Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Anecdote for the Beginning of Holy Week

One day, a little over a year before I came into the Church, two women at my workplace were denouncing the manager of my department--a devout Pentecostal and family man--because, when all the managers had been asked to come in on Easter Sunday to catch up on some things, he'd said "no, he needed to be with his family on Easter." The matter had little or nothing to do with them, but one of them, especially, was quite exercised about it. She didn't accept his reason for not working that day and declared "Easter isn't even an important holiday, not like Christmas!"

"Actually, for Christians it's the most important holiday of the year," was on the tip of my tongue, but I bit it. (As a nice Southern girl or possibly as what Amy Welborn calls a "not nice girl", I do that a lot.) It's probably just as well I bit my tongue, because I later learned she went to church, suggesting she probably was some stripe of Christian and so my telling her what Christians do might have seemed presumptuous.

But it's an interesting attitude.

We moderns, at least here in America, seem to have let advertisers tell us which holiday is the more important, and oddly enough they picked the one that let them sell us more stuff.

I know which of the two I looked forward to as a child. I mean, hunting Easter eggs and eating a basketful of candy was nice and all, but we usually had to go to church (bor-ing!) and I was a little vague on the whole why of the thing anyway. Whereas Christmas, on the other hand, had a months long buildup, starting with the arrival of the Sears toy catalogue in early autumn and, once Thanksgiving came, special programs on TV and a visit to Santa and tree selecting and decorating, to fill the time pleasantly until that wonderful night came with all of its ritual of cookies and milk and being sent to bed early and then Christmas morning--finally--with toys from Santa and an extra-special dinner to look forward to. We usually didn't have to go to church (it not falling on Sunday most years), but I knew the Christmas story and it was relatively easy to grasp. Some years my mother would read it aloud on Christmas (starting with "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus..."), and it was a great story that fit in easily enough with all the warm and cosy holiday programming; the Peanuts special even quoted from it.

There weren't any beloved Easter programs that quoted from the Resurrection story, let alone the Passion. We heard the story in Sunday school of course, but it was full of stuff that was incomprehensible to little kids who didn't have as much background on the subject as the adults around us may have assumed we did. (For example, who were all these people and why were they in Jerusalem, why palms on the ground, why a crown of thorns, who was Pilate, who were the Romans, etc.) Maybe some of the adults didn't think the Passion was a terribly nice story, at least not for little kids, because I don't remember hearing much about it. (Another possibility is I wasn't paying sufficient attention.) There was a picture of the Agony in the Garden I used to see all over the place, but the story we got sometimes seemed to skip from Jesus going into Jerusalem on a donkey (another popular illustration) to the stone being found already rolled back. I didn't know why the schools let us off on Good Friday. I didn't know why Good Friday was called good. My guess is I wasn't alone in that.

It's a shame. Because while the story of the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus isn't going to sell as many dollars worth of merchandise as the story of his birth does, it is a very important story. Contrary to my coworker's opinion, Easter is a very important holiday. Even more important than Christmas. The Incarnation of the un-created Creator, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, into human form, subject to all the ills that flesh is heir to is a big story, yes, and one well worth celebrating with all the presents and feasting and strings of lights that people care to have. But that this Word made flesh then voluntarily chose to undergo terrible suffering on our behalf when he could have avoided it--that is also important to remember, is it not? And that he then rose from the dead and walked and talked with his apostles and was seen by over five hundred people--kind of a big story, too, right? And that all of this has profound implications for those who take him to heart and are willing to accept what he offers? Yeah, that's big. If none of it had happened, we might not even remember the Incarnation at Christmas.

Just something to think about this week.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Day America Died

I hope to God it's not. I have been proud and grateful to be an American ever since I was a child, but tonight America's elected representatives have chosen to deal us what may be a fatal blow by laying the groundwork for a massive power grab. Govermentalized medicine will be enormously expensive, not only in tax dollars, but in personal freedom and eventually in the degrading effect it will have on the character of our people. As the title of this Mark Steyn post from earlier today says, Happy Dependence Day. I hope to God we can turn this around, even partially, but I'm not optimistic. We've been gut-shot. This is the beginning of the long decline. (Barring immediate and forceful and clever and sustained action on the part of a whole lot of Americans.)

I now fully expect to end my life in an America that is poorer and less powerful and less free than the one I was born into.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

American Pi

Happy American Pi Day! (Today's 3/14 in American-style notation; watch for British Pi Day in July--22/7, to be exact.) Having no actual celebration, real-life or online, planned, I offer you a new term I learned today: Daylight Stupid Time.

I've written here at least once before about how I am no fan of Daylight Savings Time, which happened to coincide with American Pi Day this year. Well, today John J. Miller posted an email in the Corner from a reader saying that the amateur astronomy community calls it Daylight Stupid Time. That sounds about right to me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One More Cent on the Census

I'm basically just adding to what was in my previous post on this. Mark Krikorian has another Corner post on the Census, which has some interesting bits. His advice doesn't change though: 'Question 9 on your census form — check "Some other race" and write in "American." You're doing nothing wrong. And you may help set something right.'

Incidentally I, in contrast to Krikorian, do have a problem with the gov mailing out a letter saying that we will get a census form in the mail later. That strikes me as government waste. I suppose the theory is that an "it's coming" letter will result in more people filling out the census, but that's bollocks.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

One Guy's Two Cents On the Census

I've always been mildly suspicious of forms that ask my race. I mean, why is that the business of someone who's never seen me and is thus unable draw his own conclusions? Why is it the business of anyone? Are they going to use that information to discriminate against me or against people who check a different box than I do? I don't like either of those possibilities.

Having it be the United States government doing the asking doesn't make me less suspicious. Mark Krikorian has a suggestion for what to do with this year's census questioning of our race:

"...we should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — "Some other race"
— and writing in "American." It's a truthful answer but at the same time is a
way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial
classification schemes."

I'm not a legal scholar, so I can't say with certainty if this questioning is technically constitutional or not. But I am a nativeborn US citizen and one who has always been happy and proud to be so. And I question why a theoretically colorblind entity like our federal government needs to know my race. Or your race. Or that of any citizen. I'll be happy to check "Some other race" and write in "American".

There's some other census weirdness (for instance, why is question 8 separate from question 9?), but I will give the census creators props for one thing: they ask for our sex, not our "gender". Sex is a more fundamental distinction than race and I have no problem with forms asking for my sex, but being a human being rather than a word, I do not have a gender.

Friday, March 05, 2010

More Food

When I made my last post, I knew I was leaving out something I'd meant to add, but I couldn't remember what it was until several hours after I'd posted. It was mustard. I found a delicious new mustard. Zatarain's Creole Mustard. It is coarse and grainy in texture and has a strong mustard taste with a vinegar tang to it. So yummy I lick the knife I spread it with. (Hey, it's my kitchen.) We have never gone through mustard so quickly. I don't know why I never noticed it on the grocery shelves before, but I hope Zatarain's keeps making it for a long time.

As long as I'm on food, how about some more? I first learned how to turn old-fashioned oatmeal into microwave oatmeal from the Tightwad Gazette newsletter. Basically you just put oatmeal in a bowl with milk and sweetener overnight, although you can jazz it up some (not to mention leaving out the sweetener.) But Kayla's Thrifty Ways wrote about a variation in which she used flavored yogurt instead of milk, and I tried that this week--the yogurt part, that is. And I loved it. I think you get a better texture than with the milk method, and I liked the slight tanginess of the yogurt. The husband, who's no fan of porridge in the first place, prefers the milk method.

Here's my version:

1/2 Cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 Cup plain yogurt (I use Dannon All Natural because it's so creamy.)
approx. 1/4 Cup unsweetened applesauce
splash or two of vanilla flavoring
dash of apple pie spice
one packet of Splenda

Mix all ingredients in bowl and let sit in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, put it in the microwave for one minute. (In contrast, the milk method generally takes a minue and a half for me; not sure what the difference is.) Stir it up and Bob's your uncle. Serves one. Uncle Pookie added honey to his, but this is plenty sweet to me.

The only way to have a quicker breakfast would be to eat it cold. Okay, the old grab-a-piece-of-fruit-on-the-way-out-the-door method is faster, but this is the fastest thing I know of that lets you sit down to eat like a civilized person.

Oh, and since I mentioned the Tightwad Gazette, if any non-vegetarian Catholics reading this are looking for a different sort of fish dish, check out the Tightwad Gazette's Tuna-Cheddar Chowder recipe. (It's collected in The Tightwad Gazette II and The Complete Tightwad Gazette.) The name may sound kinda yucky, but it's actually so yummy I recommend serving it with a piece of French bread to wipe your bowl with afterward. The recipe claims it serves 4, but Uncle Pookie and I always polish it off in one sitting. (Probably why we have such big, comfy bottoms to sit upon.) It's not particulary Lenten, I guess, but it is different.

And yes, I will unashamedly wipe my bowl with a piece of French (or Italian or homeade) bread if I've been eating something creamy, at least at home. I've been willing to do so ever since I read the description of that amazing French farm meal Peter Mayle was invited to in A Year in Provence--the one where he and his wife ended up "eating for England". Read it, if you haven't.