Betty Duffy

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This and that


Both the spirit of blogging and of Advent are eluding me as well. I've got a house to clean before we get out a bunch of decorations, primarily a pile of laundry to fold and put away. But have you ever had one of those dreams when you're trying to diet, where people keep bringing you food, and the more you eat, the more food appears? My laundry pile is like that.

Blogging about laundry is interesting, I know. Everybody has it. Everybody struggles. I've told the kids, however, unless they can put their laundry away, without funneling clean clothes back into the dirty laundry, we will not get a Christmas tree this year. We will decorate the laundry pile.

They were actually pretty excited about the idea.

We had our family picture taken for the Parish directory recently. We've honestly never had a professional picture taken of our family, for a several reasons:

1. Cameras take pretty good pictures these days--so why pay for a pro picture with a cheesy background and everybody looking uncomfortable?
2. We live close to all the grandparents; they see us all the time. Why do they need a picture of us?
3. Money.

So this experience of sitting for a family photo was a new one for us. And it was hell.

The photographer started arranging us, and he had my husband sit on a stool with his legs apart. I was to sit on another stool with my back to him, between his legs. I couldn't help feeling a little uncomfortable with the pose, and said so. To which the photographer replied, "It's not like you've never been there before--you have five children."

Yes but, never before in front of an audience--much less a camera. Perhaps we are in a minority on this issue?

Our nine-year-old comedian was out of his mind with joy at having the opportunity to ham for thirty minutes into the lens of a camera. His efforts made no one laugh. So the photographer finally had done with us and funneled us over to the sales people to pick out our "package."

Needless to say, every picture was the essence of overly-casual awkwardness. I picked the best of the worst, and asked for four 5x7s. The sales guy tallied our cost, which came to around $90.

"Yeah, we're not paying that," said my husband and stood up to walk out the door.

"OK then," I said to my sales representative. "Sorry!"

And that was that. Never again.

I've sort of been putting off potty-training the three-year-old. He never wants to sit on the potty when I ask, and I don't like conflict, so I haven't pushed it. (Have you noticed a theme in our family life here? My husband does everything. He potty trained all the other kids, except my daughter, who potty-trained herself. It's great.)

Well, it occurred to me this morning that I've been putting the cart before the horse, by asking the kid if he wants to potty. This morning, it occurred to me that I could ply him with Big-Boy-Pants, and thus-wise encourage him to keep them clean. It's only 10:30 am, but it's worked so far. The kid has been sitting on the potty for about an hour. He gets off for a minute or so here and there to let me know he's been on the potty, then he goes back. There is nowhere else he wants to be.

Before I go whole-hog on poop and laundry blogging, I should mention that I'm really excited about my column at Patheos tomorrow, because I'm writing about a book that I loved.

The Me Years is a memoir about navigating corporate America and romance with an atheist, while grappling with a Catholic faith that has been only a peripheral concern for most of one's life.

Upon graduation, I set out to write the book I wish I could have read in my twenties…for young adults like myself, who find that they can't completely turn away from the religion in which they were raised, and yet find that they are largely a product of, and remain mired in postmodern, secular, mainstream American culture.

I'm in my thirties, married with kids, a practicing Catholic, and I still find myself mired in postmodern, secular, mainstream American culture. Except, perhaps, for a minority of believers, who grew up in the homeschool movement and married young, I think Ellen's story is the central drama for Gen-X Catholics. How do you piece together a functioning faith out of a religion whose traditions no longer speak louder than the world around it?

Ellen Finnigan is an incredibly talented writer. Struggling to answer her boyfriend of two weeks about her reluctance to have sex, she stumbles internally through her own concept of love and the sexual ethics shared by her peers:

My first, instinctive answer ("sex is about love") just felt a little bit too childish and immature for even me to be able to say aloud with any real conviction.

Yet on the other hand, my first, instinctive answer also seemed too serious and, for lack of a better word, adult. It was an idea most people I knew never seemed to ultimately dismiss or eventually grow out of so much as temporarily table (Who doesn't want to believe in love?), but like a fine wine everyone seemed to be saving the real deal with a capital "L" for a time when they would, presumably, be more mature and would meet the right, certain kind of person with whom they would be ready and willing to take on permanent responsibilities and commitments, at which time the bottle (having of course only gotten better with age, or so the story went) would be opened in full ceremony, embraced, indulged and enjoyed. But it seemed like it was understood and implicitly agreed to that, until then, everyone was getting by on the boxed stuff, living modestly within their means, respecting the limitations of others and kindly requesting that other people respect theirs, not asking too much, not expecting too much. Looking at it this way, the idea was not childish so much as uncouth, if not irresponsible: It is unwise to splurge!

The Me Years is a love story. You'll be drawn in because of Finnigan's romance with a man, but the real story is about how one woman's faith shifts from a peripheral and vague notion of love as Eros to a central and profound understanding of love as Agape, and in this way she grows into the Catholic faith with which her parents gifted her at birth.


Kimberlie said...

The last shall be first as the saying goes, I wanted to comment first on the book that I am looking forward to your article and also of checking out the book. I think I can squeeze in one more good book before the end of the year. Maybe not.

Re: Laundry. It's depressing. I like to tell people "well, I got the laundry done today." But it's really a big lie because when you have 4 kids (or 5 in your case) plus 2 grown ups, the laundry is NEVER truly done. For a perfectionist like myself, it's my own personal hell. It's why I don't tend to clean my house very often - it stays clean for 5 minutes and then someone comes along to mess it up. Why bother?

Re: potty training - your boy made me smile. At least if he's glued to the potty, he can't be getting into any mischief right?

Last but not least - it must be a "This and That" kind of day because I had a post I was working on with the same title. :) I'll change it.

BettyDuffy said...

Kimberlie, I know you can squeeze this book in--you won't be able to put it down. Seriously, I was up late one night, and early the next morning, then it was finished too soon.

Re: potty--who knew it was such a good baby sitter?

Erin said...

Those church photographers are NOT what I consider professional photographers. They aren't even necessarily trained in the art of photography. They are trained to push the button a camera and a computer does the rest of the work. Furthermore, they always seat you in the most awkward, ridiculous, unrealistic positions. And to top it all off, they charge an arm and a leg.

I know... I'm a "amateur working on becoming a professional" photographer. ;)

bearing said...

Re: getting the laundry "done." I think whenever it comes to any neverending task like laundry, it is good for the soul to define for yourself a certain status that means "done for the day" (or alternatively, "for the week.")

Exactly what it is depends on you. I might be "I did one load of laundry from start to finish and put it away" or it might be "there is no more than one basket in the house with dirty laundry in it" or it might be "the laundry room is empty of clothes."

But since it's never really "done," and yet we need closure, it's not a bad idea to define a sort of sustainable level as "zero."

My main problem is that MY definition of "the laundry's done" is considerably looser than my spouse's. (For me it's "no baskets are overflowing and there's nothing wet in the dryer.") Or maybe that's not a problem, because it means that he's always doing laundry on weekends.

By the way, my word verification is "hectic." No kidding.

Matthew Lickona said...

She got a blurb from Elie! Good for her!
There's this other memoir that I've heard rumblings about, though, from this other Catholic lady writer...

BettyDuffy said...

So many memoirs, Matthew, so very many memoirs...

nicole said...

We have done two directory pictures and will be doing the third this January. (All at the same church) Our first experience was so tremendously awful. My kids were 2, 1 and newborn. As in two weeks old. Obviously I was not at my best. My 2 year old was terrified of the picture guy. He was terribly unfriendly and impatient. The sales person seemed not to care that we had 3 miserable kids with us. We took home our free 8x10 and that was that. Second time was better, and a needed update, as we had added a kid. And now this one will have two more children. I know we'll still only take our free 8x10. Church directory pictures are never good.

Potty training is of the devil. As is laundry.

Darwin said...

I'm a bit curious about your take on Finnigan's decision to self publish, which she write about here:

On the one hand, it sounds like a satisfying form of independence. And if one loves books, the idea of publishing one's own always has a certain tug. At the same time, as we discussed at one point, the whole self publishing thing seems filled with pitfalls.

Jus said...

oh for goodness sake woman send me a message and we will make some pix-elated memories - without any poses.

sheesh, I can not believe you went to a place where one picks out a package. It just sounds dirty.

BettyDuffy said...

Jus, I'm going to have to give my husband some time to cool off from this last round. But I've wondered before if you could make us look good on film. You make everything look good on film. Is it best to do it when it's warm out, so we can get outside?

Darwin--I wrote up a bit about self-publishing at Patheos today. My thought is, not ideal, but better than not at all.

The Cottage Child said...

Every bi-pedal in this house over the age of five does his own laundry. Is it perfect? No. Is it clean? Mostly. Stats as good as when I do it all. Batter up...

Potty training? I thought that's why they invented kindergarten. Professional portraits? I thought that's why they invented digital cameras.

Loving your Patheos stuff. Happy Advent!