Full-immersion infant baptism

One winter afternoon, fourteen years ago, I got a call from the religious education director at our Catholic parish (Father C's church).  She, and some people at the church, had been talking about starting full-immersion infant Baptism.  We were a very helpful and always agreeable family so she probably thought we'd be good ones to start with.  



Now, I'd never seen a full-immersion infant Baptism, but, from her description, I didn't like it.  First, the baby is naked - in front of a congregation of strangers (some familiar to us, all unfamiliar to the baby).  I'm pretty much a modest person so I wasn't doing that with my baby.  Second, it sounded miserable for the baby.  I'd already had two kids with colic (soon to be three).  Having spent many hours with screaming babies, deliberately making my child unhappy for anything beside health reasons was not something I was going to do.  Third, as much as I liked Father C, I don't have enough trust in other adults, no matter how much practice they've had, to have any of them dunking my baby underwater.  

The fourth reason, and the one I emphasized to her, was the peeing factor.  Having had one baby boy already, I knew that, if exposing a baby boy's chest and tummy to the cold didn't make him pee, putting him in water certainly would!  From the ultrasound, we knew very definitely that the third child was going to be a boy.  I told the religious ed director that I was not going to be the first mother at church to have her baby pee on Father C - a lovely arc landing in the center of his priestly robes - and not just at any Mass, but at the Easter, 11 am Mass!  I really played up the "I would be SOOOOOOO embarrassed" bit and, after a few volleys, she gave up.  

If the Catholic Church had required it, I suppose I would have done full-immersion, but I wouldn't have done it happily.  Fortunately, they didn't.   

I can understand that full-immersion Baptism is more Biblical, but infant Baptism isn't Biblical anyway, and I don't see that a baby is more Baptised if they're immersed than if they're sprinkled or poured.  If only full-immersion Baptism is valid, than nobody in our family has been Baptised (so I can sleep in on Sundays). 

I don't know what I would have done if I'd had another baby at our current, Episcopalian church, where full-immersion infant baptism is the way it's done.  Everyone, except, of course, the baby, gets very excited.  

I've actually never seen an infant Baptism at our church.  Most people crowd around the Baptismal font, and I'm only 5' 2" so there's no way I could see.  I don't crowd anymore; I just stand in the choir section.  However, last weekend, there were Baptisms at the Sunday, All Saints Day celebration (I couldn't go because of the incense and my current asthma trouble).  Someone posted a photo of a previous infant Baptism on the church Facebook page.  They took the photo in mid-dunk, and it looks like the priest is holding the baby underwater.  

That's what prompted this post - remember, it's the first I've ever seen of that.  I know that the baby is lifted right out, generally crying, but the mid-dunk photo really weirds me out.  

Now, I'm not judging those who do practice infant, full-immersion baptism.  I'm just explaining why it weirds me out.  I know the baby isn't going to remember it later.  I enjoy seeing the baby after the Baptism is over, when the priest wraps the baby in a large towel and carries him/her around the Nave.  

That being said, however, the one thing that does anger me is when someone says to me, "What a good baby!" when the rare baby doesn't cry much after immersion.  Babies aren't "good" or "bad," they're just babies doing the natural things that babies do.  When people say that a baby is "good," what it really means is that the baby is convenient to the adults around them.  That's not a baby's purpose.


Sick of the election

As soon as Halloween was over, I was ready for the election to be over too - then the rest of November, or at least the few weeks until Thanksgiving (which is early this year), could be peaceful. 

Even though I'm registered as an Independent, almost all of the political junk mail* and all of the robo-calls have been from the Republicans.  I've hung up on Ann Romney, Sarah Palin,** and Clint Eastwoood.  Okay, if it hadn't been a robo-call, I would have picked up the last one.  For the last few weeks, I've taken the mail out of the mailbox and gone straight to the recycling bin.  All of the political junk mail goes straight in.  

Everyone here had voted by Thursday so any mail or calls since then have been totally wasted (though still just as annoying).  

Every year, I look at each national, state, and local race, candidate by candidate, and try to choose the one that I think will do the best job.  Political party usually varies.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen this year.  The Republican candidates have gotten more extreme, and I only found one candidate on the conservaitve side (for the non-partisan race for the State Court of Appeals) that even had a possibility of getting my vote.  I've been reading about politics since I was in middle school, and I've been voting since 1980.  The Republican party has changed a lot since then - not for the better.

An August, New York Times article, Platform's Sharp Turn to the Right has Conservatives Cheering, vividly points this out:

One party platform stated that Hispanics and others should not “be barred from education or employment opportunities because English is not their first language.” It highlighted the need for “dependable and affordable” mass transit in cities, noting that “mass transportation offers the prospect for significant energy conservation.” And it prefaced its plank on abortion by saying that “we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general — and in our own party.” 

The other party platform said that “we support English as the nation’s official language.” It chided the Democratic administration for “replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.” And its abortion plank recognized no dissent, taking the position that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

No, they are not the platforms of the Democratic and Republican Parties. They are both Republican platforms:  the first from 1980, at the dawn of the Reagan revolution, and the second the 2012 Republican platform that was approved on Tuesday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.

The new platform — with its call to reshape Medicare to give fixed amounts of money to future beneficiaries so they can buy their own coverage, its tough stance on illegal immigration and its many calls to shrink the size and scope of government — shows just how far rightward the party has shifted in both tone and substance in the decades since it adopted the 1980 platform, which was considered a triumph for conservatives at the time...

Do I like all the Democrats I voted for?  No.  Some of them were tolerable, and some were of the hold-my-nose-and-vote variety.  The only one I'm enthusiastic about is our local, N.C. Senator, Ellie Kinaird.  

Every year, I hope for better candidates, and every year, I'm disappointed.  I'm done with this season.    

*  I've gotten one piece of Democratic junk mail.

** Who was not qualified by her experience or her knowledge of the issues to be the Vice President, and who lost McCain my vote because I had been undecided up until that point.  I couldn't have trusted any of his other choices for high office either.


Church for the successful: Thoughts on "Spiritual but not religious"

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

I just read two more blog posts criticizing those who don't go to church -not atheists or agnostics, but believers who consider themselves "spiritual, but not religious."

It's always amazing to me to see how criticized those people can be (I'll abbreviate as SBNR). 

Now, I don't really see what the problem is.  If person A is happy with their faith inside their church, and person B is happy with their faith outside a church, what harm is person B doing to person A?  This is what reminded me of Jefferson's quote on religion.  Person B is neither picking Person A's pocket nor breaking A's leg.  If person A is happy in their church, what problem is it for A that B isn't in one?!

Now, it is understandable that the authors of the posts I read today would both be offended at SBNRs and wouldn't understand them.  Both authors are priests so they're at the center of their communities.  They're successful at church.  Not only are SBNRs coming from a totally different angle, SBNRs are rejecting their brand.

Successful priests and ministers haven't sat in church looking at a sea of backs during the Sign of Peace.  They haven't failed socially and volunteer-wise. They aren't totally incompetent at church politics.

They haven't had questions go, not only unanswered, but unacknowledged.*

Not that everyone that feels like a failure at church actually gives up and leaves.

I haven't.

And people who are (or could be) successful at church can also be SBNRs.**

I feel a close kinship to SBNRs, which is why I get really irritated when they're attacked.  I understand feeling closer to God in nature.  I find that I'm the most challenged, both in my beliefs and how I live them out, by many things that I read.  There are lots of places outside of church to volunteer to help others.  I'm researching more of those now - ones that younger son (13 yo) and I can do together.   

I find a lot of disdain and and insider thinking in some (not all) religious posts about SBNRs.  SBNRs supposedly aren't "accountable to the community."  They're not challenged.  They don't sacrifice for others.  God is just an abstraction in their heads. 

Really?!  How many SBNRs do they actually know?  How many have they actually quietly listened to and understood?

I suppose that, if you spend most of your time in church and most of your social attachments are there, you may not understand that these things - challenge, sacrifice, accountability - also take place in communities outside church circles. 

Now, I'm writing this as a person who has been involved in church for the last thirty years.  I also have friends and relatives who are SBNRs - and with whom I can have long and challenging conversations about God, faith, and how to live out that faith.***

I've also watched and listened as people I know who have been involved in churches, often for decades, have stopped going. 

If one is successful at church - in leadership positions, with a network of church friends, challenged by the preaching and community, that's great. 

But, if you're this kind of a church "have," why condemn the "have-nots?"  Wouldn't you be happy enough with all that you have?   Why attack those who are not similarly blessed?  It often looks quite mean-spirited.

Going back to the beginning, if person A is in, why condemn person B who is not?

The only way I can understand is that, maybe, person A isn't totally happy in their church.  If A is grinning and bearing it, feeling like they're dragging through the drudgery of their church life, then I can see that A could be bitter about B's freedom.


*  Note that I say "successful" priests haven't.  I would think that priests and ministers who have experienced these things would be more understanding of others.

**  And, of course, SBNRs can find church just irrelevant to their spirituality. 

** You could also make a case that I'm an SBNR who goes to church, but that kind of muddies the definition, doesn't it?

It's Just Mean

2012_05_07_1620csWe've never had a political sign in our yard before.  I don't like any candidates enough to actually put up a yard sign or put a bumper sticker on my van.*  I'm of the hold-your-nose-and-vote party.

However, Amendment One is different.  I picked up a yard sign a month ago.  I voted during one of the first few early voting days.  Everyone here has voted early, except for younger (13 yo) son, who said that he wished he could vote against it.

For those who are not in NC, Amendment One reads: 

Constitutional Amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

Amendment One makes me so angry because it's unnecessary, frivolous, badly written, un-American, un-Biblical, bigoted, and immoral.

  • Unnecessary:  Gay marriage isn't legal in NC anywayThere's a 1996 law saying that same-sex marriages aren't valid in NC.  This is just enshrining this law in the NC Constitution.  
  • Frivolous:  NC used to be a great place to find jobs.  Now, unemployment in NC is fifth highest in the nation.  Traditional, working-class, NC jobs in industries like tobacco and textiles have disappeared, and they haven't been replaced.  We have environmental issues, health issues, infrastructure issues, etc.  Yet, we're wasting time, money, and energy on an unnecessary amendment!
  • Badly written:  The intended consequences are bad enough, but the wording could lead to various unintended consequences.  Children may lose insurance, cohabitating couples may lose domestic violence protections. 
  • Un-American:  I have yet to read or hear a good argument for the amendment.  Most rely on religious premises - establishing state policy based on the religious values of some churches (Some arguments rely on tradition).  You can practice your religion all you want - you can't strait-jacket others with it.  This nation was founded on freedom of religion.
  • Un-Biblical:  Those in favor say that we need to keep to a Biblical view of marriage.  Really?  Old Testament or New Testament?  If we're talking Old Testament, then we need to legalize polygamy  (and we need to close all the restaurants down at the coast that serve those delicious shellfish).  If we're talking New Testament, then, according to Matthew 19:  8 - 10, divorce should be illegal.  My apologies to those who are divorced for pointing this out, but, there it is, in the first book of the New Testament.  If you're going to be Biblical, don't just pick and choose
  • Bigoted:  There is no logical way around that last argument.  I've looked. I have yet to read a logical argument which allows heterosexual divorce but prohibits gay marriage.  If you have one, please mention it in the comments.  Traditional views of marriage didn't used to allow divorce.  Churches didn't used to allow divorce.  Churches didn't even used to approve of artificial birth control. 

I do not throw the word bigoted around lightly.  I use in this case because same sex couples are being held to a Biblical standard that heterosexual couples are not held to - and the vast majority of the arguments for the Amendment are religious.  If the Amendment said that marriage was between only one man and one woman (i.e. no divorce), it would sink without a trace. 

  • Immoral:  Why should marriage change for people who are straight but not for people who are gay and lesbian?  Why should the majority gain the freedom to expand their ability to marry, remarry, and conduct their marriages as they want (birth control) but the minority cannot marry at all?!  It's not because of the Bible, because we allow for divorce under any circumstances which is not Biblical.  It's not because of tradition, because we've changed plenty of traditions regarding marriage (nobody wants to go back to the symbolism regarding the white wedding dress!).  Is there any explanation besides a bigotry which says that divorce is okay because straight people are like us, but same sex marriage is bad because those people are different?

The 1996 law was bad enough.  Now, the amendment would enshrine bigotry in the NC Constitution.  This time I wasn't holding my nose and voting.  I was voting while breathing fire. 

The robo-calls on my phone today have said "All children need a mother and father."  So - we're going to what - forbid divorce? - go back to shotgun marriages?  No, this need for a mother and father applies only to the children of same sex couples.  The commonly heard rhetoric for this Amendment makes no sense.

Quite frankly, I don't understand why people have a problem with same sex marriage in the first place.  Fears of rampaging hordes of gay and lesbian customers registering china patterns?  If two people of the same gender get married, you have another marriage.  That's it. 

I'm not impartial on this one.  I have too many friends and relatives who are gay and lesbian.  I've heard their stories and the ways they've been hurt.  This unnecessary Amendment just hurts them further and enshrines their second-class status. 

It's just mean. 

  •  I've written this post in my head for the last few weeks, but I can't type it out to be as good as I would like so I'm going to leave it as it is.  Maybe I should have just posted this video instead - he says it so much better than I have.  Here is Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC speaking on the Amendment [Hat tip to the friend who posted it on Facebook]:


* My only (current) bumper sticker says:  "Got Moose?"



In junior high school, while sitting in slow classes and having way too much time to think about other things, I would look down at my thighs in disgust.  They were too wide there - flattened out on the chair.

For years, I've hated my legs.  They're actually short for the length of my torso, although that does make it easier for me to lean over and put my hands flat on the floor.  It makes buying pants even more difficult than it would already be with my hips and waist.  If pants fit in the hips, the waistband sticks way out.  If pants fit in the waist... well, I'd never know because I wouldn't be able to get them over my hips.  Shopping for pants is second in unpleasantness only to shopping for shoes. 

Clothes aren't made for my legs.  They've never looked skinny, even when I only weighed 102.  Those who say that women's muscles don't bulk up when they work out haven't seen my calves.   I'm also shorter than most people.

Recently, when I ask one of the four family members who are taller than I am to get somthing from an upper shelf, I add "Because I've got these short stubby legs."   I'm joking... sort of.

One Biblical character I've always enjoyed is Zacchaeus, who, being "short of stature," climbed up into a tree to see Jesus.  

I could look at things differently, though.  These are the legs that enabled me to run around parks and play with my kids as they were growing up.  They're the legs that hike up mountains.  They're the legs that wander all over cities.  They're the legs that garden. They're the legs that taught aerobics for sixteen years.  They're the legs that did musical theater even when scar tissue from my first knee surgery kept my kneecap from moving normally. 

They're the legs that dance.

My legs rock.


Musical interlude

Really longtime readers of my blog will know what song is coming next, There's Lightning in These Thunder Thighs, written by Cynthia Emmets, and performed here by Saffire:  The Uppity Blues Women:


Why I'm not returning to the Catholic Church anytime soon

A Catholic friend on Facebook asked her Protestant friends to answer in one sentence what is keeping them (or would keep them) from becoming Catholic. 

I answered in one word (which we'll get to later), but here's the rest of the essay.

I'm in the Episcopalian Church.  Am I Episcopalian?  Am I Protestant?



Sort of?

I will say that I'm an Episcopalian choir member.  That is familiar to me!  On the rare occasions that I do things outside of choir in the church, there are so many things that seem unfamiliar to me, or that I just don't share in.  I'd say that, cuturally, I'm not really Episcopalian. I don't know the dance steps, and I get them all wrong. 

Of course, you could say that, culturally, I'm Lutheran since I grew up in the Lutheran Church, but I haven't regularly gone since high school so I'm not really Lutheran.  I'm in the Episcopalian Church so I can't be Catholic, but the American Catholic Church culture is far more familiar to me since I was in it for 20 years.


For me, it's not just what would keep me from joining the Catholic Church, it's what would keep me from returning. 

It's a timely question in a way.  A few months ago, we went to daughter's Catholic church in Asheville.  In some ways, it felt like coming home.  Even though we'd never been at this parish before, it felt familiar in a way that our Episcopalian church - outside of choir - has never felt familiar.

Her church was also very warm and welcoming.  Everyone around us shook our hands at the Sign of Peace - even those that were separated by a pew or two.  The priest came up and talked to me afterwards!*  It was the longest conversation I've had with a priest in over twenty years! 

There was a part of me that felt... alive just as a member of the congregation in a way that I don't normally feel outside of choir (of course, choir is far better yet).

There are things I miss.  I miss the ease of volunteering for ministries (in the Catholic Church, there aren't all that many volunteers so ministries are almost never closed).  I miss the... feel, for lack of a better word, of a community oriented Catholic parish like daughter's.  I do know the steps there.  They may not always be natural to me, but at least I know what they are.  I miss the more concrete homilies.  I miss Father C's focus on God's Love. 

I miss regular Daily Mass.  Daily Services at the Episcopalian church wander all over the schedule so I never know how to try to fit them in from one month to the next. 

But I wouldn't go back at this point - not for a long time.  Why?

First:  The music.

The most common current American Catholic church music is referred to as "Folk music."  I'm very familiar with folk music, having steeped myself in it for thirty years.  What most of the Catholic churches use use is folk/pop - most often sounding like the songs are 60's and 70's vintage.  There was one new song that we sang at Mass once which was soooo 1970's Barry Manilow that I looked to the end to see if the music had his trademark upwards modulation.  It didn't - until the choir sang the chorus an additional time at the end and modulated upwards.  I couldn't keep from laughing. Dear husband and I looked at each other, and I burst out (quietly) with You know I can't smile without you.

Not to say that it's all bad.  There are a number of Catholic "folk" hymns that I like, but there are so many bad ones.  Also, for some reason, Catholics can't sing entire hymns.  They only sing selected verses ("But the hymn is only three verses long!  Why do we have to skip one?!"(Actual family quote)).

Classical musicians, or Catholics who like classical music, or those who even just want to improve the music that is there, are told to "offer it up."**  Now, I consider that offering up is a very important part of my prayer life, but, in this situation, it's just an admonishment to put up with it.  Catholic musicians can get very self-righteous about the "folk" music.  No, my dislike of Catholic "folk" music doesn't mean that I dislike folk music - which I love.  It doesn't even mean that I dislike 70's pop music.  I just dislike bad music.  It's a shame you have to fill your Church with it.

I did offer it up - for 20 years of lousy music.  There was one church where we joked about the cantata for choir versus cantor - which was basically how the music went.  That was also where I didn't volunteer to play the flute because I wouldn't know which of the four out-of-tune guitarists to try to tune with. 

In the Episcopalian church, I was so happy to find that there are numerous other hymns to sing in Advent besides Pre-e-e-pare ye the Way of the Lord.  As much as I love Pippin and Wicked (written by the same songwriter), I would be so happy to never hear that hymn again because of its Catholic Advent overuse.  It's okay the first 500 times through, but after that...

[Although, if we could sing it while splashing around in a fountain, as they do in the linked video, it would be more enjoyable, although cold in December.]

I figure I'll spend twenty years enjoying and singing beautiful church music, then, maybe, I'll reconsider.  After 20 years of wandering in the musical desert, I'm enjoying the oasis.

Also, I have no interest in leaving my current church.  I love singing in the choir.  Everybody is friendly, the music is wonderful, and the choir director is fantastic (he's also a composer and we get to sing his compositions!).  Even when older son graduates and if moves off, I'll still stay in choir. 

Second:  I wouldn't return to the Catholic Church in the next five to nine years because, although he was baptized in the Catholic Church by Father C, for the last nine years, younger son, has grown up in the Episcopalian church.  Now, culturally, he's less Episcopalian than I am.  He has no interest in learning the steps of the social dance.  However, when I mentioned this post to him, he said that he wouldn't want to join a Church where women couldn't be priests, and he remembers enough of the Catholic music (and has heard it recently) that he far prefers Episcopalian music. 

I was actually quite surprised at how strongly he felt about the music, but he's spent a lot of time in the choir room!

In the Catholic Church, he can't, and wouldn't, be able to receive Communion until he went through a year-long class.

Which brings me to the unpleasant subject of...

Sacramental preparation.

I went through Confirmation classes in the Lutheran Church.  I went through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) when I joined the Catholic Church.  I went through Baptism preparation for three children (although by the third, the Director of Religious Education jokingly asked if we wanted to help teach).  I sat through the parents' parts of older son's First Communion/First Reconciliation classes (and listened to his complaints about the kids's parts).  Daughter had the same classes in a different parish.  I went through JIF (Journey in Faith) when we joined the Episcopalian church, and older son went through the teen Confirmation version. 

For the first part of the session, teens and adults were together.  Older son only had to poke me to wake me up once.

I don't think I have the patience for another round of Sacramental Prep.  The only ones that I found useful were RCIA when I joined the Catholic Church, and daughter's First Communion/First Reconciliation class.  They were the ones that, not only had a good deal of concrete information, they also had enough interaction to get questions answered.***  I don't find that the Preparation classes usually go in depth enough for me - or for my kids.  Older son was patient with the confirmation class that didn't have time for teens to question, but I knew that daughter wouldn't have any patience with that. She decided that she would join a church as an adult. 

Younger son is even more critical of classes than daughter and I are.  I didn't think that was possible! 

Third:  At this point, I'm at home when I go to choir and when I sing in the choir on Sundays.  I finished the second half of this post after getting home from choir.  I'll miss everyone in the choir in a few weeks as it ends for the summer, and I'll look forward to seeing them all again in the fall.  As much as I enjoyed visiting daughter's Catholic parish, I have no drive to leave the Episcopalian Church or to return to the Catholic Church myself.  I've gotten to like the familiar rhythms of the Episcopalian church.  I love the beauty of the services.  It's not just the big things - I'd miss the trees I see out the window opposite the choir section.  Older son, younger son, and I all agree that it would be so difficult to lose the beautiful Episcopalian music.  The two of them are so firm on the subject that, if I ever returned, it would be solo, and I don't want that.


*  I'm used to priests talking to dear husband, but he was in the restroom.  The priest was actually talking to me!

** For those of you non-Catholics, this means offering up your sufferings as a prayer.

***  For me, both information and interaction are necessary for a good Sacramental Prep. class.  Older son's First Communion class was very interactive, but had very little that was concrete beyond "God loves flowers."  JIF had lots of information, and a wonderful small group section, but there was never any time to get questions answered (We came up with LOTS of questions in our small group). 

Why am I such a failure?

I can't relax because to relax is to fail.

Feeling like a failure is not a new thing to me, but not being able to relax because of it is.

When I was homeschooling all three kids, I could relax - when I got a chance - because I felt good about what we'd accomplished that day or week, even if it was just a good walk and conversation at Duke Gardens.  Even last spring, when I was only homeschooling younger son, we were busy together so I could relax when we weren't doing things together.

This spring, younger son is in the 13 yo "hibernate-in-your-room" stage.  We see him at meals and, occasionally, for other things.  I know it's a stage - daughter mentioned that at that age all she wanted to do is read in her room, and she's so busy in college that she doesn't have time to read things outside her classwork. 

We take a break from formal homeschooling for the nice weather in the spring and the fall.  It's a quieter break than usual because younger son is so solitary.  I should be enjoying this as a time to relax, garden, read, blog, etc. 

Instead, I'm spending a good bit of it feeling like a failure.  If I'm homeschooling or even doing casual things like hikes with my kids or dear husband, I feel like I'm accomplishing something important.  If I'm not doing something with them - on a day mostly to myself - it doesn't matter how much I do, I feel like a failure. 

Between yesterday and today, I got a good bit of the house cleaned up, straightened up things in the yard, organized a bunch of things including upcoming trips, and I feel like a failure.  It doesn't matter how many non-family-interactive things I do, it never feels like enough. 

Even if I try to relax, I mostly just spend the time feeling like a failure for not getting things done.  The only way around that is to play obsessive rounds of computer games. 

I feel like I'm actually relaxing less now than when I was homeschooling all three.  I don't feel like I deserve to relax.

I wrote a comment on the post, When Your Kid is an Introvert (ish), at Introverted Church this morning.  I lost it because my aging computer can't handle whatever the website needed for posting a comment (I don't deserve a new computer, though)(I've already updated Firefox, and it works worse than before). 

Part of the comment merges in with this current post, though.  I wrote about how, even though older son is much more introverted than I am, he actually interacts with people better.  Except for close friends and close family, I approach most social interactions as tests, in which, I'm either going to fail, or, maybe, do okay.  I never do well.  I should have listened better, made better responses, had more energy, or talked (listened) longer.  Or, HORRORS, I actually slipped up and let one of my own opinions out rather than just reflecting their opinions back. 

On the other hand, as introverted as he is, older son just enjoys people.  He may need lots of time to himself later, but he approaches social interactions as enjoyable experiences, not tests with a very likely risk of failure (my approach). 

This is one thing that amazes me about all three of my kids.   People like them, which amazes me because how can someone as unlikeable as myself have kids that people like?!  Obviously, it comes from somewhere else on their genetic background.  

Socially, I have to work really hard to reflexively listen to people and always do what they want - not to be liked (I never expect that), but just in order to get along. 

A year ago, I went to one of the "meet the Rector" lunches that we had at our church.  We started out going around the table and introducing ourselves - maybe a 45 second introduction. 

45 seconds, and I was interrupted by others.  Twice. 

Nobody else was interrupted.

The rest of the lunch didn't go all that well, either.  I'm not great at Episcopalian small talk.  I came home feeling like a failure and mentioned it on Facebook. 

I got a number of commiserations, but I also had one wise friend mention that, if others were interrupting me, it sounds like I was not the one failing in social interactions.


Here's the part where I say that I learned something about social interactions from that friend, but I didn't really.  I still expect lots out of myself - particularly in expecting myself to always adjust to what other people want.  To do anything else but adjust seems selfish. 

[Oh, I have a two part post about some really throught provoking blog posts I ran across last week on church and community.  I didn't post it so as not to offend anyone.]

[By the way, I'm not insulting you by saying you don't want your thoughts provoked.  You'd probably be fine with what they wrote; it's my writing that's the problem.]

[Yesterday, on the way to early voting, I wrote a post in my head about the absolutely unneccessary, un-Biblical, immoral, and bigoted North Carolina Amendment that is up for a vote in two weeks.  I didn't even write the post because it's too opinionated and might offend someone.  [Oooops!  Too late.]]

By the way, even though I gardened for an hour this morning, I'm currently a failure because I'm inside writing on the computer rather than out in the sun gardening.  I'm also a failure because I don't take long hikes like a real hiker (Our hikes generally aren't longer than 3-4 miles, and they're often shorter.).  I don't read enough so I'm a failure. I don't practice flute/voice enough so I'm a failure.  I'm a 50 year old who dances so I'm a failure.*

Even the fun things turn into occasions of failure. 

Last summer, during the summer, community theater musical, I was not only in the general dance scene, with about 30 other cast members, I was in the featured dance group.  I both beat myself up mentally for being a failure at the dancing and kept going anyway because the dancing was so much fun. 

Was I doing a bad job at the dancing?  Actually, probably not.  I remembered all the choreography and got at least some of the style into it.  I practiced it lots at home.  But...

I was the only one anywhere near my age in the (around) thirty person dance section and in the six person featured group.  I think the next oldest dancer was 15 years younger than I was, and most of them were in their teens and 20's.  WTF was a, shall we say non-skinny, 49 year doing dancing with them?!  I was a failure just by dancing.  Everyone else near my age was watching the dancers in the dance scene (which you can see an early rehearsal of on Facebook.  I hesitated to post a link because this was taped the last run-through of the evening, and I was tired and losing focus.  Daughter, older son, and I are all wearing green. Daughter is in the front at the beginning, and older son and I are on the right in the second part.  Older son is not the prince, who is also wearing green.)(Here's a link to a photo where we've all fallen down from exhaustion after the dance.  I'm in dark blue in front of the prince's feet.)(My, that dress makes me look curvy.  I loved that dress.)

Ooops, sorry for the digression.  Anyway, I was too old to be dancing, but it was too fun to pass up.  As is obvious from that digression, I'm also a failure for enjoying things too much.  Part of the reason I'm so quiet in person is that I get too enthusiastic about things.  That's one thing I like about my blog - I can bubble over about something without looking at people rolling their eyes.

[Of course you may be rolling your eyes right now, but I can't see it so it's your problem.]

[I'm gaining a bit of attitude by writing this post, aren't I?]

By the way, absolutely NOBODY in the community theater EVER said anything about my being older - well, except for daughter and older son who told me that I was being silly and to stop worrying about it.

I felt like I was holding my breath for the last week.  I auditioned for this summer's musical last Monday evening.  The chorus supposed to be only half the size of last year's chorus.  I was really worried that I wouldn't get in.  Yes, I can dance, somewhat, and sing in harmony (on-key), but I'm not good at acting. 

Older son graduates from college next year so this could be his last summer musical here. 

It's also a good part of my social life for the year.  Strangely, since acting is a new thing for me, I do feel like I can be myself there. 

I wanted to be in it so badly.  I could hardly concentrate on anything all week (boy, was I a failure!).

I found out yesterday evening that I'm in the chorus (so is older son, but he's good at singing and acting).  I was so happy I cried.

There are two things I can when I'm a failure.  I can either attitude myself out of it, which I, surprisingly, appear to have done here.  I can also embrace the failure.  I'm a lousy person/Christian/Episcopalian/whatever.  As a result, it doesn't really matter what I do - I'm a failure - so I might as well do whatever I think is best or whatever I feel like.


* Although, I was often criticized by other teenagers/college students for not being a typical teenager/college student.  I've never been good at acting my age.  

Drama king with a gun and a laptop

Sigh.  North Carolina has beautiful (and cold, this past weekend) mountains, a lovely coast, and the in-between is pretty nice too.  We have the NC symphony (and lots of local ones), numerous science museums, a great state art museum (and lots of local ones), the largest private residence in the world (where there were daffodils blooming by a stream, even on this cold weekend), etc.  I've loved living here for over thirty years, and I get very grumpy about stereotypes regarding the "backwardness" of North Carolina.

On Saturday  morning, before heading to Asheville to celebrated daughter's and older son's birthdays, I checked the local news for the weather one more time.  There was a headline about an NC man shooting his daughter's laptop along with another headline about an SUV crashing into a local furniture store.

Darwin award time?!

At least the second article didn't deserve a Darwin Award because the floor mat got tangled up in the pedals. 

I had to wonder about the first one, though.  What kind of an idiot goes around shooting a computer?  Not only did I not have time to read the article, I also didn't want to read another article that would give people the impression that North Carolinians are backwards and thoughtless.

I had a wonderful weekend (more on that in another post) spent wandering around Asheville, eating in good (and warm!) restaurants, having long conversations, sitting with dear husband at the hot tub in the hotel (no, not that romantic - there were four active elementary school age girls playing Marco Polo in the larger pool at the time), going to Mass at daughter's church, and, most of all, enjoying having my family together.  I didn't think about the news at all. 

Imagine my surprise when, getting home happy, but tired, I got online to wind down just to find that this person had made a video of himself, and it had gone viral.  Facebook friends were mentioning it all over the place. 

For those of you who haven't read about it, you can go do something else and remain blissfully unaware what happened is this:  The daughter posted a rant about her parents to her Facebook friends.  She doesn't want to do chores, she wants to be paid, and she likes to swear. 

I bet you've never heard of a teen like that before.

I hope the sarcasm is obvious. 

The father posted a video of his response, including reading her post, refuting it, and shooting her computer.

A few points:

  • Her post was meant to be private for only her friends.  The post was not available to the general public, and he only read it because he was updating her computer.  He says that, because of what has happened in the past, she should have expected him to be reading her Facebook posts. 

However, he does not say that he ever told her that the punishment for her private Facebook posts would be to have them read, quite publicly, on YouTube. 

  • He shows a printout of her post, which is quite long for a Facebook post.  Given that many people don't like to read more than a few paragraphs on the internet, few of her friends probably finished reading it.  Far more people have encountered it on his video. 
  • The chores that he says she does are not unusual.  Our older kids had more chores when they were her age (15 yo).  Have they always enjoyed doing chores?  Of course not.  I don't either.  I even might complain about my chores occasionally.  

There's a balance there, however.  My kids know that I won't put up with much whining.  In fact, we often quote a line from a Maura O'Connell concert when she mentions that she can't stand whining. I try not to complain too much.    However, you need to vent occasionally. 

Was her complaint bratty and potty-mouthed.  Yes.  Might she be embarrassed about it in a few years?  Hopefully. 

  • Is she complaining about things which seem trivial given his experiences and responsibilities?  Yes.  That's part of being a parent.  You understand things about the seriousness of life that your kids HOPEFULLY don't understand yet. 
  • She was quite a drama queen about her complaints, which isn't genetically surprising given his reaction.  Shooting a computer (with expensive bullets!) and posting it on YouTube is definitely a drama king reaction.  It sounds like something out of The Onion (a satirical news site).

For the rest of his life, when this IT professional applies for a job, companies will Google him and find this.  Even if he takes the video down, the news articles and blog posts will remain.   If you had to choose between applicants for an IT job, which would you choose - someone who has a very innocuous public profile, or someone who embarrasses himself and his daughter, quite publicly on the Internet, and demonstrates his self control by shooting a laptop?

Other views at:

Madonna on the Half-time*

Immaculate CollectionWe often spend Super Bowl Sunday out hiking because the woods are so peaceful and deserted.  This year, we spent it at my mother's house having a wonderful time celebrating older son's birthday.  I totally forgot that the Super Bowl was going on.

However, when people started debating Madonna's performance in long conversations yesterday on Facebook, I knew I had to go check it out.

I've been a longtime Madonna fan and also a longtime not Madonna fan.  I enjoy her catchy pop tunes, and we have her Immaculate Collection CD.  However, as a performer, she seems very cold, even in her sexy performances, so I'm never really drawn into them.  I wasn't predisposed to either like or dislike her Super Bowl performance.

After reading all the comments yesterday, I went to look up the YouTube video today. 

Verdict:  It was a very enjoyable spectacle.  She had a good selection of songs,** good guest artists, fantastic dancers, and she still holds the stage as commandingly as ever.  As usual, I found her very distancing, but she's performing in front of millions of people, in person and offline, so I certainly wouldn't expect her to be more personal!

Really, the first time I got emotionally connected to the performance was when the LMFAO*** guys appeared.  I've found their videos very funny and over the top (possible future Friday Fun Songs) so I giggled when they came on. Okay, and when the gospel choir started singing, I got chills up and down my spine because I love gospel singers - so, for me, it was a better Madonna performance than usual.  She really seemed to be enjoying herself singing Like a Prayer - more than in the rest of the performance.

Responses to specific criticisms I've read:

  • She's too old to keep doing this.  I actually watched the video with this in mind.  She's three years older than I am, and I certainly wouldn't do that kind of a show (of course, I wouldn't have in my 20's either).  If you didn't know she was 53, and you just watched her performance, how old would you say she is?  You can use this photo for reference.   Was she too saggy?  Certainly didn't show in that outfit - and it would have.  Her face doesn't show many lines.  The only criticism that makes any sense is that her dancing isn't as sharp as it used to be.  Her dancing isn't the main point of the spectacle, though, so that's not so important.  There were plenty of good dancers in the spectacle. Which leads to...
  • She couldn't do everything the younger dancers could.  No, she can't.  That's why they're there, and they were wonderful.  They can't be Madonna either, which is why they aren't headlining a Super Bowl performance. 
  • She lip synced.  So does everyone in the Macy's Day parade.  Maybe Sir Paul McCartney didn't lip synch his Super Bowl performance, but did he do cartwheels (assisted or not?).  Madonna's act is not one designed around singing, it's designed around motion and spectacle.  As fit as she is, very few singers can move that much and sing their best at the same time. 
  • [By the way, spectacle and distancing don't have to be mutually exclusive.  Bette Midler can put on quite the spectacle, but she still seems personal.]
  • She should have ended with a dance floor classic for an upbeat finale rather than Like a Prayer.  I As much as I enjoyed that section, I thought it was surprising to finish with that.  The more I watch it, though, the more that turns out to be my favorite part. 
  • Predictable, boring and narcissistic.  Predictable?  You expected the Roman theme?  Boring.  No, there was too much going on.  Narcissistic?  She's a pop star.  Isn't narcissism part of the job description?
  • She was wobbly in the four inch heels.  She had a hamstring injury from a recent rehearsal.  Short of redoing the choreography and costume in the last few days before the Super Bowl, they just had to deal with it. 
  • I don't want to see someone my mother's age flashing their panties!  Sigh.  I didn't notice the panty flash until the third time I watched it.  I guess I was too busy watching other things.  People disapproved of Madonna's conical bras and sexuality in the 80's.  They disapproved of her book, Sex, in the 90's.  Why would she stop being controversial now?  She paved the way, pop music-wise, for the display of sexuality from current singers.  When Lady Gaga flashes her panties in a performance in 2039, it will be because Madonna did it first. 

[More, possibly, tomorrow]

*  Title is a play on Madonna-on-the-half-shell, a kind of yard ornament.

** Though I wish her current single didn't have the cheerleader part.  It's a good song otherwise. 

***  Which I prefer to think of as "Lilies may flower all over" Original story for the name here - it comes from a grandmother. :)

What's with some people?!

There are few bargains as good as a pizza buffet for a teenage boy.  Of course, the fact that I don't eat that much pizza balances things off so we're probably breaking even once you average younger son's pizza consumption and mine.  Still, it's satisfying to take younger son (just turned 13 yo) to the Pizza Hut buffet and tell him to eat to his heart's content. He might not even get hungry again for... maybe 2 hours?!

When we got to the buffet, they didn't have many pizzas I liked (I think their thin crust tastes like cardboard) so I got a spoonful of the macaroni & cheese to try.  We haven't been to the buffet in about two years so I didn't remember what it tasted like.  The woman next to me turned to me, looked me in the eye, and loudly said, "It's just WRONG to get mac & cheese at a pizza buffet!"

I certainly didn't want a conversation with her, but to be polite and make some response, I offhandedly said that I was just trying it.  She couldn't let it go, however, and repeated, "It's still just WRONG!"*

Of course, about two hours later, I realized that I should have replied, "It's just WRONG to make comments about the eating habits of total strangers at a buffet!"

At least younger son and I had a good laugh and a long conversation about bad manners. 

What would you have replied?


* She probably really wouldn't have approved of my trip to the salad bar.