback, eh? Eh???), their North Face jackets, their Uggs, and their . . . not-pants.  What are they called, riggings?  Bleggings?  Oh yeah, they’re called TIGHTS.  Not pants, girls.  Go back to your dorm and finish getting dressed.

4.  Getting [#4 has been edited, in keeping with the spirit of Lent] knocked up, for almost two years straight!

5.  Sending a follow-up email to the director of my children’s school, when it turned out she needed to use our bathroom.  I had rashly decided, you see, that no one would need to use the bathroom before we all went sledding together, and so I did not clean it, even though its degree of filth had long ago reached and overtaken the squalid stage.  This wasn’t a messy bathroom, or even a dirty bathroom.  I wouldn’t even call it filthy.  This was . . . a third world bathroom.  This was a Drudge headline bathroom.  This was a Lollapalooza level of revolting muck and outrageous stench, a putrid, feculent, blight on the face of all that is good and decent.  But I didn’t say a word!  Because what can you say?  “Well, now you know?”

Oh, so the email I resisted sending was going to start, “Thanks for coming sledding with us!  I wanted to reassure you about all the discarded medical gloves on the floor. . . ”

6.  Putting windshield washer fluid in the car all winter.   Is it safe to drive around with brown, opaque windshield?  No.  Is it the action of an adult to seek out the deepest puddles and barrel through them at top speed, in the hopes that the splash will clear my view a bit?  No.  Is it so hard to open up a bottle of windshield washer fluid and dump it in?  No.  Is it likely I will just keep putting it off anyway?  Extremely.

7.  Sitting down to find appropriate pictures for these quick takes, even though the right picture makes all the difference.  Well, here’s something I couldn’t resist:

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My Love Is Like a Big Red Dog

My kids are pretty, pretty smart.  But not quite as smart as I think they are.

One time, for instance, we were listening to a Danny Kaye song about “they’ll never outfox the fox!”  It goes on to marvel over the exploits of a dashing young scoundrel:

Whenever they try to find me

They find me where I am not

I’m hither and yon, I’m there and gone, I’m Johnny-not-on-the spot!

(He whistles as he jump to a low tree branch)

I’m out on a limb they think!

(He whistles again, jumping down)

I’m down on the ground in a wink

My enemies say “Gadzooks! It’s spooks!”

Shivering in their socks

They know that they’ll never, I’m far to clever

They’ll never outfox the Fox!

The toddler at the time said something like, “He singin’ ’bout Wobbin Hood.”  OH MY STARS! I thought.  What an intelligent child!  She extrapolated from the mention of all this clever, limb-jumping derring-do, and made the assumption that this song was about Robin Hood — when it’s actually about a very Robin Hood-like character, The Fox.

Then I suddenly recalled that we had just watched Disney’s Robin Hood, in which the main character is . . . a fox.  All that was going on was that when the kid heard Danny Kaye sing, “The Fox!  The Fox!” she figured he was talking about “the fox, the fox.”  Not a bad assumption, but not especially brilliant, either.

I never learn.  Today, my dear baby, who is the smartiest-whartiest baby in the whole wide world,  oh yes she is, came up to me and said, “Doggie have nursies!”

What an intelligent child!  I marvelled all over again.  We don’t even have a dog, but somehow she divined that they are mammals!  I wonder what slight clue was enough for her agile little mind, so that she understood that female dogs nourish their young with, as she so preciously calls them, “nursies.”

Then I saw the picture of the doggie she had in mind:

Yep.  To those with nursies on the brain, it sure do have nursies.

Bet you never look at Clifford the same way again.