Saturday, April 30, 2011

Drive-by Notes

  • Brothers-in-law and nephew departed. What a week! Enjoyed their company though. I appreciate spending time with those born of the same people as was my husband. I like taking notes of similarities as well as individual quirks among them, especially when it's all boys. 
  • Getting ready for an artsy fundraiser/cocktail party/artist-as-monkey-at-circus show tonight, wherein ten of us fellow painters will set up booth to paint live in the presence of/entertain the local philanthropists. The event is being put on by the organization who employs and lets me make a near-modest living. 
  • Before the party, though, I'm headed to Confession, either that or I'm not receiving Communion on Sunday. No argument about that. It's Mercy Saturday, baby, and the late pope John Paul II will be called "Blessed" by this time on Mercy Sunday. I'm bent on taking advantage of the occasion by cleaning out trash in my head.
  • Stole in a brief discussion with one of the brothers-in-law, amongst the utter chaos of a large, noisy family gathering last night. The topic was his son, my nephew by way of KDM, who had come out about a year ago and confessed to my brother-in-law that he was gay. It came as no surprise to my brother neither me, but was the first verbal confirmation of what everybody had suspected. In fact, about five years back when the nephew came to visit us during summer break, he and I had a long talk over his confusion about his sexual orientation. He is confused no more, that's what I heard the dad say, but neither he nor I knew that for sure. 
  • Then, this morning, as I logged on to the Anchoress, the "vicar" blogger, Max Lindenman, posted a discussion on Gays, Lesbians and the Church. It's interesting, check it out. Since I became Catholic, treating touchy issues half-heartedly is no longer an option, I've given the gay issue more serious thought, and grown more compassionate (not sensitive, mind you; neither am I fond of the word "compassion" but that's just what it is) toward gays. The seriousness goes right along with my awakened understanding about the human person. Now, just to be clear, I have very patchy, incomplete understanding of the concept of the human person, which, outside Catholicism, I've heard nobody talk about. But what little I do grasp about the human person, seems to tell me that it's lopsided to identify a human person by his sexual orientation, gay or straight. It would be wrong for me to look at a person, and see him in a nutshell of his being gay or straight. As Christian I must look at each fellow human person through the lens of our common Creator, who sees Himself in the person; for the same reason, it would be wrong for the gay person to be offended when the Church calls homosexual act sinful. The Church attacks the sin, not the person. Just as a rape victim is not defined by her victimhood, neither a person is his sin. He is not even his virtues which would not have been necessary if it wasn't for our fallen nature. The problem, as I see it, is that while the Church sees sexual orientation as extraneous to the personhood, many gays do seem to identify themselves by their life-style. I'm not saying that the Church expects us to live like angels, but she does teach that the only true END of our being, is to be face-to-face with our Creator, in a realm where we will be all "like angels" without the need for sexuality. This explains why there are men and women who embrace celibacy in this life, in order to live the core human person for which they are created thus hasten the coming of that beatific realm.
  • Allow me another point on what's intrinsic and extraneous of the human person. By now you might be familiar with the Tiger Mother controversy, and I have given up trying to point out what I thought it was all about. So far, all the commentaries I've seen, on both the Yea or Nay sides, seem to belong to that exquisite art called "missing the point," that is, the point of the Chinese Tiger Mother. Take for example, Amy Chua, the author of the Tiger mom book, recalls being called "garbage" by her father, because she had been extremely disrespectful to her mother. The word "garbage" would have caused someone marinated in our contemporary culture of sensitivity to check into a mental hospital, at least taken to a foster care provided by the Department of Human Service, yet Miss Chua wasn't offended, not to mention traumatized. Instead, she was ashamed, for she knew that her father did not attack her human person, calling it garbage; he was, unambiguously, attacking her attitude, in Catholic vocabulary, her sin of selfishness and disrespect to her parent. 
  • That sorta begs the questions: why didn't she think her father was insulting her personhood by calling her "garbage"? Is it valid, then, in a common sense way, to regard the word as deeply insulting? Of course it is! The difference here, if you paid attention to the context she laid out, is that her father loves her, and she knows it. His love is perhaps more constant and solid than the performance which we call "sensitivity" or "tolerance," perhaps verified by a life-time self-sacrifice and intellectual affirmation. Any child with an ounce of gratitude or willingness to acknowledge the privilege of another's love, could not have missed it. I think, that is why, Miss Chua was ashamed by her own conduct. 
  • I swear, that I didn't intend to write that much above. Happy Devine Mercy Weekend! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Redemption and Hot Cross Buns

So, it's here, Good Friday, itself a paradox, looking like a contradiction. With all its bloody, thorny, dark, shameful and guilty historical narratives, those we hear each year in congregations, it is called Good.

Yesterday we somehow decided against all our ditherings to brave the storm to go to Mass. Once we settled ourselves in the pew, I was glad that we made that decision. One sight of the statues covered under dark purple drapes convinced me so. Being Catholic I was of course aware of the solemnity of these last three days of the Holy Week,  still I felt it was the first instant that I was reminded that it was Holy Thursday, that in a moment the space will be filled with incense, songs (how I wish it would be chants), bells, prayers...the priests will take off his "outer garments," and tie a towel around his waist, kneel down before twelve men seated on chairs, and one by one wash their feet; and that at the end of the "service", the doors of the tabernacle will fling open like extended wings, showing the emptiness within, and the priest will process through the congregation holding the Eucharist in his arms like a precious baby, the gesture that moved me to tears a few years ago when I was on the verge of conversion...Familiar rituals, yet always a surprise. So much paradoxes.

To me, Holy Thursday evening Mass is one of the most memory-packed, intensely emotional happenings. I had to swallow hard in order not to present myself for communion in a state of teary mess. Just a few days ago Ree Drummond, AKA Pioneer Woman, a non-Catholic, wrote on her blog about how she cried every time she stepped in a Roman Catholic Church. Something utterly mysterious overwhelmed her soul, many of her readers echoed the phenomenon. I wondered what if she had attended the liturgies of these last three days of the Holy Week, properly and lovingly done, would she have been able to stop weeping? So much history, so much remembrance, so complex the emotions, so timeless and so human.

I've had thick thoughts in my head but I refrained (or time-strained) from writing, these last few days. The onset of the Triduum, and anxiety of knowing how I had let my Lenten exercises lapse in free-fall, made me feel near-unredeemable.

My husband used to broadcast a piece of wisdom to whomever inclined to hear: "It's not how bad you fall, it's how you get up again, GRACEFULLY, matters." As I fretted over my own failings, I thought of that.

And I thought of how even a bloody gangster can be forgiven on deathbed if he asked for mercy, and I thought of somewhere, I had heard it said that each moment of our lives has the seed of renewal, the potential to be redeemed, and I even thought of T. S. Elliot's riddle-like bits on "time past and time present," "if all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable," not that I understand the riddle, but it does touch on the notion of redemption.

Redemption is a big word, a big concept. But each moment is full of its own crises, big, medium, small, worthy of the dump or redemption.

Once I understood and remembered that, and the nature of my own crises, I was able to move and act.

The result of all that, is that I HAVE DECIDED TO MAKE SOME HOT CROSS BUNS.

We shall see the fruit of it.

Sorry for that sharp turn, but I smell the buns in the oven. I'd better pay attention to what's going in the oven.

Just in case I don't see you before Easter, Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Bird Is Back

The summer tanagers are back, about a week earlier than the date I marked on the calendar. I became aware of them back around 2002, and have been tracking their return around April 21 each year. Only a few days ago KDM mentioned that it was time to keep our ears open for their songs. This morning I heard the first unmistakable chirping out of a grove of distant oak trees early this morning, then again about noon.

As the summer draws nearer and deeper, our place is densely graced by the flights and calls of this red bird. During May and June, even into July, one or two of the males would come perched on the fence posts near our bedroom window at dawn, and sing so loudly as to seem piercing the early morning air. Sometimes when I happened to wake up before dawn, I'd wait for their first notes to appear, shaky, sleepy, incoherent , then slowly falling in tune and surging upward. Like a clockwork, they almost always begin at 5:30.

Welcome back, bird of my delight. Sing brightly, sing boldly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

By the Way -

Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that my three out-of-state brothers-in-law, one nephew, are coming to visit and stay with us for the week after Easter? You are right to notice that it's all boys: it's one of the several annual boys golf meets. So, the dust-raising cleaning I mentioned in previous post serves double purposes. The several bedrooms-turned-storage have to be converted back to their original cause. That means some re-painting, possibly a few new drapes and furniture, wall-decor, etc. Sure we could justify the accommodation in its current, undisturbed conditions, after all we are country folks of unadorned simplicity, and all they needed is a bed to lay their heads after a day of chasing a little white ball into eighteen holes. But we decided differently this time. Our rooms could really use some maintenance, which just don't get done unless under duress. We've even called service guys to come replace the entire AC ductwork next week.

I haven't touched a paint brush since last Thursday. Now it looks like another kind of painting is in order: on walls.

Deep in the Dust

A few nights ago we were under tornado watch till past midnight. Somewhat out-of-character-ly KDM suggested that we cleaned out one of the closets for safety in case the tornado thing got real. When I started taking out clothes and more than a few other items whose reason for being in the closet was obscure to me, I lamented our repeated failure to un-clutter and downsize our living. Why so much junk? KDM concurred with my sentiment.

The tornadoes did not materialize. But the closet "junk" didn't return to the closet, either. What followed, as the day followed the stormy night, was a full-blown closet-cleaning. And up to this moment, as I write, I'm not done yet, with stuff/junk spilling all over the domicile, this after several trips to the dump and recycle, one trip to the Goodwill Store, and a number of boxes labeled "yard sale" and neatly stacked up in the mud porch (we don't do yard sales around here, nobody comes out to the boonies  for junk. We give these to city relatives).

And, all this, is taking place between nursing a newly turned up stray/dropped off puppy (she's no older than five weeks), and the fits and starts of my allergy attacks which are still keeping me sleepless despite the 24/7 humming of the air purifiers.

She is due to appear in the Sunday Classifieds in local paper, under "FREE to good home". KDM and I are trying not to get attached, which, is VERY hard.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Few Photos

This is what our dinning table looks like today. It looked the same way yesterday, and the day before. Hopefully this is the last day it looks like this:

A painting is in progress based on this stetup.

Since I'm not posting the painting in progress, you may have a peek at the paint. In case you are wondering about the "Jif" lid - it's just a cover for a tuna fish can with paint thinner in it:

And this next photo has nothing to do with the above two. When I was painting at the dinning table the other day, KDM came in and told me that there was a "lawn mower" out in our front yard, and that it wasn't even ours. Turned out to be just a neighbor's cow taking a stroll on a nice day and stopped by to visit:

Now I'm going back to finishing that painting in progress so that we could eat dinner at the dinner table tonight. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It Worked!

Why every house doesn't have at least one air purifier but every one has at least one TV? That was my question to KDM when I got up this morning. He replied that perhaps it is looked at as "sissy" to have, not mention to broadcast that you have, an air purifier in your house. It would be like admitting that you can't handle air as it is; owning a TV, on the other hand, is sinful therefore macho and dignified. I stopped brushing my teeth midway to stare at him, over-powered by this analysis.

But what do I care? I have fresh air in the house and I can breathe, on both sides of my nose.

Yesterday was a throwaway. I'm going to have to make it up today. A cool but beautiful day already full of big, bright, white light.

Have a good one for yourself, too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fresher Air

Three posts in a row - I said I wasn't doing much.

Well, here's some development following my little dizzy spell early today. KDM must have gotten tired of my yearly episodes of ceaseless sneezing, nose-blowing, eye-rubbing, sleep-walking (not literally) and other miseries induced by the dense pollen in the air. This in spite of my tender loving cares of him while he was hit with a nasty cold, just this past week, during which I even made him chicken-dumpling soup besides making him swallow three packets of Theraflu with much coaxing and coercions. In a heartbeat he decided that we were getting us an air purifier, one per floor level. So off we went to the store, bought the first one we spotted on the shelf which happened to be a two-unit combo. As soon as we got home KDM went right to work and in no time he had the smaller one running in the living area. It's been running about three hours now, and I'm already feeling the cotton candy with all its gauze being sucked away from me, restoring me to my former crystal-clear-headed self. I'm breathing easier too and I don't care if it's placebo effect, I can live with it either way. At this rate I will lay off the medicine whose brand name ends with a D as soon as tonight, when the other, bigger unit is turned on just a few feet away from my bed.

You may say I'm full of hope.

FB Findings

Due to the goofy sensations of dizziness, I'm not doing much today. So I let myself do something I've been abstaining from since the beginning of Lent, I opened my Facebook page. There were pictures of a vacationing relative couple taken on their tropical cruise. They cheered me up and reminded me of Duane Hanson's sculptures. The said couple are by no means as plump, but the appearances, especially the touristy getups, bear striking resemblances. The knack of uncanny life-likenss is Mr. Hanson's ticket to magic. Take a look for yourself. More images can be seen on the website of Saatchi Gallery. What I'm posting are via the same site.


Duane Hanson

Tourists II

fibreglass and mixed media, with accessories

life size

And this, my favorite, which might just turn out to be self-portrait in a few years: 

Duane Hanson

Flea Market Vendor

polychromed bronze, with accessories

life size


Literally woke up with a light-headedness. When I first got up I felt a goofy sensation in my head and feet, an unfamiliar dizziness. I got downstairs and sat down and could feel my ears were doing something funny too: not ringing but  whatever sound came through did as if it reached through waves of wind or water. When I tried to get up from the chair my head felt big and airy and fluffy. 

Then I realized that for the past 5, 6 nights I hadn't had a normal, sound sleep. My seasonal allergies had started and I began to take medicines, the kind with a D attached to its brand name, somewhere between OTC and Prescription. You have to show your ID to the pharmacist to get it, in limited quantity. I've been using it for two years and thank goodness every time I take it for the relief it gives me, especially at bedtime, when the nasal congestion use to keep me miserable all night prior to the advent of this wonder medicine. 

Once I realized that I was having dizziness, I began to connect the dots surfacing in my sleep pattern during the past 5, 6 nights, wherein I felt neither totally asleep nor totally awake, with these slow-churning imageries running in circles in my head. Some were like dreams, others were my own thoughts fixated on one things or another, audible and quarrelsome. One night I "heard" myself making a point about kid's artwork, with repeated efforts, saying the same point over and over, like a broken record. The night before it was a scene of the principal at my parish school letting students in and out of a large auditorium, all the same time exchanging pleasantries with me about school and weather... It went on and on, over and over, like a slide-show on auto pilot, with no exit...The whole time I was aware of the fact of sleep, of dreaming, of wanting it to stop. I don't even remember what it was like last night, before I got up with the dizziness. I do remember dreaming of the dreams. Crazy. 

So I got on the Internet and looked up side effects of this particular medicine, and found "dizziness," "drowsiness," and "trouble in sleep," among others. 

Still dizzy here. I'm doing laundry, going about my business from room to room, pretending nothing wrong with this cotton-candy head bobbing over my shoulders. But I can tell you that I won't be driving nothing today.