Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mathematics of Love

From the time I was 12 until about 16, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I'd say that I wanted to get married and have 12 children. (I need to work on recovering that boldness; I almost never tell anyone about my 12 children anymore.)

There have been only two times that I got an encouraging reaction. The first was from a very sweet mother of 10 in our old homeschool group. The second was from the Cobbler. Virtually everyone else has said something along the lines of "You'll change your mind after the first [one, three, etc.]."

I'm not going to deny that taking care of kids is hard work. It is. I just hate this attitude that it's impossible to raise more than 2 children. 100 years ago people raised half a dozen kids and thought nothing of it. There are a couple of things that seem to be connected to the change in attitude. One is a change in social structures, which I'll hopefully address in the near future. The one I want to address here, though, is a change in the idea of how love works.

People who think you should never have more than two children seem to have this idea that love works like division. If you have a spouse and one child, you give each of them a certain amount of love. If you have a spouse and three children, then that's four people to love instead of two, and so the amount of love you give each person is cut in half.

May I respectfully say that this is bull? I have had the priviledge of knowing a couple of larger families (I'm thinking particularly of two families who each have 5 children at home.) Not one of the children in these families shows signs of not getting enough love or attention. The older ones have little siblings who worship them; the younger ones have big siblings who dote on them. And the parents are devoted to each and every one of their children. In other words, not only do they have what an only child has (parents who love them deeply), they have another four people who love them as much. Who would want two or three people loving them when they can have six or eight or ten or thirteen?

The more people you love, the more love you have. This isn't a division problem; it's multiplication.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Am I Bossy?

Things I have said to my boyfriend in the last 24 hours:

6:00 PM: "Are you going to eat any actual food?"

11:30 PM: "Go to sleep. I mean it."

7:55 AM: "Are you awake? Are you coming to breakfast?"

8:05 AM: See above

8:40 AM: "Get your bag."

8:45 AM: "Go to class."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Week over

I don't have any Friday classes (yes, you may hate me), so I am now officially in the weekend. I'm too tired to post much, plus Scott ought to call me pretty soon so we can go to dinner (he's at Mass).



So, I'll just share a picture with you:




The pagans get Labor Day off. The Captain and I are very excited.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Green Lamp-post

In the novel Manalive by G. K. Chesterton (good grief, that sounds just like how I used to begin my book reports), in the chapter entitled The Round Road (or The Desertion Charge) the author notes that on the corner next to Innocent Smith's house stand a green lamp-post and a red pillar-box. I don't have the foggiest idea what a pillar-box is, and I'm not sure why that little detail stuck in my head, but it did. Now, I loathe it when people ascribe Deep and Symbolic Meaning to everything an author pens, so I won't attempt to say what Chesterton meant with his little detail of the green lamp-post and red pillar-box. But I will say that those two things stand in my mind as symbols of home--of having a place you love not because it is objectively so much better than other places, but because it has your very own green lamp-post and red pillar-box. (You're all going to have that phrase stuck in your heads now, aren't you?)

In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis wrote (there's another classic book report opening for you) that affection is the "lowest" of the four loves (more thoughts on that book here) because the objects of affection are often without any objective merit. We love them simply because they are there, not because they are beautiful or clever or useful or any such thing.

In some ways, though, I think our affection comes very close to how God loves us. He doesn't love us because we are good and holy (if He did, I would be in serious trouble) but simply because we are His.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm old

Freshman: "Ooh, those look good! What are they?"

Scott: "Strawberry smoothies. You can get them at Jazzman's in the JC."

Freshman: [runs off with a delighted look on her face]

Me: "Freshmen are so cute."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prayers needed

One of my friends linked to this article on his Facebook page today.

Please pray...for Kelly, for her teammates, for their families and friends, for everyone at Franciscan...for the safety of the hundreds of students who are going to be driving back in the next few days.

The Other Side of Surrender

In four days I'll be going back to school for my sophomore year. Thus far the first week looks to be remarkably easy--far easier than the horribly homesick first week of freshman year (in fact, I spent my whole first semester dealing with chronic homesickness--it didn't get better until about a month into second semester).

Yet I still find myself experiencing moments of tense anxiety when I think about going back to school. This may sound strange, but I find it hard to believe that God will allow me to be simply happy for a while.

Now, I don't think of God as some kind of Divine Spoilsport who wants me to be miserable, but I do have two reasons to doubt that life will be easy. One, I've spent the last seven months or so feeling like Peter did a few Gospel readings ago--I have to reach out and cling to Jesus just to keep from drowning. In my case there's the added twist that in order to grab Jesus' outstretched hand I have to drop everything else to which I'm clinging and trust that it will not sink irretrievably unless the good Lord wills it. In short, I've gotten rather accustomed to the stormy seas and I'm wondering when the next wave is going to come.

But that's not the main reason. The main reason is that I experience God most closely through suffering--when I let go of everything else and there's nothing in all the world but Him and me.

There is a severe sort of joy in lying thus naked on the bare hand of God. I think one of the reasons we experience spiritual growth as suffering is because we are pained by an excess of joy, just as we can be blinded by an excess of light.

So whenever the blaze of God's splendor subsides into a little hearth-fire which must be tended and fed lest it fade to mere embers, I find myself half anticipating and half dreading the day when it will become, once more, a consuming flame that burns away everything but the bare essentials.

I wonder, though, if this phenomenon is yet another manifestation of my desire to have life look the way I expect it to look. I expect my crosses to look like crosses, not feather-beds. What if embracing God's will sometimes means embracing happiness? What if it means surrendering myself utterly to the blessings which God has put in my life, not holding back because I'm afraid that someday all these things I hold dear will be taken away--that He will ask me to give them up?

But what if He never does? What if, on that day when it truly is just Him and me, the question He asks is not, "Why did you not embrace the crosses you had been given?" but "Why did you not embrace the blessings you had been given?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer Reading Conclusion

Since my last update I've read three more of the books on my list. I read Big Red and The Black Stallion both over the course of 3 days because those two books were from the Polis library, which sends out overdue notices every three days, and Mom said she didn't want another overdue notice so I promised I'd have both books read within three days. (The other books are from a larger library system and I can renew them online.)

Then I slogged my way through Emma, which ended up being a rather good book. However, I'm not sure it was good enough to merit 400-odd pages.

Now I'm halfway through Kristen Lavransdatter, and I daresay I will finish it in the next 5 days. However, I most certainly will not have time for either The Idiot or Brideshead Revisited. Ovid never came in at the library--considering it's been "pending" for a good six weeks now I doubt it will ever show up.

So technically I failed in my summer reading challenge, but six books in as many weeks is nothing to sneeze at--and now I will have two or three books ready for my December reading challenge.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beauty

Some weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, I happened to look at myself in the mirror and realized that I am quite passably pretty. Honestly, the only reason I was looking in the mirror was because I had a new dress on and wanted to make sure it fit properly. I didn't expect to look pretty in it.

About a year and a half ago I was preparing for the Father Michael Scanlan Scholarship Competition and had quite a time choosing what I wanted to wear to my interview. I didn't want it to be too frilly, but I also didn't want it to look too much like a suit. Finally I found something that was professional but still feminine. Yet I wasn't entirely pleased for the sole reason that when I wore it I looked pretty, and I didn't want to look pretty. It was a scholarship competition, after all. You didn't get points by being pretty, you got points by being smart.

Having a boyfriend has made me rethink my dislike of looking pretty. I think it stemmed mostly from a desire to not look like a "flirt", one of those silly, shallow girls who cares for nothing but looking good and getting male attention. Then Mr. Modest-girls-are-prettier came along and I slowly came to the conclusion that real modesty is a balance.

Think of it this way: If you had a very valuable painting, you wouldn't leave it out on the dining room table to get stained and tattered. But neither would you put it away in a sack where it would get moldy and moth-eaten. You'd put it up in a frame, so that its beauty would be evident but it would still be protected like the treasure that it is.

To dress scantily is immodest because it makes feminine beauty a common thing, to be shared with anyone who passes on the street. Dressing with the goal of covering everything possible is also immodest in its own way, though. It says that feminine beauty is something low and dirty which must be hidden away. Dressing becomingly but without being revealing communicates that I respect the great gift of my feminity.

The Return of The Cobbler

He's back. I don't say that just because he posted again. Even if he didn't post after this for 2 months, he'd still be back.

After a stressful semester followed by a busy summer, I'd almost forgotten how he gets when he's actually happy and energetic. In the last week or so, though, I've had two long rambling conversations about random topics. Then yesterday Scott went off into a long ramble about everything under the sun and I just sat back and listened because his brain was jumping from one thing to the next too fast to admit conversation.

Yep, the Cobbler is back.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Being Turned Inside-Out

If rational souls are designed to love, why is it that we so often fail to love, or love only imperfectly? Why is it that love often feels like it's going against every instinct we have?

Here, I am not talking just about romantic love. I am talking about everything that requires us to engage another living being on a personal, relational level--whether that being is God or another human.

Love is natural because we are human. Love is hard because we are fallen. We are all of us born with broken souls and our souls have to grow as well as they can but often there is still some imperfection, something that did not grow straight the way it should. If we are to love perfectly, we sometimes have to rebreak and reset some part of our soul.

All love requires vulnerability, all love requires surrendering some part of ourselves. Often, when I am being stretched by the demands of love, I get a mental image of being turned inside-out. The stuff on my insides is being slowly pulled out and given to the other. It hurts sometimes, for the simple reason that I am broken. In order for me to love my heart needs to be broken and reset. So far I'm not even through all my "operations", if you will. Each time I'm broken I get a little closer to the ideal of love. My soul looks a little more like it's supposed to look. But so far I don't love perfectly, and until I do I must continue to be broken.
I've prayed for brokenness before. That might sound strangely masochistic, but I wouldn't keep doing it if I didn't see that it was actually more like medicine. For example: As I was contemplating my life just before this past Lent started, I prayed about what I needed to accomplish spiritually speaking during Lent and came to the conviction that I needed to have my heart broken. I had gotten too settled into my comfort zone of little vanities and would have to be shaken out of that if I wanted to get anywhere in my relationship with God. So I prayed and sure enough I emerged six weeks later rather raw after having had all the accretions scraped off--some of them none too gently. Two weeks after that I embarked on the adventure that is loving the Cobbler. I don't think I would have been ready for him suddenly changing the direction of our friendship if I hadn't gone through that Lent. It's only been a few months since then, but I have grown so much it seems I must have lived through a few decades.
That's why I keep praying to be broken, to be turned inside-out, because things always happen in the same order: 1) I get too complacent with living in my own little well-defined world. 2) God shatters my sense of order (either with my cooperation or without) 3) God shows me a new world so much broader and more beautiful than anything I could have imagined before. I figure I might as well cooperate with Step 2. In conclusion, since I don't derive enough from C. S. Lewis on this blog, I'll leave you with a quote:
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want
to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an
animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all
entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But
in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be
broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be
vulnerable.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh dear, another extrovert

The Little Princess loves talking on the phone.

Case in point: Last night Scott happened to call while I was in charge of the house. Naturally, Princess wants to know what I'm doing and starts climbing up my leg. I hand her the phone and she happily chirps "Hello". Then she stands there with an absolutely fascinated look on her face, occasionally chattering but mostly listening. Finally I decide that I want to talk to Scott and take the phone back. Princess begins wailing and yanking on my skirt. I put Scott on hold, find a handset, and stand on the other side of the baby gate talking--because I'm a meanie, you know, and don't let my little sister talk to my boyfriend for hours on end. She stands on a chair and wails. Then, because I'm obviously not understanding what she's trying to get across, she puts a hand to her ear (she'll occasionally wander around the house in this fashion, chirping "Hello" every now and then) and continues to fuss and glare indignantly.

Extroverted much, you think?

(She did quiet down and start playing with some plastic spoons after a while, and I didn't stay on the phone long anyway.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mental Flotsam

Notice, dear readers, that I changed the description under my title.

So, what's on the beach today?

A few shiny thoughts about Scott, which generally dissolve into little shiny puddles of happiness. Shiny puddles of happiness are all well and good but they don't make for very coherent blog posts.

A couple of splintery fragments about buying textbooks and packing up shampoo, but I don't want to get splinters so I'm not going to pick those up.

A seagull is flying over my head croaking out ideas for my novel, but I'm afraid I can't hear him very well with all the waves. Perhaps I should retreat up the beach a bit and see if I can hear better perched on the headlands.

Air Fresheners and Bra Ads

A few weeks ago on my other blog I mentioned seeing a car air freshener designed to look like a rosary. It shocked me--how messed up does our culture have to be to use something holy as a commercial gimmick?

When I told the Cobbler about it, he stated simply that it's not as bad as the bra ads you see in some stores.

It took me a few minutes to figure out that he's right. (Though it shouldn't have surprised me--he's almost always right.)

It seems, from what I've osmosed of Theology of the Body (mentally adds to reading list), that there are two purposes to women's bodies being as they are: To nuture their children, and to give pleasure to their husbands. Remind me later to discuss the connection between the procreative and unitive aspects of marriage (right after I actually read TotB).

If anything a woman's body is even holier than a rosary. We are fashioned by God to serve a particular role within the sacrament of marriage. Rosaries, for all their goodness, are only a sacramental, not holy in themselves.

Ads involving scantily-clad women are essentially taking something holy and using it as a commercial gimmick. Buy our product, not because it is the best, but because we mentally associate it with something that is good. What advertisers (and consumers, for that matter--I'm not going to lay all the blame on the corporations) don't realize is that by taking something holy and profaning it they are damaging our society. More on that in future posts...

Administrative note: COMMENTS OPEN. Thanks to the Cobbler (genius that he is) for pointing out that I hadn't yet turned them on.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Unremarkable Quirk #7

When I'm really tired and slap-happy I'll randomly start singing "I'm a Little Teapot".

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

At the grocery store

The other day I was making an emergency Wal-Mart run. I, being a genius, picked the line with only one cart. I, being a frequent victim of Murphy's Law, picked the line with the people who had 70 things to check out. While I was standing there waiting, I decided I might as well flip through the nearest magazine.

I'll give you a moment to ponder the utter foolishness of my decision.

Done pondering? Good. My observations on said magazine: All but one of the articles were no more than half a page long. The one article that was longer (about Brad and Angelina's most recent additions to the human race) reminded me of a picture book--a full-page photograph and then one sentence of text. I'm not sure how many pages long it was--I put the magazine back on the rack and watched the nice people in front of me unload their dog food.

What kind of culture do we live in, that magazines written for adults are designed to require no more of an attention span than that of the average five-year-old?

On a lighter note, this is what we were out of that necessitated said emergency Wal-Mart run:




Mom: "David, did you write that?"

Dad: "No, Tammy did."

Square One

You'd think that by now I would have figured out that God knows how to run a universe better than I. Seriously--He's an eternal, omnipresent, omniscient being. I'm an 18-year-old who's never been out of the continental United States and, though I'd probably qualify as a genius if I had the time or inclination to have such a thing tested, my understanding is nonetheless very limited. I don't know what we're having for dinner tonight (Mom? What is for dinner tonight?), what right have I to think that I can arrange my life in the way that will be best for me?

Yet here I am. God and I had a serious talk last night about my attitude. You see, it goes like this: Just when I think I have this surrender thing down, something happens that upsets my neat little world and I promptly pitch a fit. This shouldn't be happening, I complain. It's not fair. God allows me my tantrum and when I'm done He picks me up, plops me down at the foot of the Cross, lets me ponder a bit, and then says, Yeah, sometimes life's not fair.

It's okay to say, "This isn't fair." It's okay to have a good cry when I've been disappointed. What's not okay is sitting around wallowing in my misfortune. If I truly believe that God works all things for the good of those who love Him* (and I do), then I have to pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep right on plugging away. I'd like to be the kind of person whose faith is strong enough that they don't get knocked down by circumstances beyond their control. Since I'm nowhere near that strong, I simply, stubbornly, persist in trying again--one of these days I'm going to get it right.

*Romans 8:28

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Too Cute

Dad: "Say goodnight to Megan."

The Little Princess: "May-may, nigh-nigh." [gives kiss]

Oh Happy Day

The other day, Mari sent me a picture of her and Ambrose. Later that evening, (or perhaps the next day) Scott and I were discussing it between ourselves and I mentioned how I had to find the photos he once sent me of the Three Anachronisms and save them to someplace more findable than wherever I'd saved them when he originally sent them.

So I went digging through my IM history, found the filenames, and hunted down the pictures. In the same folder I found a subfolder with an obscure name. I clicked on it and found...IM archives! I have been looking for these IM archives for at least 2 months. Now at last I have found them and can relive every conversation I had with Scott from December 2007 to April 2008. Many of them were three-ways with Emily, and let me tell you we made quite the trio. Some of these conversations are hilarious. The best one, however, is a two-way between me and Scott. Yes, I found the Russians. I'm ecstatic. If you're not Scott and therefore have no idea who the Russians are, that's okay. It's one of those "You had to be there" things.

This is frustrating

My email does not approve of my boyfriend.

How do I know this? Because after (and only after) I started dating him, it decided to send all his emails to the junk folder. This was kind of inconvenient, but it did instill in me the good habit of occasionally checking my junk folder to see if anything important had gotten accidentally junked. Still, it was annoying, so last week I and the Help Menu set out to remedy the situation. I really shouldn't do these things--I know just enough about computers to be dangerous.

Good news: Scott's emails are no longer going into the junk folder. Bad news: As far as I can tell, they're not going anywhere else either. The only way I managed to find them (after him Skyping me about several emails I never saw) was by looking in the "Unopened items" folder.

I'm going to get TechSupport on this as soon as the NASCAR race is over.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Enchanted

The Sister, the Little Princess, and I watched Enchanted for the second time yesterday (okay, so it was LP's first time). I liked it even better this time than last. I think my problem the first time was that I was so used to the typical Disney Princess fare that I wasn't able to properly appreciate something which so defied my expectations.

First, I realized that Prince Edward is actually a really nice guy. I thought he was a bit egotistical the first time, but on second thought a) having healthy self-esteem isn't a bad thing and b) if he'd really been totally self-absorbed he wouldn't have gone to New York to rescue Giselle, he wouldn't have patiently followed her around all day on their date, he wouldn't have exhibited such genuine kindness and sweetness towards her, and most importantly he wouldn't have stepped aside when he realized that no power he possessed could save her in the end.

Second, I realized that Giselle wasn't quite the ditz she first seemed, either. I mean, first she falls for one guy within a day of meeting him, then she promptly falls for another guy within a few days of meeting him. A bit fickle, are we? But really, she wasn't. She was willing to go with Edward when he came for her; she only made the decision to stay after he let her go. Also, once I realized what a nice guy Edward was, I thought she ought to have married him anyway. Who wouldn't rather marry a prince than a lawyer? But that would have been wrong. Robert and Morgan needed her. Edward did love her, but he didn't really need her. You don't abandon people who need you.

Also, I think Nancy and Edward actually make a pretty cute couple. Edward needs a woman with a bit of spice--Giselle, with all her sweetness, could very well have fed his ego to unhealthy proportions. Nancy will let him be his noble knightly self, but she'll keep him in line too.

In other words, I like the movie. And I overanalyze things.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Samwise Gamgees of the World

"Come, Mr. Frodo!" he cried. "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well."

~J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

That is one of my favorite lines in the books (and the filmmakers left it in the movie, give thanks for small blessings); not just because it is a wonderful scene in and of itself, but because thinking of it has allowed me to put into words things which I mightn't have been able to deal with otherwise.

There have been two occasions in my life that come immediately to mind wherein I have had to be a Sam to somebody. It's a pretty awful feeling, to watch somebody you love suffering, and not being able to share that suffering with them--but it's a comfort to know that it's okay, that some sufferings are made for the bearer alone, but at the same time one can carry the person.

Sam wasn't particularly smart, or strong in battle, or magical; unlike some of the other characters. Yet it was he who was appointed to help Frodo with the ring. Everyone in the Fellowship had their own role to play, and Sam's role was to remain with Frodo to the end. No one thing he did was particularly extraordinary (except perhaps the battle with the Orcs at Cirith Ungol)--plodding along through a wasteland isn't exactly a glamorous task. Sam's glory isn't that he did anything great, but that (to paraphrase Mother Teresa) he did small things with great love.

I'm not much of a warrior; I don't feel much qualified for fighting the forces of evil. Yet I fight them just the same--not through anything glorious, but through smal, dull, ordinary living; and loving. I don't like being weak, or broken, or needy, but I am. Perhaps God chooses little halflings like me because we know we're not strong. We figure out sooner that we're not strong enough to defeat evil on our own. It's a great risk God takes, because we might just give in to despair; but on the other hand we might also realize all the sooner that we need God desperately. The less there is of our silly pride getting in the way, the more God can work through us. And that (as Gandalf might say), is a very comforting thought.