Showing posts from September, 2009


This is not the time to be working on my blog. I should be preparing for class. Precious minutes are ticking away, and I don't want to be up too late this evening, particularly since, yes, the flu seems yet again to be tickling at my throat and in my sinuses, threatening to bloom if I push myself even a little bit too hard. But I can't. Concentrate on preparing for class, that is. My head is full of kitchen cabinets and wiring and how deep the countertops should be and whether we'll be able to afford that beautiful mosaic tile work that our designer showed me today. My husband is anxious about the time of year that we'll be doing the work (winter) and where all the stuff from the kitchen, back bedroom and pantry-soon-to-be-utility room is going to go, but I don't feel anxious so much as ecstatic: I am finally going to have a kitchen to be proud of!

Who knew that this was the thing that was depressing me most about my life, something so apparently frivolous as…

First Day of Class


On lecturing and learning

[I found this sheet in the folder for the course that I'm teaching this quarter. I have no idea where the quotation comes from and I have no idea whether these were notes to myself or something that I shared with the class. I'd annotate this more, but I'm still not ready yet for class tomorrow!]

Dr. Johnson to Boswell in 1766: “People have nowadays, said he, got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can be best taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shown. You may teach chemistry by lectures. --You might teach making of shoes by lectures!”

Problem in studying history
• Learning both a body of facts and a way of thinking about life/the world/human experience
• Not really like any other subject in this way: object much bigger than in most humanities courses (e.g. art, literature, language); techniques chang…

Class Prep

This is it, the last day of my leave. You'd think I'd be ready for it. After all, I've spent the past couple of weeks reading ahead for the classes I'm teaching, writing assignments and generally getting prepared. But I'm not. Far from it.

I've learned so much about myself and my ideals this year, much of it from writing for myself (and you, my dear readers!) on this blog. I'm not sure I can put myself back into the straight jacket of term. Oh, I'd be one of the first ones to argue in favor of structure; I'm all for it! It's one of the reasons I'm so eager to get a dog. When my son went away to camp in July and suddenly I had quite literally no reason to get dressed during the day, I fell into one of the deepest depressions I've experienced since I was growing up. Part of it was where I had gotten to in the argument for my book; part of it was exhaustion (ironically) after working so hard all year on my research. But part of it…

Home Improvements

It's funny how people respond when you announce that you are going to be doing some remodeling, specifically your kitchen. There are some, like my mother (thanks, Mom!), who are frankly encouraging, even though they themselves have gone through remodeling projects and know how frustrating, inconvenient, and, yes, expensive it can be. But there are others, some but not necessarily all of whom who have suffered through the same, who seem determined to throw cold water on the whole prospect by pointing out (as if one didn't know) a) how frustrating, b) how inconvenient, and c) how expensive everything is going to be. Moreover, who insist on it even after one has explained that one of the reasons for doing the remodeling is to bring the electrical wiring in the kitchen up to code so as, for example, to be able to run both the kettle and the toaster at the same time without having to take a break to go down to the basement and punch the circuit breaker back in. No fire risk or …

Seven Quick Takes No. 10

Be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for more stimulating "quick takes."

1. I got my dog! Okay, so she's a little hard to take on walks seeing as she can't move by herself, but isn't she cute? We're going to an actual dog show tomorrow out west of the city, just to meet some real Corgis, but I've had to agree that we are not actively looking to adopt at this time. Life lesson for the week on how couples make decisions:nobody wins in a dog fight.

2. We're going ahead with our kitchen remodeling though. Can you say, middle-aged? It's a little disconcerting standing in what you thought was a fairly stable arrangement of windows and walls hearing a contractor talk about lifting window sills and moving heaters so as to open up the space for countertops as much as possible. It's going to be wonderful after the remodeling to be able to make toast and tea at the same time, but I have to confess a bit of anxiety about (gasp!) watching som…

Saying the Unsayable

I am afraid to write what I'm thinking right now. It's such a jumble. Probably in part an effect of the flu, but it's not really anything new, just what's been oppressing me for the better part of the summer. No, I can't say it, really I can't. I've spent years making myself who I am, it is simply craziness thinking I should be somebody else. But I want to be. The problem is, who?

I can't find my hare. I have a feeling that I've been chasing somebody else's, but how to define it? I am a scholar. At least, I think I am. Sometimes I doubt it when I talk to some of my colleagues. They seem so sure about what they're interested in, so clear about how to go about solving the problems that they are researching. Writing doesn't seem to phase [eek! I mean "faze"] them, it's just something they do, easier than being a lawyer (at least two of them have told me this), not really anything they get stressed out about. Me, I …

Bear's Serenity Prayer


The Best Laid Plans

I'm awake before I intended to be with the flu circling in my system again, threatening to take over. My husband is laid low with it now, much as I was last week. Nothing this month is going quite as planned. I had planned to get in three weeks of writing before having to start teaching again, but first there was the parish profile that needed editing, then there were letters of reference to write, then I got a couple of days writing in, then I got sick. It is definitely a good thing that I was able to get so much reading for my classes done last week, even if it isn't what I had planned, but now this week looks like it's going to be rather different from what I had meant it to be, too.

Should I feel guilty? It's not like I intended for this to be the way things went, but on the other hand I am definitely taking advantage of them. Yesterday, when it became clear that I still wasn't going to be able to concentrate on my book, I went to the library and got a few…

Whether Sacred Doctrine is a Matter of Argument?

'Objection 1: It seems this doctrine is not a matter of argument. For Ambrose says (De Fide 1): "Put arguments aside where faith is sought." But in this doctrine, faith especially is sought: "But these things are written that you may believe" (Jn. 20:31). Therefore sacred doctrine is not a matter of argument.

'Objection 2: Further, if it is a matter of argument, the argument is either from authority or from reason. If it is from authority, it seems unbefitting its dignity, for the proof from authority is the weakest form of proof. But if it is from reason, this is unbefitting its end, because, according to Gregory (Hom. 26), "faith has no merit in those things of which human reason brings its own experience." Therefore sacred doctrine is not a matter of argument.

'On the contrary, The Scripture says that a bishop should "embrace that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convinc…

And now for something completely different...

Snooch contemplates the koi fishies.

Obi Wan Obama goes en garde.

Cheese mites debate the origins of the cheese.

Ants search for intelligent life.

"Just because someone believes in the Force doesn't mean they're gonna go blow up a space station."

Hat tip to my son for the last two links.

Thy Will Be Done

As if in answer to my question this morning: what I heard when I got in the car to go to practice this afternoon, by the by getting caught in some of the worst traffic we've had on Lake Shore Drive in the past few months, thanks to the fact that all but one lane was closed off for roadworks today.

St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), on why she wrote what was to become one of the great classics of spiritual instruction:

"Few tasks which I have been commanded to undertake by obedience have been so difficult as this present one of writing about matters relating to prayer: for one reason, because I do not feel that the Lord has given me either the spirituality or the desire for it; for another, because for the last three months I have been suffering from such noises and weakness in the head that I find it troublesome to write even about necessary business. But, as I know that strength arising from obedience has a way of simplifying things which seem impossible, my will very gladly resol…

Required Reading

My husband has a saying: "Anything you do for money gets old."

It's almost term time, which means I'm going to have reading to do. Not reading that I want to do, but reading that I have to do in order to be ready for class. At least, now it's reading that I have to do. When I set up the courses that I will be teaching, I specifically designed at least one of them (the graduate course) to give me the chance to do reading that I simply wanted to do (perhaps more accurately, to have done) for the sake of my research, but now that I've spent the last week sick and therefore unable to write and therefore trying to make the best of things by getting started on the reading for term, I know that, yet again, it simply doesn't work. As soon as reading becomes something assigned, whether for class or out of the conviction that it is something that I "need" to have read, it dies. It could be the most interesting book in the world, and yet as soon as I …

Seven Quick Takes No. 9

Check out Conversion Diary for more "quick takes." Watch for nutz!

1. I've been sick all week with what I am convinced is the same flu I've had already threetimesthisyear. That's four weeks in total of sore throat followed by dizziness, sinus congestion, aches and pains plus that weird throbbing clarity you get with flu. I've still got the itchy-throat-with-mild-cough thing going now, but at least I can bend over without feeling like my head is going to explode. What I want to know is, why? I thought the whole point of getting sick with something was that you would be immune to it afterwards. This flu seems to have taken up permanent residence, just waiting for that moment when I'm slightly overtired to reassert itself. I know, I know, school hasn't started for me yet, but it did last week for my son, which meant waking up at 5:45am so as to be able to do my centering prayer and yoga before we set off for campus. It was just enough, apparently…

41. That a person should know the measure of his gift, and always desire more, taking a better one when God wishes to give it

"Our holy fathers in former times taught us to know the measure of our gift and work by that, not making use of pretense to take more upon ourselves than we have felt. We can always desire the best, but we cannot always perform the best, for we have not yet received that grace.

"A hound that runs after the hare only because he sees other hounds running will rest when he is tired, and turn back; but if he runs because he sees the hare, he will not flag for weariness until he has it. It is just the same spiritually. If anyone has a grace, however small, and decides to stop working with it and to make himself labor at another that he does not yet have, only because he sees or hears that others are doing so, he may indeed run for a while until he is weary; and then he will turn home again: and if he is not careful he can hurt his feet with some fantasies before he gets there. But when anyone works with such grace as he has while humbly and persistently desiring more, and late…

The Gospel Truth

Or, some things that I've been thinking about that would seem to suggest that the Christian scriptures (a.k.a. the Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revelation) may in fact be something other than simply documents of their time but which I do not know enough of the scholarship in New Testament studies to prove and so would like reading suggestions if anyone has any:

1. SteveG makes the interesting point in his Catholic Ramblings that, unlike the New Testament (or, indeed, the Hebrew Scriptures), the scriptures on which the "other" great monotheistic religions, namely Islam and the Church of the Latter Day Saints are founded depend upon a revelation given to a single individual. As he observes:

"This puts everything to be believed in the trust that this one individual in question had a true revelation from God and not a self-delusional episode, or worse yet, committed a willing deception. Did Joseph Smith really find golden tablets that only he could read? Did these angel…

Making Peace With Traffic

In Chicago, traffic is pretty much a fact of life. There is simply no way to avoid it, particularly if you live on the South Side and want to get anywhere north. I remember reading some ten or fifteen years ago, about the time my husband and I had just moved here, a piece in one of the local magazines that promised to give alternate routes (i.e. non-freeway routes) from anywhere in Chicago to O'Hare. On the North Side, there were a number of options, but for the South Side, well, we were pretty much stuck: there wasn't any faster route than the I-90/94. So there. If the freeway snarls up, that's still the only way to get to the airport.*

When my son and I started fencing together six years ago, we joined a fencing club that practiced downtown in the Loop. This was heaven: we could get on the Metra, ride the train 20 minutes to downtown, and walk to our club, no worries. My husband would come pick us up in the evenings after practice well after the rush hour traffic h…