Friday, September 20, 2013

7 quick takes: Links and Reflections


There are so many discussions around the internet these past few week. Most of them focused on Modesty.  I thought I'd share some of my favorites - starting with Jenna's Plea to Homeschoolers and the collection of links back to articles she found encouraging. I did not grow up in a family overly focused on modesty, marriage, and preparation for family life, so I don't have the scars these girls do - I also don't have the excuse they do for my own awful adolescent fashion sense. When my sister mailed me a collection of photos she'd saved, and I saw myself at the height of my horror all I could do was shudder and stare..and dump them in the burn pile (Seth rescued them because he's cruel that way).  But I echo Jenna's plea to "please teach your girls - especially your cautious ones - to find and pursue interests, including interests outside teh home. To look for good work to do and to do it confidently. To smile and converse with and befriend boys as well as girls. To hold their heads up and look men in the eyes as equals, choose husbands who respect women, and give those husbands their respect out of choice, not out of instinct and fear."

2. most delightful article on modesty and breastfeeding making the rounds yesterday, and I couldn't resist sharing it with everyone I met. I actually never got many negative comments when Yarrow was nursing a lot out in public, though neither of us liked to cover up, and I nursed her everywhere. It might have been because I didn't really expect to get any comments or because of my very intimidating personality. But I know plenty of girls who are consistently harassed, who really feel the disapproving stares of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and friends, and so are suffering needlessly through Liturgies, dinners parties, County Fairs, and wedding receptions. Don't. Please. You're not immodest. One of my greatest inspirations as a nursing mother is a woman I never met. I saw her at a Liturgy once, the Cantor's wife sitting in the front row looking dark and serene as her tiny boy nursed his fill. She looked like an Icon and the image has nestled deep in my soul. Motherhood, worship, beauty, peace - all at once, and perfectly fitted to the moment.


Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits had a fantastic post last week on The Social Costs of Being Different. I've mentioned my own surprise at discovering some of them for myself, and he offers some helpful thoughts and some perspective; and every time I step outside into the early morning air and see the last of the stars fading, I remember just how much I cherish those differences.


And this 'Introduction to Catholicism and Modern American Poetry'  was fascinating! I found it through Tuscany Press, and read it through about four times as Yarrow pointed to various words and side images to ask "What's that!?". There is a lot to ponder, and a lot to affect the artist who does want to feed and be fed from the larger tradition; who wants to understand and relate to modern poetry, not just what many Catholics consider to be 'safe', traditional verse. 

     "Artistic modernism in general has something to it of the incipiently Catholic. Modernist art sought both to strike against modernity..and to find a place for divinely constituted meaning and order within the modern condition."

Food for thought, isn't it?  


Here's just a taste of what I've been doing  all month:

..not to mention

Pesto!!! We made tons of it, gave some away, ate some fantastic lime-thai basil with shrimp, and froze the rest! But we still have basil to process..and it better be soon, the nights are getting frosty.


 "A thriving Christian community requires its members to think beyond their own preferences, about how personal decisions impact others. But, as I watched hoards of my male peers bounding across the lawn wearing nothing but flimsy track shorts—think Juno's Paulie Bleeker—I wondered if they had received any wisdom or direction about their dress. Is modesty a virtue only for women?"

Asks Katelyn Beaty of Her-meneutics. And sometimes we do get that impression. A blogger complained recently about inappropriately seductive facebook photos among her son's friends, alongside photos of her teen boys flexing their muscles on the beach. She later replace the photos, but I can't help but wonder about the mindset that forces us to see women's bodies as inherently sexual and threatening, while men's bodies are neither.  I also am disturbed by the 'one strike and you're out in our family' tone the blogger uses towards these under-dressed girls. If I had the same policy online, it's possible I'd never go back to her page after seeing her beach-clad sons cavorting through a post on covering up. But, as Beaty reminds us at Her-meneutics, modesty is about more than clothing, it's "about viewing ourselves humbly" and adorning ourselves 'with a gentle spirit', which includes forgiveness and kind admonishment rather than shunning and shaming for those who fall short.


And finally..Kendra, who writes a blog I love to read opened a can of worms a while ago with a post on crying it out. I don't agree with her conclusions in this, and it always makes me sad to read about methods of sleep training that give my imagination too much to feed on, but my thoughts here aren't about that so much as they are about the discussion I saw in the combox. I've copied the relevant  parts below:

                 Commenter: I just can not imagine that baby's sad and scared thought, crying out for their momma, and being ignored. Breaks my heart.

                   Kendra: Your comment breaks MY heart. I wouldn't want to lay that guilt..on a mom who has made the difficult decision to do what works for her family...

Both are perfectly reasonable responses, and I was so impressed with Kendra for managing to keep such a hot-button issue polite, but I've encountered a trend toward being almost too polite in the blogging community (paired with the awful, angry commentators we all shy away from)  so often and it worries me. If as the commenter and I see it - ignoring the baby's cries as he sits alone in his room is an unkindness to him, would it not also be an unkindness on my part to avoid pointing it out, to keep quiet for the sake of 'niceness' or to preserve the feelings of others? I'm not saying we should all turn shill and angry at the first hint parenting divisions, but I do think everyone benefits when we're called to re-examine our decisions on a continual basis.

The commenter ends her post with these fantastic thoughts:
       "I do hope and believe that all moms are doing their best for their children. And the CIO method just doesn't agree with what I consider "doing my best." But I'm sure I do plenty of other things that others might perceive as not my best. We're all works in progress, right?" 

What a blessed way to end an attempt to encourage reflection in each other. We are all works in progress, and the path toward sainthood is a hard road; hopefully we can all give and receive support, advice, and admonition with gratitude and grace. Never abandoning kindness in favor of mere niceness. 

What do you think? Blessings to all!



  1. Just popping in to say "thanks" for the link to the breastfeeding article. It's fantastic! Covering never really worked for me and my Bookie. And, we're still nursing at 13.5 months, sometimes in public (when I happen to be wearing a nursing friendly shirt and she shows interest). I try to be natural and discreet (not drawing attention to what we're doing) but otherwise just go with the flow :) I really liked the piece though--lots of good points made (and GREAT images!)

    1. I thought you'd like it!!!

      Congrats on the long and happy nursing! Petka rarely nurses in public anymore (at 26 months) but when I get another baby, I'm totally printing out that image of Mary spraying milk at a guy and handing it out to anyone who complains - for them to meditate on ;).

  2. <3 Thanks for the shout-out, and I LOVE the pictures!!

    The point about modern art is fascinating. My difficulty with most forms of modern art (less so with poetry) is not that it's unsafe, but that it's a) aesthetically ugly, and b) often too abstract to communicate anything. I sometimes struggle with modern poetry in regard to b); I've only rarely come across an a). Of course, as I've said before, I sometimes find some I love, like yours and Christie's.

    I have just never managed to wrap my mind around the overall concept of modern art, though. I think I like rules too much; I don't know how to develop technique without them. John Green made an attempt at defending contemporary art once, but all I could think of while he was talking about overlooking complexity was that the basketball court looked like playground equipment designed by a fast food chain (primary colors!) with a fondness for inconvenience. The island and the solstice ring thing were cool enough, but what I dislike about them is that they require explanation to be appreciated. Or maybe that's just me...

    1. Feel free to correct me, by the way. I'm offering eternal gratefulness to the first person to explain the point of modern art in terms that I can understand and move forward with. ;D

    2. I think the point of modern art is similar to the point of any other art (assuming it's good, and not just a pretentious attempt to get attention from hipsters)..which is to communicate something about the human condition and pursue beauty. It just comes from a different angle or perspective than the other styles, which also have their own perspectives. I think that it reflects more the changing way we see ourselves and our world, reflects our tendency to be more obsessive about our own emotions than we are interested in the perspective of in that way, yes, it does tend more toward aesthetic ugliness and abstraction but it can also create "a place for divinely constituted meaning and order within the modern condition."

      if that makes sense...?? It's Saturday morning after all, not much can be expected of me. ;)

      And the need for explanation, I think..while it's definitely sometimes a very real need in modern art, comes either from the artist's inability to let his art go and live on it's own - to be a living thing to those interacting with it, and to allow them to find the meaning in it - and partially from our need to have things explained to us, instead of trusting our own intuition to find the meaning that is actually in the piece, not just the meaning the artist intends for the piece, because they're not always the same (#panslabyrinth ;) )

      I hope that's not hopelessly unclear..that may be part of the reason I like modern art - getting meaning across has never been my strong point ;p

    3. Ha, no! It's not hopelessly unclear. It's a good start. I can see how an obsession with our own emotions over others' perspectives would get us into ugliness and abstraction (says I, verbose and introspective blogger that I am ;))...

      I do believe modern art can create that place for divinely constituted meaning and order, I just feel like meaning and order of any sort are comparatively rare. Why is there a giant sculpture that looks like four enormous metal playing cards leaning against each other in the middle of one of the main pathways on the WWU campus? Everybody has to walk AROUND it to get anywhere, and when I look at it, all it says to me is "Hey, look at me, I'm big and rusty and designed to get in your way, although I might be useful for a game of hide-and-seek if I weren't such an obvious--and probably spidery--hiding place." Is that a meaning? I'm SO CONFUSED.

      And the solstice ring thing, which was the coolest of the items in the Green video, how are you ever supposed to figure out that it casts a single shadow only on the summer solstice unless you go back every single day of the year to look at it? And who's going to go back every single day of the year to look at two stainless steel rings stuck at apparent random in a forest? It's not even in the same category of experience as looking at one of the stained glass windows in church. Even the ones belonging to saints I don't know anything about.

      I might just be hopelessly tone-deaf when it comes to modern art (aside: I'm pretty sure some modern composers have been tone-deaf *coughmessaiencough* WHY IS TUNELESS BANGING ON THE PIANO INTERESTING???) ...but I'm not ready to give up yet... I still feel like there's a key to this somewhere that I'm just not finding, and that if I could just find it I'd understand why people put things that look like giant macaroni noodles on pedestals on street corners in Bellingham... and that would make my life easier.

      Maybe I need to go watch Pan's Labyrinth. ;)

    4. Watch it!!!!!!!!!!

      But I do know what you mean..I did a kiln-firing once with a guy who painted portraits of colors..his A Portrait of Yellow was EXACTLY like the 'curry yellow' Seth's parents were doing in their kitchen at the time..not realizing that he was there - or that the image of the painting was meant to be art..I said "Oh, my boyfriend's parents are doing their kitchen in the Same Colour!" He was not impressed and conversation around the kiln was forced for a while..until I pretended to see the difference. But it was just a big yellow square, how was I to know?????

      I tend to lean towards dismissive when confronted with in-the-way sculpture too..especially sculpture that requires too much of a commitment before becoming relevant..partially because I'm lazy..partially because I have an awful memory..and partially because while I do think that greeting art with an education/commitment/worldview/whatever that allows you to know it more intimately often allows for a fuller appreciation, there should be something appreciable overall as well..and that's a huge failing in much of modern art. Or a huge failing in modern society. Or both. Probably both. And yeah, modern composers..some of them Must be tone-deaf, and it's absolutely awful!!!

    5. OK, good... at least now I feel less crazy. ;)

      And your Yellow story... I will be sniggering about that for a week. I feel the same way about Coldplay's song "Yellow", too, incidentally. Though I can listen to "Paradise" over and over and over again and still love it.

      Also, I wonder if modern poetry often works better than modern music or visual art because it at least contains words, which generally give you someplace to start when looking for meaning... so that even when there's not a clear and obvious single meaning, there's often something to ponder. If the imagery is good enough, "something to ponder" is totally enough for me.

      As for Pan's Labyrinth, I'll add that to my to-watch list, if I can find that. But I have to finish Firefly first! ;)

  3. 2. Whoa, deja vu. I could have sworn I read this article half a year ago, not two months ago. Good stuff. When I Afon was still little enough to take to group therapy and was fussing, the psychologist encouraged me to nurse him . . . he paused to make sure that it wouldn't disturb a particularly uptight woman (because this was a therapy session, he has to be more sensitive to others' discomforts than what he normally would be, because we might not be dealing with emotionally and mentally healthy people to begin with). She indicated that it was fine, and he was so pleased, saying to everyone, "See? This is life and death, this is really living. It's beautiful." He's a great guy and a loyal Catholic, one of the most emotionally healthy people I've ever met, and it never felt awkward to nurse around him.

    5. YUM.

    6. I _think_ the disproportion comes in in that men _tend_ to be more sexually stimulated by vision, while women _tend_ to be more sexually stimulated by touch. Maybe that's not even true. I can only speak with certainty for myself, and that is that the body is one of the last on the list of traits that attract me to a man (sexually). I don't get this obsession among some girls about "cute butts." Huh? You're looking at that?

    7. I agree with you. I wouldn't censure myself for the sake of "not hurting someone's feelings," unless I knew the person was particularly fragile or damaged and asserting myself would be almost a blow to the other person. Otherwise, if we're uncomfortable hearing something, that's a good signal to me that we need to rethink it, or at least that we need to accept being challenged.

    As soon as I held my new baby in my arms, I knew I was opposed to CIO. If we don't know what goes on in a just-born infant's mind, then I wanted to err on the side of caution and assume that they feel fear and abandonment. Because if there was the tiniest, most miniscule chance that CIO would make him feel that way, then that's too much of a chance. The only time I can see CIO trumping this would be if the baby or mother's actual life would be put in danger to tend to the crying child. And then it's just a matter of, "Well, you can't be emotionally damaged or emotionally damage if one of you is dead." Gosh, that's morbid. But, am I making sense?

    1. 2. You might have!!! I don't know how old the article is..but I LOVE the story of your counselor. What an amazing person!

      6. Hahaha..I don't think I'm normal ;) But what's interesting, is that I never really hear men flipping out about women being immodest - even good, holy, Catholic men who really do want to be chaste. They seem completely happy, it's the women harassing other women for men, which, whether it's meant to or not, sounds more like it's coming from a feeling of "this girls gonna steal my man" than a gentle reproof. But then, maybe it actually has more to do with the way the clothes are being worn, because I know a family at Church - an uber-conservative, skirts only, high, high-necked tops, loose-flowing dresses family - and they aren't terribly fond of my clothing, I know; but they've never 'called me on' or done anything but be sweet, friendly, polite, and loving towards me - though I've heard stories from others who have been 'called on' by them. So maybe these woman are sensing a 'tone' of immodesty that is not just the way of dress..or maybe their closing themselves off to tone and just looking at the surface..does that make sense?????

      7. That's why I love you! :)

      Otherwise, if we're uncomfortable hearing something, that's a good signal to me that we need to rethink it, or at least that we need to accept being challenged.

      Exactly. You're making perfect sense and it's totally my line of thinking!

    2. 6. HAHA! Christie, that's how my head works too... but Masha, I thought I was the abnormal one! My sisters started talking about things like broad shoulders as they grew up, but I generally shrugged off the idea of shoulders in favor of daydreaming about boys whose charms were more along the lines of "sweet and a little geeky". ;)

      P.S. The word verification on this one was "elventap"... not even kidding. So, is that a dance performed at feasts in Rivendell? Or a reference to house-elf-run keggers? Or what?

    3. Hahaha! I'm guessing a dance performed at Rivendell feast AFTER the emptying of at least four kegs ;)

      Maybe we're both abnormal..maybe normal is enjoying shoulders from afar, and focusing on bank accounts and upward mobility ;)..I hope not, but it's possible.

  4. Ha! Love the breastfeeding Mary! That has to be framed one day and put up in our living room for all to see!