Betty Duffy


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The cozy nest

This morning, the intermediate boys (ages 5 and 8) are the first to rise, as usual, one in his t-shirt and underpants, the other in pants and no shirt, both skin and bones, both unusually perky, with the hair on their crowns puffed into cones from sleep. They look like mushroom caps, and smell about the same. It's time to brush those big teeth in their smiling little mouths.

Currently, they are piling up blankets and each making their own 'cozy nest.' Both my girls, who bookend them, have liked to nurse and then push away from me to go back to their cribs and sleep without the problem of other bodies close to them radiating heat. But the boys were such willing little hot potatoes who nursed interminably, and when they could not succeed at crawling back into the womb, would be content with taking possession of one of my arms or legs.

They still do this, often at Church, when they pin me in from either side, pulling my arms around their shoulders, building a 'cozy nest' out of me. Sometimes I feel challenged by these presumptions.
cozy nest occupied by one invisible boy

 But what are relationships if not a challenge? We meet with rigidity, we revise and soften.

Here is attempt one at an apology note from boy, age 8, to boy, age 12:

(I am sorry for hitting you with a broom. It probably hurt you. You now know what hating people is really like.)

And a revised attempt:

(I feel bad that I hit you. I could see that it hurt you and it made me feel bad before I sped off. I had to stand in the corner, and I guess it served me right. Signed, with sincerity)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dry Land Appears

Never leave home without your camera, is what I've told myself before. You just never know. Still I left for my walk without my camera, because it was late and cloudy and I didn't expect to see anything interesting. 

The corn is tall now, making the roads into dark green tunnels lined with petticoats of Queen Anne's Lace. As cool as it's been this summer, the way the breeze has never been still over the fields, and the fields at times look like an ocean--I think of the first lines of Genesis: "the darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters." 

Maybe I shouldn't want to go there--to the beginning-- but I do.

In a similar way, I've felt a little homesick for my drowning experiences, being lifted and carried by a tremendous rhythm, the purposeful desire for life. Just knowing the wind is up there somewhere, constant and timeless, though you can't reach it for now, and maybe never will--somehow it was a blessed experience.

But that could be the wine talking.  

The first thing I saw that I wanted to photograph was an indigo bunting perfectly preserved and smashed on the speckled pavement, like a pressed flower. 

The boys went to bale hay this weekend at Mom and Dad's. The romance of this particular job has definitely worn off for me, especially with as tired as I still am from God knows what, and when the work kept getting put off, because of a flat tire on one of the implements, or a missing bolt on the baler, I was wishing the boys were old enough to drive to their own jobs.

At 8:00 P.M. my dad pulled the baler down the lane with my mom following in the truck and my two oldest kids on the wagon behind her, finally ready to work. 

I had decided to take the little kids home, spend some time with my husband before the day was over, and let the boys stay all night, but at the corner of the road, I did a three point turn. 

"What are you doing?" my daughter asked. 

"We should probably help. I feel bad for leaving them."

This was exactly the news that the younger kids wanted to hear. "You're so good at feeling bad!" said my daughter, which seemed the truest thing she's ever said.


And the blessing always comes later--in those moments you keep going when you want to stop. Each year, the boys get a little stronger, while the grown-ups get a little weaker, and somehow everything gets done. And anything you do in the days' last light is lovely--so lovely, I almost can't stand it. I always doubt the beauty God wants to give me, that glimpse of sun between the clouds and the tassels of corn at the end of a gray day. 

Then God said, "Let there be light, and there was light."


Tonight, walking in the last light of a different day, I almost cried at how beautiful it was. I've wanted to cry about a lot of things lately, and it's all familiar territory, none of it sad, through probably exacerbated by fatigue. I know that wanting to cry about things doesn't signify much, except that they're surpassing all the stops I have in place, and affecting me. The only trouble with becoming more porous is that things quickly weigh you down and life feels heavy, like walking through water or trying to fly when you're pressed in stone.

24 hours after I first saw it. It used to look a little less dead.

The super moon

Monday, July 7, 2014


I'm experiencing Post Party Fatigue...can't..stay...awake.... I could feel it coming on, when there was one really hot day at Mom and Dad's and everyone was high strung and overtired, and I couldn't wait to get home and put the kids down and go to bed myself. I loaded up and exited so fast, people thought I was mad at them.

That night there were thunderstorms, and when we woke up the temperatures had dropped about fifteen degrees. When I took the kids back out to my parents' for one last bout with their cousins before my sister and her family headed back to California, a dreamy somnolence had overtaken the house. Everyone was subdued.

I've been in that dream state ever since. Almost didn't make it to Mass yesterday. Been napping whenever I can. Not Pregnant, even. Just waiting to wake up.

So here's a re-run about baling hay, because it's that time again, and the boys are heading back to the farm this week to make some more money.

And here's another post from this weekend about being angry.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What's news?

All my siblings have been in town this week, so I've been out at Mom and Dad's with the kids for most of it, eating my brother-in-law's cooking, and watching all of our kids--the nineteen cousins--get terribly sweaty chasing fire crackers, riding horses, and building the swampiest mud fort in the history of outdoor forts.

Shortly after my second near-death experience this year, my sister-in-law asked me if maybe these events weren't really accidental near-disasters, but rather indications that I share a familial inclination towards "the normalcy bias"--or the irrational belief that bad things won't happen to me, even though I put myself in positions of considerable risk.

In my family, all of our best ideas-- like a decision to clean the gutters, shoot off fireworks, or pull down a tree that leans towards the house-- occur during lightening storms.

This week, we did two out of three of the above-mentioned activities (no gutters this time), and even though my youngest brother had watched a TV show called "The Science of Stupid" that dealt specifically with the issue of people trying to cut down leaning trees so they'll fall in opposite directions, and even though the show had proven that such feats are not possible-- a few people I'm related to looped a chain around a tree-trunk, attached it to the tractor, notched the tree, and pulled away from the house, only to drop the tree directly onto the roof.

Hence, there was no need to clean the gutters.

Fortunately, no one died, and I say that in earnest.

Recent writings at Patheos:

The Catholic channel is hosting a symposium on the upcoming Extraordinary Synod for the Family. I have to admit, I had no idea what a synod was until yesterday, nevertheless, I have written on The Mission of Families in Reconciling "The Family."

It is not about the Pope having recently excommunicated the Italian Mafia, nor is it about families who make bad decisions during lightening storms. It's about sheltering kids: Is it possible, or even desirable, to shelter our children while also acting as witnesses to a wounded culture?

Read more:

Last week, I was writing about swimsuit season and stupid body image stuff:

You don’t get to be someone who is fully invested in being thin, and at the same time finds herself interesting enough in her own right to forget occasionally her body and its tendency to grow fat when it’s having fun.

Read more:

I've got to say, this topic is starting to weary me. I don't know how it comes around every single season. I'm kind of looking forward to being an old lady.

Finally, an interesting blurb from Christopher Beha in Harper's Magazine about the startling absence of religion from modern literature.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Speaking in tongues and other terrifying gifts of the Spirit

I don't know if the sky is really more interesting lately, or if I'm just noticing it more as I spend more and more time looking up, but it pains me sometimes how this particular sky over this horizon will never happen again. This hour is unique. The sun is on my right hand, the full moon on my left, staring eye to eye over the corn fields, and curiously, two flocks of geese approach each other directly overhead moving in opposite directions. From the southbound flock, two geese break off, make a u-turn and join the flock traveling North. I've never seen that happen before, and probably never will again.

At Pedge's house for coffee earlier in the afternoon, we said a prayer for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, since the Church celebrated Pentecost last weekend, and even going into the prayer, we were hesitant--because who are we to ask for such gifts, and… what if we actually receive them? Are these gifts we really even want--to speak in tongues, to heal, to discern spirits…? Irene said that all of us have the gifts, because we have been Baptized and Confirmed with Spirit and water, but the gifts have not yet been released. It's not something we could say with certainty--"I'm not called to that." How would we even know?

The question was whether or not we wanted to know: Do you want to be overcome by the Spirit of God? Do you want to be transformed, and do you trust God to do it, or are you even still overcome with self love, and attached to an idea of your self that arrests you from becoming more fully who God wants you to be?