Family Gathering

One cousin is here from Georgia, another from Alabama, so last night we had the big family dinner. I think I counted 35 of us, from one month to… however old Jack is!  The cousins have held on to the homeplace because it’s the only place big enough for everyone to gather, and the house was nearly bursting at the seams.

The food is always excellent. My cousins are good cooks, Olympic-class competitive cooks – and as one’s husband observed, this fall, each of them cooks as if she were the only one providing the food for the entire gathering. There was ham and turkey, dressing and gravy, several different kinds of sweet potatoes (casserole and candied), creamed white potatoes with bacon bits and cheese, broccoli casserole, plain vegetables from the summer garden (beans, butterbeans, corn), potato salad, macaroni salad, several different platters of deviled eggs, a cabbage salad, homemade pickles, Judy’s sourdough loaf bread and rolls – all extending the whole length of kitchen counters, around the sink and reaching the far end of the “U” at the stovetop. Desserts were arranged on the back porch, on top of the deep chest freezer.

There were the usual jokes about how many helpings this cousin had gone back for – or that one needing sideplanks to hold the food steady on his plate. The girls blushed over the breach of diets so carefully followed all year long –

There was talk about how old various children and grandchildren now are – and as one pointed out to lots of laughter at ourselves, “They’re all one year older than they were when we discussed this last year!”

The newest baby is barely a month old. He was less than a week old when we all gathered at Thanksgiving, so this event was his debut into the larger family circle. I got to hold him for a while, as his mama checked on the older boys’ dinner plates. I got to hold the next littlest, now almost three months old, who tried so hard to talk to me as I held her! Holding little babies always tugs at my heart – I’d love to have another one, even at my advanced and decrepit age!

I got to visit a bit with the cousin who drove in for the day from the western part of the state, and share what a precious experience it is to be a “home-mommy” – she’s on leave from her teaching job as an experiment this year. She’s bucking a social expectation of women, and I’m proud of her for having the courage of conviction to follow her heart to be with her children just now – as I’m proud for another of the cousins for their decision to allow God to plan their family.

I think that was part of the very best of it, sharing hearts and minds in those traditional values that have made our family so strong and resilient over the years, in the face of varied sorrows. My family, although not (yet) Catholic, are grounded and rooted, fed and watered, on Christian faith. It was a good way to grow up, and they’re all quite close, even now after Mama and Daddy have gone on, and their own children grown.

The anchor still holds.

Venturing forth…

Y’know, sometimes it’s just darned hard to be so talented and brilliant – so many choices, so many opportunities, so many things pulling in so many different directions…

I’ve talked to two professionals – one a clinical psychologist, the other a psychiatrist – who’ve been very positive and affirming about the writing I’m wanting to do about being the ex-wife of a homosexual. There’s precious little literature on the subject anywhere, and most of what I’m discovering via online search is very liberal –

as in “Let’s support gay marriage, because after all, we want this person we love(d) to be happy…”

uh, No. Not at all. No way, no how. I do NOT want my ex- to be superficially, artificially “happy.” I want him to be converted. I want him to be redeemed. I want him to be the good man I loved and wanted to spend my life with – energetic, cheerful, intelligent, and fervent in his beliefs – so that he can know bone-deep and abiding JOY, and peace.

No. None of this shellacking of worldly postmodern relativism that says whatever blows your skirt up is your entitlted path to some kind of saccharine emotive experience we call “happiness.”

There are rules to follow. When we violate the rules, the principles under which God created us, we forfeit happiness. When we follow the rules, we know great peace and genuine joy, regardless of our superficial circumstances.

Being married to a homosexual was hard. It was painful. It was bleak enough I used to go to bed at night, begging God not to make me wake up the next morning. Now I know why He kept making me wake up: so I could know what it’s like to pass through a Purgatorial fire and to come out the other side, soul not only intact but stronger and clearer-sighted than ever, heart capable of even more, and more fervent, love.

Discovering that the man you loved is homosexual is like finding yourself in the epicenter of an earthquake. The ground of your married life, and that is pretty much the whole of our life as women, just opens wide; something suddenly, violently shakes and threatens to swallow you up whole. You knew something was badly wrong, but you never expected – !

But there is joy to be found. I thought I stood at the brink of Hell; it turned out to be Purgatory.

I’ve discovered that there is a lot of common ground shared by women formerly married to homosexuals.

So I’m going to tell the story.

If you, or anyone you know, has shared this experience, I’d like to talk to you/her. You can email me at the address at the top of the right-hand column bar, or leave me a message in the message box, below my info.

How NOT to equip the Faithful to be part of the Church Militant

So – I’m informed that one of my former parishes has artificially retarded itself by choosing this songbook.

Now, you and I know that people remember what they sing at Mass for a LONG time, much longer than they can remember the content and substance of Father’s homily.

So why would the Faithful be anesthetized with the drek and drivel of religious pablum contained in this horrid songbook? It’s the worst collection of narrow, insipid, narcissistic nonsense masquerading as Music to be found anywhere. Why would they want to be? Why would an otherwise outstanding priest consent to this – even heretical, in some cases – …

Words escape me. I shudder at the very thought of it.

Christmas Domestic Pleasures

Yesterday, I went into the yard and trimmed several twigs from the wild holly growing there. I’ve never seen so many berries on this tree! it’s beautiful! and I came inside and took a piece of foam and stuck the twigs all around it. It isn’t as balanced and as elegant an arrangement as my cousins Jane and Carol Dean would make, but it’s quite satisfying for a first-time arrangement of my own. It is set in front of my long living room window, where the afternoon light makes it seem almost to glow.

I decided not to spend the money on a Christmas tree again this year. After all, I’m alone and the cat doesn’t care. But I’ve poured the white and gold balls into a cut glass bowl and set it in the living room. I will string the fairy lights around the kitchen window over the sinks, and probably in the bathrooms around the mirrors. The wreath Stephanie made for me last year is too dear to go on the front door, where rain leaks down and would damage it, so I got a cup hook and hung it just inside the back door, where it is the first thing I see when I come into the house.The nativity scenes are set out, as are the candles and a couple of unusual ornaments that give me pleasure.

If any friends should show up on my door step, unexpectedly, a pleasant and cheerful, albeit modest, home awaits them. I am contented.

I am Not a Mule

For a long time, I have doubted my identity as a feminine woman. The roots of this go back to my childhood and an ugly brown calico housedress, taken from a reject box of miscellaneous stuff from an uncle’s estate sale and thrust at me as my only permissible “dress-up” outfit. The message was that I was too rough, too tomboyish, too graceless and inelegant to be trusted with anything nicer. I was also told that I was too loud, too careless, and too rough and clumsy to be domesticated. Mother didn’t want any disruptions or distractions to her control of our home – even though that “control” was not exercised in any creative way.

When I married and began to establish a home of my own, the lack of practice in childhood play took its toll. Homekeeping was hard, and it seemed impossible to please my DH anyway. “Why did you do this, instead of that? Why did you put this here instead of there?” Out of one side of his mouth he told me I was smart and could do anything, but out of the other, more loudly, he told me I was a sentimental idealist who was burdened with unrealistic expectations about home and marriage, and that everything I attempted was stupid, idiotic and dumb.

Needless, to say, I soon quit trying.

I think I had my first unqualified success when I got to go to college, in my late 20s and early 30s. One of my professors, who had a reputation for being difficult to get along with, was overheard to tell one of his colleagues that I was one of the most brilliant students to come down the pike during his entire career. That bit of praise, indirectly received, made a profound impact on me. Other teachers had told me I was bright and ought to be doing better in school, but they were “nice” people who could find good to praise in everyone; this one professor with the opposite reputation got my attention as those kindlier people could not have done. If they praised me, they were being nice; when he did, as he so rarely did to anyone, then maybe there was more to me than I had realized before.

But academic achievement and success don’t compensate for the sense of being a failure in other, more personal life dimensions. I continued to find homemaking, parenting, and just liking myself very difficult. Truth be told, I failed at all of them. I decided that to be as clumsy and impatient as I was, as common in my roots, but to love beautiful art and music and literature, I must be a mule – one of those bizarre freaks of nature, the cross between an ass and a horse, hardworking, rather plain, sometimes temperamental… sterile. I thought I must be a very superior sort of mule, to love the beautiful things I do, but I had to be a mule all the same. After all, hadn’t I heard my whole life that I wasn’t good enough to be anything finer?

Dramatic life change requires a catalyst, and I was given mine in the form of new friends. One of these, a Catholic, an immediate friend through the power of our shared Faith, spoke and affirmed and validated all those ideals of womanhood and relationship and marriage that DH had ridiculed and scorned  – and scorned me for holding.

The others have been important, too The power of genuine masculinity is astonishing, and my friends have helped as catalysts of my healing through the very clear and masculine identity they possess, in strength of mind and a clarity of thought that is sadly lacking in most of the men I have known in recent years; most of the men I see so wounded and distorted in this postmodern feminist-dominated culture. And they are  kind and gentle – the sort of kindness and gentleness that can only come from manly strength (weak men can only be varying degrees of weak). These friendships have been a gift of healing and encouragement; never once have they treated me as anything less than a woman.

I did some reading this summer in order to know myself better. Yes, I mean relationship books <blush!>. One of them contained a little quiz to help the reader determine whether she is a masculine-energy, feminine-energy, or narcissistic individual. I enjoy quizzes, and this one was no exception.

Each question had three options for answers. As I read the possible responses, I almost always thought, I would like to do this, but that feels safer…  Without exception, “This” was the feminine-energy response, “That” was the masculine-energy response! I was astonished to realize that my native instincts are feminine, but that I have been conditioned to be strong, decisive, and even at times overbearing by a multitude of neglects and abuses over the years.

I sat down in response to a blog post I read, and I began to draw up a list of things I love, that make me feel happy and at peace. The list contains things like Chanel No. 5 (which I bought for myself, back in August!), a variety of flowers, the paintings of Monet and Henry Tanner, the music of Chopin, Debussey, Palestrina…

All the things I love are very feminine, elegant, graceful, gentle things.

It is a shock, this discovery of myself as a feminine woman. My mother was wrong about me – and so was DH. Without pressure to please someone else who is impossible to please out of the emptiness of his/her own soul, I have discovered I enjoy puttering around my home. I take pleasure in making my bed every morning now, and in making things neat and clean. I do it for myself because I’ve discovered I am worthy of an orderly, cheerful and pleasant home; if God allows me to marry, I will be better-practiced to make a peaceful and cheerful home for Him Whom My Soul Loves, as my gift to him and to myself.

Thank you, Catholics For Obama

The Obama team is promising to undo all of President George W. Bush’s initiatives to limit and to curtail abortion services in the U.S. – from federal funding to abortion to eliminating the current effort to secure rights of conscience for health care providers.

The memo alluded to in the above link (I can’t find the embedded link option yet, but I will!) indicates that the writers of the 55-page memo on the abortion rights game plan are dismayed that their plans have been made public at Change-DOT-Gov; however, we knew this was coming for a darn long time.

All you Catholics who voted for this man – you knew he was going to advocate on behalf of abortion. And you whine “Bush hasn’t done anything to advance the pro-life cause, so what difference does it make?”

Yeah. Bush’s work has to be nullified and overturned, according to the Obama team – If he’d done nothing, there’d be nothing to oppose or “correct,” now, would there?

I find it hard to forgive you for this, you liberals who voted for Obama. I find it very hard indeed. You’ve sided with the Enemy, you’ve betrayed your Faith. You’ve stood among us as wolves in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be faithful Catholics while actively promoting what is inherent evil, not even to begin to discuss the implications of implicit evil that are promised with this administration.

Do you not realize you have materially cooperated with Evil in empowering a man whose Agenda is rife with Evil?

Kyrie eleison.

In the combox, below, Phyllis alludes to an email I shared with several folks from Chorale. I sent an email to composer David Conte, whose “A Stable-Lamp is Lighted” was one of our Joy of the Season selections. The piece is a setting to a poem by Richard Wilbur (b. 1921). I think you’ll see why I had trouble getting through this one without tears and choking-up.

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master rebuke thy disciples.
And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out
. – Lk 9:39-40

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbour heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

This child through David’s city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be foresaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
For stony hearts of men:
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high:
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
In praises of the child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.