You are not dead. You are waiting.

One winter vacation when I was in college, I went with my mother to a charismatic healing Mass. You could say that I had been “struggling” with depression, but that’s not really the word. I lived there.  I was being swallowed whole by it, day after day, and I could not get out. Wherever people led me, I would go, whether they liked or loved me, hated me, or just found me useful. So I went with her to ask for healing, not with hope, but just because it couldn’t hurt.

The service was emotional—tacky, to be honest— and while the priest was fervid, the scattered congregation sounded sheepish and forced as they softly hooted and called “Amen!” into the chilly air of the church.

We lined up and the priest recited some words of healing—I forget them utterly—over each of us.  Then he gave every forehead a firm shove, to put us off balance in case the Holy Spirit wanted to overcome anyone.  A few people crumpled and passed out, snow melting quietly off their boots onto the tiled floor.  Most of us just staggered a bit under the pressure, recovered, stepped around the fallen, and went back to our seats.

Well, I thought, another dead encounter with dead people in a dead world.  I slid into my pew.  Nothing had changed because nothing could change.  I was dead, and everyone else was allowed to be alive.  Why?  Who knows?  Someone had been sent for help, but help would not come.  Help was not for me.

And then I heard these words in my head, “You made Me wait.  Now you can wait for a while.”  They were not my words.  The tone was warm, a little sad, with a small vein of humor.  I think I was being teased, chided for taking so long to send for help.  You like games, talitha?  All right, I will play.  Now, wait.

Then I went home. Nothing happened, that I could see.

Years later, I thought of that day as I read Tomie dePaola’s The Miracles of Jesus with my four-year-old daughter.  She listened attentively, but I could see that most of the wonders didn’t impress her much.  In these short narratives, some kind of grown-up problem is introduced—and then poof, God solves it, The End.

I think she saw Jesus acting more or less like all adults act:  making good things appear arbitrarily, making sick people feel better, occasionally being cranky and strange, and wishing people would say “thank you” more often.  It was cool, but it didn’t mean much to her. They were miracles, not the kind of thing that happen in real life.

Jairus’ daughter, however, really got her attention—probably because it was about a child, and also because it was a full story, with suspense, despair, and a happy ending, plus the hint of a full life to come.

Jesus hears the news that the girl was sick, but He isn’t teleported to her bed. He walks, one foot in front of the other, on His way to her.  And when He gets there, it’s too late. Her family is weeping; the girl, the poor little thing who wanted to be healed, is already dead.

My daughter got very quiet at this point.  We read on:

“But Jesus said, ‘Do not weep.  She is not dead.  She is asleep.’
And the people only laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.

She looked at me with big eyes.  They laughed at Jesus!

Jesus took her by the hand and said, ‘Child, arise.’
And her spirit returned and she got up at once.  Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.”

At this point, my daughter hurled herself at me and gave me a big, squeezing hug. She got that part!  She knows about being sad, needing help, waiting far too long, being rescued, and then having something to eat, because all these ups and downs make you hungry.  And then life goes on, once you have been saved.  Here was a miracle she could appreciate—the kind that’s part of a story.

I got it, too, because I knew that story. I had been that girl. And I had heard that voice. It was a long time, and a lot of steps, before my slow rescue from the dead came up to the speed where it was recognizably healing, recognizably a wonder. But I never forgot the words I heard, telling me that help was on the way. That I wasn’t really dead; I was waiting.

If you have ever lived inside a black hole; if you have moved about the world enclosed in a dome of sound proof glass, with no voices but your own voice, which you hate above all other sounds in the world; if you have felt so bad for so long that you don’t even want life to get better, you just want it to be over—then you will understand that it was very, very good to hear this voice that simply said, “You are not dead. You are only sleeping. And I am on my way.”

I was not merely sitting in that cold pew, it told me. I was sitting and waiting.  Someone was with me; or at least, someone was on the way.  I was happy to wait.  I was happy!  This was new.

That was how I began to be healed, more than twenty years ago.  It was a long road of waiting, after I began to be healed.  It is a long road.  I’ve been in therapy for over three years, and now I’ve started spiritual direction. I don’t know what is next. The road keeps getting longer, to be honest, and every time I think I am finally healed, I see that I am not, not yet. But I can see Christ better and better as He approaches, step by step. My healing started when I asked Him, without hope, for healing.

That is what our breath is for: To call out for help. As long as we still have breath in us, we are not dead, we are only sleeping.  We are not alone; we are waiting for Christ to arrive.

Can you wait a little longer? You are not dead. You are waiting.

 

***
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Related reading: I thought good Catholics didn’t need therapy. Then I went.

Mindfulness, meet my bumper

Don’t shoot those helicopters down

Ten things about therapy

Passing through the moor

When you are sad, cry.

Don’t you realize comedy is a matter of life and death?

Faith, reason, depression, and help

A version of this essay originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011.

 

 

 

I can see into the future

I predict The embattled Cardinal Wuerl, after meeting with the Pope forty-six more times just to talk stuff over, will make a dramatic and tearful farewell, saying he will retreat to a life of poverty and penance because of regrettable mistakes that may or may not have been made by nonspecific episcopal entities such as those other guys over there. Six weeks later, a heavily made-up newcomer, Cardinal Doubtfire, will be appointed in his stead and will have many pastoral things to say in a high, squeaky voice. Phew! So that’s all fixed.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

When a teenage girl reports being raped

Why wait to report rape? All you have to do is report it, and then the bad guy will be punished, the good girl will be protected, and justice will be served. Here’s one American expressing a typical point of view on the topic this morning:

And here’s a short essay from the loving parent of a teenage girl who was raped — not thirty-five years ago, but last December. They did report it as soon as they possibly could, and now they are living through the very typical aftermath of what very often happens next. 

Spoiler: Justice was not served. The author is my friend of twenty years.

***

I spent the weekend sitting in the emergency room with my teenage daughter. I do mean the whole weekend, 48 hours of it. She was inching towards suicidal plans again, Googling ways to overdose.

She’s been an inpatient before, twice, after a previous suicide attempt. Her father and I confronted her about her plans and asked her if she needed to go back into a psychiatric hospital to be safe and get help. She asked if she could think about it. Two hours later she told us, yes, she felt like she needed to go back. So we went to the emergency room to wait for a bed on a unit somewhere. After the emergency room, she spent the next five days in an inpatient mental health facility.

Here is what led up to this day:

In December she was at an event with friends and started to feel sick. A male acquaintance of hers offered to take her home. But before he brought her home, he turned off into a dark parking lot and raped her.

She told him no. She did her best to physically resist. There was no confusion about consent there.

Then he brought her home where she began the dark spiral of self-blame. She had flirted with him in the past, they had texted. There may have even been some talk of “getting together.” So she did her best to just push it away and move on.

Trauma doesn’t work like that, though. Her body responded violently. Over the next two months, she would vomit multiple times a day, often going days at a time without holding down any substantial food. We sought every medical solution we could find to help her, but with only limited success. Because we were just putting a band-aid on a broken leg.

In June, we started observing her even more closely and discovered some concerning information about how she’d been spending her time. Together, her dad and I talked to her about it. She told us that on top of all we found, she had been raped back in December. There was a whirlwind of trying to get her every kind of help we could at this point, but that is not what this is about. My own self-doubt and distress having to think of my child going through this or memories of my own traumatic experiences are not what this is about either, but those were extreme too.

It took two more months before she felt like she was ready to make a police report. In August, she made the report. It took two more weeks for the detective to finally make an appointment for her to come in and make a statement.

I knew that would be hard for her. She would have to talk through the whole story, which she had only done with her therapist to this point.  But it was much worse than I imagined. It shattered her all over again.

The detective was a friendly, young guy. He talked to me first and asked me all about what I knew. He asked why we had waited so long to report this. I told him that we found out well after it had happened, and since there wasn’t any physical proof, our first priority was to get her some help and try to get her a little bit stabilized.

Then he talked to her. It took a very long time. He called me back in when she was trying to pull herself back together in the bathroom. He asked me if I knew about her other experiences with boys. I did. He asked me if I knew what kind of pictures and texts she had, at one point, had on her phone. I did. When she came back into the room he told us that he would interview the boy she was accusing, but if he asked for a lawyer, they would drop the case. Because it was her word against his.

The detective talked to him the next day. He asked for a lawyer. The police dropped the case.

So while this boy carried on with his senior year, playing football, hanging out with friends, my daughter ended up sitting in a locked room feeling violated all over again when she was told that for her own safety, she couldn’t have her bra. Or her sweatshirt. Or her journal or any writing utensil but crayons. For her safety.

While this family goes on with life as usual, we are buried under medical bills. His father gets to go watch his son’s games. I pick my daughter up from school after another major panic attack.

While he stayed at school with his friends, she switched schools so that she wouldn’t have to face the trauma of seeing him every day. While he gets by without having to say a word, she is questioned extensively and in graphic detail about what really happened and about her mental health and sexual history.

But it is just her word against his.

***

Related: If she was sexually assaulted, why didn’t she say something sooner?

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

How I got my speeding ticket dismissed

Last week, I criticized Pope Francis and got a passel of new ultra traditionalist followers. This week, I wrote about rape culture and have garnered a ton of new follows from, like, women’s studies academics. Next week: sad surprises all around!

But seriously, hello to all my new readers. I’m very glad you’re here, and I’m grateful for the shares. But if you’re going to stick around, you should know that I am a deeply silly person. And so I have elected to tell the story of how my speeding ticket was dismissed this week. But I’m going to tell it the stupid way.

This past summer, I was driving home from a concert in Worcester with my two oldest kids and their friend. At first we were all

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and then it got pretty, pretty late, but even on the way home we were still

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but it was kind of a long ride and eventually I was just

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But I powered through. We’re halfway home and one kid really has to pee, so we stop at the only gas station on that lonely, lonely strip of road. I pull up, she hops out. Nope, it’s closed. She hops in, away we go.

Then:

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Dammit.

Now, I know this town fairly well, and there are a good many honest, upstanding police officers in that area. But this was not one of them. Like this:

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except with a badge and a gun. So he decides I was speeding, and also had a headlight out, and also a license plate light out. Real reason he stopped me: I was driving a black SUV around midnight with out-of-state plates, and had popped in and out of a deserted gas station for no apparent reason. He obviously figures:

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Which, okay, fine, a reasonable guess. But after we chat and he runs my plates and all, and finds out I have a clean record just like I said I did, and we showed him the ticket stubs from the goony concert we were at, he still comes back with a big ol’ ticket for $105, and lectures me about how it could have been much higher, but he was giving me a break.

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Fine. Whatever. I just want to get home. I actually got stopped a second time on the way home but whatever! I’m not on trial here! Not today, anyway.

So we finally made it home, and the next day, I started getting mad. What do I have to pay a stupid fine for? I’m respectable. I pay taxes. I mow my lawn, not like some slob. Plus I didn’t have $105. So I contested the ticket, and got a court date.

Fast forward a month, and now, well, I am on trial. I show up at the court house forty minutes away looking fresh and fine and alert

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I go through security and hand over the dangerous arsenal secreted in my purse, including a Schick razor, a pair of tweezers for my goaty goaty face, and a fork

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and sit down on the world’s greatest travesty disguised as a bench, to wait my turn. Waiting with me are:

a guy who, in retrospect, should not have knocked the phone out of her hand but when he heard about the prostitution it was the last straw;

a mom and a boy who was both in school and working, your honor, and had simply misunderstood the parameters of losing one’s license;

a man who wasn’t actually masturbating in front of that lady, as she thought, but only had poison ivy all in his pants

No, I am not.

And also a woman who, with her daughter, had lost her job as a waitress in the diner, was exceedingly proud of having wiped her ass with her unemployment check, and then apparently wiled away the lonely hours going back to said diner and giving her former employers the unemployment check treatment, on three different occasions, and also virtually on social media, which led them to take out a restraining order on her because THEY’RE ALL CORRUPT.

And the whole time, she had a bunch of theories about the judicial system which she voices loudly and repeatedly and they can be summed up thusly:

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along with a bit of this:

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plus a little of this

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and just a soupcon of this, for some reason

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and everything she said, her daughter said, too.

And the whole time the judge was just all:

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Never heard him raise his voice or even sound impatient, even while the insane bullshit was flowing like

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He just keeps like

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At this point I stop being nervous, because I have heard enough to realize that the worst possible thing that could happen to me that day was that I would have to pay $105; and compared to the prospects of everyone else in that room, that was actually

So what happened was, finally they called my name, I go in, they read the terrible report that Office Dipshit has written up using his left elbow. My speed was estimated, not clocked; the officer didn’t even write his name down, and he certainly didn’t show up.

And, let’s face it, I’m a white lady.

 

and so the judge is like

And that was that!

At this point, you only have two questions left. One, was I, in fact, speeding? Well …

So there.
And two, did I get my fork back?

Friends, I did.

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It’s in my purse as we speak. With my faith in humanity restored

I can once more give a fork. We can all give a fork!

Blog post adjourned.

 

Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, when do girls matter?

Did Brett Kavanaugh try to rape a 15-year-old girl when he was seventeen? Did he drag her into a bedroom, hold her down on a bed, grind on her, try to tear off her clothes, and hold his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream? I don’t know. I sure hope we find out.  We should delay the vote on his appointment while we investigate, because the stakes are pretty high, and we all agree we don’t want an attempted rapist on the Supreme Court. Right?

Ah, we don’t agree.  Well, dammit.

A large contingent of Americans on social media are openly saying they don’t care if he’s guilty. They are saying things like:

At seventeen, his brain was still developing, so his culpability is reduced.

Hey, he was drunk when he did it. We all do stupid things when we’re drunk. 

This is normal hetero hijinx. Boys will be boys. It’s not admirable, but it sure is common — shows the guy is normal, in fact. Heck, high five, Brett. Studly guys like us all have some notches on our belts, wink wink. 

And most of all:

But it happened so long ago. There’s no indication he’s still like that. We’re really going to hold him responsible for something that happened so long ago?

There is no sober, cautious examination of the facts, here, from his supporters. All of these arguments rush to the conclusion that he did do exactly what Christine Blasey Ford accuses him of doing. And they are okay with that. They’re willing to wave away the violent attempted rape of a 15-year-old girls as inconsequential. Why?

Because  . . . she was just a girl, and that’s what girls are for.

That’s the only answer I keep coming back to. Part of me wants to say that the GOP is so bristling with misogyny and the desperate need to appear macho that they’re always willing to throw women under the bus when power is at stake. Look how readily they nominated and elected a confessed abuser, and (to pick one example at random) look how quickly they toggled from “Stormy Daniels is a dirty liar” to “Hey, now, bribing a hooker isn’t an impeachable offense.”

But if that answered it, then the dems would be different, and they’re not. Handsy Uncle Joe Biden, anyone? You know he’s going to run next election. Bill Clinton, anyone? You know that man is a rapist. And yet he’s never once stopped being the progressives’ darling, because he’s also their sugar daddy and he gets them what they want. And if you have to wink at a few rapes, well, they’re just women. That’s what women are for.

Right now, it happens to be the GOP who wants to give a lifetime supreme court appointment to someone credibly accused of a serious sexual crime. Next time, or the time after that, it will be a progressive again, because some people — Al Franken springs to mind — are just too useful to be shucked away for a little thing like sexually abusing a little thing like a woman.

They’re just girls, and girls are here for men to use. Just like it was just a girl that Brock Turner violently raped behind a dumpster while she was unconscious. It was just a girl when those guys from Steubenville gang raped her and posted the video online. And they got a slap on the wrist and were allowed to get on with their lives, while their young victim is still used as shorthand, in Steubenville circles, for “lying whore.” Because she’s just a girl.

When a young man gets drunk and tries to rape a girl, there will always be someone to say he shouldn’t be punished too severely — shouldn’t lose his place on the team, shouldn’t be kicked out of school, certainly shouldn’t serve any jail time — because don’t you see, he has so much promise? This might damage his future!

And what about her future? What about her? Who is thinking about the actual human girl in Blasey’s account, who wept and screamed and fought back, while those normal, healthy, hetero boys turned up the music and pushed her back onto the bed?

It was so long ago. Well, If Blasey had gone to someone with her story that very night, what do you suppose they would have told her?

Now, Christine. Brett is a very bright young man with a promising future. Why, I bet he could be on the Supreme Court someday. 

Brock Turner got six months (a longer sentence would have had “a severe impact” on him) and served three, because he had so much promise.  Austin Wilkerson raped an unconscious girl (after pretending to help her, to throw off the scent of onlookers) and was punished by having to sleep in jail, but went to school and work as normal during the day. David Becker got two years probation after raping two unconscious girls. Because those boys had such a bright future ahead of them. They’re just being boys! This is what happens! This is what boys do! But the girls? Well . . . this is what girls get. This is what they are for.

This is what you are saying, when you want to give men a pass for something they did long ago. This is what you are conveying to millions of women who have been raped and abused, when you allow yourself to say “yes, yes, sure, sure, of course rape is bad, but this is the supreme court we’re talking about, here! This isn’t just the rape of a girl we’re talking about, this is serious!”

I know how hard it is to see this clearly, to keep this firmly in mind when there’s a political storm swirling around. I know you want to talk about how awful Dianne Feinstein is, and how biased the media is, and how suspicious the timing of it all is. Hell, I fell for that with Anita Hill. I let them convince me that Clarence Thomas was the savior we needed to put this country to rights, and that this trashy, unhinged woman was just sniffing around him looking for glory, probably paid off by some secret politics operatives to make up a story that didn’t even sound true.

But believe it or not, politics isn’t the most important thing. A supreme court nomination isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing, when stories like this are in the news, is the victim, and how we treat them, how we speak about them. The most important thing is that we don’t lose ourselves in the ideological storm, and allow ourselves to say anything that even sounds like “but it was just attempted rape” or “but he was just a teenager when he did it.” When you say that, you are telling victims that it doesn’t matter what happened to them, because they are just girls. Boys need their bright futures, but rape is what girls are for.

If we want to argue that the poor boy’s brain is still developing and we need to take that into account, then what about her developing brain? What about her sense of self worth that’s being so violently malformed, first by her assailant, and then by the crowds of people saying he’s normal and she’s a lying, scheming, whore?

Or the argument that boys are hormonal volcanoes just boiling over with sex, and this is how they learn, you see. They learn from their mistakes, and they get to move on, don’t you see. So I wonder how many girls they get to learn on. Do they get one rape freebie, and then after that, they’re responsible for knowing that rape is bad? Or do they get one attempted rape per year, as long as they learn a little bit more each time? I have eight daughters. How many of my daughters is it okay for a seventeen-year-old boy to try to rape, as long as it’s part of their learning process, and they have a bright future?

Girls . . . are human. Girls are not there for the benefit of helping boys to turn into men. They are not there to be soiled and then tossed on the heap while boys go out and buy themselves a whole new look, a whole new life.

If you don’t want men to be dragged down by decades-old accusations of rape, then you need to crack down on minutes-old accusations of rape as they happen. But that’s not how it goes. Still, even now, that’s not how it goes.

When a woman says, “This man raped me a long time ago,” we say, “But that was in the past. He can’t change the past.” When a girl says, “This boy raped me last night,” we say, “But his future! We can’t wreck his future.” And there she stands, suspended between his past and his future, with no value of her own except for how much she’s worth to whichever political party is feeling desperate today.

There are some acts which are so abhorrent, they cannot simply be forgotten. I have sons, as well as daughters. They’re not yet seventeen, and yet they know you’re not supposed to get drunk, and if you do get drunk, you’re still not supposed to rape anybody, not even a little bit. They know this. Seventeen is not a child. If, at that age, you have a son who’s still unclear on the whole “Don’t get drunk and sexually savage girls,” thing, then he should be involuntarily committed. There’s no grey area where he gets to sacrifice a few girls while he figgers it out. Because that’s not what girls are for. Girls are human.

But when grown men tell teenage boys that a smattering of attempted rape is normal, expected, excusable behavior; that all boys do something like this because they’re still developing; and that it’s not worth worrying about because it was so long ago, then this is what they’re doing: they’re educating a whole new generation in the uses and abuses of the bodies and psyches of girls and women, for the sake of men, who alone are real.

Think. Think about what you’re implying when you are willing to wave away accusations of attempted rape. Think about what you’re telling girls about what they’re for. Think about what you’re telling boys about what they’re for. Think about what you’re telling victims about what they’re worth. Think about how you’re talking about these things. Think about who is listening.

He says he didn’t do it. I hope his party has the integrity to at least try to find out, because if they say “it’s important” but then appoint him without an investigation, they don’t really think it’s important.

But that’s out of my hands. What I’m talking about here is how we talk about boys, and how we talk about girls, and how we talk about rape. What’s in our control is to guard ourselves, to change how we respond to stories of rape. To be consistent and humane whether it’s our guy on the witness stand or not. Because if it’s not our guy this time, it will be next time, depend on it.

Hell yes, an attempted rape accusation matters. Even a very old one. Even though it was just a girl.

I’ll say it again: I don’t know if Kavanaugh is guilty or not. I don’t know if Blasey is telling the truth or not. I’m saying it’s a big fucking deal when 17-year-old boys try to rape 15-year-old girls, whether their names are Brett and Christine or not.

***

Related: If she was sexually assaulted, why didn’t she say something sooner?

***
Image by bOred via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 143: Septemberbot

Ah, September, the time of year when you could easily replace me with a robot that does two things: Driving people places, and complaining about driving people places. The deluxe version of Simchabot also stares wistfully at the silvery, dry grasses at the side of the road and feels bad about everything dying. We did have food, but mainly the food of sadness, rabbit, mainly the food of sadness.

SATURDAY
BLTs

It seems like we would have had a special reason for making BLTs, which are generally classified as party or treat food, but hell if I can remember what was going on Saturday. The only bit of information I can offer is that we have sworn off Aldi bacon, which barely has a taste at all.

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas with lime crema; tortilla chips

Do you know, it’s hard to take interesting pictures of quesadillas? They are so flat.

All the pictures this week are pretty sub-par, as supper kept getting pushed back until after the sun was down, and I haven’t figure out how to take pretty food pics with artificial light. The quesadillas were tasty, though, if not photogenic.

I put the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot with some water on high pressure for eight minutes, then I shredded it and mixed in some chili lime powder. We had our quesadillas with your choice of cheddar cheese, chicken, chopped scallions, and jalapeno slices from a jar.

We also had lime crema, which is fine crema.

It’s just sour cream with some lime zest and juice, plus salt and garlic, but it elevates meals like you wouldn’t believe. (recipe card below) And yes, I reserved some lime zest for garnish, because I am a golden god.

MONDAY
Butter chicken, mashed potatoes, salad

This week’s installment from Kyra’s Bag o’ Peculiar Foods. I had three packets of butter chicken curry paste

and was determined to try butter chicken, which I’ve heard described as an Indian food entry meal. (Of course I like naan, but you can’t be human and not like naan, so that doesn’t count.)

So. I tried butter chicken. To be fair, I did mess up the recipe. I cooked the chicken in oil, and then added the butter later, after asking myself, “Well, if it’s called ‘butter chicken,’ then when does the butter –oh.” I threw it all together and then put it in the slow cooker all day, rather than simmering it. And it turned out we were out of rice, so I made some last-minute mashed potatoes for a side, instead.

Buttttt, despite all these deviations, I didn’t like it for completely other reasons — specifically, curry reasons. The seasoning came from the pouch, so whatever else I screwed up, the taste is the taste, and I guess I just don’t like curry? It tastes like a dessert taste to me, and I just can’t get it to make sense with meat dishes.  I feel guilty about this just in case an hour of the day should pass without me feeling guilty about something.

However, a couple friends recommended a recipe for quickie, yeastless naan, which I believe I will try. Because I (human) do like naan!

Oh, also, I was sure most of the kids wouldn’t like the curry, so I made up a batch of pan-fried chicken. I dredged it in flour and everything. I put it in the fridge and then, half an hour before dinner, I put it back in the oven to warm up. But, rabbit, I did not turn that oven on. Also, I hadn’t cooked the chicken all the way through, and Irene took a big bite of raw meat and promptly threw up. Can’t blame the Indians for that, I suppose.

TUESDAY
Fish tacos

Tortillas with sour cream (sadly, the lime crema had all been lapped up), finely shredded cabbage, avocado slices, fresh lime, cilantro, and of course fish sticks. I also got some lime chipotle salsa from Aldi, and it was pretty good, although a little mushier than I like.

Some day I will make this meal with fresh, pan fried fish, but not today, rabbit. Not today.

WEDNESDAY
Kielbasa, red potatoes, sweet peppers, and onions with mustard sauce

This meal was easy and attractive, but a little low on flavor, because I put all my effort into hacking things up and none into sprinkling things on. It was a bunch of kielbasa, red potatoes, onions, and sweet peppers, chunked them on a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and whatnot. Then I put it under the broiler and forgot about it until it was almost too late.

At the last minute, I put together a dressing that saved it (or would have, if I had made enough). Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and minced garlic. It looked like tarry sludge, but had a good, zippy flavor.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and that is seriously it.

One of the kids asked me why I didn’t make anything else, and I didn’t even know. I remember thinking, “. . . .eggs? . . . . ” at some point mid-morning, but that’s as far as it got. I assume they all eat vegetables at school or something, so that’s fine.

FRIDAY
Pasta primavera and fresh bread

I bought some frozen bread dough which is defrosting right now, because I told myself ninety-three times during the week that I was probably going to forget to defrost it. I have made pasta primavera before, but can’t seem to find the recipe. Basically you just want pasta with a light cream sauce, plenty of parmesan and garlic, and an assortment of fresh vegetables.  I have no intention of blanching things and then putting them in and out of ice water. Remember, yesterday it was too hard to bring hard boiled eggs from potentiality to actuality. We keeps the expectations low, precious.

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Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

TOPIC CHANGE: Remember the Pants Pass?

A long, long time ago, back when we were young and dewey, and ultra conservatives were still blackballing me for being a toxic radical castrating feminist, rather than friending me like crazy as the freshest incarnation of Catherine of Siena, I made a thing called a Pants Pass.

It’s weird. I know. Let me sum up: This mediumish name in the Catholic world put out a weird little message (“not a hard-and-fast directive!)” listing 14 reasons why women ought to wear skirts and dresses allatime. Oh yes, it’s still online. Bunch of Catholic women unanimously declared it bullshit, and to that chorus I added my Panstifesto.

There was a strenuous backlash among the Assholio Community, and so I felt compelled to fisk the not-a-directive in more detail. Here’s the salient part, which led to the creation of The Pants Pass. The sola skirtura guy had said:

[Wear skirts] for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).

“Merit?”  “Make it so it is good?”  I’ll translate this for you:

I don’t cheat on my wife, and that’s really hard, so I’m entitled to some compensation.  So line up, girls, and show me something special.  Neutrally modest isn’t good enough — I deserve something niiiiiiiice.

Oh, you sound just like Padre Pio; really you do!

Several other men in various comboxes expressed a similar idea of their right, as a virtuous man, to enjoy all women in a virtuous way.  They’re not satisfied with cracking down on their own wives — they feel that they’ve won the privilege of savoring and setting the standards for everyone else’s wife, too.

A few guys said that they could tell by the way I talk that I’m a disobedient wife.  How can they tell?  Because their wives wear skirts.  I usually don’t.  Therefore I must be disobeying my husband.

Never mind that my husband likes me in pants.  Which I mentioned.  So I guess they’re saying . . . that I should be obeying them?

Luckily for me, I have a husband who is just dying for someone to say something like that, so he can punch their lights out.  He recently quit smoking, and is looking for someone to punch.

But, ladies, what if your husband likes you in pants, but you happen to leave the house without him?  What if you’re doing some errands, you’re wearing pants, and some pigeon-toed guy with a scaly neck sidles up and confronts you for revealing the fact that you have legs — two of ‘em?

He scowls through his horrible beard and, once he gains control of the self-righteous quivering that shakes him from head to toe, he speaks:  “WHERE IS THY SKIRT, WOMAN?  WHY HAST THOU APPEARED AT WALMART IN THESE DETESTABLE PANTALOONS?  DOST THOU NOT RESPECT THY HUSBAND’S WISHES?”

Here’s what you do:  print out the following card, laminate it, and show it to the guy.

While he’s mentally translating it into Latin so it makes sense to him, you will be able to make a speedy getaway.  And since you’re wearing dem pants, you’ll do it without showing any skin!  Run, ladies, run!

Okay! So now we’re all caught up.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because (a) aren’t we all looking for something, anything to talk about, other than The Thing? And more importantly, (b)  my dear friend Elisa of Door Number Nine has actually made and actually laminated some actual Pants Passes, which you can actually buy. $2.75 a pop, and worth every penny, I say.

And because she is who she is, she made up this little video, just to . . . well, I don’t know why.

You guys. That was eight years ago. Remember when the Catholic internet was torn apart by a battle over pants? I shall sigh forever.

Francis has a lot of buffers.

The Catholic sex abuse scandal has two parts. The first part is the abuse itself. The second part is the institutional efforts to cover it up.

And now we are in the process of slowly, painfully uncovering these decades and centuries of crime.

This process is not part of the scandal.

The uncovering is dreadful. It is agonizing. It is, to use one of Francis’ favored words, messy. It’s always horrifying to witness the uncovering of hidden sin. But the uncovering is not part of the scandal. It is the remedy for the scandal, if there can be a remedy.

And yet Pope Francis, in his homily addressed to bishops today, said:

“In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The ‘Great Accuser’, as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the Book of Job, ‘roams the earth looking for someone to accuse’. A bishop’s strength against the ‘Great Accuser’ is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.”

This was not plucked out of context by some uncharitable, click-farming rag. It was chosen for publication by the Vatican news service itself. It is the Pope’s message.

In the past week, it seemed that Francis was making an effort to preach in ways that could possibly be construed as general pious reflections on scripture. But in today’s homily, he’s clearly referring directly to the scandal — or, more accurately, to the investigation of the scandal. He does not speak of the need to be more transparent. He does not speak of the need to repent, nor for the need to reform the Church. He does not speak of the horror of sin. He does not speak of the victims. Instead, he casts the bishops themselves as the victims — and some of the nine who advise him are themselves accused of covering up abuse.

Has Pope Francis spoken out about the abuse? Sure. He was more than willing to agree that terrible things had been done, and that some people ought to be very sorry indeed — until those accusations were turned on him. Then we heard that silence was holy, and that those who uncover sin are Satan.

I’ll say it again: Francis sounds like an abuser.

I am praying for bishops, and I am praying for the Pope, as he asked us to do. I am praying especially for those bishops who have been struggling mightily to show their flock they, at least, understand the profound horror we’re uncovering day by day, and that they want it to be uncovered. There are some good bishops. Some have been doing public penance. Some have called for independent reviews of their dioceses’ past, opening up records to the public and to the law. Some have demanded that the magisterium stop acting like this is business as usual and treat this scandal like the emergency it is.

And some have accused him of being part of the cover-up.

Are Viganò’s claims credible? I have no idea. I hope to God he’s wrong. And if Viganò himself is guilty, then he, too, should be investigated and prosecuted. But I keep thinking back to the courtroom scene in The Godfather II, where Willie Chichi tells the investigative committee, “Yeah, the family had a lotta buffers.”  If Viganò was part of the crime family that fed so many children and seminarians into the furnace, then that means he’s the one who knows what went on and how it was hidden. That’s how you get these guys: You get them to turn each other in.

So don’t trust accusers blindly, but listen to them. Look at what they claim, and find out for yourself whether it’s true or not. Open yourself to investigation. Turn over files. Uncover sin. Let the light in. Maybe stop calling investigators “Satan,” I don’t know.

Instead, the family closes ranks, and we hear absurdly tone-deaf assurances that Francis’ nine Cardinal advisors are in “full solidarity” with the Pope. I bloody well bet they are. The man has a lot of buffers.

***
Image by Long Thiên via Flicker (Public Domain)

What’s for supper? Vol. 142: In which I hit nobody with a baseball bat

No real new recipes this week, but no complaints, either. Except from me. I complained nonstop, and I’m still just warming up. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Caprese sandwiches with salami

I guess this is technically new, actually. And so much tastier than I expected, and easier than the chicken version. I toasted a bunch of ciabatta rolls, and set them out with sliced mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil, and genoa salami, plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simple and fabulous. Everyone loved them. A nice valediction for summer.

I recommend putting more than one layer of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in among the other ingredients.

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, zaatar pita and yogurt sauce

I forget why I planned a rather involved meal for the day before a big party. Probably because someone told me about zaatar paste, and I had to build a meal around it.

The oven chicken shawarma recipe, which I’ve simplified from the NYT recipe, is on a recipe card below. I put together the marinade the night before and cussingly skinned, trimmed, and boned about eight pounds of chicken thighs (worth it. We’ve had this dish with bone-in meat, and it’s good, but not scrumptious) and set it to marinate in a ziplock bag with a couple of sliced red onions.

That’s the hard part (and it’s not hard if you have boneless meat!). Before dinner, it’s quick enough to spread the chicken out in a shallow pan and broil it up. I like to chop it up a bit a few minutes before it’s quite done, so you get more crisp pieces.

While it’s cooking, you assemble the fixings. We had it with chopped cukes, parsley, green and black olives, plenty of pita, feta, and of course yogurt sauce (whole Greek yogurt with minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and a little fresh parsley). And grapes. You just put everything you like on your plate, and hop to it.

I planned to make zaatar bread by mixing zaatar with olive oil, spreading it on the pita, and heating it, but shortly before dinner, my will to do even one tiny speck more of work leaked out the back of my ankle

so I mopped that up with a baby wipe and just set out zaatar paste for dipping, and that was lovely, too.

We sometimes have this meal with tomatoes, many other kinds of olives, or something made of eggplant, or pomegranates. All good. So good. The zaatar was a welcome addition, too. Now that I think of it, it does taste like sumac smells, which is also very summery.

MONDAY
Cookout!

Back in July, our annual family reunion was sparsely attended; so we tried again for Labor Day. It was nice! Cousins galore, and such lovely ones.

Some of them needed to become acquainted with the lizard:

and some of them just needed to cool their heads with a little chess:

My father brought burgers and hot dogs, and Damien made his sugar rub chicken thighs and, well, all the mahogany clams in the world. Fine, just all the clams in the supermarket.

Look at that price! I’m not made of stone! I bought all 75. He scrubs them good, then sets them over the coals until they pop open (and they really do pop. I watched them this time. It was pretty cute), then put them in the sauce (white wine, melted butter, lemon juice, and chopped onion cooked in olive oil with red pepper), and mix ’em up, then row back to Spain like there’s no mañana!

Or, just suck down four or five helpings while your family politely averts their gaze. If you don’t have memories that include buttery clams in wine sauce with a reflection of the blue September sky in ’em, I feel bad for you, son. I got ninety nine clams, but I don’t actually know this song.

TUESDAY
Chicken berry walnut salad

Back to school. Back to school. (We started last Wednesday, but had Monday off.) In the morning, I put dem chicken breasts under the broiler with some olive oil and basic seasonings, and when they were cool, I cut them into cubes. Spread some walnuts in a pan and let them toast for a few minutes. (Yep, the microwave way is easier, and gives more even results. But someone broke our microwave, and now it cooks for three seconds and then it goes ZUUUUUUUUL. I haven’t thrown it out yet, in case it fixes itself, but it hasn’t yet.)

Mixed greens, crumbled feta, dried berries (cranberries, blueberries, and cherries, but to be honest, they tasted all the same), and diced red onion. And some broccoli we happened to have, which went along with the rest better than I expected.

A little balsamic vinegar, and it’s a nice, filling meal. Everything was set up ahead of time, which makes me feel so smart.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza ala furry bastard

Now you’ll see how smart I really am. I had twenty minutes before it was time to go, so I buttered and floured five pans and stretched out the pizza dough, and left them on the counter to finish up when I got back. And when I got back, here is what I found:

So I took a baseball bat, and I . . . no I didn’t. I threw out the dough and complained about the cat for the next 48 hours. This is also the day that we went for a run and got a dramatic flat tire on the way back, and then the tire wouldn’t come off, so while we were waiting for AAA to come and hit it with a stick, we saw we had missed a phone call from the kid at home, who wanted to know how much to worry about the smoke that was coming out of the dryer. I blame the cat. He did catch a mouse the other day, though. I came pretty close to emitting an “eek,” let me tell you.

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

I called one of my teenagers to make this meal while I was teaching one of my other teenagers to drive. She did fine. They did fine. We all did fine. We needed new tires anyway.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

I must have been feeling guilty about something to agree to this. I bought them all new shoes! What the hell do I have to feel guilty about? Do I go stomping around on vulnerable pizza dough? No! Do I buy up all the clams? Well yes I do, but it was for a good cause. Do I hit anyone with baseball bats? Not at all. And yet here I am feeling bad and squeezing the juice out of six cans of tune. Line-caught tuna, because I feel guilty about the frickin’ dolphins, too. What a world.

Well, here’s your recipe cards.

Caprese sandwiches

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta, baguettes, sourdough, or other dense bread
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced mozzarella
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • prosciutto, genoa salami, or sliced grilled chicken (optional)
  • pesto sauce or pesto mayo (optional)

Instructions

  1. You know how to make a sandwich. 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add sliced or quartered onions and chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.



  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

 

 

 

Yogurt sauce (tzatziki)

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Chicken berry nut salad

Any number of variations. Use whatever fruit is in season and whatever nuts are on sale. Dried fruit is also fine. 

Ingredients

  • chicken breast, seasoned, cooked, diced
  • salad greens
  • blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, fresh or dried
  • toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
  • feta or blue cheese, crumbled
  • diced red onions
  • balsamic vinegar or other light dressing

Instructions

  1. To toast the nuts: Spread them in a single layer on a plate and microwaving them on high for three minutes. This is the easiest, most reliable way to toast nuts, which improves the flavor and texture immensely for salad. 

    You can also toast them in the oven in a single layer on a pan in a 350 oven for 6-7 minutes, but watch carefully, as they burn quickly. 

Does Francis know he sounds like an abuser?

Shall I tell you the most charitable, least rash explanation I can muster for Pope Francis’ recent words and behavior? It’s that he’s surrounded himself with yes men who are shielding him from understanding the depth and breadth of institutional sex abuse and its cover-up in the Church.

He’s appointed, or left in office, no one but men who tell him that the world is chock full of false accusations, that the whole scandal thing is overblown, that it’s all in our past — oh, and that right now would be a good time to talk about litter in the ocean. The few who will tell him the truth, like Cardinal O’Malley, are so outnumbered that even their dire warnings can be dismissed as local problems.

That’s the charitable answer, and it’s not great. If he’s in a bubble that protects him from seeing the true state of the Church, it’s a comfortable bubble of his own making. The servant of the servants of God is not supposed to be in a bubble.

But the other explanation is worse. Here it is:

I have a number of friends who have escaped abusive marriages. They tell me that Pope Francis is sounding more and more like the men who abused them. He’s sounding like the men who hid that abuse from the world, who taught their victims to blame themselves, who used spiritual pressure to persuade them and their families that it would actually be wrong, sinful, to defend themselves.

Just listen to him. After responding to a question about Vigano’s very serious accusations, he said point blank, “I will not say a single word on this.” Several of the faithful speculated that he may have had this or that logistical reason for putting off responding to that specific question; fine. But for the rest of the week and more, he kept up an unmistakable theme of calling for silence, equating silence with holiness, and painting himself as a Christlike victim in his silence. Then he says it’s “ugly” to accuse others of sinning.Then he suggests that healing and reconciliation will only come if we take a hard look at our own flaws.

These statements are all true. They all reflect Christian thought. They would be reasonable at any other time in recent history. But coming right in the middle of our ongoing agony, they land as heavily as a fist on a bruise.

To the victims of the Church, and to those who love them, it sounds like he is saying, “Who do you think you are? I don’t have to explain myself to you. You’re the guilty one. You brought this on yourself. If you want to be loved, then know your place. I’m the victim, here, not you. If you know what’s good for you, keep your mouth shut.”

This is how abusers talk. They’re not content with power; they have to keep their victims doubting and blaming themselves constantly, so they don’t become a threat. Whether Francis knows it or not, this is how he sounds.

I know that we hear what gets reported, which isn’t necessarily everything he says. I know that the pope isn’t required to say everything we want him to say. I know that whatever is going on in our own diocese or our own country isn’t the whole of what goes on in the Church. I know that there are eternal truths that need to be told no matter what is going on in the current moment.

But even keeping all these things in mind, it beggars the imagination why the pope keeps talking the way he does. It’s clear he intends to keep on talking, despite his exhortations to be silent. This is what he chooses to say. The very best possible explanation is that his context is pure bubble, and he simply doesn’t realize that much of the Catholic world is transfixed with horror over the sins of the clergy. He simply isn’t aware that, with his words and with his silence, he’s turning his back on so many suffering priests and bishops, including my own, who tell their flock that they have not been abandoned — only to hear their spiritual father override their efforts with a huge, unmistakable message of “NOBODY CARES.”

Maybe he simply doesn’t realize that his cozy little aphorisms are coming off as a passive aggressive threat, as chilling as an abuser who smiles warmly at the world while secretly showing an open blade to the victim who stands faithfully at his side.

I do remember his gentleness, his compassion, his direct and sincere kindness in the past. I don’t believe that was false. You all know I’m not a reflexive Francis-hater. I don’t have any ideological reason to want to bring him down. I have defended him as long as I could, up until the Chile debacle.

And so I am working as hard as I can not to assume the worst, not to believe that this man who promised so much fresh air is really so intent on slamming doors shut before we find out even worse things hidden inside. But he is not making it easy. I am not saying he is an abuser. But he sounds like one.