29 August 2012


Funny story. John Stuart Mill spends a ton of words arguing against the oppression of women and then comes to this conclusion:

If, in addition to the physical suffering of bearing children, and the whole responsibility of their care and education in early years, the wife undertakes the careful and economical application of the husband's earnings to the general comfort of the family; she takes not only her fair share, but usually the larger share, of the bodily and mental exertion required by their joint existence.

If she undertakes any additional portion, it seldom relieves her from this, but only prevents her from performing it properly.

The care which she is herself disabled from taking of the children and the household, nobody else takes; those of the children who do not die, grow up as they best can, and the management of the household is likely to be so bad, as even in point of economy to be a great drawback from the value of the wife's earnings.

In an otherwise just state of things, it is not, therefore, I think, a desirable custom, that the wife should contribute by her labour to the income of the family. In an unjust state of things, her doing so may be useful to her, by making her of more value in the eyes of the man who is legally her master; but, on the other hand, it enables him still farther to abuse his power, by forcing her to work, and leaving the support of the family to her exertions, while he spends most of his time in drinking and idleness. 
John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

(Spaces added to help me read the whole thing. And one more funnyism from the same essay: The greater part of what women write about women is mere sycophancy to men. Busted.)

23 August 2012

Another perspective

Child-led weaning: Once the child starts biting, I'm done.

  Die, Mommy! Die!

16 August 2012

My homegirl Phoebs

I finally caved and bought Cheryl Naumann's LCMS deaconess history on Kindle. It has a lot of primary documents, so thumbs up there.

The Lutheran deaconesses back in Germany were nurses. Later, people in the LCMS made an argument that there should be LCMS deaconess nurses because sick Lutherans should have Lutheran nurses. This is interesting. Sick people are vulnerable. I've heard of pastors having trouble with theologically stupid things nurses say to patients, and I myself have had theologically stupid things said to me by dear and loving nurses who wished to comfort my in my trouble. There's no doubt that a well-catechized nurse population would be a nice thing to have available.

But it turned out that the LCMS girls didn't want to be nurses, just deaconesses.

The Lutheran deaconesses back in Germany were also celibate, either virgins or widows. They were free to marry, but then they weren't deaconesses any more. OBVIOUSLY. OK, I hate it when people get snotty about obviouslies so here is why marriage and deaconessing were considered incompatible: when a woman marries, her job is to care for her family. Deaconesses are people who, since they are free of family constraints, may care for those whose only family is the Church. Speculation is of limited value, but I have a hard time imagining that Loehe and other champions of the deaconess concept would have responded favorably to the notion that a woman should leave her children and husband each morning to go and work as a deaconess. She would have failed in her service the minute she walked out the door (and if it is necessary for her to work--wouldn't it make sense for her to pursue employment that pays better? :P)

It is clear that some people, especially Loehe, really wanted there to be deaconesses. But I don't think their motive is clear. Was it because the church needed Lutheran nurses and other caregivers? Or was it because the unmarried woman (especially the unmarried young woman) was as big a practical problem back in old timey times as it is now? Probably some of both.

I found this quotation from Loehe astonishing:

"From the outset the deaconesshood is joined to the preaching office as Eve is to Adam, and a church which does God's work among the Gentiles without deacony [sic] seems to me like a one-legged man."

I respectfully (and nervously given my total lack of qualifications) disagree. I am curious about the word "deaconesshood." I do not know German. I don't know if the word used by Loehe is somehow distinct from that which might normally be translated "diaconate," or how either of these word[s] compare[s] with what comes out later in the sentence as "deacony," or if this is a translator's rendering of the same word, whatever that might be. Either way, the expression as it comes across in English suggests that deaconesses are a female counterpart to pastors. They are not. The parish is the feminine counterpart to the masculine pastor as the Church is to Christ.

Deaconesses are made up. The best way I can think to describe them is as a distillation of the Church which has occasionally been considered beneficial to have. It would help a lot if we called them something other than deaconesses since there is a New Testament OFFICE of deacon and the two can't help getting tangled up with each other when discussed. Deacon is a technical term in Scripture with specific requirements. There is simply no New Testament OFFICE of deaconess. There is only an itsy-bitsy reference to a woman named Phoebe who serves, end of Phoebe story. I could name 15 women off the top of my head from my own little parish about whom the exact same bio could be written. I could be completely wrong here, but I contend that it is hard to make a case for Phoebe's service as an OFFICIAL one. It's the exact same problem we run into today with "ministry."

Also interesting: the same idiotic arguments for everything are old news. Even back in the bad old LCMS days of women on one side, men on the other, people were boohooing about Galatians 3:28 and the horrific prospect of women's talents being wasted. I'd make a crabby comment about women being considered too stupid to figure out that they should use their talents; on the other hand, there is a bit of a problem with talentolatry conflated with hobbyism on the part of women, the novelty of which I also doubt. Golly, maybe everybody has always been pandering and/or self-obsessed! I wouldn't know, naturally . . . .

That's as far as I've gotten. It's a really long book.

15 August 2012

Usage you can use: O[h]

Anyone familiar with hymns has an advantage in knowing "O" from "Oh". The hymn-literate person may have an intuitive descriptive understanding of this.

"O" introduces a direct address (for fancy types, the vocative case):

I am very tired of swimming about here, O Mouse!

O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken?

O Kitchen! my kitchen!

"Oh" is an interjection.

Oh, I'm not particular as to size.

Oh, that I had a thousand voices to praise my God with thousand tongues!

--but oh! We were all such earnest students!

The O- section of the first line index of LSB is a helpful diagnostic resource. Then for fun, compare it with TLH's. ;)

Oh, who cares?

14 August 2012

To go with your Middlemarch

I read Middlemarch during a really good stretch of reading I had after Baby 2. (I had no friends. None. I almost joined an exercise group at St. Barbara's.) I needed some help with it, though, of precisely the kind this book provides. I'll leave the fun of getting the clergy straight to you (not to mention the drinks and the carriages), but here were the funny parts I remember even now:

One of the quainter, and more confusing, fixtures in your nineteenth century novel is the local clergyman. On the one hand, it was hard to arrange an evening of whist without deferring to the rector; on the other hand, his wife always seemed to show up wearing someone's cast-off frock. Or was that the vicar's wife? And why, pray tell, wasn't the curate invited?

. . .

Members of the "inferior clergy," curates were known for being poor, insecure, and a little uncouth; in your novel, the curate will probably have a large brood of ragged children for whom the gentle heroine is constantly making up baskets of provisions.

An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson

Whist again? They know we have six kids, right?

13 August 2012

Book, enthusiastically recommended

. . . for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. 
Middlemarch, George Eliot

Friends, I have not been so completely satisfied at the close of a book in quite some time. From start to finish, Middlemarch added mint to what I have constantly to imbibe anyway. Ms. Evans, even with all her follies, really, really got it.

Surely, it's not just me. 

07 August 2012

Another miraculous crisis

[Ramblings of a recently postpartum mind trying to make sense of the experience. Skip unless you’re into L&D details.]

Typing up my latest birth story, I noticed something really odd: if read by an objective third party, it might not sound like such a bad deal. I mean, from an outsider’s view, the main post-water-breaking action could be boiled down to three ginormous contractions that made me wish desperately for instant death (but that were spaced far enough for me to fall asleep (!) in between), fifteen or twenty more minutes of unrelenting, excruciating back pain, 2.5 pushes, and---Baby!

Wow, what a lot of women wouldn’t give for that, huh? Although the doctor, in a post-action review, described this L&D as somewhat “surreal” even from her end of the proceedings, she still seemed inclined to classify it as not such a bad deal, considering. In my mind, however, this L&D looms large and terrifying. Go through that again, ever? I can’t even begin to mentally broach the edges of that thought without reaching for a paper bag to breathe into.

In fact, I think I was more nervous heading into this L&D than any of the preceding ones (possibly excepting the first). What gives? Am I the only one who’s actually losing confidence as she goes along? Shouldn’t the fact that babies and I have come out all right on the other side five times now make me ever more assured?

The pain is not fun. I dread the pain, but I can deal with pain, especially pain that I know is finite and productive. And there are drugs to deal with the pain (though unfortunately it seems I’m becoming less and less likely a candidate for such interventions, should I be inclined to request them).    

The uncertainty is unsettling, to say the least. Does anyone really have “textbook” labors, going to the hospital when regular contractions are 5 minutes apart, proceeding smoothly through transition, etc.? I kind of doubt it, but I’d settle for my own stories resembling each other, at least. Deliveries #2 and #3 were somewhat semblant, but that’s about it. Well, at least I can count on the fact that the doctor will have to break my water every time, either as an overdue induction, or to get things progressing in a labor that’s already underway. Oh, except for the time that my water spontaneously broke first, and then nothing else happened until they started the pit drip. Oh yeah, and the time that it actually broke on its own mid-labor.

Well, at least I know that my babies are always late, or else reasonably close to due date. Oh, except for the one that was two weeks early.

Well, at least I know that my babies come pretty fast once it’s pushing time. Oh, except for the time I spent 45 (drug-free) excruciating minutes pushing to turn a large-headed misrotated baby.

Well, at least I’ll always know for sure when it’s time to head to the hospital. Oh, except for the time I showed up for a scheduled checkup kind of thinking things were getting going, and amused and alarmed the doctor by being at 8 cm already.

See what I mean? There’s just not even a hint of a pattern to go by here.

Well, at least I know that the babies always come out OK, with no hint of delivery-related complications. Oh, except for the time a baby swallowed a bunch of amniotic fluid that I think he’s still working out years later ;P. Oh yeah, and that time a few weeks ago when I delivered a purple baby with an almost-triple nuchal cord.

And there, I think, is where the real terror comes in. Those babies were safely delivered. And statistically speaking, and as my own personal statistics have borne out, I am much more likely to lose a baby in the first trimester than in the delivery room. But—what if there hadn’t been enough slack in the cord? What if his head had still been rotated the wrong way like it was when then doctor first checked? What if I had run out of strength to push him out fast enough so that the little bit of “fetal distress” became an unbearable amount of distress? (The fastest our little hospital can pull off an emergency C-section is probably an hour.) What if? What if?  

My delivery room stories have all had happy endings. But I know that not every story does, and I ache for those who have endured a harsher turn of plot. In the delivery room, as a mother pants and struggles through what should be the most natural and fulfilling of roles for her, the bearing of new life, the words of the curse echo loud.

In the delivery room, these present sufferings, this eager longing, bear down sharply. The cursed crisis of the delivery room under which we groan is at once both intensely personal and weighted with the collective universal pain of our foremothers, indeed of all creation.We labor under the weight of the weary world: small wonder that we should groan!

In the delivery room, as the world condenses to another miraculous crisis, Eden is mere memory too distant to be anything but mockery, and the New Earth gleams just beyond the far horizon, promised rather than perceived. Between paradises, we labor by faith and not by sight. We must fight back the vivid uncertainty of What Ifs with the unseen but Realer than real, sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

The curse is visible. The pain is tangible. The What Ifs, not just of pregnancy and delivery, but of the entirety of the child’s future life, are overwhelming. But hope that is seen is not hope. And lest we forget, Eve was called, in sure and certain hope, mother of all the living--after the Fall.

The What Ifs can be terrifying—but they cannot have the last word. As my overanxious brain would do well to remember, the last word has already been spoken. The plot of every life is watered by tears—for some a trickle; others a torrent. But take heart, o my timid soul: the Ending is happy beyond measure, its luster all the more brilliant for the gloss of each precious tear shed.     

04 August 2012


So if someone says to me, "You have SIX kids?" is it somehow not OK for me to respond by saying, "You got your ENTIRE leg tatted?"