The view from the farm

The taint of femininity
May 6, 2011, 9:03 pm
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Lynn, Hilary, Joyce, and Courtney used to be considered perfectly good names for a boy baby.  Not any more.

Those who name babies borrowed those names from the blue column, putting them over on the pink side as well.  And once a name is even 10% attached to pale pink, no parent wants to give a baby boy even a tiny hint of it.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Here’s what I think it boils down to — men can’t be even a little bit feminine.  Women don’t have that problem with masculinity.

News flash, huh?  I know, I know, and Francisco Franco is still dead, too.  It’s just that I keep thinking we’ve gotten beyond that.

Jonathan and I used to think we were making great strides for the unpigeonholing of the sexes when we put our oldest son in a hand-me-down pink onesie.  When strangers admired the cute baby and asked his name, they were horrified to hear that it was Patrick.  But when either of his sisters wore blue, that was just fine.

Our sons had dolls as well as teddy bears, and our daughters were ferociously competitive soccer players.  Real men do cry, and real women do change tires.  Heck, Jonathan stayed home with our kids for most of their youth.  He’s a registered nurse and was the one to suggest that we hyphenate our names, which makes him super-feminine, right?  Not so much.

Why is it that women can wear pants and wear their hair very short without anybody batting an eye?  But if a man appears in public in a kilt with longish hair, he has to explain himself over and over.

Years ago, a little girl at my kids’ school cut her finger during the gardening class that I was teaching.  I told her to sit tight for just a sec and I would get my husband the nurse to check it out.  That was one of the best things I could have done, apparently, because it took her mind off the pain.  She roared with laughter.   “Men can’t be nurses!” she finally explained to me when I didn’t get the joke.  Her mom and dad were both doctors, but they hadn’t thought to explain to her that things cut both ways.

I should have seen this coming when Jonathan was the only man in his nursing school’s graduating class.  There were about 100 graduates, seems to me.  Our double-barrelled last name is so long that his first name was often cut off to become Jonatha — at least I think that’s why it was cut off.  Maybe somebody in the registrar’s office thought that all nursing students were women and so “Jonathan” was a typo.

Our family practitioner has just welcomed his third baby to the family.  He and his wife already had a boy and a girl, so there isn’t even a perceived need for them to use a masculine name for the baby, right?  Her name is Vaughn Catherine, or something spelled very similar to it.  Vaughn is not a family name.  And if she had been a boy, she would have been Elliott.

It is absolutely none of my business what they name their baby any more than it is my business if people eat the inedible, such as Brussels sprouts.  I’m just puzzled.  Why is it okay for a girl baby to have a boy’s name but not the other way around?

What’s so horrible about femininity, anyway?

April 26, 2011, 1:53 pm
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Happy birthday to me!  Most birthdays are a happy day, but I don’t care much about the age.  (Except if it’s prime.  Then I’m a little sad, because composite numbers are vastly more interesting than prime numbers.)  This birthday, however, I get health insurance back!

I’ve had COBRA health insurance since Shenandoah County Public Schools and I parted ways back in 2009.  None of the jobs I’ve held since then has offered health insurance, so I continued to pay about $1300 per month to pay for insurance for my husband, our youngest son, and me.

Then COBRA ended at the beginning of March.  The COBRA people said that they warned me it would; I say they didn’t warn me until I got a lovely little letter from them in mid-March saying that coverage had ended.

And then we went bare for almost two months.  But now we have it back again!  Woo hoo!  And it isn’t just the Hyundai coverage that we had before.  No, no, this is Cadillac coverage.  Mercedes coverage.  Heck, Bentley coverage, Lamborghini coverage!  It’s BNA retiree coverage, practically the best in the world!

So this birthday is a pretty important one, because turning 55 mostly means that I can get my wonderful BNA health insurance back.  Also, now that I’m 55, every year after this one is speeding.  I’m hurtling headlong towards — oh, dear, if I say “death,” which I want to say, all my millions of devoted fans will be dismayed.  Still, that’s what’s happening.  There’s less happening now than there was, say, 30 years ago, but it all goes faster.  I guess it’s because I’m more used to living than I used to be.

In other news, the riding mower is now fixed — and it was free!  I got super-terrific warranty coverage for $540 when I bought this lovely reconditioned Husqvarna last fall.  For five years, I get just about everything except routine maintenance for free.  It’s well worth it.  ::happy sigh::  The only thing is that now I really should mow the lawn, which is considerably longer than the grass shown at the top of this blog.  It’s up to Thurber’s belly, in fact.  That will take a lot of time away from work.

Speaking of which, I’d better do some.  Maybe I’ll write about that later.  It’s still new to me and pretty exciting.  Not lucrative yet, mind you, but I hope that will come.  I’ll think positive thoughts.  Mostly I’ll pray and try to keep having faith that God will provide.  Yay God!

Things are different here
October 15, 2010, 10:23 pm
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Every time I go back to the suburban county where I used to live, I feel a little more like an outsider looking in. I know suburban language and conventions, but they make less and less sense to me.

I’m still just learning about the country, and I won’t pretend to know all about it. Still, from what I see, I’m way more suited to country life than to city life. By “city,” I generally include suburbs, especially suburbs where people are packed pretty tightly. If there are more than two families per acre, you’re getting pretty citified. (For the record, we used to live on a quarter-acre and now we live on three acres.)

I tried making a chart of the differences, but that lost something. To bring this closer to home, I’m setting this in terms of two characters: City Sue and Country Cathy. (Okay, it’s corny, but it’s also easy to remember.) Let’s just say they’re distant cousins at a family reunion. This time, it’s being held at a country relative’s house.

City Sue, poking at her potato salad and trying to make conversation: Did you see the clothes on the line down the road? Can you believe they do that?

Country Cathy: You mean wash their clothes?

Sue: You know that isn’t what I mean.

Cathy: Actually I don’t. What do you mean?

Sue: Isn’t it obvious? Hanging clothes outside is so ugly! And so bush-league!

Cathy: Are you saying that people should hang their clothes inside? I don’t think many people can do that. I don’t know where you’d do it.

Sue: Of course not. They should use a dryer like everybody else.

Cathy: Oh, now I see what you mean. I know that family. They don’t have a dryer.

Sue: Well, they should get one! And soon!

Cathy: I don’t think they can afford one. And there really isn’t room in their trailer for one.

Sue: Ugh. Don’t people around here object to it?

Cathy: I don’t think so. Lots of people here use clotheslines. It’s way cheaper than a dryer, and your clothes smell so nice afterwards.

Sue: But it’s so…so low-class.

Cathy: Are you saying that being environmentally aware is low-class?

Sue: How on earth could hanging your underwear out for everybody to see be environmentally aware?

Cathy: It runs on renewable energy. You know – the sun.

Sue: ::sigh:: Well, it’s your funeral, I guess. It must really lower property values around here. And I bet that messy lawn does, too.

Cathy: Messy lawn?

Sue: Yeah, the knee-high grass at the edge of the property. And the whole lawn was kind of a mess.

Cathy: It’s their property. They can do whatever they want with it.

Sue: Nobody makes them mow the lawn?

Cathy: Makes them? ::laughs:: How on earth – why would anybody do that?

Sue: Back where I live, the town requires people to keep their grass no longer than six inches. The county is slightly more lenient – 12 inches.

Cathy: ::gapes for a few seconds, then goes back to her meal::

Sue: And if you don’t cut your grass, you get a warning, and then they mow your lawn for you and submit the bill to you. I think it’s a pretty high bill, what with it being town or county workers. It’s a really good idea. I bet it is part of the reason our town has such high property values.

Cathy: So somebody has to drive around with a ruler to measure all the lawns?

Sue: They mostly depend on neighbors’ complaints. There’s one house on our block – it’s just awful. I’ve called up about them several times.

Cathy: Oh, come on. You’re making it up.

Sue: Absolutely not.

Cathy: But in the city, you don’t have enough room for a goat or sheep or anything, so if you don’t have a lawnmower, what do you do? Oh, never mind. I’m going to get some dessert.

There’s going to be more on this, but it’s taking more words than I thought. I’ll post some more later.


Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2010, 5:32 pm
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Every year I attend Ash Wednesday Mass, and every year I go through the same argument — should I keep the ashes on my forehead or not? Generally I end up wiping them off, because it seems to me that keeping the ashes is like rending my garments and not my heart. However, I respect the argument that the ashes are a visible witness to Christ. I’d kind of like to leave them on, as such a witness, but I can’t justify it for myself.

That pretty much takes care of the arguments that I see, so this will be a short post. I hope the comments will be many and varied.  Post away!

January 21, 2010, 4:01 am
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Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted.  I think I’m overawed by the idea of having a blog — that everybody on the entire planet can read!  No pressure!

So here’s an entry just to break me of my excessive respect for the blog’s possibly enormous readership.  Mawwiage.  What is mawwiage?  Mawwiage is what bwings us togevver today.

No, wait, sorry, got my tracks crossed.  What I really mean is that I went to an ecumenical service this evening and found it very interesting.  The sermon was given by a guy who is apparently a Latino Episcopalian —  not a new denomination, just a description.  He spoke with just the tiniest lilt of Spanish.  Also his last name is Latino, which may have given me the idea.  (Ya think?)  His main point, which is not new but is still worthwhile, was that we Christians share more than we don’t.  He went on to say that God had used our divisions wonderfully, which is true, but I still doubt that that makes divisions a good idea.

We said the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father, and all of us in the various denominations there really do believe all of that — but the words were different.  It’s like the organizers deliberately inserted a metaphor for our similarities and differences into the service.  Also, apparently some (if not all) Protestants don’t have the Filioque in their Creed.  Does that mean they’re Orthodox?  Very odd.

Sadly, the church was far from full.  I think there may have been more Catholics than any other denomination, and it isn’t because we’re the largest church around, because we certainly aren’t.  Most of the choir came, and some of us brought friends, which includes family.  There were only two other choirs there, and one of them was from the Methodist church that hosted us.  I don’t think they brought friends.  Then there was a male Mennonite octet, and I think they came by themselves, too.  The three Episcopalian clergy didn’t seem to bring anybody, and the Presbyterian elder didn’t, either.  It’s too bad, because it’s the kind of thing that would help a lot of us, seems to me.

Apparently there are two Episcopalian churches in Harrisonburg.  I’m not going to name them here, because I don’t know anything much about them.  One has a regular church building, the aforementioned Latino as rector, and a female priest.  The other meets in an elementary school and has one male priest.  I could go out on a limb and speculate as to their differences, but I’m not going to.  We can probably figure them out from what I’ve said.  Certainly their websites aren’t any help.  Both churches profess a love of Jesus, other people, and cuddly puppies.  Well, maybe not everybody likes the puppies.

I was interested to note that this church has the choir sitting behind the altar — well, it’s what would be behind the altar in a Catholic church.  Between them and the celebrant is the organist, who sits facing the choir (with her back to the celebrant and congregation) at the organ.  The back of the whole area is wood panel, which really projects their music  — and any laughter elicited by the celebrant, as we found during the sermon.

The several guest clergy sat in chairs in front of the organ.  It all looked very odd to me, but then I’m a dirty Papist.  And even before then, I was almost a dirty Papist, and it still would have looked odd to me.

Go down a large step and you see a kind of altar rail with pillows for kneelers, one altar rail on each side of what would be the altar in a liturgical church.  I wonder if they use those for communion or if they’re ornamental.

On the right, as one faces the altar (what else can you call it?), and extending all the way from the front to the back of the church, is a set of wooden sliding panels.   On the other side is the “parlor,” where we had snacks after the service.  I wonder why one would have that set of panels?  Would they ever open them up and have the parlor be part of the service?  It’s almost enough to make me dizzy, thinking of that possibility.

I really don’t mean to sound anti-Methodist.  I’m just not used to Protestant churches, I guess.  I haven’t been to one since I was a baby, seems to me, if you don’t count Episcopalian churches.  And really, Episcopalian churches look very similar to Catholic ones.  All the churches I ever saw in Europe were Catholic, seems to me.  After all, if you see a European church that was built in 1500 or so, what else could it be?  So the Protestant churches I’ve seen recently have really taken me aback.

And there’s another metaphor — architecture as reflection of belief.  I’ve always thought Andrew was a little off his rocker when he talked about architecture’s influence on a church, but maybe he has a point.

In any case, the church felt kind of empty.  Not only was there no light for the Real Presence, there was nowhere it could possibly have gone.  It wasn’t hard to remember not to genuflect.  That was the saddest part of this service — and of our broken church.

December 11, 2009, 4:01 am
Filed under: Etymology | Tags: ,

Why blog? Why not just keep my thoughts to myself instead of publishing them as if I were still 15?

Here’s the thing of it, as Eloise said – I don’t have a paying job right now, and I want one. Employers are purportedly impressed by some blogs and even hire people based partially on them. To that end, I’ve been thinking for a while about having a blog. However, blogs that ping on potential employers’ oh-wow screens need to subscribe to Kierkegaard’s idea that purity of heart is to will one thing. That is, employable blogsters should blog about only one thing, and that thing should be the theme of one’s desired job. In other words, if one wanted to be an emergency room nurse, one would blog about innovations in ER medicine, why those without health insurance use ERs instead of primary care, etc.

However, I’m not Kierkegaard, for which we can all gasp in relief. For one thing, I don’t write in Danish. I’d also like to think that my prose is not impenetrable. (Maybe you find Kierkegaard’s writing easy to interpret. Good for you! Don’t email me to say so. Thanks.)

The bigger reason is that I don’t will one thing. When so many fascinating topics shout out for recognition, how can one confine a blog to just one of them? That’s the peril (and also the joy) of being a dilettante. My friend Paul uses the word “generalist” instead, but I think that term flatters the subject. Much better to have others do the flattering, at least in my opinion. The lack of a single blog topic, therefore, might seem to militate against having a blog at all. However, some of my friends noted that I have an opinion on practically every topic and delight in the etymology of most of the big important words used in the context of said topic. There’s Kierkegaard’s “one thing.” (It’s really two things?  La la la la, I’m not listening.)

That’s a bit of rumination, but there’s more to it than just that. “Ruminate” comes from the same word as “rumen,” which is the first compartment of a ruminant’s stomach. A ruminant is an animal who chews the cud, such as – you guessed it! – a cow.

My husband and I live on three acres in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, and beef cattle live on two sides of us. Our youngest son and I have an ongoing discussion about cows. A few months ago, we saw two groups of cows in the same pasture. One of us (maybe Timmy remembers who) suggested that the cows stayed separate because of political divisions. The standard placid group was pro-cud while the slightly more agitated group was anti-cud. (People have been polarized by sillier causes.) We went on to speculate on possible bovine senate bills, cocktail parties, fundraisers, etc. Timmy is a little tired of the pro- and anti-cud idea, but it always amuses me.

Many things do. That’s one of the joys of my life, that there are so many interesting ideas. I hope you’ll also find my views from the farm to be interesting. Let me know, okay?