What Happens When You Go Out to Eat on Sundays

Before we begin, let’s clear something up: Sometimes I go out to eat on Sundays.  Credible witnesses can attest to this fact.

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A friend recently shared St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Dies Domini (On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy).   It’s a long, rich exploration of the what’s and why’s of Sundays, so naturally I just skimmed it and made a note to come back later and read it more carefully.  But I link to it now because I’ve been meaning to write about the restaurant problem since last summer.  Here are some pertinent quotes:

65. By contrast, the link between the Lord’s Day and the day of rest in civil society has a meaning and importance which go beyond the distinctly Christian point of view. The alternation between work and rest, built into human nature, is willed by God himself, as appears in the creation story in the Book of Genesis (cf. 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11): rest is something “sacred”, because it is man’s way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God. . . .

66. Finally, it should not be forgotten that even in our own day work is very oppressive for many people, either because of miserable working conditions and long hours — especially in the poorer regions of the world — or because of the persistence in economically more developed societies of too many cases of injustice and exploitation of man by man. When, through the centuries, she has made laws concerning Sunday rest, (109) the Church has had in mind above all the work of servants and workers, certainly not because this work was any less worthy when compared to the spiritual requirements of Sunday observance, but rather because it needed greater regulation to lighten its burden and thus enable everyone to keep the Lord’s Day holy. In this matter, my predecessor Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum spoke of Sunday rest as a worker’s right which the State must guarantee. (110)

FYI, Rerum Novarum is no commie pinko manifesto.  Actually it’s an anti-communist manifesto.  [And some other things, too.] Go read it sometime, it’s really fun.  If you’re local, you can bait me into a conversation (bring the text, please) basically any time you want.

Anyway, the point for today is that Sunday rest, worship, and Christian fellowship are so important it just keeps coming up and coming up century, after century, after century.  It’s like the Church just. won’t. shut-up. about it.

So let me tell you about my kid.

Woohoo! Gainful Employment!

I have this boy who can cook really well.  Just last night I came home with a tray of chicken, pointed him to the grill, and he caused there to be dinner an hour later.  So last summer we sent him out to find a job, and yes we all considered it providential when he got hired by the local sandwich shop.  A few weeks of doing dishes and then on to cooking and he’s never left the kitchen.  He’s still working there and everyone’s happy.

When he interviewed, he said up front that he had to have Sunday mornings off.  Non-negotiable.  Since this place gets most of its traffic on weekdays, the boss was good with that.  But the restaurant is open Sundays, and so he does get assigned his share of Sunday afternoon-evening shifts.

As a result, he misses out on a lot of the Sunday-afternoon Christian fellowship activities that happen in our area.  He can’t do Sunday afternoon youth group events, and he ends up leaving early to get to work if a friend hosts, say, a relaxing family get-together.  We have some Christian friends with a pile of kids who are getting trained now to cut the birthday cake by 3pm so Mr. Boy can sing, eat, and run.  Everyone else can stick around for hours of heavenly conversation and camaraderie, exactly like St. John Paul II writes about, but the boy gets to go to work.

How Do You Use Your Servants?

The reason he gets to go work is because other people want to eat.

People need to eat.  Every single day, even multiple times a day.  There are situations in which people have good reasons to need to hire someone to prepare food for them on a Sunday, and many more situations in which people have good reasons to want someone to prepare that food.

There are other services we likewise avail ourselves of on a Sunday, for various good reasons.  I do this.  You’re not the only one.

When we do this, it causes the people we hire to work for us to lose a bit of their Sunday.

This is an Evangelization Problem

There are people like my boy who aren’t under a ton of pressure.  Sunday is not a high-traffic day for his restaurant.  He is only working part-time, and if he were fired for not being available when the boss wanted him, he’d still have his parents at home gainfully employed.  He’s not supporting himself, let alone a family, on this job.

Other people aren’t so lucky.  If they are Catholic, they end up scrambling just to find an hour to run into Mass sometime during the weekend.  If they aren’t Catholic and you tried to invite them to join you for Mass, or RCIA, or that fun thing you do on Sundays, they’d chuckle-cough and say, “Yeah. Sure.  I’ll let you know when I get an opening.”

It is extremely difficult to evangelize someone who literally cannot go to church.

You Only Control a Slice of the Problem

There are parts of this problem that you can’t control.  Some services (medical, police) are non-negotiables.  Unless you’re in charge of the hospital or what have you, you don’t decide what the shifts will look like; unless you’re in charge of the parish, you don’t decide whether Mass times will line up with the local police and hospital and pharmacy shifts.

If that’s not your responsibility, it just isn’t.

Likewise, you probably don’t set restaurant hours.  You’re not the one who decided to keep the amusement park open until midnight and then re-open at 8AM.  To a certain extent, you can’t control whether the worker-bees get an opening for Mass or not.

But you do control a small slice.

When you make the decision to go out to lunch after Mass, you are making the decision that two or three people will report to work a couple hours before you arrive, and they’ll stay on a couple hours after you leave.  What does that do to their day?

File:Paris - A waitress making a Phone call - 4588.jpg

Photo: © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Six Things I Needed to Hear – In the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

So this is what it’s like to be a devotional-writer:

I got home from Portland in the middle of the night East Coast time, wide awake because {Coffee + Jet Lag}.  But look! Things came in the mail for me!  No need to be bored.

Box #1 was a stack of these: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. It’s a collection of reusable devotionals for every day of the year, contributed by such a massive collection of Catholic writers that I think they were hard-pressed to find non-co-authors left for the endorsements.  (But they did find a few.)

So I got a beer and flipped through to find my entries, just to see what they looked like and all that.  One gets self-absorbed late at night.  There’s not an index-by-author, so I had to do a combination of trying to remember what days I wrote on and just flipping through.  Three lessons I learned:

1. Goodness gracious I can’t believe who else is in there!  A lot of the co-authors are people I know from the Catholic writing community, some of them famous, some of them up-and-coming.  At the risk of sounding cliche, when you’ve actually met and worked with so many interesting and talented and devoted Catholics? It’s a tremendous honor to be sharing a book with them.

(My favorite part of being involved with the Catholic Writers Guild?  Finding out who the new talent is before the rest of the world gets in on the secret.)

2. Editors are your friend.  When I wrote this post at Patheos, I was in the middle of overhauling a couple of my submissions for this book.  So let’s cut to the chase: We are all very, very glad that my first attempts at the feasts of St. Mary Magdalene and of the Immaculate Conception did not make it into the book.  The revised versions are far better.

3.  I have a predictable soul.  I think I found all my entries (Six? Did I count right?), and there was a consistent theme: The same things I was writing about a year ago are the things I needed to hear just this week.

–> Shout out to my brother-in-law: Why yes, I did get to be the person who wrote on the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  I was stoked. But reader, if you want to know what I’ve been particularly thinking about the past two days, take a look at what I had to say on the feast of St. Rita.

Contents of Box #2 to be revealed in the next post.

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Cover art courtesy of CatholicMom.com and Ave Maria Press.

Pinterest Parenting: Behind the Scenes of Raising a DIY Pro

I want to show you my daughter’s handiwork and explain how it got this way, because it’s a story about what parenting really is.  When you are comparing your crazy life to some glossy home magazine spread, but it’s a real home inhabited by real people, I want you to understand that it didn’t come from nowhere.

So this is my backyard:

 

Isn’t it gorgeous!  That’s the little grilling area off the kitchen.  My daughter (age 14) completely overhauled this space a few weeks ago, with the help of her sisters.  It was her response to the three of them being kicked outside until they’d cleaned the place up, on account of their not being able to be quiet inside for even one hour while I took a nap.

No really, that’s the story.

Here’s a before picture. Just kidding, but yes, the place was pretty much trashed.

To the left, behind the grape vines growing up around the mailbox, is the famous green castle.  When it was first built the castle looked like this:

That’s the top two stories, and in the photo above you’re looking at a portion of the bottom floor.  It’s a bit worn down now, and we’ve replaced boards and added shade over the years.  We built it because we only had this teeny-tiny strip of private, fenced backyard area when our kids were little, so we had to build up-not-out for the play structure.

Part of parenting is using the talents you have (my husband did the carpentry) and the resources you have to give your kids some space to grow. This is what we had to give.

Even after this month’s clean-up, there’s still some trashy-looking stuff behind those red doors, but at least it’s down to all purposeful trash.  An example is an upside-down plastic flower pot that serves as a table during “City,” the kids’ economics game that is the successor to the even trashier (literally) “Medieval Game.”  They make up all kinds of sociological experiments when I kick them outside.

More history . . . See this cute wooden bridge leading to the seating area?

We went to Las Vegas to visit my parents some years ago, and in the early morning while it was still cool out, we’d walk around the neighborhood.  The front yard landscaping in suburban Las Vegas is incredible – just gorgeous.  The kids took photos of yard ideas, because they wanted a pretty yard.  One thing they all liked was a wooden bridge over a rock riverbed formation.  Superhusband built them this bridge for the play yard, and it connects to a second patio where we have a laundry sink.  That area is not very pretty, though it’s now 90% less trashy than it was a month ago.

Lesson in parenting: We’ve had all these moments where the kids recognize and appreciate beauty, and we build on that . . . and our yard is still mostly trashed.  They’re still kids.  Their aspirations exceed their self-discipline.  We’re still tired parents who don’t make them clean up enough.   But slowly the beauty-to-trash ratio improves, year by year.

Here’s some lemon balm my daughter totally stole out of my part of the yard, and put into a terra cotta pot she also stole.  I’m good with that, she didn’t mess anything up.

I love to garden, but I basically stink at it.  My kids have variable amounts of love of gardening, but it’s not like we’re this amazing family out singing hymns while we hoe all afternoon in the pumpkin patch or something.  We buy plants or seeds, stick them in the ground, and most of what we plant dies of drought or flood or some horrible fungus you don’t want me to describe.  But a few things survive, and we learn more about what will grow in our actual yard (the garden books are wrong and the internet is wronger), and slowly it fills with things that aren’t entirely dead or pestilent.

Every living plant you see in these photos was a gamble.  Life is a gamble.  You just keep trying things.

Aren’t these hanging cacti adorable?  They are a little freaky if you look closely, because they are leftovers from a life science lab on grafting plants.  She has to have franken-cacti because non-school plants are expensive.  She took kimchi jars (I know! We buy it! We don’t make our own!) and sawed off the tops, then made the hanging knotwork out of string that came from who-knows-where.

If you want a kid who does DIY’s, you have to let that kid just raid the supplies and try stuff.  This is how my home gets trashed. Yes, my home is mostly-trashed in the pursuit of either beauty or laziness, one or the other.

 

We fought bitterly over where she was allowed to hang her hanging candles.  All supplies totally stolen from other parts of the house or yard.  Hobby Lobby made zero money on this one.

 

Look at this pretty sitting area!  I got those curtains cheap when the girls were little, and they get used when you want to hang pretty curtains someplace — like if you’re having a princess-themed birthday party or something.  They are hanging over the clothes rods and clothes lines that were our attempt to make a place to store all our whitewater gear, but it didn’t work out and was a fetid mess.  Blech.

I still don’t know what to do with the whitewater gear.  It’s piled in my laundry room waiting for a new home.

All furnishings and accessories in this photo were raided from another part of the house or yard.  In some cases there was a weak attempt at either covering up the gaping hole or putting an almost-as-good item in place (like: a bathmat set down by the front door where that rug used to be).

Also, I got yelled at because that rustic wooden box had yucky insects in it.  It was super disgusting, I agree with her there — but she totally wanted me to drop everything and decontaminate just so she could have her coffee table.  Darling, part of growing up is learning to battle insects all on your own, thanks.

Final thing: The monogrammed pillow.  That was made by the 14-year-old express for this project.

Let me explain to you about this.

My kids have had virtually unfettered access to sewing supplies, including a varying number of rescued sewing machines, over the years.  Prior to the massive clean-out, this porch was heaped with a crazy-mountain of every kind of craft thing.  I don’t even have any sewing things, at all, any more, because my children have stolen them so diligently that now it’s easier to just make them do the sewing, done.  (I was never any good at it anyway).

If you want kids who craft — who really get good at developing their own style (I never, ever, monogram anything, no child picked up that habit from me), and thinking up a project and giving it a try, and eventually get to where they’re producing good adult-quality work — you have to let them make a mess.

Maybe you’re good at having them clean up after, maybe you’re not.  (I’m not.)  But you have to give them space, and let them experiment, and not be horrible about insisting every project be perfect all the time.  As I write this, my nine-year-old is baking cupcakes.  I just stay out of the room, and she can come ask me questions, and I’ll help her with putting things in and out of the oven when the time comes.  If they don’t turn out — whatever.  It was only cupcakes.

I let my kids play with paint, and now when I needed a patio table re-painted, I could trust a child to paint it as well as anybody.  I let my kids play with food, and now my son cooks dinner as his primary household chore.  My kids aren’t perfect.  Everything they do doesn’t turn out golden every time.  When my daughter took these photos, she carefully framed them to not show the less-pretty parts of our life.

That’s real life: Part beauty, part mess.  Sometimes you really need to pay attention to the mess, and sometimes you need to sit back and enjoy the beautiful.

Photos by E. Fitz, used with permission, copyright 2016 all rights reserved.

About the Ugly Duckling Phase

You  may have noticed that I caused the blog to become terribly ugly, and then I left it that way.  Here’s what’s going on:

  • In anticipation of the new project TBA, I need to get this blog into a layout that will support some of the necessary new features.
  • Therefore, I’ve been toying around with themes-n-things, in order to find a combination of beauty and utility that satisfies both my aesthetic goals and my desire to not have to learn very much.
  • And then I wasn’t feeling well.*  So my blog got stuck with a terrible experimental haircut.

I do apologize.  It’s like one of those dreams where you can’t quite seem to get to class all the way dressed.  But I won’t be naked at the grand opening, I promise.

***

*By this we mean that a certain blogger was several weeks into exertion-induced arrhythmias and exhaustion that would not seem to listen any explanations about how no, really, we could just stop with that now, thanks.  The thing that finally worked was all the usual adjustments, plus getting the heck off social media, which it turns out is more active a form of rest than other more laying-around modes of rest.  If you see me on Facebook and my blog is still ugly, remind me to get off FB and go work on the blog if I’m such a little bundle of energy.

How’s it Going Jen?

Quick update.  Since last I wrote:

  • I promptly became massively more tired and mentally useless.
  • Vowed not to discuss steady-states, because apparently there are no steady-states.
  • And now I seem to be turning that corner.  Stamina’s up a bit, can get more normal-life done, brain is clicking back into gear, though it does not care for distractions.

The corner turned just in time for me to get the taxes done, which is actually a happy thing.  But seriously, man to whom I am married: Do not walk into the room and try to touch the computer, even just to turn on music, while I am doing the taxes.  I’m not ready yet.

Things I learned:

  • If you are sleeping ten hours a day, you can not get as much done as if you are sleeping eight hours a day. Unless you count sleeping as “getting something done.”
  • I don’t think I learned anything else.

I’ve been mostly off-line over the past couple months, because:

  • When I’m tired, it’s way easier to get sucked into the time-waste that is excessive clicking on cute pet photos.  Even though I love the pet photos.  Please keep posting photos of your pet, I approve.
  • The thinking thing . . . hard to do real work online without long periods of uninterrupted time.  Did I mention I’m home all day with four children?  Who are, as the category-name suggests, prone to childishness?

In other cool news: The boy is confirmed.  Woohoo!

We had to do that letter thing for the confirmation retreat, where the parents and other people write letters to the kid, and then mid-retreat there’s a carefully timed moment to go off to a quiet place and read the letters.  I wrote to the boy about how he is a genius of a comedian and I always feel like I’m living in some kind of cosmically-ordained lair of an arch-villain, in which I get to keep the one of the most brilliant comic minds of the century on hand as my jester.

I didn’t use the phrase “lair of an arch-villain” in the letter.

***

In other news, review edition: I have the best friends.   If you ever need people to pray for you, you should have my friends.

That is all.

So How’s it Going, Jen? Thermostat Edition

True story: This update is prompted by a combination of ennui and reading about people’s winter thermostat settings.

So everything is holding steady, which is good.  Miracle drug still doing its miracle thing.  I got hold of a fitness tracker this winter and have started watching the daily exertion count, which makes it much easier to manage my activity level, but also maybe a little more depressing (she said buoyantly).  Basically the pace of six days on, one day off works pretty well, as long as the six days are “average”.   I’m getting trained to take a second rest day preemptively if I know I can’t afford to bonk later in the week.

What doesn’t work: Continuing with a few extra average days, because you feel fine and anyway there are important things happening . . . talk about high-interest loans.  Try to skip one rest day, and find your brain slowly draining away during the last couple “just one more normal day” days, and then your body is utterly laid out, as if you had the flu only you did not have the flu, for five days.  Try to gain one day, lose five, and also alienate a few folks by your lousy social skills during the pre-collapse decline. Yeah, that was a neat experiment.

So that trained me to be aggressive about managing rest, and overall it was a beneficial experience because without the certainty that rest is a non-negotiable, it would be much harder to set the boundaries.  Also, I discovered all these interesting BBC miniseries, so it worked out.  Essentially I can tell how sick I am by how interested I am in television.  Healthy = Zero Interest.  Medium = I’d rather be writing.  Desperate = Is There a Law that Brendan Coyle has to be in Every British Period Drama Ever Made Since 1991?

The surreal part of all this is that I find myself thinking, about myself, Well, um you don’t look sick to me.  That’s a good thing (yay modern medicine) because pallor and gasping and feeling perpetually buzzed is overrated. The new normal is operating like a completely normal person, and without any particular difficulty, other than that normal happens to be at the limit of my physical capacity. But that at-the-limit situation doesn’t how I’d think: It’s no problem at all at any given moment to quick sprint across the yard, or take a long walk, or haul boxes of stuff in and out of the truck, and so everything seems completely not-sick. The hitch is in the number of days I can pull it off for, before I find myself suddenly struck by the Useless Fairy because I used up my minutes.

The other confusing thing is that if I’m on an even keel, things that other people find difficult, like spitting out massive quantities of punditry, are easy.  Effortless.  Which makes it seem like I’m a person of leisure and boundless productivity, when what I’m actually doing is preventing myself from going absolutely mad while I ration the physical exertion like an exercise miser.

I think that’s what it is: Being actively sick was like being exertion-destitute.  Now I’m upgraded to the exertion counterpart to living on a very frugal budget: It isn’t that you can’t live on it, and have nice things and go places and all that; it’s that in order to make normal life happen without careening from crisis to crisis, you have to spend your limited resources very carefully.

***

Oh, so the thermostat story: We’re the kind of people who don’t turn up the heat in the winter.  Normal winter thermostat settting was low sixties during the day, down to 55 at night (if it got so cold indoors, which is only in the depth of winter), and with a little blip up to 65 in the morning during shower-time.  Also we’d push it up over 65 if guests came over, because people don’t always dress for winter during winter.  We have a small wood stove in the living room that lets us do the cozy-around-the-fire thing in the evening if we want to as well.

Seemed to us like a fairly moderate regime, far less rigorous than the norm throughout the bulk of human history, but perfectly manageable even living in one of these societies where you’re expected to engage in full-immersion bathing every single day of the year, no matter how cold it is outside, thank goodness for hot water heaters.  (I don’t mind a hot shower nor the benefits of obsessive hygiene, this works out for me, product of my time as I am.)

But what happened was that as soon as the house got cold, I completely turned into a slug.  The new-normal wasn’t sustainable.  I theorized after a little research that since I was already living at the limits of my endurance (which sounds more dramatic than it is, but still, is the case), the extra load of trying to keep the body warm was pushing me over the edge.  I set the thermostat to “hold temp” at 65 night and day, and sure enough the body reverted to its normal cycle of productivity.

So now when I see people talk about thermostat settings, I have a whole new layer of curmudgeonly thoughts that I don’t share.  To summarize: You don’t need to turn the heat up, unless you do.

Cat Photos & Other Reputable Pursuits

A kitten found us, which means we can finally use the internet properly.

I persist, of course, in my incorrigible habit of crowding perfectly good bandwidth with religion, public policy, and other punditry.  My hope is that by wielding the cat as a feline shield, the internet police will be stymied in their efforts to purify the web of non-cat bloggers.

Like the Internet Except in 3-D

1. My screen porch.  YouTube viewing has plummeted now that we have our hyperactive dancing cat.

2. Midlands Homeschool Convention.  Of interest to southeasterners.  Huge regional event, piles of top notch speakers, and also me.  Catholic writers guild will have a table, and there’ll be a rocking “Look at the Book” display of Catholic textbooks & materials from all the major players, hosted by Catholic homeschoolers in SC.  Also free stuff and some drawings for prizes. The teepee in the corner, dear parents, is for your children.  You sit on the chairs.  July 24-26.

3. Catholic Writers Conference. Following week up in Chicago, smart people will be turning out at the writers’ wonderland that is the combination Catholic Writers Conference & Catholic Marketing Network’s trade show.  This is the place where all the publishers and vendors of Catholic trinkets (games, art, music, etc) turn out so the Catholic book & gift shops can stock up for the season.  Most interesting bit is seeing what famous internet Catholics look like when rendered in 3-D.

(I will be rendered in 2D for that one.  Visit the Liguori booth if you go, and you can see my book.  The me-traveling-to-Chicago part is not quite back on the program.)

Since last I wrote, Patheos has been fixing things, which means you have to go here to get the July archives.

June still copies and pastes nicely:

 

Enjoy!

Return of the Organizational Skills

My ability to make lists and keep a calendar is back in full force.  Wow.  I knew my brain had been working on partial-capacity for a long while, but it’s dramatic to experience the return.

Saw Dr. M early in the week.  He says come back in a year unless something crazy happens.  No reason at this time to think there is something other than mystery-model IST, but of course if bizarre scary nasty symptoms emerge, then we’ll realize we were mistakenly optimistic.  So far so good, and since I live in the present, “how things are now” is stretched out indefinitely in my imagination.  I like that.

Trying to keep the schedule pared down during self-rehab, and also in light of the boy starting high school this fall and me teaching two new-to-me courses.  (The one, French 1, I’ve taught before but not this particular course.)  Have some work to do to get all the materials together for that.  Re: High School, I came to my senses and enrolled the boy in Kolbe’s Online courses, which means I can stay on top of the homework-doing, but not actually be required to master the Greek classics myself in quite the same way it would take otherwise.

That’s all I can think of to report right now.  Everything’s good.  Busy, but not crazy busy, and my brain works again.  CAWOG’s pretty pleasant these days.  (It was never that bad, actually. Dramatic, but not bad.)

***

The catalog of blorging since last I updated here:

Three articles on the topic I hate to write about, but that keeps coming up:

Still Better.

The update ten days into the beta-blocker experiment is: Wow.  Normal Life.  I like this.

It’s getting hard to know how it’s going because I’m losing my sense of the before & after.  I’d estimate, though, that I’m operating at about 80-90% of what I’d imagine is “normal”.  A little tired, but nothing like the silly-tired even from this winter pre-catastrophic-turn-for-worse.

I’m happy.  Follow-up w/ Dr. M mid-month.

The working theory on the dx is inappropriate sinus tachycardia, and if wikipedia seems a little vague, it’s because that’s how it is.  If you google around there’s a variety of theorizing, some of which sorta matches up with my experience, some of which does not.

No particular notion of causes or effects in my case: Thyroid has been once again cleared of all charges, I don’t have any symptoms of an adrenal-secreting tumor (other than this one thing) but I suppose that’ll have to be ruled out definitively, and apparently if it were a problem with the sinus node itself, it probably would not respond to beta blockers so well.

Curiously, since the semi-dx, we’ve gotten two different reports of guys who had something quite like this.  So it’s a thing.  A semi-secret thing.

***

Now digging my way out of the backlog.  Discovered a suitcase under the girls’ bunkbed last night that still hadn’t been unpacked from the March for Life.  Oops.  Little things.  But now I know where that missing raincoat was.