Friday, July 31, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXIV

7 Observations After a Mets Game Edition

1. Boy, the Mets kind of suck.
2. Even at a brand-new stadium, it really hits you that stadiums are all the same, and always have been. Sure, some have more amenities and cleaner bathrooms than others, but turn Citi Field into stone, and you've got the Coliseum! The basic design hasn't changed since Ancient Rome.
3. Rhett's response to the above observation: "Oh my God, only you would think of ancient civilization at a Mets game!"
4. According to my dad: "Only your mother's relatives would bring lentil salad and leftover macaroni to a baseball game." (Yes, my mother's relatives brought lentil salad and leftover macaroni to the baseball game.)
5. It was my 9-year-old cousin's first major league game. His excitement was obvious and contagious. I love seeing someone revel in something I take for granted; it really makes you look at the world with fresher eyes, and appreciate what you have. It's not like baseball games are an everyday occurrence for me, but the past couple years I've gone to a game or two (generally with Rhett, and generally to Nats' games - and it's not like people get particularly excited about Nats games, as a rule. The last one we went to was the worst team in the AL vs. the worst team in the NL, and it was like a game to see who would lose instead of a game to see who would win). People can be so bored and jaded sometimes - it was refreshing to see something that should be exciting actually excite someone.
6. One of the things that excited him very much was the wave. I couldn't help but wonder who invented the wave - were they sending waves around the Coliseum in Ancient Rome? When a wave had never been tried before, who had the foresight to see that it would look really cool? And how on earth did he get people to try it that first time? "Okay, first, everyone in this section stand up and then sit down again! Now, right after that, everyone in this section stand up and sit down again! Won't that be fun? Why are you looking at me funny?"
7. I realized I can't go to a Mets game without missing my grandfather a lot. He died a little over a year ago, and was a huge baseball fan. (As well as a really good player. He once pitched to Willie Mays while they were in the Army together, and he had a chance to go pro that he turned down.) My dad told us tonight how he and my grandfather used to go to numerous Mets games every season. I'd never been to a baseball game with him, but the two are inextricably linked in my mind, to the point that I was tearing up during the 6th inning because I missed him so. RIP.
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Baby Steps in Virtue

Inspired by some posts over at Conversion Diary (like this and this), I've been thinking a lot lately about showing God's love to others, and loving others as He loves me. It makes for a lot of nice thinking, but I haven't found much opportunity to put it into practice in my actions yet.

This morning, I had to make an important phone call - that couldn't be made while I was at work - to an office that opened at 8:30. I hoped to get to 9 am Mass, but even though I dialed right at 8:30, it was 8:53 by the time I got off the phone - and I wasn't dressed yet. I threw my clothes on and ran out the door. I wouldn't say I was speeding, per se, but I wasn't quite abiding by the 30 mph speed limit as I drove to church downtown. And then, not two blocks from my house, a driver in a white car pulled out right in front of me and proceeded to *not* accelerate. We did a cool 25 for as long as I was behind him.

When he'd pulled out, since I'd been going just a bit faster than 25, I ended up right on his tail. In my impatience to get to church, my impulse was not to step on the brake, but to stay there. It took a minute, but eventually, I told myself, "Show God's love to this person by not tailgating him."

The irony was quite apparent. I was on my way to church, and it took an internal lecture get me to stop being a jerk to someone. And the closest I can get to reflecting God's love towards others is to reluctantly try to stop being a jerk. Not tailgating is basic driving etiquette, not to mention safety. It's not quite a paradigm of Christian charity.

I think I still need a lot of work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stressed OUT

Apologies for the low post volume lately. The pressures of finding an apartment, finding an internship, and worrying about how I'll pay for an apartment when I don't get paid for an internship have been getting to me.* They've also been taking up most of my online time. And making me wonder how I ever thought myself mature enough be doing grown-up things. I can't even handle grown-up stresses when I'm still partially supported by my parents and have them to fall back on if I run out of money (just let Mom know tonight that I'll likely be exercising that option next semester). How will I ever handle them when I actually have to be fully responsible for all of my debts?

*Oh, and noticing that I appear to have bounced a tuition check, even though my account had sufficient funds. WTF? There's a $35 returned check fee down the drain.

Friday, July 24, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXIII

1. Some time ago, I was walking behind a couple girls, about my age, maybe a little younger, who were discussing the inherent unfairness of being female. "Women have to find a spouse, get married, and have kids between the ages of, say, 28 and 35." Excuse me? I'm not advocating "children having children," but really, must we ignore the first fifteen years of a woman's fertility?
2. I got a haircut this morning. I hadn't had it cut since Thanksgiving, at which point I'd gotten fed up with it and had my sister cut it on Thanksgiving morning while I sat on the edge of the bathtub with a glass of wine in my hand. It was long, and scraggly, and unkempt, and I was beginning to get embarrassed every time I thought about what adorned my head. Now it's shoulder length, with layers and angles. I feel like a whole new person - and that person is both grown-up and stylish.
3. You may or may not know that I'm a genealogy nerd. I just found out, via Dick's Genealogy and History Corner, that the 1905 NYS Census is online at the pilot! Who's excited?! Since it's not indexed, I guess we know how I'll be spending the rest of my summer vacation.
4. I'm sure that nearly everyone who's reading this post has come from Conversion Diary, but I have to point out Jen's recent post to anyone who hasn't seen it: Inconvenient love: A lesson from a movie theater. I know it sparked a little controversy in the comments, but all I thought when I read it was, "Wow, I should be a better person." Jen's posts often have the effect of making me want to be a better person.
5. I have noticed that the majority of people who arrive on this blog from Google are searching for how to get red wine off of a white wall. I really wish I had better, safer, advice for you, folks. Sorry.
6. I just - as I write this - got the following comment on facebook: "i saw some dude restoring an old book in a church, thought of you...."I think I'm flattered. I guess that's the impression you make on people when you work in museums and archives.
7. Oh goodness, someone has to help me! As I wrote this, Thursday night, I was watching a movie on LMN (Lifetime Movie Network) called Moment of Truth: Justice for Annie. In this movie, a mom begins to suspect that her daughter's accidental death was actually murder for insurance fraud. She and the sympathetic detective uncover evidence, take it to trial, and then the verdict is announced, and it is. . . I sat on the remote! By the time I got it back to the channel, the movie was over. Does anyone know how this movie ends?
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What happened to me?

Monday I sent Rhett a text that said, “18 mos ago, if I’d been someone who went to Confession on my lunchbreak, would you have thought I was a religious nut and not wanted to date me?”

Don’t read that as being pejorative, though I think he did and answered a little defensively. It wasn’t really about who he would or wouldn’t have dated at all. It was about who he was dating, because she’s not the same person she was a year and a half ago – though she often still acts like it.

A year and a half ago, I’d only been to Confession half a dozen times in my life, probably – my First Confession, and then whenever the CCD program happened to take us, which I remember being not quite once a year. I’d gone to Mass on a weekday that wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, too, maybe half a dozen times. More often than not, those were Fr. King’s 11:15 pm Masses during college. (RIP, Fr. King.)

And somehow, earlier this week, I found myself running to Confession on my lunchbreak* so I could be sure I could receive Communion if I was able to wake up in time to make it to daily Mass before work the next day.

“What the heck happened to me?” I wondered in a neutral way – I didn’t think of it negatively, but I also didn’t particularly think of it positively. It was just a fact, and I was confused about how that fact had come to be.

And then, at Mass the next morning (I was a couple minutes late, but I made it. I don’t know how it can be so hard to get up for work or Mass at 9am when 3 days a week I’m out the door by 6:45.), I was struck by one particular phrase. It’s astounding how God primes you for the message you need to hear, and then makes sure you get to hear it. (It is also, for the record, astounding how many things you hear over and over again without ever really hearing them.) The priest simply said, as he always does, “Lord, we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. I know that that line doesn’t apply to a particular instance of being at a particular Mass. But still – It’s a good thing to be at Mass on a weekday! I should be grateful that I’m even there! Because I should be there, and because I certainly didn’t get there on my own – we need to be grateful to God for "counting us worthy to stand in [His] presence and serve [Him] because we could never be in that position if it were left up to us. “What happened to me?” God called, and after fighting it for a while, I answered - without even realizing there was a call or that I was responding to it. Confession I felt I had to do, but Mass on weekdays? I’m still not sure how that came about.

I think, one day a couple weeks ago, I saw people heading into Mass as I was heading into work, and I thought to myself, “Oh, I could get to Mass twice a week without making myself too late for work.” So the next day – I went! Since when is being able to go to Mass any reason to actually go? This is so foreign to me, but I’d been doing it without thinking about it for several weeks – until Monday, when it occurred to me that I was doing something as unthinkable as sacrificing my lunch break, of all the important things, to go to Confession. Who am I? And do I realize how lucky I am?

*For the record, it’s impossible to get uptown, make a quick confession, and get back downtown in the course of a ½ hour lunch break, even if you think you’ve got the subways timed perfectly so you won’t be late.

Friday, July 17, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXII

1. Do you ever think about the fact that men grow hair out of their faces? Being male would be so weird.
2. I'll be in Washington, DC this weekend. Rhett and I are planning an action-packed, fun-filled weekend. It's amazing how many things there are to do in the city once you look for them. I only look for them when I'm visiting. When I live there, I spend most of my weekend afternoons watching TV in Rhett's living room.
3. Speaking of that boy, I've known since the beginning that there were lots of foods he didn't eat or had never tried. (See #2, here) Every so often, I'll offer him a piece of something that's as normal as a blue sky to me, and he'll look at me skeptically and ask, "Would I like that?" I'm still always surprised, but never so much as I was this weekend, when he came to visit me and we went to my grandparents. The poor boy had never had a cannoli. He had to ask me what it was when he saw it on the dessert plate! I about died.
4. At that Sunday dinner at my grandparents, my cousin's husband said to Rhett, "Let us know the next time you're in town. We'll all get together and hang out." The funny thing about that is that he extended the same invitation to me: "Give us a call next time Rhett's in town. We'll all hang out."

Excuse me? Um, buddy, I'm here all the time! We don't need him to hang out!
5. The biggest plus to working at a local history museum is the interesting things you learn. For example, did you know that the largest boom derrick in American at the time was used to construct my middle school? I bet you did not. Talk about your hometown pride!
6. A few 7 Quick Takes ago, I mentioned that I wanted to read things that were fun and interesting but also had some depth and substance. Implicit in that desire was that I wanted these to be new books I hadn't read yet. And yet somehow, with two unread library books on the floor by my bed, last night I found myself weeping quietly as Anne Shirley decides to give up her Avery scholarship to stay in Avonlea and teach so that Marilla can keep Green Gables despite her failing eyesight. (I hope I'm safe in assuming everyone's read Anne of Green Gables?) And, with my library books still untouched on the floor, this morning I opened up Anne of Avonlea. I've been down this road before. I know how it ends: "And then - 'Yeth,' said Rilla." 8 books later. I'm a book and a half in, I'll have to finish the series before I can turn to anything new or different.

Apparently, I still read the entire Anne of Green Gables series every summer, whether I want to or not!
7. The last post reminds me - through most of elementary school, my summer readin consisted primarily of: the Nancy Drew series, the Anne of Green Gables series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Little House books. Each series, in its entirety, ever summer, without fail. I outgrew Nancy first, and then the Little House books, as much as I love them, were a little too simple to read that regularly, though I still go back to them from time to time. The Narnia books I haven't read in a couple years, I think, though this - and having read The Screwtape Letters - made me start thinking of them again. Anne, as you've heard, I re-read with comfortable regularity.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anne Shirley makes me idealistic and disappointed

Last night's post was occasioned not only by the fact that I'm reading the Anne books right now, but also by the fact that I'm in a position to decide whether or not to make the effort to continue some friendships that have been faltering for the past year or so. It's all come to a head in the past couple weeks. Without going into too much detail, I know my friends won't make the effort. If we're ever going to talk, ever going to see each other, it's going to have to be because I called, or because I tried to make plans. And by "make plans," I mean, "ask what they're doing so I might be included in their plans" - because that phone call certainly never includes a "What do you feel like doing?" or a "Sure, we'll come to your place." At most, the response I get is "We're doing X. You can meet us."

And I'm no perfect friend, either, as evidenced by the fact that I whine and complain about it and can't gracefully forgive or live and let live.

So the question at hand is whether it's worth my time and energy to maintain a friendship that in no way resembles or approaches Anne's ideal.

If only real life were like Avonlea

As usual, Anne Shirley says it all:

"Do you know, Mrs. Allan, I'm so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much."

"True friendship is a very helpful thing indeed," said Mrs. Allan, "and we sully it by any failure in truth and sincerity. I fear the name of friendship is often degraded to a kind of intimacy that has nothing of real friendship in it."

"Yes . . . like Gertie Pye's and Julia Bell's. They go everywhere together; but Gertie is always saying nasty things of Julia behind her back and everybody thinks she is jealous of her because she is always so pleased when anybody criticizes Julia. I think it is desecration to call that friendship. If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don't you think? Then friendship would be the most beautiful thing in the world."

(Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What if "toning down the rhetoric" works?

And by “works,” of course, I mean “causes there to be fewer abortions and saves lives” – which is the only thing that counts as success in the abortion debate.

It goes against my every instinct to imply that it might. After all, being vehemently and outspokenly pro-life isn’t rhetoric. It’s standing up for the weak and speaking up for the voiceless. Legal abortion is a tragedy and a travesty.

But I recently had a surprising conversation with one of the most pro-choice of my many loved ones who are pro-choice. The last conversation we’d had – less than a year ago – where abortion had come up, she’d declared that she wouldn’t have a baby for another 4 years or so. If she got pregnant before that line, she’d have an abortion. Afterwards, she’d keep the baby. Even the other pro-choice people who were around had joined me in saying that you can’t be that simplistic with the decision. It’s not just about how old you are, and if you have the same resources and support system at 29 as you do at 30, there’s no reason to have a magical age as the threshold.

And yet we recently had another conversation – like I said, well less than a year later – where she told me that if she got pregnant now, she’d probably have the baby. The sentiment was along the lines of “I think I’d have it, even though I couldn’t afford it.” It wasn’t a particularly strong pro-life declaration, and, of course, there’s no saying she’d never change her mind back in the other direction. But though I didn’t ask, it eventually got me wondering what had caused the change of heart. (I couldn’t figure out how to ask – “But you just said 6 months ago that you’d never have a baby before X age!” without sounding like I was trying to hold her to her earlier promise, which I certainly didn’t want to do.)

And I started thinking about these concepts of “toning down the rhetoric” and “finding common ground.” What if having a very popular, strongly pro-choice president who talks about “reducing the need for abortion” as opposed to “reducing the number of abortions” in and of itself could reduce the number of abortions? Trying to think about it from the perspective of someone who’s pro-choice, “reducing the number of abortions” sounds like we’re saying that there will be fewer abortions, no matter who wants them. (I would support that.) And “reducing the need for abortion” sounds like we’re trying to help prevent people from being in the desperate situations in which they would need abortions. (I would also support that.)

Personally, I think that the only situation which approaches there being a need for an abortion involves immediate danger to the life of the mother. But what if public attention on reducing the need for abortion made people think that there are situations in which an abortion is needed – and correspondingly, situations involving unwanted pregnancies in which it is not? What if a national dialogue about reducing the need for abortions tweaked the idea of when an abortion was warranted, just ever so slightly? Instead of an abortion being warranted whenever a mother so chooses, what if there a slight shift of the collective mindset – even if not the laws – such that people started to think of an abortion as something that is warranted when the mother needs one?

It would really just be a shift towards the world that many pro-choice people insist already exists, one where every abortion-related decision is heart-rending and made with much consideration. And if there are fewer abortions in that world than in this one, that’s a victory, right?

As much as I tried to imagine the pro-choice mindset when I was thinking about this, I realize that I’ve failed in one big way, which is the underlying assumption that not every unwanted pregnancy brings with it the need for an abortion. I hear that a big difference in the approach of those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life, when it comes to reducing the need for abortion, is that the pro-choice side focuses on birth control, while the pro-life side focuses on making sure women who want to keep their babies are materially able to. That implies that the pro-choice side sees an unexpected pregnancy as increasing the need for abortion, and that reducing unwanted pregnancy inherently reduces the need for abortion. I’m sure it does do so, but not inherently.

That’s the point.

What if talking about what reduces the need for abortion slowly brought people around to the idea that an unwanted pregnancy does not equal a needed abortion? If we’re trying to reduce the need for abortion by increasing the support system and the safety net available to women in these situations, shouldn’t we get to the point where all women who are considering an abortion really ask themselves (and I know many do, but I also know many do not), “Do I really need this? Have my support system and my safety net failed me such that I feel I have no other choice?”

Could that happen?

Monday, July 13, 2009

There's no friend like a sister

OR - no, wait, for real this time.

This poem by Christina Rossetti was on a card (from my aunt to my mother) that was hung on our mirror when my sister and I were little. I've always loved it.

For there is no friend like a sister,

in calm or stormy weather,

to cheer one on the tedious way,

to fetch one if one goes astray,

to lift one if one totters down,

to strengthen whilst one stands.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"There's no friend like a sister"

OR, Why Your Sister Is The Best And The Worst Person To Have On Your Team When Playing Taboo

Me: What's on my feet!
Suellen: Shoes!
Me: No, what's on my feet!
Suellen: Ew. Warts.

Well, yes. Precisely.

Unreliable statistics

Reading TIME Magazine this evening, I came across an article about the website that had some content that I would like to strenuously object to. The article, titled Adultery 2.0, is about the fairly despicable site, which provides a platform for people who want to cheat on their spouses. It's pretty terrible overall, but one line in particular stopped me in my tracks and made me exclaim aloud, "You've got to be kidding me!"

"Traffic on the site - which takes its name from the two most popular female names in 2001, the year it launched - tripled on June 22, the day after Father's Day."

Excuse me? In whose world was Ashley one of the top two girls' names in 2001? Madison was, in fact, (unfortunately) #2 in 2001, but Ashley was all the way at #4. (Source: Social Security Administration) Doesn't everyone know that Emily was #1 for 12 years, absolutely precluding that statement from being true? Ashley hadn't been in the top 2 since 1995.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Awesome Old Stuff

A couple awesome things in the news recently:

Roman Mosaic Unveiled in Israel

This beautiful mosaic is in the Biblical town of Lod, a thriving town in Roman times. Officials are trying to use it as the centerpiece of an effort to create a tourist industry here. Read about it at the NYTimes.

Codex Sinaiticus Available Online!

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, we read of the recently-completed digitization of the Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest known surviving Bible, a 4th century Greek manuscript. Read about it here at the Washington Post, and actually read it here (well, you know, if you're fluent in Ancient Greece).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Question Answered by Fr. Z

I'd e-mailed the ever-knowledgeable Fr. Z about an experience I had at Mass this weekend, and he answered me! Part of me feels really cool for making it up on his website, even though I know it's just a question. The other part of me just wishes his answer hadn't been what I'd really known all along it would be - that no, the Consecration wasn't valid, and I didn't receive the Eucharist unless I was lucky enough to have received a Host that had been reserved from a prior Mass. Read my question and his answer here: Words for the Precious Blood twice, none for the Body

Friday, July 3, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXI

1. My cousin, as we listened to a local radio station's weekend-long tribute to Michael Jackson: "It's sad about his death, but this is the best weekend for music in years."
2. ". . . and in your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." Joyful Hope. It's been a long time since my waiting has been joyful or hope-filled, but I'm awash in Joyful Hope this week. Alleluia!
3. I started Twittering this week. I still haven't quite figured out what I'm doing, and I'm reluctant to link to it here because it's attached to my real name and the real-live me. But if you really want to follow me on Twitter, go ahead and e-mail me and I'll give you my Twitter name or whatever that's called. Twitter's got a confusing lexicon.
4. Speaking of e-mailing me, you will now be able to do that, as I've added a link to my blogger profile, which of course itself contains a link to my e-mail address. I had always vaguely wondered how someone could know my e-mail address from this blog, as there didn't seem to be any way to get to my profile, unless I commented on my own posts (which, of course, I do from time to time). It never occurred to me that I could do something about this seeming difficulty until, oh, a minute ago.
5. Speaking of Twitter - anyone have any tips on, like, how it works? I feel a little lost. Maybe if I had my bearings, too, I'd be more likely to share my Twittering more widely.
6. Hmm . . . here I am, composing a 7 Quick Takes Friday, which I don't do all that often anymore, and it occurs to me; I'll be on a blissful vacation in my favorite place in the world, mostly internet inaccessible, come Friday. Oh well. My Quick Takes will be posted, but likely won't be linked to from Conversion Diary. Worse things have happened.
7. I like to use Roman numerals to number my 7 Quick Takes posts, because Roman numerals are cool. They are also, to my Arabically-formed mind, not particularly intuitive. That's why my recent Quick Takes were numbered 17, 18, 14, 20. That's what you get for trying to be cool.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Like a masochist in Newport we're Rhode Island bound!

I won't be around much for the rest of the week since . . .