Betty Duffy

Friday, April 27, 2012

Potty talk

The Girl (age 7): "We're going to the Indiana State Museum for a field trip."

 The eleven-year-old boy: "That place has inappropriate bathrooms."

 Girl: "Why? what's wrong with them. Do they not have doors between them?"

 Boy: "It's like a really long sink that everybody pees in."

 Nine-year-old boy: "Sounds like fun! I can't wait to add that to my list of strange toilets! First there are the ones that look like sinks, now these really long sinks that I'm hearing about, and also the ones that are like a hole in the floor, which pose a real hazard for not peeing on the floor."

 Girl: "Why are you peeing in sinks? That is inappropriate."

 Eleven: "Haven't you ever been in a boys' bathroom. It's called a urinal."

 Girl: "No! I've never been in a boys' bathroom."

 Boy eleven: "I've been in a girls' bathroom. We hid in there playing hide and seek after track practice."

Boy nine: "That's not why I went in there."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's childcare worth to you?

People like to say to me, "You're so lucky, you get to stay home with your kids." I couldn't agree more--I've talked often about the perks of being a stay at home mom.

I should note though, that working outside of the home has not been a practical option for me in a very long time. If I totaled up childcare for five children (even at the lowest rates), added to that the price of gas, then the cost of pre-prepared meals for a family of seven, not to mention falling into a higher tax bracket, I would probably be in the hole several thousand dollars in my attempt to make money.

What I could potentially do is offer to watch someone else's kids while they return to work. But childcare workers are not paid what the job is actually worth. I've worked in childcare on and off throughout my life, and have received payment ranging from 75 dollars a week (full time--when I was a teenager) to eight dollars an hour.

I understand the need for affordable childcare, particularly when a single parent needs work to feed his or her family. I have also been a parent who cannot afford a babysitter in order to leave home without children, even for a few hours. But I don't think affordable childcare is a right.

For two parent families with fewer kids, low childcare rates incentivize having two parents absent from the home for most of the day--and while I recognize the economic benefits of more people in the workforce, and I recognize the dignity inherent in having a good job--I have difficulty seeing the benefit to children and society of more children spending most of their waking hours in the care of underpaid third parties.

It's a challenging issue...and also what I'm posting about at Patheos today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For the Doubting Thomas

This post originally ran a couple years ago. I'm remembering past Springs--and this one came to mind with the readings last Sunday.

My husband, in an attempt to burn down some high weeds in the yard, accidently set fire to his legs and hands. Midnight Saturday night, after much indecision about the emergent nature of his condition, found him on an ambulance to the Wishard burn unit in Indianapolis, where specialists removed several layers of damaged skin, and sent him home, a bit buzzed on pain killers, with a week's worth of new dressings that I will change for him.

Burns, I'm learning, are tricky, as if they are not treated, the skin will continue to burn for several days, inflicting more and deeper damage to the lower layers of skin. The greatest risk for a burn victim is infection, so the wounds have to be, not just patted clean, but scrubbed, to remove yesterday's salve and bits of dead skin. New ointment is then applied, then gauze and bandages.

Scrubbing a loved one's open wounds is not something one does casually. Reading about the apostle Thomas touching the wounds of Christ after Easter, I made a note to myself, this is significant in some way I don't yet know. It was this morning, my bare hands weeding through my husband's open tissue, I realized the fear and humility that must have instantly replaced the apostle's pride and doubt when he touched the wounds of Christ. It was indeed the body of the Lord, as Thomas's hands penetrated each layer of skin; a body, inside and out, died and risen.

My husband worked as an orderly in a nursing home when he was in college. Mostly, he lifted the heavy bodies of people who could not lift themselves, then changed their sheets, their clothes, their diapers, and cleaned their bodies. When we got married, and he told me about his experiences, it was a hopeful sort of joke to say, "Someday I might have to do that for you." If we're lucky; if we live long enough; if one of us is still strong when the other is weak.

I can think of only two times in the ten years we've been married that we've had to care for one another in some intense bodily fashion. Right after we were married, I was sick with a kind of flu that required him to clean carpets, walls, the bathroom, and bag up the clothes I'd been wearing to put in the garbage. My status as a coy young bride was instantly replaced with a vulnerability and carnality that I would have found appalling if I'd been able to predict that my marriage would take me there. As it turned out, it was good preparation for what we would later experience in the delivery room. But my husband has never been ill or injured in any way that has demanded more of me than bringing him tylenol and a glass of water.

The first time I stayed up all night with a sick baby, I had the awareness that this is what it means to be one in flesh with the beloved: I'm tired, but sleep is not my right nor my desire, rather, I want to take on myself whatever is ailing you. Whatever's clouding your head or hurting your ears, I want to feel that in your place.

In marriage, the desire to ease one another's physical pain comes naturally, but the opportunities to do so are so much more rare than the emotional opportunities. Caring for my husband's physical wounds calls to mind all the times I've scoffed when he's had his nose bent out of joint about something.

My husband doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve. He will never be the kind of person to say, "This is where and how I've been hurt." But somehow, I always know when he is, and I'm stubborn enough to want him to say it out loud: "Put your hand here."

He shouldn't need to say it, though. To be one in flesh, my desire is to take on myself whatever is ailing you, even wounds I don't have to see to believe.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I wish these blogs had been around when I was in college

I'd have loved knowing people like this existed:

Charming Disarray

I say more Smart Catholic Girl Blogs, please.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Once again, the Duffys lower the bar...

It really was a beautiful wedding. And the guests smelled delightful, contrary to the opinion of a certain little boy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Post party quick takes

(which is probably what it will be from here through the end of May--party every weekend--weddings, First Communions, graduations--good times ahead)

My husband told the boys to clean out the space between the walls and their beds where all the legos and socks and hidden pee-pee underwear hide.

One of the boys, perhaps overly enthusiastic about hidden treasures he might find there, ran to his bed saying, "I'm going to have FUN cleaning out my crevice!"

Same boy, different day, watching a basketball game with my dad, and the half time show where cheerleaders performed, pronounced in the aftermath:

"One thing I know for sure is that those cheerleaders spend a lot time in unnatural positions."

One thing we learned at Easter is that my youngest is terrified of Peeps--the candy kind. If anyone decided to eat a peep, he'd go running out of the room screaming.

I used to be afraid of mayonnaise. My sister would chase me around the yard with mayonnaise on a spoon.

Truth be told, I'm a little sick of ham. Also, the other white meats. I want everything red, red, red and salty. We didn't have family around on Easter Sunday so my husband and I cooked our own Easter dinner, which was leg of Lamb, and scotch eggs (hard boiled Easter eggs, peeled and coated in a layer of ground sausage, then rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried to a golden brown). Thank God for all the great aunties of the internet on cooking blogs to guide me through this process.

We actually had fun--my husband and I in the kitchen--me pouring salt, pepper and oregano into my hands to rub into the lamb's fatty tissue--my husband stirring up a honey mustard mayo to go with his scotch eggs. I'm really not afraid of mayonnaise anymore. I even eat it sometimes.

Our food was good, so we kept trying to lure people to come eat it with us--invited my cousin Rachel and her fiance, but their car broke down on the side of the road not far from our house, so I took them their scotch eggs and french fries to eat in the car while they waited for a tow. I think they had fun.

We've eaten very poorly since Easter--two nights of pizza from Aldi, and tonight, oatmeal. I have chef's apathy after my big day in the kitchen.

I put a copy of "Acedia and Me" by Kathleen Norris in my car to read when I'm waiting for stuff, but when those moments come, I can't be bothered to open it.

Rachel is getting married this weekend, so Monday night, we went to buy scivvies for her honeymoon. My husband was like, "Why are you going shopping?"

"To buy undies for the wedding."

"For you?"

"No, for her."

"Well that's not fair. You're not going unless you buy some for yourself."

I'm filing this conversation in my "helpful tips for getting out of the house quickly" file.

From now on, I'm just running out to get some panties. Back in a twitch!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Conversion and Relapse

Read in the Gospel awhile ago, about the Gerasene demoniac, and couldn't help noticing that the lepers, the possessed, the ones whom Jesus heals always want to follow him, but he always sends them home to tell their families what the Lord has done for them. Or, in some cases, to tell no one who healed them.

I think I've missed this point in the past, as I've always thought the highest form of praise is to "leave all things you have, and come and follow me."

To those he has healed, Christ says, go home to your family. Go be in relationship with your people. Make reparation, which in many ways, is a more difficult vocation than leaving a tragic past behind and starting fresh among new people.

I wonder if Christ sends them home because of a propensity for relapse--the seven devils that come back to take the place of the first.

A friend recently related that her confessor says we are supposed to confess the same things over and over again--that it's a sign we are noticing the parts of our life that are in most need of conversion, the things that are true attachments, and obstacles to salvation.

If we only confess easy things that we can fix overnight, well, then, chances are we're not really examining ourselves.

Example: my three-year-old had the cough that makes you barf, so we couldn't go anywhere for awhile, and instead, I spent an entire day eating. I can't even recall everything--toast, cereal, popcorn, PB&J…I don't know how I did it, how I managed to always be eating, but somehow my day allowed it, and I didn't stop it.

It's become more and more apparent to me that I need to be more faithful with an examination of conscience at night time.

The morning prayer is all hopefulness, but the evening prayer is an accounting. In the evening, one has to reconcile and accept the reality of who we are. There's a sadness to the evening prayer, acknowledging failure, knowing the day has come to an end, and the only thing left to do is offer it up, sleep on it, and start again in the morning. The morning prayer is child's play, the evening prayer, an old man's nocturne.

Anyway, without the exam at night, I might never realize that my gluttony had crossed a line. I didn't think about it, and I would rather not think about it, and if I'd waited until my next confession to remember it, I never would have remembered.

At a Parish dinner early in Lent, the Altar Society served cake pops for dessert. I took one and put it in my purse, so that I could save it and eat it on Sunday. I don't usually pocket dessert at the Parish dinners, but cake pops are sort of a novelty, one I've never tasted before.

The Parish dinner was Wednesday, so the cake pop had to survive four days in our home before I could eat it. On Friday, one of the kids uncovered my secret hiding place, opened the wrapper of my cake pop and bit into it.

"No!" I said, taking what remained out of his hands. "You ate yours already. This one's Mommy's." The pop, now opened, would be stale by Sunday--there was no point wrapping it back up, so I shoved what remained into my mouth in one bite. It tasted like cake, which I have had before, many times, and then I felt annoyed that I broke Lent to eat it.

That cake pop was the beginning of the end of my Lenten observation. The next time I encountered a rogue sweet on a weekday I didn't feel as bad about eating it, and the third time, I thought, "Did I give up sweets for Lent? Maybe I actually gave up TV. Yes, TV."

A friend from Church who also has five young children said her cake pop lasted only until Saturday. It was a better showing than mine. But I asked her, what is it then, about this life, being Moms, being older, that makes it seem more difficult to stick to a Lenten sacrifice? We both agreed that when we were younger, we'd finish Lent triumphant--giving up sweets or coffee was hardly a challenge.

Here's what we came up with:

1. Nursing and pregnant mothers get a dispensation on Lenten fasting--a dispensation that we have gladly taken--which means for the past ten years, while I was almost perpetually pregnant or nursing, I fell out of practice with sacrificing foodstuffs.

2. We are more tired now that we're older and have more children. We are also more likely to rely on food or drink, sugar or caffeine, for quick energy in the morning or afternoon.

3. Both of us went through a reversion experience in our young adulthood, which gave us zeal, or spiritual enthusiasm for the rituals and practices of our faith. Ten, fifteen years later, some of that zeal has mellowed.

4. We now hold the keys to the pantry, and not everyone in the family has given up sweets. Which means, we're encountering sweets more regularly, perhaps as leftovers on our children's plates, or tucked away in places only we know.

5. Being home with kids, we are busy about the home life, but also, less busy than we were with 9 to 5 jobs, where food was stashed in a break room far away from the work area. Now we have more mental "down time" to think about food, and our work predominately takes place in the kitchen.

Which brings us to Holy Week. I have pause to think about how I observed Lent this year, and as usual, I've had a rather disappointing show.

My zeal for the rituals and practices of my faith has become more inclined towards those I used to find distasteful--examinations of conscience, Confession, rituals that illustrate how fallen I still am, how needy I still am, rituals of cleansing.

Can you heal me one more time, please?

"OK, then." said the priest in Confession. "Holy Week is a good time to get back on the wagon. Do you think you can do that, just for this week?" His tone was that of someone speaking to a child, still a child, here, at the end of the day.

Go forth and sin no more.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Been reading: John Gardner, "The Art of Fiction."

Have learned that a lot of the problems I encounter in my writing, are actually problems with my personal character--as in, I'm too "Frigid" to empathize with characters that I create, to take the time to feel their emotions and imagine what they would say, think or do. Which is probably why I write mostly autobiography, or fictionalized autobiography, which comes across as third person limited narrative--which Gardner says is a sentimental and narcissistic narrative voice.

I'm mad at Gardner, but I think he's right. He gets at a problem I've long sensed in my own writing and in others'--that in order to write better, I need to be a better person. Also, that some writing is irredeemable, and that any amount of practice on the part of the author would do nothing to better it, because there is some inherent character flaw in the author herself, either lack of education, lack of internal rhythm, lack of empathy, lack of so many other possible traits, that prevents her from having the godlike authority that authorship requires.

So much more to say about this book. Fortunately, character is changeable. I started reading Gardner a couple years ago and didn't understand half of what he was talking about. This time around, I feel as though he's speaking to me personally in every chapter. Perhaps my character has changed some since the last time I attempted to read it.

Another review here.

Darwin breaks it down for the man people of the internet again.

Rejoicing with Pentimento at the arrival of her adopted son, Jude!

New book blog here, Bookish Catholics.

They've been reading Lizzie's War--a favorite of mine. And next up, Heather King. A blog to watch.

Thoroughly enjoying Amy Welborn's memoir, Wish You Were Here. Much more to say about it, when I'm finished...touching, deep, thoughtful, far...

From Charming Disarray: Why I don't call myself a feminist.

I expect to add more links here as the week goes on. I've been on my way out the door almost perpetually since last Friday.

Happy Holy Week!

Almost forgot...My column at Patheos this week: Giving Up Nouns for Lent. This one's familiar if you've read the blog for a long time.

I tried to come up with something new--about how difficult it is to give up sweets for Lent--but it was stupid, and I was on vacation.