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Posts Tagged ‘So tell me’

All this talk about young married couples has sent me on a trip down memory lane, back to the old days when my husband was naught but a boyish husband-to-be, and I was a blushing maiden of 22.  And by “maiden,” I mean I was 22.  Ah, yoot!

We did go to marriage preparation classes.  They were held by another couple in their comfortable home.  It was a little too comfortable, as I recall:  they installed me next to the fire in a rocking chair, and I damn near fell asleep every night as they droned on and on and on.  Maybe I missed the good parts while I was dreaming, but I don’t think so.  My husband reports pretty much the same thing as I remember.

There are, we learned, two components to a stable, successful, loving, happy, and holy marriage.  Are you ready?  Here they are:

1.  Keep the lines of communication open.

2.  Invest in gold.

Well, there you have it.  Boy, were we prepared for marriage then, let me tell you!

So, that was, let’s see, 1997.  To be honest, I’m a little amazed at how many people mentioned that NFP even came up in their marriage prep — last I heard, most Catholics aren’t even aware there is such a thing.  I would be very interested to hear what your marriage preparation was (or is) like, and what year it was  – and also what your parents’ or older siblings’ was like, if you know.  Did you hear anything useful?  Anything nutty?  Does it seem like things getting better, overall?  Or worse?  Or what?

And why don’t we have more gold around here?  I guess it’s a good thing they didn’t say anything about NFP — I clearly wasn’t paying attention anyway.

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I was standing there, rummaging through the turkeys.  For some reason, I was convinced that it was really important to find a 21-pound turkey instead of the 2o-pound one I already had.  As I rummaged, a guy on the other side of the freezer started chatting.

We talked about this and that — how many guests we were having, what kind of stuffing we like, and so on. We discussed various methods for thawing a frozen turkey. I said, “Ha ha, I just bring mine to bed with me!” and then thought, Hm, that was kind of a weird thing to say.  Oh, well. Then we talked about different styles of cranberry sauce, how far our guests would travel, and about a pig roast the guy had one time in Wisconsin.

Finally we found our turkeys, and I said, “Well, have a nice Thanksgiving!”  He answered, “You too!  Hope you get that turkey defrosted in time!”  And I answered, “Oh, I’ll just bring mine to bed with me.”

And then I left, even though I still had more shopping to do.  Because I knew that if I ran into him again, I’d once again tell him that I was going to bring my turkey to bed with me.

Which I’m not.  Why do I say these things?  What is it about supermarkets that makes people reveal too much about themselves?

Here’s a sad little window I looked into one night in the frozen foods aisle of the Walmart Supercenter.  A middle-aged man stuffed into a snowsuit, like an enormous toddler, was muttering in a sulky monotone, “I wish they had the Stouffer’s.  They used to have the Stouffers.  Right there, that’s where they had the Stouffer’s.  This isn’t Stouffer’s.  The Stouffer’s is really better, so why don’t they have the Stouffer’s?  I wish they had the Stouffer’s.”

And the woman wasn’t saying anything, in her eyes was written: “K.I.L.L.”

Another time, in another aisle of the same godforsaken Walmart, I saw another couple.  The young man, bored to the point of semi-bonelessness, draped himself over the cart while his monolithic girlfriend surveyed the shelves of cereal.

“Well, do you like Cheerios?”  she asked.

“Myehh,” he said.

“Well, how about Wheaties?  Do you like Wheaties?” she asked.

“Mmmrr,” he replied.

“Well,” she went on,  “Well how about, do you like, like, Honey Bunches of Oats and Shit?”

I swear, that’s what she said.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?  I see a happy future for that couple.  As long as someone else makes breakfast.

How about you?  Any supermarket stories to tell?

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It’s November, it’s dark, I have to scrape the effing windshield to drive to the dump, and life is only just barely worth living until March.  So let’s talk about books.

I’m just coming off of a long, ugly stint with Taylor Caldwell’s ridiculous novel Answer As a Man.  Oh, that woman is embarrassing.  What a waste of plot!  I think she took a writing class called “Show, don’t tell,” but someone told her it was Opposite Day.  I’d show you a passage of what she tries to pass off as character development, but not only did I already throw the book away, I dumped coffee grounds on top so no one would fish it out of the garbage.

Caldwell seems to have heavily consulted The Comprehensive Thesaurus of Tedious Irish Stereotypes.  For openers, she turned to the  entry for “bitter old man who loves and hates with equal ferocity,” and proceeded to copy out all the adjectives she thought the reader would understand.  And that, thought Caldwell, made chapter one.   I read the whole thing because — I don’t know, I guess it’s like getting on the merry-go-round.  It’s not as if you’re going to end up somewhere unexpected, but you already paid for your ticket, so you might as well sit there until the ride is over.

Then I picked up Watership Down, and promptly fell asleep.  I don’t know if it was that boring, or I was just too tired, but it fell behind the bed and I can’t reach it now, so that’s that.

Then I picked up Clockers by Richard Price. Okay, now we have a novel.    The narrator understands his characters, and they are real people, who might do anything.  They might be angry at themselves, or feel ashamed, or feel unwarranted pride, or not understand why they do what they do — but it all feels like real life, down to the last detail.

Here’s an early example:  Strike, a 19-year-old low level drug dealer, drinks vanilla Yoo-Hoo throughout the book.  He has a stomach ulcer, and the vanilla cools the pain a little.  This kind of detail tells you so much about the guy:  that he’s a child, that he suffers like a man, that he tries to heal himself, that real medicine (for the body and for the soul) is just not available to him. At one point, he finds himself in a bar, and not knowing what else to order, he asks for vanilla Yoo-Hoo.  The bartender offers him a glass of non-dairy creamer.  This is how the world treats Strike and his ulcer.

This book just bleeds sympathy.  For everyone, even the evildoers.  That’s what a great novel does:  it understands.  That’s what separates Dostoevsky from Tolstoy:  Tolstoy understood, all right, but as I get older, I see his contempt for his characters more and more, and it kind of takes the edge off.  Dostoevsky, though, the reader feels, is on his knees the whole time he is writing.

Richard Price (okay, I’m not saying he’s Dostoevsky or even Tolstoy.  He has really got something, though) doesn’t gush or manipulate or wallow, but the prose cleanly and steadily offers up real people for us to see.   This author is so confident of his skill, he doesn’t need to tell us everything we need to know up front — because when does that happen in real life?  We learn what the characters are capable of little by little, at the same pace as they learn about themselves.  I’m sorry I’m just too darn lazy to pick out passages to quote, but take my word for it, this guy knows what he is doing.

Lots of profanities, obscenities, and violence in this book.  But I don’t think it’s disgusting, and so far, it’s not depressing.   The tone isn’t marinating in that inexplicable, sadistic animus against the reader, like so many modern novels (The Corrections, Geek Love – -why do I read these things??).  I’m about halfway through, and have high hopes (if you’ve read it, please don’t give anything away!).  I have a hard time putting this book down.  Great plot, incredible dialogue, twists and turns, and the author never takes the easy way out — but it’s all so natural.  Really amazing skill.

So what are you reading?  Do you plan to finish it?  Is it a book to be tossed aside lightly?  Or should it be thrown with great force?

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So tell me: Carpoo

My talented brother Joe is launching his new business:  Blue Times Blue Web Design, Web Development, and Logo Creation.  Check it out!  Nice work, fair prices, and such a nice young man.

In the meantime, he started driving a taxi to bring in some cash.  He sent us this list of memorable quotes from his first day driving:

(1) At the intersection of 27th Avenue and Indian School:

“Ooh. Ooh. Come on, light. Come on, light, turn. I do not want this baby to be born at 27th and Indian School.”

(2) Woman who has just picked up her daughter from school, and is on the phone with said daughter’s father:
“So you know what I want you to do for me? I want you to kiss my mutha f—- ass. Can you do that for me, n—-?” (to me:) “Yeah, here’s good. Thank you so much!”
(3) Lady with a walker:
“And he said, ‘Do you like gypsies?’ and I said, ‘No, I do not like gypsies. I hate gypsies.’”

(4) Guy from in front of the barbecue place:

“So when they came in to bust up her identity theft stuff, they found my little pot farm too.”
And my favorite:
(5) Guy on his way to court:
“So I took the golf club and, you know, just kind of a reflex, I bashed in the side of his van.”

When I was telemarketing (shut up, it was a tough economy.  Don’t you judge me!)  I had a list of names that cracked me up so bad, I totally blew my chance to convince them take advantage of the opportunity to have their carpets deep-cleaned for a low, introductory price.  One guy was named “Orestes Anastasia.”  It that doesn’t sound funny, just imagine that it’s really hot, you’re 17, and you’ve eaten nothing but black coffee and Mike and Ikes all day.  FUNNY!

One woman got very offended at my offer, and huffily informed me that the only proper way to clean one’s oriental rug was to wait until it snows, to lay ones carpet face down on said snow, and to pat it.  I have to admit, that sounded better than sending over one of our alert, uniformed attendants.

One guy just told me, “Um, sorry, this is actually an answering machine.”

And then there was the time (fairly close to my last day, as I recall) when I tried to say “carpet shampoo, ” and it came out “car poo.”

Didn’t make that sale.

So tell me:  what do you remember from past jobs? Did you carry around a slip of paper so you could write the weirdest parts down?  Tell tell tell!

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My parents are semi-retired.  They visit their grown children when they can, and try to combine these trips with very specialized iteneraries.  For instance, they made a tour of exhibitions of the work of their favorite artist, Charles Burchfield

image source

(The title of this particular piece is “Sun Emerging,” but, like most of Burchfield’s work, it ought to be called “Damn!” or “Wowza!” or “Help!”)

And a few years ago, they visited Lost Cove, Tennessee, of Walker Percy fame.  We also got a postcard from a full-scale reproduction of Moses’ tabernacle, which the Mennonites built in Lancaster, PA, for some reason.

My parents take pictures at various glitzy tourist traps:

and their photo albums on Facebook have titles like:   “Fungus”;  “Lichen”;  “More lichen.  We like lichen.”  My mother’s description of one outing with my father was as follows:

What he didn’t mention was that I was scared for him because his sense of balance was off since the spinal cord tumor, car accidents, and several surgeries, and I didn’t think the narrow edges of cliffs and stone bridges with no handrails were a good place for him to be. I even had to bargain with him to get him to agree to use one of the tree branches I found for a walking stick. At age 66! You can’t tell a man anything. I kept thinking, between Hail Marys, “I’ll have to arrange to have his body shipped back home, and then drive back from Tennessee all by myself–and the car key was locked in the trunk!

Ahh, west and wewaxation at wast.  I don’t know if this is how they pictured their retirement (or even whether they expected to have one at all).

My husband and I are anticipating something more like this

photo source

for our own retirement.  There is also some talk of living in either a yurt or something made of adobe, but I forget why.  I think we also somehow plan to live in Greece or the outskirts of Rome, and one of us is going to have to learn how to play the guitar finally, or at least the harmonica.  It will sound good to us, despite our age and palsy, because we will be pretty drunk.

So tell me:  what are your retirement plans?  If you could do anything at all, I mean?  Or, if you are already retired, is it working out the way you hoped?

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So Tell Me

"Ha ha ha, lookit those poor suckers trying to count to three!"

(photo source)

Yesterday was the summer solstice:  the longest day of the year.  If you attended St. Peter Homeschool, you’d know that this is because the earth and the sun are aligned in such a way that the shadow of the moon falls directly on both poles simultaneously, which cools the oceans to the degree that the earth becomes slightly heavier, slowing its rotation and  prolonging the nighttime, which, in turn, prolongs the day, too, because of 24  hours in a day.  Plus solar flares. Have I mentioned we’re sending the kids to private school next year?

Actually it’s not technically a private school.  The headmaster kept stressing that their curriculum was based  on the manufacture of license plates.  I guess for  geography?  You know what?  That’s a valuable skill, and plus they say that uniforms have a calming effect on the student body.

Speaking of long days, I think I’m ready to talk about NFP again.  I hold the dubious distinction of having written one of the only Inside Catholic articles which turned so nasty so fast, they had to shut the comments down.  But hey hey, long days, know what I’m talkin’ about?  Ennnnd of the day?  As in, it turns out that 10:00 a.m. is not actually the end of the day.  (It was a girl; 8 lbs., 3 oz.)

So tell me. . .

(that’s the name of a new feature I’m starting for days when I told the kids we would go to the beach and I don’t have  time to actually write something) .  .  .

I know that many of my readers have pet names for things related to NFP.   For instance, we use Creighton,  which tracks fertility by tracking (stop reading now, men) cervical mucus.  So when my husband needs to know the forecast for tonight, he doesn’t want to cast a pall on the festivities by getting all technical.  Instead, he’ll simply and romantically ask, “How’s your goop?”  (What can I say?  He’s cute.  It sounds cute when he says it.)

He also, in a stroke of foolhardy brilliance, once called my progesterone cream  “nutter butter.”

One of my sisters used to write a column about NFP, and cleverly called it “Signs and Wonders.”  This quickly morphed into something even more  clever and more appropriate:  “Slimes and Blunders.”

So tell me  . . . what’s the NFP joke at your house?  I hope you have one.  Because, if I ever  (God forbid) taught NFP, the first thing I would teach is how to joke about it.

You don’t have to keep it squeaky clean, folks, but let me make a request:  if you think the use of NFP is sinful, then write about that on your own blog, okey doke?  NFP is not inherently sinful, and people’s reasons for postponing conception are complicated, individual, and above all private.   If I come home all cranky and covered with sand, and find that the comment box is  filled with self-righteous lectures about the sinfulness of NFP, I will have a little deleting party, possibly following by a banning-for-life party.   Same goes for comments mocking Catholics for using  NFP when everyone knows that the only sane thing to do is insert a scarring metal spring into your fallopian tube, or whatever disgusting procedure your OB/GYN is being paid to push this week.

Okay?  Okay, go!

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