Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Focus on Chastity

Thank you to the Bright Maidens for this opportunity!

I have never seen TLC's show The Virgin Diaries, partly because we don't have cable TV, and mostly because I wouldn't bother watching it even if we did.  The name of the show itself betrays its true intentions -- not to promote chastity by featuring perfectly normal, virginal people going about their lives, but to mock a supposedly crazy, unattainable lifestyle by characterizing adult virgins as freaks.  Not for me.

The fact that the show exists demonstrates our society's terribly flawed understanding of sexuality.  Most obviously, it takes the fact that the vast majority of young adults do not abstain from sex before marriage and hyperbolizes it by presenting the minority as strange and obsessed with their virginal status.  No doubt there are folks out there who start the ball rolling on a first date by announcing that they've never had sex (thanks for the info, Google), but -- come on.  What a ridiculous and distorted characterization. I could just as easily make a documentary on how people who don't wait must be crazy by featuring a girl I knew who swept her hand across her chest and declared that "these are not for babies."  Since, you know, nobody who has sex before marriage understands lactation.

Another aspect of the show and its title that doesn't ring true for me is the focus on virginity.  Now, don't get me wrong: virginity is very special.  Complete preservation of oneself for a future spouse or (in the case of religious, and most importantly and prominently, the Virgin Mary) for Christ is absolutely beautiful.  But, for many young (or even not-so-young) folks, I think too much focus on virginity itself can be a stumbling block for a couple of reasons.  One, because once a person has had sex, even if it was a single terrible and embarrassing time at age fifteen, he or she is no longer a virgin.  And two, because a person can commit sins against chastity out the wazoo and still technically be a virgin.

What I'd like to see is a focus on chastity.  Being an unmarried non-virgin, whether it's because of one bad decision in high school or a string of hundreds during adulthood, does not make a person worthless.  Everyone is called to live a chaste life, married or not, and past transgressions do not nullify one's exercise of virtue later on.  Some of my favorite speakers on chastity and the Theology of the Body openly admit to having lost their virginity long before being married.  They don't say it with pride, but with contrition and sadness.  They don't say it because they enjoy dredging up their past, but because they want others, especially those who have had similar experiences, to know that it isn't too late to commit themselves to the freedom of a chaste life.  (N.B.: my Google search also revealed that one of the girls on the show was previously sexually active but has recommitted herself to a chaste life and considers herself a "virgin again."  I do think it's good to feature such a person, but sadly, her attitude makes such a choice appear stupid, because of course nobody can "revirginize."  It seems like TLC was hell-bent on not picking anyone who could intelligently articulate the point of chastity.)

Chastity is not the same thing as virginity -- and virginity is not the same thing as chastity.  Young people have a notoriously difficult time resisting temptation, and when the chant is simply "virginity, virginity, virginity!" they find all sorts of ways to give into their desires without necessarily "going all the way."  Which, of course, is why we so desperately need the positive, affirmative, and integrated message of Theology of the Body, and not the message that one type of activity is irrevocably bad while everything else is okey-dokey.

What I'd love to see is not a single show with a distorted view of awkward adult virgins, but the presence of chaste characters in just plain old regular shows.  I don't watch very many shows, but I'm aware enough of popular culture to know that such a notion is almost laughable.  It is completely taken for granted that couples who start dating will have sex soon after -- if they're even dating when it happens.  I can't think of any instances in the shows I've watched where adultery is presented as a morally good or neutral action, but I'm fairly certain that it is in soap operas and the like.  Writers are very adept at developing situations that lean a viewer's sympathies toward morally illicit decisions.

Let's pray for better representation of chastity in the media.  It isn't crazy, it isn't weird, and it isn't unattainable, even for people whose virginity is long since gone.  And more importantly, let's pray for the virtue of chastity in our own lives.  Married or unmarried, virgin or not, we all need God's help as we pursue a joyfully chaste life!

**This post is part of a Bright Maidens blog carnival.  Go to the Bright Maidens Facebook page to read more!**

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Good Day!

Because I find silly, annoying problems (like low-battery smoke detector chirps in the wee hours of the morning) to be humorous, I fear I run the risk of blogging more about the negatives than the positives in my life at times.  So let me back this bus up RIGHT NOW and talk about how great today has been!

It started before 10 PM last night, when I turned out the light and fell quickly asleep.  Next thing I knew, it was right around 6:30 AM and Elise was waking up.  This is a pretty good wake-up time for her (7 is glorious, but rare), and since I'd had over 8 hours of sleep, I felt awesome!

The furnace worked!  The smoke detectors were silent!  Colin didn't get burned!  Elise and I had nowhere in particular to be this morning -- we like to get out as much as we can, but a morning in every now and then can be nice, too.  So I baked cookies for our lovely next-door-neighbor, who enjoyed some molasses cookies I made the other day and requested that I make some chocolate chip cookies for her.  She and her husband moved in with their two kids (and one soon-to-be-born) late this summer, and I am so delighted that they did.  The couple who lived in the house before were empty-nesters around my parents' age, and they were nice enough, but we didn't have much in common with them.  To have a 3-year-old little boy and 2-year-old little girl right next door is just fantastic.  And I'm very excited to meet their new baby girl when she's born!

Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to tell about what has already transpired, but my friend Fumi is supposed to be stopping by for a short while this afternoon, so I'm quite looking forward to her visit.  I met her in one of my graduate classes at Penn State a few years ago, and I'm very thankful that I did.  She is a very sweet, kind, and generous friend (she even hosted a baby shower for me last year), and we have a lot of fun together!  She moved to Harrisburg (about 1.5 hours away) almost a year ago, so we don't get to see each other as often as we used to, which makes today's visit even more special.  I was hoping to get Elise to nap earlier than she usually does so she'll be awake for Fumi's visit, and you know what?  She's totally napping now.  WIN!

We're having leftover chicken curry that I made yesterday, so I don't have to cook tonight. We might go to Barnes & Noble tonight to do the last of our Christmas shopping -- that's dependent on Elise's teething disposition.  Colin doesn't have to tutor anymore this semester.  After about a month hiatus due to traveling and illness, the book club I'm doing with a couple of friends has been back up and running for the past few weeks, and we should be on for this Saturday, too.  I've been going to a Bible study at my church for about the past month and a half now, and I'm really enjoying that.  There is much to be happy about!

I hope that your mid-week finds you steeped in blessings.  Is that a completely bizarre way of saying that?  Oh well, that's weez for ya. Anyway, it's a joyful Wednesday here, even though I mistakenly thought earlier that it was Thursday and was a bit disappointed when I realized my error.  Hump day happiness!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Morning: Mayhem and Madness

Ready to read about a morning in the life of good old weez?  Well, it started when I stopped reading Return of the King and turned out the light to go to sleep around 10:20 last night.  Which, for me, was too late.

Wait, what?  That was last night, not today!  But hear me out: a while ago, I read a Conversion Diary post which mentioned the concept of the next day starting at sundown
Having a productive day starts with waking up feeling well rested…which starts with making good choices about what time to go to bed. This week I found it really helpful to embrace the ancient Judeo-Christian understanding that sundown prayer ushers in the next day.
LOVE IT!  How many of us can say that we've made the same mistake, time and time again, of staying up way too darn late and then woefully regretting it the next day?  I did it all the time in college (taking it to extremes, as college students are wont to do), but I don't do it much anymore.  Blame my identity as a non-coffee drinker, blame my daughter's indefatigable efforts for attention throughout the day, blame my intense and continually unfulfilled need as an introvert for alone time to recharge my batteries -- whatever the reason, I need sleep, and I've come to realize that going to bed early is the only way I'm going to get it.

But back to the story!  Usually, my lights are out around 10 or a little before, but I wanted to finish the end of the chapter, so I fudged things a little bit.  Oh well, I thought, hopefully Elise will sleep in a tad.  She was awfully tired.

3:13 AM: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

Comforted baby.  She quieted down quickly, thankfully, and as I climbed back into bed a minute later, I almost considered nudging Colin to note that it was "pi time," but I decided against it.  Fell back asleep.

4:38 AM: Chirp!

I jerked awake.  That was NOT the smoke detector, right?  That was some kind of...bird...in December...right?

Chirp!

We live in a rental, which means we have six smoke detectors in our small ranch house.  Every few months, each one demands a battery replacement, and will not stop chirping until a fresh battery is put in.  They are not all on the same schedule, so the chirping just comes up here and there, and we never remember or anticipate which one will be next or when.  But they always start up in the middle of the night, and no battery change is complete without an expletive or two.

I tried, and tried, and tried to go back to sleep after Colin and I resolved the smoke detector issue, but it just wouldn't happen.

5:55 AM: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Up for the day.  Yippy-skippy!

As I sat on the chair, cuddled up under the Snuggie as Elise nursed, I gradually realized that the house was cold.  The nursing session went on and on and on (given her current teething issues, that's been her modus operandi recently), and the furnace never turned on.  I figured I would delegate that issue to Colin when he arose (he usually gets up when Elise and I do, but I guess the smoke detector episode wore him out).  And I didn't have to wait long, because

6:[something, couldn't see a clock] AM: Chirp!

Yep!  ANOTHER smoke detector started up!  So I guess that one (in the living room) and the 4 AM one (in the kitchen) must be on the same schedule after all.  Anyway, that woke our hero right up, and he rode in on his steed to replace yet another smoke detector battery.  As he worked, I informed him of the furnace situation, and he confirmed that the thermometer read 63 degrees (we set it at 68).

The morning went on; Elise finished nursing, Colin fixed the furnace and got ready for the day.  After he got dressed, I noticed he was holding a cold compress to his neck.  "I've got good news and bad news," he said.  I braced myself.

"The bad news is, I burned myself on an exhaust tube.  The good news is, since it's on my neck, people will probably think it's a hickey!"

Yep, that's my husband.  Always looking on the bright side!

The rest of the morning wasn't much of a tale, in comparison.  Elise and I went to a local indoor playground (woohoo!) with our neighbor and her 2-year-old, which went great, until Elise saw a few dads and freaked out.  She has no patience for boys and their cooties!  Then we went to Target, where I bought the last of her Christmas gifts and some baby ibuprofen for her teething.  I wonder which she'll like better?

In conclusion: lights out before 10 tonight.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

Thanks to Jen for hosting!  Head over to her blog to check out more quick takes!

1. Elise has been teething hardcore lately, which has been dreadful for all of us.  A mom I know invited me and Elise to meet her and her son (just 8 days older than Elise!) at the library this morning, so I was glad to have the distraction for her and me.

For a few minutes.

After we were there a little while, Elise began to wail, arching her back when I tried to pick her up and crumpling into a ball on the floor.  She was almost inconsolable -- here and there I was able to quiet her for a moment or two by carrying her around or letting her play with a globe, but then she'd go right back to her sobs.  One of our neighbors was there with her son; she recently had her hair cut quite short, and I think Elise mistook her for a man, which only made her howl the louder.

2. Oh, you didn't know?  Elise is a consummate misandrist. 
Oh, she's utterly smitten with her father, and she's come around to her grandfathers and uncle, but the rest she find abhorrent and terrifying.  I don't exactly know why, but I suppose it has something to do with her extremely limited exposure to any men besides those four.  It's rather embarrassing at times, and I hope she's able to overcome it soon. 
Then again, maybe I don't. Until she's 30 -- no, 40.
3. Anyway, I gotta say, I almost had to laugh (but instead I cried for a few minutes) over how many icy glares I received from employees and patrons at the library during my daughter's meltdown.  Now, the mom I met there, and another mom she'd asked to come, were both perfectly kind and understanding.   But almost every body else...wow.  No sympathy for an anguished baby and a distressed mama?  Nope.

4. The high tomorrow is 42...too cold to go on a horse-drawn wagon ride as part of the Hometown Christmas celebration near us this weekend?  Eh, maybe, but I suppose it's worth considering!

5. The mail just arrived, and I think a Christmas gift that I bought for my brother on eBay is in our mailbox!  But I don't want to open the door to go out and check the mail and risk waking the baby.  (Yes, even when I try to do it quietly, it sometimes wakes her.)

6. Dear anybody who is not a parent, or at least not a parent of born child: naps are glorious.  Glorious.  GLORIOUS. I didn't understand the beauty, the wonder, the absolute necessity of naps until Elise was born.  And she's never been what I'd call a champion napper, but at least she does nap daily.  An hour or two of peace each day is sheer heaven.  I can read.  Do a little laundry.  Clean the bathroom.  Use the bathroom alone.  Yippee!

7. I have no idea what I'm making for dinner next week.  Why does that matter?  We do our weekly grocery run on Friday evenings, and I always prepare for it by making a list of meals I plan to make and then determining which ingredients I need.  I generally tailor our menu according to what's on sale, and there aren't any exciting sales right now.  But this past week, we basically subsisted on beans and vegetables to try to compensate for our Thanksgiving feasting, so we're ready to get back to some more substantial fare.  I have three chicken breasts in the freezer and about a half a pound of bacon in the fridge.  Tomorrow is the last day for our Amish farmer's market this season, so I know I'll want to load up on veggies there.  Otherwise, this little chef hasn't got a lot of inspiration!
Honestly, the only thing I miss since canceling cable TV!  Giada, Rachael, Ina, Paula, tell me what to do!!!
Happy weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joie de Vivre

Whoops!  The beginning of Advent has come and gone, and I still haven't posted about my joie de vivre (thanks, Julie!) Advent plan. 

It's true, we were visiting my family in Ohio last week for Thanksgiving, which left little time for all things Internet. But the real reason I haven't posted is because, in the words of Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite, I don't have much to say.
If you read my blog, all of your wildest dreams will come true.
Blarg! I racked my noggin' trying to come up with a plan that would not only revolutionize my life, but would also be easy to blog about and share with others, something that other people could even try if they wanted to.  At one point I was considering cutting up little pieces of paper and writing down things I'd like to do or try on them and then pulling one out each day of Advent.  But then I reckoned, "Weez, what if you select a paper that says 'try baking molasses cookies from mother-in-law's recipe' and then Maren calls you up asking if you want to have a playdate and you're torn between the completely obvious right choice and heading over to her house OR sticking to THE PLAN and politely declining because you have to make those cookies that day or all will be ruined?"  Needless to say, the idea never got off the ground; I never got so far as making a list of the activities I'd like to do.

But that's okay. It turns out that my idea of flooding December with every fun and interesting and cool thing I could come up with only demonstrates my essential problem: I'm looking for joy like I'm looking for a fix.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that baking amazing cookies or buying a new pair of jeans wouldn't be good or worthwhile.  They are things that I want to do and, when the time is right, I should do, because I've been wanting to bake those cookies for years and all of the jeans I own (except my maternity ones) are horrendous.  But it's not the fleeting little moments of goodness that will quench my thirst for joy -- it is the One to whom they all point, the very Source of all joy.
Beyond our wildest dreams.
And what better time than Advent to remind myself, again, for the googolplexillionth time, that there is only one Joy, one Love, one Hope Whom I seek? 

So here's my plan: just keep rollin', and keep focused on Christ.  Bake cookies when I can, go gift shopping here and there (great excuse to get out of the house!), chat or get together with friends when I get the rare chance, and prepare my heart for Christmas.  We sadly still don't have an Advent wreath, but Colin and I have been reading the daily Mass readings and accompanying reflections from the Word Among Us magazine each night, which has been very helpful.

Another helpful idea that I'm slowly embracing is that it is okay to do less than I planned.  For example, I've been accumulating Pampers "Gifts-to-Grow" points for the past year so that I could get some free Christmas cards from Shutterfly.  All I'd have to do is pick a design, add a photo of Elise, personalize the text, pay the shipping charges, and weeee!  Except, it's already December 1 and I still don't have a photo of Elise that I want to use. So you know what?  I'm not going to do it.  I'm just going to use regular cards, and I'm probably going to send less than I did last year!  And that is actually...a relief.  It's just not something I want on my plate this year, and I'm fine with that.
I def want this on my plate.
 Part of what gets me down sometimes is that I compare myself with others (boo) and berate myself for never doing enough.  That person bakes more!  That person can knit!  That person volunteers!  That person works and has a cleaner house than I do!  And so on ad infinitum.  Given that, it might sound strange that making little decisions to do less could be much help; obviously, I should be doing more to feel like a worthwhile human being!  Meh, not really.  Accepting my capabilities and proclivities and limitations for what they are is refreshing and cathartic.

So that's the dealio.  I'll be posting more on Advent in the coming weeks.  Maybe we'll even celebrate a saint's feast day somewhere in there!
St. Lucy's day is coming up on Dec. 13!  You'd better believe those are eyes on her plate.