31 December 2011

Usage you can use: Fiancé(e)

Fiancé is masculine. A man who is engaged.

Fiancée is feminine. A woman who is engaged.

E. It matters.

26 December 2011

Meditations upon Boxing Day

--I didn't win a Nook from Lulu. Hard to believe, I know. Other things I have recently not won include a gift card from a grocery chain for all the surveys I fill out for them, and a Father of the Year award for my husband from a local electric coop. Jerks. Anyway, Lulu told me I could still have a Nook if I sold more of something than anybody today. Seriously, I'm supposed to compete with Wil Wheaton? Bump it.

--You know you've arrived when you have to do laundry on Christmas on a non-emergency basis.

--Did anybody else see that bulletin cover? Ha ha ha ha ha.

--Best Christmas movie ever is A Muppet Christmas Carol.

--What is the deal with "I Saw Three Ships"? Is this another one of those weird British nationalist things?

--What is everybody else doing about the loot/space discrepancy with greed and sloth skewing the data?

23 December 2011

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto knowledge of the truth

It's been years since I last posted this little discursus by Luci Shaw, so here it is again. Merry Christmas, dear readers. God bless you and yours unto life everlasting.

It’s as if the infancy were the whole of the incarnation.

One time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere,
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we need for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
We are to be wary, these days,
of beards and sandaled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(Only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the Man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore Him--
Christ--the Lord.

20 December 2011

Yet another thing I can see no reason not to post

It's been way too long since we've had a Vanity post. Besides all of them, I mean.

Postpartum again! I'm trying not to be so vain this time. Maybe I'm just getting too old to care so much; that would be good. Anyway, in a manic moment I found a great deal of humor in the fact that I'm carrying around on my person a plurality (at least) of the food my baby is going to eat this year. What a goofy system. What do I expect to look like? It's got to go somewhere.

I could tell the moment was manic because I then began imagining what it would look like if I weren't nursing but still had to carry a year's worth of baby food on me. I have no idea how much formula a baby goes through in a week. A can? Three cans? Let's call it  one can. We won't count little Gerber jars, just formula. I am now picturing myself with 52 cans of formula affixed to my body. Sheesh, I'm huge! This formula takes up a ton of space! I'm also really loud with all these cans clanking around me every time I move. I look, like, SO silly. I can't get comfortable enough to sleep, either. I'm exhausted.

I think we've all learned an important lesson here.

19 December 2011

Above and beyond

I needed a baby so I could realize how much I needed a husband. A husband is not a BFF. A husband is the man who takes care of you when you can't take care of yourself.

I'm not saying a spouse isn't or can't be a friend, just that the "husband as BFF" motif so prevalent in contemporary conjugal piety (especially at weddings in which the couple writes the "vows") is really dumb. This has everything to do with a motif that's been dropped from contemporary conjugal piety: "husband as lord." This necessarily leads to people marrying their BFFs whether or not the BFF is of the other sex.

But anyway, although my husband is my friend, he is also more and less than that. He is my lord, and as such a great part of him is above me and therefore unknowable to me. And I will venture to assert that as his lady, I am and always will be a mystery to him. There is a great part of me that is beyond him and therefore unknowable to him. One of the greatest services husbands and wives do each other is NOT trying or pretending to share absolutely everything. Not every cross borne by a husband can be shared by a wife, as surely as a great multitude of a wife's burdens cannot be lightened by a husband. To act or expect otherwise is delusional and unfair.

Knowing this and valuing it frees us from needing to be jerks about it. I find that when I get to spend time with my female friends (which means one of us herding crawlers out of the kitchen while the other cooks), sharing with each other the burdens beyond our husbands, we end up thanking God together that he put us under the care of dudes so much better than we are.

18 December 2011


I have my grandma's springerle rolling pin and I feel like a jerk for not using it. I remember eating springerle when I was very little and loving it. So I really want to make it but I haven't had luck with the recipe I've got (not my grandma's--alas, that one is lost). Does anybody have a good recipe? I'm paralyzed by all the internet options and would love it if one of you internet people had a recipe with commentary.

These. I want them.

15 December 2011

Alliums, or why any number of intervention-free deliveries do not a NCB advocate make

The following comes of my sick, terrible habit of hanging around birth-junkie websites in the weeks before my due date. GOT to stop that.

The main reason I wanted a med-free birth with our first baby was curiosity. I wanted to know what it was like. Not everybody gets to find out.

Now I know, and I haven't wanted one since, but I keep getting them. Lucky me. As I've said here, there are some valuable lessons in the experience, but the most valuable one for me has been learning that it wasn't really my choice. It was my preference the first time around, and it worked out. I didn't have any complications, so I got my curiosity satisfied. (In a hospital. Yes.)

Then all my friends and relations started having babies, and I started seeing that childbirth isn't any different from breakfast on a busy morning. You can't always get what you want. Some wanted to go "natural" for whatever reason, and they couldn't, honest. 2000 miles or 150 years from here, something bad would have happened to mother and/or child, no matter how ideal their birth ideals (and why the ideal would be anything other than an experience which does not induce terror upon its remembrance--which for a few of us weak-minded people would involve pain relief of some sort--is beyond me). Some decided along the way that hours of voluntary agony weren't worth the Natural Childbirth Award, which doesn't exist. Some regretted not having an anaesthetic in place when it came to the measures which had to be taken upon them after the baby's birth. Some wanted pain relief and it didn't work, or even made things worse. Some got what they planned, whether it was Interventionpalooza or a moonlit glade attended only by maiden wolves. Everyone had preferences and made choices, but not everyone got the birth story they wanted.

The only thing I feel like telling someone any more about how to have a baby is You can do it! Unless you can't. You won't know until it happens. If you get the delivery you think you want, thank God in heaven because that is the third cherry on the real whipped cream on the hottest of fudge on the Haagen-Dazs of a healthy baby. If you don't, don't feel bad AT ALL, because who cares? It is ultimately not something you can control. And however it goes, turn off the comments when you post your birth story because there is always going to be some fool out there who thinks she knows better than you what should have happened.

But I still want to lodge my major complaint about the NCB universe, and that is its ridiculous self-satisfaction. I cannot take pride in my deliveries, much as I would LOVE to after this many times, any more than I could be proud of surviving a lightening strike or bout of ebola. They prove nothing except that God dealt with me mercifully (which is pretty blasted hard to admit, considering). That first time when I got myself all educated and prepped, I was told I'd stride away with this incredible sense of strength and accomplishment. Instead I hobbled off feeling completely ruined and, moreunder (or is it lessover?), lied to. There's no buzzkill for that post-baby rush like the thought of earning it again, or maybe ten more times. I came with onions and left with garlic.

Unlike the farmer and the monk, I also left with six perfect babies. So that helps.

Update: the comments upon this post, while non-explicit, are frank. If that would trouble you, dear reader, do not attend.

13 December 2011

On the doing of homework

So there's this, which is like, you people still? And this, which is pretty funny. And a bunch of people saying stuff. But please, everybody, do yourselves the huge, huge favor of reading this book, the best book ever written on the topic outside of Heilege Schrift, The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort.

10 December 2011

New ropes, old ropes, and the gallows, too

Rebekah's last post reminded me of something I've been saving for a rainy day. It's raining in my amygdala today. Ta da.

When and why did moaning under one’s cross becoming synonymous with “whining?” Life on this side of the veil is hard, most grievously hard. Christ knows this very well. He does not sneer at His little ones who cry piteously over what in eternity amounts to a stubbed toe or missed dessert. Rather, in His mercy, He hears the groans of His Elect, those who bear His Name in Baptism, and has compassion.

Indeed, God, for the sake of Christ, lifts His countenance upon us as we muck about and stays His righteous wrath. Instead of floods, hellfire, and stonings, He provides for us the softest, gentlest of graces: a Holy Mother Church, who patiently and lovingly hears our sobbing and soothes our consciences with Words placed into her most beautiful mouth by Christ Himself.

And thus are we taught to hear the suffering of others. Dear sisters in Christ, it is not necessary to coat your face in colorful Plasticine and intone tired American lies about how lucky you are to have the Eschaton somehow immanentized in your heart. Rather, let us receive what God has given, and then do as our Mother does. It is good, normal, sensible, and poetic to see your sin and the sin of your children, and to speak it out of darkness that it may wither and die in the light. It is good, normal, sensible, and poetic to hear patiently a sister speak of her struggles, and to direct her toward her good Mother, who is a fertile land abounding with milk and honey and who will feed her the very salvation of her soul.

It is not good and far from poetic to harbor your misery or to treat with complacence the cries of your fellow Christian. Life is difficult and filled with storms we cannot understand. Even the smallest of thunderclaps finds its impetus in sin, and it was for even the smallest of peccadilloes that our Christ died.  Every cramp of flesh and soul is of importance to our Savior, who does not hesitate when we call for help but immediately puts out His hand and draws us out of the waves. He might chide, “Why did you doubt?” But such words are His and His alone to give, and His Bride is more than capable of conveying their meaning to Her babies.

You and I commune at the same altar; that is good enough for me. Let us join together in raising our voices to Christ. When you rejoice, I will rejoice with you. And when you cry out, “Oh, Lord, how long?” I’m the alto you hear over yonder.

08 December 2011

Could be better. Will be better.

I remember getting a book from the library when I was a kid called, I think, Could Be Worse. Yup. It was about a couple of kids whose grandpa always told them when they complained to him about something, "Could be worse!" Once when they brought him a complaint, he told them a long, crazy story about all these awful things that had happened to him when he was young--something like his house exploding in a hurricane while weasels ripped his flesh and his mom poached monkey gizzards in puke sauce for supper and on like that for pages and pages. The kids hear him out and then happily tell him . . . you got it.

And of course grandpa is right and the kids are right and that frowny, responsible, "you live in the first world you unpitiable whiner" voice in the back of my head is right. But there's a part of me that could do without Could Be Worse. It's not weeping with them that do weep to always be telling them "could be worse," and it could be way stinking better, and it's OK and even important to want that, and we're supposed to be sort of ready for it, and frankly there are times when it feels like that's really all there is to look forward to.

04 December 2011

One of those comments that becomes a post

I don't expect anyone to be persuaded by the following arguments which I find persuasive. I offer them as a courtesy to the polite sister in Christ who requested them, not as a call to warfare, and I have neither the time nor the desire for a spitting match. I'm sure everyone who disagrees with me is much, much smarter than I am; I forfeit. If you've already heard all this and it will make you sad, don't read it. Talk to a pastor.

1. I've said here before that the contraception question is not one of chapter and verse, but of interpretation. Until the 1930 Lambeth Convention (Anglican--a tradition founded on divorce and now swirling down the drain with a bunch of lesbians impersonating pastors), the Church catholic considered contraception an unchaste practice. There was more ecumenical unity on contraception than there was on the sacraments. As late as the 1950s publications of the LCMS condemned contraception (then they just got quiet on the topic). Interpretation belongs to the whole church, not me and my B-I-B-L-E, and that's what the whole church understood Scripture (Onan et al.) to be saying for 1930 years (and all the time before that).

This one is really the bottom line in my personal view which, again, I can't imagine being of value to anyone. But here are a few more ways of thinking about it:

2. Imagine a pastor and his parish saying, "We've made some disciples of all nations, and we're happy with them. We're going to take care of them and enjoy our time together. If we made more we might not be able to give them everything they need. Making disciples makes us tired and sick and poor. No more disciple-making." I bet the DP would love it.

3. Christians put a lot of stock in condemning fornication on the grounds that sex and marriage go together. (Chapter and verse for that? Adultery, huh? What does "adultery" mean?) Babies and sex are connected far more inextricably than marriage and sex are. It's easy to engage in intercourse outside of marriage; you don't even have to think about it, as many hungover teenagers can testify. It is normally not so easy to engage in intercourse and not have a baby happen, as many pregnant teenagers can testify. Contraception requires planning and deliberate action; it is a multi-step process (acquisition, possession, use) that can never occur in a moment of lapsed judgment. God made it harder to separate babies from sex than marriage from sex. Little wonder we should see it the other way.

4. "But what strikes me as truly extraordinary is the implication that there is something low about the objective [of marriage] being the birth of a child. Whereas it is obvious that this great natural miracle is the one creative, imaginative and disinterested part of the whole business. The creation of a new creature, not ourselves, of a new conscious centre, of a new and independent focus of experience and enjoyment, is an immeasurable more grand and godlike act even than a real love affair; how much more superior to a momentary physical satisfaction. If creating another self is not noble, why is pure self-indulgence nobler?"

G.K Chesterton, "Blasphemy and the Baby," Brave New Family

I am mystified by the elevation of the "unitive" aspect of marital love by anyone with a sacramental confession. It's not magic. The unity is REALIZED in the literal one flesh who comes from two separate people. The rest is happy thoughts, and whatever esoteric thingy seems to be indicated in 1 Cor 6 (if some qualified person would care to explain that in the comments, I'm all ears). How can unity possibly be enhanced/increased by cutting out its fullest manifestation?

5. Would it be ethical to use some method or device to remove pleasure from conjugal relations?

6. Every marriage is an icon of Christ and his holy bride, the Church, who give themselves utterly to each other and whose love is ever-bearing. Contraception is antithetical to self-giving, other-accepting love. It introduces disintegrity to the marital union. There is ample evidence that it will not necessarily kill a marriage (although we would be foolish to disregard the correspondence between the rise in contraceptive use and divorce, however it may be interpreted), but it will compromise it. It is likely to leave one spouse feeling used, even if both want to or feel they must prevent conception. Marital love normally has a consequence which causes both partners to count its blessed cost. To eliminate the cost (actually an investment) is to cheapen the act and actors. If a baby were not the act's weightiest meaning and effect, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.

Phew. Is it hot in here?

Single persons wishing to avoid all this trouble have an opportunity to do so by remaining celibate. To the married who feel they cannot have more children, the Church has historically held out the option of continence. The present day is not this option's most popular era. :P It is still an unnatural and disintegrative separation of three things God has bound together (marriage, marital intimacy, marital fruitfulness), but conforms to the "less un-divinely ordained" view of argument 3.

I'm going to stop typing now.

03 December 2011

Latch-key ambitions

More inflammatory rhetoric, on this boring, boring Saturday.  

There is never a good time for a mother to return to “the workforce.” Children are far louder about needing you when they are babies, but they never stop needing you. They merely become a lot more polite about expressing how terribly they need you the older they get.*

Yes, there comes a point when children no longer need help doing the more banal tasks of being alive. (Someday, I will not have to summon the sitzfleisch for toilet training! HOO-FREAKING-RAY!) But there is never a day when suddenly a child can accomplish by himself the terrible and the beautiful tasks given all men to accomplish. There is never a day when a child, boy or girl, man or woman, stops needing his mother, not to coddle and coo, but just to be there. The child needs his mother as a structure needs its pillars, and as the ocean needs its boundaries.  

A daughter never stops wanting her mother, especially if that daughter is blessed to become a mother herself, as everyone here well understands. A daughter, be she married or virgin, never stops needing the consolation and shelter of her mother’s voice, presence, and help. There is never a good time for a mother to take on work that interferes with her ability to be a blessing and help to her adult daughters and to be fully a grandmother.

A man will leave his mother and father and hold fast to his wife, and in things both salient and subtle a good wife supplants a good mother in the life of a man. Thanks be to God. Even so, a man never stops being his mother’s son. If a mother takes work that interferes with her sons’ lives and happiness and well-being, then so much the worse for everyone. If a mother takes on work that makes her relationships with her daughters-in-law unnecessarily strained, that mother has cut and cauterized those heartstrings that once held her sons.

You absolutely cannot have it all. Should you go scrabbling after a sense of worth, you will find yourself begging for scraps of love in all the wrong places. Stay home, even when your house is empty. They need you there.   

Yes, this being there, this being a mother, is a cross for women. Being a woman is a much bigger deal than all that is stored up for fire would have you believe. But this being doesn’t look like much. It looks like years and years of patient waiting, of quietly resisting the erosion of your body and mind, and a lot of missed chances to contribute to the Social Welfare. It means submitting to being consumed and being all things to all your own people, instead of one comfortable blip to a myopic People that just barely exists. It means reflecting however imperfectly the Church who gave you birth unto life everlasting, until your days accumulate in the death of your flesh to the glory of your soul. But, look: we Christians know what to do with crosses. We do not flee from them. We do not decorate them with flowers, soak them in essential oils, and put them in storage to be borne when we have the inclination. We pick them up, splinters and all, when they’re given to us, trusting in Christ who promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light.

Regardless of what she does with her life, the Christian mother never ceases to be a mother to her children. Children are made to thrive in the warmth of a mother’s faithful, long-suffering obedience to Christ (and her faithful repentance of failure), even when that mother draws down a paycheck. But, think it over. Your children want you when they're small; they will want you even when they’re grown and busy and distracted (sinners are we all, and thus do we take for granted that which is best for us). And when the times comes for you to leave your children on their own, when your angel comes to bear you unto the bosom of Abraham, knowing that you wait beyond all shadows with the angels and archangels for that glorious Day wherein you will breathe again and be reunited to your peoplethat even in death you have not ceased to be their mother—gives your children courage to mourn as those who have hope. They will not stop needing you, even then. Be alive for them while you can. 

*Again, I know there are Reasons why some of you cannot be home, and that those reasons are good. Especially you, dear friend whom I love. Christ redeems my "good works" right along with yours, that we might have no cause to fret. Thanks be to God. 

02 December 2011

Why casuistry should be left to the professionals

A post you won't like if you don't like this blog. And if you don't like this blog, I urge you again, don't visit it.

If you want to me to pray, tell me about the Kerlumpkins and their seven unruly children and poor Mrs. Kerlumpkin whose health is so bad. Tell me about the Sammyads and how chronic unemployment has ruined their marriage and their family life. Tell me about the Bagginses and their terrible pregnancy losses. Tell me about the Ottery-St. Catchpoles and their two-bedroom apartment and their second set of twins. Tell me how Mrs. Spumoni is penguin-guano crazy and their kids' lives are wrecks and Mr. Spumoni gets blamed for it all.

If you want to see my eyes glaze over, tell me about all those people and then look at me with the squinting frown which asks, "And NOW what do you think of your judgy convictions, you judging judger?"

I'll tell you right now what I think about every single one of those situations. They're unspeakably awful. Lord, have mercy. They also have nothing to do with how I should live my life. The personal experiences of the Kerlumpkins or the Ottery-St. Catchpoles or anyone else have zero bearing whatsoever on what constitutes sin in the court of God Almighty. Hard cases make bad law, and sometimes the Law makes hard cases.

As big of a deal as a sick mom or a lost income or a bunch of people just plain coming apart are to the individuals under scrutiny, it does not change the answer to the question of whether it is OK to enjoy sex while avoiding children. That question I must always answer the same way whether I like it or not. I have all kinds of sympathy for those who grew up and got married without ever being taught the whole truth of such things (which my beautiful associate has written about so well in the previous post) and are now mucking through a muck they didn't know existed. I am one of those people. It's been, you know, rough. It still is.

The question of the what the poor Spumonis should do about their situation I am in no way qualified or authorized to answer. I'm a freakin housewife who doesn't even know those people. I also can't help noticing that no amount of stories about the marvelous Sarsparillas and their 14 marvelous, talented, successful children who made it through on powdered milk and prayers or Ethel Kennedy and her 11 C-sections (before the bikini cut!) manage to convince anyone on the other side. Hasn't TLC alone provided us with ample evidence that the anecdotal approach to persuasion or proof on this topic is completely fruitless?

So, Bagginses and Spumonis and all you other people I know only through the bald gossip of Christians, I am sorry that you have been turned into situationally ethical footballs. I am sorry your names have become bywords among those who ought to be treating you with the most charity rather than the least. The details of your situation are between you and God and your pastor. If you wish for me to be involved, I will pray for you. That is absolutely all I can do.