Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
And I suppose I'll find out which of my kids, or VMJ's (AKA GF2, altho at the time of this story, she was still VMS), ever come around here, looking for stories from my dissolute youth. . .
I was 18, and a newly-legal consumer of alcoholic beverages, when VMS's parents took us out to dinner in Greektown (Chicago) - the waiters in skirts, the flaming cheese, "OPAA!", the whole bit. (Does it fill you with a sense of foreboding that setting the scene for my First Drunkenness involves my girlfriend's parents? Read on. . .)
They ordered a bottle of a Greek 'blush' wine called Roditys. And me being newly-legal at the time, I had a glass. And hey, it was pretty good! (Nothing at all like the Boone’s Farm that I’d snitched from my dad once upon a time.) So I had another. They ordered a second bottle, and so I had yet another glass. 'Cuz hey, it was pretty good!
After a while, I noticed that the room wasn't quite sitting still the way it was supposed to, anymore, and when one of the waiters lit the flaming cheese for another customer across the room, my "OPAA!" was louder than anyone else's at our table. So I foggily deduced that I was a sheet or two further to the wind than was best for me to be, being out to dinner with my girlfriend and her parents, and all.
So, figuring that the next thing that came out of my mouth would probably be stupid (which, looking back on it, is pretty darned self-aware for a first-time-drunk 18-year-old), I just shut up (sorta like the guy who leaves the bar at 3AM and figures he’ll escape the attention of the police by driving 12 mph all the way home) (not that I've ever done that, or anything). So I sat there, looking shitfaced, swaying gently in the breeze, saying nothing. I vaguely recall her mother leaning over to her father, saying (in her more-than-slight New Jersey accent), "I tell ya, Manny, he's drunk; we gotta get him outta here."
Maybe that has something to do with why they never became my in-laws. . .
Monday, March 8, 2010
Perhaps I'm just being lazy, in a bloggity sense, or maybe my bloggity muse is taking a nap just lately. But this scripture passage was read in church yesterday, so I'm giving you another re-post today. This bit originally posted in March of 2007, but its roots in my brain go back decades before that, probably to my college days. At any rate, it is Lent. . .
And [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Let it alone for one more year, sir, while I hoe it and manure it. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)
-------------------------It being Lent, I am in a ‘penitential’ frame of mind – taking a ‘spiritual inventory’ of my life, and trying, with God’s help, to address areas of weakness and sin. This Parable of the Fig Tree has always had a certain poignancy to me. There are many ways in which this parable has been interpreted over the centuries, but I’ve always tended to read it metaphorically, as though the fig tree is me, and my life. And I ask myself, have I borne fruit? When my Master comes to me, does He find the fruit that He’s looking for? And I get a certain chuckle from the last couple verses. Loosely re-translated (OK, very loosely), the vinedresser (the Holy Spirit?) says, “Let me whack on it and throw some shit on it, and see if it bears fruit.” And I get a wry smile at the metaphorical notion that our lives become more fruitful when we get some shit thrown on us. Maybe we get humbler, as the ‘shit’ that comes our way breaks down our pride. Maybe we finally begin to address some weakness or character flaw when the ‘shit’ that gets thrown at us makes it apparent. Mother Theresa said that ‘there is no spiritual growth without suffering’, and whether she had this parable in mind or not, this is essentially how I tend to understand her. Throwing some shit on my garden makes it more fruitful; is it possible that the ‘shit’ that gets thrown at me in my everyday life has an analogous effect on my spiritual life? But that bit about, "If it doesn't bear any fruit by next year, then go ahead and cut it down," causes me the tiniest bit of concern. . . ------------------------- (And hey: it got to nearly 50F on Saturday, so Jen and I got our bikes out and rode 19 miles - the earliest start to our riding season in many a year. . .)
Monday, March 1, 2010
"HOW MANY IS TOO MANY?" blared the headline. "The Duggars Under Fire" was the sub-heading. Now, Jen and I have had occasion to make a degree of common cause with the Duggars from time to time, so, in spite of my better judgement, I read on. It seems that our good friends Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have recently welcomed their 19th child into this world, four months prematurely, and the health 'issues' of little Josie were the occasion for such soul-searching on the part of the tabloid writers. (Have you noticed how much easier it is to search other people's souls than your own?) (Also, Michelle was 43 years old at the time of Josie's birth; which, just for the sake of saying so, is two-and-a-half years younger than Jen was when 8M was born).
Now, my first reaction whenever I see something in the media pertaining to the Duggars is always, "Well, God Bless 'Em!" It takes an admirable measure of courage and self-sacrifice to raise such a large family in today's world. And my second reaction is usually, especially when the commentator in question adopts a tone of "Those people have got to be stopped!" (which is a distressingly large proportion of them), "What do YOU care how many kids some couple in Arkansas has?" I mean, here we have people, in print, in a nationally-distributed journal, sanctimoniously debating the Morality of Family Size, and at least theoretically prepared to consider invoking some manner of coercive authority, because a couple in Arkansas has Too Many Kids.
And I am thoroughly at a loss to account for the visceral vehemence of that reaction. I mean, really - why do the Duggars seem to bother so many people so much? By all accounts, their kids are well provided for, properly educated, well-behaved, and no burden to the society-at-large, so why all the angst? 'Better Them Than Me', I could understand, and even, to a degree, sympathize with. I mean, if someone feels like nineteen kids is more than they could handle, I can definitely understand that (heck, depending on the day, two kids can be more than I think I can handle); and nobody is forcing anyone, or even proposing to them, to have one child more than what they want to have (and just as an aside, many of the same folks who are so eager to tell the Duggars that they've got 'Too Many Kids' would pitch a monumental bitch if anyone so much as arched an eyebrow at someone else's choice to remain childless; "It's Nobody's Business But Mine!" Unless you're the Duggars, and choose to have 19). It's just out-of-proportion. Exactly what skin is it, off the nose of anyone not named Duggar, if they have as many kids as they want - or, more to the point, as many kids as they believe God is inviting them to have?
Is it because of the southern-accented evangelical Christianity espoused by the Duggars? I know that, in the part of the country where I live, southern accents can evoke a stereotype of 'ignorant and uneducated' with some folks (even so admirable a young man as Tim Tebow, the Heisman-Trophy-winning quarterback from the University of Florida, can evoke a similar visceral reaction, so maybe that does account for some of it). But Jim Bob Duggar (and yeah, that name 'Jim Bob' also evokes stereotypical images of 'hayseed' among many northerners) is hardly uneducated; heck, he's served in the same state legislature over which Bill Clinton, much beloved of the northern elites, once presided as governor. . .
We have eight children, so we've gotten a few comments on the order of 'How could you?', in the course of our parental lives, but nothing like what the Duggars seem to inspire. We are good friends of two families who each have eleven children, and one with thirteen (I will admit that Jen and I do appreciate any opportunities we have, rare as they are, to use the words, 'Only Eight'). Heck, Jen is one of ten kids herself, and I'm one of seven; which has mostly served to greatly increase the esteem in which we hold our parents. Another couple we know has seven children; the mother is one of 14 children, and the father is one of 16 (so maybe they've practiced an admirable restraint, eh?); their kids have 50-some aunts and uncles, including spouses. One can only imagine what their family reunions must be like. . .
But really - why do the Duggars, by their very existence, seem to provoke such extreme agitation in so many people? I understand that they have, to at least some degree, embraced the public spotlight, and a measure of 'celebrity', by agreeing to appear in various TLC and Discovery Health shows (which, I admit, I've never seen; like the Duggars, we don't have cable). And maybe they do mean to promote a certain vision of family life - the Quiverfull Movement, and all that. But again - who is being harmed by their message? A simple 'No Thanks; I'll Pass' ought to suffice (it did for us, when some of our friends embraced Mary Pride's message many years ago), but it seems not to. And why is that?
Just wondering. . .
(Sorry if this is more of a rant than it needs to be. I guess it just struck a nerve. . .)