Saturday, April 26, 2014


Well, didn't I feel fancy this morning, strolling through the farmers' market, sipping a breve, shouting "Arrividerci!" to Valentino, from whom I bought asparagus. I'm glad to live just seven blocks from the farmers' market. One doesn't like to drive to these sorts of things. I'm happy it's opened up again, because it's always a social, sunny way to start my slightly lonely Saturdays. Our farmers' market is a small town affair, with quite reasonable prices even for organic items, and completely normal people, as far as this town goes anyway. No jugglers or anything strange like that.

I've been thinking about what it means to be normal. When I was a teenager, of course I tried to be weird. I was just thinking the other day about how going to Goodwill and finding hilarious clothes and actually wearing them to church, work, etc was a form of entertainment (what would YOU do for good clean underage fun in this town?) I was home-schooled so that made me automatically weird, and even among the homeschoolers, I felt like I was somehow more cosmopolitan and open-minded than the rubes with whom I rubbed elbows, so I flouted custom among that group as well. Then I went to a weird college full of weirdos in a weird town, and then joined a weird church full of weirdos. Now that I am a venerable 25 years of age, I am increasingly uncomfortable with standing out and drawing attention to myself, but in this last year of working in a public school, I've realized just how much suppression that it would take to totally blend in.

Instance, briefly, instance, you say. Simply eating lunch with other teachers is usually a little nerve-wracking. I try to be as discreet as possible with my usually weird food.

"Um, well, it's a tapenade, made with olives, anchovies, and... yeah, you probably don't want any."
"It's called kombucha and it's... well, it's tea."

Basically anything I've made myself, unless it is macaroni and cheese, attracts comment. That's just food. The disjuncture between my beliefs about education and the small town public school status quo are too great for me to even begin to complain about, so I've just kept my mouth shut this year (knowing that I only had to do so for a year anyway.) I could not remain quiet when I read a book about dinosaurs to second graders in which they learned that "pterodactyl" meant "flying lizard," and I hope the teacher did not notice when I told them that it actually meant "wing finger." But I did proudly succeed in repressing my scorn for the sloppy epistemology of the"fact vs. opinion" lesson.
 It is difficult for an obviously pregnant woman to blend in when simply walking down the street, and so I daily find myself surprising people when I tell them that I don't know the gender of my child. For some reason, this is radically weird now, and when inquiries are made, I usually have to further explain that our caregiver is a home birth midwife who doesn't order routine ultrasounds, which seems to blow a lot of minds.

Part of it is just living in a small, Midwestern town. Tapenade, kombucha, midwifery, and religious ceremonies in other languages with incense and bells are not really worth commenting upon in more progressive communities. But on the other hand, sincere belief in traditional morals, in revealed religion and its pious practice in young, well-educated persons would attract attention if exposed in those places.

I am reading Montaigne right now (who, by the way, I think is the best philosopher to read in the bathroom, and the one who would most approve of being used in this way) and just finished an essay on Custom this morning. He spends a long time cataloging many shocking (to 16th century Europeans) customs of other peoples, in order, seemingly, to show that it's all relative, man. Humans can pretty much get used to doing anything with the force of antiquity behind it. One might expect that having undermined absolute faith in the customs of one's native land, he might continue to advise the clever non-sheeple to scorn conventions and do whatever they like. But in fact he quotes many ancient authors in order to argue that one should have the utmost respect for the customs and laws of one's country, perhaps even to the point of dying for them. He doesn't usually speak in glowing terms of Christianity, but he admires it here for enjoining us to "give to Caesar:"
The Christian religion has all the marks of the utmost utility and justice: but none more manifest than the injunction it lays indifferently upon all to yield absolute obedience to the civil magistrate, and to maintain and defend the laws. Of which, what a wonderful example the divine wisdom left us, that, to establish the salvation of mankind, and to conduct His glorious victory over death and sin, he would do it after no other way, but at the mercy of our ordinary forms of justice, subjecting the progress and issue of so high and so salutiferous an effect, to the blindness and injustice of our customs and observances; sacrificing the innocent blood of so many of the elect, and so long a loss of so many years, to the maturing of this inestimable fruit?

Even God himself accomplished his victory by submitting to the governing authorities! He later says that even in silly things, like fashion, "the wise man ought, within, to withdraw and retire his soul from the crowd, and there keep it in liberty and in power to judge freely of things; but as to externals, absolutely to follow and conform himself to the fashion of the time."

Does that sound like good advice? In our culture, we've been taught that the "externals" are essential expressions of our personalities, and in fact that we develop and maintain our Selves by displaying them to others through our consumption of material goods. So now the "fashion of the time" is so diverse that there is plenty of room for "the wise man" to dress however he likes. I suspect that among the nobility in 16th century France, there was rather less freedom to be eccentric. (Although young people have always shocked their elders!)

What do we lose by conforming ourselves to the fashion of the time? The oh-so-predictable rebel in me immediately objects that I oughta be able to do whatever I darn well please if that's what I BELIEVE IN, man! But looking back on my little eccentricities, mostly sartorial, but concerning religion or food or education as well, I find few of them to have been maintained solely for and through sincere belief in some good. Obviously dressing weirdly had very little to do with integrity and much to do with calling attention to oneself. My vegetarianism was founded on an immature yearning to be moral and unique at the same time.

Sometimes I think I did the right thing out of a kind of right opinion, but not through true knowledge that such a thing was good to do. I think that converting to Orthodoxy was the right thing to do, but I am not at all sure that I did it for the right reasons. I know that I acted the fool along the way and caused all kind of commotion in my family. This did not pain me at the time but it does now, and I think it should have then. I could have done my thang in a quiet, respectful way.

The other day my mom asked if our midwife (who delivered my mom of me + four others) was still wearing Birkenstocks with socks. "Well we've only seen her in the winter." "That's what the socks are for!" She started telling me about a pair of Birkenstocks that she used to love. I commented that they were very comfortable and I'd like to have a pair, but I didn't want to look like too big and fat a hippie.

"I'm surprised! I thought you didn't care what people thought about you!"

I winced.

In TMI pregnancy news which nobody else really cares about, but which I'll go back through my archives to remember some time, I am anemic! Not like, slightly anemic, but 10.6 of some hemoglobin unit/a desirable 16 of that unit. I said I would beef up my raw liver intake. (You know you're crunchy and weird when you gross out your midwife!) She said I'd better take an iron supplement. I wonder if it's because of the last six weeks of politeness and restraint in the meat department. Also, the baby is lying posterior (face up,) which is okay at this point. It's okay to deliver that way too, but it's something you can try to fix by wiggling your butt in the air, so I guess I will go try that.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

XB! Pear trees blooming with fragrant snow, magnolias unselfconsciously sexy,  sun competing with crisp clean breeze, children getting their feet dirty until evening falls shockingly late, birds singing all the time, etc. Windows always open.

Thank God, I only have 11 days left of working. I scrawled STAY AT HOME MOM over the square for Friday, May 16th (Venerable Theodore The Sanctified [or as I originally spelled it, "snactified."]) And then, there is no "real," leave-the-housey type job in my foreseeable future. It's a weird feeling (mostly liberating, of course.) I guess I've worked for the last 10 years of my life, or when I haven't been working, I've been looking for work. Most of those jobs since the last couple of years of college made themselves part of my identity. The nerdy glamour and glory of the lab assistant! The scruffy Zen of painting cool white vigas in the New Mexican sun! The effortless hippie chic of the dreadlocked skinny biker barista! The fervent convictions of the pious but Socratically irreverent teacher of Orthodox youths!

Now I wonder how my child will think of mommy's life before children. Will the photos and relics enchant or embarrass him? Will my aspirations appear to have been doomed from the start, or will they be evidently alive in me still? Will she resolve to "go further," or wonder why we didn't have kids sooner? Will the conversion seem contrived, or the education wasted?

There's only one way to find out!

I remember asking my parents what they used to want to be when they grew up, which question has its purpose for the young historian, but one might find it a little depressing. A few years ago, one of the little Russian kids at church asked me "Who do you want to be when you grow up?" I don't know whether to attribute it to ESL or to a poetic soul, but I liked her variation of both the tense and the interrogative pronoun (or whatever.) I hope that's what my kids will ask me.


am I going to be this corny from now on?

Monday, April 21, 2014

"This was a real nice clambake"

My husband is very sad that Pascha is over. He sat on the couch last night as the sun set, "watching the last light of Pascha," as he put it, and mournfully saying that he felt like a child at the end of Christmas, surrounded by the toys, wrapping paper and and leftovers, with the future hope of playing with the toys, but the languor of discharged anticipation.

Early this morning, before he had to go to work, I warmed up our leftover Pascha breakfast of pancakes and sausages and we ate it under the twinkly Christmas lights, next to a pineapple and a "bouquet" of freshly dried palms. He was still sad. But he also keeps fervently insisting that it was A Great Pascha. My minor sunburn, tired voice and sore feet sleepily agree.

Working on Bright Monday really is a shame. When I'm the boss, nobody's going to do anything that isn't fun on Bright Monday. We don't celebrate things for long enough in this country. We think we're so carefree, but we really don't know how to party.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pascha nibble plans

We always go way overboard for Pascha and decided that this year, we're REALLY going to keep our cool. Not too hard for me since I'm not lusting after every single forbidden thing this time. Matt is almost always moderate. So between the two of us, we might pull it off this time.

At our church we have the excessive but of course fun tradition of a full-fledged pitch-in at two in the morning as WELL as Pascha baskets AND a cookout/pitch-in for Agape Vespers. I always get a little confused and overwhelmed, with both making and eating that much fancy food in a 24 hour period. Here's what I'm gonna do this year:

My 2 am pitch-in contribution
A couple of sweet galettes according to this recipe. Don't know what's going in them yet; whatever fruit is cheap at the store, and definitely some sweet ricotta! Matt thinks a spinach galette would be good too, although for some reason I don't feel very excited about that. Perhaps he can make his own. They look so fancy but they are very easy to make. The dough can be prepared ahead of time and then almost literally thrown into the oven with some random stuff wrapped inside half an hour before we have to leave. Awesome.

Pascha basket
It's ridiculously luxurious of us, but we're just going to drive to Indianapolis this week to go to a fancy cheese, wine and sausage kind of place, in order to get fancy cheese, wine and sausage. AND THAT'S ALL THAT'S GOING IN THE BASKET, for real this time! Except I'll make a baguette-ish kind of loaf too. And we're not even going to look at the basket when we're at the pitch-in, we're just going to save it for a picnic the next day, if we are even hungry.

Agape Vespers
I'll make four or five loaves of bread on the day of Pascha itself, and this week I'll make a couple of batches of olive tapenade. That's all I'm bringing to the Agape Vespers cookout/pitch-in. People don't get to eat home-made bread very often, and the tapenade is pretty damn exhilarating, so I think that's a fair contribution.

What are you making for Pascha? Never mind, just concentrate on prayer and fasting. Unless you are a woman and you have to go grocery shopping and plan the long-expected sumptuous feast four or five days ahead of time!

On Holy Thursday, I have to ride in a school bus full of children to the Children's Museum, which is an hour away. Then I have to chase them around in a lackluster, seven-months-pregnant kind of way (I have been given a dispensation to do it in this manner,) and then ride back on the same probably stinky bus. I decided to take the next day off completely, even though I'm out of paid days off. Holy Friday and Saturday just wouldn't be real pretty if I didn't.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Here's the granola I've been making. I'll give it in its most general form.


6 cups grain (oats, barley, whatever)
3 c liquid (some combination of milk, "milk," and water)
4 Tbs something acidic (yogurt, lemon juice, ACV)
1 C oil (coconut oil, butter)
1 C sweet stuff (honey, syrup, molasses, sugar)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla if desired
spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc)
optional add-ins: peanut butter, dried coconut

Soak the first three ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl overnight. Melt the rest of the ingredients together and mix with the grain. Spread in thin layers on oiled cookie sheets. Dry in a 170 to 180 degree oven for several hours. Flip and separate the mush so that it dries in chunks. Keep in an airtight container.

We like it a lot with Sally Fallon "Crispy Nuts" on top, which yield to the tooth with about the same willingness as granola. Those are easy to make: soak nuts overnight with acid and water, and dry just as you do granola.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My heart is leaping with the vim and cheer of a long-deserved cup of coffee. The brisk and blue sunny day contributed its piece as well. It makes me want to do things and learn about things! It gives nerve and breath to my desires, if not my resolve.

Thus I am teeming with ambition to learn French and Greek again, properly, (while my child learns them as well,) to order those pigments and begin painting at home, to learn all about modern art and theology, to become virtuous, to order my days so that calm and beauty reign, to beat like the wings of birds that rise from the lake to the trees, to sigh like the chime that flies from a church on a breeze, to laugh like a brook as it trips and falls over stones on its way, to SING THROUGH THE NIGHT LIKE A LARK WHO IS LEARNING TO PRAY....

But what I will do today instead is finish making and packing all the food we're going to pack on the way to Florida. We ALWAYS end up going on road trips during fasts. What is the deal? I cannot think of a single time we've been able to stop and eat local barbecue or whatever. It works out okay because fasting food keeps better in the car than say, roast beef. I guess it keeps us from spending too much money, too.

The Eternal Lenten Road-Trip Menu:
Mexican bean salad
Avocados and chips

Granola and rice milk
Hummus and tapenade (new addition!)
Cucumbers and carrots
Bananas and apples and PB
Kippers et fromage pour moi et le bebe (also new!)
Komboochie woochie

My sister (in law) said something funny about vegetarians once. "They always ruin your vacation!"

I went and bought a cart full of tiny baby clothes at the thrift store. It was "Everything is 75 Cents" day and this stuff was irresistible. I will only be able to use half of it unless we just throw gender conventions to the wind. Oh well! Someone else will use it. Now I have to pick it up in the car because I could not carry it all on my walk home (there were also four pillows and a heavy skillet.) The Drive of Shame!

One more bit on marriage/submission

This time from Christos Yannaras. (You see what I mean about the Greeky, literal translation.)
The going forth to reach out to life is the Church's mystery of marriage. A mystery, because it is grace that takes us by the hand, the giving of a reciprocal gift. The Lover takes us by the hand through a complete renunciation of every demand. And then the mode of the life given to us as a gift is tangible in the human marital relation. Mode of reciprocal gift, as made incarnate by the Guide who takes us by the hand: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her... Wives be subject to your husbands... as the Church is subject to Christ... This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33.)

In the culture of a sensibility which values choices above everything, the mystery of a life-bearing death seems a paradox. Paul speaks and people laugh: "Let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph. 5:33.) The equality of the sexes is now taken for granted, the careful weighing of rights and responsibilities and duties, the reciprocal nature of every responsibility. We do not suspect that Paul seeks something greater: that relation in which the one party renounces itself without stint or measure and the other party makes itself subject to the renouncer with the fear and reverence this special gift generates. Who can demonstrate to blind eyes that somewhere in this mode of relation love becomes true and death is abolished?
Variations on the Song of Songs, pp. 123-124

Friday, April 4, 2014

too busy to think of a title

Books on my bedside table or scattered around the house in various stages of unread-y-ness:

Variations on the Song of Songs by Christos Yannaras
     I can't compare this to any book but Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments. Sometimes it's metaphysics, sometimes it's poetry. The translation is kind of awkward but I have a pedantic soft spot for Greeky literal translations so I find it beautiful.
The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne
     Moral exploration of a murder, set in a very bohemian artist milieu in Rome. It's definitely not New England, and that's strange.
So That's What They're For by Janet Tamaro
     A funny and encouraging guide to breastfeeding. I'm laughing at like 80% of this lady's jokes, which is pretty good. Even Matt laughed when he looked over my shoulder and randomly read a few sentences. 
The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczn
      Dated but inspiring. 

But I haven't been able to read the first two much recently. One reason is that Matt is working a lot this week and we've had something going on every evening, so I have been focused on earthly cares like food, housework and sleep as soon as I get home from work. The other reason is that in general, I have not been able to turn off my anxious, calculating, planny brain in order to enjoy reflection or intellectual stuff. All I can muster up is the concentration for practical, entertaining books. I have been too busy worrying about the arrival of the baby and the subsequent move to D.C. (There you have it!) Even though I have been striving and struggling like a stupid beetle down here, God has not seen fit to frustrate my plans or confuse my tongues or anything like that. Things are working out very well, although this has nothing to do with my compulsive Google mapping and budget wrangling, and everything to do with grace from others. When arrangements are more concrete I will write about them. They are settled enough (and my efforts are futile enough) that I should relax and focus on our last child-free vacation next week and our last child-free Holy Week after that. I keep thinking:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.

But Craigslist beckons! And I don't get the weaning part. What am I supposed to be weaned from?

If anyone has opinions about babies and biking (specifically infant brain trauma from the bumps,) I am interested in hearing them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Casual Straussian verbal tic:

"That's what Rousseau thinks too-- or, well, that's what he says anyway." I always do that.

I am going to be done working on May 16, at 36 weeks. The wheels just keep on rolling. A baby bucket list is in order. What will I wish I'd done before this little critter takes over my life? The sad (or happy) thing is that I can't think of much. So far my bucket list looks like this:

1. Finish the icon (My teacher thinks this is feasible, but I worry.)
2. Figure out the no-poo method once and for all.... no, that's too much work.
3. Re-read some Plato, probably Phaedrus (Feasible.)

Should I attribute this paucity of ambition to my general satisfaction with life, or to my lack of imagination? Really, with only 10 clumsy weeks of pregnancy left, I don't have time for anything grand, like French fluency or financial independence. I imagine that hippos and orca whales don't spend much time wishing to fly. Matt is furiously reading Kant against the day when he will be too bleary eyed to see the small print. I don't do very many things furiously.

All the other things I want/need to do are practical or baby-related, and so they don't belong on the bucket list. Gather all the stuff, put some meals in the freezer.

One pleasant and helpful thing that I do plan to do is swim in the last weeks. (Terrible sentence!) My sister works at a gym and for letting her give me a tour, I earned a two week free pass, which I plan to redeem after I stop working. Swimming every day sounds like good preparation for baby, and it's an appropriate goal for a large aquatic mammal like myself.

Having fun and relaxing with friends, family and myself is really the main thing. Am I missing anything?