Betty Duffy

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Fun Game to Play With People You Love

My sister-in-law imported this game from Texas. It's sort of like "Telephone," but with a "Pictionary" element as well. Everyone get's a small stack of paper, a piece for each player in the game.

In the first round, everyone comes up with a phrase chosen at random, like this very noble one:
("Four score and twenty years ago.")

2. Everyone then passes their stack to the right, where the next player reads the phrase, moves the piece of paper to the bottom of the stack, then attempts to draw a picture of the phrase.

(This makes perfect sense, doesn't it?)

Pass to the right again, where the third player tries to guess the original phrase based on the picture:

Pass to the right, where player number four draws a picture of the newly evolved phrase:

(Clearly, this is a window pane that has just won a lot of money.)

And so on...

("First class pain.")

Here is player number six's interpretation of first class pain:

Finally, read the newly spawned phrase aloud, if you can do so without offending anyone:

Pure fun for everyone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Links worthy of your time

Trish, at Jalapeno Peppers, has written another beautiful post about discerning who God wants you to be.

As you go through life, there are roles you play, projects you undertake, dreams you pursue that shape who you are becoming as a person, and that also allow the real "you" to emerge.

I used to think about personal development in terms of building virtue and acquiring skills, but there is something so pragmatic and one-dimensional about that approach. I can't knock sainthood, but I don't think it's just about "becoming holy." I am sure there are very holy people who are perfect bores, or who haven't a shred of critical thinking ability, who spend their life simply trying to be "correct." I want to say, "Yadda yadda yadda... what else have you got? Who else are you? What else has life taught you lately? Where are you going? And what else do you have to say besides the usual, predictable things? Do you have a real opinion of your own?"

There is something else that is much more attractive to me, and I think it's the uniqueness of a personality that is awake and eager to learn, eager to live. It's that sense of being on a journey and of enjoying every second of the ride. Not stagnating, not hiding behind a title or a label or some other static entity. Growing. Really living.

I love this post, because when I think about the "personality of Christ" it always seems, in scripture, intentionally vague--perhaps so that any personality can aspire to his virtues without diminishing the unique God-given characteristics that individuate us, one from another.

Also, Darwin unpacks the recent Wall Street Journal feature: "My Fertility Crisis" about a woman in her early forties, attempting to conceive by IVF. He deftly notes, that if you want a certain kind of life (ie. one with children in it) it doesn't do to build your life around a different set of goals.

The house or office you are sitting in was built according to a plan and a purpose, a purpose from which it is now only able to deviate to a limited extent. My house cannot suddenly become an office tower, though it has an office in it. My office building would make a very poor house. But they are built knowingly, according to a plan. And yet, our lives seem often constructed to a purpose without the architect knowing that he is in constructing something with walls and doors -- an edifice which will suit some ends well, and other poorly. Individual choices pile up unto some particular type of life, and once that life is built people sometimes find it is not, in fact, the kind of structure they want to live in, and yet tearing it down and rebuilding in some other way is difficult. Some people tear things down and remake them -- going through the chaos that is some sort of conversion of life or belief. Others attempt to repurpose the structure they have have built without making changes -- like trying to build a cozy country kitchen in an office cube.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Buying stuff for a life I don't live

My daughter left her seat in the car to run inside and grab something before we left, and when she came back, her brother was in her seat.

"YOU …..VULTURE!" she said to him after filing, in that brief millisecond, through her vocabulary for just the right insult. Vulture seemed the perfect word indeed, for someone who picks on someone else's leavings. A word for the day, perhaps, because we were on our way into town so that I could sell a bunch of garbage at a consignment shop.

Coming home from the lake, having lived sufficiently on a duffle full of clothes and nothing else for three weeks, I felt an urge to purge all the clutter I've stuffed into the eaves around my home. I began in the kids' rooms, filling two contractor-size garbage bags full of tiny pieces of stuff that I've harbored in their closets and bins even though they don't play with them, because once upon a time, they cost money. I got three garbage bags out of my closet, and a box of books. From the kitchen, a box of retired tupperware containers, giant wooden salad bowls and specialty cake pans.

It's time to admit, that just as my kids don't play with the wooden toys I'd prefer them to play with, I don't wear half my clothes; I'll never read half my books; and I don't bake specialty cakes. And yet, over the years I have accumulated an outrageous number of artifacts for a multi-faceted fantasy life that no one in this house actually lives.

Here is something that needs to come into the light: I'm a compulsive thrift store shopper. I buy things I don't need because they are a bargain and they help support whatever my fantasy du jour happens to be. If something can be got for nothing, I want it. If something grossly expensive can be got for a few dollars, I'll put out.

I once happened upon a pair of Tods loafers at a Goodwill; shoes that retail new for $400, I found for four dollars. I purchased them on the spot, and have kept them in my closet for nearly a decade, occasionally getting them out to pet and put on my foot to admire.

In these shoes, I'm the casually preppy New York socialite who can't be bothered to put on heels for lunch, rather than the Indiana mom, who wears mostly shorts and t-shirts, who doesn't lunch regularly, who has no need for luxury loafers, except occasionally to pretend to be someone who is so cool, she doesn't have to pretend. Clearly, this is a vice.

For a long time, I have pretended this is a harmless vice. For the same amount of money, I could buy myself a latte. But which is more fun? Sitting over coffee contemplating my existential loneliness? Or gambling time and money on sorting through racks of other people's discards for the overlooked pot of gold?

My friends think I'm a cheapskate. Pedge gets annoyed that I never buy anything when we shop in outlet stores, or malls. I tried on every article of clothing at a Cabi trunk show recently and didn't buy a stitch. This is irritating behavior on my part, and makes me an un-fun shopping companion. But it's also testament to the depths of my disorder. I'm too snobby to shop at outlet malls or Kohls. I have a taste for luxury goods, and the only way I can afford to satisfy my hankering is by scavenging for other people's castoffs. Also, as with most disordered behavior, I prefer to do it alone.

The downside of my addiction, and there's always a downside, is that I accumulate too much junk. Because I can afford them, I'll buy five pairs of jeans in search of the one perfect pair. I may only spend twenty bucks, and have five pairs of name-brand jeans, but who needs them? Who can store them? Who has the lifestyle to support five pairs of name-brand jeans? Not me. And to be real, I probably have three times that, because I have my normal jeans, my pregnant jeans, and my fat jeans wardrobe. Also a skinny jeans wardrobe, just in case.

So there, I have clothed myself, and all my potential selves, on a dime. Yay me.

The kids went to their grandparents' Sunday night so my husband and I could go see "Tree of Life." It was a great movie, a beautiful and thought-provoking movie, but one of the nagging thoughts it provoked in me, is that the mama in the movie was awfully well-dressed for having so little money. How did she do it? How did she live a life with kids in Texas, always wearing pretty dresses, and never breaking a sweat? Would she have held such an angelic presence in her son's childhood memories if she had spent her days in work-out clothes rather than ethereal skirts? Or if she'd gone out running instead of waiting at home for opportunities to administer loving caresses to whomever would receive them?

I have a wonderful imaginary life about being that kind of a mother.

For the date with my husband, I'd worn a skirt and heels. It was one of those occasions I hold in my mind when I'm shopping; the holy grail of occasions for which to get dressed; my husband and I are going out on the town; we're going to dinner and a show, and I can dress up. Mission accomplished.

The best part of our date was in the morning, however, when my husband and I got up at 6 am and went for a run together. The air was thick and muggy, even at that early hour, and visible moisture deposits floated over the soybean fields. We were both dripping within minutes, and breathing too heavily even to speak. But by the time we made it back to the house, we were both feeling the endorphins and the mutual relief of having worked for our rest. We sat on the front porch to cool down. We said our prayers. When the sweat dried, we drank coffee. Then he had to get going to work, and I to pick up our children.

And it occurs to me that the real life that our particular family prefers living is one that doesn't accommodate fine clothes, and needs actually, very few clothes at all. I am a less involved and loving mother when I'm done up like a movie star.

So away with the Tods loafers, and twenty other pairs of shoes I've collected over the years. Away with five purses. Away with three pairs of boots, with six pairs of earrings, with a scarf, two skirts, two aprons, and a number of tops. The consignment shop took about 2/3rds of my offerings, and priced the entire lot at somewhere near 200 dollars, of which, if it all sells, I stand to make half. It's not really a way to get rich, buying clothes and reselling them. But it's not a way to be free, compulsively shopping and stuffing things in any available space in the house.

I don't want to be a vulture anymore.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Something that's been on my mind...

It began as a conversation with a friend about sex; she said that her guiding principal in the bedroom, and elsewhere, is to live entirely in the light. There would be no lies or deceit in the bedroom, no words said that she didn't mean, no acting in ways that she didn't act naturally, to make the gift of self, the gift of humbly and wholly being herself as God made her--not as some magazine told her she should be.

Likewise, she would expect truthfulness from her husband, even though she doesn't have control over another person's honesty. She wasn't going to contemplate the potential ways he could hurt her, because living in the light allowed her to give others the benefit of the doubt. No one is suspect in the light, and as a consequence, conflicts dissipate.

As I chew on this concept of living entirely in the light, it has expanded and come to mean more to me. I want to grasp every overture of grace. Chasing the light, one grace leads to another.

There are foods to consider, the pleasures of eating things that are not shrink-wrapped or sealed in plastic and boxes. The light doesn't cheat and stuff face before the food is on the table, or before the kids are fed, but it also doesn't turn away from cherry pie at bedtime. It says yes to life, and no to sin, and it knows the difference, because sin hides and doesn't want to be counted.

I want to open the windows even when it's hot, because the house and its closed doors and windows have a way of tricking the mind into thinking that inside the house is all there is. I need to know what other people are breathing--If it's dry heat or wet heat. If it's mercifully cool, I want to feel it too. I want a climate that isn't fabricated and paid for and protected by a wrapped and sealed membrane.

The light tolerates other lives, junebugs and flies, the dog seeking shelter under the kitchen table, the kids running in and out of the screen door. The light allows passage between worlds, the mingling of various species--or at least, of species that play well together. It would say no, however, to rats in the attic.

The light doesn't see every article of litter on the side of the road as a sign of the apocalypse. In the morning, the wind blows a swallowtail through the cottonwood leaves and down to the ledge of the bridge where the White Castle boxes have been sitting now for several days. Blow harder, and leaf, insect and box will all fall into the river. Maybe I will too.

A grizzled woman drives past me as I walk on a country road. She mouths profanities at me through the windshield for being there, but I would rather die, frankly, than yield every byway to cars. Rather sweat to death than hide from the sun, work to death than coddle my body, would rather pray at risk of zealotry than withhold my heart from God. In the light there's nothing to fear.

The light is free. It doesn't require saving for, it's not for some other time when circumstances are different. It doesn't steal time from the family, it's makes no demands. I want to choose the light, not because I'm afraid of the dark, but because I am free.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Still on vacation though. Good, good, good.