Betty Duffy

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012


It's official. I'm moving to a new blog.

Here's my first post: Joining the conversation on faith

and here's my second post: How to like women

My explanation for this move is over there. I hope the readers I've come to know and love here at Betty Duffy will join me at Patheos. It's been a difficult decision to make--change is hard.'s just a blog.

I'm not moving my archives, and I may still post occasional thoughts here--but if you want to keep reading, it might be a good idea to subscribe to my feed over there.

It will be fun!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Heating things up again

My mom had a Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond album that played at regular intervals around our house when I was growing up. On the album was a song called, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," about a couple that has lost the romance in their relationship. Other grievances in the song, besides the absent flowers, are: "You don't sing me love songs," "You hardly talk to me anymore," and on and on. It's a sad, sad song, and by the end of it, you're fairly certain the couple has no other option but to part ways and find romance elsewhere.
I remembered this song, oddly enough, when I was trying to figure out exactly how I would live out the Year of Faith that began on October 11. 
A Year of Faith . . . what would that look like for someone who has been practicing the faith for many years, for someone who fell head over heels in love with Jesus in young adulthood, and now, a number of years later, finds the romance is gone? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I am Weeping...

Weeping, I tell you. I have just watched the first three episodes of Call the Midwife on PBS. It is phenomenal. Better than Downton Abby, if you like stories about miracles, about the heartbreak and wonder if bringing new life into the world.

Call the Midwife takes place in the fifties, in impoverished East London, where a group of Anglican Sisters and trained nurses deliver babies and assist the elderly who are dying in sometimes terrible conditions. In one episode, a Spanish wife who speaks no English delivers her 24th child with her English husband who speaks no Spanish, and yes, it's a love story, not a tragedy.

A young prostitute, fleeing a forced abortion, seeks refuge with the sisters, and is placed in a home for unwed mothers and their babies so that she can begin a new life. Every episode is a testimony to the transformative power of love--sounds like a cliche, I know. But it provides wonderful insight into a lost world where sterilization and abortion are not the "go to" answers for the messiness of life.

There's so much more to say...just watch.

Watch Episode 1 on PBS. See more from Call the Midwife.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The old softies

It's a cold hard day, freezing feet and noses, not wanting to get out from under blankets we haul from room to room, and we will be damned before we turn on the heater. My daughter climbed the apple trees to pick the last of them before we start getting morning freezes. I'd have put off getting up on a ladder indefinitely.

Similarly, I've put off getting down on hands and knees around the house to do the dirty work of cleaning the undersides of things, the dusty alcoves beneath the book cases, even the cereal accumulations that have already found a home under my brand new kitchen table. All good things have to be cared for and maintained, but I move in fits and bursts of energy, then fizzle down to the supine, lumpy figure I make on every couch, bed and chair. I have reached the third trimester.

Today I'm in hangover mode, not from drinking, but from having had a busy day yesterday. Drove the kids out to my parents', then my husband and I went out to dinner and a movie. Ate at a place subtitled "exciting food creations," a description repeated at various places throughout the online menu, and also on the sign over their door as we approached it running from the car through the rain. Exciting food creations! We are here at last!

They serve "frites" rather than french fries, tapenade rather than relish, aioli not mayo. And I have to admit, while these sorts of places used to appeal to me strongly, what I really wanted to eat was a fried fish taco, or a a chimichanga slathered in cheese (or queso if you're fancy). Play me a ukelele and bring me free cake--my birthday's next week should you care to know--and I'll deal with the heartburn later.

But the exciting food creations were near the movie theater, and while it sounded like a recipe for overpriced small plates, I was pleasantly surprised by the cornmeal breaded basa and chipotle slaw in a soft corn tortilla (or fried fish taco if you're not fancy).

We sat very close to another couple who was on a date, though clearly not married, and they were talking about politics--Obamaphone, actually--in self-conscious tones because they knew we could hear them as well as they could hear us. And our self-conscious small-talk was playing guess the Republican at all the tables around us. They are few and far between at a restaurant like this.

The female portion of the couple next door was a teacher, and she was saying that she didn't want to influence her students by talking about whom she's voting for, but they could probably guess regardless, "Because I'm such a hippy," she said, which made my husband and I both do a double-take. She didn't look like a hippy at all. Au contraire, she looked like a meticulously groomed person who enjoys fried fish tacos almost as much as I do. I don't know why I always think of hippies as being sort of wiry.

Made me wonder about the contradictions in the room between how others view us, and how we view ourselves. Could my husband and I pass for a happy fun couple expecting our first child? I like to think we are a happy fun couple, certainly happier and more fun than we were when we expected our first. We've both softened with age in a number of ways, accepting the terminal nature of everything--including marriage. We're going to go down together--let's do it with wine.

Seems like I went through an early period of thinking I had to save my husband's life, ensure that he made good choices, so that he could live long and care for me forever. We fought about speeding and seat-belts, drinking and chewing tobacco--safety standards--the male and female versions of which could not have been more different. I truly believed that living was more important than dying, and therefore there was no argument my husband could make that might undermine my purpose. Not that he argued with me. I argued, and as per his custom, he went about his business the way he wanted to.

I thought it was interesting in the readings this week, on the Feast of St Francis, that the sun and moon bless the Lord, earth and sea bless the Lord, indeed, both life and death bless the Lord. All created things, the beginnings of life and its ends, bless the Lord. Who can be afraid if such is the case? Who can afford to be hard towards the people they love, if such is the case?

And then this morning, the readings at Mass said that Moses allowed divorce because of the "hardness of your hearts"--perhaps because we expected one another to behave like gods, for our unions to be perfect. And then God became man, blessing and redeeming humanity, so that we could be soft and forgiving towards one another. No man can put asunder what God has joined together--but what he has joined are two broken, messy people who will probably have a broken and messy life together as they strive onward towards the goodness that is death. There will be very few perfect marriages in this life, and what a relief. It's a freedom to allow someone else to be who they are.

At the movie theater we saw The Master, which neither of us understood--except for the sex scenes which were pretty straightforward. From what I could gather it was about a seriously screwed up man who becomes a devotee of a cult leader (the Master) who claims you can perfect your nature by healing the wounds of your past lives. The poor man's nature never gets perfected, and the cult leader proves that he too, has a pretty screwed up nature as well. In many ways, it was a familiar story, the world's perpetual attempts to uncover false prophets and prove that there may be no help at all for the seriously screwed up people of the world.

One line redeemed the movie for me, and it was something to the effect of "no man gets by in life without serving a master" and the only choice you can make is which master you will serve. It was possibly the only true line in the movie, and it rang out like a gong in a smoggy abandoned city because of it.

When the seriously screwed up man proves himself irredeemable according to the Master's methods, he leaves the cult and goes full force into the service of his bestial nature, and there ends the movie. Rather hopeless. And yet it made me grateful for a Master (Christ) who is both fully human and fully divine, who stands up to careful scrutiny and will never prove himself a turd on closer inspection. I was also grateful to consider that there is no irredeemable nature, except for the one that loses hope in redemption or chooses the wrong master.

I hereby congratulate myself on having chosen the correct master--which is probably exactly the awkward position the director and writer of The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) strove to create for religious moviegoers. How can you be sure you've chosen correctly? Have you been perfected? Can  you really hold on to hope for the hopeless?

Not in this life, necessarily.

And only if you believe death to be a blessing--which is another one of those childish leaps of faith Christians are always asked to be making that has the effect of being totally liberating.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Discipline of Desire

On the beach this summer there was a girl sitting near me in an Adirondack chair and readingBossy Pants by Tina Fey. The girl was in a state of near continuous vibration from laughing with her mouth shut, and when, at one point she looked up from her book to let out a significant chuckle, she seemed to feel a need to explain herself to me. "Seriously funny book," she said holding it up for me to see the cover.
"You make me think I should read it," I answered. Indeed I have thought about reading it, both before the beach episode and after. But one of my many fatal flaws is that reading a book by and about a funny woman, I would not be content to just read and enjoy; I would want to actually become Tina Fey and that could only end in pain.