“Free on Craiglist” and other words of doom

Can we get some credit for how many stupid ideas we don’t act on?

We have a trampoline, but not an in-ground trampoline.
We have zero life-sized, purple hippopotamuses rescued from defunct mini golf places, despite a clear opportunity.
We have many broken chairs and couches, but none of them has been packed with topsoil, covered with chicken wire, and planted with grass seed to make living lawn furniture.

We have a washing machine drum flower planter for our statue of Mary

but we do not have a permanent porch fixture made from the industrial-sized colander that wouldn’t fit through the door, much less in my sink.

And we still don’t have any damn ducks. Not a single khaki campbell duck, noted for its high egg production, paddling happily in an in-ground (free on Craigslist!) hot tub in harmony with a booming population of meat turtles.

We do have a beloved canoe

($100 on Craigslist! Billed as “The world’s ugliest canoe,” and so it is). But we do not have a large, ungainly, unrealistic project boat sitting stupidly in our yard as a testament to our inability to turn a thing down just because it’s free on Craigslist.

UNTIL NOW.

This fine vessel was free on Craigslist

and we’re fixing to drag it down to the stream, chain it to some trees on either side, and sit back while our kids enjoy the greatest childhood known to mankind since that kid got stuck on that island with that horse.

There are a few issues. One is that the boat is gutted

We are about 73% sure this happened because someone started renovating and then realized it was too much work, and not because it is a murderboat. (I’m sure that head-sized compartment I can’t bring myself to open is just full of maps and sunblock. I’m sure of it.)

So we need a floor. Gonna lay some slats across it, then fit a board over that, screw everything down, and voilà . It just needs to be sturdy and safe,

not seaworthy or lovely.

The second issue is that the boat is in the yard, but the stream is in the back back back backyard, over the grass, around the firepit, through some thorns, across the Dead Marshes, and on the other side of a sturdy bank of trees and rocks and maybe some barbed wire I’ve been meaning to take care of.

But the boat has already more than paid for itself, in two distinct ways.

One is that my husband and I both learned how to use a trailer hitch.

 

The Craigslist ad said “Dont want to answer questions just want it gone,” so no one (sober) was available to help us mount the boat trailer (free on Craigslist!) to the vehicle.

It seemed simple enough, though: You stand there shouting at your husband, “Back-back-back-back-back-back-back, keep going, keep going, a little this way, this way, this way, back-back-back-back-back, keep goNO STOP!!!!!” until the ball part is perfectly situated under the trailer thingy.

Then you shove it with your foot a little, wind the crank until it’s all lined up, clamp the clamp thingy, hook up the chains, remove the wheel blocks, and . . . you are good to go? I guess?

So off we crept, and O YE GODS AND O YE LITTLE FISHES, what a horrible noise it made. It was a noise to freeze the marrow in your bones, a grinding, scraping, clattering, screeching squeal that proclaimed to all ears within fifty miles, “Here indeed are people who should not have a boat!”

We just kept going. I asked my husband if he wanted me to look up the hand signals for right and left; but for some reason, traffic was doing a very good job of avoiding us all by itself.

We made the perilous turn off the dirt road onto the highway. Only another mile or two until we reached home. At this point (and this is the second benefit of boat ownership we’ve already enjoyed) we had each lost about fourteen pounds of weight through the sheer isometric exercise of clenching every muscle in our bodies in abject fear.

My husband fixated mainly on the boat breaking loose, roaring freely down the highway, and crushing an unsuspecting mailman flat. I, though, couldn’t stop thinking about how it would feel when we hit a downhill slope, the hitch snapped, and the boat came charging through the rear window to devour us like an avenging whale.

What happened instead was that the horrible sound got even more horrible, until we couldn’t stand it anymore. My husband pulled over to a shoulder, and gathered his courage to softly asked that fatal question: “Is it supposed to be making that noise, do you think?”

I muttered through aching teeth, “Well . . . I think that little wheel in the front . . . is not making contact with the ground the whole time . . . and the noise we’re hearing . . . is when it is making contact. So maybe if we turn the crank, we can make it move . . . .”

I was going to say “down,” so that the wheel would be on the ground the whole time we were driving.

And then it hit me: That little wheel is not supposed to be touching the ground. It’s just there to hold the trailer stable while you load your boat up, and then you’re supposed to crank it up out of the way. Our only clue that this was so: This wheel is about five inches across, and about as sturdy as your average rollerblade wheel, and is very clearly not intended for highway travel. I’m sorry, did you not get the word? We are people who should not have a boat.

So we skipped out of the car and cranked that sucker up as high as it would go, got back in, and cruised home as silently and smoothly as if the boat were already in water. Which it will be, as soon as we figure out how to get it across the yard.

 

Hey, we didn’t bring home any ducks. That has to count for something.

 

 

 

Protected: Podcast #24: A little offball

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Check out my segment on the Jesuitical podcast!

I chatted with the delightful Ashley McKinless and Olga Segura about Catholicism and mental health.

Talking about mental health isn’t easy. And when you throw faith into the mix it often becomes even harder. Many Catholics mistakenly think that needing mental health treatment amounts to a kind of spiritual failure. This week, we talk with writer Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning, about how she learned to balance her Catholic faith and therapy.

You can hear and download the podcast that includes many other topics of interest to Catholics.

What’s for supper? Vol. 87: Mango, Mango! Can’t trust that day!

And we’re off! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pancakes with strawberries, sausages

That’s what the kids at home made and ate. Damien and I took our latest high school graduate out to eat for a celebration meal, and we all ate long past the point of regret. Someone’s gonna put fresh, hot bread and herbed olive oil, seafood chowder, fried calamari, and shrimp scampi in front of me, what am I gonna do? I’m not made of stone. But I said no to the berry mascarpone torte, mainly because I was still finishing my beer.

My daughter made us proud all through high school, and graduated with honors in math (MATH!). Here is her crowning achievement:

Isn’t she cute?

***

SUNDAY
Burgers, hot dogs, chips, brownie sundaes

This was Father’s Day, and maybe not our best effort. Something about everyone feeling about as peppy and energetic as a, a, a thing that is tired and having a hard time coming up with interesting descriptions. So he cooked up meat on the grill and it was good.

***

MONDAY
Turkey avocado provolone wraps, raw veggies and hummus, grapes

For some reason, everyone was super enthusiastic about this meal. We had some leftover rolls and a bunch of leftover tortillas, which I set out with deli turkey and salami, avocados, onions, provolone, and various kinds of dressing. I chose honey mustard, which doesn’t even go.

I mean, it didn’t taste bad or anything, but I wasn’t prepared for the choruses of hosannas. I think it may have been the grapes, actually.

Here is a moment that Benny wanted to memorialize:

***

TUESDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

I intended to use this recipe, but ran out of time to make the special dressing or chop anything small, so we had chicken, mixed bagged greens, bleu cheese, sliced almonds, red onions, and blueberries, with balsamic vinegar. I can’t seem to find the picture I took, so here’s the pic from last time:

Again, I was taken aback at how delighted everyone was. I do love these hearty salads with nuts, cheese, meat, and fruit. Very pretty and filling.

***

WEDNESDAY

It was the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL FINALLY, and we went to the beach, and by the time we got home, I had zero interest in making dinner, and 100% interest in letting the kids make French toast while I languished on the couch. Then I got up and ate scrambled eggs and the ice cream I virtuously declined on Sunday.

***

THURSDAY
Pork kebabs, white rice, mangoes

I was planning to make oven pork gyros using this NYT recipe, but I was just too lazy to try a new recipe with that many steps.

Instead, I put together a triple recipe of this teriyaki sauce and mixed it up with cubed pork and big wedges of onion, and let that marinate a few hours. Then I put the meat and onions on a pan with a rack and shoved it up right under the broiler, turning it once. Yummeh.

The rice, I made in the Instant Pot (affiliate link) using the 1:1 method and the rice button. I don’t understand why you have to rinse the rice, but it always comes out perfect, so I won’t argue.

We had five large mangoes which I peeled and cut up in no time using a metal cup. You try to figure out which way the pit lies and then cut the “cheeks” off the mango, leaving the pit inside a flat section of fruit.

Then you take a glass or metal cup with a thin rim and just, vooooop, slide the cup rim just under the skin and scoop the flesh right out in one piece.

Very satisfying and efficient.
It’s a little tricker to trim the rest of the flesh off the pit, but overall, this method makes mangoes worth eating, rather than an exercise in sticky, pulpy futility.

Because I must always be shilling something, and because I’m as sick of hearing about the Instant Pot as you are, these are the aluminum cups we have (affiliate link):

My damn wiener kids do lose them and bend them, but they do not break them! Ha!

***

FRIDAY

Child requested tuna noodle casserole. So let it be written, so let it be done. My husband despises this food, but he will be out picking up my oldest kid from the airport, hooray! We sure missed her.

Okay, the Fourth of July looms! We’ll probably do burgers and hot dogs and pork spiedies using this recipe, plus chips and corn on the cob (maybe fancy corn on the cob with lime, paprika, and parmesan), watermelon, and potato salad. As predictable a menu as Thanksgiving, but with food you actually want to eat. Who has exciting ideas for a picnic dessert for a big crowd? Or some kind of razzle dazzle side dish that kids would like?

 

Love and diversity

The best teachers I know have always been interested not only in what they have to say, but in what their students have to say. Why? Because they were open to loving their students, and they were also in love with the truth, hungry for more truth, delighting in uncovering new facets of truth that they had not seen before.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

***
Photo of diatoms by Prof. Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University (corp2365, NOAA Corps Collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Is Vatican II to blame for the sex abuse scandal?

The Catholic Herald UK reports

Mgr Peter Smith, former chancellor of Glasgow archdiocese, said the Church accepted conventional wisdom of the 1970s that it was “better to repair the [abuser], to fix them or to redeem them”, than punish them. In that era priests accused of abuse could be sent for therapy rather than face criminal charges.

The paper is reporting Mgr Smith’s words with the strong insinuation that Vatican II is to blame for the scandal. I’m not sure if that’s what he really meant, or if his comments might be taken out of context. But I have most certainly heard other Catholics say outright that we can pin the sex abuse scandal on the laxness, the sloppiness, and the psychological sentimentality of the 70’s and Vatican II’s implementation. Vatican II, at least the way it played out in many places, was all about letting go of mean old rules and regulations, and doing what felt good, they argue. Of course we had abusers.

But they are forgetting one thing: Almost 70% of the abusive priests were ordained before 1970. They weren’t formed in feel-good Vatican II seminaries. These were old school guys. They are the ones who were molesting kids, and their world was the world that allowed it to happen.

The sex abuse scandal has three components:

1. Priests abusing kids;
2. The Church knowing about it, and letting it continue; and
3. Various people either not believing kids or parents who reported abuse, or being too in awe of priests to do anything about it, or blaming the kids for the abuse.

This third one has absolutely zero to do with any touchy-feely spirit of Vatican II, and everything to do with what Vatican II set out to change in the Church, because it needed changing.

Priests did not suddenly begin to abuse kids in the early 70’s (although the reports of alleged abuse peaked then; which is not to say that there was necessarily more abuse, but only that more people reported it). Many of the victims who came forward to report childhood abuse, after the Boston Globe‘s work started to gather steam, were children in the 1950’s. At that time, it was unthinkable to criticize a priest, unthinkable to believe that Father could do wrong, unthinkable to go over a priest’s head. There simply wasn’t any precedent for doing such a thing, other than, like, Martin Luther.

Sex abuse by clergy wasn’t a problem of loosey-goosey, post-sexual-revolutionary perverts infiltrating an institution that had heretofore been utterly chaste and holy. This was a problem of a horrible marriage between two deadly trends in the Church and in the country as a whole: the nascent sexual perversions that pervaded 1950’s American culture, and the institutional perverted understanding of authority and respect.

Where do you suppose the sexual revolution came from? Out of nowhere? It never could have happened if things weren’t already rotten underground; and it was just as true in the Church as it was everywhere else in the country. It’s a lie that things were wholesome and pure in the 50’s. But that grotesque artifice of happy, shiny exteriors worked exceedingly well together with the “Father knows best,” mentality. If Doris Day had to smile and have perfect hair no matter what, good Catholic families had to be respectful and obedient to their pastor no matter what. There was no room for going off script, even when lives were at stake.

Children who were molested were too afraid to speak up, because it was Father.
Parents who knew their kids were being molested were too afraid to speak up, because it was Father.
Parents who reported abuse were not believed, because it was Father.
Kids were rightly afraid that no one would believe them. Parents were afraid that their reputations would be ruined. Parishes were afraid that their reputations would be ruined. Bishops were afraid that their reputations would be ruined. And so this horrible carapace of silence was formed to cover up and cover up and cover up, shift the blame, shift the responsibility, and never look at the person at the heart of the problem.

And yes, the errors of the 70’s perpetuated the problem. It is very true that in the 70’s, the 80’s, and beyond, the Church and the rest of the country believed that one could simply see a therapist, attend a few classes, and not be a real danger to kids anymore. That was horrible. But it was no worse than the attitude it replaced, which was that Such Things Never Happened, and if they did, we Simply Don’t Talk About Them.

Of course, dreadful to say, the abuse scandal almost certainly goes back further than the 1950’s — centuries further — but those victims aren’t alive to give their testimony. But at very least, we can put to rest the idea that this hideous stain on our history came about by means of the Vatican II-style “Church of Nice.”

It’s always tempting, when we see gross behavior, to blame it on those who speak of mercy, of forgiveness, of healing. It’s tempting to think, “If we just clamped down and got tough, like we did back in the old days when everyone wore hats, then we’d have none of this nonsense!”

But the real lesson here isn’t that mercy is an error. The real lesson is that mercy and forgiveness can be abused just like innocence can be abused, and that evil is endlessly adaptable. It will grab hold of whatever weakness, foolishness, and wickedness is popular in any age, and it will put it in the service of sin.

Hell is overjoyed when we learn all the wrong lessons from suffering. Violation of innocents was horrible enough. Let’s not compound the outrage by trying to root true mercy, true forgiveness, and true compassion out of the heart of our Church.

***
Photo by Milliped (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Church is a big tent. But it does have walls.

Someone’s suffering, veiled abuela hobbled painfully past her contemporary, a fellow sporting athletic shorts and a pendulous ear gauge. A woman hung in the doorway of the Church of Christ, Scientist, gawking through the screen at this Church of Christ, Everyone. The traffic roared, the squirrels groused, and we lurched on, praying as we went.

Read the rest of my latest for Faith in Focus at America Magazine here.

Photo by Nestor Trancoso Creative Commons

Frog and Toad are their own right size

I come before you today with the unpleasant task of making the case against Frog, of Frog and Toad. In Arnold Lobel’s immortal series, the two friends play and work, suffer and triumph together; but Frog is the superior friend in every way. He is responsible and sensible, a hard worker, patient, and willing to try new things and enjoy every season. Toad is none of these things. Toad takes, and Frog gives.

OR DOES HE?

Consider:

He manipulates Toad into believing his head has grown overnight, rather than just offering to shrink his hat. (“The Hat” from Days with Frog and Toad.

He tricks Toad into thinking it’s Spring and that he’s slept for several  months

 

so Frog will be able to have company. (“Spring” from Frog and Toad Are Friends)

He forces Toad into winter clothes, coming into Toad’s house against his protests. “I have brought you some things to wear,” he said. Frog pushed a coat down over the top of Toad. Frog pulled snow pants up over the bottom of Toad. He put a hat and scarf on Toad’s head.

“Help!” cried Toad. “My best friend is trying to kill me!” (“Down the Hill” from Frog and Toad All Year)

He shames Toad for his housekeeping habits. Dusty chairs? Well, Frog, maybe if you came all the way in and visited Toad where he was, instead of sticking your head in and making him feel bad

the chairs would be free of dust. (“Tomorrow” from Days with Frog and Toad)

Worst of all — and I find this one really unforgivable — he holds the ball of string and makes Toad do a running try, a running and waving try, a running, waving, and jumping try, and a running, waving, jumping, and shouting try, and Toad’s legs are much shorter than Frog’s.

Why can’t Frog take a turn running? (“The Kite” from Days with Frog and Toad)

Listen, they are good friends. I can see that. Frog loves Toad. He tells him stories, he makes him tea, he teaches him how to do new things, and he prompts him to enjoy life more. He is endlessly patient while Toad has tantrums over buttons, and he does his best to chase away the curious creatures who want to see Toad in his bathing suit.

They spend Christmas together, they are brave together, and they enjoy the shivers together. In a forever-unrevealed Gift of the Magi scenario, they rake each other’s leaves.

And Toad needs Frog, certainly. Frog wants the best for Toad. Most of his excesses come from wanting Toad to learn a good lesson about life. He doesn’t just want Toad to be happy; he wants to improve him.

But this is not a clear-cut case of the good friend and the bad friend, the giver and the needy one, the shining star and the dead weight. Frog is the kind of person who mistakes inborn temperament for virtue, and I very much admire Toad for sometimes digging in his heels and spending the day the way he likes: In bed.

This is, of course, what makes their friendship all the more delightful and real. Toad is lazy, pessimistic, easily discouraged, and an occasional berserker; but he is also intensely loyal, and generous, if heavy-handed.(“Alone? Frog has me for a friend! Why would he want to be alone?”) He’s sincerely penitent when he’s self-centered. But it’s not just a one-sided relationship. They are deeply entwined with each other, and each provides something that the other needs, whether Frog knows it or not.

Toad’s love for Frog is revealed in the deep panic he feels on Christmas Eve, as he runs out barefoot into the storm, armed with a pan and a rope, imagining that Frog has simultaneously lost, being chased by an animal with sharp teeth, and in the bottom of a deep hole.

But Frog needs Toad just as much. He seems to rarely knows how to spend his time unless it’s with Toad, and when Toad has a problem or is sad, his day is consumed with searching for an answer. He sits all day with Toad, waiting for the snail to deliver his letter with the sole message that Frog is glad for Toad’s friendship. And when Toad is paralyzed over his lost to-do list, Frog buys into the idea that he can’t act without it, and works up a sweat trying to catch it. Frog is just as needy as Toad, in his own way. He needs Toad to need him.

Toad is painfully aware that Frog is more accomplished than he is, and it eats away at him, at least subconsciously. In his dream (which should be required reading for every adolescent and adult), he finally triumphs over Frog so entirely that Frog disappears altogether, and Toad realizes that being second-best is not nearly as bad as being alone. He wants Frog to be “his own right size,” even if that’s bigger than Toad.

I challenge you to find a truer and more beautiful portrayal of friendship anywhere, even in books with many more syllables per page.

What’s for supper? Vol. 86: ¿Qué pasa, kielbasa?

I’m having a flashback to a former life: Everyone’s schedule is all screwey for end-of-year stuff, so we spent the morning at the park trying not to throw ourselves into the waterfall, and then we got a blister so we had to cool our feet at the library. There are pregnant women chasing toddlers everywhere, and every cell in my body is shrieking out silent thanksgiving that I’m not one of ’em.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza, birthday cake, ice cream

Birthday party! We had no end of pizza, and birthday cake in the shape of – what else? – Devil’s Tower.

It was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind party, what else? It turns out the birthday girl was kidding about wanting me to mash some potatoes so she could have a mountain-sculpting contest with her friends. Humph.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma; Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate ganache

Birthday girl requested shawarma. I treated myself to skinned, boned chicken and set it to marinate the night before. It turned out to be breast meat, not thigh, which was a little disappointing; but it’s still always a fabulous meal. We use this recipe for oven-roasted shawarma from the NYT.

We had it with tomatoes, cucumbers, three kind of olives, feta cheese, pita bread, hummus, and yogurt sauce. I added pepper, lemon juice, and a bunch of minced garlic to plain yogurt and then basically wallowed around in it for the rest of the evening. Garlic yogurt speaks to me on a cellular level. A microcellular level. A nano-micro-weensy-cellular level. Just keep zooming in, and it’s garlic and yogurt, all the way down.

I briefly considered making the cheesecake in the Instant Pot, but then remembered that I am disgusting and don’t really clean it too good, so it’s kind of meaty in there. If there are people in the world who prefer their cheesecake meaty, I don’t want to know about it. I used this simple recipe (no sour cream) with a graham cracker crust, and used a silicone pan instead of springform. Unlike the photo, it turned out swell.

I crushed up a bunch of fresh strawberries with sugar and rum vanilla. We wanted a chocolate ganache, but I remembered in the nick of time that Aldi chocolate chips don’t really melt. So I made this hot fudge sauce with cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk. Veddy nice.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs, corn on the cob, salad

It was horrendously hot, so I thought we might avoid filling the kitchen with corn steam if I cooked the corn on the cob in the Instant Pot instead of in a big pot of water. I guess it worked? But you do have to release the steam at the end anyway, so we kind of got it all at once. I think it helped a bit overall. It’s definitely cooler than stovetop cooking while it’s cooking.

I tried This Old Gal’s recipe for IP corn on the cob, which includes sugar, milk, and butter. It was certainly easy, and the corn was, well, sweet, creamy, and buttery. Kinda gilding the lily, though, and not really worth the extra calories. I’ll probably use the IP for just cooking plain unflavored corn on the cob in the future, though, just because it was easier than wrestling with a giant stock pot sloshing with boiling water. I always scald my abdomen.

I have the eight-quart Instant Pot (affiliate link), which fits twelve whole ears of corn comfortably, see?

***

TUESDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, salad

Just so you know I’m no Instant Pot cultist

I will here discuss an IP semi-failure: I put the pork into the IP with salt, pepper, and a can of Coke, and set it to “slow cook.” This took four hours, and then it automatically went to “keep warm” mode for the rest of the day. It came out dry and tough, and we had to pull pretty hard, which nobody wanted to do. I’m not sure if that means it was too low heat, or too high heat, or what, but it just wasn’t the same as the regular old slow cooker. Maybe if I pressed “slow cook” again after four hours, I dunno.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven roasted kielbasa, red potatoes, and cabbage with mustard vinaigrette

From Budget Bytes, a new dish for us, and a hit! It’s very easy to make: Cut up the things, put the things on a pan, make the things hot. Add yummy dressing.

I used three 14-ounce packages of kielbasa, about four pounds of red potatoes, and one large cabbage, and tripled the recipe for dressing. It’s hearty and summery, and I liked the looks of it, too.

The only sad thing was that I finally had to admit it was time to get rid of the two giant “disposable” catering pans we got from the Chinese restaurant at Christmas. They have developed leaks, so I’m getting some Real Pans. Yet another thing I finally have enough money to buy, now that the kids are leaving home and we don’t need it as badly anymore. Oh well.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken muggets, frozen corn

We had the option to add an extra hour and a half of driving at the end of the school day in order to get to two campuses for portfolio night, or we could get ice cream.

Then we came home and had chicken nuggets. Corrie was mad because she only got to eat her ice cream and Dora’s ice cream,

and then when she dropped Dora’s ice cream, we wouldn’t get her another one. So when it was supper time, she threw herself on the floor and howled, “NO NO NO TSITSIN MUGGETS!” It’s a shame we never do anything nice for her.

***

FRIDAY

Child #2 graduates from high school this year (with honors in math!!!), so Damien and I will be in attendance this evening while the kids at home struggle along with a case of boxaroni. Cheers!

Protected: Podcast 23: Look at that s car go!

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