Author Archives: Jill

The Saga Continues

The Catholic saga, that is. I just read commentary that it takes a year, maximum, to become Catholic. The comment was in response to my *yes, I’m sorry, sarcastic* question about whether it’s easier to be ex-communicated from the church than it is to join it, the general accusation being that the church never ex-communicates, even when they ought to. As far as joining, I’m going on two years and counting. It’s all right. I mean, yeah, I’ve heard the stories of those who powered through RCIA and were confirmed at Easter nine months later. But alongside those stories are the ones of people who languished in limbo for years. My baptism issues have been resolved; for more on that, read this post. My marriage issues, however, have not been. In my diocese — maybe in all US diocese; I’m not exactly sure — a marriage convalidation is treated like a new marriage. Therefore, I’m required to obtain four witness statements swearing that my husband and I are fit to be married. That we’ve been married for almost 26 years and this paperwork baffles the friends and family I’ve tried to get on board with it is irrelevant. My Protestant family doesn’t know how to fill it out. Worse, the witness statements require a church seal at the moment of signing, which also baffles Protestants. Protestants don’t have church seals. Where will they acquire this? One enthusiastic friend sent a letterhead from her church, hoping that would do the trick. I don’t think it will. At the same time, my kind friend is only one witness. I’m still waiting for the others. I’ve been waiting for months.

People whose confirmations went smoothly don’t seem to comprehend how difficult the Catholic church can make it to join. You’d think Catholics didn’t actually believe one’s eternal soul depended on being Catholic. Honestly, I don’t think it does. But Catholics believe that. At the very least, they believe Protestants are Christians lacking the full truth, the full Scripture, etc., and will consequently spend a long time in Purgatory. I’m now imagining heaven itself as a bureaucratic nightmare where you wait in a long line before being told, I’m sorry, you never finished the endless streams of paperwork. We can’t let you in. That sounds like hell, though, to be stuck in an endless bureaucracy, relying on appropriate stamps and witnesses that can never be obtained.

For the sake of your sorrowful passion, Jesus have mercy on me.

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Saggy Drawers

When taking writing classes, teachers regularly warn writers to avoid the “sagging middle”. Writers will start their books with energy that begins to peter out once they hit the middle. I think writers took this to heart because now what I’m finding in books I’m going to call the “saggy drawers”, the loss of energy between the 60-80% marks in books. I have a detritus of books on my Kindle in which I gave up reading somewhere in that section.

It isn’t just a loss of energy, though. It’s about that region of the book that I realize the author is never going to fully develop his characters — that any profound ideas or deeper themes is never going to happen because the author is dead set on nothing but action scene after scene. This doesn’t mean that there is a trade-off of good rising action because rising action means upping the stakes, which naturally means deepening characterization. Suspense is only suspenseful if the events in the story matter to the characters. And then they have to matter for a reason, something universal to the human condition.

I’ve managed to work my way through books with saggy drawers, and sometimes they redeem themselves with a great ending. But I’m probably still not going to buy more books by the author because reading shouldn’t be a chore. There has to be some payoff for my soul or, less esoterically, my mind. One modern sci-fi author delivered that payoff with information. Everytime I wanted to give up on his books, he would deliver an info drop*, explaining the mechanics of future tech. Occasionally, an author just has a great writing style that carries me along, but the art of vocabulary and rhythm is increasingly rare these days. Why worry about a flavorful vocabulary when verbs like “get” (shudder) can replace a plethora of other words?

Yeah, I get it. I sound like a whiner, right? But I was searching through my Kindle for books I hadn’t finished, and I discovered this trail of saggy drawers I had no desire to open again. That…was a really odd way of phrasing it. I should shut up now.

*I carefully avoided the word “dump” here. You’re welcome.

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Gen Z Are Vicious

I’ve heard it said that millennials are boomers’ dream children, after their social experiments involving divorce, free-love, abortion, and feminism turned their first set of children into cynical anti-authoritarians who were just generally confused, but in a bitter way. You can see the bitterness in 90’s grunge rock; it creates a sharp contrast to the dumb sitcom world of Friends, where clinging to friendship in the wake of broken families is played out with canned laughs and corny punchlines.

Millennials were that in between generation, the children of more stable, but aging boomers and the older set of Xers. They were more likely to be daycare kids rather than latchkey ones — when they were too old for daycares, there were always publicly-funded after-school programs waiting for them. For us odd ball parents, we homeschooled; millennials grew up in the era when homeschool rates took a sharp upward path.

I hesitate to say it, but gen Z are in a sense the dream children of Xers. They’re being raised by a combination of aging Xers and older millennials. This is a strange contrast, as Xers were under-parented (in general, not specific) and millennials over-parented by helicopter moms and social programs. The result is a kind of weariness with the world, especially when adding round the clock internet and entertainment access. Hence, Gen Z has seen everything, and they’re pretty tired of it already.

I was thinking about this after reading about and subsequently watching the 14-yr-old YouTube phenomenon Soph. She’s gotten in a lot of trouble because she just won’t play by the PC rules set up for us by the powers-that-be — old media and teacherly types, mostly, who thought it was super-cool to drop F-bomb when they were young, but have a low tolerance for truth being spoken plainly. And that’s what Soph drops, truth bomb after truth bomb. She’s utterly disconcerting, but no more so than the rest of the gen Z kids I spend time around. She just happens to be articulate and intelligent and a popular YouTuber to boot. Right now, her youth protects her a little; I don’t know too many people who look kindly on adult bullies who go after children. But this generation is going to grow up. They are growing up, and their unwillingness to follow the correct social path is at the same time frightening and heartening. Those who so carefully constructed our modern social order put a lot of effort into it. And they aren’t going to give it up lightly.

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The Exercise Lifestyle

Spring is the hardest season for me, health wise, because I stop sleeping about when February hits. I never sleep well, but just as soon as I’ve settled into a January of hope, maybe even a few nights in a row of five or six hours sleep, my body says, nope, you only get two. Zero if you’re lucky. Sometimes, May kicks me to the curb with only a few minutes of sleep here and there. I’ll be honest; there were a couple Mays in my life when I was drinking a bottle of wine a day just to relax. Alcohol, obviously, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and red wine has the ability to decrease brain inflammation, making relaxation and a few minutes of sleep possible. No other alcohol has the same effect, in my experience. Drunk in a month other than May (again, my experience), red wine can make an entire night of sleep possible, if brain inflammation is the cause of the insomnia. Doctors like to claim alcohol disrupts sleep, but most doctors are full of…shaving cream. They just repeat the same ludicrous advice, and then prescribe sleep medications that are like throwing gasoline on top of a brain already on fire. Granted, their drugs actually might work for people who don’t suffer from brain fire. The problem with many doctors is they lack ambition and curiosity; they don’t actually want to find out what’s wrong with a patient. Patient in. Prescribe appropriate prescription. Patient out.

That was a huge digression. This post was meant to be about exercise. However, it’s about exercise in the wake of intense lack of sleep. Over the years, I’ve found that I’ll give up writing, which has included blogging for some years now, I’ll give up friends — I’ll give up literally everything I can in my life (family and paid work I can’t give up) while in the throes of exhaustion. And yet, I’ve never mentally managed to give up exercise.

Being unwell is a good way to find out what’s really important in life. Family and work should always be at the top. Btw, I’m leaving out spiritual considerations because faith should walk with a person everywhere. If faith isn’t integral to a person’s soul, what’s the point of religion? It’s not something that can be left behind like a smart phone or a keyring. And so family and work are at the top of my list. What I do with the rest of my energy reserves demonstrates what I care about. For me, that’s exercise. Why? How did it come to this?

It’s like a drug, I think. It boosts energy, attitude, and well-being. There are so many varieties that getting bored is unlikely. The only cardinal rule is to never listen to the exercise jackasses who think they know everything. They will even claim if I exercise their way, I won’t have any insomnia at all. Jackasses. Exercise is to be enjoyed, and I generally enjoy dance fused with strength-training, the kind that reminds me of being in dance class. Usually, these workouts involve push-ups, which is good because I don’t waste money or time at the gym.

Thinking back on my life in which I’ve obsessively been exercising for the last thirty years, I have to say it’s my main schtick. More than writing. More than taking classes. I don’t know what else to say.

***It takes me forever to write a blog post. In the meantime, I ran into an old math professor in the beer aisle at the grocery store, and he’s full of inspirational talk, like, come take a class, we’re going to have a good group this fall. Groan. I have to. I really do. Exercise just makes me think I’m accomplishing and doing, doing, doing. But it’s all a lie.

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The Hillbilly Instinct

It’s inside me somewhere. My dad is usually the one to remind me. Today, however, it was Randy Travis plaintively singing his Worship & Faith songs. We had that album for years, and it had disappeared as albums will as recording styles change; I rediscovered it on Spotify. Of course, it’s not all “old-timey” songs, but a mix of 20th C favorites and older hymns. Still, Travis’s plaintive singing style is enough catalyst for me. I usually start singing, to be honest. If my dad is around, he’s quick to remind me my voice is uniquely suited to the hillbilly style, to which, I give him my hardest glare. It’s his fault I’m not part of the culture, I’m equally quick to remind him. But that’s not exactly honest.

This is not a biopic on Randy Travis, but a touchstone on origins. He grew up singing in church in North Carolina; that’s the origin point for my dad’s family. From there, they went to Missouri. Now, there are some still in Missouri*, and others in Texas and Oregon. His family didn’t like sticking to one spot. That’s why I ended up graduating from high school in Portland. In case you didn’t know, Portland didn’t used to be the land of snowflakes who are libertarians as long as it means they get to do what they want, but progressives when they want you to pay for it. Rather, it used to be full of…hillbillies who’d left the hills for literally greener pastures where they could make a living logging and fishing.

During my childhood, that logging-fishing culture was under stress. A combination of welfare and California mores threatened their way of life, and so the redneck** youth were combative. Mean to put it in plainer language. Because my dad has always been an iconoclast, an artist and intellectual and general family know-it-all (a crown I’ve usurped), I was raised…a little different, to say the least. I was treated with suspicion, bullied even, by the local yahoos and consequently grew up loathing my own cultural roots.

Now that I’m older, I recognize what was happening, but it’s difficult to parse when in the throws of awkward, emotionally fraught adolescence. On the other hand, my contrarian response to my own culture and, well, everything is a cultural trait. I’m so ornery I don’t even know why I’m ornery. I can’t explain it, and although there was a moment in my life when I thought reasonableness was the way to go, the orneriness has only gotten worse with age.

The music is mellow, though. Pleasant. It always is, especially when there’s a singalong. What an odd mix of characteristics exist in the souls of my people.

*This is officially known as the Ozarks…and the people there are just another type of hillbilly, many of whom came from Appalachia.

**Redneck is the term used in Oregon. Hillbilly and redneck are like geek and nerd. There really isn’t much difference, even if you will find some, ahem, nerd on the internet who’s delineated the difference down to the nth degree. Btw, I would call my mom’s family rednecks, but mostly because they never settled in the hill regions of Appalachia. Instead, they took a tour through New Mexico and California. Albeit, my favorite cousin on her side is a bonified California mountainman with a beard down to his knees.

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