Friday, January 29, 2010

It's like a compulsion

I've been writing my novel again.

I know, school comes first, etc. I write so that my blood won't shrivel, okay? It's hard to do homework with shriveled blood.

Anyway. I've found that the best way to get myself to work on a novel is to set myself some ridiculously low goal--say, 100 words a day. Then I sit down and churn out way more than that. (Blasting my goal to pieces gives me a nice sense of accomplishment.) This happens because most of my "scenes" seem to be about 300-500 words, and you would not believe how hard it is to just stop writing in the middle of a scene. You finish it or it haunts you the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, indulging my desire to write doesn't really lessen it. The story takes hold of me and I want to write more and more until I finish or until my life forces me to pay attention to it.

That is all. I'm off to tend my slightly-neglected homework now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Faith of Thomas

Doubting Thomas, we call him to this day, because he did not believe without seeing. He didn't believe it when the other Apostles told him that the Lord was risen.

But when you pay attention, you realize that none of the other Apostles believed what they'd been told about it either. It's John who tells us about Thomas; Luke says, "Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the Apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them." Mark, in his succinct way, remarks, "But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by [Mary Magdalene], they would not believe it."

Now, I don't mean to lump all the Apostles in as unbelievers. I think we get kind of complacent about it, because we (I think all my readers are Christian) have believed that Christ rose from the dead since forever. But if you had seen your friend brutally murdered and then had somebody come back a couple days later and tell you that friend was alive and well, would your first instinct be to say, "Hooray! Let's go declare the good news to the ends of the earth!"? Or would it be to say, "Stop making up stories and leave me alone in my grief."?

And how many of us would be willing (to paraphrase one of my theology professors) to stand up and voice our beliefs to the point of shedding blood? The Apostles might not have believed it until they saw it, but once they did believe they didn't turn back.

Doubting Thomas himself, according to tradition, went all the way to India, where he was eventually martyred--but in the meantime, as the Cobbler put it, he taught those who had not seen to believe.

There is a church there that quite straightforwardly states it was founded by the Apostle in AD 54. (And then adds that the current building is "supposedly" the fourth.) The Christian community there lasted all by itself, a little far-flung island of belief in the Resurrection, for about 1600 years before the Portuguese found it. (And were rather rude about things, by all accounts. Some things definitely don't inspire me with the wonderfullness of us Catholics.)

I'd say Thomas did a pretty good job for a doubter, wouldn't you?

This post would be incomplete if I did not at least mention that today is the feast of another amazing St. Thomas, this one surnamed Aquinas and hailing from the 13th century. I could write a very long, rambly post about everything the Dumb Ox has done for me, but that would take a good long time. (I worked on my Mary post for more than a month, did I tell you that?)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Repost: Where is everybody?

I'm leaving on the March for Life tonight, dear blog readers, for the fourth time in five years. I present here the post I wrote on January 22, 2008, when work obligations kept me in Steubenville.

When I went to Mass this morning it was practically deserted.

The cafeteria was oddly empty.

I hardly passed anyone as I walked around campus attending to various things.

Where are they? Most of them are in Washington DC on the March for Life. It seems like 90% of campus is gone, but it's probably less than that. I think in previous years it's been something like 400 or 500 people, so at most it's a fourth of campus.

I feel lonely and out-of-place today, with all those people gone. Yet I realized as I sat at Mass that everybody my age, indeed everybody under the age of 34, should feel this way every single day.

A fourth of our generation is gone. People who might have sat next to you at church, in the cafeteria, at class--they aren't there. Next time you see an empty desk in the classroom, an empty chair at the table, an empty spot in the pew, maybe you can think about the fact that somebody ought to be sitting there. Maybe you can ask yourself, Where is everybody?

Maybe you can ask yourself, Why aren't they here?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I love being in Honors:

"The closest modern analogy we have for the state of nature [as described by Thomas Hobbes] is the zombie apocalypse."

And meanwhile this classmate was drawing pictures on the board to illustrate her point.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Understanding is never a bad thing

This past Friday my Sacraments professor was unable to be in class because he was officiating over a wedding. (Perhaps the only disadvantage to having a brilliant and personable friar as your professor is that people want him to marry them.) So he had the reference librarian come talk to us about writing research papers, since he wants us to do a good job.

Anyway, as part of the discussion on resources the librarian mentioned how students will come up to her and say, "I don't think this book was written from the Catholic perspective." And she will flip open the front cover and say, "Yep, not a Catholic publisher." And the person will proceed to argue with her about why that book shouldn't be in the library of a Catholic university.

So then the librarian let us in on a little secret: The university has copies of the complete works of Martin Luther and John Calvin in the library. It has two copies of the complete works of John Wesley. And the librarian will outright encourage you to read them. "We're not afraid of those guys," she said, smiling.

Now, I've never read the works of any of those guys, complete or otherwise, so I can't comment further. But I found it interesting in light of the fact that I'm currently taking a Comparative Religion course (and enjoying it, so far). It's such a broad survey that Catholics and Protestants and Eastern Orthodox get lumped in all together. Meanwhile we get to learn about Hinduism and a bunch of other stuff. (Hinduism is as far as we've gotten; I think we do Buddhism and Islam and Judaism later.)

One of the reasons I signed up for this course is that I'm not afraid of those guys. I don't think you should be. Unless you're a literal child (like, 10 years old or something), you should be mature enough in your faith that you can have dialogue with people who believe differently. You shouldn't have to do the intellectual equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going "La la la, I can't hear you."

Of course, that also doesn't mean you're obligated to read the complete works of Martin Luther in your spare time. Just be open.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My mother

After a long absence, dear readers, I bring you a long and nearly pointless post. The only point is to share a little bit of my life with all of you. So:

I prayed the Hail Mary for the first time when I was 7 years old. I'd just made my first Confession and Father S. gave me one Our Father and one Hail Mary as penance. I went and told my mother and she said, "Okay, then do them." "I don't know how they go," I replied. So she took out my Precious Moments Bible, which had prayers in the back, and put a paper clip on the page that had the Our Father and the Hail Mary. That paper clip stayed in there for years.

When I was 10 I prayed the rosary for the first time, at a rosary procession led by our associate pastor, Father A. It grabbed me, for reasons I don't think I'll ever be able to explain, and for about 4 years after that I prayed the rosary as often as I could, usually right before I went to sleep. (Actually, I usually fell asleep during. My guardian angel finished a lot of rosaries.)

Then I got out of the habit, for a couple of different reasons. When I came to Franciscan, I started getting peer pressure, if you will, to start up again. But I was "too busy."

During this past Holy Week, I decided I was just going to do it. And I did, every day for seven days. And did a little better about keeping up with it afterwards.

Then in July the Cobbler invited me to join a Facebook group, "August 15th Worldwide Consecration to Jesus Through Mary." I did, because I'd heard of a lot of people doing it and it seemed like something that was at least worth investigating further. The Cobbler and Theocentrica and I decided that we would do the Consecration on December 8 rather than August 15. (You can do it on any major Marian feast, from what I understand.)

Then in August I started taking Mariology, noting with amusement that my final was scheduled for December 8. (About two weeks beforehand it got rescheduled because the professor does not like having exams on holy days of obligation.) And sometime in there I started actually praying the rosary almost every day. And I started really really wanting to do the Consecration--not because everyone else at Franciscan does it, but because I needed it.

One day, my Mariology professor said that the rosary gives you the desire for Consecration, and I felt sort of gently stunned (if that's logically possible). I think that was shortly before we started doing the preparatory prayers.

Then on December 8 I went to Mass at 10 a.m., with the paper bearing the words of the consecration and my consecration chain in my purse, and after Mass I sat outside the Port and shivered a little and whispered the words and fastened the chain on my wrist. I haven't taken it off since. The Consecration, with my signature on it, is still in my purse. I realized that about a week ago, and decided I might as well leave it in there.

Just so this post has some sort of conclusion: During the preparation, I was having "coffee" with my household advisor and she asked if I was close to Mary. I thought about it for several moments and finally said, "It's not so much that I'm close to her as that she's just always been there."

And she still is.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being in Honors warps your sense of reality

Today in Comparative Religion, the professor reminded us that (as the syllabus said) we had to read Chapter 1 of our textbook for Friday's class. She stressed that we should make sure to allot sufficient time to the reading thereof, since it was a long chapter.

I haven't had time to read it tonight, but I did look at the length of this allegedly epic chapter.

33 pages.

I laughed and laughed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

This song's been stuck in my head

I was going to do a nice long post, but my first day of class wore me out, so you get an earworm instead.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Our baby's all growed up

A few moments ago, LP wanted to see the snow out a window that's too high for her. "Hold me, hold me!" she requested.

I picked her up instictively and then did a double take: "WHAT did you just ask me, child?"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Were we led all that way for birth or death?

The Journey of the Magi

T. S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The snow was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Enchanted 15: Writing from the Core



Part 6 in an ongoing series based on Jen's Enchanted 15 workshop.


About 4 years ago, when I first got the idea for The Novel That Never Ends, I told Dernhelm that I didn't think I could write it just then, because I didn't think I could do justice to a storyline in which there are no right answers--in which the characters have to muddle through the best they can with the knowledge they have at the time, and some things get irreparably damaged.

Then I lived a little more, and I knew how you wrote a story like that, because I knew how you lived a life like that, where the right answers aren't always clear-cut and the solutions aren't always pretty.

But I got stuck on the ending. And then this past year happened, and I lived some more, and I experienced NaNoWriMo, and at the end of it I realized something: It all comes together in the end.

I used to think that my core was the knowledge that life is messy. But that didn't feel right. It felt, to use Jen's metaphor, like I was throwing the punch from my shoulder. (I say that as if I know how to box. Go with me. I'm a writer, I can imagine what something might feel like, right?)
I propose a new core: The knowledge that God is still in control. I don't believe that He micromanages, or that He wills everything that happens. But I do believe that no matter how far we get from the ideal, He's still with us, still writing our story.

I believe, passionately, this is all going to make sense eventually. Sometimes when you write it's best just to keep on going even when you have no idea what's coming next and trust that it will all fall into place in the end. In life that's always best. Because it all will fall into place in the end. Maybe it won't be pretty, maybe it won't be what it could have been, but it will be something that matters, something with meaning.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Her Royal Cuteness continues to dazzle the multitude

LP, drawing on her Dora the Explorer Etch-a-Sketch: "It's a shunkle!"

Mom: "A circle?"

LP, frustrated: "No, a shunkle!"

Mom, suddenly inspired: "A jungle?"

LP, satisfied: "A shunkle!"

...

Dad comes out of his workplace carrying a pink gift bag.

LP: "Another present for me!"

Dad: "Yes, it's for you."

LP: "That's great!"

...

LP: "I want play with Eda."

Me: "I think she's in the bath."

LP: "No, she's all done. She's not singing anymore."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Choices

About a year ago, my birthday resolution was to stop beating myself up about the past. (My birthday resolutions generally involve decreasing mental self-abuse.) My new mantra was to become, "You made the best decision you could with the information you had available at the time."

Of course, this means I can't be lazy about decision-making. I have to be able to feed myself the mantra honestly.

When I chose to come to Franciscan, I passed up a full-ride scholarship to a state school with one of the best journalism programs in the country. I still tease myself about it sometimes, saying, "That proves I'm smart but I can't do math." (To know that several thousand dollars a year is more than 0.) Recently somebody asked me, "So, do you regret it?" I was surprised for a moment. For whatever reason nobody had ever asked me that before. After a moment I said, "No." Yes, there are days when I think it would be really nice to not have any student loans, but God has been very good to my family and we're managing and I will not have crippling debt when I get out of college. And looking at it from anything other than a financial perspective, it was unquestionably the right decision. I can tell you that Franciscan has been one of the most amazing experiences of growth I've ever had.

A year ago I was supposed to go to Austria for a semester of studying abroad. I didn't, for a lot of reasons, some of them practical and some highly personal. I don't regret it, for reasons both practical and highly personal. That doesn't mean that I don't still think it would be nice to go to Europe sometime, but...I was where I needed to be this past spring.

In the next few years, I'm going to be making decisions about getting a job, getting married, having babies...all kinds of big stuff. And I'm probably going to do some stupid things. I'm almost certainly going to do some things imperfectly, and look back and think, "If I knew what I know now I would have done that differently."

On the other hand, in 5 or 10 years I'm still not going to know everything. I might look back and say, "Oh, I wish I had known not to do that." And then in 50 years I'll look back and see how God worked it all for the good.

I have to be content that God lets me know what I need to know when I need to know it. And that if I use all the knowledge He's given me, I'm probably going to be okay.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 in Review

Via Melanie, a template for a year-in-review post:

Post the first sentence of your first blog post of each month. You can also add a favorite picture from each month. (Megan's note: I think I posted pictures 2 or 3 times total this year, so I'm skipping that part.)

January:
Via Melanie, a template for a year-in-review post:

(from the second post:)
Me: "There's a horse in the Little People's bathroom."

February:
Last night I talked to Scott for about twenty minutes before work, and then after he called me (because I got on Skype and told him I was done; he gets free long distance and I don't) and I ended up getting put on speakerphone and having an hourlong conversation with him and his 17-year-old brother.

March:
Some time ago I posted a list of six quirks.

April:
Yesterday I was recalling the first Lord's Day I ever attended, during Orientation Weekend.

May:
Scott has recently been waking up in the mornings.

June:
There are two kinds of people in the world: the declutterers and the packrats.

July:
"I need you to hold my hand while I'm letting go!"

August:
Yesterday the family went halfway across Ohio to visit my grandma (Dad's mom).

September:
Today on The Scatterbrained Chef, we will show you how to make a delicious and filling snack (it can also be breakfast!) with everyday dorm room staples.

October:
Me: "Princess, put the scissors away."

November:
Your fairy is called Columbine Elfshimmer.

December:
Over Thanksgiving:

February definitely wins the prize for longest opening sentence.