Saturday, July 30, 2011

Creative Minority Report!

In the rural hills of Tennessee, it's been raining all day, so I've been writing letters and posts, reading books, and watching the endless number of checkers games between various members of my family. (Another perk of a big family: so many contenders!)

I, of course, found a way to pick up the internetz and wandered over to my blog. Once there, I found I was getting traffic from one of my favorite blogs, Creative Minority Report. Not that I mind, but my curiosity was piqued.

Heidi says, inquiring minds want to know!

That's when I found the source of the increased traffic: CMR has picked up my blog and put it under their "Some of Our Favorites" section.

Pat and Matt, I'm geeking out. Truly honored. Thanks, guys!

And to everyone else who lists me and whom I've failed to give personal shout-out to: I know who you are, and I thank you. It's so rewarding having such great folks to write for!

Here are five more things to geek out about:

1. I'm meeting B.'s entire extended family tomorrow. On our way home from Tenneessee, we were going to stop by and have dinner with his immediate family. Now, the entire extended family is in town to visit before the end of summer/ school starts. In fairness, my immediate family about doubles his, so now it's a bit more evened out/ my family will be outnumbered for once.

2. My brother turned 19 a few days ago. There was a birthday party for a little boy at the table next to us, so after we loudly (obnoxiously) sang happy birthday to him, this older lady came over and sweetly asked who was having a birthday. Mikey said it was him, and the lady gave him two pieces of cake and a happy birthday napkin. Now, isn't that Southern hospitality!

Mike wore the napkin as a hat, obviously - what else are napkins for?

3. Fellow upholders of good grammar, behold- my friend Z. sent this to me today: "The Alot is Better Than You At Everything" by Hyperbole and a Half.

Who needs a grammar nazi when you've got an ALOT?

Lookin' good!

4. The Post Office has new American Scientist stamps. I bought two sheets and am celebrating by writing letters to friends. The stamps feature four scientists:
--Severo Ochoa (biochemist): first to synthesize RNA and complete the race to decipher the genetic code)
--Maria Goeppert Mayer (physicist): developed a theoretical model that helped explain the structure of the atomic nucleus)
--Asa Gray (botonist): one of the first professional botanists in the U.S., where he advanced the specialized field of plant geography) and
--Melvin Calvin (chemist): the first scientist to trace in detail the process of photosynthesis AND conducted pioneering reseach using plants as an alternative energy source).

I like being on vacation, I like new stamps and I like having time to write letters! I've been naughty about sending them, especially in these past two months since coming back to Asia. When's the last time you've written someone an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter? Go write one and then support another monopolistic branch of the government: they're millions of dollars of debt and only commercialized holidays and avid epistolary communication can save them now!

5. In a strange turn of events, my baby sister and I were researching chocolate and found out that chocolate was not invented in its solid form until 1847. Does anyone else remember the scene in Ever After where the prince gives the girl a piece of chocolate and said it was from monks? LIES, HOLLYWOOD. And bad history.

Exactly one month till I leave for Germany with my sister Kato. Oh, another game of Crazy Eights is starting. Ciao!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Adventures of the Irish-German Family Robisons

Just a heads up, my family is going on vacation, which means I'm taking a blogging vacation too.

If you need me, we'll be in the South because Lord knows, when it's hot, it can always get hotter. Also, my sister found a cabin on a lake where our dog is allowed to frolic too.

How could we leave her behind?!

Emily of Day in the Life tagged me in a blog meme where you pick seven of your favorite blog posts. I'm sure I'll miss a few, but here goes:

1. Most Beautiful Post(s)

"What is Real? asked the Rabbit" -- later became my first post for TIC

"Master, to whom shall we go?" -- Thomas Aquinas' poetry and reflecting on the Eucharist

2. Most Popular Post(s)

"Hail, Mary!" and "Hillsdating and Other False Realities" both cleared over 1,000 views each.

3. Most Controversial Post

"Going to the Mattresses: One Girl's Take on Faith and Feelings" -- Bright Maidens post no. 5, my issue(s) with the Catholic Church (for more insight into my thoughts on this subject, here is an earlier post/ excerpt from a FOC letter: "Flannery on Faith and Feelings")

4. Most Helpful Post(s)

"I will be the one/ Drenched in Proverbs 31" -- someone else's helpfulness

"A Last Lecture, How Romantic" -- a former professor and an excerpt from his wonderful article (which I heard as a last lecture), "The Romance of Domesticity"

"What's Love Got To Do, Got To Do With It?" -- most helpful post to me and my future discernment, especially in understanding the idea of wives submitting to their husbands and what that means

"Tamed, Thanks to Hillsdale College" -- Dr. Jackson's spring 2010 convocation speech is amazing, especially his voice, his beard and his discussion of Le Petite Prince

"I been leavened by the yeast he don't believe in," he said, "and I won't be burned." -- from my college days; an excerpt from a FOC short story and one scholar's take on it (and life)

5. Post(s) Whose Success Surprised You

"Saint Who?" -- Bright Maidens post no. 4 on patron saints; nicest shout-out ever on CatholicVote

Also, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" -- a short quote by Pope Benedict XVI on making the Church "more attractive" and "credible"

6. A Post You Feel Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved

"Thursdays with My Mom's Side" -- death of a dear one, James Joyce, W.H. Auden, and coming home.

7. Post you’re Most Proud of

"Oh College Days, What Art Thou?" -- a response to a friend who graduated summa cum laude

Here are some more honorable mentions:

"Confessions of the Un-Domestic" -- is a person born domestic? or is domesticity thrust upon them?

"Happy Birthday, William Faulkner!" -- read him.

"Homeless in Columbus" -- a fateful meeting with a homeless man and his poetry

"Shun the Hipsters" -- from a Paris Review interview with John Updike

"A Caucus-Race! In Alexandria, not Wonderland" -- a game I played walking to the metro

Fun trivia from Weez and the USCCB: this week is NFP Awareness Week! Who knew?

The Bright Maidens reached 200 FOLLOWERS over the weekend; have you "liked" us on FB yet? Our next topic will be summer reading and will be due the first Tuesday in August.

See y'all in August!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Piano Keys

"My Grandmother’s Love Letters" by Hart Crane

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.

Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

“Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?”

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Confessions of the Un-Domestic

Is a person born domestic? Or do they have domesticity thrust upon them?

This morning, I got a text from my cousin telling me she was starting to make felt ornaments for her children. Putting aside the fact that she is not in a position to have children, it struck me that I never thought about making felt ornaments for my future children. Mainly because I fully expect my future family's Christmas tree to be covered in a smorgasbord of ornaments like my own family's is - complete with thumb prints with smiley faces drawn on, laminated and then tied with yarn; pictures of us through the years; other creative endeavors my parents cherish dearly and even prefer over bought ornaments.

But back to making ornaments. Or making anything, really. A college friend of mine is sewing her wedding dress. I respect that, but am in no way capably of doing so myself. Another friend recently expressed interest in doing that as well, actually. Today I fixed tea; does that count for anything?

Me woman! Me make pancakes!
My mother is utterly undomestic. She loves her job and gets her kicks there, not in making a good meal or keeping house or sewing us clothes/ costumes (as my aunt did for her two kids-- one of whom is the aforementioned felt-ornament-making-cousin). My three younger sisters have more domestic tendencies. Kato learned to knit when she tore her ACL in high school and cooks; Muffy is organized and can keep a room/ the house spotless; Boo is a decorating master and is the cutest hostess. My sisters have real gifts in the domestic arts.

In this area, I wonder if I have more in common with my two brothers, only with more tact and graciousness. I think my brothers would live in a cave and not notice, as long as it had wireless internet, food and a place to sleep. Come to think of it, so would I... does that make me less womanly?

I've been thinking about this lately, mostly at night while I am up late reading and writing after work. I wonder if I am going to be pulling late hours to do my research after I get the bumpkins into bed. In high school, I received the nickname "Sally." One of the reasons (among the many) was because I was constantly carpooling my five younger siblings around, which apparently makes me comparable to a housewife. I think carpooling will be the least of my duties as a mother, but certainly one I have had plenty of experience in juggling alongside other tasks.

In college, my undomesticated side became ultra-exposed, when I learned I should have been able to bake bread or sew on a button by the age of 18. Allow me to express my yearning for a home education class or two now. Four years later, I graduated without gaining either of the above skills. I moved away from home and realized that I had my own kitchen to cook in. It was tiny. My mom called it a "Julie sized kitchen." I ate a lot of raw vegetables and fruits, grilled cheese and many bowls of cereal. My actual cooking adventures usually involved the smoke alarm unjustly going off.

Yes, this is how big my kitchen was.
Recently, I found a book called "How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew" by Erin Bried and it made me feel instantly better. A lot of the things she writes about, I already know how to do. Hooray! For other things, like cooking a turkey, she explains it well and even editorializes occasionally (she encourages drinking wine while cooking, which is five gold stars in my book!). I have not finished it (yet), but I am grateful for it. It gives me hope. It gives me knowledge. It gives me courage. It gives me directions.

I am starting to think, when the time arrives, domesticity will be thrust upon me, and I will like it because it will be my way of building a loving home for my future family. It sounds like a challenge, and I accept. I also look forward to the little people gripping my legs when the firemen come for their weekly visit and saying, "Mommy tried again!"

When I was growing up, it was always made clear that becoming a wife and mother was always expected, but secondary. Career first, and then you can have a family. Cooking is optional; hire someone to do it is better.

I am starting to see the flaws in this plan. Cracks really: I'm barely 24, have been published in multiple national papers and journals, and I completely freeze up at the thought of cooking pork chops.

Therefore, I would like to share an idea, born from the actions of my doctor, who went to medical school when she was 40 and her kids were more grown, and from my paternal grandmother, who got her Master's in English when my Dad was in high school.

Exceptions aside (my own mother, for instance, would be a very unhappy person if she wasn't working and thus fulfilling her purpose), I think it better to reverse that order: prepare yourself mentally so that you can teach your children and edify yourself and the people around you, be prepared to go back to school when the time comes, and perhaps work part-time. Later, when the children are grown or mostly-grown, there will have more than enough time to pursue something more full-time.

On the plus side, I can overcompensate for my lack of domesticity by sharing my voracious reading habit with the little minds; teach my children logic, reason and theology; play soccer, tennis, dress-up, cards and Monopoly; make homemade play-dough; correct their homework; take walks in the park; color alongside them with my own set crayons and colored pencils. Then we'll clean up our mess and play Simon Says until Mommy Say So.

Do any other [female] readers feel this way? A pressure to work first? Family "later"? Putting emphasis on what we do and not who we are?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy, And No Measuring Tape Can Reach

TBM Topic 13: Fr. John Corapi and the importance of Christian witnessing

"There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy, And No Measuring Tape Can Reach" by Julie Robison
"Believe Me If You Like." by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"What do John Mayer and the Catholic Church have in common?" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

There is something to be said for, what Graham Greene said in Brighton Rock, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has certainly seen its share of sin and scandal in the past 2,000+ years and, most recently, with the latest exposure of John Corapi’s inappropriate escapades, to fuel the opposition’s cackling fire.

In the April 2011 issue of First Things, Gerald McDermott wrote “Evangelicals Divided,” which resulted in many responses, a few of which were published in the June/ July 2011 issue, including from the author himself. Towards the end, he reproached his Papist brethren. “At the same time, I wish the Catholic critics were a bit less triumphalistic,” wrote McDermott. “When the clergy abuse has sent multitudes of Catholics to swim the Tiber away from Rome to either liberal or evangelical Protestantism, and the church is beset with both clergy and parishioners who ignore or defy Rome, one would hope for a bit of ecumenical modesty.” I let out a contented sigh upon reading this- that his protest was but a finger point; in short, our strand of Christendom has its own problems, and gawking is not welcome.

We're not gawking, we're taking a break
“Now, it’s perfectly true that in a way this unholiness of Catholics is a compliment to our religion,” wrote Ronald Knox in a lovely volume of lecture apologetics, In Soft Garments. “Because it does mean that a Catholic does not necessarily cease to be a Catholic because he is a rogue. He knows what is right even when he is doing what is wrong. The Protestant as a rule will give up his faith first and his morals afterwards with Catholics it is the other way round. The Protestant only feels his religion to be true as long as he goes on practising it; the Catholic feels the truth of his religion as something independent of himself, which does not cease to be valid when he, personally, fails to live up to its precepts.”

When news first came out about John Corapi, people were wary. This is a sign of mercy, not blind allegiance. He has shown himself to be an amazing defender of the faith; it is a shame to see such a man go wayward.

In Catholic doctrine, the seven spiritual works of mercy are: counsel the doubtful; instruct the ignorant; admonish sinners; comfort the afflicted; forgive offenses; bear wrongs patiently; pray for the living and the dead. How many people remember these when comparing one Christian witness to another? My siblings made a joke in the car yesterday about how ignorant people are “people who know they know everything already.” I thought this an astute observation from a 13 and 15 year old.

As Americans, we should believe that all people are innocent until proven otherwise. As Christians, we know no one can escape final justice. Therefore, as Roman Catholics, all voluntarily professing believers in the same dogma and equal participants in the sacraments, we must especially pray for mercy and grace, for ourselves and each other. Pope Benedict XVI, during his inauguration on April 24, 2005 to become the 265th Bishop of Rome, said, “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

Pray for him! We're so blessed to have him lead us.

Holy people are not exempt from temptation, though they rise above the occasion. Fr. Joseph Esper, in his excellent book Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems*, opens the chapter on “Temptation” as such:
What is the one thing every human being throughout history who has reached the age of reason has shared in common? It isn’t the reality of sin, either Original Sin or personal sin. Jesus and Mary never sinner, and neither was touched by the sinful inheritance of Adam and Eve. No, the one reality we all share is the experience of being tempted to sin. Even Jesus (and surely Mary, although Scripture doesn’t record it) experienced temptation. Three times the evil one approached Jesus during His forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert… In each case, Jesus rejected the Devil’s suggestions. Not only did He wish to remain true to the will of His Father, but He also desired to provide us with encouragement to face and, with His help, to overcome our own temptations to sin.
Corapi, for all his positive work in the advancement of the faith, has reassured me of something with his moral failings and betrayal of his vows: Truth prevails. The Catholic Church is a vehicle of God, not man. His personal actions were sinful, but the Church’s teachings do not change. I am not Roman Catholic because of one man’s persuasiveness, nor do a thousand-billion people’s personal sins lessen the truths given to us by Jesus Christ, the divine revelation from God the Father or the works of the Holy Spirit.

St. Thomas More would know a thing or two about this

As Pope Benedict XVI told journalist Peter Seewald in Light of the World, “But we must also note that in these matter s [sexual abuse scandals] we are not dealing with something specific to the Catholic priesthood or the Catholic Church. They are, unfortunately, simply rooted in man’s sinful situation, which is also present in the Catholic Church and led to these terrible results.”

After all, as Knox later jokes, “If all Catholics were saints, the truth of our religion would become too glaringly obvious, and there would be no real exercise in making one’s submission to the Church.”

In these times, I pray. Pray for mercy. Pray for help. Pray for hope. Pray for repentance. I also stand my ground. This is what witnessing is; no one is convinced by otherwise. I show mercy. I give help. I tell of my hope, and my reason for it. I repent of my sins, in my heart and in the confessional. To witness, one must believe in the tenants of Christianity, which give cause for virtuous actions, and thus the heart will be sanctified, so that the burning love for God will be kindled and the Holy Spirit’s fire will spread to many more, for the glory of the Kingdom to come.

The one fact of life we must never forget is that all people matter; all people have souls worth saving. Corapi's life is not over in the Church. The one lost sheep is worth looking for; the Prodigal Son’s return is worth celebrating. There is much to feel blessed about, when one sees good come from bad situations, wrongs rightened, and perseverance through the darkness. In that vein, I particularly like this question and answer from Light of the World:

Seewald asked,
The scandal of sexual abuse could cause us to ask about other cases of abuse of well. For instance, the abuse of power. The abuse of a relationship. The abuse of a commission to educate. The misuse of my gifts. In ancient Greece a tragedy was supposed to cause strong emotions in the spectators, a “cathartic” or cleansing effect that made them think in a new way about their life. Only catharsis makes people ready to change their deeply ingrained behaviors. Couldn’t the current crisis of the Church become a new opportunity also?
Pope Benedict XVI replied,
I think so. Indeed, I have already mentioned that the Year of Priests, which turned out quite differently from what we had expected, had a cathartic effect also. That the laity, too, became grateful again for what the priesthood really is and saw its positive nature in a new way, precisely in the midst of the disturbances and the threats to it. 
This catharsis is for all of us, for all of society, but especially of course for the Church, a call to recognize again our fundamental values and to see the dangers that profoundly threaten not only priests but also society as a whole. Knowledge about this threat and the destruction of the moral framework of out society should be for us a call to purification. We must acknowledge again that we cannot simply live in any way we please. That freedom cannot be arbitrariness. That is imperative to learn to exercise a freedom that is responsibility.
As such, each of have a responsibility in this lifetime to discern and properly seek our purpose, to live according to the Word and Catholic doctrine, and to be a witness for how our relationship with God-in-Three has and continues to profoundly change our hearts and shape our souls. As was proclaimed in the Gospel on Sunday, weeds will grow up beside the harvest, but it is not for us to pick them out before the whole crop comes to fruition. In the sin of scandal, our ruffled feathers help us straighten out our own lives, examine our own actions and thoughts, and more earnestly seek to live more faithfully.

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Pope Benedict XVI explained this best in his brilliant Introduction to Christianity, with the reminder to use our fallen natures as the stepping stone upwards to God, for we are not called to a flawless, never-tripping-or-making-mistakes holiness, but perfection through sanctification:
On the contrary, this holiness expressed itself precisely as mingling with the sinners whom Jesus drew into his vicinity; as mingling to the point where he himself was made "to be sin" and bore the curse of the law in execution as a criminal-- complete community of fate with the lost (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). He has drawn sin to himself, made it his lot, and so revealed what true "holiness" is: not separation, but union; not judgment, but redeeming love.

Is the Church not simply a continuation of God's continual plunge into human wretchedness; is she not simply the continuation of Jesus' habit of sitting at the table with sinners, of his mingling with the misery of sin to the point where he actually seems to sink under its weight? Is there not revealed in the unholy holiness of the Church, as opposed to man's expectation of purity, God's true holiness, which is love, love that does not keep its distance in a sort of aristocratic, untouchable purity but mixes with the dirt of the world, in order to thus overcome it? Can, therefore, the holiness of the Church be anything else but the bearing with one another that comes, of course, from the fact that all of us are bourne up by Christ?
No one escapes temptation's siren call, but how one responds to it determines the course. We should mourn Corapi's decisions, pray for him, and hope for him, as we should for all people. No one is outside the realm of God's mercy and we should witness for Christ accordingly, in our unwholly holy way.

"So I find words I never thought to speak/ In streets I never thought I should revisit/ When I left my body on a distant shore./ Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us/ To purify the dialect of the tribe/ And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,/ Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age/ To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort./ First, the cold friction of expiring sense/ Without enchantment, offering no promise/ But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit/ As body and soul begin to fall asunder./ Second, the conscious impotence of rage/ At human folly, and the laceration/ Of laughter at what ceases to amuse./ And last, the rending pain of re-enactment/ Of all that you have done, and been; the shame/ Of motives late revealed, and the awareness/ Of things ill done and done to others' harm/ Which once you took for exercise of virtue."
-- T.S. Eliot, from "Little Gidding"

*This book is perhaps the borrowed the most from me and then subsequently bought; it is really stupendous, and now there is a second volume. Published by Sophia Institute Press.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gone Fishing

Last week, I spent a whole day on a river. My family has never gone fishing on purpose, but B.'s family does it often and I was invited to come along. One of my goals for this year was to catch a fish, so another check mark has been added to the list! Here's my Top 10 of What I Learned About Fishing (and Myself):

1. Netting means you take the net and pick up the fish with it. Really, I didn't know what to do. B. thought I was joking too.

Haw-haw, you want me to do what?
2. There is a proper way to hold a fish.

And this is not it.
3. Putting double or even triple the amount of bait on the hook usually leads to catching fish.

My first fish ever-ever! Gluttonous little blighter.
4. Removing the hook from a fish is not for the faint-of-heart (nor is gutting it, but that was later on).

 5. One should not start the motor of a boat when one's fishing line is still oot and aboot.

The water was a refreshing 49 degrees
6.  One should be constantly re-applying sunscreen.

My fair Irish skin was loving me right then
7. Fish are food, not friends!


8. It's a lot of fun to take along a dog who likes the water and swimming for a half mile to catch up with her favorite member of the family (who was in the canoe), not to mention entertaining.

She also likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain

10. I need to buy practical sandals. Oh, and I like fishing!

The SECOND fish I caught! (Please note that it is bleeding on me.)
Also, I now get to use the phrase, "I done gone fishin'!!" in casual conversation...

It was a great day.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Brother, Can You Lend A Hand?

Leah of Unequally Yoked is looking for more Christian participants for her ongoing Ideological Turing Test. The experiment is designed "to challenge participants to see if they understand the side they oppose or if they're just going after straw men."

She says,
To that end, a slate of 15 Christian and atheist participants wrote answers to questions intended for Christians. The Christians answered honestly and the atheists tried to answer as they thought a Christian would. Now, it's up to reader to guess who was sincere and who was shamming. Last week, I ran this experiment the other way, with Christians trying to pass as atheists. (There's a slightly more involved explanation here.)

The link to the survey is up here.

She'll reveal the answers by Wednesday so everyone can see how well both sides do at knowing what the other side actually thinks! Plus: nerdy data analysis and visualization!

This is a really good opportunity for growth of understanding of both sides, and I really encourage y'all to check it out!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Got A Feeling

Last night, before I drove 10 minutes away to pick up my brother from a junior high dance with other kids from local Catholic grade schools, I got a bad feeling. A really bad feeling.

I do not normally have bad or good feeling on non-essential things; I never even felt this way when I took my long plane ride overseas. I do not usually care for gut reactions, either. But when I do, I usually know better than not to follow them. Once I got a bad feeling about driving a certain road, didn't follow it, and I got a ticket. Another time, I got a bad feeling, ignored it and I was parked on the highway for an hour and a half. This time, I got a bad feeling and saw myself get into a horrible car accident.

Heidi is a very snuggly dog.
Yes dear readers, this was definitely a more extreme feeling. I even saw myself die. Yeah, I'm not ready for that either, so I asked my Dad to drive, and I sat in the passenger seat, chatting with him and mentally saying Our Fathers. After I got home, I snuggled with Heidi. 

I should also add that I drove a lot yesterday, so it wasn't a fear of driving. I drove two hours from my boyfriend's parents' house to work (we went fishing two days ago!); then a half hour home from work; then 15-20 minutes to my grandparents' house to water their plants, then 15-20 minutes home; not to mention another 20 minute round trip to pick up my baby sister from her friend's house later that night. 

I even enjoy driving at night, so it's almost a shame I felt so ill at ease. In any case, as Elizabeth said, those moments certainly help you look at life differently. 

Here's another example of a lighter, much less extreme "bad" feeling I got last Halloween, a.k.a. my youngest brother's birthday:

I was making a cookie cake for my brother and broke the spoon. Bad omen? 
See? It broke. Sad.
And then our house was invaded by seventh graders!

There is no point to this story, or ending really, but I do have an interest in hearing if anyone else has gotten feelings like this before. I do not consider myself superstitious, but the feeling did rattle me. (I was fine driving to work this morning, by the way, and am feeling just dandy now, thank you!) What helps y'all feel better? Who do you like to talk to? How do you handle those kinds of feelings?

In other news, I am going to see Amos Lee and Lucinda Williams tonight with my friend Em!! Listen and love:

Amos - "Flowers"

Lucinda - "Buttercup":

I also just devoured a roll of lifesavers with my Dad and sister, minus the pineapple ones. Have a blessed weekend y'all!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Old Man River

"Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

I went fishing yesterday. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ain’t Tat Something

TBM Topic 12: Tattoos

"Ain't Tat Something" by Julie Robison
"In Memory Of" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"Needle and the damage done" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Last Tuesday, I drove my brother north to his interview with the Navy. I was struck by the number of times the Lieutenant asked him if he had any tattoos. I found out later that the Navy allows tattoos if they are covered by conventional clothing (i.e. chest, back), but not otherwise. I am not sure why this is, but it made me think of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Parker’s Back.”

O.E. Parker, the protagonist, had been in the Navy. Nearly his entire body is covered with tattoos, with the notable exception of his back. Parker was “as ordinary as a loaf of bread” and began getting tattoos put on his body after he saw a man at a fair who was tattooed from head to foot. “Until he saw this man at the fair,” wrote O’Connor, “it did not enter his head that there was anything out of the ordinary about the fact that he existed.”

Parker later falls in love with Sarah Ruth, who was “forever sniffing up sin.” She was the daughter of a “Straight Gospel preacher,” and was the first woman he met who did not approve of his tattoos, calling them “a heap of vanity.” He is not religious or interested in it, but still wants to make an effort to please his wife, who constantly threatens his lax language with references to Judgment Day.

The Christ
And so, Parker decides to get a tattoo of the Byzantine Christ on his back for her. It takes the artist two days and Parker pays $20. The tattooist (and later, men at the pool hall) asks if Parker has gone and “got religion” and if he is “ saved” now. “Naw,” Parker replied; “I ain’t got no use for none of that. A man can’t save his self from whatever it is he don’t deserve any of my sympathy. …I married a woman that’s saved, ” is his defense. Parker believes she’ll like it because “She can’t help herself… She can’t say she don’t like the looks of God.”

Sarah Ruth, in  fact, doesn’t like it. She takes a broom and whacks him on the back again and again, screaming “idolatry!” at her husband; “I can put up with lies and vanity but I don’t want no idolater in this house!” When she sees the face of the Christ, she says she doesn't know him. When Parker says it's God, she asserts that God "don't look. He's a spirit. No man shall see his face."

I love this short story. Mainly for its mockery of the assertion that God is merely a spirit, which is practically a denial that Jesus is the Word made flesh and lived on this earth, but also for its social commentary. Parker's mother, for instance, "wept over what was becoming of him" after he got his first tattoo (and then began to drink beer and get in fights). She will not pay for his tattoos (except for the one with her name on it) and attempts to drag her son to a revival, before he runs away from home and joins the Navy. His wife barely tolerates the tattoos, and prefers him his sleeves rolled down and fully covered. Before her, he found that women were attracted to his tattoos and men liked to gawk at his new tattoos. He never felt satisfied for long, and always yearned for another tattoo, filling the space, searching for his next one. It's a beautiful and physical image of a man looking for personal fulfillment.

I do not think tattoos are an issue of morals or faith. The argument that one should respect one's body can easily be countered by examples of people who disrespect their body by overeating and/ or drinking, indulging in sexual appetites, and violence. In terms of my Catholicism and tattoos, there is nothing in my beliefs which sway me here or there on tattoos.

There is no right or wrong answer on tattoos. My own opinion, of course, generally thumbs its nose down at tattoos. There are, of course, exceptions and double-standards. I don't mind them on males nearly as much as I despise them on girls. There are also industries where outside appearance matters-- in banking, law, and medicine, for instance-- visibly noticeable tattoos would not be tolerated.

For me, the bigger question is why: Why are you getting that tattoo? Why are you putting it there? Why are you inking something permanently to your largest organ?

a depiction of Parker's back
Apparently tats are big chick and/ or hipster magnets. I'm sorry, I meant "tattoos." I was trying to sound hip, which I am not. In all seriousness, tattoos do hold a fascination for many people. I cannot suppose why, but O'Connor gave me an inkling into such a sentiment.

Near the end of "Parker's Back," O'Connor wrote, "Parker sat for a long time on the ground in the alley behind the pool hall, examining his soul. He saw it as a spider web of facts and lies that was not at all important to him but which appeared to be necessary in spite of his opinion. The eyes that were not forever on his back [of Jesus Chris] were eyes to be obeyed. He was as certain of it as he had ever been of anything."

In the end, in the Resurrection of the body, God-in-Three will not be concerned with the marks on our body, but the state of our souls, our pursuit of truth and our love of God and each other. A tattoo is not going to disrupt our journey towards God, and it should not be a distraction to believers or non-believers alike. One day, when we see the face of God, that will be something to stare at; but for now, tat's tat!

Do you have a Twitter? Follow us! @BrightMaidens

In addendum: If you want to know why this post is late, read here. If you want to read Will's guest post, click here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guest Post: Tattoos are Permanent….and You are an Idiot

TBM Topic 12: Tattoos

Join the discussion!
Guest post by B.

Most of my own views have already been stated by previous posters, that tattoos aren’t wrong, but they can be quite distracting and thus have important social consequences that need to be considered. I believe that the strongest argument for why one should very much consider not getting a tattoo is wonderfully summarized in this video, which also gives the title of this piece:

(warning: it has a few offensive words for the faint of ear)

A much more interesting argument than why you shouldn’t get a tattoo is why you should get one! As far as I’ve thought about it, there are two main reasons to consider a tattoo: to seal a memory, or to make a sign of commitment.

People before me posted pictures of tattoos showing devotion to God and Mary. I would like to offer a potential new tradition involving tattoos: getting inked together with your significant other after you get married! A ring can easily be removed as about a million of our nation’s married couples are demonstrating annually, but a tattoo requires a bit more effort to erase that mark. Not only would a tattoo be a permanent sign of commitment, it also would encourage choosing wisely!

Make sense? I think so. It doesn't have to be gaudy or publicly displayed, and if your partner doesn’t want one, there’s no sense in pressuring him/her to get one anyway.

Anyone else think it’s an interesting idea?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Falls By Any Other Name

"Niagara" by Mary Ann Spooner

Oh I scene of wondrous beauty! Let my soul
Pour its deep tribute unto thee, my God.
Here, at Earth's noble altar, here, where swells
With ceaseless voice that shakes the solid earth,
Though mountain piled thy high transcending praise;
Yea, waves an incense hallowed pure and bright,
As wakes an image of most holy things.
Oh! let the spirit of the glorious scene
Imbue my soul and lift it unto thee!
Here, the deep record of the earth-swept flood,
And thy almighty Power are yet preserved;
And here, long treasured from the eye of faith,
Nature unveils the beauty of our earth.
As from her deep Baptism soft, once more,
Amid rejoicing waves she chastened rose,
The radiant signet, on her happy brow,
Token of peace, of hope, of tender love!
And what a majesty surrounds this scene
That pictures forth the attributes of God!
Yea, shrinks the spirit at the awful view!
The mighty Power that formed, and can destroy;
The spirits Purity, that upward springs;
The vast Eternity we cannot grasp;
And Mercy's coronal that crowns the whole!
On, on, as these delightful waves, may I
My destined course through rapid time pursue,
And yield my spirit at the certain verge,
As prompt, as pure, as spring these parted waves;
My Savior's glories imaged as it rise,
As on this soaring wreath, light's living hues!

I found out about Mary Ann Spooner, a poet and convert to Catholicism, in a blog post by Pat McNamara. She wrote the above poem at the Falls on August 4, 1829. Did you know Niagara Falls are actually three different falls? There is the American Falls on the left, the Bridal Falls in the middle, and the Canadian/ Horseshoe Falls on the right. The word "Niagara" is derived from the Iroquois Indian word "Onguiaahra," which means "the strait." Also, the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive was a 63 year old female schoolteacher!

Here's my family at the Falls a few years ago:

Most of us, before the boat ride started
Looking at the Falls
My sister and brother at the wettest point
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Building Up My Excuse Wall Nice And High

Sorry my latest Bright Maidens post is late... again. I wasn't out of the country this time. I wasn't recovering from jet lag either. I did drive my brother to the doctor and then to his interview with the Navy, but that shouldn't have prevented me from posting. My laptop refusing to turn on, however, did.

Okay Julie, you're thinking. Not a big deal. Just a post. You couldn't have prevented your computer from deciding to go black and then have little Windows icon to swirl around for hours.

But, I beg to differ. I missed a deadline.

In professional journalism, my past life, that doesn't happen. You miss a deadline and... well, bad news bears, yo. You're messin' with the lay-out folks now. I used to lose a lot of sleep under the pressure of a deadline. It was wonderful and exhilarating. I took pride in it. I liked how hard I could work under pressure, and the beautiful prose tapped out of my fingertips.

As some older readers know, I used to be a reporter. I covered the statehouse and had a jolly good time. Then, for many reasons, I quit, moved home and began writing and researching for the family business. I'm still Arts and Letters Editor of a quarterly, but I've mostly hopped off my journalism perch, and am enjoying a more distant view of a business I once thought of as my life.

As Girl Scouts taught me, make new friends, but keep the old
It is amazing what distance will do for perspective. I talked to a good friend last week, and he asked me about what I am up to. The conversation almost made me laugh from glee, that pithy C.S. Lewis line about telling God your plans coming to mind, and I told my friend how much I am enjoying life. We have been friends since college: he knew me when I was dead-set on D.C., saw me lean towards marketing, helped edit my first academic journal piece, and has been a wonderful friend to me. My update was much longer than his, for better or worse. He's still on the same track: rocking med school.

On one hand, I envy those in medical or law school, those working in their field of choice, those who shaken off the dust of their hometown and have arrived on the scene in the big city. There's a plan and a path, and the fruit of one's hard work can usually be seen on a larger scale. They're makin' their mark, and they won't stop until they get there.

But where are they going, exactly?

I find there's something alluring about striking out on my own path, beating my own drum, figuring "it" out. Belle sings in Disney's Beauty and the Beast about the provincial life, saying she wants more and declaring that there must be more!

I sympathize with Belle, but only to an extent. I work for my family business. I like it, but sometimes I forget that one must work within one's postage stamp of native soil to really excel. It takes experiences like talking to good friends to remind me of what I have, and how blessed I am to be at home.

Every choice is a give and take, and I'm freely and no longer choosing the promise of a career over my relationships with people. (Not that other people in their respective fields necessarily are-- but I was, which is my point.)

Leaping down the hill in Georgia
Living at home again has taught me how to handle the unexpected. I have to be diligent at work, or else I won't be able to get my work done on time when my parents need me to take my brother-with-mono to the doctor again.

In two weeks, I have a couple book reviews due. I need to plan ahead to make deadline, which includes Saturday Fun (a.k.a. all house clean-up) and washing dinner dishes. I'm helping someone do research for a book: there's a schedule I have to keep to. I might go overseas again; I play tennis on Tuesdays, see friends and B. through the week, and go on walk-runs with my dog. I'm doing my own research, and writing letters, and writing more articles, including my Bright Maidens posts.

I realized today: I really should plan to publish earlier than the day of. Life happens, but that doesn't mean writing shouldn't.

Thus, I am sorry, sort of.

Perhaps I shouldn't be. Maybe you didn't even notice, dear readers, but nonetheless, please accept my apology for tardiness and bear witness to my persistence in attempting to publish things on time. I will return to my old habits, mostly.

As Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring (which I am listening to during my daily hour commute, to lessen the time brunt), "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

I'm not sorry I'm spending my time with people, but I am for not publishing on time, which is, in a way, an opportunity to spend time and share my thoughts with y'all, as you share back with me.

Here's something to read in the meantime: Knocking at the Door: Musings on history, philosophy, theology, literature, and culture. It's a blog by my good friend Mitch, a grad student at TCU studying the Civil War. He also features the above Tolkien quote and offers lovely commentary on things he reads.

Also worth a skim: Holy Women & Everyday Hero Priests -UPDATE by Elizabeth Scalia

Happy Wednesday, y'all! And thanks for reading.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Life is Liturgical

Are you a trader?

H/T Aggie Catholics

For your July 1st enjoyment - here are The Avett Brothers singing "If its the Beaches":

I just love their sound...

Also, my latest on The Imaginative Conservative: "Live the Fourth"

Happy Fourth of July weekend, y'all!