Friday, February 27, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1.  I'm sitting in our armchair in the living room with the sliding glass patio door open wide-- it's that warm out right now.  I took Sadie for a nice walk (poor dog, she's been deprived of them due to cold and owner exhaustion), and now I'm just trying to let as much fresh air as possible into the house before the weather turns crappy just in time for the weekend.  Is there anything worse than a high of 40 degrees with cold rain and/or wintry mix?  At least snow is pretty.  Cold rain is just gross.  

2.  If you can't tell from #1, I'm desperate for spring to arrive.  My flower beds are so sad and bleak.  I may need advice this year on what to plant to get the most color bang for our buck.  Our front yard and back patio get a lot of shade, which is a challenge.  I just know I'm not making the same mistake I made last year in planting lots of white flowers.  They're nice, but they just don't pop.  Perhaps inpatients in bright colors will be a better choice.  LOTS OF THEM.  I want to look out at the patio and see lovely color everywhere.

3.  This week's big accomplishments:  Doing ALL the laundry in the house, ironing quite a few of David's (innumerable) shirts, and actually cooking dinner for Tuesday-Friday.  I've also managed to maintain the house in a pretty-darn-clean state, although I think some more dusting and vacuuming are already in order.

4.  Last Friday, I went to see Confessions of a Shopaholic with my friend Brooke and a bunch of her girlfriends.  Brooke and I arrived early to grab seats for everyone, and we were excited to be the first two people in the theater.  We staked out perfect seats right in the center, spread out our coats and purses to hold seats for the other girls, and waited.  A little while later, some other folks started to filter in.  First, there were a couple of teenage-looking guys.  Then, an older group, but with more men than women.  I remember thinking that these didn't look like the kind of viewers I expected for Shopaholic, but it wasn't until Brooke and I were truly looking like the odd men out that I mentioned it to her.  We were in theater 13.  We pulled out our ticket stubs:  Shopaholic, 7:10 p.m., Theater 18.  Oops.  We gathered our things and dashed across the lobby to the correct theater, where (thankfully) we were still able to grab a row of seats that wasn't in the neck-craning front area.  I'm just glad we figured it out when we did!

5.  Speaking of movies, how happy am I that Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture?  David and I saw it a while back, and we both loved it.  Considering how depressing some of the recent winners have been (Million Dollar Baby, The Departed, No Country for Old Men), it was great to see something that was ultimately hopeful and uplifting in the top spot.  

6.  Television.  I've found that if I don't turn it on, I don't really miss it.  If it's on already, it's hard for me to turn it off.  The key, I think, is to watch what I want to see (like my TiVo-ed Top Chef from Wednesday night), and then turn it off immediately.  I'm perfectly content to read a book and listen to music, if I just keep myself from getting sucked in to the TV.  We're actually going to be reducing the number of televisions we have in the house.  We currently have three:  a large-ish one in the living room, and two tiny, ancient sets upstairs in the office and bedroom.  We're moving the office into the basement to create a sort of office/den combo, and we'll be getting a new, larger TV for that space.  That'll eliminate one of the upstairs TVs, and we've decided we're going to chuck the one in our bedroom.  We never, ever watch it, so why have it?  It just takes up space on the dresser.  I don't think we'll ever get rid of television entirely in our house.  David is too much of a sports fanatic to ever give up watching his teams every week.  (In the case of hockey and baseball, it sometimes feels like every day.)  But we're trying to be selective about what we watch, and diminish the role TV plays in our lives.  

7.  Uh-oh.  The rain is starting, and I still have errands to run.  Drat.  

More quick takes here, at Conversion Diary.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ash Wednesday

I had an awkward moment last Sunday with the kids in our CCD class.  We were talking a little bit about the liturgical year and liturgical seasons, and I'd given them a handout with a circular graph that has all the seasons, with the various holidays and holy days of obligation marked.  

We talked about the upcoming Lenten season, and the day that begins the season-- Ash Wednesday.  I asked the kids whether Ash Wednesday is a holy day of obligation.  "Yes!" they all responded.

Of course, Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation.  It's something that a lot of Catholics don't realize, apparently, especially given how completely packed the church by my old office always was on that day.  And so I told the students the truth-- no, it's not a day where we are required to attend Mass, though of course it's very good for us to do so and to receive ashes.  And we are required to fast and abstain from meat on that day.  

I was worried, though, that I'd just created a potential problem.  I had immediate visions of the students' parents rounding them up for Mass next Wednesday, with the kids digging in their heels about going:  "But Mrs. Petron says we don't have to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday!"  

Then again, I'd rather they never attend Mass on Ash Wednesday and always attend on those days when they are required to do so:  every Sunday; the feast of Mary, Mother of God, the feast of the Ascension; the feast of the Assumption; All Saints' Day; and the feast of the Immaculate Conception; and Christmas.  I think that's the thing that was always amazing-- and disturbing-- about Ash Wednesday for me.  All these folks crowding the church to get ashes . . . where are they on Sundays?  Where are they on the required holy days?  Why this fervor to get a smudge on the forehead, and where is the fervor on other days?

In the end, I wasn't going to mislead the kids about what the Church does not require of them, just as I don't want to sugar-coat what she does require.  (You should have heard their response when I told them that they really shouldn't be doing their shopping on Sundays, or that, yes, stealing a pencil from a classmate is still stealing.)  But I can't help feeling a little weird about the exchange.  I hope they will all want to mark the beginning of Lent with ashes. 

What should I have told them?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Best Medicine

The saying goes that sunlight is the best disinfectant, but I am more and more convinced that, for me, it is the best medicine.  I've been grumpy/tired/useless for various reasons over the past few weeks, which has been a bummer considering all my Grand Post-Work Plans.  I've felt extremely guilty for David to come home to my lying on the couch, no dinner made, whining that I'm too tired and yes I'm hungry but I can't do anything about it.  Blech.  Even I didn't want to be around me.

On Sunday after church, we came home and threw open some of the windows.  It was a gorgeous day, with temperatures in the upper 60s, and the air put me in a good mood.  I packed my suitcase to head to Michigan to see Arwen and my gorgeous newborn godson, then tried to take a Sunday afternoon nap with David.  But the yummy outside air wouldn't let me rest.  I got up and went into the office to surf around on the computer, and I just inhaled.  Ahhhh.  I forget, when I can't go outside or open the windows, how much I love it when I can.

Michigan wasn't too cold, but I arrived at Arwen's house on Sunday evening and literally didn't set foot back outside until after 5:00 yesterday, when I left to go back to the airport.  And wouldn't you know-- I was useless again.  Tired, lethargic, and not nearly as helpful as I'd intended to be.**  By the time I got home last night, I was downright grumpy again.

But today!  Bright sunshine and temperatures around 60 degrees!  I ran a couple of errands this morning, opened the windows when I got back home (just a little, because it was still a bit chilly and very windy, but enough to let the fresh air inside), did the dishes, unpacked my suitcase (a feat I wasn't able to accomplish in the weeks after our Tahoe trip over MLK weekend), took the dog for a long walk, shunned the television in favor of reading and music, and even planned what I'll make for dinner as soon as David gets home.  

David hates daylight savings time, but I'm already looking forward to March 8th, when I'll have an extra evening hour of my magic prescription.  Bring on the sun!

**  I still had a lovely time, and was thrilled to get to see the Moshers and meet my truly adorable godson, Blaise.  My mood stemmed from the cloud cover, not the company.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cross Purposes

Back before the inauguration, David floated the idea to me of renting out our house to attendees.  The papers were reporting that D.C.-area hotel rooms were booked solid, and that local residents were charging big bucks for a few nights' stay in their homes.

Back in my home state of Georgia, some folks do this every year.  The Master's golf tournament is held in Augusta, and there aren't nearly enough hotel rooms to go around.  Augusta residents charge thousands of dollars and take nice vacations with the loot, and everyone is happy.  

There was a big difference here, though.  The Master's is not a partisan event, but the inauguration of The One?-- decidedly so.  And while I realized, of course, that not everyone who planned to attend the events would be leftists (I have former colleagues who attended who are very conservative), I figured that anyone who was willing to shell out thousands of dollars to travel to D.C. and stay in some stranger's house had more than a passing interest in the "change" aspect of the festivities.

Frankly, I didn't want a bunch of Obama-obsessed Democrats staying in my house.  Anyone with half a brain who spends more than a few minutes in Casa Petroni will quickly figure out where we stand, politically and religiously.  (Of course, the two are inextricably intertwined for us.)  From our various crosses and crucifixes to our First Things subscription; from our C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton collections to our Catholic calendar; from our Bibles and Catechism to our copies (multiple!) of After Virtue, we are clearly orthodox Catholics, and clearly to the right on the political spectrum.

Although I was ashamed to admit it at the time, I had visions of hostile houseguests trashing our more conservative books or "accidentally" dropping our Rosaries in the toilet.  I knew I was probably being utterly ridiculous, and I'm well aware that the vast, vast majority of people on either side of the political spectrum would never deign to treat anyone's home in such a manner.  But still.  I just couldn't shake the fear that we'd end up with the wackos.

Today I feel both sad and somewhat vindicated.  Apparently a member of the College Democrats at The George Washington University here in D.C. decided that it was appropriate to vandalize crosses that had been used in a pro-life display.  (Links to related stories herehere, here, and here.)  Although only one College Democrat has taken responsibility for the vandalism, the crosses apparently remained displayed in the College Democrats' office for at least a full day, during which other members somehow didn't see fit to take them down or even question them.

I'm beyond disgusted by this story, but why am I not surprised?

In the end, the inaugural house-rental craze turned into a big bust for most folks, as supply far outpaced demand.  Chances are we wouldn't have been able to rent out our house, even if we had listed it.  But I'm glad I put my foot down, anyway.  And if I ever do rent my house out for some reason, you'd better believe that my screening questions will include the following:  Are you now or have you ever been a member of the College Democrats?  Sure, it sounds a little McCarthy-ish.  But at least I'll know my Rosaries and crucifixes are safe.