10 Best Alternatives to the Easter Bunny

J-P Mauro at Aleteia writes “Let’s stop with the Easter Bunny.”  Around here we treat the Easter Bunny the same way we treat Santa Claus, for exactly the reasons Mauro explains.  But what if that solution wasn’t enough for your family?  What if you really truly needed to ditch the Easter Bunny?  For example, say you had a weird disease that caused you not to love rabbits?

Luckily as an Easter People, we can rise above!  Here are the top ten alternatives to the Easter Bunny, loved by Christians around the world:

1. The Easter Beagle Take the ringing of the bells at the Gloria and multiply it by 10,000.  That’s the sound of Easter Beagles joyously proclaiming the Resurrection.  You won’t, of course, want to give your children real beagles for Easter, unless you want the Good News proclaimed every time the doorbell rings, the neighbor’s cat walks by, or a stray leaf blows through your yard.  PETA’s job would be a lot easier if we switched to the Easter Beagle.

2. The Easter Lion  And it symbolizes the Lion of Judah and no children have ever come back alive to report that the Easter Lion at the mall is actually just same lion whose day job is sleeping all afternoon at the zoo.  Ideal for families on the Paleo diet, because instead of bringing baskets of sugary candy, the Easter Lion brings home hunks of raw meat for the young cubs.

3. The Easter Chicken Perfect for people who always felt the Easter Bunny was appropriating avian culture.

4. The Easter Platypus If you want to solve the egg problem without giving up on the cute furry mammal thing.  Always good for a quick laugh when you are really straining for material in your comedy routine.

5. The Easter Polar Bear What can we say about the polar bear?  It’s adorable from a distance?  It’s an endangered species? It’s a deadly predator?  Sounds exactly like the way the media describes Christians!  You won’t find a more accurate symbol of Easter for the new millenium.

6. The Easter Cardinal These bright red birds with their cheerful disposition and playful habits symbolize everything a Christian is looking for in an Easter mascot: A bad pun on something to do with the Church, and also it’s the only bird at the feeder you know how to identify.  Caveats: Leaves sunflower seed shells everywhere, and may be objectionable to certain sports fans.

7. The Easter Ferret  Where some people see a creepy, dodgy predator, others see a loveable pet.  Ferrets are a perfect symbol of the Resurrection, because just when you think you’ve lost your little darling for good, he finally turns up again.  This is the perfect Easter mascot for those whose vision of the Heavenly Banquet comes with a soundtrack from WOW’s Top Hits of 1999.

8. The Easter Retriever  This winsome, loveable pal doesn’t hide your eggs, he finds them — over, and over, and over again.  You’ll have no trouble enjoying all eight weeks of the Easter season, though admittedly those plastic eggs are gonna be a little slobber-worn by the time Pentecost rolls around.

9. The Easter Dolphin Imagine you were the kind of Catholic who habitually prays for the repose of the soul of Douglas Adams. If that’s you, the dolphin symbolizes hope for a better world, the great questions of human existence, and the number 42.  An Easter Dolphin magnet on the back of your car adds depth and meaning to that faded Christian Fish you almost peeled off and then didn’t.

10. The Easter Groundhog  If the Easter Groundhog comes out and sees its shadow on Good Friday, that’s 36 more hours before you can legit break out the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

File:Puck Easter 1907 - L.M. Glackens. LCCN2011647186.tif

Illustration courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.

 

Which Saint Should You Put Your Shoes Out For?

File:Paul Seignac Christmas Morning.jpg

I received nothing from St. Nicholas and find his obvious indifference to me to be much more unsettling than finding a rock in my shoe.

-Fr. Steve Gunrow

The difficulty here is that Fr. Gunrow put his shoes out for the wrong saint.  You can avoid this problem by carefully matching the needs of your soul to the saint who can best help you.   Here’s a quick guide to which vigils you should set out your shoes in order to receive what you need in the morning:

St. Zita . . . Your lost keys.

St. Therese . . . Roses.

St. Juan Diego . . . Roses; painted tilma.  Both if you’re extra good.

St. Michael . . . Swords.

St. Vincent de Paul . . . Canned goods to donate to the local food pantry.

St. Catherine Labouré . . . Miraculous medals.

St. Catherine of Alexandria . . . Wheels.

St. Catherine of Siena . . . Fraternal correction; extreme penitence.

St. Dominic . . . Rosaries; improved homilies.  Both if you’re extra bad.

St. Stephen . . . Rocks.

St. Lawrence . . . Steaks for your feast day BBQ.

St. Philip Neri . . . Joke books; small dogs; counter-reform.

St. Genevieve . . . List of all the conquering armies who are not in your living room this morning.

St. Paul . . . Thorns; shipwrecks; writing instruments.

St. Peter . . . Keys; fish; perpetual documentation of your chief failures in life.

St. Augustine . . . Book-length explanation of what your roommate did with those “borrowed” items.

St. Jerome . . . New Bible; scathing critique of your sorry attempts at theology.

St. Anthony . . . Maps; organizational tips; parking spaces.

 

Obviously this is the abbreviated version.  To add your suggestions to the list . . . the combox is here.

 

Artwork: Paul Seignac via Wikimedia, Public Domain.

The Advent Wars Escalate

We’ve reached a new low on the Battle for Advent: My house now sports an Ordinary Time Tree.

Christmas Lights on a fir tree, up close
Maternal Penance in Mixed Media, Detail

I told the children they ought to crown it for the feast of Christ the King, but they were too busy ignoring admonitions about liturgically-correct decorating schemes while they quick tied up all the cut limbs with red plaid bows.  In memory of the souls in purgatory, I’m sure.

***

Early last week my trusty Surface Pro (reliability rating: 7th Circle of IT Hell) spontaneously quit working, forever and ever amen, while I was using it.  I assume it was pre-punishment for my caving on the tree.  So I spent the week sharing one PC with a man who was home “on vacation” working all day at the one PC.

And that’s the story about how I became a Black Friday shopper.

Surreal part: No lines, no crowds, no traffic.  I gather that the “we’re closed on Thanksgiving (until 5pm)!” thing is causing all the crazy people to get their manic shopping needs taken care of on the vigil, leaving the daylight hours to those of us who don’t love the contact-sport side of holiday shopping.

Disturbing part: I purchased a laptop named after a deadly sin.

It was on sale, so it’s okay, right?

More disturbing part: It was not the right deadly sin.

If you told me I was blogging from a machine called wrath I’d consider it truth in advertising.  Sloth and gluttony come to mind as obvious runners-up. Were it a school chrome book, now the go-to way to avoid the hassle and expense of textbooks even though students don’t learn as well online, we could call it avarice.

But envy?  Nah.  It’s shiny, but not that shiny.  Envy is why we have the ordinary time tree.

 

Funniest Parish Rumor Ever

This morning after Bible study one of the ladies asks me, “What are your degrees in?”

It’s a good question, and one I occasionally have to clarify.   I studied economics and I have a degree in economics are two different things; in my case the former is true but not the latter.  Every now and then an author blurb goes to print without my clearing it, and I cringe at the odd inaccuracies.

So I answered, “I have a BA in international studies, with a not-quite-a-minor in economics.  My master’s degree is in business administration, with the bulk of my coursework in accounting with a little bit of finance.”  Again, I don’t have an accounting degree, though I did graduate with enough upper-level courses to work professionally in accounting.  But I’m not a CPA, which people ask me whenever they hear I studied accounting.

“Oh,” the lady at Bible study says.  “So do you have a PhD in theology?”

Pardon me?  “No.”

“Oh.  Someone said you had a PhD in theology.”

No.  No no no.  “Nope.  Business.  Master’s degree in business, no PhD in anything.”

“Sometimes Father Whippersnapper seems to defer to you during Bible study.”

“That’s because he has a graduate degree in theology, which I do not, but I am more experienced with arguments among non-academics bickering on the internet.”

***

As parish grapevine experiences go, it was more amusing than horrifying, so it worked out.

–> I got to share a little bit of mine and my husband’s conversion stories (answer to the follow-up question of “How come you seem to know so much?”), and I conceded I do write a bit of Catholic non-fiction

More better: I got a few minutes of living vicariously through one of the other Bible study ladies, who overheard the conversation and shared with me about her experience in internal audit and fraud detection, which is one of the coolest things accountants get to do and I’d be totally looking into that if I were looking for an accounting job.

It was a good day.  And to my credit, I read just far enough into Love and Responsibility to know, as any good Junior Moral Theologian who happens to be married should know, the answers to these sex questions over at the Aggie Catholic blog,* which topics I alluded to in the rough cut of my most recent NCRegister post, now up: “What Do Priests Know About Marriage?”  My very smart editor removed the explicit references (which the Aggie post answers succinctly, so you’re set if you have those questions) to keep it PG rated.

*I do not write for the Aggie Catholic blog.  I have been to Texas three times, though, so it’s practically the same, for parish rumor-mill purposes.

File:Young Nun at Prayer by Sergei Gribkov 1852.jpg

Artwork: Young Nun at Prayer by Sergei Gribkov.  I’m not a nun either, in case anyone is asking.

PS: Parents, this is a grown-up blog.  I teach children in regular life, but on the internet I cover adult topics.

Packing Medium

Three kids and I depart tomorrow today for the big trip.  I am not a person who packs light.  I was pretty pleased that two girls and I were able to get more or less all our stuff, carry-on excepted, into one (large) suitcase.  My big packing question is: Would I be annoyed that I had to buy this in France?

For some things I prefer not to pack our own.  Most of our toiletries we’ll purchase on arrival, because I do not need some child’s shampoo saturating everything we own.  That’ll be fine on the return trip, but I am hoping to not see the inside of a French laundromat for a good week or so.  They can bring home the dregs of a bottle of shampoo for a souvenir.

What is killing us on luggage is that the boy is going to camp.  He wanted to see Alps.  After doing all the investigating — and I was this close to taking up learning German — the best option for giving him Maximum Alpine Experience was to send to him to a week of summer camp down in Chamonix.  Everything about that choice is good except the packing list.  The camp people want the kids to bring clothes and spare clothes and more clothes for every day.  Of course they do — who wants to be liable for a dozen freezing-naked underpacked children?

Also, I would be mildly irritated to have to buy a fresh set of camping gear in Europe, and I’m very not interested in having a gear crisis the day camp begins.  Unfortunately, my imagination does not look at a tiny-font packing list and accurately gauge how many cubic feet that will all turn into.  Thus we have a mountain of luggage despite my extremely uncharacteristic efforts to go semi-minimalist otherwise.

Large suitcase with rabbit pillow pet on top.

Two hippos and a rabbit have wormed their way onto the passenger list.

Weirdest thing about this trip: I am having a hard time believing it is real.  That’s odd because I don’t just know lots of people who travel all the time, but also I’ve done this before.  I’ve lived in France twice.  I’m not going someplace exotic to me.  I think it’s that I’ve been so firmly planted in the stay-at-home life for the past two decades, and also that doing this was so completely impossible until so recently; until it actually happens, I don’t think my brain can be fully persuaded that it can happen.

Last night we had a mini bon voyage party, which involved getting bitten by all the mosquitos and then coming home from the river to find my friend surprising me with an icon of St. Raphael.  She didn’t have time to get it blessed on her local orthodox altar, so she proposed that I might want to get it blessed in France.  That would be a serious stretch outside my comfort zone, giving me a double-hit on areas of maximal shyness, but friends do that to you.

Orthodox icon of St. Raphael, who looks like he's surfing on the back of a giant fish.

St. Raphael is the ignored angel in my life (Gabriel and Michael get all the attention, and Gabriel would tell you he’s the overlooked tag-along in that pair), but here’s what my friend pointed out: St. Raphael is the patron of both wayfarers and of healing.

Apt enough, and then if you add in the part about how I need to cram all that luggage into our otherwise right-sized too-small rental car, there’s this: He’s particularly the patron of I Can’t Believe This Is Happening To Me, and also of people launching into big adventures with a terrifying stack of baggage.  At least for once he’s being invoked for good crises and not bad ones.

Blog News You’d Hate To Miss

As Lent winds up, I’d like to let you know about some changes coming to the blog.

Those of you who’ve been reading me since the very beginning know that I’ve gone through a series of transitions as a writer.  I started out as an anonymous homeschool-blogger, just trying to share my experiences and get some practice writing for an audience.  Over the years I’ve been a contributor to other Catholic blogs, magazines, and books, as well as spearheading some projects of my own.

Variety and change are the name of the game.

With that in mind, and having had a week to reflect after the refreshing and fruitful retreat I took last weekend, now seems like the perfect day to share the changes you may see here.  What to look for in the future:

More Hands-On Experience.  Maybe it’s the coloring book rubbing off on me, maybe it’s all the art I post, but something’s having an effect.  From here on out, this is going to be primarily a craft blog.  I envision the bulk of the projects involving hot glue and day-glo pom poms.

Pom-Pom photo by Mvolz (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.  This is roughly what we’re going for, only with colors that are a little more searing.  These, glued to things.  Everything.

More Pop Culture.  Reader, you know how important evangelization is to me.  And every writer (myself excepted) seems to feel that the secret to evangelization is immersing oneself in the interests of the persons being evangelized.  I’m ready to take that advice.  For religious purposes, therefore, from now on when I’m not crafting, I’ll be keeping you updated on celebrity news, the NFL, and How The Gamecocks are Doing This Season.

We’ll continue talking about the weather, too, but that’s not a big change.

Less Depressing Arguing Stuff.   It took a lot of memes to get this through my head, but listen guys: Opinions on weighty matters are out of here like last year.  Giving a reason for your hope?  Some reasons are more equal than others, you know.  We’re going to focus on inspiring quotes from Anonymous. Where possible, I’ll provide an attribution to St. Francis of Assisi.  He probably said something like that anyway.

Same Great Sacred Art, Updated.  You already know I’m not much of a traditionalist — if it’s true, beautiful, good, and approved by the Church, I can work with it, new or old.  With that in mind, I’ll be sharing a lot more music videos.  Trap Masses, primarily.

As for Caravaggio?  Of course I’d never let that go.  But from now on, it’ll be all the great works of antiquity forward, but re-interpreted in the style of “Family Circus.”

You’re gonna love it.

Look for these great new blog experiences as often as once a year!

The Physiology of Fasting and other Penitential Links

Link #1 The Physiology of Fasting

Late last Lent an Orthodox friend and I were whining about how much we hate fasting.  There are people in this world who don’t have much appetite, and he and I are not those people.  Furthermore, at his parish he knows these guys who fast for days and days during Holy Week, and hold up just fine.  We’re not talking St. Starvicus of the Empty, Empty Desert who lived on a weekly mouthful of bitter herbs in the second century. We’re talking about flesh-and-blood normal guys with day jobs in modern America.

How do they do it?  We had a number of theories, and mine were all wrong.

Not too long into Easter (happy happy feast feast) I stumbled on a website run by a physician whose practice includes overseeing a lot of clients who fast extensively for health reasons (primarily in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, as it happens).  Dr. Jason Fung is a normal (secular, slightly potty-mouthed) Canadian-guy MD with normal-people clients and a lot to say on how fasting affects your body, and why our non-eating Orthodox friends are experiencing something radically different when they fast than that misery you feel on Ash Wednesday when you eat one regular meal and two small snacks.

–> I have no opinion on whether or how you should fast, other than that you should mind the Precepts of the Church and also common sense regarding your own health and state of life.  But if you are bored, here’s a site with the answer to the question of What’s with those people who don’t eat for days on end?

Here’s the archives of the entire “Fasting” category on his website.

Here’s page 1, if you want to start at the beginning.

I mention it now during Advent because if you want to run pre-Lent experiments on yourself, now’s the time.

Link #2 Vader Did You Know?

A profound thank you to Jane Lebak for sharing this link.  Sometimes a song is so bad that the only good use for it is turning it into a Star Wars plot summary.

#3: Not a link, just a PSA

Dear Adults Who Edit Hymnals,

Did you know that young people are linguistically competent?  You might have noticed the way they are constantly making up words and phrases that confound you to pieces.  This is because they are able to learn languages, even English.

Therefore, it is not necessary to wipe every use of the word “Thou” from your hymnal.  People under the age of 150 are able to learn new words, just like people in previous eras were able to learn new words like “telegraph” and “wireless” and eventually even “social security check.”

Also, you look very stupid when you “fix” a hymn for us by making it grammatically incoherent in the effort to remove verbs ending in “est.”  So perhaps you are not able to master the English language. But the rest of us can pick it up pretty well, thanks.

Sincerely,

Jennifer  <– So done with offering it up.  Just done.  Get me to confession, please.

Link #4: My Classic Collection of Advent Links

When I moved the blog to the new location, I didn’t pull over the entire old sidebar.  FYI the new sidebar has lots of good stuff, including a freshly-harvested crop of internet reading now that I’m back to goofing off on the internet.  But if you’re looking for the annual collection of Old Reliable Advent Links, here they are:

This is not the year I grow the list, but look, when I searched Wikimedia for “Advent” this slightly-wrinkled manuscript page from the “O Antiophons” category popped right up:

File:Sapientia.jpg

Artwork courtesy of Benedictine monastery of Podlažice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Top 5 Predicted Evacuation Warnings at Governor Haley’s Next Press Conference

At this morning’s press conference, Governor Haley had to start getting stern with Charlestonians, who are being a mite sluggish about evacuating.  In light of the category 4 hurricane predicted to hit the coast Saturday morning, staffers are preparing a set of stronger warnings for the governor’s next press briefing.

5. “It’s not just gas stations and pharmacies that are closing.  Waffle House is closing.  And Bojangles.  This is serious, y’all.”

4. “Tennessee is filling up, and then you’re gonna have to drive to Kentucky to find a room.  Is that what you want?  I didn’t think so.”

3. “Don’t make me come down there and show you pictures of Hugo.”

2. “Greenville County school buses are now leaving the Charleston Coliseum, and they will be honking outside your house, whether you got your lunch packed or not.”

1. “Okay, that’s it.  Every road east of I-95 is now officially a westbound one-way street.”

Officials denied rumors that the delay in announcing the fate of Saturday’s Carolina-Georgia game is a ploy to improve evacuation rates, but conceded, “if only it were the Clemson-Carolina game, we’d just paint tiger paws on I-26 and be done with it.”

 

File:J. Yancey McGill and Nikki Haley.jpg

Photo: South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley (Flickr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How to Have a Good Mother’s Day – 2 Steps

I don’t really, truly hate Mother’s Day, contrarian posts on the topic not withstanding.  There are reasons for this.  Two reasons, and they are my patented method for having a good Mother’s Day despite the fact that it is, as it happens, that day.  These two steps should work pretty well for most non-mothers, though in some cases the best you’re going to get is not as bad as it could have been.

Step 1: Don’t Expect Things

Evil presumably well-intentioned people use this holiday to sell you all kinds of ideas.  The idea that you should want to give or receive a particular gift, or that you should want to go to brunch, or that you should want to participate in their fundraiser, or heaven forbid, but it happens, that you should suddenly take an interest in purchasing greeting cards.*

Marketing plus cultural momentum can cause you to develop any number of unrealistic, unhealthy expectations.  Resist clinging to these ideas and others like them:

  • That your family life is and always has been just like the last five minutes of any episode of Little House on the Prairie.
  • That you like the food other people cook for you.
  • That today the weather is going to cooperate.
  • That you are going to get that nap you’ve been really wanting.
  • That the homily at church is going to be any good, and the Ave Maria is really going to hit that special place in your heart this time.
  • That the lady who gave you that really weird statue of Mary had better aesthetic sense than you after all.
  • That your kids are going to spontaneously give up fighting for twenty-four hours.
  • That your life is pleasant.
  • That you are going to enjoy this day.

Best Mother’s Day reading?  The Silver Chair.  Puddleglum has it going on.

Cultivate the right attitude, and when people ask you Monday morning, “Did you have a good Mother’s Day?” you’ll be able to respond quite honestly, “Well, it was almost exactly like the descriptions of the Second Coming, only heavier on stinging insects and with a conspicuous absence of an actual end to time and beginning of eternal life, which I’d been looking forward to — but hey, now I feel totally like the real Second Coming is going to be great.  So yeah, it was good.  How about yours?”

Step 2: Get Yourself a Present

Bacon is traditional, but you can totally branch out on this one.  Waiting for other people to figure out what floats your boat is overrated.  Take the initiative.  The only rules are that it be something you actually want, and that it be something you can afford.  Driving yourself deeper into debt is not Mothers’ Day compliant.

Wait a minute?  You’re not a mother? Hah.  Who said that had anything to do with it?  You have a mother, and that’s what counts.  Get yourself a prize.

 

Note to Skeptics:  I am not kidding.  Try the method for yourself and be amazed at the results.

 

* I know many people who purchase greeting cards and are otherwise upright citizens with precious gifts to share with the world.  Don’t judge, guys.  Don’t judge.

 

File:Charnel House at St Helens Church, Cliffe, Kent, England, 2015-05-06-5136.jpg

Photo:By Slaunger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.  Want to know what this quaint little cottage is?  Here’s the description from Wikimedia:

The Charnel House, located in a corner of the graveyard at St Helen’s Church in Cliffe, Kent, England. The Charnel House was built during the mid 19th century. It was used as a make-shift mortuary until the bodies were taken away to be buried. Its location close to the river Thames is key as bodies found were washed up or floating along the Thames were retrieved and taken to the charnel house to be stored awaiting identification and burial.

The building continued to be used until the start of the twentieth century, when a series of Public Health Acts forced buildings such as this to become redundant. After this, the Church used it for storage and at one time a hive of bees was also put in there to deter intruders. It is now classified as a Grade II listed building by English Heritage.

And why is it the Wikimedia Image of the Day on the vigil of Mother’s Day?  Because Wikimedia knows.  Yes, indeed.  What you need is a cottage full of bloated corpses, or angry bees as you prefer, and then your holiday will be shiny and bright just like it ought to be.

3.5 Time Outs: Vatican Spies

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy putting the mmmmn in Church Militant since  . . . well, awhile.

It's electric. Except when it's not.

1.

You wanna know what’s better than bacon? Eric Sammons e-mailing to ask, “May I send you a review copy of my new book?”

I know!  I couldn’t believe it either!  I figured the SuperHusband must have driven to Florida in desperation, in order to beg a perfect stranger to please give his wife something, anything, that would help her grow in holiness.  He would have observed that I already had a large collection of freebie plastic rosaries, so please did Mr. Sammons know of anything else that might help?

Another possible explanation is that since I liked the first book, maybe I’d like the next one, too.

2.

I worry sometimes that if I get too many review books, it will cause me to neglect my local Catholic bookstore.  Fear not!  The kids are taking care of us.  For example – item #2 that’s better than bacon: This Sunday the “Roamin’ Catholic” bookmobile was parked at our parish.  Yay!  My favorite time of year!  And the 4th grader spots this DVD and asks, “Please can we get this Mom?”

It’s a pretty simple formula:  Child requests DVD about real-life Nazi-thwarting Secret Agent Nun?  Mom says, “Um.  Yes.”  We haven’t watched it yet, though.  I’ve been too busy yelling at the kids to clean the house growing in holiness.

3.

My biggest disappointment in reading Jack Chick tracts was the discovery that, through some bureaucratic snafu, I’d been cheated.  If I really became a citizen of Vatican City the day I was baptized, where’s my passport???  Ah, but now my son has rectified my problem, and issued me my secret-agent ID:

Don’t worry, I’m still gonna carry my regular ID as well.

3.5

 . . . delightful to read on a Sunday afternoon.  See the review just below this post, or click here.

EDITED to add: And yeah, of course it’s link day.  If you have one you want to share, we’re all eyes.