Monthly Archives: May, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Rut

My hostess, Anna, returned to her blog today with a regular-life post and a Friday Five. We got into a comments discussion about how, apparently, some bloggers view memes as tools for lazy bloggers. Not so, I say, not so! Memes can be an excellent way to gather ideas for new posts when you write about everything as I do.

Case in point: I am instituting a new meme this week called Booking Through Thursday. I want to read more real, paper, check-them-out-from-the-library books in addition to blogging more. Books are not nearly as interactive as the Internet, but I hope that participating in this meme will help alleviate some of the solitary nature of real books.

This week’s prompt:

Do you ever feel like you’re in a reading rut? That you don’t read enough variety? That you need to branch out, spread your literary wings and explore other genres, flavors, styles?

I found myself in a long string of nonfiction last fall. I keep a handwritten list of every book I read (for school and for pleasure) that goes all the way back to tenth grade. The first book on it is To Kill a Mockingbird. It is of course on there more than once. I read Righting the Mother Tongue; Eats, Shoots & Leaves*; and Good News About Sex and Marriage, but then I jumped right into a string of Alice books and the first couple of Uglies books. Nothing like a little YA to cleanse the palate of too many Serious Books.

I am the slightly abashed author of a few unfinished novels and a pile of mediocre short stories. I always wanted to write a novel, but I was better at short stories because they must have a clear end. The story can’t go on too long or it won’t be short by length or genre. Blogging more often has made me wonder if my niche isn’t really in essay writing. I’ve read essay collections before, mostly ones on writing or being Catholic. I guess that, although fiction is my first love, I manage to get just enough variety to avoid a rut.

*It hurts me to write that title. Long live the serial comma!

How Will They Know Who We Are?

As I meet people around town and the weather remains unremarkable, the conversation inevitably turns to what I do for a living. I used to simply say, “I’m a teacher.” Gradually, they would discover that I taught Catholic school, but you don’t have to necessarily be a very religious person to do that. Now that I’ve tested “I’m a campus minister” on various Austinites, I’ve determined that simplicity is not the best tactic anymore. People are confused by the prospect of a young black Catholic woman, sometimes one who is sitting in a bar, being a minister. It’s confusing for them and frustrating for me. Lately, I start by saying I work for a non-profit organization and let my conversational partner leave it at that or pursue it all the way to the UCC. My day-to-day responsibilities are a lot more like working for a non-profit than what most people imagine when they hear “minister,” so it’s still the truth. It’s just not direct.

This everyday occurrence has led me to draw two conclusions. First, I have been in a Catholic bubble for a very long time. I went to public school, so I grew up around people of all faiths and none, but now that being Catholic is literally my job, it’s different. I spend a large portion of my waking hours praying, reading about Catholic things, and helping Catholic students get to know God better. It’s easy to forget that not everyone knows my jargon or even believes that active, happy Catholics exist.

Is this a clear enough sign?

My second conclusion is that maybe when I’m outside the Catholic bubble, I’m not Catholic enough. As Martina did at Austin Catholic New Media a few weeks ago, I could dissect “Catholic enough” based on the basic doctrines of the faith that you ought to believe if you call yourself Catholic, but I’m thinking on a social hour level. What does it say about me that I don’t want to come right out and tell people what I do? How much of an active effort should I be making to let people know that I’m Catholic? Can I stop at my holy medals, my saint bracelet, and the Catholic Terps window decal on my car? Should I carry around Catholic tracts and a list of local parishes, just in case? As the hymn goes, will people know I’m a Christian by my love, or will my words need to play shortstop?

Last week, a friend of mine posted a link on facebook to this article at Patheos examining Stephen Colbert’s method of playing a Catholic on TV in addition to being one in real life. Rather than alienating his audience by portraying a stereotypical “bad Catholic” or a “good Catholic,” author Emerson writes, Colbert opts to create a middle ground: his character is a little irreverent, but he has a solidly catechized core and a good heart.

[H]ere’s Colbert, on a channel known for ribaldry [Comedy Central], slipping in talk about sacraments and saints, hassling the pope as though he were a beloved uncle, and conversing with a prominent Jesuit about Jesus and Mother Teresa. Here’s Colbert divulging an affinity for St. Patrick’s Cathedral and defending Catholic social thought. It’s as if, through his character, Colbert is trying to convey what others lack the forum or believability to explain: that Catholicism is not about predatory priests or the solving of ethical puzzles, but an adventure filled with joys and hopes, grief and anguish, sustained always by a foundational faith in things unseen.

With all this in mind, I think my approach to explaining what I do is just fine. If you see my love (or my sins) and wonder if I’m a Christian, I hope you will know that I am. If not, and you ask, I will tell you. And if you don’t want to know, well, that’s okay, too. But I still am.

syndicated at Austin Catholic New Media

Lindsay’s Labors Laxed

I had most of last week off from work, so despite spending more time in front of my screens at home than anyone probably should, I find myself with less to blog about than I would like.

I met a potential new coworker on Monday morning and finally got to see more of campus, including the turtle pond. The turtles reminded me of Testudo. I miss Maryland.

On Wednesday, I was able to meet up in person with the people from Austin Catholic New Media and signed on as one of their featured bloggers! It is so flattering to be asked to join the community. Even if you’re nowhere near Austin, I encourage you to check out the site. The discussions there definitely apply across diocesan boundaries.

On Thursday, I hung out with some great people from a diocese-wide Catholic young adults group I’ve joined. I’ve only been to a few events so far, but the people are really friendly. It’s good for me to be among Catholic people roughly my age who are only coincidentally connected to my work. I miss being part of an intentional Christian community, so I find a particularly sweet joy in building up that community again here in Austin.

On Friday, I recovered from being rained out the previous Friday and went to see Love’s Labour’s Lost in Zilker Park. The parks commission sponsors a free Shakespeare play and a free musical in the park’s theater every summer, and the weather has usually started to cool into the 80’s by then, so it’s a great way to spend an evening. I even ran into people I knew (on both trips), so I had buddies. However, I should admit that I have a theory that going with people to movies or theater is just this side of pointless. You can’t talk for most of the experience. It is nice to have someone to chat with during the sanctioned breaks, though.

Austin Shakespeare decided to give the canonical Love’s Labour’s Lost text a beach blanket bingo twist by setting it on the California coast in 1963. It was definitely different, but I loved it. The scenery fit perfectly with the open-air summer theater. The costumes must have been uncharacteristically comfortable; when the actors came out for their talkback, they were still in costume. I have never read this play, but my familiarity with and love for Shakespeare (and having read a synopsis ages ago) made it easily accessible. I’m not sure how others took it. I noticed considerable audience melt at intermission, but part of that may have been because people didn’t realize how long Shakespeare plays run and partly because there were a lot of small children present. I was in it for the long haul, though, and we got to move down to a more comfortable patch of grass because the people in front of us vacated.

Two aspects of this production stood out to me. First, I was enchanted by the use of 60’s songs and motifs. All of the songs in the play (there are several) plus a few sonnets were sung to the tune of Vegas big band standards, the Beach Boys, and even Bob Dylan. Mote, the page, appeared in various little-kid costumes from a cowboy to a spaceman to James Bond. The princess and her attendants had their chaperone, of course, but he could have easily doubled as Sinatra. Even the parson came with a guitar and a hint of grooviness. (Oh, Vatican II.) Second, I loved the women’s swimsuits, which they wore for the last two acts. They were colorful, fun, and so very modest. I realize that is just a sign of the times, but those styles should definitely make a comeback. Overall, it was a fantastic show, and I’m excited for Footloose in July, Hamlet in the fall, and next summer’s Bollywood Twelfth Night.

I ended the week last night by playing Apples to Apples and Mafia (the latter of which got very complicated very quickly) with another new group of friends. It was the best night I’ve had in a very long time, and it capped off a great week. I do love my job, but it’s so good to finally have time to just live.

Friday Five: Cooking Ingredients

Hooray! There’s a theme this week, and it’s interesting!

  1. What is your favorite condiment? My absolute favorite is mixing ketchup and barbecue sauce for dipping fries and chicken strips. Five Guys will even make my burger like that for me.
  2. What is your favorite spice? Oregano! Even though I usually buy pasta sauce, I add tons of extra oregano to it.
  3. What is your favorite cooking oil? (Canola oil, sesame oil, butter, etc) I don’t really have a preference. I like to use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter as butter, but I have to use the real stuff for cooking.
  4. What is your favorite starchy food? (Bread, rice, potatoes, noodles, etc) Mmm, potatoes. But bread is so good, too! And pasta is the staple of my life. I love all starches.
  5. What is your favorite flavor for candy? Grape. I think it comes from being given grape-flavored Dimetapp for all the colds I got when I was little. The grape Kool-Aid was probably a factor, too.

The Friday Five

Food Fight

Around the country, school years are coming to a close. Back when I was in elementary, middle, and high school, no matter the country, we started school on the last Monday of August and finished in mid-June. The 16th was a popular last day of school. Despite years that included such natural disasters as tree-splitting typhoons, April snowfalls, and blizzards that shut down school for a week, I never even had to do a make-up day.

After I went to college and met students from dozens of cities, I realized that the academic year regularly ended in mid-May for millions of other students, mostly from private schools. It just had never been so for me. I only went to public schools, so being released before the end of May during my senior year of high school was incredibly liberating. However, because of the aforementioned late end, we didn’t walk until well into June. This and other experiences made me realize that not all schools are created equal. The differences run deeper than state standards and city budgets.

Recently, there has been a significant but important debate rising around a Chicago school that has banned lunches brought from home. Two issues are central to this debate: the power limitations of public school administration and the rights of parents of public school students.

Considering my potential children, my background with schools, and my many friends who already have children (none of whom are school-aged yet), this discussion drew me in. I completely understand the reasoning behind the ban. Only a few years ago it was almost unimaginable that vending machines and sodas (even those brought from home) could be banned in elementary schools. It seemed ludicrous when I was in middle school that public schools would ever implement uniform policies, yet I graduated one year before my own alma mater made the switch. Teachers and administrators often see students for much more time than their own parents do, and trying to get them to make better food choices is part of their responsibility as teachers (and as decent human beings). If a teacher provided junk food and sweets more than occasionally, he or she would be irresponsible. This is a swing farther in the direction of encouraging student to lead healthier lives.

image by Ben+Sam

However, I disagree with the principal’s decision in this case. With any other school, parents could choose to simply take their kids elsewhere. But public schools are supposed to be for everyone. Three primary points should be noted from the Trib article. First, the policy has apparently been in place for six years, but it is only making headlines now. This is curious. Shouldn’t the quality have been improved by now? Secondly, no other schools have been identified as having similar policies despite the principal’s claim. Shouldn’t she or the reporter have checked into that? Finally, there is little mention of the cost to parents. When uniforms are an issue, inexpensive, logo-free clothing is usually an option. (And clothes in general aren’t cheap.) With a ban on inexpensive brought-from-home lunches, parents are literally forced to send money or not feed their kids. If they don’t want their children to go hungry, they have to hand over the cash for something the kids might not even actually eat. It doesn’t seem far between a parent refusing to pay and allegations of negligence. I want to hear more on this last aspect.

As do many things in my life these days, this story also contains a religious aspect. During my first year teaching, my school’s campus minister sent home a letter before Lent. In it, she explained Friday abstinence (literally 90% our students were not Catholic) and the fish or cheese pizza that would be served until Easter. Most interesting to me was that she requested that students who brought their lunches from home (a clear minority) not bring meat on Fridays, either. Having only been to public school and therefore never seen anything like this letter, I found it intriguing and entirely appropriate. She made clear that the school would be following Catholic teaching and encouraged parents to support this even for their non-Catholic students, but she didn’t mandate anything. She chose the high road: principled but kind. This Chicago principal could stand to take a lesson from that campus minister. If you’re serious about acting in loco parentis by improving students’ health via lunch, then make the lunches so healthy and attractive to students’ taste buds that they will prefer them to Mom’s. Otherwise, let them have a choice.

Post a Day at WordPress

Sunday Snippets #108

I wrote such a clearly Catholic post last week that I actually remembered to participate in Sunday Snippets! RAnn hosted at her blog, as usual.

Highlights:

  • AJ of Varsity Catholic, an arm of FOCUS, posted about the community he built with the baseball team at Seton Hall. He will miss them even as they miss one who should have been among them. I’ve felt the same bittersweet happiness as students I taught are graduating. One even friended me on facebook, and graduation was just tonight!
  • Raven reports on a dissident bishop in his home of Australia who recently left office. The articles Raven links are both very polarized, so it’s hard to get a balanced view. I believe that the fundamental problem is that many people forget that the priesthood is a free choice. If you don’t think you can handle chastity, poverty, and obedience, don’t try to become a priest. In this case, I also feel that a bishop should be an example for the people. As a priest, your life is no longer just your own. You voluntarily gave up a lot of the rights you had to do what you want. Much is required from those to whom much is given (Luke 12:48)–and those who choose to give much.
  • Kathleen offers a very important post for all who consider themselves pro-life. That label covers more than just opposing abortion. If you take it, you have to take all of it. Kathleen also writes about her real-life experience with whole-village child-raising. If only we could be so trusting again.

Movie Review: “Juno”

I am a big believer in round tuits, although mine tend to just be lists. I have one for books, of course. Currently I only have one book I’ve purchased that is on that list, which is a clear accomplishment for me. I also have one for movies, although that only exists in my memory. Juno has been on that list for years. Much like my experience with Catfish, I knew that when I spotted Juno coming up on USA in my cable guide, I should use my new DVR powers to catch it to watch at my convenience.

Spoilers lie ahead, but it’s been years since the movie came out.

Having heard references to Juno as a pro-life movie and knowing that Jennifer Garner was half of the adopting couple, I had an idea of what to expect. I liked that Juno’s story was realistic without being too explicit. (Then again, I was watching it on TV, so I don’t know exactly what made the theatrical cut.) I have a soft spot for realistic families in particular. I thought it was particularly apt that Juno, who doesn’t live with her mom and isn’t close to her stepmother chooses to find the best mom she can when she herself becomes a mother. Perhaps that led to USA’s “Mother’s Day movies” advertising angle.

Despite the realism of Juno’s family (especially the cute but unimportant little half-sister), I was mildly upset by the portrayal of her pro-life classmate. She definitely wasn’t Juno’s “friend,” as I saw some reviews describe her, but having been outside abortion clinics myself, I know that it would be very unlike the friend to be outside that clinic by herself with no written material and only a string of shouted one-liners. She comes off as eccentric instead of a religious psycho, though, which is good.

Although I acknowledge that the story is focused on Juno, I wished we could have seen more of the adoptive couple’s relationship. Their divorce is such an important plot point that I wanted to see more of the wife’s disposition. Sure, the husband was not ready to be a father (or a husband, apparently), but what made the wife ready to be a single mother? Going through a divorce is tough enough without adding a new baby, the emotion involved in adoption, and becoming a single working parent. I don’t mean to imply that I think she would have been a bad mother or wouldn’t have been better than Juno (Juno didn’t want the baby; that seems essential to good parenting), but I don’t think the end of the movie was the end of the story, and I don’t like films’ leaving me wanting.

The relationships between Juno and her female best friend and Juno and Paulie were pitch-perfect, tough. Michael Cera is seriously typecast, but he does play that character well. I was impressed at Paulie’s character. The standard teen father character either desperately wants the baby when the mother doesn’t or couldn’t care less what the mother does as long as he doesn’t have to be involved. I got the impression that Paulie wanted to be exactly as involved as Juno wanted him to be. He still liked her while she was “huge” and even after. Making bad choices doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.

Overall, I would recommend Juno. The movie offers a lot to think about, even after it ends, and although I wanted more, I was pleased with what I got.

© 2002–2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.