In real life, they are so big

Here is a little child sitting in the gondola of a Ferris wheel, nervously crushing fistfuls of cotton candy into nuggets as they wait for the ride to start. She and her mother are in number 16.

Her mother says that she may need to hold hands so she doesn’t get too scared. It’s not a trick, like something Grandfather Bear would say to give courage to Little Bear. The mother is some form of scared all the time. Most of the time, the mother’s fear gets crushed down into manageable handfuls. But not always.

She has found herself in charge of her youngest child on the final fun trip of the final week of vacation. The oldest kids are too busy to go on a day trip; the tweens band up and run off together, being cool; the dad is bonding with big sister who desperately needs to be treated like a little kid for once. So it’s the mother and her youngest, navigating the world of the amusement park alone together. It was a long ride to get there, and now there are long lines for everything.

There are rides that are out of the question. Some of them drag you up to ludicrous heights, turn you upside down, shake you very hard, drop you, shove you backwards, put you in the dark. Why would you pay someone to do this to you, when it happens to you anyway on some random Tuesday, just in the course of ordinary living?

But the rides with no lines are all the same: Around and around and around. It’s hard to know what to do. So the mother and kid alternate: Rides that are too boring, and rides that are too scary.

Here are all the moms, draped along the fence, watching their baffled little toddlers swoop up and down, up and down inside metal dragons that beep and flash and whine. “WHEE! WHEE! WHEE!” shout the moms, grinning.

Here’s a little cluster of blonde cousins rushing and tumbling into the serpentine line barrier at the double decker carousel. One child wants desperately to ride the only giraffe, but there are many other people in line. “Whyn’t we just duck under the fence?” a woman rasps.

“We all have to wait our turn,” her sister answers mildly.

“Aunty will make sure you git that giraffe,” the first woman insists. “You’ve ben such a pretty girl all day. Aunty will make sure you git that giraffe. Pretty girl.”

The mother, shriveling a bit inside as she imagines meeting these pretty girls in fifteen years, is relieved to hear that her own daughter wants to ride the panda, instead.

She finds a horse next to the panda, and surprises herself by heavily climbing up on it. Her legs are the right length for the stirrups, so maybe it’s a normal thing to do. The horse’s tail looks like a real tail, and someone has taken so many pains painting scenes from Venice on the ceiling and brushing in little yellow and pink bouquets in between the mirrors.

A chubby hispanic man gives his shell-shaped bench a spin, and it twirls, and he beams like a baby. It is a beautiful carousel. There has never been such a beautiful carousel. It’s two stories high, and everyone on it is smiling. But the ride is very short.

Here are a set of tiny twins, dressed to the nines in identical new sneakers, athletic shorts, and patriotic tank tops, strapped carefully into a blinking helicopter. All the other kids are yanking on the bar, jerking and swooping and clanking up and down, but the boys are staring solemnly ahead and moving smoothly on their appointed rounds, around and around.

“Pull on the bar! Pull it toward your belly! Make it go up! Don’t you wanna fly?” the operator screams. They do not. Their father comes to collect them when the ride is over. God willing, he will understand that they did what seemed right to them. They are extremely small and the world is very big…Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

 

Wrestling w skeleton thoughts

The other day, I was feeling a little low. One of my children suggested I go out and buy myself a nice new skeleton. She was right; it would have cheered me up.

I love skeletons. Lots of people do, and why not? They grin so cheerfully, and they’re so accommodating: You can bend them and tote them around them and make them do whatever you want. This year I set up a skeleton climbing a ladder up the side of the house, and one lounging in a chair by the mailbox, waving to traffic. It’s amazing what you can make them do with zip ties.

The novelist Joyce Carol Oates made herself look a little silly on Twitter a few weeks ago, responding to a photo of a house similarly decorated for Halloween.  She tweeted, “(you can always recognize a place in which no one is feeling much or any grief for a lost loved one & death, dying, & everyone you love decomposing to bones is just a joke).”

Several people hooted in response, “No one tell her about Mexico!” Other readers with a longer memory pointed out that Oates had in fact written a story based on the death of an actual specific human being, and when the friends of the dead man complained at her callous co-opting of his personal life, she was dismissive.  And a few folks felt a moment of pity, pity for the poor old bat. Someone named “JustLuisa” said kindly, “My 5 am hot take is that people should be nice to Joyce Carol Oates about the skeleton thing. She’s a freakin’ octogenarian; why are we making fun of the old lady wrestling w skeleton thoughts.”

Why indeed. This year, when I hauled my plastic skeletons out of the attic, I had a bad time for a few minutes. They really weren’t funny, for a few minutes. What are you smiling about! Effing skeletons, what’s so funny? How many times had I pictured my own father and my own mother with their hollow eyes down in the ground, on their way to being just bones, of all things. You think you know these things, but it turns out you weren’t quite there yet. You believe in the resurrection of the body, but still. There is that time, under the ground. It’s a bad time. 

“Nobody tell her about Mexico,” some people said. I have heard about some cultures, in Mexico and elsewhere, that not only celebrate and remember the dead, and skelly it up with sugar cookies and masks and paper banners, but they actually go and dig them up. They wait three years, or seven years, and they dig the corpses up, clean them off, dress them, and have a little party.

I wonder what that does to the living, knowing this day is coming. You wouldn’t be able to just walk away in a straight line, after somebody dies. You couldn’t just progress neatly through the stages of grief, getting further and further away from their death as the date wanes into the past. You couldn’t just say goodbye and have that be the end of it.

That’s a joke, of course. You can’t do that anyway, with or without the corpse party. Even if you go full-on American, and pump your loved one full of preservatives, seal them up in airtight caskets that look like tiny little posh hotel rooms, and expect them to stay there forever, there are no straight lines away from death. There’s a lot of staggering and slumping and backtracking involved, believe me. Look at poor Joyce, 83 years old and still struggling with skeletons, and it’s not because she hasn’t had a chance to think about it.

Every so often, I have the urge to write about my dead parents. I always wonder if I’m doing it too often, and I always wonder if what I’m doing is remembering them, or exploiting them. Is it for them, or for me? I pray for them, of course, but the writing is for me, assuredly. But for what purpose? Why am I dragging them out of the attic again? You look at the calendar, you see it’s the season for memento mori again, so you dig the old folks up, brush them off, and get 800 words out of it. 

Not that my parents would mind. It doesn’t do them any harm. But I do try not to tote them around too much, or pose them in any ways that would be too foreign to who they were, as I knew them. Which is only as my parents, which is by no means all of who they were. And bones is not who they are now.

But still. I try not to make the zip ties too tight if I can help it, when I set them up for another pose. I can’t seem to help wrestling with skeletons every so often, but I try to be gentle. And I’m sure I’ll be back again, because there is not a straight line away from death. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 271: Babagnope

On this year of our lord, 2021, I got the Halloween costumes completely finished and packed into bags a full four days before Halloween. You know what my secret is: It’s not having babies. Or, more precisely, it’s doing everything while having babies for years and years, and then suddenly not having babies, and by contrast, everything is so easy. It’s like shaving your legs right before the big swim meet. Zoop! 

I made this nifty pirate belt buckle out of foam-core cardboard, hot glue and glitter. 

I hot glued a loop of tape on the back, so it can be easily slipped onto a regular belt. This is very easy to make! You draw the design you want on a piece of paper, hot glue over it, let it dry, spray paint it, and peel the paper off. Then you glue it onto whatever you want. The eyes are little blobs of hot glue with glitter shaken over them, poked with a fingertip.

I was also pleased with this helmet.

Corrie’s head still barrrrrely fits inside a milk jug. Here she is wearing it before I fixed the crest and painted it, side by side with the inspiration.

I snipped away the parts of the milk jug that I didn’t want and filled in some extra bits with a paper plate, and taped them on the inside with packing tape. Then I cut a crest out of foam core poster board, leaving a little extra to cut into tabs to hold it in place. I cut a slit in the top of the helmet, forced the crest in and taped the tabs in place, and then spray painted the helmet using Rustoleum “Hammered” spray paint. 

Clara sewed a pirate skirt for Benny, and the rest of her costume was all stuff we had. I made a spear for Corrie with PVC pipe, black and gold duct tape, and poster board, and an aegis which turned out hilarious. She’s got it on at school right now; will take pics later. It has little wired snakes with googly eyes dangling off it. She absolutely loves it. 

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches

Saturday seems like so very long ago. Damien shopped for and made sandwiches while I did something or other, I don’t even remember. The sandwiches were delicious. 

Baguettes with various salamis, prosciutto, gabagool (I know it’s pretentious to call it that and I don’t care! It’s fun!), cheese, tomatoes, red pesto. We still have plenty of that good olive oil.

Damien also picked up some potato sticks, in memory of my dad, who is the only person in the world who was enthusiastic about potato sticks, rather than just resigned to them because that’s what your dad picked up for dinner. This is a food item that has very clearly something swept up from the factory floor after the actual product has been made. They’re broken. Look at them! 

SUNDAY
Domino’s pizza

Sunday we went to a corn maze/fall fun extravaganza situation. You can see my photos on Facebook here. Came home exhausted and were very grateful we had already planned to get Domino’s.

MONDAY
Corn dogs, chips

Dinner of champions. The first half of the week was mmmmmphhhh rather stressful, because my REALLY QUITE NEW car was in the shop getting new front and rear brakes and new front struts, so I had to do the school driving in the car that my three working college kids use to get around, and also drive the college kids around, and that was a lot of driving, and eventually I wrote a check for nearly $2500, and guess what? The car is still making a weird noise! So a dinner of corn dogs and Swedish fish was the emotionally responsible course to take. 

Here is our festive October table

I always like to have a nice seasonal centerpiece. Is it necessary? No. It’s just one of those little nice things that makes life more civilized, and I won’t apologize for it. 

TUESDAY
Tortellini soup, giant quesadilla

Tuesday was rainy and blowy, so I said to myself, “They cannot deny me my weekly soup. They cannot!” I had bought some dried spinach and cheese tortellini a few weeks ago, and I had some ground pork, so away we went. I came up with a basic but very pleasant recipe, cozy and old fashioned with plenty of colorful vegetables and garlic.

Jump to Recipe

Next time I’ll probably add more broth, as it was absolutely crowded with all that meat and tortellini and tomatoes and whatnot. Not necessarily a bad thing! Just crowded. 

Isn’t that pretty? Looks like a peasant wedding or something. 

Image source

Follow me for more tips on which famous works of art your soup reminds me of. 

Oh, my big sadness is that the giant sheet pan quesadilla has already been sunsetted. We hardly knew ye. 

I thought I had hit upon a brilliant, cheap, easy side dish I could throw together, that people would happily eat, and it would keep them from complaining when I served soup for supper. Turns out I could serve it twice, and that it. They’re now tired of it, and I was the only one who ate it when I served it this week. 

I thought it was delicious, though. So flat and hot, with the nice little chili lime powder on top! Oh well. Sic transit gloria quesadilla slab.  

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, roast Brussels sprouts and butternut squash

I managed to overcook or undercook each sandwich. I just never got the hang of anything this week. Except the pirate belt buckle. I nailed that. 

The roast veg turned out okay. I was gratified to find that no one was (at least vocally) mad that the side was vegetables, and not fries or chips, anyway. I drizzled them with olive oil, honey, and some garlic infused wine vinegar (that I bought because someone needed that shape of bottle for Halloween), and sprinkled them with salt and pepper and roasted them until they were sizzling. Pretty good stuff.

THURSDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas, yogurt sauce and pita, baba ganoush

Last weekend, Damien and I went to an amazing restaurant in the middle of Nowhereseville, NH. Specifically, Hillsborough, and the restaurant is called Mediterrano Turkish and Mediterranean Cuisine. Possibly because of covid but possibly not, everything was served on flimsy disposable plates and cutlery, and the restaurant itself was inside a house that had Turkish decorations up, but still pretty much looked like a house, and it was very dark in there.

BUT OH THE FOOD. OH THE FOOD.

OH.

Here’s the first round we ordered:

Some stuffed gape leaves, hummus, babaganoush, “mediterranean salsa,” olives, cheese, and lavash bread. It was all tremendously good, but the bread and cheese SENT ME. Like I made an absolute fool of myself with that cheese.

Exactly like that, and I hadn’t even been trying to get home for twenty years. I asked the waiter, and it turned out to be Bulgarian feta. So salty and lively and melty and light and fluffy and tender. Oh yes, we ordered more. We also ordered more of that extraordinary lavash bread, which came to the table piping hot, pillowy soft, and smelling like paradise.

I had lamb doner with rice and Damien had lamb kebab, I think. We both had some kind of silly cocktail called an Instanbul Mark (gin, rum, ginger juice, and grenadine), and then another. Damien had Turkish coffee, which just about leaped out of the cup at him, looking for a fight

It came with a piece of turkish delight on a little covered platter.  Then we had dessert, because we were in too deep to stop. Sweet flaky baklava and a dish of sutlach, which is a wonderful fragrant rice pudding. 

Well, what a lovely experience. The waiter was very friendly and everything was just remarkable. I wish it weren’t so far away, but it was totally worth the drive.

So, I couldn’t stop thinking about levantine food. I originally hoped to make stuffed grape leaves this week, but I was just too busy, so I settled on chicken and chickpeas, which is usually popular. 

I also had a jar of preserved lemons to try.

I thought they would have a predominantly sour, citrusy taste — uh, like lemon — but they turned out to be overwhelmingly salty, so that was a surprise. I wasn’t sure what to make with them. Lots of people had suggested tagine, but that just doesn’t sound like a dish my family would go for, so I threw the lemons in the food processor

and added some so the cumin chicken marinade, and some to the yogurt sauce.

Jump to Recipe

Verdict? You could barely taste it! Oh well. Next time I’ll mince it, maybe, or use it it something with fewer other ingredients, so you can taste it better. Or just move along with my life. 

I also made baba ganoush for the first time, and this was such a disappointment! I used this recipe, and it tasted wonderful, just smashing, when I made it in the morning.

Then something happened, and by dinner time, it had become bitter. I was really crushed. I couldn’t even eat it. What happened?? Any ideas? The ingredients are eggplant, tahini, garlic, salt, and lemon juice, and since I cooked it inside rather than grilling it, a few drops of liquid smoke. 

Anyway, it was a good meal otherwise. This chicken always turns out so lovely, very moist inside, and the skin is wonderfully toothsome and crisp around the edges. 

If I hadn’t been starving to death, I would have cooked the chickpeas a little crisper, but they were good, too, and you don’t want to skip the lemony red onions to mix in, with a little dab of yogurt sauce on each forkful. Yummy yummy yummy meal. I forgot to buy cilantro. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle/ravioli/whatnot

Crap, I have to get going.  Halloween parade. Also I forgot to buy noodles. 

Tortellini soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb loose Italian sausage or ground pork
  • 1 med-lg onion, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes with juice
  • 8+ cups beef bouillon
  • 2 cups raw kale, chopped
  • 1/2 lb dry tortellini

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, brown the meat, breaking into pieces, until fully cooked.

  2. Drain excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the pot. Add the diced carrots and onions and cook a few minutes until the vegetables soften. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.

  3. Add the salt and pepper, red pepper, oregano, and bay leaves. If you're using unseasoned pork, use more seasonings. Stir.

  4. Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and juice, and beef bouillon. Bring to a simmer and add the kale. If you're eating the soup immediately, add the tortellini at this point. Continue simmering, loosely covered, for 15-18 minutes, until tortellini are cooked through. If you're planning to eat later, just add the kale and keep the soup warm, and then add the tortellini closer to mealtime.

 

Balsamic roast vegetables

All kinds of vegetables are good roasted. I like butternut squash, brussels sprouts, carrots, and red potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 med butternut squash, cubed
  • 3 lbs red potatoes, skin on, cubed
  • 1 lb baby cut carrots
  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

balsamic dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • dried basil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Lightly grease a shallow pan or two, enough to spread out the vegetables in a single layer.

  3. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey in a bowl and pour over the vegetables. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

Happy 79th to my father

Happy 79th birthday to my father, his second birthday since he died. Shortly after he died, I got a very clear image — constructed, no doubt, out of wishful thinking and imagination, although who knows — of him climbing upward with a very familiar expression of elation on his face.  Just climbing up, really excited about something he saw up ahead, heading over to find out more about it.

His basic personality was not what you would call sunny, for most of his life. Someone once told my mother he had the most purely melancholic temperament she had ever seen. He gravitated toward autumn and winter, toward requiems and memento mori. But he did light up when an idea caught his fancy, something about music or history or astronomy or evolution, or yes, politics (which we eventually agreed to stop talking about).

I remember being half an hour late for fifth grade once, because there was a weird-looking rainbow hanging over Hanover Street, and as he drove me to school he got very caught up in the explanation for how it had been formed. He had a way of pausing with his eyes wide open and his mouth wide open, making strange stuttering sounds as he collected his next thought, which I thought was hilarious as a kid, like he was some kind of cerebral monster, frozen in the act of gobbling up an idea. And then sometimes, after he had gone through (or listened to) an elaborate, arcane explanation of something very complex, he would just pause, beam, and say, ” . . . Cool!” He was content for that to be the final word, at least for now. 

I haven’t really met anybody else like him. A unique proprietary blend of intellectual and corporeal curiosities, wrapped up in one Brooklyn Jew, who ended up dealing books from his dilapidated Victorian home in New Hampshire for something like forty years. He loved Jesus, although I know he had some bones to pick with him along the way. He screwed up a lot, and he knew it. He loved his children and worried about them until the day he died. He left many of us with a certain amount to forgive, as fathers will. We all miss him. The house he left goes up for auction next week, the proceeds pay back the state for the care of my mother, and that’s the end of that. Cool, I guess. I’m glad I have more than the house to remember. 

I miss him a lot. He really did look like a little kid opening a present when he talked about something that excited him, and that’s what his face looked like in my mind after he died. I remember that expression so clearly: Like he was on his way to go see something really good. God will it. 

 

Halloween roundup! Samhain, witch burning, pumpkin carving, werewolf movies, and SPOOKY MISC.

I’ve made my annual pilgrimage to Walmart to get more hot glue sticks while wearing embarrassing pajamas, so I guess I’m just about ready for Halloween. Last night I made progress on an Athena costume (helmet, spear, and aegis) for Corrie, and Clara saved the day by sewing a pirate skirt for Benny. I did my part by buying bootlaces that don’t perpetually untie themselves, and honestly, that may have saved Halloween, too. 

I’ve been saving up a few interesting bits of reading to share, more or less Halloween related:

Is Halloween ackshully pagan?

Samhain photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash 

Short answer: No. Long answer: No, it’s Catholic, always has been, you absolute shoehorning no-history-knowing nits. So says Tim O’Neill of History for Atheists, and he has the goods. The idea that religious people stole Samhain or some other pre-christian tradition from pagans is popular but completely without historical merit. A longish and fascinating read from a guy who can’t be accused of having a religious agenda.

Sorta related: Who burned the witches? This is an older article by Salon co-founder Laura Miller published in 2005, challenging the idea that, when we say “witch burning,” we mean some concerted effort by the big bad church to quash rebellious wise women who knew too much about how to gather healing herbs and whatnot.

Photo by Evgeniy Kletsov on Unsplash 

Nobody really comes out looking especially awesome in the witch trial era, but it really seems to have been mostly a case of people being like people be, which is horrible enough in itself:

The mass of detail can be numbing, but what it reveals is important: not a sweeping, coordinated effort to exert control by a major historical player, but something more like what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil.” Witch hunts were a collaboration between lower-level authorities and commonfolk succumbing to garden-variety pettiness, vindictiveness, superstition and hysteria. Seen that way, it’s a pattern that recurs over and over again in various forms throughout human history, whether or not an evil international church or a ruthless patriarchy is involved, in places as different as Seattle and Rwanda.

This is, in fact, more or less how it was taught to us in public school when I was growing up. I appreciate the attempt to bring some balance to the conversation, which, if anything, has gotten dumber since this article came out. And I wish people would be willing to consider this less conspiratorial, more mundane explanation more often for . . . everything. When we can explain everything bad with a conspiracy, that’s thrilling and satisfying, and lets us imagine that there are clear cut bad guys who aren’t us; but it’s far more likely that people everywhere are petty and vengeful and prone to letting their bad impulses get out of control. Nobody wants to hear it, because it means it’s something we’re all susceptible to. 
 
What else? Pumpkins! Just a few more days until we get our dining room table back. 
 
 
If I put the pumpkins outside now, they’ll be freezing cold when we bring them in to scoop them out. And I also haven’t super duper found spots for all the frost-damaged plants I brought in, yet. So this is how we live. At least the cookie is happy. Somewhere in there is a spool of wire I bought to make the snakes for Athena’s aegis, but I can’t find it, so I got more in my pajamas.
 
I finally got my anxious paws on those pumpkins yesterday, after searching no fewer than seven stores and coming up empty and getting more and more nervous about having to carve, like, cauliflowers for Halloween this year. I told the Home Depot lady that probably Covid made people sad, which made them want to decorate more, which made them buy extra pumpkins, and she said that sounded exactly right, but even I could tell it was stupid. In real life, I blame the Masons, or possibly the Jews. Anyway, now we have ten lovely fat pumpkins to carve. I got a Dremel for Christmas last year, and I’ve barely used it, so I think I will make something splendid this year.  Check out #11. Okay, realistically speaking, I will make a sloppy attempt at it, and my family will be really supportive and nice about it. I can live with this. 
 
 
And finally, a Halloween family watching suggestion, not a new one but a solid choice: Over the Garden Wall
 

I’m still amazed it got broadcast, because it’s so weird and beautiful and thoughtful. It’s an animated miniseries of 12 short episodes, and every one is gorgeous, creepy, funny, and strangely moving, with crazy, memorable music.

Two half-brothers find themselves lost in the woods on Halloween, and as they try to make their way home, they become entangled in some terrifying otherworldly business. It’s loosely inspired by The Divine Comedy, but I wouldn’t push that too far. 

Each episode is about 11 minutes, so you can watch the entire series in about two hours. We split it into two nights. Here’s the first episode, which is pretty representative:

It’s rated PG, but some of the characters and situations are extremely creepy, so while we did let our six-year-old watch it, she has a very high tolerance for scary stuff, and some kids under the age of eight or nine could find it too scary. (Here’s a specific list of creepy stuff.) There is a lot of very silly and hilarious stuff that fixes you right up when you get creeped out. No gore, graphic violence, or sex. There is a persistent melancholy tone, but all the relationships in the show get worked out very satisfactorily, and familial love is the true theme of the miniseries, and all is restored in the end. 

This show also contains one of the most realistic depictions of a goofy little boy we’ve ever seen. We’ve come to burgle your turts! Lots of quotes and songs have become part of our family culture.

Here’s a beast costume

a Wirt costume

and a Wirt and Greg cake:

The whole thing is crowded with allusions and suggestions and portents, and you can either pursue them or just enjoy them. It originally ran on Cartoon Network in 2014. It doesn’t appear to be streaming for free anywhere right now. We bought it to stream on Amazon.

We haven’t settled on a scary movie to watch on Halloween night. We’ve seen Young Frankenstein too recently. We’ve seen Army of Darkness a million times. I may push for renting Silver Bullet (1985), which is the only good werewolf movie ever made. FIGHT ME. Here’s where you can watch it (nowhere for free right now, that I can see.)
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1dClCykQys
 
And I guess that’s it. We have never managed to do anything for All Saint’s Day, but if you do, here’s my list of costumes that will do double duty, and work for saints and their spookier counterparts as well. I should update it to add Matt Swaim’s suggestion:
 

And if you’re really ahead of the game, here is my All Soul’s Day cheat sheet: A recipe for eggs in purgatory, a recipe for soul cakes, and a quick prayer for the dead. Donezo. 

Ask a couple who’ve been married 24 years today

Who has four thumbs, has been married for almost a quarter of a century, and absolutely adores haunted houses?

I have no idea. Definitely not me and my husband. We have the thumb part covered, and it will be our 24th anniversary in a few weeks, but we’re ambivalent at best about haunted houses.

You may wonder then, why we’re currently packing our bags to spend a long anniversary weekend at something called “Screeemfest,” which takes place inside an amusement park, which we also don’t especially care for, and which features no fewer than five on-premises haunted houses. Yes, that’s Screeemfest with three “e’s,” just like in Eastern equine encephalitis. Eee!

The thinking, see, is that our expectations will be so incredibly low, there’s nowhere to go but up. We do like each other, and we definitely like getting away from our kids, I mean the workaday responsibilities of everyday life, I mean our kids; so, I don’t know, this is what we’re doing. Chances are good we’ll have a good time one way or another, and after 24 years, we’re just leaning into the fact that we got married in late October, that’s all.

This strikes me as a much safer strategy than what we’ve done for our anniversary in the past, which was to try and sneak away for a super ultra romantic absolutely perfect dream getaway — a perilous endeavor which included getting lost on the highway, and then the fireplace not lighting properly, being embarrassed because I didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the fancy cheese I wanted to order, being too tired for champagne, etc. etc. The heck with all of that. A romantic weekend is where you find it. Happy anniversary, BOO! Eee!

As a little present to myself, I asked my social media friends for help writing this post. I solicited questions for a couple who’ve been married more or less happily for almost a quarter of a century. Here’s what we came up with:

What’s the preferred term: “The marital act” or “The Obligations”?

Like so many things in a strong marriage, it’s mainly about making other people feel uncomfortable. But what long-married couples don’t want you to know is that their secret word for “sex” is actually inaudible. They’re probably saying it right now, and you don’t even know it. Boo!

Did you ever switch sides of the bed?

Several people asked some form of this apparently burning question, and one person volunteered the information that she once did switch sides, and her husband got up in the middle of the night in his sleep and peed in the closet. Just if you were wondering whether there are less romantic things than going to a haunted house for your anniversary. In our case, it doesn’t matter which side of the bed I’m on, because I never sleep. I used to be up with the baby all the time. Now I don’t have a baby, and all I do is put on my pajamas and spend all night getting up and getting some ibuprofen, all night long. It’s called aging gracefully, look it up.

What’s the stupidest, funniest thing you’ve seriously argued about in those 24 years?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Pxfuel 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 270: I went for a more rustic feel

DID YOU KNOW it’s almost Halloween? I just found this out the other day, when one of my kid’s teacher’s apologized for mentioning it to my kids and throwing said kid into a panic. Somehow this week’s Facebook memories of me making costumes didn’t ring a bell, and I just kept along my merry way, not making or even planning costumes, and now look. Panic!

Happily, we have a sweet, sweet employee discount at Joann this year, so that helps. Benny wants to be a pirate, and Corrie wants to be Athena — specifically, the Athena from a specific graphic novel, where Athena is depicted wearing this weird, raggedy-ass goatskin aegis with snakes dangling off it.

Corrie is sure this garment is made of bright yellow felt. We had a little talk about, if I made the costume she was requesting, how it would feel to keep telling people over and over that she was Athena, and she said that it would feel okay. So off we go. Felt is cheap, anyway. 

The rest of the costume should be pretty easy (I have a long post full of DIY costume tips here). I have a white robe, and I’m going to get a tight-fitting brown shirt and roughly spray paint it bronze for the breast plate armor thingy. May or may not make the forearm armor, but if I do, that can be felt and spray paint. I believe her head is still small enough to fit inside a milk jug, so I can make a helmet that way, using craft foam for the crest, and craft foam and a mop handle for the spear. 

Benny discovered the most amazing fabric for her skirt (the only part of her costume I’m making; we bought or already had everything else), and we agree that, if pirates didn’t make their skirts out of this fabric, it’s purely because they didn’t have a Joann. 

She likes it so much, I may actually follow a pattern, rather than slapping something together. Then again, I may not. 

Okay, here’s what I slapped together in the kitchen this week!

SATURDAY
Carnitas, guacamole

John Herreid’s very easy and delicious carnitas recipe. I finally put together a recipe card:

Jump to Recipe

I had to go to the gas station down the road to get some Coke, and had the following conversation with the cashier:

Me: You don’t have any Mexican Coke, do you?
Clerk: No, unfortunately, we do not. And actually, they need to change that name.
Me: Why’s that?
Clerk: It’s just kind of . . . might make people feel kind of . . . you know.
Me: I mean, it’s just, it’s Coke that’s from Mexico.
Clerk: I know, but if they’re gonna change Uncle Ben’s Rice, they need to change it all.
Me: But it’s, really, it’s just, it’s actually the name of the country.

Clerk: But still.

But still, indeed.

There is actually some controversy over whether Mexican Coke actually makes a discernible difference in taste or in cooking. Despite persistent legend, it hasn’t used cane syrup in its production since 2013. That’s what you get! I bet that rice doesn’t have real Uncle Ben in it, either. That’s what you get. 

So you sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano (special imported oregano from Tina’s Greek gift shop in Newburyport, if you have it!), and simmer for a couple hours in ᵐᵉˣᶦᶜᵃⁿ Coke and oil along with orange quarters, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, pull out the oranges (actually I think I used clementines this time). Pull out the oranges and whatnot once they’ve done their job and your house smells like paradise

 
 
cook it some more,
 
 

drain, shred, and that’s basically it. It takes several hours, but it’s super easy, and it tastes so very very good.

I made a bowl of guacamole

 
and had my carnitas with that and sour cream. 
 
 
One of these days, I’m going to make some beans and rice. Uncle Ben’s rice and beans from Hymietown, how bow dah.
 
I just realized half you guys are so young, you don’t even know who Jesse Jackson is. OH WELL. 
 

SUNDAY
Pork nachos, taquitos, grapes

We had so much meat left over from carnitas, I made a second meal out of it. Then I got nervous and bought some frozen taquitos in case there wasn’t enough food, so then there were lots of leftovers from the “use up the leftovers” meal.

Who’s my own worst enemy? I am! I am! I eat well, though. 

The nachos were just tortilla chips with shredded meat and shredded cheese, and then people could add their own extras, like salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, corn, and cilantro. Some of this was by design, some of it was because I forgot to put it in the nachos. 

Look how dark it’s getting at suppertime. My photos are gonna get worse and worse. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken wraps

I became confused while shopping for this meal, and forgot some of the elements (pepper jack cheese, crunchy onions, greens), so we had pita bread with buffalo chicken, shredded mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes, with blue cheese dressing. 

(The orange things in the wrap are tomatoes, part of a “medley” of tomatoes called “Wild Wonders,” which seems to be overstating things a bit. They are tomatoes.) Everyone was absolutely starving and thought it was delicious, so there. We also had carrots and dip.

TUESDAY
Sausage lentil soup, apple hand pies

This week, we codified something that’s been the informal rule for several years: I’m allowed one soup per week. Just one. 

To me, because so many wonderful things fit inside a bowl of soup, that makes it all the more magical. It’s like a terrarium, or a crystal ball, or like the Arquillian Galaxy on Orion’s Belt. It’s almost a miracle that so many delights are contained inside that little bowl! Soup! We get to have soup for supper!

To everyone else, it’s Just Soup For Supper.

So this is why I only make it once a week, and only when it’s certifiably chilly outside. This week, I made sausage lentil soup, because I figured no one was going to eat it anyway, so I might as well use lentils. I adore lentils. I love their flavor, of course, and I love their velvety texture when they’re cooked. I love how they slide around like little go stones when they’re dry, and the slithering sound they make. I like the word “lentil.” It makes me feel thrifty and canny and attuned with ancient ways. They also go good with sausage.

I got the idea for this soup when Instagram showed me some kind of fancy NYT recipe with apples on the top, but it was behind a paywall, so I more or less followed this recipe from Life Made Simple, except I fiddled with the proportions a bit. It has celery, onion, garlic, tomato, smoked sausage and lentil, and chicken stock, and it’s seasoned with salt and pepper, “cajun seasoning,” garlic powder, coriander, and somewhat mysteriously, paprika and ground paprika. I settled for cheap paprika and smoked paprika. 

Verdict: Very tasty. Exactly what you want, if you like this kind of soup. Warming and lively without being too spicy. A little too salty. 

Those are my only notes, except that I made the soup in the morning, so it stayed on warm in the Instant Pot for many hours, so the smoked sausage ended up getting . . . I don’t know what the word is, oversteamed: They kind of turned themselves inside out, giving them a kind of comical floating mini hamburger look.

They tasted fine, though. I stirred it a bit and it looked a little less insane in the pot.

You know that meme about how your salad keeps telling you jokes? I get it, but also I’m the one standing there giggling at my lentil soup, so I dunno. 

It was so quick to make, I decided to make a bunch of hand pies, to soften the blow of serving soup. Time to break in that apple peeling tool I got a few weeks ago.  It works great! You just shove the apple on the prongs and turn the crank, and about five seconds later, you have a peeled, sliced, cored apple. I cranked out a bowlful of sliced apples in a few minutes. 

And the dog gets a formidable opponent in the form of a very long peel that moves in unexpected ways.

Guys, he is kind of dumb. Like, really dumb. 

I also like this device because it’s all one piece. Lots of labor saving devices do their job quickly, but then you spend twenty minutes taking them apart and putting them away, but with this thing, you just give it a good rinsing and dry it off, and you’re set. 

I made a double batch of my trusty fail-proof crust, using the butter I had put in the freezer weeks ago when I originally intended to make apple pie. If you grate frozen butter into flour, it’s already basically incorporated, and you hardly have to do any more cutting, so you can keep it really light. Add a little ice water and squeeze it up, and you have a good crust. 

Jump to Recipe

I’m not saying it will look great. I was extraordinarily distracted, and these were some of the most unsightly hand pies known to mankind.

I mean rustic! I was going for a rustic feel. They were light and flaky, anyway, and tasted lovely. I traced circles of dough on a large soup bowl and put a large scoop of apples mixed with sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg on each one. I meant to add butter, but forgot. I pressed the crust closed with a fork and brushed the tops with beaten egg white, then sprinkled them with sugar. I baked them at 350 for about 35 minutes. Should have baked them at a higher heat and then lowered it after ten minutes, but I had to leave the house while they were baking.

I thought the combination of savory sausage lentil soup and tart, sugary apple pies was perfect. Lovely meal.

The addition of cool Italian parsley to the top of the soup was good for the flavor, and more than just pretty. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, fries

Just borgers. Damien cooked them outside and I made frozen fries. We assured each other that we had vegetables in the fridge, and then both forgot to serve them. 

THURSDAY
Steak and pear salad with feta

I’m so sad about this meal! It’s such a wonderful treat, and I just bobbled it. The meal is: Mixed greens, steak cooked rare in red wine, fresh pears, feta cheese, maybe some fresh pepper and red wine vinegar. That’s it. So good. Here’s a steak and pear salad of ages past:

Oops, those are blueberries and parmesan. Well, you get the idea.

So I got the meat cooking late, and after about 40 minutes, I realized it was still frozen in the middle. So I transferred it to the Instant Pot, which does great with frozen meat, but, truly, nobody does great with meat that’s halfway cooked and halfway frozen. So it came out a little tough, and then a little bit raw in parts, so I had to cut it up and put some of it back in the oven. 

The other part was, by this time, it was so late that I had eaten four pieces of rye bread and a leftover hand pie, and I truly just wasn’t all that hungry by the time it was time to eat. Old me would have just went ahead and eaten supper anyway, because what are you going to do, not eat supper? But new, somewhat-less-crazy me had to admit that I didn’t actually desire more food in me, so I guess I had four piece of rye bread and a leftover hand pie for supper. Of course I had some bits of meat and cheese and pear while I was waiting for the meat to cook for the third time, because I’m not made of stone.  And that’s my sad story of the steak and pear salad. Alas. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

Damien and I are going to a middle eastern restaurant for our still-not-quite-actually 24th anniversary, which I think may be Monday, and the children are having spaghetti. They’re home right now, because there were conferences today and yesterday, and they’re waiting for me to finish so I can do yoga so they can have the TV. I’m typing as fast as I can!

Ooh, but wait, last Friday, I mentioned that Damien was thinking of frying some calamari. He did it, and they turned out wonderful. I’ll get his recipe later, but he used a very light, cornstarch-based coating, and added some Old Bay seasoning after cooking. He served them with chopped pepproncini and an aioli dip, with lemon wedges, and they were tender and perfect. 

We also made some applesauce last weekend. Our apple tree put out tons of apples this year, but they were honestly very poor, very splotchy and misshapen, possibly because we do absolutely nothing to care for this tree. Here’s a typical apple:

You’re not imagining it: It is begging to be release from its existential misery. But I get very bloody minded when I make plans like this, so Benny and Corrie and I picked as many as we could reach, then shook the tree and got a bunch more to fill a big bucket. We cut the apples in half and removed the stems, then simmered them with a few inches of water for about forty minutes, until the apples were soft.

Then we milled the cooked apples, a few scoops at a time, in this lovely foley mill.

(This is supposed to be a gif, but I couldn’t get it to upload properly, oh well.) A very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. 

The mill sorts out the cores and seeds and peels as well as crushing the fruit into pulp. To the hot processed apples we added a big hunk of butter, a few scoops of sugar, lots of cinnamon, and a little vanilla, stirred it all up, and ate it warm.

I thought it was fantastic. Nothing like fresh homemade applesauce. I want to make it again, this time from better apples. 

Okay, I think that’s finally everything! Gotta go do not only yoga but my butt-strengthening exercises (this is apparently the root of all my troubles: I have a weak butt, which is putting too my pressure on my hips, which is causing more pain than you’d expect) and then head to adoration. Will pray for you and your butts. 

Recipe cards below! 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • Coke or Mexican Coke
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • Coke or Mexican Coke
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

The debate over Pete Buttigieg’s paternity leave is missing one thing: the birth mother

In early October, the news cycle gave birth to a giant red herring, and all the country’s most prominent talking heads have been dining out on it since.

I am talking about Pete Buttigieg’s paternity leave. He and his husband announced in August that they had become parents of newborn twins in October, social media went bonkers with the news that Mr. Buttigieg, who is the secretary of transportation for the Biden administration, had been on paid paternity leave for two months and has only recently returned to work.

I say that the question of paternity leave is a red herring, but do not mistake me: I am not saying it is not a big deal. I know firsthand how desperately new moms need help (and how capable men are of bonding with newborns). Sometimes I hear friends complain that their husbands only had a week or two off after the birth of a child, or maybe they even had to use their vacation days. I nod sympathetically and zip my lips, remembering the time I persuaded my ob-gyn to induce labor on a Friday so my husband could be with me for the luxurious span of Saturday and Sunday. That was the time he had off: 48 hours a week. Period.

The nurses would always ask me what my postpartum support network looked like, and I would tell them, “Nothing.” They would look sad, and that was as far as it went. So you do not have to convince me: A world where moms and dads and babies can be together and rest? That would be very good indeed.

But it is peculiar to see the Buttigieg discourse swirl around the question of paternity leave when a close look will reveal that it is really about so many other things, and that is why people are getting so mad about it.

First, of course, it is because Mr. Buttigieg is gay, as Tucker Carlson so incisively noticed. More than that: He is gay and kind of boring, and some Americans have no idea how to process that combination. So they get mad.

Second, we are talking about paternity leave, but we are really talking about the rights of workers in general, about whether even people in thankless jobs should expect to have full lives or if it is reasonable for them to owe their soul to the company store. We are clearly in the early stages of some kind of cultural spasm regarding labor, and it is not clear if we are going to slide right back into the status quo ante, or if there is some real transformation afoot. That is scary, and scary things also make us mad.

Third, we are also talking about paternity itself, fatherhood, manhood. Lord, do we have some sorting to do on this. One writer opined on Twitter that there is not much for a dad to do when there is a newborn in the house, and babies do not care either way. It is an old but often true trope that the men who sneer at hands-on dads are often secretly grieving that their own dads never had the time for them, and that is why they care so much. In any case, it is harder than it ought to be to step away from what is familiar, and being asked to do so makes us mad. So now we are mad about fatherhood, too.

The White House arguably degraded the discourse further by calling Mr. Buttigieg a “role model” for taking two months off in the middle of an economic crisis. Press Secretary Jen Psaki probably meant something more like an “aspirational example,” but her words came off as critical of dads who cannot take time off, especially since Mr. Buttigieg is undeniably part of privileged sliver of society with the money and access to choose when and how to start a family.

So there is all this stuff: about sexuality, class, money, work, fatherhood, legislation and so on. But do you know what has not been talked about at all?

The mother. The woman who gave birth to her two little ones two months ago and then said goodbye. That is what I am here to do: talk about her.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

 

How to actually raise teenagers

A lot of digital ink gets spilled over what it’s really like to raise older kids. I mean really, truly, no jokes, just the unvarnished truth.

We currently have four teenagers, and I’ve tried, myself, to put down some useful words on the topic, but the truth is, nothing scrambles your brain or flattens your ability to function like raising kids this age, these days. And yet it must be done. So here’s my contribution:

Writing about teenagers tends to fall into two categories.

The first comes across like a final report discovered decades later from deep inside a sealed bunker. You know the kind : “They have taken the bridge and the Second Hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. We cannot get out. They are coming” kind of thing.

Poor miserable souls these parents are, for so many years they clung to the illusion that their own children would be different, and that they alone would maintain discipline and order and even an amicable relationship with their offspring.

But they suffer the same fate as everyone else. Their kids are absolute sociopaths, and the parents can’t wait to warn their peers about the fate that awaits them. They hang around at maternity wards just to gloat. They turn up at kindergarten graduations of strangers and throw tomatoes at the stage, because these kids may look adorable now, but they know what’s coming as soon as puberty sets in.

So that’s one kind of advice you’ll get from parents of teens. The other type valiantly pushes back against these tired tropes of the surly, smelly, antisocial adolescent. These parents insist that it’s neither necessary nor normal for teenagers to behave so poorly. Give them some higher expectations and a little guidance, and they’ll grow and bear fruit like the most elegant of topiaries.

They themselves have an entire phalanx of teenagers in their house right now, they will tell you, and the only way you’d guess it is because of the sounds of the viola wafting up through the floorboards as they willingly practice their arpeggios. One teen is tutoring his younger brother, two are about to come home from work at the Fine Young Man Store, and one is sitting at the desk he built himself, writing a letter to apologise to his elderly neighbour for how unevenly he chopped the shallots in last Sunday’s boeuf en croûte.

It is simply a matter of having the right expectations, and you must simply expect your children to be as inexhaustibly fabulous as you are yourself, and the job’s halfway done.

(The other half happens at boarding school, it turns out, which the grandparents pay for. Also the kids spend their weekends at the grandparents’ house. The grandparents themselves live in a metal trailer in the desert, desperately petitioning the courts to terminate their visitation rights.)

I joke, I joke. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Teenagers are by no means natural sociopaths, but neither are they [excuse me while I get up and make sure my door is locked] especially willing and eager to be formed into useful members of society. Not. Especially. Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image source PXhere (public domain)

ishmael and queequeg and ahab and pip

Happy 170th birthday to the greatest American novel ever written, Moby Dick. Here’s a little poem I wrote for some reason. 
 
~’~’~’~’~’~’~
 
 

ishmael and queequeg and ahab and pip
went down to the sea(to board a ship)

and ishmael befriended a giant harpooner
who turned out to be a non-amorous spooner;

and queequeg discovered he’s destined to die
but his coffin ends up keeping ishmael dry;
 
and ahab was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and 
 
pip came home with a vision of god 
and therefore his shipmates called him mad.
 
for whatever we lose(like a leg past the knee)
it’s actually god that we hunt in the sea