25 September 2005

The Heinlein meme

Can't resist this one (found at The Bookish Gardener):

It was inspired by this list from "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long" in Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Instructions: take the list and bold the items you have actually done (with explanatory notes in most cases).
Change a diaper (My sister's; I was ten years old the week after she was born. I try not to remind her of it too often .)
Plan an invasion (At least in my imagination.)
Butcher a hog (Not something I'd like to be present for, after hearing my grandmother's stories. I have been present at the deconstruction of a buffalo, though.)
Conn a ship (does a sabot count?)
Design a building
Write a sonnet (Love 'em.)
Balance accounts (College accounting class.)
Build a wall
Set a bone
Comfort the dying
Take orders (Not military, just corporate hierarchy).
Give orders (Ditto.)
Act alone
Solve equations (only if I can get help from my mathematician buddy.)
Analyze a new problem (I work in IT).
Pitch manure
Program a computer (only at the simplest levels)
Cook a tasty meal
Fight efficiently
Die gallantly (I hope so, but time will tell. )

Reality, reconsidered

Jules has posted a marvelous quote from Thomas Merton, along with her usual muscular thinking. (Quite a few bloggers who struggle with physical issues end up able to do some heavy lifting at the keyboard. I wonder if it's anything like those who lose one sense, only to have the others become more acute...?)

Here's the quote, from The Seeds of Contemplation:

We make ourselves real by telling the truth.
Jules writes:

Think for a moment of all the times in your life where you have felt like a phony. Times when you were trying to be something you were not or trying to live up to someone else's expectations of who you really were. It's a pretty sick feeling, isn't it? You're always on the edge of things wondering when you will be found out. Wondering when the truth will surface.
That really hits home.

Over time, the ache to be free takes over. Free from the restrictions, free from the demands, free from the standards set by someone we've never even met. We long to say what we feel, regardless if it is considered primitive, uneducated or benign. We long to do what means most, regardless if we can make a large salary, bring home benefits, or stash cash in a 401K. We long to be seen...not for what we "do" or for who we raised or even for where we live. We want more. We need more. We begin to need...
"...free from the standards set by someone we've never even met." About three years ago, I had to go through a grieving process. It was awful, but necessary, and God stayed with me right through. One of the things I grieved for was the loss of the chance for a certain kind of life because I was following rules laid down by "dead people," as I've come to call them. Why did I worry so about transgressing their little customs and preferences? I am not talking here about Scriptural truth, but about such things as "it isn't wise to let a boy know how you feel about him." But then again, I was only 17, and my life was chaotic, and there were lots of good reasons I couldn't trust, and... and...
And one day, we turn around and realize that all those years of armor and masks were the worst years of our lives; not the best.
A-men, sister.

It is in the nakedness of truth that we finally become what God originally intended us to be...and, I believe, it's where we see Him - at last - in all his glory and all His love and all his grace - waving us in, calling us home. And it is here we realize that we could never expect to spend a single moment in His presence as anything less than truly what we are.
So often aspirants to the contemplative life come into the monastery thinking that it's all about learning to pray, acquiring good habits ... only to find that success lies in letting go of everything: physical comforts, natural ties to family and friends, and, finally, oneself; giving up the right to oneself completely. Oswald Chambers teaches me this over and over again. I never fail to be gratefully amazed at the continuing fountain of insight in My Utmost for His Highest.

We make ourselves real by telling the truth.
Read her whole post.

I agree with Jules ... I could think and write about that for a long, long while.

23:5 Meme

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to it).
3. Find the 5th sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

My grandmother had three huge avocado trees in her front yard, ringed by gardenia bushes.

H/T Kate at Heart Speaks to Heart

Reflecting on roles

Mary of the blogs I read are by mothers, and a lot of those are homeschooling their kids. That means that they are doing the yeoman's (-woman's!) work of being at home, caring for the house as well as training up their children in the way they should go.

It is so demanding. I pray for them, Father.

I am quite sure that they and I could cheerfully trade circumstances, for a little while...

but just for a little while.

They will miss their little ones, sooner rather than later. And I shall long for the quiet, my chorus of crickets, the occasional bark of a dog.

We are, in this moment, exactly where we should be. It is hard for mothers to know that, sometimes, when demands and fatigue impinge on one's peace. It is hard for me to know it, sometimes, when I ache with longing for my dear one and his children who will never be mine.

Mothers know how to manage a family, with all its myriad and swiftly-changing priorities, emergencies imagined and real, the daily round of laundry and meals, the endless cleaning, the schooling and counseling and listening to the papa when he comes in from work. I know how to detach in love from an alcoholic, work full-time and still be at the hospital every night for five months in a row, live in recovery from codependence, and survive a difficult marriage.

For some people, to live without family would be a blank.
For me, to live without family is a profound relief.

We are each exactly where we need to be, right this moment.

Someday, I might be in a family again. I might hold children, cook dinners, decorate, and hold a dear one. I cherish it as a sweet dream, a little something to enjoy in my soul once in a while, between meetings and phone calls. In the same way, a mother might cherish the dream of a day alone, kids safely cared for, time enough to read and nap and bathe and just be in the quiet house. Neither of us hold out much hope of it actually happening any time soon; but it might, someday; you never know. So we must respect each other's role in the world, and love each other, and pray for one another; for we do not know what the other feels.

God is good.

Miscellaneous advice from one now alone

From both experience and observation:
1. When your spouse mentions that the old boy/girlfriend they once told you about looked them up out of the blue, the "Check Engine" light might have just come on in your marriage. Take them out to dinner and pleasantly ask lots of open-ended questions. If you don't have a weekly "date night," now's a really, really good time to start.

2. Old flame or no, consider building a bit more quality time into your marriage - your spouse's idea of quality time. If you don't know what that is, ask.

3. If their idea of q.t. involves physical affection, don't roll your eyes or express exasperation or disgust. Do not announce that it's not important. If you don't enjoy it any more, confide that to your doctor first. In particular, avoid disclosing to your spouse that you never really did like it, even if that was the case. Oh, and don't use the word "addict," even in fun.

4. If your spouse has always been the quiet, patient, long-suffering type, but begins to appropriately and courteously verbally convey his or her wants and needs, especially in connection with 3., above, that would be what's commonly known as "a clue."

5. If your spouse requests you both go to counseling, the list of recommended responses does not include refusal, especially if 4., above, has already occurred.

6. If, after several unsuccessful attempts to discuss it with you, your spouse drops the topic completely - especially if they finally "see it your way" and quit making overtures - any feelings of relief you feel might be short-lived. In reality, you may have only weeks - maybe months, if they love you - before they decide it's easier to live alone than to endure constant rejection.

Just sayin'.

23 September 2005

What a surprise. (Not.)

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(via Happy Catholic.)

Apparently, the cafeteria wasn't merely closed

It seems the cardinals emptied the pantry, first. Just saw this on MSNBC about the "runner-up" for pope. It seems Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is a man with a deep concern for the poor, a man who lives simply and frugally and calls his brother bishops to do the same in this report.

22 September 2005

Women, education, and vocation

Earlier this week the Anchoress had a post on women who are getting good educations "yet" making no secret of their plans to quit the workforce to raise families when the time comes. She quotes The New York Times article which explores the fact that:

Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others ... say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

My late grandmother went to college sometime around 1911. She and I used to talk about her experiences, especially when I started to feel the stirrings of a writerly vocation and shamelessly started interviewing her for ideas and history.

Her mother and father moved out to Oklahoma and had many children. They used orange crates for furniture at first. It was a hard, tough life. Still, education was a given. At night, the lamps were lit, and out came the Bible or the Shakespeare, and the family read to one another. All the kids went to college... even the daughters.

The women in my family believe it is imperative for women to get as much education as possible because motherhood is a vocation. It is hard work, demanding the best of women at every level of their being, intellectual, emotional and physical. Any man who thinks motherhood is an easy ride is hereby recommended to spend ONE MONTH in a house with three kids under the age of 10. Magnanimously, I will exempt the poor sod from the requirement to have a major hormonal event somewhere in there - because I'm female, and therefore compassionate. (wink)

Mothers are not just watching children. They are guiding people who will one day vote in elections, borrow money, buy houses, and, in their turn, beget, raise and educate more children. It's called civilization, don'tcha know.

These days we have unparalleled luxury compared to what my grandmother knew a century ago. Indoor plumbing, electricity, modern appliances, safe automobiles on good roads - please let us remember that it was a scant 100 years ago that we began to have all those things. Radio, air travel, and antibiotics were all in the future when my grandmother was a girl. The equipment you are using to read these words was not even dreamed of.

An educated woman is more likely to enjoy the best things of life - the great books, art, and music - and will seek out the company of those who share her tastes and ideals. If she marries an intelligent, well-educated man, she has a much better chance of happiness. If together they can make a stable family, their children will not be distracted from their work of learning.

Just because you are a mother does not mean you are sentenced to change diapers forever, any more than getting an education condemns you to working in an office all your life. It doesn't matter what you do, education helps you make the best and most of it.

18 September 2005

A word of appreciation to about a dozen of you

Thank you for writing those posts ... the ones where you wrote about feeling grief picking you up in its jaws and shaking you like a terrier shakes a rat; how, with your last breath, you breathed a prayer and were strengthened. In your own unique way, you used words in which you conveyed the awful loneliness you felt, the sense of loss and dread combining into a kind of stunned feeling when contemplating the future, too frightened and tired to even be able to assemble your feelings. But you prayed, and typed out enough words about your situation, and why you needed to pray, to be able to sleep. I prayed with you, and for myself. And I was comforted, because I no longer felt so alone. Thank you for your honesty, and for sharing.

17 September 2005

Yep - that's me, all right

Your Element is Water

Your power colors: blue and aqua

Your energy: deep

Your season: winter

Like the ocean, you evoke deep feelings and passion.
You have an emotional, sensitive, and spiritual soul.
A bit mysterious, you tend to be quiet when you are working out a problem.
You need your alone time, so that you can think and dream.

H/T Faith or Fiction.

16 September 2005

A birthday prayer

Found this prayer/poem at Maggi Dawn's:

O Lord my God
teach my heart
where and how to seek you,
where and how to find you.
O Lord you are my God
and you are my Lord
and I have never seen you.
You have made me and remade me,
and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess
and still I do not know you.

I have not yet done that for which I was made.

Teach me to seek you
for I cannot seek you unless you teach me
or find you unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire,
let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you,
let me love you when I find you.
-St. Anselm

I recently celebrated one of Those birthdays... the kind one notices in the way one notices when the car odometer suddenly is all zeroes after the first number. When one is a child, birthdays are (usually, one hopes) unalloyed joy and excitement. Somewhere down the road, resignation begins to creep in. At some point, there might even be a temptation to despair. At the very least, the mirror enforces the need for conscious acceptance of the truth that our bodies wear out. But, with God's grace, we can pray with St. Anselm: I have not yet done that for which I was made. I agree with Maggie; that line is my favorite.

It is the fulcrum on which sadness and regret (I have not done...) can, with God's grace, be balanced by hope and trust (yet!).

11 September 2005

Remembering 9/11

This is a wonderful tribute. (H/T Happy Catholic)

We need to remember.


Bill Whittle has done it again.

Church Rides at Disneyland

From John Mark Reynolds' blog:

Church Rides at Disneyland

Catholic Ride:
It's a Small World
People from all nations gather together. The guest travels in one very stable boat, carried along by very pure Water, but the music in the ride is very annoying.

Vatican II Catholic Secondary Ride:
All of Disney's California Adventure
See it is like this: the old Park is just not cool anymore. It is hard to get teen agers to go. If we build a new park and leave out all the old characters, then we will be cool. Kids will love us. The fact that no one comes at the moment to the new park is not the fault of the new park but of the old park. Maybe we should close the old park?


Read the whole thing - it's cute.


In my journey of faith, I met God first, fortunately, before getting involved in a church. The Church I loved was the one I found in my mother's 1926 hand missal, the eternal church of Rome, solidly unified across time and geography and culture, with her own language and clear rules. Vatican II was to that church as Katrina was to New Orleans; she survived the first go-round pretty much intact; it was the second wave, the breaking of the levees which had previously held back destruction, which washed away all that was left, dispersing even the holdouts like me. For our spiritual health, we had to get away from the disgusting, toxic morass our spiritual neighborhood had become.

In the years since I joined the church in 1971, my experiences with it have been consistent in their type and effect. After multiple tries to rejoin, I've had to accept that I need to detach from that institution in the same way I had to consciously detach from my mother due to her behavior. In doing so, I rely on the words of St. Augustine - "Love God and do as you please," - and Jesus, Who said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." That word, found in John 10:9, is the real meaning of the title of this blog.

He's led me to investigate several churches over the years. The latest is one I've grazed in before. It's an evangelical church whose teaching hews closely to the Bible, and yet it's enfolded a significant number of the hurting, ignored, directionless, and spiritually hungry sheep from Mahony's flock, as well as others from the opposite side of the spectrum.

In the past, I moved on from this community because of the relentless pressure to Get Involved. For many soul-wrenching reasons, it was completely out of the question at that time in my life, and I was not about to explain to perfect strangers why I just wanted to show up on Sunday and be fed in the word, without having to sign away hours of my life I could not spare at that time. Now, besides my life being more open, I discovered via their website that there has been a change in the pastorship. The discomfort I felt may have well "come from the top," so to speak; due to my life experience, I am inordinately sensitive to those issues, even when I can't quite identify nor articulate them. I find myself looking forward to going back.

While the previous shepherd had a strong personality and a "bias for action," he also showed his stripes as a true intellectual liberal - not in the sense of political left-leaning, but in the sense of accepting and investigating before coming to a conclusion. The depth of wisdom and intellectual rigor he brought to his teaching was obvious in every word he wrote. He understood the touchpoints for all types of Christians. He showed more respect to my Catholic faith than the post-Vatican II church ever did.

Spiritually, a vast number of Catholics were treated after Vatican II like the pathetic crowds at the Superdome. The ones in charge had the power and resources to save us from those who abandoned us, hoping for us to die or leave so they could build a new church on the ruins of our faith. Those of us in the resulting diaspora are enriching and teaching those in "other folds," gently leading them to open their hearts and minds to the truth of John 6 and other things. In the meantime, among the brave, strong souls who stayed behind to fight, there is a move afoot to bring back thoughtful Scripture study and reestablish the practical, daily practices which spiritually nurture the soul. Jesus is drawing together those who hear His voice into one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16)

No church is perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. He is my shepherd. I know His voice. No sheep can graze forever in the same place. He leads me to lie down in green pastures, and lets me know when it's time to graze elsewhere. I survive, and thrive, under His leadership. By His grace, I trust Him.

Behind the scenes in New Orleans

There's a lot of fulminating over FEMA's mishandling of the catastrophe in the Gulf Coast. I don't excuse it - didn't Michael Roberts say over that horrible weekend following the storm that they didn't know how bad things were until Thursday - excuse me?? - but I don't want to lose sight of Mayor Nagin's inexcusable stalling before issuing evacuation orders, leaving fleets of buses unused, then his and the Governor's inexplicable refusal to give the orders and permissions necessary to allow both public and private agencies into New Orleans afterwards.

When I read Christopher Cooper's front-page article in last Thursday's Wall Street Journal entitled "Old Line Families Escape Worse of Flood and Plot Future," I had a strong feeling that Cooper was putting down some very clear dots for his readers to connect.

Cooper set the stage by describing how the extremely rich had recourse to private helicopters, both for evacuation and for the delivery of supplies and small armies of private security guards. He painted the picture of people completely detached from the realities of the misery rampant after the storm. Then he got down to the interesting stuff about these privileged few:

Their social pecking order is dictated by the mysterious hierarchy of "krewes," groups with hereditary membership that participate in the annual carnival leading up to Mardi Gras. In recent years, the city's most powerful business circles have expanded to include some newcomers and non-whites, such as Mayor Ray Nagin, the former Cox Communications executive elected in 2002.

Oh, really? How nice for him.

The article included quotes from James Reiss, who "became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and [he] serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority."

Hmm. Regional Transit Authority. Gee ... wonder if that includes, you know, buses?

Mr. Reiss and a number of the other "power elite" are already planning the rebuilding of NO, according to the article.
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

Not every white business leader or prominent family supports that view. Some black leaders and their allies in New Orleans fear that it boils down to preventing large numbers of blacks from returning to the city and eliminating the African-American voting majority.

Leading Democrats fear that the demographics of the city will change. Even though the city's government has been controlled by black politicians since the 70s, "(w)hite voters often act as a swing bloc, propelling blacks or Creoles into the city's top political jobs. That was the case with Mr. Nagin, who defeated another African American to win the mayoral election in 2002."

Christopher Cooper draws no conclusions from all this in his article, and neither will I, beyond noting that it seems inevitable New Orleans will be very different after it's rebuilt, not only because of all the new buildings and infrastructure. The article's on WSJ.com for another 85 days or so; I don't know if you need a subscription to access it, but it is fascinating, and worth a read.