Category Archives: Catholic stuff

Love Forever

If I’ve learned something since the last time I posted it’s that I can’t teach a class, volunteer, hold down a job, and write a blog.

If I’ve learned something else, something more interesting, it’s that you never know when things will change or how, but you know they will.

When I was a high school student I wrote an op-ed about the injustice of sodomy laws, then on the books in the majority of states and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1986. “Someday,” I told my mom, “people are going to think about civil rights for gay people like they think about civil rights for black people, like it’s just obvious.” (Put aside the incredible naivety I had about how people think about race.)

Although the Supreme Court reversed itself in 2003, most of the first years of the twenty-first century were marked by the passage of cynical “defense of marriage amendments” mainly designed to get conservative voters to the polls to support candidates. Not very encouraging.

As everyone knows, Minnesota recently became the first state to vote no on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, rejecting that strategy and demonstrating that the tide was finally turning nationwide. Not long afterwards, it became the 12th state to vote in favor of marriage equality. Good stuff. Very exciting and moving.

Today I was listening to the radio in the kitchen, to the station KDWB, THE station for teens and young adults that I have been gradually forced to allow to share air time with my beloved public radio. A song came on and it took me back to 1990, when I was listening to KDWB on purpose, for myself, in my apartment. I called in to complain because the DJ was making fun of “limp-wristed” guys in “lavender polo shirts.” For real? The guy hung up on me.

More than 20 years later, KDWB has moved from homo jokes to playing this beautiful song. Change is good.

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Filed under Catholic stuff, grown up life

End the World (or the week) with a Poem

Assorted thoughts rolling into Christmas, plus a link that will make your day:


I got a piece of mail today that said on the envelope, “Will 2013 be the year that writing becomes your day job?” and I had to laugh. I have supported myself and my family as a writer of one kind or another for 20 years, and sadly very little of my writing happens during the day. If 2013 was the year that I stopped writing late into the night to meet deadlines and got more done during the afternoon I would be thrilled.


I head-wrote about three different little blog posts on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, none of which I could post. They may all have been brilliant. Certainly they would all have had a morsel of nice wordsmithing. But the risk of being pseudo-profound or getting it wrong seemed too high for whatever benefits I might achieve. I cried watching my 9yo sing in church that Sunday, something about children’s stars shining a brilliant light into the night. It was Gaudete Sunday– “rejoicing Sunday” –and it felt so weird and wrong. But I was reminded that my church, at its best, offers comfort not merely with the promise of a better world to come some far-off day, but with the willingness to walk alongside people in their deepest suffering.


My last post, “Closing Doors,” has been my most popular so far on the current blog, and I have been delighted by how many people that idea resonated with. Neurotics need reassurance, people! My friend Kelly, a feminist blogger at How I Learned to Wear a Dress (SPOILER ALERT: She hasn’t!), reblogged it today, which I thought was very generous, so I’m paying it forward. But really, it is a gift to anyone who takes the time to click the last link.


My friend Molly also keeps a blog, The Stanza. She’s a poetess, but when I met her we were moms and lay leaders together at our old parish. Talk about walking alongside you during your suffering! The things we lived through then. She moved away, which made me sad, but since moving she has flourished like crazy as a writer, which makes me happy. I cannot believe the poetry she writes now that she has been able to carve out a space for it. This poem put tears in my eyes — you will have to scroll to the bottom of the linked page to see the rest.

Prayer Before Dawn

Lord of the spun globe,
of roofline silhouette, pale wash
of coming sun,

this thinning hour is the only threshold
I’ll ever need.

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I think I get Advent, a little bit

I was baptized Catholic just over 10 years ago, and the vibrant liturgical calendar, lived in full color with songs for each season, is one of the things I love about being part of centuries-old traditions.

I wanted, back then, to embrace Advent, but the main thing I understood was that I should not put my tree up too early or start listening to Christmas carols too soon. And the mood of the season? Waiting. Right — waiting for Christmas. Being prepared — preparing for Christmas. What’s the big deal? Isn’t that what we’re all doing already?

Since then Advent has been coming back into fashion. And a good thing too, because I am finally getting the idea.

I am enjoying Professor Carol’s Advent Calendar — daily blog posts on art, music, and literature and Advent traditions. (I came to know of Professor Carol through her awesome music/world history curriculum Discovering Music, which among other things made my recent trip to Europe much richer.)

But more than that, something in the Gospel reading from Sunday hit me in a new way this time around (more liturgical calendar magic!). Speaking of the return of the Son of Man, Jesus tells his followers:

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.

Now I was a little distracted when these words were spoken, because before them the reading was talking about the Son of Man “coming in a cloud” which of course paints a picture in my head that wakes up my not-that-inner skeptic and starts an active mental dialogue that could persist all the way to “Mass is ended go in peace.” But I heard them anyway, and not because I am given to carousing and drunkenness. What I am, much of the time, is tired. Too tired to try.

Which really is OK these days. Effort is for chumps. It’s understood that we’re all so busy and we’re all enlightened beyond the need to “go through the motions” — but it’s the motions that are the point of being here in the first place. I don’t know what giving up looks like in your life, but in mine it means a cluttered house, dirty clothes, haphazard and unhealthy dinners, untended writing projects, great homeschooling ideas left undone while we sit on individual computers. It feels like being out of shape and not getting enough sleep. It sounds like arguing and sharp reactions — mostly “no” — to innocent questions.

While it’s not good to beat yourself up about that kind of stuff, and it’s wise to accept some chaos, there’s a line somewhere, a different line for everyone I assume, and as I sat in the liturgy of the first Sunday of Advent I understood that at some point I had slouched across it and was lingering there a little too long.

And this is what Advent is for. I don’t think anyone has explained it so succinctly for me as Sally Thomas did in a recent blog post:

“I wake up to myself . . . and my reflection in the bathroom mirror of the soul is not pretty. This is always the case, of course, but with the Bridegroom on the way, you notice. So: pinch those cheeks and back to it.”

As any good Latin student knows, “Advent” means “coming to” — something is coming. Something new is on its way, but you have to 1) keep at it without giving up and 2) pay attention. This is, I think, the essence of all my religious/spiritual experiences to date, be they Christian, Buddhist, yogic or other: Wake up, dummy! Open your eyes! Even now something wonderful has started — do you not perceive it?

I have not done so well at passing this newfound insight on to my children. Victoria came home from choir practice complaining that there was no “Hark the Herald Angels,” no “you know, some fa-la-la-la-la?” “What do you mean it’s not Christmastime?” she asks indignantly, and she does not care that Advent waiting looks like taking the one seat when she is frosting Christmas cookies and reminding us daily that we need our tree this weekend. That’s OK. I think Advent is more of a grown-up season anyway. My 9yo lives with eyes wide open much of the time, without much help from me. Me, I need every tool in the box to stay awake and keep seeing what’s in front of my face.

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Filed under Catholic stuff, grown up life, Music