Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

4-Minute Retreat - Instrument of Peace

Something in English this time, so no distracting subtitles.  "Instrument of Peace," by the Canadian Tenors.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

First Communion Pageants

Last week I witnessed another First Communion ceremony which seemed to have more consideration for the parents than for the First Communicants.  I don't mind the reserved pews, the special homily, the photo ops.  However, almost immediately after these kids actually received their First Communion, they lined up in front of the altar to sing "Open My Eyes, Lord," complete with all the choreographed signs and gestures.  It really wasn't that great, but cameras were flashing everywhere.

I guarantee that at least one of those kids was robbed of his First Communion because he was too distracted by his upcoming performance to appreciate it.  I would have been that kid.  Fortunately, I didn't have to sing in front of the whole church for my First Communion, or I would have been a nervous wreck.  This isn't a Broadway musical, it isn't even Vacation Bible School.  This is YOUR CHILD'S FIRST COMMUNION.  It's kind of a big deal, so give him a moment, for pity's sake.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Godchildren, Hindsight, and Living the New Normal

Yesterday I attended the baptism of Michael Joseph, our first godchild.  Unfortunately, Dave had to miss it, but we had a good friend stand as proxy.  It was a gathering of the usual suspects, other young families of Christendom's class of 2008.  Thankfully, I found I wasn't nearly as bothered by it as I would have been six months ago.

At this point, more than a year removed from losing Little Dave, I'm probably about as over it as I ever will be.  The last few weeks in particular have been much better, all things considered.  Everyone's personal tragedy has a social expiration date, after which one really shouldn't keep nagging Facebook about it, or look for ways to bring it up in conversation.  The world has moved on, even if I feel like I physically haven't.  Being alone has really brought it all to the forefront lately.  If you've seen the movie, "Into Great Silence," that's what it's like around our apartment, and not in a good way.  I got married because I was no good at the contemplative life.  Yet, here I am.

They say you never think it will be you.  I know I never did.  My life had been picture perfect vanilla until two years ago.  I had a lovely childhood with no serious injuries, illnesses, or setbacks, cruised through school, went to college, met a great guy who is so much like me he could be a long lost twin, and was engaged a year after graduation.  We did have some suspicion that the matter of children could be dicey just because of certain aspects of our medical history, but we didn't let it dampen our spirits too much.  We were married in January and pregnant by Easter, but then all our expectations began to crumble rapidly.

I had been looking forward to those kids for years.  I remember a specific trash bag commercial I saw during those weeks while I was waiting to follow Dave to California after the wedding.  I was sure Dave would be an excellent father and make adorable children, probably even cuter than that kid.

Needless to say, my expectations of my life have changed significantly.  At this point, taking all my medical setbacks into consideration along with our hypothetical genetic issues and my apparent inability to carry to term, I am resigned to the fact that we'll never actually be able to raise those adorable children we were supposed to have.  At least, not any that are biologically our own.  Some people just knock harder when that door refuses to open.  I tend to take the hint and accept the rejection before we waste a lot of money or I really hurt myself trying.

I have no problem whatsoever with adopting.  That's currently the five-year plan.  What actually still bothers me - more so while he's not around to tell me I'm being stupid for thinking it - is that Dave deserved to have his own family.  I feel like the defective one in this relationship.  He was wonderful throughout the whole ordeal, but he never asked for all this.  Of course, no one does, but I was mortified, particularly because the timing could not have been worse for him, BOTH times.  I married him to be a help and support, not an invalid who can't stay out of the hospital or muster up enough strength to feed herself.  Part of what has scared me away from deliberately attempting another pregnancy is the thought that the black icing on the cake would be for me to die of uterine rupture and leave him completely high and dry.  I can't even bear the thought.  I've already failed him often enough.

In the meantime, most of our friends have budding families with all the traditional milestones, baptisms, first teeth, first steps, first birthdays.  Their blogs and Facebook pages are full of happy pictures and updates.  It can be extremely bittersweet.  I've invested a lot of mental effort into trying to feel blessed to have two saints rather than merely deprived of viable offspring, and some days are better than others.

In order to move on and be functional we almost have to forget, but we really don't want to forget anything because we already have little enough to remember, and the only memories we have are of hospitals and heartbreak.  I feel guilty when I forget.  It seems particularly hard while there aren't any other children demanding my attention.  Instinctively I feel like I should spend time with them now and then, but what that has basically amounted to up to this point is sitting on the couch and thinking about what we could have been doing.

One lesson I have learned, or at least finally come to accept, is that none of us is entitled to anything in this life.  Their normal may not be our normal.  Our normal is not what we thought it would be, but we are expected to make something of it, and in the end it will be for the best.  Eventually it will be like cheese.  For almost a year I went dairy free and felt painfully deprived each time I saw a pizza.  But after several months I just accepted that cheese was only for other people and that I would have to be happy with something else.  Eventually I forgot what cheese tasted like.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to pull it together to be the tough Navy wife with nerves of steel who can handle anything.  I refuse to fail at anything else, because that would just be lame.  So long as I have some meaningful human contact at least once a week, I'll stay sane.  I actually don't know exactly how long Dave has been gone.  I don't remember, and I haven't kept track.  It's easier that way, since I don't know when he'll be back.

In any case, being alone has given me the chance to confront all my issues and pull my life back together for its own sake.  My life is still awesome, even with all it's apparent flaws.  I haven't been permanently traumatized, and the only substance I have ever abused is chocolate.  I'm determined to get this show back on the road despite the detour.  I haven't quite achieved the goal of domestic warrior demigoddess, but just you wait.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Requiescat In Pace

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Dave's grandmother, Gertrude, who passed away after surgery on the eve of Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mom Enough

I have a feeling this debate has been brewing for a long time.

Surprise, surprise, I don't intend to debate it at all.  I think breast-feeding is great, and will probably save mankind.  I wouldn't personally breast-feed an older toddler, but I would certainly consider putting it in a sippy cup.  If other moms prefer to dispense it directly, whatever.  Personal preferences will be what they will be.

My only issue with breast-feeding has fueled many a Facebook debate.  I am actually pleased to see breast-feeding in public, so long as the mother in question isn't acting like nobody around her should have a problem with her going practically topless.  Other cultures are fine with it, and that's great.  But here and now, I feel discretion is the better part of valor.

Anyhow, this post isn't about that either.  It is about the annoying habit of women in general to get enormously huffy and vindictive in the face of any insinuation that another woman may in fact be prettier, smarter, more accomplished, or more maternal than they are.

We have been trained to expect praise for everything.  "If you did your best, you won."  Actually, maybe your best isn't as great as someone else's, and maybe there's nothing wrong with that.  Be content that even though you may perform to the best of your ability, someone else may be better at it than you.  That isn't reason to hate her or criticize everything she does.

We seem to be driven by a compulsive need to justify ourselves, dismissing our shortfalls in the constant pursuit of feelings of personal awesomeness.  There is no need to condemn these women as freaks just to reassure yourself that you are indeed a good mother.  Get over yourselves.  This isn't a popularity contest.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Impossible Dream

Just because it pretty much encapsulates my mood right now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Color of Bad@$$

My favorite color has varied considerably over my lifetime.  The earliest preference I can remember was for yellow, then red, then hunter green throughout college, then navy blue during the wedding era. As a dyed-in-the-wool melancholic I have always appreciated black, but at this point, after all the fall-out of the last two years, it has become my color of choice.

There's something empowering about black.  Life is just easier to face with a black shirt on.  It gives me a little high of emotional invulnerability I haven't been able to get out of the rest of my wardrobe.  It projects a certain measure of "I'm not messing around anymore."  

As a nerdy history major, two of my historical heros were the Habsburg greats Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his son, Philip II of Spain.  Both of them, even in the flashy Renaissance fashion scene, were pictured by artists predominantly in black.  This was very Spanish of them, but also seemed to imply the seriousness with which they considered their duties to Christendom.  It wasn't all fun and games being royalty in the sixteenth century.  
Maybe it's the severity and sobriety of black I find appealing.  Life isn't all fun in the twenty-first century, either.  After being shaken up a bit, I now have a definitive game plan for my life, and I need that sense of focus when I wake up in the morning.  Even in theater, black seems to universally convey the gravitas of people who now have their act together and mean serious business.  

Surely we all noticed the the dark and almost clerical turn of the costumes in the classic Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  Luke's color palette in particular progressed from white to grey to black, reflecting the character's personal journey from clueless to dead serious.  That's more or less the position I find myself in now.  It's almost as though we throw color aside as a distraction when we find that singularity of purpose which demands our undivided attention.

I feel like my life has that sense of purpose again.  Circumstance dropped a small crate of lemons on our doorstep, but instead of crying over it anymore, we are determined to make spiked lemonade.  We've had our trial by fire, may actually still be in the midst of it, but I'm done feeling like a victim.  They were right when they said what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or at least increases your pain tolerance.  Go on, hit me, I'm ready for you now.

In light of all this I find it very appropriate that our priests wear black, since they deal with some of the most serious business known to mankind.  They are supposed to have that kind of singularity of vision and purpose, namely helping souls through this life and into the next, which is all that is actually important.  That is the big picture, the biggest picture.

I guess I'm channeling a little bit of that attitude to get me through what could otherwise be a real emotional low point in my life.  I don't want this time to be pointless; I want every day to somehow forward our long term goals.  I want to remember that I don't exist to be entertained but to accomplish the tasks set for me.  I don't want to fall again into the habit of "killing" time.  Time is a gift, and a very finite one at that.  

So each morning I put on my black shirt.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Disenfranchised and Practically Helpless

I'm not a fan of living in fear, but there are certain precautions that it would just be naive to ignore.  Among them is the notion that unarmed women should not go running alone if they can help it.  Being alone is not something I can do much about at the moment, but at least I can be smart about where I go.  That currently means sticking to the main drag and avoiding those lovely, secluded, asphalted walking trails which crisscross the woods and surrounding neighborhoods, all of which are maintained at great expense by the county.  I would absolutely love to use those trails, but that same government that created them has also flatly refused to allow me to protect myself.  So we're basically back to square one.  Thanks a freakin' lot.

I'm not one of those people who "like" guns.  I don't get particularly excited about an outing to the shooting range and don't put a lot of thought into my weapon of choice.  But I certainly don't dislike them.  I used to be reasonably comfortable with the 9mm pistol I was licensed to carry in Virginia back in my short-lived single days.  As I understand it, the state in which we are currently unfortunate enough to reside does not issue carry licenses to anyone, period.  Nor does it recognize the licenses of other states.  The other pistol-packing members of my family call it "Indian Country" and refuse to cross the border if they can help it.  Eventually I intend to wade through the morass of bureaucracy which will hopefully allow me to retrieve my gun from Virginia and keep it in our home.  Still, that doesn't do me one bit of good on a secluded walking trail.

So, in this civilized world of modern enlightenment and alleged gender equality, it is still incredibly unsafe for a lofty-minded independent woman to go jogging.  We're back to the rules of the jungle, it seems.

Deprived of a long-distance defense, which is certainly preferable, we have to get down and dirty.  I do carry a knife, but that's one of the last things I want to have to use in the event of a hostile conflict.  I wanted to get one of those collapsible batons, but apparently those are illegal too if you intend to use it as a weapon.  A big screwdriver is illegal if you intend to use it as a weapon.  Seriously, people, can you work with me on this?

I have yet to investigate the rules and regulations which may apply to a can of mace.  I don't have a lot of confidence in its ability to save my life, but it would be better than nothing.  I considered getting some three years ago when I was reporting to work at 4 AM, but it was disallowed on the grounds that it was dangerous and forbidden in our employee lockers.  Of course it's dangerous!  That's kind of the point.

Running out of alternatives, I have come to the conclusion that being a flabby, weak-wristed American housewife is no longer an option.  There is a Krav Maga school nearby where my husband attends his western martial arts (old-school sword fighting) classes.  As soon as we can fit it into the budget, I am determined to learn as much as I can.  Of all the various styles of martial arts I've considered, I like that Krav Maga isn't so much about spiritual balance and inner peace as it is about disarming the guy and crushing his windpipe.

But, because I would prefer not to tempt fate, the scenic walking trails will still be out of bounds and I'll have to stick to the sooty thoroughfare through the neighborhood, albeit ready to beat the crap out of anyone who tries to pull me into his car.  As a woman who has been rendered practically helpless, I protest.  I am being discriminated against.  I am being inconvenienced and my freedom to go where I please is being curtailed.

Why aren't more women upset about this?  Oh, right, because they drank the Kool-Aid.  They actually think it's a safe, decent world out there.  Most of them probably voted me into this position.  Just because you live in the nice part of town doesn't mean there isn't a rapist lurking in your neighborhood.  If and when you meet him out in the woods, you'll be wishing you were carrying something more intimidating than a cell phone and your house keys.

Just sayin'.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Occupy Movement, In a Nutshell

Sir Percy (The Scarlet Pimpernel) criticizes the Occupy Paris Movement, a.k.a the French Revolution.

Seriously, it's been done, it's been given a fair shot, it didn't end well.  It never does.  Stop trying to overthink it and just apply an iota of common sense.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Veils Are Multiplying

The church we attend up here seems like your standard slightly-better-than-average American parish.  We chose it more for convenience than anything else, and while it's not "traditional" in the strict sense of the word, services resemble our idea of a proper Mass more than they do a campfire jamboree.  We are still some of the most straight-laced people there, but the crucifix is at the center of the design, the tabernacle is in the right place, and we haven't heard anything heretical from the pulpit.  I can't speak for the 9:30 "contemporary" service because we've never been brave (or foolish) enough to attend.  All in all, it's a fair compromise.

I used to waffle back and forth between wearing my veil or not at a non-traditional parish.  The Mass we occasionally attended at the military chapel in California was so dominated by the guitar and drum set that I just couldn't bring myself to wear it.  However, this parish here is leaning far enough toward the conservative camp that the choir occasionally sings a Latin hymn during communion.  Sweet!  My dramatic black veil once again became a staple of my mostly black Sunday wardrobe.  I thought at worst it might blow their minds, and at best it may start a trend.

Wearing a veil, nylons, and heels in a modern American parish is a great way to meet like-minded individuals.  It's like wearing a sign on your back describing your liturgical preferences.  "Hi, I'm a young Catholic traditionalist, and I'm as serious as the plague."  My husband and I met two of our new best friends that way.  We turned around and there was a young couple who looked just like us!  Together, we were the four best dressed people at Mass.

We had been making our appearance at this parish for several weeks when we started getting compliments, generally from men.  They usually conveyed their appreciation very discreetly lest the women hear them.  First was an old but very energetic usher who feigned shock at my attempts to be traditional and wondered "What's become of our Church these days?"  The second was a middle-aged gentleman who gave me a thumbs-up and a "Good job!", explaining that his men's Bible study group had just covered Corinthians and St. Paul's exhortation to women to wear veils.  A third occasion also involved our well-dressed friends, when a group of older church-goers approached us all in Ruby Tuesday and congratulated us on how nice we looked at Mass.  Apparently it does make an impression.

Unfortunately (for us), our friends had to move house, so now I thought I would probably be the only one "veiling" at Mass.  But 'twas not so.  I almost don't notice other veils in front of me, coming from the trad culture, but suddenly I realized where I was and why they were an anomaly.  There was another youngish family a few pews ahead in which the mother and two daughters were all veiled.  The next week they were still there, and beside me was a stylish older couple, the wife sporting an expensive looking mantilla.

Beware, modernists.  Whatever will you do when veils become "contemporary?"

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sports Teams Are So Passé

My cool Catholic nerd hat finally arrived from  Now I'm prepared for all those delightful sunny weather activities this summer.  No more excuses not to go running.  No more trying to play frisbee while lurking in the shade lest my nose burn lobster red.  I considered getting a chi-rho for a while before deciding to oblige my inner Spaniard.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Opinion of Conspiracy Theories

My first thought when confronted by rumor of vast and ancient conspiracies which allegedly threaten to destroy the world is that human beings are far too disorganized and self-absorbed to carry it off.  Just look at any government program.  It would be hopeless.  The only reason the Catholic Church is still around is because God knew we were lousy bowlers and put the bumpers in our alley.

However, that being said, I am willing to consider any rumored conspiracy which functions on the premise that human beings are selfish and happy to rip off their fellow man if they think they can get away with it. I can also understand the possibility that a few fancy-pants "intellectuals" with entirely too much money could fill the idle hours of their day stroking their egos by inventing ways to mold society into the latest fashionable image so they can feel enlightened, modern, and relevant.

What is the common end to all these supposed conspiracies?  There are several, but in the end it all basically boils down to world domination.  Cue maniacal laughter.  What is that?  Nobody could want the impossible stress and responsibility of actually ruling the world, so is it just about a power trip?  It would be entirely unbelievable in a novel, but it seems to be an end in itself.  Why?  I have struggled with this question in writing my own novel, and have not yet found a satisfactory answer.  I keep coming back to the unholy trinity of power, fame, and fortune.  "Just because," doesn't cut it.

There are plenty of nitty-gritty short term conspiracies current right now, some of which I'm actually inclined to give a second glance.  We don't have to search the world, as some of the best are circling in a holding pattern over Washington D.C.  Take the simple matter of Obama's constitutional eligibility (or, rather, the lack thereof) to be president in the first place, which at this point seems cut and dried despite the mainstream media blackout.  Even the cover-up was sloppy.  Any self-respecting editor would send that novelist packing in a heartbeat.  Then there's the slightly less dry notion that Andrew Breitbart might have had some unsolicited help going into cardiac arrest, made even more interesting by the sudden demise of his coroner as well.  Ah, juicy.  Then we can cap all this off with the Rockefellers and all the other mysterious societies in the world pushing us into a global socialist utopia rife with population control.

Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't.  What really would be the point?  Is it some kind of secular moral victory?  Do they just love standing in breadlines?  I have no idea.  Are they really willing to destroy the nation which in many cases made them successful in the first place simply to score a win for socialism and supposedly save the polar ice caps???  Honestly, without some demonic impetus, it really makes no sense.  Go ahead, shoot yourself in the foot.  Seems like the fashionable liberal thing to do.

On some level, I'm too phlegmatic to care.  What am I going to do about it?  I know what I think, I'm perfectly willing to share what I think, but there aren't many people who are actually going to listen to me.  I'll continue to do my best to lead a Catholic life, vote, blog, and express my displeasure to the appropriate authorities as often as I feel persecuted.  They won't listen, but at least I've said it.

Regardless of how much truth there may be in all this, I think I may safely consider myself warned that there are quite a few filthy rich people with evil overlord complex at large in the world who just can't wait to ruin our lives.  There always have been, and there always will be.  Fortunately, I happen to know I'm on the winning team.  So, just keep playing like Somebody is still keeping score.  He'll have the last word.