Betty Duffy


Tuesday, September 30, 2014


The problem with having what Joni Mitchell calls, "the urge for going"-- is that I also have the urge for staying. Fall makes me want to travel. Or maybe, rather, it makes me want to read a book about travel. Or it makes me want to sit in the passenger seat of the car, alternately watching the cornfields go by, while reading a book. I want to go; I just don't want to arrive anywhere. And like hell do I want to pack. And I'd also like to skip over all the fights about whether or not the space in our car is efficiently utilized, and where the cooler should go, and who should have to sit in the middle. And I'd also like for smoking to not be bad for me so I can chain smoke and throw butts and apple cores out the window while someone else is driving and I'm reading. If we arrive anywhere, it would be nice to arrive at a sunset over fields of goldenrod. There is one such field across the street, and sunsets are pretty there, but the drive is anticlimactic. 

Monday, September 29, 2014


I know my feelings. I don't always know why I have them, but I can name them, and lately I've felt like my insides are supported by one of those toothpick bridges you make in 8th grade science class that crumble under the weight of a feather. Or maybe I'm a badly done egg drop experiment. My son made one a couple years ago out of a toilet paper stuffed styrofoam cup with a napkin parachute. Egg smashed.

It's probably not a good time to be making big decisions, but I keep having big ideas--like thinking I'm going to go whole hog on this cloister at home idea and start fasting, sing compline every day, make a schedule to dictate the will of God for my time, and maybe even take up some nice little painful penance.

But perhaps first, I should work on being nice to people, both in thought and in deed, beginning with my kids.

Everything is great with my kids as long as I let them do whatever they want. They free-balled the summer and now trying to get everyone up and moving every morning is like swimming in glue. One of the boys doesn't like his school shorts because they are not made of stinky mesh. He can't find his shoes, wants me to buy him a book and a phone, must do his homework on the computer, and doesn't want to run cross country unless Hans does too.

Everyone was late to school this morning since he was suffering all his usual maladies, and then he forgot all his books and binders at home, so I made a second trip. Baby fussed all night cause she is still not night-weaned, and Joe and I bore it out this morning, neither of us willing to get out of bed until the last possible moment. It was a grouchy two drives to school.

Making that left turn into the school parking lot takes ten minutes since all the buses have to go out in a line, and every single morning there's an old man walking his two fat dogs, carrying his little grocery bag of turds and inching his way into the parking lot, making brazen use of his pedestrian's right of way. It's just what the whole mix needs. I am pro-pedestrian for the most part, and make brazen use of my own right of way all the time, especially on country roads on which I have been duly advised not to walk--because they're dangerous. But I live on them. They're mine. This man does not live in the school parking lot. 

There's another walking lady who makes the entire circumference of the Ville every morning. Eight to 13 miles a day, "But I mix it up, change my route a little each day to be safe." And yet she is still one of the most visible people in town. If someone wanted to find and kidnap her, they would most certainly know where to look. Anywhere, really. She will pass if you sit still long enough. I strike up occasional conversations with the walking lady just to see… or to share that I walk too… or you know, just to mention perfunctorily that we might want to walk together some time, even though we don't. Walking ladies want to be left alone. 

The talking lady is the parking lot fixture I find most disturbing in the earliest hours. She always looks ready to go somewhere, dressed up, hair fluffed, make-up on, and every morning she pulls her Nissan Armada up to some other car in the parking lot, sticks her smiling face out the window and starts having animated conversations with the driver of the other car. At first I thought she was making carpool arrangements, but she'd still be sitting there yakking after I made it through the loop dropping off my kids, which sometimes seems to take a long time. "Why does that woman have to talk so damn much? What could she possibly have to say?" I'm afraid I said it out loud to the boys, and they let me know that that is exactly what my husband says about me when he's been waiting in the car for 15 minutes after Mass.

What he doesn't realize is that sometimes I have to have conversations even I don't want to have because I am the mother of our children. I think that may be one of the nice things about being a man is that no one expects a man to stand around chatting. If he's there voluntarily, that's fine, but if he's already in the car after church, also fine. 

One of my son's former classmates showed herself at Mass recently, grown about five inches since last year. She's thirteen with a winking way of talking: "I see you out walking all the time," she said. "You book it."

The thing is, I really don't book it, so any reference to speed walking could only be offered in a patronizing way, and since I haven't seen this girl in over a year--I had uncharitable feelings. There's a certain brazen unawareness in new adolescence that is perhaps too eager to make light of one's elders. Like all of my irritations-- I have manifested it myself.  I just hadn't realized until then, that I'd become an elder. My cousins and I used to do grandma imitations. I have also spoken as a young girl with too much familiarity towards my friends' parents, but it is the rare girl who can elicit a genuine laugh out of it. I wasn't one of them.

I wanted to tell this girl: call me in a couple decades when you have a right to patronize someone who's over twice your age. I'll laugh with you then and do a parody of myself and how I "book it." But for now, I'm the walking lady. And you can shut up.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Blah blah blah blogging, not sure why I'm doing it right now, except I've got a loose tongue. Otherwise, too much other stuff going on in my life that I need to be taking care of, and that I really do want to take care of. Still nothing feels quite as good as letting her rip on the keyboard, something short, something manageable, something that I can fold into a thousand words or less, something that doesn't change once I think I've figured it out.

Six thousand words, twelve thousand words, sixty thousand--that's hard. There's no beginning, middle and end there. You're just cracking a mystery and it explodes beneath your feet, like trying, unsuccessfully, to dismantle a bomb.

But a thousand words--that's a nice little cube of reason in an unreasonable world, the dollhouse of the mind.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend retrospective

Pretty good weekend on our end. Gorgeous light. Lots of family. There was a concert in the park across the street--Sizzlin' Somebody Bacon who wore glow in the dark glasses and turned almost every song you've ever known into a smooth jazz remix with the lyrics replaced by sax. It was the kind of music that was always playing at TJ Maxx when I was a kid on those interminable grey shopping trips with my mom.

We put a bottle of wine in the stroller and the kids played on the playground. Joe and I sat in the grass feeling mellow, and the old ladies admired the baby's attempts to dance. By the end of the night, once the kids were swarming around us again, I felt a need to provide the appearance that we were all still having a great time, even though the fun was starting to run out. The old ladies had by this time approached us to say out loud what a nice family we have, an acknowledgement which almost always immediately cools any feelings of naturalness in your surroundings.

Gotta keep being a nice family, kids, come on, let's boogie like they do in sitcoms. And of course, the kids all went noodle limp. Well, anyway… nice knowing you, Old Ladies. Back to our real selves, bopping each other and walking across the field in the dark to get back home and fight over bedtime.

There was a double Duffy birthday party on Sunday for our niece and nephew. Two pinatas, two cakes, two rounds of present opening, two, maybe actually three rousing versions of the Happy Birthday song since one of them wasn't good enough, by the end of which, my husband was singing, "Happy birthday dear whoever's birthday it still is…" and we were all slowly dropping into a sugar coma.

Today, I'm finally having that pajama day I've longed for, and of course by noon, it never feels as good as you hoped it might. I think I'll take my car in for an oil change. I'm about 4000 miles overdue.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday in a minor key

My husband and my dad took the boys on a campout last weekend. One of the kids tripped into an  (unlit) fire pit that had some scrap metal in it, cut his hand, went swimming in a muddy pond, rolled around in the dirt some more, and finally let someone know that the cut was actually kind of deep and needed stitches, which he got.

Unsurprisingly, on Sunday, he came down with a high fever and inflammation around the wound, treated with some antibiotics in the ER, and by Monday was in the throws of a mysterious and virulent strain of intestinal issues that required him to sit on the john non-stop for about 60 hours.

Staying home from school, sitting on the toilet, reading books is pretty much how this particular kid would like to spend his life. It was his dream sickness. But it was a conundrum as to what caused the chain reaction. Was he really infected? And then had a reaction to the antibiotics? Or did he just have a bug on top of the cut? No one else was sick, is there weird thing. Even still. They all swam in the same muddy water. They all slept in the same tent...

So, whatever... I guess I don't have to think about it anymore, because it's kind of over, but I want to log my confusion somewhere. This place wins.

All the other kids have entered the Fall project season. Poster board time. The girl is making a 3D model of a Ununennium atom which has an atomic number of 119. She really wants the protons and neutrons to be mini marshmallows.

Two of the boys took the "collage option" which used to mean cutting and pasting a bunch of plant pictures out of your mom's Better Homes and Gardens. Now they want to do internet searches, cut and paste clip art, print it all out and glue it on poster board, which seems like a big waste of time to me. One had to find images that described himself, and the best he could do after three nights of searching online was a flaming soccer ball and a silhouette of a bicycle. I finally told him to draw and write his collage which he was really reluctant to do, but he did manage to finish it in one sitting after that.

The two younger boys were sitting around the living room last night fidgeting and talking to each other in certain tones that I usually tune out. But I paid a little attention to what they were actually saying, and it turns out that they finish almost every sentence with "farty-warty," or "doody-poody," or an actual fart noise that they make with their mouths, and when they finally decided to run along and do something else in another room, they actually stood up, pointed their rear ends at each other and fake farted in one another's "general direction" before running off--which pretty much confirms why I've historically tuned these conversations out.

This weekend, we had a very pleasant visit with the Darwins, which Cat has written up at the Darwin Catholic blog. I also make a short video cameo there, playing some really scratchy cello.  But it was fun scratchy cello, and I wished we'd had more time for fiddling around.

Epigraph for Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge:

"Three deep cravings of the self, three great expressions of man's restlessness, which only mystic truth can fully satisfy. The first is the craving which makes him a pilgrim and a wanderer. It is the longing to go out from his normal world in search of a lost home, a "better country"; an Eldorado, a Sarras, a Heavenly Syon. The next is the craving of the heart for heart, of the Soul for its perfect mate, which makes him a lover. The third is the craving for inward purity and perfection, which makes him an ascetic, and in the last resort a saint."--Evelyn Underhill

Blogged at patheos last week on my own little wanderer moment. Came to no interesting conclusions. And if that doesn't entice you to click through, I don't know what will.

It was forty degrees this morning and looks like rain. I so want to sit around in my pajamas all day today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

(UPDATED!!) You win a prize...

If you make it to the end of this post:

A Pragmatist, an Aquinas Scholar, A Pentecostal Catholic, and a Grandma Walk Into a Bar...

It's long, and I imagine only a few will find it interesting. But the writing goes on (and on)...and I've got nothing better to do with it than give it to you.

UPDATE!: To the few and the proud who completed the read, comment below and I'll send you* a bottle of "Maybe You Touched Your Genitals..." Hand Sanitizer.