Unashamed: Part Deux

UnashamedCompared to the time I wet my pants in second grade, it was nothing. (Yeah, we’ll talk about that another time. Maybe.)

It was the first day of first grade, in my new parochial school, Saint John the Baptist. My class had the lay teacher, Ms. Ditton. (There was a mix by then of both lay teachers and sisters.) She was one of the nicest teachers on the planet. (I’ve been blessed in that regard. I can’t remember really having a bad teacher. Less effective? Yes. Bad? Nope.)

I guess I was probably as terrified as a dorky nerd-ette could be. Lots of children (most of whom I didn’t know), new building that had multiple floors, having to sit at a desk that was probably a little too big. All curiosity and wonderment, confusion and not a little bit of awe.

Time for lunch. In those days, our school didn’t have a cafeteria. We went down to the basement, which doubled as a church “hall” where church-related clubs like Rosary Sodality, Legion of Mary, and the Knights of Columbus met for their meetings. There was a kitchen where actual lunch “ladies” prepared home cooked food. (No white uniforms, no hairnets, just dresses and aprons. For real. They were probably grandmothers from the parish.) We walked up to the open “window” and picked up a tray filled with honestly delicious food. Sloppy Joe sandwich (we never had that at home), and corn and something else obviously less memorable. Dessert was, I kid Little Debbie Star Crunchyou not, a Little Debbie Star Crunch Snack Cake (which remains a favorite of mine to this day)! We were instructed to take our trays back upstairs to our classroom to eat. (So much for food fights.)

I made it to the first floor landing when it happened. I don’t know how. I must’ve tripped, or had a hard time balancing the tray, or something. (I distinctly do NOT remember being tripped or any other boy-oriented nonsense.) But the next thing I knew, the tray was all over the floor and I was crying and some kids were laughing and Miss Ditton was drying my eyes and shushing them and giving me a hug and taking me back down for another tray. I think I was almost as sad about having someone else clean up my mess as I was for making it in the first place.

I think that was the first time I felt ashamed. It wasn’t the last. (I still haven’t talked about wetting my pants, but believe me when I tell you, it won’t end there. Nope.)

You see, I didn’t understand then, about the difference between shame and guilt. Even at the tender young age of six, I had developed an idea that something I did had a direct relationship to who I was. That doing something bad (yes, I know, it was really an accident) meant that I was bad.

How ridiculous.

As if our value as human beings can ever be determined by or the equivalent of our actions. Doing bad things can never diminish our worth, our inherent human value. Likewise, all the good things we are capable of doing, all the Mother-Teresa-Wanna-Be actions we’re adding up on the goody-goody scorecard can’t increase the value we, as human beings created by God, have as our personal endowment.

I had nothing to be ashamed of, and neither do you. (Even wetting your pants in the second grade.)

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Date a Guy Who Reads

Guy ReadingThis post is a response to A Girl You Should Date

Date a guy who reads. Date a guy who spends his money on books instead of video games, beer, or tickets to sporting events. He has problems with floor space because he has too many books. He doesn’t have end tables, but he does have stacks of books. Date a guy who has a list of books he wants to read, who has had a library card since he was in first grade.

Find a guy who reads. You’ll know that he does because he will always have an unread book with him, maybe in the back seat of his car, or just under his arm. He’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore (and not just the science fiction section, either), the one who quietly smiles when he finds the book he wants. You see the geek sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

He’s the guy reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at his mug, it’s already getting cool, because he’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. He might look astonished, as most guys who read are not likely to be interrupted, since most people don’t know what to do with a reader, especially if it’s a guy, and it’s not Sports Illustrated. Ask him if he likes the book.

Buy him another cup of coffee.
Let him know what you really think of Hemingway. See if he got through the first chapter of Atlas Shrugged. Understand that if he says he understood James Joyce’s Ulysses he’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask him if he loves Gandalf or he would like to be Gandalf.

It’s easy to date a guy who reads. Give him books for his birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give him the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give him Dante, Dickinson, Pound, Plath. Let him know that you understand that words are love. Understand that he knows the difference between books and reality but by god, he’s going to try to make his life a little like his favorite book. It will never be your fault if he does.

He has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to him. (He already thinks you do, from the first moment that you seemed interested in him…) If he understands syntax, he will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail him. (He already thinks you will—most women have been disappointed in him already.) Because a guy who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because guys who understand know that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two. That while life is more than about rescuing the fair maiden, he’d really like to give it a try. He wants to be your hero. Let him.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Guys who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series. (Which, as a powerful girl who reads, you can admit to doing. It’s cool. You don’t have to like it.)

If you find a guy who reads, keep him close. When you find him up at 2 AM clutching a book to his chest and silently weeping, pull him close and kiss him. Make love. Talk about it. You may lose him for a couple of hours but he will always come back to you. He’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

He will propose at a historical re-enactment. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time you’re sick. Over Skype. He may be past comic books (or not), but he still likes the pictures, especially when they’re of you.

You will start to cry, and laugh, all at the same time. You will wonder why your heart never before realized that there’s enough love in it for every single person in the universe. You will write the story of your lives, have kids (and cats) with strange names and even stranger tastes. He will introduce your children to Beatrix Potter and Guy Reading with Babythe Hobbit, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and he will recite Keats under his breath while you adjust his hat and make sure he has his gloves.

Date a guy who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a guy who can give you the most colorful life imaginable, and not just things from the Victoria Secret catalog. If you can only give him monotony, and stale hours and gossip about Jersey Shore, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a guy who reads.

Don’t get me started about the guys who write. Don’t go there.

Thank you, Rosemarie Urquico, for your original essay.

Religious Enthusiasm

Jacinta Marto, Lucia dos Santos, and Francisco MartoI can’t help it sometimes… I read something about Jesus and how He has done so much for us and loves us, and then I get excited and enter a season of religious enthusiasm! Unfortunately, I usually get discouraged by my inability to actually be a good person.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by reading about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Marian apparitions have long interested me (maybe fascinated is a better term), and these are no exception. In fact, I learned about them when I was a very little girl, so they’re probably my favorite.

The Catholic Church does not officially recognize all apparitions as authentic, and no Catholic is actually required to believe in them. But honestly, if the Blessed Mother appeared to me, and asked me to pray more, would I turn her down? No. Of course not. And I certainly do believe that she appeared to these three children, and there is nothing about her message that is weird or impossible to do. Her requests:

If you’re not Catholic, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about for the last three items. It could be that you don’t know about Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mine looks like this one!this, even if you are Catholic. For more information on these requests, you might try a place called The World Apostolate of Fatima, U.S.A., which is a clearing house for all things Fatima. (There are many web sites about Fatima, from the orthodox to the nonsensical. I will not make any other recommendations.)

Six little requests. So easy to do! So why don’t I? Is it unrealistic? No. Too hard for ordinary people? No. Peculiar to the time and place? No. Am I just too lazy? Probably. And I feel guilty about that.

Fortunately, God is very merciful. He loves it when we brush ourselves off and try again. And so does His mother!

Visual Descriptionary

I ran across a really interesting blog article the other day, and thought it was so cool, I decided to duplicate it (sort of) here.

  1. At the end of this post is a list of questions. Type your answer to each of these in Flickr Search.
  2. From the results, using the first page only, choose an image.
  3. Copy+Paste the URLs of the chosen images in FD’s Mosaic Maker.
  4. Insert the resulting Mosaic in your blog post.
  5. Drop a link to it in the comments to this post

Here’s what I came up with (with the questions and answers following):

mosaic0b1f6c1d3b5c02e8ae7d5d6d2caaf6cf18a18041

Here are the questions:

1. What is your first name? Cynthia
2. What is your favorite food? Right now? Chicken and noodles. (This is a hard one, because I like a lot of different foods.)
3. What high school did you go to? New Haven High School
4. What is your favorite color? Blue
5. Who is your celebrity crush? Johnny Depp (Sigh…)
6. Favorite drink? Milk
7. Dream vacation? Paris
8. Favorite dessert? Cherry cobbler.
9. What do you want to be when you grow up? Grow up? What’s that?
10. What do you love most in life? My daughter.
11. One Word to describe you. Amazing!

Here are the links for the pictures: 1. Waiting for Cynthia, 2. Chicken Noodle Casserole, 3. New Haven High School, 4. Blue Morpho, 5. JOHNNY DEPP, 6. Milk, 7. [Opera House staircase, Paris, France] (LOC), 8. Cherry Cobbler serving, 9. Sprout is now growing up., 10. Waiting for the rain to pass – cycling with my daughter, 11. Black & White Amazing Landscape12. Not available

Everyone, on your mark, get set, and go. Go do this, it will be fun.

The Weekly Yum-ster: Food Pantry Smorgasbord

Food Bank For New York City

Image by Walmart Stores via Flickr

When life gives you lemons, they say, make lemonade. So when the food pantry gives you asparagus, make hollandaise! (Actually, I just steamed the asparagus, and served it with butter and parmesan cheese, with a side of Italian herb focaccia bread.) This is one of the ways that being given a quantity of free food forces one to get creative. You get what you get, so you make what you get!

I went to a weekly food drop-off today, for the first time, and what a haul. An hour or so in line netted me four pounds of asparagus, which, after being picked over, yielded a usable three pounds. Also about two pounds of Anaheim peppers. I have NO idea what to do with those, so I’m scouring the internet for ideas. This is one advantage of the internet—ready access to hundreds of ideas about food! We also got a number of other, more typical items, like bread and snack foods. Whatever. I can use it for Sophia’s work lunches. Nothing I would buy myself—and I guess if it’s in the food drop-off, maybe no one else did either.

I also got some mini pound cakes, which I used as a shortcake substitute with some peaches and vanilla yogurt for dessert. Very yummy. I may go again. It’s a better culinary adventure than I’ve seen in a while.

Getting Organized!

A Manchester pail closet, with a cinder sifter

Image via Wikipedia, of something no one should have to do: sift cinders!

Ever feel like you’re drowning—in possessions? Well, that’s happened to me. I have a little apartment, so maybe it’s not like an episode of Hoarders, but it’s not pretty. And ever since my daughter came home for the summer from college, it’s even less pretty!

I knew that things had gotten bad after last winter’s spate of depression, but once the apartment reaches a certain point of messiness, it’s hard to dig out. There’s just no place to shuffle things around. I envy people with a garage and a mudroom. I have no where to keep my houseplant supplies like fertilizer except in the coat closet. But then where do I keep the coats? I do have an outdoor closet that I keep pots and things in. I did just get that reorganized with some help from a friend.

But it has reached critical mass. I got rid of 10 fruit boxes of books, which I took to Lowry’s Books and More in Three Rivers, MI, and I took what Tom Lowry didn’t want to Paws & Claws in Howe, IN.

SidetrackedBut now it’s down to business. Well, down to business tomorrow, that is, since today is Sunday and I believe the level of work I’m talking about constitutes the kind of menial labor that is not encouraged for Sundays.

I use a combination approach to gettingSink Reflections things done. I really like these systems, they work, and it’s not quite so hard to get back on the wagon once I inevitably fall off, which usually happens every winter. I long for the winter where I stay on track! My first choice is Sidetracked Home Executives(TM): From Pigpen to Paradise, which is great, and doesn’t require a computer, which I think is a nice tool, but what happens when you’re off line. I don’t like having to check my e-mail for housekeeping reminders. The next is a refinement of SHE, which is FlyLady. She does have a book, Sink Reflections, but her real niche is the web. I do like her approach.

And for all the paper, which is a bigger problem than it should be, I am going to try a program by Heidi DeCoux called the Fast-Filing Method. I used to be a good file organizer when I was a secretary, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that the kind of files one keeps at home are far more complex than the kind of files used in an office.

I’ll keep you posted on how things are going. But I’m NOT going to do before and after pictures, because even I have some sense of pride, and Sophia would have a cow if I put pictures of the apartment, as it stands, on line.

Blooming!

Vicki's Flowers 002

These are the flowers I planted last fall at Chris and Vicki’s! Daffodils and Hyacinths. Just in time for Easter, although it’s supposed to rain again tomorrow. Yuck. Too bad Easter isn’t today.

Planting bulbs is always an exercise in faith. You have these dry, onion-like objects, that you put into the ground in the fall (for spring-blooming flowers, that is) and they stay in the ground all winter long, during the cold and snow. There’s always the chance that the soil isn’t good for them, too wet or not enough drainage. They might get eaten by an animal, or just dug up and planted somewhere else. (We found some in the back yard!) But then in the spring, up they come! Hooray!

And just look at all these related articles about spring flowers. They’re so inspiring.