My Week In Media

Listening to: the Oh Hellos (is that perfection, or what?). Found them on Noisetrade and downloaded the album legally for free on there in return for the ol’ zip code.

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Podcasting: every week I find myself waiting for Haley and Christy’s podcast, Fountains of Carrots to come out. This week Leila Lawler reminded me to be kind to my kids.

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Reading: I checked out this book on my Kindle through my library’s Overdrive media system solely because I like the cover, the title and the author’s name. So far I kinda like it. It’s not a story with a narrative as I would prefer, but it’s composed of a bunch of little vignettes about living in Paris for a year with her Italian husband and two kids.

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Watching: Started watching this while folding my laundry. It can be silly at times, but also hilarious. Netflix it up.

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Saint Paula of Rome, Pray for Us!

paulaFor the past four years it’s been my tradition to visit Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint’s Name Generator and have it choose a saint to be my companion for the new year. My resulting saint has always been just the one I needed for that year.

The first year I did this I was not yet Catholic, but would be at the coming Easter vigil mass. My saint? St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, whom I was already planning to take as my confirmation saint.

The second year I got St. Paula of Rome, patroness of widows. This one baffled me because I prefer my husband very alive and very well. I was confused all year by this choice. Moving on.

Last year I got St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a holy wife and peacemaker. I became pregnant that year and gave my daughter the middle name Elizabeth in honor of this Elizabeth and Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and mother of John the Baptist.

This year I was given St. Elizabeth whom I mentioned above, mother of John the Baptist. Utter perfection. Bravo, God.

And Monday I finally figured out why I was given St. Paula.

Today I realized that Monday was her feast day.

Mind. Blown.

I guess more than the specific circumstances which I’m alluding to, the revelation speaks about God’s presence in the midst of what I thought at the time was a hopeless situation. He was there, helping me and guiding me even during those times when I thought he felt absent.

Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7

…For in Them Lie the Seeds of Destiny

Yesterday I watched curiously as Lillian carried her tortilla with her into the bath tub, dunked it into the water and ate every last slimy morsel. Clearly there is more than one way to eat a tortilla. There is also more than one way to check a baby’s diaper. My mother in law slides her finger into the rear of the diaper and then pulls it out to examine the evidence. I prefer to use my eyes or nose for that particular diagnostic. The point is, everyone approaches the world with their own way of doing things and there is a place in the world for all different kinds of methods.

Welsh hillsLillian’s favorite movie at the moment is Babe, which means that I have become one of the world’s leading experts on the film. Each time I watch the movie I find myself waiting to hear the narrator deliver this great line at the moment when Farmer Hoggett decides definitively that he’s going to train Babe the pig for the sheepdog trials.

In the movie and even more in the book (expert, remember?), the point seems to be that your traits which would seem to disqualify you for something can actually lead you to develop innovative ways to overcome your shortcomings and you might actually end up being really good at that thing you ought to have been bad at.

This idea has given me so much solace. I started taking classes to become a teacher last year and I have this great hope for the future which is always tempered by the negative thoughts in the back of my mind attacking my character and highlighting my fears. Still, I can’t shake this crazy idea that I’d love to be a teacher.

My hope is that if there’s room for a pig in the world of shepherding, then there’s also room in the world for an over-thinking, introvert teacher.

Naming Imaginary Babies

Me: “What, are you crazy?”

Lillian: “Yes, mama.”

And crazy has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it? I have spent the last several days agonizing over my NFP charts trying to discover the state of my fertility. I have tracked every variance in my waking temperature, parsed out the vagaries of cervical mucus and peered through the tiny lens of my ferning microscope. I have consulted oracles, observed the phases of the moon and read the conglomeration of tea leaves in the bottom of my tea cup. Okay, not that last part. But my midwife has told me that I have a good chance at VBAC if I wait at least 18 months to get pregnant and I am determined, by the grace of God, to follow her advice.

Nevertheless, I have also spent the last few days concocting complicated names comprised of layers of meaning (much like a fine baklava) for future children. Because that’s what happens when you leave an English major librarian type in charge of creating permanent labels for people. And because ultimately, babies are always good even if they arrive outside my narrow and small-minded plans. And because I am a crazy person. So I said.

Gilbert_Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton

My boy name at the moment is Gilbert Keith. Gilbert because of Gilbert Blythe (be still, my literary heart), and Keith because it’s my father’s name. When the two combine, some magic happens and you conjure Gilbert Keith Chesterton, famed brilliant Catholic-convert essayist.

Girl name? Audrey Therese. Because Audrey is beautiful and because St. Therese is my own dear confirmation saint. Of course this is not nearly complicated enough to pass my crazy, self-important naming criteria.

Anyway.

Hello

2015-01-17 06.51.00‘It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. ‘It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!” – A Christmas Carol

The words on the page struck me like a slap in the face. Who, when reading A Christmas Carol identifies with Scrooge? Suddenly I found that I did. I have read these words before, and heard them in every iteration of the story on screen, but now I heard them and found myself guilty of approaching the world with the same sentiment.

I am private to a fault. Some of it stems from selfishness and some of it stems from fear, but the result is the same regardless of motive. My arms and hands have been given to me to provide comfort and often I’ve kept them drawn hard to my sides.

When thinking about choosing a word for the year, the one that came to mind over anything else was, “hello.” I couldn’t shake it, and so it stuck. My word for the year speaks of introductions made and questions asked in all sincerity, encountering the people that come into my path with interest and gratitude.

I came across this paragraph in the library book I’m reading and murdered my librarian sensibilities with a little stroke from my mechanical pencil:

It is easy to compartmentalize life. To say: ‘This is when I feed the hungry, and then I am done.’ But at the heart of the Corporal Works of Mercy is making yourself available to those in need, even when it isn’t convenient, even when you don’t expect it. – Mercy In the City

I am a stay at home mom in rural Texas with two little babies to look after. I don’t encounter homeless people on a regular basis, but I encounter needy people every day. People who need to be loved and known and loved anyway, or welcomed into my home in hospitality. So that’s where I’m gonna start.

And lest, dear extrovert, you think this will be an easy resolution for me, here is a glimpse at the source of my introversion. We are dealing with an uphill battle here, perhaps.

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I have been all over Etsy the last two days searching for a “hello” necklace among the heaping piles of shiny Hello Kitties that I wish I could weed out with a perfectly timed Boolean “not”. Then I second-guessed myself and thought that grasping after jewelry is truly beside the point. Then I third guessed myself when I remembered that I chose a word last year and forgot about it two-whole-seconds later. Anyway. There might be something gold and letterful caressing my neck in the near future. Here’s hoping.

Of Horses and Elephants

“Cook, mama!”

An imperative order I heard this morning coming from the lips of my one-month-shy-of-two-year-old, Lillian. I’m starting to see the blossoming of personality from my little girl as suddenly all of those disconnected instances of screaming or laughter or determined concentration weave themselves together into one solid scrap of temperament. She seems to be a go-getter, preferring to say, “cook, mama!” instead of “I’m hungry.”

Last Sunday we went to my aunt’s house for a late family Christmas party. My aunt’s yard has a lonely swing set and slide once loved by her tall twins. Lillian ran first to the swings and then began the process of climbing a ladder three times her height (somewhat to mama’s dismay!) and flying down the undulating slide to be tossed several feet away onto her rear end. Each time she hopped back up with a smile and climbed that ladder again past her older male cousins who seemed to be working up the courage to try the slide once. My brave girl.

My mind whirls in excitement thinking about watching Cara grow and change into a self-contained little person with (probably) a totally different personality than Lillian. There is not a whole lot happening with a two-month-old except stabilizing sleep patterns (alleluia!) and occasional smiles. It takes awhile for glimmers of personality to emerge. I keep thinking about the differences between Lillian as a baby and Cara.

Lillian had an independent streak right from the very first. She always preferred to sit up, being held in a sitting position first and then transitioning into an early sitter. I wanted to snuggle with her but she did not like leaning back. She screamed at the very first signs of hunger impatiently.

Cara loves to snuggle and recline on anyone who will hold her. She smiled early and we could tell that it wasn’t just a newborn reflex smile. She can be crying for food but will rest, content to wait as long as someone is holding her. Cara seems to be a sweet, easy-going baby.

People instinctively buy my babies different stuff. Lillian always received rabbits and horses and butterflies, things one would find in a dewy meadow. Cara receives elephants and monkeys. The funny thing about this is I picked up two book posters from a Texas Library Association conference years before having babies, thinking they would be cute for little girls if I should ever have any.

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Everything But The Horse (a biography of Holly Hobbie) hangs in Lillian’s room, and Me…Jane (a biography of Jane Goodall) waits in a closet to be framed some day in the future. Cara’s middle name is Jane Elizabeth, so it fits well. Wouldn’t it be cute to decorate each girl’s side of the room with a different theme?

Rebekah’s First (illicit) Communion

olgI returned to my pew after receiving the body of Christ in communion and glanced sideways at my 10 year old, non-Catholic niece. She was holding the host in her hand as she whispered to me, “what do I do with this?” After dragging my jaw up off the floor I said, simply, “eat it.” She put the edge of the host in her mouth and broke a piece off. “Eat it!” I said, “It’s Jesus! Put the whole thing in your mouth and chew it and swallow it quick!” Before communion I had told her, “cross your arms over your chest so you can receive a blessing. Only Catholics can take the bread, but you can receive the blessing.” She got flustered when she made it in front of Father Paul and forgot what to do, and he put the host in her hand. So goes Rebekah’s first communion.

I had my first communion the same way and at the same age, but less innocently. I’d lived my life on the periphery of my family’s Catholic culture, one of those unbaptized babies whose parents say, “when you grow up you can decide.” To me it felt less like choice and more like being left out. Communion was this exotic thing that all my cousins got to do while my brothers and I kept our aching knees on the kneeler. My chance came while attending my aunt’s wedding. My slightly devious cousin whispered to me as people started forming a line, “come with me.” I agreed. Emily has always been the daring leader of our little posse while I have been the creative director. I wasn’t about to question her authority when the request echoed my own desires. I got in line behind Emily and she told me what to do.

I piled one hand on top of the other, slightly cupped. When the priest said, “Body of Christ,” I spat out an Amen and shoved that wafer right in my mouth, imbibing the God I’d always been denied.

The moment of my first, clandestine communion was one of those moments which seemed to come by chance or by force. In hindsight I see the moment dripping in the grace of God who tells the little children, “come.” I hope it can be the same way for my niece, whether she ever knows it or not.

Yet just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

So shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me empty,

but shall do what pleases me,

achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11-12

isiquirrel

Rebekah: “Is he the patron saint of squirrels?”