Sunday, July 28, 2019

Cafeteria Catholic

It’s Sunday morning, and like many of us cradle Catholics, I am sitting at home reading the newspaper, drinking coffee, and working a sudoku instead of going to Mass.

The latest round of clergy accusations and cover-ups was a bridge too far for me.  The behavior of the leadership of the Catholic church for so many decades is simply indefensible.

And all *thinking* Catholics that I know are conflicted about church teachings.  After 2000 years of changing doctrine and policies, who among us can even say what the current church doctrine is, anyway?  Do we still believe in limbo?  Can you still buy your way out of purgatory?  Can nursing mothers eat meat on Fridays?

In my youth, I remember a priest haranguing us during the homily about not being a “cafeteria Catholic”.  He said (and of course it was a he) that you couldn’t “pick and choose” which parts of Catholicism to embrace.

Um, I don’t know any Catholic who is not a cafeteria Catholic. 

Here’s what I’ll take in the buffet of Catholicism:

I’ll have the teachings of Jesus, the model of the holy family, the respect for human life, social justice, and care for the poor.

I’ll pass on the patriarchy, the secrecy and cover-ups, the ban on birth control (I mean, really????), the attitudes toward homosexuality, and the subjugation of women.

I will always treasure the rich and varied multicultural arcana of the Catholic church, though.  As missionaries went around the world converting local populations, they incorporated many local traditions into the faith. 

As a pack rat myself, I love the junk-drawer aesthetic of Catholic churches around the world.  There are all sorts of visions of the Virgin Mary commemorated in statues (some with beautiful clothes and real hair), gruesome images of martyrs, folk art thanking the Virgin for miracles, tons of statues of saints, and stained glass depicting parables.

I love the many forms of the Virgin Mary, the mysteries of the Rosary, novenas for special intentions, church music, holy days, the monstrance and tabernacle, vestments, church ladies, and community celebrations with cheap wine.

In conclusion, I have no conclusion. I guess for now I’m a cultural Catholic.  Will I go back to Mass?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I’ll always have the holy family in my heart, and I will strive to be more like Jesus.  He was a very cool guy.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Two Shiksas and a Dodge Ram Truck

Ellen and I just returned from Austin after cleaning out her student rental on West Campus.  For the past two years, Ellen has lived in the detached mother-in-law cottage behind a big house built in 1916 that was probably once very nice. 

The cottage backs onto a creek, and over the past century it has developed its own ecosystem.  There is a colony of flying spiders living in the cracked tiles behind the toilet that I believe has evolved independently and is now an entirely new species.  I discovered them when I mopped behind the toilet, an activity which had likely not been performed for decades.  They were not happy, and neither was I.

Over the years Ellen has complained about the strange noises she heard at night. I was alone in the cottage late one night and I finally understood what she meant.  I would swear there were possums having sex in the walls.

Ellen told me the cottage generated dirt, and initially I did not believe her.  But she was correct.  I would Hoover a room, turn around, and there would already be a new coat of dirt on the floor.

Over the past two years, five people have lived in the cottage.  Ellen had two sub-letters when she was studying abroad, and her housemate also had a sub-letter.  Ellen was the last one to move out.  You never want to be the last one out.

I spent a rainy afternoon locating the e-waste center in South Austin and disposing of all the broken appliances that had been left behind.  We disposed of about fifty bottles of partly used cosmetic products.  Ellen invited some friends over and we gave away many unopened food items that had been bought by aspirational college students who never quite got around to the healthy meals they intended to cook and probably just had tacos at Torchy’s instead.

There were three large furniture items that we had to move along.  Ellen had the Salvation Army truck come, but they told her the economically challenged wouldn’t want them, so we sold them to college students, who aren’t nearly so picky.

But we did have to agree to deliver the furniture: a queen-sized bed, an
overstuffed armchair, and a hefty sectional sofa. I had to trade in my rental car for a super-cab Dodge Ram pickup truck.  Those of you familiar with my entire lack of spatial relations will appreciate the terrifying prospect of me driving a truck through the tiny streets of West Campus.

Ellen and I somehow hoisted the furniture into the truck and took three 25 mph trips around Austin to deliver it.  There was a moment when the mattress and box spring were hanging off the truck bed, Ellen was in the passenger seat surrounded by sharp metal beams, and we had to cross a railroad track where I thought about everything that might go wrong.  But we persevered and ended up with only very sore backs and mosquito bites.

As we were closing up the cottage, I found a mezuzah on the windowsill and threw it in my purse.  We were running late (of course), and on our way to the airport we still had to drop off some Goodwill donations.  I was afraid that our donations would be rejected, so we paused the truck at the donation station, tossed the bags out, and sped off in our truck.

We made it to the check-in counter ten minutes before the cut-off for baggage, super-sweaty and hauling six duffel bags.  God bless the Alaska Airlines employee who calmed us down and checked the bags. 

Then only the TSA check remained before we could finally get a turkey sub and relax.  A TSA screener pulled aside my purse and asked if I had anything metal in it.  I thought hard and remembered the mezuzah.  I wanted to keep it, so I channeled everything I had learned from Fiddler on the Roof and explained what it was, how it was used, and how special it was to me and my family.  And she let me keep it!

Now Ellen and I are back in humidity-free California, looking forward to finally watching the Bachelorette Fantasy Suites episode.  Phew!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

I Saw Something Nasty in the Woodshed

On Monday, after Larry went to work, I embarked on some yard work.  I prefer to trim the hedges when Larry is not home, since, as you married women will doubtless understand, I prefer not to receive his input on HOW to trim the hedges. 

Upon opening the potting shed I got a nasty surprise. (Okay, it’s not actually a woodshed, but you astute readers will perhaps recognize the blog title as a quotation from the excellent Stella Gibbons novel, Cold Comfort Farm.  If you’ve not read it, may I suggest it as an excellent summer read.)

There was a box of old picture frames in the back corner of the shed in which a rat had made a nest.  I am pretty good at compartmentalizing, so I mentally shelved that problem, trimmed my hedges, and locked the shed back up.

On Tuesday I had every intention of cleaning out the nest, but I had to run an errand in Los Gatos, and once I was there, I decided to make a day of it.  I managed to do four of my favorite things:

1.   Eat eggs in a diner while reading the newspaper
2.   Take a walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood
3.   Find an excellent public toilet
4.   Buy used books

Activities three and four both took place at the Los Gatos Public Library.  I love libraries.

On Wednesday I was determined to clear the nest.  I had some liquid courage in the form of alcoholic kombucha, which I decided contained both black tea for strength of purpose, and alcohol to blunt the edges of disgust.

I threw away the things the rat had chewed up and reorganized everything else.  Mostly the rat chewed the wooden picture frames, a cardboard box, and a paper bag; but also, confusingly, a plastic badminton set.  However, I couldn’t bring myself to move the box with the nest in it, not even with gloves on.  I decided to use my feminine wiles to get Larry to move the box.

I know the way to his heart – we watched the all three two-hour episodes of the PBS American Experience documentary “Chasing the Moon”.  (As a result, I didn’t see the Bachelorette Hometown Visits, but I’m all about the Fantasy Suites anyway.)

It worked!  Buoyed up after watching the courage of the NASA astronauts, on Thursday morning Larry disposed of the rat nest.  He even swept out the shed!

Hasta la vista, raton.