Betty Duffy


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Part 2


"Honestly there has been a struggle and tension between the disciplines, though it is slowly becoming reconciled, as I grow older. The core of the tension is that I could be a much better artist if I wasn’t a woodworker, or farmer, or musician. Or I could be a much better woodworker if I wasn’t a painter or puppeteer, etc. Each one has a voice, many voices, that call out to me throughout the day seeking my attention. Learning to understand seasons and timing and rest have helped me to not to get overwhelmed by them as I once did.

I am learning slowly to approach each day from a place of provision for my family, my community and for myself: a place where I see my Father’s heart resting. Before, and still sometimes now, it was with fear in a place of a deficit that I approached the day. I would grasp desperately at the area I felt the most insecure in, trying to survive the anguish of not having enough time or purpose to rest upon."

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Music you need to hear

I posted at Patheos today on the artist, Jack Baumgartner, who has been on my sidebar now for awhile. I began an interview with him several months ago, and have included the first question of that interview as an introduction to his work, but also to direct people to his newly released album of folk music. I hope you'll go directly to his blog or Itunes and give the music a listen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Just say...maybe...

For me in the readings this week: 

"Lord, how I love your law!
It is ever on my mind."
(Psalm 119)


"Jesus wants me to tell you again…how much love he has for each one of you--beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus--one to one--you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel--but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how he looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus--not from books but from being with him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words he speaks to you? Ask for grace; he is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear him saying, "I thirst" in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus the living person--not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say, "I love you"--impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead--meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear him--speaking in the silence of your heart."
--Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Pedge paraphrased this bit from Mother Teresa for me last week. I looked for the original source for this post, but couldn't find it. And here it is, as the meditation in Magnificat.

We keep talking about how the spiritual life is not linear. It's not about advancing, or backsliding, or reaching the next level, etc. even though that language can be helpful at times. It can also be hurtful, particularly when we interpret a lack of certainty or consolation in prayer as distance we've been removed from the heart of God.

I think I'm getting better at looking around me when it seems that God is silent, to people I trust, who love me, and who I know are with God. In those times it seems that the Holy Spirit speaks in a cloud of themes, problems and voices. It could be related to modern communication as it now operates, that these themes are whispered in many different ears, through technology, through the news, through networks of friendships. In any case, it has the appearance that God's plan for me, personally, is part and parcel with his plan for all of humanity. Our pathway into the heart of God today is precipitated by what's happening in the culture, and what has been written as the Word of God, and ordained by the Church in blindness to speak to this particular moment in the liturgical year, and indeed, in history.

I don't like to think about the possibility that my spiritual life is affected by these aggregations--that when a friend of mine "likes" a story somewhere, that story is then placed in front of me, to be "liked" or not liked, but in any case, to engage--that certain aspects of that story will wash over my consciousness with the enormous sea of information I encounter every day, but that perhaps some small seed, some aspect of that story will speak to my story, might even turn it into a particular light so that I can see better what God is doing with me.

At the same time, the Church has been aggregating stories for me for the entirety of my Christian life. At some point in my Christian education I encountered a pie graph noting  liturgical seasons in purple, green, red, white and that sliver of pink, each segment a notation of the stories the church would be telling in that time.

Happening this week: One of my wrestlers has broken his arm. I breathe a sigh of relief on this note--well, at least we got that out of the way... He's out for the season. Which doesn't mean he won't trip on his way out the door and break his other arm. He is very accident prone, but also stoic. If he ever lets me know he's wounded, 90% of the time, he needs stitches or a cast. 

There is one still wrestling. I think he has a better chance of defending himself, or at least, he's proven himself capable of avoiding serious injury thus far. Never had a stitch or a cast, scarcely even a bruise in his life. He's cautious, but also a bit of an alpha child, so not usually on the receiving end of brutality. It might be nice to see him get his butt ever-so-lightly kicked.

We've entered what my mother used to call the "white knuckle season." The elder kids are going in a thousand different directions. My daughter wants to join every activity that comes down the pipeline. She just finished volleyball, spellbowl, and school play, now she wants to do mathbowl, basketball, and robotics. She thrives on constant activity, which is something I recall feeling a couple decades ago. 

She came home yesterday with a permission slip to do some media program where they film commercials and short video spots for their classmates, which I thought sounded fun. But reading the parent letter, it's sponsored by "Family Services and Prevention" and focuses entirely on positive messaging, or rather, negative messaging concerning the use of drugs and alcohol--which is just boring and bureaucratic, and a waste of an opportunity to use video cameras at school. Not to mention, one is more likely to say no to drugs by saying yes to Shakespeare, or to anything really, rather than an outdated "Just Say No" campaign (with updated tools and graphics). 

In any case, driving all over town every night chasing kids has certainly forced me to lay off the sauce (not that I was ever "on" the sauce, except for that brief little window this past summer after a super Kroger wine clearance event, and I lived on coffee, dark chocolate and red wine. It was Paleo! Or something.). 

Although last night, with Joe out of town, I could feel a glass of wine and a cigarette coming on from a mile away. The baby had fallen asleep before my last pick-up so I left her and the others under the watch of the broken-armed kid, and had just a few minutes alone in my car, in the dark, with a sliver of moon, frozen breath, the music of my choice, and the approach of headlights in oncoming traffic shining a light on the poisonous draw of the Void. I said yes to a cigarette. I indulged in a moody song from my past, then rolled down the windows, blasted cold air through the car, lotioned up my hands, and was ready with a maternal gleam when the wrestler joined me in the car for the last leg of our day's journey.

…Which included yucky tuna melts for dinner that no one ate. Correction, the one with the broken arm ate everyone else's tuna melts, for a grand total of eight tuna melts.

Why do I keep serving tuna? I always know it's going to be a rough night when I make that choice. If Family Services and Prevention had a program for that, it would save a world of trouble.

Here Pidgy, Pidgy!

Talking about birds, pigeons specifically, at patheos.

At Living Faith, I've had some meditations up this week. The links don't always work for me, but they appear on Jan. 15 and also on Jan. 12.

Monday, January 12, 2015


"I'm mad at you," my dad said. We'd just pulled up for Sunday dinner. He was chopping wood. Nevertheless, he was smiling.

"What did I do?"

"I didn't make it look bad."

"You didn't flatter it."

"I can't make it look worse than it is. I write what I see."

"Well, I'll be interested to see if some wrestlers turn up to defend it." 

One did. I didn't publish the comment because it wasn't polite. But ai me! I have displeased my father.  Gosh, I hate that, even if he's just ribbing me. Felt repentant for the rest of the night--added some qualifiers to my post--just to be perfectly clear that wrestling is sort of alright, only that this mother doesn't love it when her sons are nearly naked and in pain.

I also don't love qualifiers. If they're meant to take the sting away from harsh words, well they work--by overpopulating the language, and cushioning it for the weak. Writing is a blood sport if ever there was one. Just look away. Look away!

Easier said than done, even from this side of the mat. I'm always imagining what my dead ancestors might think about what I've written, also my living forebears. Look away, beloved family! Togetherness is for Sunday dinner.

So I spend a lot of time puttering before I can put words to paper. I putter for days. I had a deadline last week. Joe was watching a football game with all the kids, so I could get done what I needed to do. Shouldn't have taken too long--and really, once the writing started, it didn't take too long--but the puttering lasted all day. 

And the writing started in the middle of the night, after I went to bed, where of course, the puttering ended, and I suddenly had ideas, about everything. Joe, the baby, and the dog were all snoring around me in enviable repose, while I lay there in half-consciousness trying to decide which was more important, getting down the words, or attempting a deeper sleep.

I always choose the words, though they're about the only thing that can get me out of bed once I'm in it. I recently spent a very long night feeling a sharp pain in my ankle, which I knew on some level was a stinger or a splinter that needed to be removed. But I couldn't commit to one second of full consciousness to remedy the problem, so spent the entire night half awake and uncomfortable. Sure enough, in the morning, there was a rather large splinter in my ankle, and instant relief when I took it out. What a waste of a night.

Several years ago I started keeping my journal next to the bed, so I can write things down in the dark if need be. It can be funny in the morning to see what thoughts were costing me blessed sleep.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rough and Smooth

I went for my annual skin checkup, because both my parents have skin cancer, one of them, melanoma. I had a mole removed from my wrist while I was there, and my children are now in mourning. It has been their favorite plaything in Mass all these years. Here, Noisy Toddler. Would you like to touch my mole? 

Well, those days have passed, like many others with their teething rings and special blankies. The mole is no more. Maybe we should throw it a party.

The last time I saw my sister she said, "Why do you still have that mole? It looks like a wart." 

Frankness is the privilege of blood sisterhood. She had a mole on her chin for most of our adolescence that I used to take great pleasure in telling her was "not a beauty mark." She had it removed as well.

But it takes a daughter to say, "Why would you do that? It was part of you. A grody part, but still…"

I put nylon strings on my guitar which I like much better than the steel strings that rattled. But I find the guitar store a very intimidating place, a boys' club really. Teenage pretty boys with gauges in their ears, middle aged dudes on lunch breaks…

I've been there twice now, once to stroll around and get my bearings--through the room with the amps and smoke machines to the humidified cedar room with all the acoustics in it. There was a tiny practice stall where all the bluegrass instruments were kept, so I shut myself in there for a little bit and picked around on instruments I have no idea how to play.

I think that's the most intimidating thing about the place, that I'm a beginner, which is something I haven't been in a long, long time. Yesterday I went to get strings and a capo, saying as little possible and acting ambivalent to hide my beginner status because I'm vain: I don't really care what kind of capo, whatever, that's fine. I barely know what a capo is.

There is a double edged sword to having new callouses on my finger tips. On one hand, there are things I'm used to touching that I can no longer feel. On the other hand, hammer head finger tips are useful for all kinds of new and old things. I feel more efficient tapping my keyboard, for instance. And the nylon strings are very sensitive, which is maybe a nice trade-off for fingers that don't feel much anymore.

Joe took me out to dinner on the company dime. It's a Christmas tradition that keeps the hens happy. Feed her and she will acquiesce to another year's worth of unpredictable hours and travel. Funny, how true it is--that what I really want is for the sacrifice to be acknowledged--and look, a generous gift at the end of the fiscal year--so quarterly objectives are met, all allowances utilized, and everyone is happy. 

Of course, "sacrifice" is a difficult word to use for a job that supports a family of eight--not quite accurate. We are all very well fed. It's a good life--which becomes more and more a reality from which I can no longer hide. I'm embarrassed to admit it, how good we have it, the constant conundrum of what to do with our blessings.

My mom watched the kids so we could wrap up some last minute Christmas shopping, which was in fact, the entirety of our shopping--all six kids, one fell swoop. And really, one dumb store: Walmart. 

Joe was sick for a week leading up to the break, sick with what the kids had, which was a fever, and fatigue, mixed with sore ears, and all kinds of uncomfortable things. Then he was on vacation a week, too tired to work in the shop, so that there were many long hours in the house with me, and it reminded me a little bit of what it was like when we were engaged--long lazy hours with no objective. 

Living without objectives has it's own burdens, but its backdoor blessing is intimacy with whomever shares the long hours.

I think of past years when I wanted to go out on the town, and try to find a party--to be with the people out there having an elusive and exclusively wonderful time. After a long day of shopping and a week of closeness, I have to say that our table was its own little world, its own elusive and exclusive paradise. 

Things just keep getting better. 

The kids were happy with their remote control everything--helicopters, cars, weird circular things that look like UFOs. The living room was abuzz Christmas morning, with batteries, many, many batteries.

Found quote:

"Often I believe I'm working toward a result, but always, once I reach the result, I realize that all the pleasure was in planning and executing the path to it.

It comforts me that endings are thus formally unappealing to me--that more than beginning or ending, I enjoy continuing."

--by Sarah Manguso, from Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

I hope everyone had a Blessed Christmas. We'll be ringing in the New Year with a poker game and chocolate.

At Patheos: