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Showing posts from November, 2009

An Exercise in Thankfulness

I fenced a tournament today. I was pretty stiff this morning, not really sure I was at all up to doing anything other than skyving off for one more day watching puppy videos, but I'm going to a NAC this weekend in Pittsburgh, and I really needed the warm-up. I did only so-so in my pools in foil (2-5), but I fenced my first DE well (15-9, or maybe 15-8, I'm not quite sure). I did even worse in my pools in epee--seeded LAST after the pools! And, of course, I lost my DE, even though I did get some good touches in the end (10-15). And now I'm sitting here on the couch with a cat curled up next to me, thinking about how busy I'm going to be for the next couple of days because this weekend I didn't do my grading or class prep or anything other than the reading for my classes this upcoming week.

But--can you believe it?--I'm still glad that I went. Not ecstatically glad. I still hate fencing, and I still want to quit. But sort of soberly glad because, truth to …

New Kid on the Block

For the better part of oh, let's say, 37 years, that was me. Unlike my son, who has now lived in the same neighborhood in which he was born for nearly the whole of his first thirteen years (and counting), by the time I was thirteen, I (and my parents and siblings) had moved four times and another move was on the horizon. Even today, when people ask me where I am from, I have no idea how to respond.

I was born the year my parents were finishing their internships for medical school; we moved when I was five or six months old, so to begin with my birthtown is in no way my hometown. Five years in one city, two in another, another one back in the city where we had lived until I was five, six in a city I had never even heard of before I found the map in my parents' room when I was eight, three in a city I associated only with the route to my grandparents' house, and then I was off to college (yes, I was seventeen; I skipped second grade after the first two or three months, wh…

Latter-Day Martinmas

For all those of you fretting that the Christmas lights went up a week ago and the songs started playing in the shops even before that, when everybody (at least in the United States) knows that you shouldn't start worrying about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, it may be reassuring to realize that we Americans actually start the Christmas season somewhat late. Okay, so friends in England have been making the same complaint about the precocious tendencies of town councils and retailers to want to get us thinking about Christmas, but eight hundred or a thousand or even twelve hundred years ago, they, too (that is, the town councils and retailers) would already have been behind.

According to certain Carolingian sources (which I would reference if I hadn't left them at work, but one of them was Theodulf of Orléans' instructions for parish priests, I'm pretty sure), there were three major fasts during the liturgical year, each lasting forty days: a fast before Easter (a…

Sexiest Man Alive...Ever

"In the third place there is the physical, visible, palpable beauty of Christ.

"This can be sub-divided: supernatural beauty, which His most holy flesh was granted in His glorification. It is to configuration with this that our body aspires; and to this it must be brought, when, in the resurrection that is to come our humble body will--according to the apostle's promise (Ph 3:21)--made like to the Body of His Glory. But first we must be conformed to the Passion of Christ and to His crucifixion.

"But the natural beauty of Christ's Body, when He lived on earth, was so great, so lovely, that of it the psalmist sang: 'You are beautiful above the sons of men' (Ps 44:3). For perfect physical beauty, there are three requirements. The first is that the body should be tall and shapely; the second is that the parts of the body should be in due proportion; the third is good, healthy, clear colouring. As we read in the second chapter of Augustine's City of Go…

Eighth Week of Term

As best I can recall, to the tune of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969).

On Sunday, I went to church, bought some cookies and pumpkin bread at the church auction, graded two sets of papers, and watched two (or was it three?) episodes of season three of Dexter.

On Monday, I marked another set of papers (actually, bibliographies for research papers-to-be), attended a staff meeting on Luther's On Christian Liberty, held office hours (during which students came to talk with me about their research papers-to-be), went to a department colloquium on the history of pirate broadcasting in the UK, and spent the evening having dinner with the search committee for our parish rector. We spent a fair amount of time talking about whether we give money to beggars.

On Tuesday, I led discussions on monastic reform and the relic trade in the Carolingian empire in the morning and on Geert Grote and the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life (a.k.a. the devotio moderna) in the afternoo…

Reading Lassie's Mind

"It is okay to guess what an animal is feeling, just as it's okay to guess what any human is thinking. This is how we learn to know one another, by guesses based on our own experiences, our (always imperfect) understanding of how someone else communicates what they are feeling or thinking, and our willingness to accept feedback and fine-tune our behavior. It's okay to guess what your dog is trying to communicate as long as you're willing to accept that you might be wrong, correct your misunderstanding and try again. It is not okay to guess what an animal is thinking or feeling if you are unwilling to accept nothing less than absolute compliance with your wishes. Far too common are assertions that someone 'knows' why a dog did or did not do something; rarely is that guess tested against the reality of the dog's responses. I make a lot of guesses based on my observations of a dog's behavior, the situation and many years of experience. But I'm a…

Puppies 103: Shopping List

1. Collars, lightweight for starters; heavier for later. Not sure whether to go with leather or nylon for the grown-up collar. Probably not a good idea to get rhinestones, but wouldn't my puppy look good wearing diamonds like me? (Really, just kidding, no diamonds. But there are some really pretty patterns, maybe the fleur-de-lis? Or red? Actually, I want the Swarovski crystals.)

2. Leashes, one 6-foot, lightweight, nylon or cotton-web (it's only a puppy! No need for a leash heavier than the puppy herself); one 20-foot for training (not retractable!).

3. Crate(s), small enough that the puppy can just turn around. I'll need one for home and one for my office. I can get bigger ones once the puppy has grown.

4. ID tag--but what is the puppy's name? My husband has suggested "Megan" if we get a girl.

5. Food and water bowls, preferably stainless steel, but I saw these really cute ones at the local pet food storeskeuomorphed to look like bejeweled cushio…

Never Mind the Horse and the Holy Relics, What Happened to the Puppies?

"I do not think it amiss if miracles done by divine grace at this time are inserted in this treatise.

"A certain brother was sent to carry from one cell to another a consecrated container in which relics of Saint Denis and other saints were put. With him he took along also some puppies, but returning after several days he negligently strove to bring back the consecrated container without having washed his clothes. He embarked hurriedly in a boat--for his cell was situated between a lake and the sea. As soon as he reached land he mounted a horse, settling the puppies first and then picking up the container to attach it. But divine punishment overthrew him: at that very moment the horse reeled in a circular motion so that the brother fell to the ground. The container slipped from his hands (it was later recovered unharmed); the horse died at once; and the brother who had fallen was knocked into unconsciousness. He remained that way a long time, but ultimately regained his…

Homework First, Then Bliss

I'm doing it again: blogging about how much I want to be writing but feel like I can't or shouldn't be because I have so much work to do. It's Sunday morning, you say, how could I possibly have work to do now? Oh, but I spent yesterday at the bank, then at yoga and fencing practice, then I took a nap and finished the novel that I've been trying to read for nigh on the past week, then made dinner, then watched several episodes of Dexter (season three). I've had my down time, it's time to get back to work. But I don't want to, not just now.

I had a rule for myself when I was growing up (presuming, that is, that I am grown up now): every day when I came home from school, I would do my homework first. That way, I told myself, I could spend whatever time I had left in the evening doing whatever I wanted confident in the fact that I was caught up. This system worked well through college, when the homework was still more or less manageable. It has been …

Monkey Mind

I'm blocking. I've started this post now three times and I don't know what to say. Keep writing. Just keep writing. Watching my mind as I try to pray this morning, thoughts streaming in. John of Ruusbroec would not be surprised. Or would he? He doesn't really say much about watching one's thoughts, not like the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, whose whole emphasis is on pressing down all the monkey-mind (not his word) thoughts so as to make space (again, not his image) for God. I want to make space for God in my life, I really do. I've been doing my centering prayer now since August, and...well, what? What would one expect to report? Great lights? Visions? Consolations? John of Ruusbroec would definitely say not to be deceived by such experiences. No, that's not quite right. I wish I were one of my graduate students right now. They have no idea how easy they have it. Again, no, not easy. They are worried about their grades and preparing f…

How to Achieve High Status

1. Do something really impressive, preferably requiring a skill that others appreciate as difficult to master.Examples: playing a musical instrument, writing a novel, acting in a movie, winning at a competitive sport. Downside: not everybody will be equally impressed by a particular activity. This is especially true for writing (unless you can write a best-seller), even more so for activities for which the necessary skills are difficult to isolate as such. Examples: becoming an expert in a particular academic field (in some contexts, this is a guaranteed status-killer).

2. Live a long time and build up experiences.Corollary: have seniority in your organization or professional field. Downside: people younger than you are will not necessarily have any sense of what it means for you to have lived longer or experienced more than they have. Nor is it typically possible to explain said experience to them precisely because they do not yet have sufficient experience to appreciate what y…

Words of Wisdom

I'm listening

...to Anamchara on faith,

...to Jennifer on the good life,

...and to Jay Shafer on the luxury of tiny homes.

Time to regroup and give thanks.

NaNoWriMo Wannabe

It's insane. I have no business even thinking about it. Not for an instant. Not even in an insomniac, slightly flu-ridden (hard to tell, but my face hurts) state. I can't tell stories. I don't think in stories. I have nothing to say.

Oh, but I want to. I love novels. Well, sort of. I don't really think of myself as a reader of, ahem, Literature. I like fairy stories and some sci-fi. Mysteries mostly. I know I should like more historical fiction than I do, but it's so hard to get the voice right. I like novels that make you think, but not too hard. Mainly, I want to be Lewis or Tolkien, writing deep theology in story form. But I'm more or less certain I could never pull it off.

Really, it would come off all stilted and silly, pontificating about the Trinity and how to understand the relationship between the Three Persons as drama. Now that would make an interesting story: what does the Trinity talk about? Other than love. Maybe there isn't an…

Puppy, Age 11

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Drawn by RLF, age 13
September 12, 1978

(And, yes, my childhood dog's name was Puppy. I named her when I was two: "Puppy, puppy, puppy!" You see?)

American Dream

I say that the last place that I want to live is suburbia, but the problem is...I grew up there. And, yes, weirdly enough, there are things that I miss.

I miss hanging out in somebody else's kitchen, talking for hours about, you know, stuff.

I miss calling my friends--on the telephone!--and asking if they want to come over and play without having to schedule weeks in advance.

I miss sitting on the front lawn pulling up blades of grass and watching the cars--never very many--go by.

I miss walking home from school through the neighborhood pretending that my book bag was my friend and that bushes were actually matter transporters if only I had the courage to walk into one.

I miss sledding down the hill beside the freeway with the creek at the bottom.

I miss spending every day in the summer at the subdivision pool getting browner and browner and playing "Sharks & Minnows" in the deep end.

I miss piano lessons with Mrs. Reiser, even though I never practiced as much as I should.

The Active Life

Oh, I'm a bad girl: I'm blogging when I should be doing my homework (read, preparing for class). But I'm so tired of preparing for class. Here it is, sixth week of term, and for the past month I've barely had time to think straight, much less prepare for class in the way that I would prefer. I know, I know, I'm fairly sure that I overprepare, but it rarely feels that way. No matter how many times I've read a text, there is always something new to learn about it. Tomorrow, for example, we are talking about the Carolingian response to the Iconoclast controversy, which required (because otherwise I would not be "keeping up with the research") spending this morning "reading" Thomas F.X. Noble's big new book Images, Iconoclasm and the Carolingians, just out this past spring--and, no, I haven't had time to read it properly (thus the scare quotes). Remember, over the summer, I was supposed to be doing, ahem, my "own" work (w…

For All the Saints

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Every one a mirror...

reflecting the glory of God. And yet...

each distinct...

showing God to the world in a new and special way.

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." --2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)