Update & Humor Aggregation

In celebration of one month of being a homemaker, I write this post with my hair still wet. Spring having removed the need for the old furnace in the kitchen, and clouds having covered the sun, my only offensive weapon against the water absorbed by eighteen-plus inches of very thick hair was a blow dryer, and I found that a little too daunting for this morning.

I have something of a routine now. I have days for laundry and errands and the normal house scrub-down. Other days get special projects, like the tomato plants I have growing in the living-room windows, and blogging. I get some sleep. Instead of jolting out of bed at 6:45, I get up with Lou at 7:30; then, if I need a nap later, I can take one. It amazes me, now that the workaday adrenaline has mostly worn off, that it is possible to be this tired.

The list of "Things I don't have time for" has changed. I rarely get around to listening to podcasts. I don't listen to music as often. My stack of books to read has gone down a little, though it tends to replenish itself when I'm not looking. The Internet is still my primary temptation to timewasting, and I have to watch the tendency to do things like read antagonistic sites for the purpose of finding out why They hate Us so much (as far as I can tell, the entire business of politics is made up of smear and scoundrels.)

But I do have a limited regular blogroll, and in case anyone hasn't been reading the same stuff I have over the last few weeks, here are a few things that made me laugh out loud:

1. Remember my old posts about transparent angling ferrets and the song about someone who died the other night? Whether you do or not, you may enjoy finding that I'm not the only person in this world who likes to publish their problematic hearing of song lyrics. Check out CMR's examples, starting with "Big Ol' Jed Left A Light On". There are some good ones in the comments, too. I contributed, though I forgot about the Alanis Morrissette song. If I'd remembered that Edwin McCain sounds to me like he says "I'll be flabby when I'm older" instead of "better when I'm older", that would have gone in the comment too.

2. A favorite creative-writing exercise of mine has been coming up with book titles and absurdly appropriate author's names. Among my favorite creations are "The Ways Crime Pays by Rob Banks", "Discrimination and America's Top Universities by Sue Stanford" and "Give Yourself a Pep Talk by Ida Mann". The Internet Monk had some fun this week coming up with some book titles of a different sort. I got a big kick out of them, and comment #7 pretty much made me cry laughing. [Disclaimer: If anyone from Stanford comes by here, I picked on that school unfairly and did so only because the name was alliterative.]

3. Thanks to my friend Jana, I have recently rediscovered Jon Acuff's "Stuff Christians Like", an accruing satirical list of things we Christians enjoy. He puts up funny stuff on a regular basis and sometimes the comments are hilarious too. Among my favorite recent posts are "#521. Judging people that use the Table of Contents in their Bible" and "#515. Taking a sympathy scoop from the dish no one eats at the pot luck".

4. If you've gone through all of those and you can still breathe, there's always Dave Barry. Hat tip to Beth, who instant-messaged me with this one today. Get more out of your toilet.


College: Why I Haven't Gone

Most of the time I don't regret my decision to indefinitely postpone attending college.

Being the sort of person who would do geeky things like attempt to study four languages at once or work through most of a night trying to unravel the secrets of literature, it still surprises me a bit that I never took all that interest in knowledge and understanding to extensive formal schooling. There are times when I've really wished for the experience, especially in the presence of the glorious buildings full of books. I still firmly believe that I made the right choice.

Deciding to wait, with the full expectation that "later" might well mean "never", was not easy. I made that decision for several reasons:

1. I already had a good job.

YD did for me some of what college might have done, in that it took the shy, awkward little homeschooled farm girl and made her get out of herself a bit. I wound up guiding boats full of teenagers through class III-IV whitewater, rappelling off cliffs, and (particularly terrifying) answering telephones. It's hard to imagine assigned community projects making the same difference in my attitude toward life.

2. I wanted an honest understanding of the world, not just a drink of feminism from a firehose.

I don't think it's disputed that universities are overbalanced in a particular political direction. This is a problem because schools teach theory, not just fact, and I want sound theory--and I want it taught as theory when it is. I want a balanced perspective, which means learning from people who are willing to acknowledge and fairly explain both sides of the equation even when they come down strongly on one. Perhaps I'm asking too much of the human person. Or perhaps I just have to do the research myself.

Despite my profound respect for the halls of learning, from my outside perspective it does seem that they might benefit occasionally from closer contact with common sense. The problem is far larger than feminism alone, though I consider some of the presumptions made by most feminists as among the most likely to insulate a mind from simple reason--or a woman from simple happiness.

3. The lack of a B.A. hasn't thus far prevented me from getting good jobs, including managerial roles.

That could happen eventually; it's happened to relatives of mine. As it is, however, I've been a team leader and a supervisor, a bookkeeper to a lawyer and to a cafe and gallery; I've been a customer service professional and an information manager. I've done text development and project management, filled in as church secretary for several weeks when the actual secretary was on leave, and have done substitute teaching in a cooperative academy. I've never yet been fired. At present, I think that if it became necessary I could pursue a degree.

4. My goals of being a wife, mother, and writer were more likely to be generally hindered than helped by a university and its requisite investment of time and money.

Of course, there's always the old joke about girls going to college to get their MRS degree, but since my husband was off in Ohio at a Catholic school I'd never heard of, studying to be a monk, I think a BA would have been my only achievement. :P Seriously, though, I've no reason to regret coming into marriage debt-free. As for writing, an English or English lit major might help an aspiring author, but I think it likely that simply reading and writing helps more. The great works are generally quite accessible, and literary discussion is likewise easy to find.

As much as higher education is necessary for some trades, I get the feeling that we worship it as a society; it bothers me that expensive degrees are required for other fields when talent, home study and experience can get a person just as far or farther, usually with less debt and sometimes less arrogance.

It bothers me, for instance, that the desire for M. Divs in pastors has led to a disproportionate number of trendy young men running evangelical churches. It bothers me that a Bachelor's in music is required to lead the five-piece band in a worship service. (Yes, I'm a Catholic, and yes, I still have opinions about how the Protestants do things. The Catholics aren't entirely guilt-free either.) It bothers me that artistic degrees are required in almost any situation, and it bothers me that people feel it necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars getting degrees irrelevant to almost every possible occupation just because society pressures them to get something.

All this, however, is certainly not intended as a polemic. I am not anti-college. My husband, my mother, both of my sisters, and my best friend are all graduates of higher education, and all of them made worthwhile choices. All I would advocate is proportionality: let the reason for getting a degree, and the value of the degree in question, be in proportion to the investment required.


Beauty Happens

At the turning of the seasons, beauty happens everywhere. The weeping birch down the street, the budding of lilac and cherry and apple trees, and the long-lost sunshine are all doing their part to bring me happiness nowadays.

I have memories of moments throughout my life when the beauty around me seemed a sight "beyond the lot of mortals". During a road trip, for instance, Mom and my sisters and I drove right along the beaches south of Crescent City in California. We hit that stretch right at sundown, and there were waves rolling in and breaking into mist on the shore. The setting sun had turned everything fairy colors. It was so beautiful that I'm afraid to go back in case it doesn't live up to my recollection.

Other memories include the morning star over the Bridger mountains at dawn, the glow of street-lights among pine trees and fog on the way into Anacortes one night, and the white angels genuflecting before the Tabernacle in the St. Louis basilica.

This past Sunday night, Lou and I were walking through our neighborhood. It was gray and breezy, but still light enough to show the vibrance of the spring colors. We walked past a cherry-tree with pink blossoms, and just as we passed it the wind picked up and petals swirled all around us--pink petals against the gray sky.

I am anxious to read Dante's Paradiso. Lou says that the great poet portrays heaven as a giant rose, with God at the center and all the holy ones around him. The depiction is literary, not literal, of course, but I'm expecting beauty in heaven. Whenever beauty happens, I feel like the veil has been drawn back for just a moment, giving me a glimpse.


A Strange and Assorted Lot

Christian pro-life activist Randall Terry has been arrested again, having marched onto the Notre Dame campus with other demonstrators after the school gave him an order to stay off. The demonstrators were pushing strollers carrying dolls covered in fake blood.

[Back story, for anyone who doesn't know: The president of Notre Dame Catholic University has invited President Obama to give the commencement speech this year and awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree. Since the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is gravely wrong, and Obama teaches that it is a right, a lot of people--including students--are a bit horrified.]

From Erin Manning:

"And I think Obama is hoping that protesters will show up when he comes to speak. I think he's hoping that they'll have unusually bloody and incoherent signs, be dressed like people who think Larry King's castoffs are high fashion, and be just disruptive enough for him to unleash his trademark patient smile, perhaps turning in profile just a little and hoping that the camera lights will form yet another halo around his head. Then he will be able to say, without a word, that pro-life Catholics, faithful Catholics....Catholic Catholics, are the Wrong Sort of Catholics, the people who don't have the sense to know that Notre Dame is not honoring Obama--but Obama is honoring Notre Dame, by deigning to show up and read his teleprompter for them; henceforth Notre Dame shall be sacred ground, because Barack has trod lightly upon its stage."

I'm going to go out on the good old proverbial limb here.

I am thoroughly proud of the pro-life movement for being non-discriminatory.

I've participated in pro-life protests. Personally, I prefer to stand quietly, dressed neatly, and carry a sign that says something like "Women deserve better than abortion" (although there is certainly a place for the graphic signs and in some contexts I wholly support their use.) However, in my quiet and undemonstrative preferences, I am not always standing next to someone who has the slightest concern for public opinion. Occasionally someone looks like they sleep on the street, or doesn't hesitate to return gestures to a drive-by bird-flipper, or has clearly used hair spray long enough that it's gone to their brain.

In the process I've also stood across the street from counter-protests. Granted, not all of them appear diplomatically correct, but the intent is clear if you know where to look. I got this directive to the pro-abortion demonstrators third-hand, but am copying it as received:

"IF asked...this is the statement... 'we are not affiliated with planned parenthood. We are the community and we have come here to support women in receiving affordable health care.'
No references to what kind of health care should be made......we are asked to be on th side walks and fully visable and ...yes we are to be obviously 'the sane ones.' "

(No comment on the spelling and typing. I'd love to comment on their underhanded use of "health care", but that's another post.)

In my experience, when we go to protest we are merely told to be peaceable and prayerful. And the atheists can skip the praying part.

Hyperbole aside, Erin Manning has hit exactly the attitude of those defending the legality of abortion; an attitude drawn from Hollywood and advertising experience, not from reality. It works, unfortunately; people who don't have all the information are generally more than happy to follow, sheeplike, after the person who most looks like they have answers--especially if those answers coincide with what people want to believe.

We pro-lifers are often a ragtag mix and not all of us can manage fashion or write well, but we'll take anyone honestly willing to pick up a symbolic sword--no matter how crusty--and join the battle. If we were trying to sell a product, it would be different, but if the right to life is a fundamental truth and the unborn aren't getting it, then anyone who has been born has an equal right to stand up and protest.

Sure, a demonstration like Randall Terry's latest, especially done in direct defiance of an order, probably doesn't help our case. Cheesily gruesome displays certainly don't, since people supporting the "right to choose" don't actually believe that a "real human" with feelings and everything is dying in the abortion process. The real pictures and stories are necessary for helping people understand that. Mr. Terry meant to make a point. I'm sure President Fr. Jenkins rolled his eyes.

I went to Barack Obama's website before the election and saw him "take the moral high ground" against Gianna Jessen and her publicizing of his vote against the Born Alive Protection Act (as far as I can tell, that part of the site is down now.) His self-defense was carefully and reasonably worded and it would have convinced me beautifully if I didn't believe from the bottom of my heart that it is every bit as wrong to kill a child before it is born as after.

Maybe looking silly on a street corner doesn't help us. But I would rather stand for life and truth with a strange and assorted lot than strike some deadly and carefully-worded compromise with perfectly-made-up elitists to whom the less-seemly members of society are meant to live and vote in secret (or die before birth). Life and truth are not granted only to the attractive and classy. Nor are the healthy and wealthy necessarily the wise.