Thursday, November 17, 2016

Distrusting "the media"

Most people I know, on either side of the aisle, "distrust the media."  However, they don't distrust all media.  Everyone's selective about what they dismiss as "the lamestream media" or "the right-wing noise machine."  And unfortunately sometimes media which confirms a person's preexisting worldview gets accepted uncritically.  But, I mean, you have to trust something, at least a little bit, or how would you know anything?  I have yet to hear someone say, "I'm not sure who won the presidential election; it's true that the media says it was Trump, but we all know the media can't be trusted."  So we make a choice to trust some sources, and sometimes we choose the wrong ones.

We've all been seeing it a lot recently, as Facebook erupts with stories that are disproved by a two-minute factcheck, or false "facts" get quoted at us by people we thought of as intelligent and skeptical.  For instance, in the past few days I have read that Trump really did win the popular vote after all (he didn't), that three million illegal immigrants voted in California (there is no evidence for this), and that Steve Bannon is an open white supremacist (the most that can be verified is that he does not appear to mind profiting off of white supremacy).  But rather than just seeing sketchy links that proclaimed these "facts," I heard them cited as common knowledge by people who I don't think of as dumb.  So clearly the purveyors of misinformation are getting really good at what they do.

My first idea to combat this was to compile a list of reputable news sites and junk news sites, so that people would stop sharing stuff from Infowars and thinking that made them look knowledgeable.  But the trouble with that is, any list I could possibly compile would appear biased to someone.  If I criticized a site you trust, rather than take my word for it, you'd mistrust me.

So instead, I'm going to offer some tips for assessing a story that you see shared online.

1.  Scrutinize the website.  A site crowded with intrusive pop-up ads is a bad sign, while a paywall or free-article limit is a good sign -- their content is good enough that they fully expect people will pay up for it.  Poor site design is a bad sign -- if they can't afford a web designer, it's unlikely they employ a fact-checker either.  Look at the other headlines featured on the site -- are all of them stories that seem reasonable or credible?  Boring stuff like "Trump meets with foreign ambassador" or "Paul Ryan considers tactics for next year" are good signs.  Outrageous headlines like "Trump in the pay of the Russians" or "Chemtrails increase in 2016" are terrible signs.  If there is even one headline on the site that you know for sure is false, the site itself clearly is untrustworthy.

In general, sources that are not only online are more professional and therefore more trustworthy.  If it's the online version of a TV network, radio network, or (best of all) print newspaper, then it has a reputation to lose which it will very carefully protect by hiring factcheckers and going over the information carefully.  Otherwise, it risks a lawsuit or a loss of subscribers.  An internet-only source is more likely to be short-lived and operated on a shoestring, perhaps without any factcheckers at all.  Local papers are often very professional, but you want to be careful to make sure that's a local paper you're reading and not something deceptively named to trick you into thinking it's the hometown paper of Omaha when it's really a junk website.

2.  Read the article.  Keep in mind that the body of the article is where the facts are -- the headline is written by an editor afterward and may be misleading.  Ask yourself: what sources does the article cite?

Best: "Joe Schmoe, assistance secretary to the chairman of the board, said..."
Acceptable: "A source close to the official said ..."
Worst: "Dan Whackadoo, president of [organization you've never heard of that clearly lobbies for a certain point of view] said ...."

There should be multiple sources quoted in the article, and they should not all be anonymous.  When I was interviewed by the AP for their article on my boarding school, the journalist urged me to go on the record by name if at all possible.  She might throw in a quote by an anonymous source (provided, of course, that she knew who it was), but she couldn't base the crucial facts of her article on those.  Good news readers give the most credibility to named sources who can be proven to be close to the story.  Even within a single story, when a fact is tied to a named source, it is more likely to be true than facts supported only by anonymous sources.  And quotes from the spokespeople of lobby groups are there only for flavor and opinion -- they aren't close to the story so they are in no position to know.

3.  Consider bias.  Here, it helps if you know the slant of the media outlet you're reading.  Most of the most popular professional outlets in America are slightly left-of-center.  They try to be balanced, but no one really is.  So if you can guess at the direction the bias is coming from, it'll help you interpret the story.  Ask yourself: what facts are not included?  What facts might completely change my interpretation of this story if they were included?  A reputable paper will be very careful not to include any facts it can't verify, but they are a lot sneakier about leaving out details that make their side look bad.  Or they'll slip in bits of interpretation or opinion here and there -- can you identify them and mentally set them apart from the actual facts described?  Ask yourself: what actual verifiable facts are in this article?  So if the article is about Steve Bannon being a white supremacist, throw out anything that smacks of hinting or generalizing and dig for the actual facts used to support the opinion that he is a white supremacist.  What can we verify that he said, wrote, or did?

4.  Check multiple sources.  The simplest way to do this is to simply copy the headline, paste it into Google, and see what you get.  Google ranks its search results based on the credibility of each site -- more linkbacks from other sources mean higher pagerank -- so the links on the first page are probably as good as it's going to get.  Are there any sources on the first page that are reputable papers you've heard of?  If so, go there first -- preferably picking one each from the left and the right.  If both accept the story is true and offer sources, then I think you can safely say, it probably happened.  If not, pick a couple and look at all of them.  If the story seems outrageous or incredible and it isn't being covered by the "mainstream media," there is probably a reason.  Major news outlets love their clicks as much as anyone and if there were a story that exciting, they would either post the story or post an answer or rebuttal of the story.  Unless, of course, they looked into it and couldn't find any evidence it actually happened.

If you're in that boat, try adding the word "factcheck," "hoax," or "snopes" to your search.  If it's really a scam, these usually appear within 24 hours of the original story.  But don't jump to conclusions!  Just because a factchecking site covered it doesn't mean it's a hoax.  The factchecking site should go through the evidence for the story and assess whether it is credible.  Usually they will include outside links for you to go look for yourself.  So that should help put to bed the idea that "Snopes is biased so I can't trust it when it debunked this story."  Maybe it is biased, but if it provides sources or good reasons to disbelieve the story, you should take that into consideration.  Sadly what most people mean when they say "Snopes [or whoever] is biased" is, "It debunked one of my pet conspiracies, and I'm just so sure it's real."  If you're so tied into continuing to believe what you already believe, you will never succeed at wading through the media to find the truth.

5.  Finally, if you don't have time to do all this, or you've tried and you still can't find any strong evidence to be sure about the story ... don't share it!  Or, if you want to mention the story in a discussion, make clear that you are uncertain about it.  Say, "I heard that x, but I don't know whether to believe it," or "Have you heard the rumor that y?  I can't find a good source for it, but maybe you should do some research if you're interested."

Nothing drives me crazy like people trotting out rumor as fact, who, when called on it, say, "Well, sorry, I hadn't looked into it yet!"  Yeah, okay, then don't tell people it's true!  You all know I have issues with people standing as witness for things they haven't honestly looked into.  What happens then is that other people repeat the story, convinced it's true because Bob, who is such a smart honest guy, said it was.  You trust that people checked their sources, when often they did not.  Which is why I would advise doing this same diligence on a story even if your best friend who is in Mensa told you it's true.  They might be a bit lazy and didn't check.  Don't be another link in the rumor chain.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Calmer thoughts about the election

I am happy to report that my initial distress following the election didn't result in a downward depressive spiral, as I had feared. Instead, two friends came over Wednesday afternoon and cheered me up. John brought chocolate after work.  I woke up Thursday with a lot more optimism.  Sure, this election is bad news and bad things will probably happen as a result of it.  However, I can create enough distance for myself to live my life, and I don't need to feel guilty about doing this because it's not like my distress was helping anyone.

Facebook has been nastier than expected; I thought this would happen if Clinton won (because Trump supporters would be livid) but I did not think that I would see so much anger and mockery from Republicans if they won.  Clinton supporters, too, have been very upset and not all of them have been trying as hard to keep civil as I have.

So I've been turning from the immediate fears I have to reflecting on deeper trends.  What does it mean, that nationalist movements are gaining steam around the world?  How exactly would one even define these movements?

Fitting this into my usual frames of reference, I would say that Trump-ism is, first and foremost, zero-sum.  All his rhetoric and his policies support this: he feels America is losing and other countries are winning, and he wants other countries to lose so America can win.  A good deal, to him, follows not the ideal of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman, that everyone walks away feeling like a winner, but that you win and the other guy loses.  His trade policy is, "Other people are doing better than us out of our trade deals, so we should stop trading."  His foreign policy is, "Other countries are getting more out of alliances than we are, so we should stop honoring those alliances."  In short, America first.  The same attitude is common in nationalist movements in other countries, such as Brexit.

Now I have admitted in the past that some conflicts really do have zero-sum solutions.  Land ownership for agriculture is a big one, which is why I've grudgingly abandoned agrarianism.  But trade and world peace are, in my opinion, perfect places for non-zero-sum thinking -- and it's exactly that sort of thinking that has made the world as prosperous and peaceful (comparatively) as it currently is.

The second thing I would point to comes more from Trump's followers than himself -- it's placing the unit of mattering on a culture rather than an individual.  That is, they don't simply value the human rights and happiness of the people they live alongside, but also the preservation of their community in its current state.  If, for instance, they come from a dying factory town, they don't just want to be retrained for new jobs, or move to a different state where there are factory jobs available. They want to bring back their town the way it was, factory jobs and all.  And this is often the same sentiment that is interpreted as racism -- a desire to keep their culture intact, rather than changed by immigration.  I don't have a lot of sympathy for this, personally, because I am primarily an individualist.  But I don't think those who feel this way are necessarily just "racist" or "xenophobic."  Perhaps a better word would be "nostalgic"!  Because of course change happens, regardless of how hard you fight it, but it's happening particularly fast at the moment and I understand if it feels very unsettling.

The Better Angels of Our Nature discusses this divergence between individual rights versus cultural and communal values.  The author comes down very hard on the side of individual rights, pointing out that liberal democracies which consider themselves to be defending the rights of whichever individuals happen to live there (America, Canada, modern European nations) do a lot better than countries which see themselves as preserving a certain kind of culture (Nazi Germany, Islamic democracies, ethnocentric Balkan states).  But then, that sort of depends on your measure, doesn't it?  It's true that individual rights are preserved more in the individualist societies, but it's also undeniable that social change has tended to be rapid, including the decline of religion.

And the third major issue is a mistrust of global elites.  In our increasingly globalized world, it is very hard to draw the line between "there's a global conspiracy pulling all the strings behind the scenes in order to rip off the little guy!" and the actual truth, which is .... that in fact there are a lot of wealthy people, both in politics and business, who wield an undue influence, buddy up to each other, and don't care very much about you.  It's not so much a conspiracy as a situation in which the incentives don't always line up for decent behavior.

Thus, if you've read at all into the details of any political question -- as I have, on the topic of food and farming -- you reach the part of the story where elected representatives get together with the owners of massive corporations in a back room and work everything out between them.  And guaranteed, it's not what you or any ordinary person would have wanted.  I don't actually believe that all elites, or all multinational corporations, or all politicians, are as corrupt as all that.  Sometimes they deal with each other to actually make the world a better place; sometimes they aren't really working with each other at all because they're a diverse gang that wants different things.  But it's not unreasonable to be untrusting of these people.  The only unfortunate part is when people start to demonize anything that goes along with being "elite," such as expertise, and only trust people who are complete outsiders and thus totally clueless about the complexity of the system.

The really miraculous thing is that Trump managed to pass himself off as not a part of this untrustworthy crowd.  But once he had done so, and so many elites (for good reasons) expressed their dislike of him, that seemed like proof that he was a good guy -- on our team, not the elites' team, because if he were one of them, they would like him.  Which would work better if the global elite really were a massive conspiracy with a single set of goals rather than the messy tangle it really is.

The second question is, why now?  What has caused such a sudden backlash, when a short time ago it looked like the world was on one long march in a progressive direction?

1.  Economics.  I am not convinced by the narrative that Trump was elected by poor factory workers who lost their jobs -- because all the evidence is that Trump supporters were mostly middle-class.  However, I think there's a good argument for a broader kind of causality.  The whole developed world was doing very well in the early oughts, and suddenly we had our recession in the US, along with similar issues around the world.  That led a lot of people to feel that they're doing less well than they once were, or than they expected to be, and to blame global elites (some of whom absolutely were responsible).  And I think it also caused people to lose faith in the capitalist/democratic system that's been working so well up to now.  If it can't prevent recessions or austerity measures, what good is it?

2.  Islamic terrorism.  While xenophobia always finds something, real or imagined, to latch onto -- inventing global Jewish conspiracies or Catholic immigrant mafias -- in this case, the feared outsider group actually does contain some people who will literally kill you.  So it spurs a panicky backlash as a single terrorist attack reverberates around the world, leaving people thinking, "What if that happens here? We must block these scary outsiders from entering or it will happen here for sure."  Repeated attacks increase the fear, and also drive further reduction of faith in democratic pluralism.  Democracies get along really well with one another, we know this, but are they equipped to handle radical Islamic states and terrorist groups?

3.  Enlightenment values have been a victim of their own success.  Just as vaccination rates for a disease drop when people have never seen the disease -- imagining that polio could never come back or that diphtheria can't have been so bad, because no one has ever seen either -- faith in democracy drops as people lose familiarity with the alternatives.  Europe has been at peace so long we imagine it will always be at peace and can never be otherwise.  Human rights have been defended so long that many people have been telling me that we really don't need to worry about racism any longer, no matter what racist things some leaders say, because it's just dead and won't come back.  And I think that's a dangerous assumption.  There are reasons for the level of peace in the world right now -- stuff like free trade and alliances -- and if you axe those things, there is no reason to assume the standard level of peace and prosperity the developed world enjoys would continue.

4. Putin????   Okay, this one is more of a conspiracy theory than a reflection.  But I have been quite shocked lately to hear of how many  of these nationalist parties have been sponsored or supported by the Russians.  There have been cases of the Russians hacking into news networks before elections to display fake ISIS propaganda, or leaking juicy details about establishment candidates to help nationalist ones.  I can't be sure of this; my only source was in TIME magazine and they put all their best stuff behind a paywall.  (I read it in the doctor's office.)  But it's something worth thinking of.  If Putin himself is a nationalist, and he feels threatened by the united strength of Europe and the US, might he not wish to fracture that unity by encouraging go-it-alone attitudes in each country?

* * *

So that's what I think is going on.  I don't think it really matters that Trump is a playboy millionaire with a history of general skeeviness; I don't think that's why anyone voted for him.  Honestly, it may have helped, by getting Trump a lot of free coverage in a primary field where it was hard to get noticed.  Rather, his win is a triumph of anti-Enlightenment forces: zero-sum over cooperation; nationalism over globalism; culture over individual.

But that doesn't mean, of course, that we will now see a world or even a nation run by only these forces.  Half the country -- well, more than half -- never agreed with Trump in the first place, and many of those who did support him did so simply for partisan reasons, as our two-party system encourages.  It may be that he screws things up so bad in his first two years that he loses the Senate again, and the next two years accomplishes little or nothing.  Then again, it may be that his reluctance to uphold our alliances results in a nuclear Iran or Russia encroaching on the Baltic states.  I don't know, and this uncertainty is scary.

I do feel some confidence, however, that the Enlightenment values Trump's movement opposes are the exact reasons why the world is going as well as it is: why developed nations no longer fight one another; why individual rights are being championed so well.  Yes, the capitalist/democratic/progressive/globalist system has flaws -- its ability to be manipulated by the few people able to understand its complexity being one of those flaws.  Yet I think these flaws can be battled from within that system rather than trashing the whole thing.  That's the main reason I've opposed Trump all along -- though don't get me wrong, I detest him as an individual too.  He opposes everything which has been making the world a better place for the past sixty years: free trade, international alliances, pluralism.  (I could write a whole post on the ways immigration makes the world a better place -- maybe I should.)

Yet I am going to try not to read Trump's win as the definitive victory of the forces of darkness.  It's a setback, hopefully a temporary one.  Most of the world still wants to move forward, not backward, and there are ways to do it even if the most powerful man in the free world isn't on your side.

Recommended reading:
Don't Mourn, Organize - Thing of Things
White Riot - Vox [Note: facts very interesting. Tone very inflammatory.  If you are a typical conservative who absolutely cannot handle anyone thinking that anyone you like is racist, it will make you mad.]

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


The morning after an election is always rough.  Particularly because I seem to have a spidey-sense for picking the candidates who won't win.  Still, in past years, I was never all that shaken up.  Obama won -- oh well.  He won again -- eh, four years of the same, I can deal with that.  On Facebook, I can see that I spent my time reminding people that God was in charge no matter who won or lost, and that real change happens on the personal level anyway.

I'm not keeping it together so well today.  I've become pretty cynical about the thought that God is in charge of anything; if he was in charge of the Holocaust, for instance, he did not do the kind of job that ought to comfort anybody.  And as for change happening on the personal level -- that can only happen when people are safe and secure enough to work for it.  If they're being rounded up and deported, you know, it's kind of tough.

Last night was horrifying.  I went in with a little nervousness, but not too much because I felt pretty confident in the polls.  I guess there are plenty of people out there ashamed to tell a pollster they were voting for Trump, but not ashamed to do it.  And I think Clinton's people just didn't turn out as much as expected.  Comey's new emails might be to blame; I don't know.  I just know that, watching the results came in, I felt so sick I couldn't watch anymore.

John tried to console me by saying the two aren't really that different.  But they are.  I know it's always a challenge after an election not to mix up your fears with your actual expectations -- you know, to argue for your candidate you might say, "X might happen!" but that doesn't mean X will necessarily happen.  You were just being cautious and things might really be fine either way.  I said Trump might start a nuclear war, but I don't think that will happen.  Probably.  But still, there are plenty of things Trump does have a high likelihood of actually doing, and with both houses of congress on his side, no one will be able to stop him.

At 12:30 we turned off the computer and meant to go to bed.  But instead I spent half an hour storming around angry and then half an hour crying.  I meant to be at peace with everyone after the election, not to hold grudges for how people had voted, but I am surprised by how furious I am.  And I just feel so out of control right now ... this whole dang year, stuff just keeps happening to me.  I have a recurring dream lately of being swept away by waves.  I have never been afraid of the ocean in my life, but I feel it symbolizes how I feel about my powerlessness at the stuff that swamps me.

I mean, this has been the year from hell.  Getting pregnant so thoroughly against my will and expectation, moving, my health being inexplicably awful, worries about Marko, and now this.  And even saying this I feel ashamed, because my life is so much better than many people's.  I'm not honestly worried about myself, but I am so, so worried about people more vulnerable than I am.

I didn't sleep well last night.  Miriam woke me every hour and I dreamed of Trump and dead babies (thanks, Fr. Pavone, that stunt of yours really helped).  And this morning all my problems are still here.  The boys are fighting over a sleeping bag they both want to play with.  Miriam is clambering all over me, demanding books, songs, nursing, food -- anything to get my attention back onto her, because she's a bottomless pit of need lately, for no obvious reason.

I'm scared because my one battle for the past six months has been not to get depressed, and I was winning.  I have been the ray of sunshine my kids needed.  Despite every sucky thing about my life, I have been patient with Marko's meltdowns, Michael's whining, and Miriam's demandingness.  And it's paid off because they've been doing very well.  But today .... I am not winning, so much.  Maybe I'm just having a bad day, but I'm so scared of getting shoved right back to where I was when Miriam was born.  I can never be sure that won't happen, so every bad day terrifies me.

I'm sorry to shower you all with so much doom and gloom.  I just feel like I should record these feelings.  Maybe, a couple years from now, I will look back on how I felt today and say, "See?  You shouldn't trust your fears, because you were so scared then and things turned out okay after all."  Or maybe not.

Hope you are all feeling better today than I am.  Though if you're throwing a party right now, please don't tell me; I don't want to know.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

7 third-trimester takes


It's funny, one of my biggest dreads has not been having a baby at all, but being in the third trimester.  Historically, it's been a really horrid time for me, and considering the second trimester was mostly eaten up with feeling lethargic and awful, I had a lot of fear that the third trimester would only be worse.

But it really hasn't been!  I mean, I know it will only get worse as the due date gets closer, but so far, I feel fine.  Better than I did for most of second trimester, that's for sure.  I feel energetic and optimistic.  I feel like starting fun projects.  I feel like taking the kids to the park even if they aren't whining at me to go.  I feel like socializing with friends.  It's been a long time since I really felt like doing any of those things.

I wish I knew what has made things so much better.  The midwife was quizzing me at our last appointment -- have you been taking vitamins?  Getting more sleep?  Did you wean the toddler?  No, none of those things.  (Though perhaps Miriam is scaling down and perhaps that helps.)  I have been getting outside more, for sure.  This weather lately has been gorgeous.  But it's hard to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg -- have I been feeling better because I've been taking walks a lot, or taking more walks because I finally feel like I have the energy to take them?  I do know that walks that seemed like a million miles a month ago, seem like no big deal now.  I often walk a mile with all three kids and the dog, which means our pace is very slow, but instead of feeling like I am trudging along while herding cats, I feel like we're having a leisurely, pleasant time.


And feeling good makes me feel optimistic.  If I have time and energy now to spend on my own projects, that means I will have time and energy in three months to take care of a baby.  Part of why I felt so panicky while pregnant with Miriam is because I was extremely overwhelmed and not handling life well with two, so I knew I would struggle with three.  (And I was right.)  But I am not extremely overwhelmed at the moment.  Miriam is over two.  She's not a whole lot of trouble -- well, not compared to the trouble she was at 18 months, anyway.  And the boys are BIG.  They are really good at managing themselves.  Today I had a taco and a soda to share with them, so I handed Michael the taco and Marko the soda and they shared with each other.  Without fighting!  When I look back on how they used to bite each other several times a day .... well, there's no comparison.  These days I might go for some time without seeing a sign of either of them, and I don't worry because they know the rules and generally follow them.  If they had an issue, they wouldn't be attacking each other -- most likely they'd run to me tattling.  Tattling is underrated. What's bad about seeking adult help when you're over your head dealing with an interpersonal problem?  That's what I want them to do!

Here's how easy my life is: I get to take a shower every day if I want to.  And no one kills each other while I'm in there.

Now, I'm still sticking with my resolution to focus on the present.  It will surely be harder to have four kids than to have three, so I'm trying to soak up my time with three.  (And to get some things done while I still can, like getting Marko reading more independently.)  I'm enjoying taking them places, taking pictures of them, getting one-on-one time with each of them.  The other week, we went to the playground and they were having a fine time, but I talked them into trying out the trails.  And then the trail forked and they wanted to take the longer trail ... so I went with it and we had a fun adventure!  It's been so long that I've been approaching parenting with the attitude of "put as little effort into it as possible and never do anything extra, because I'm barely managing the bare minimum and can't afford to make extra work for myself."  Now it's more like, hey, you know, if I want to, I can bake something today!  Or we could do a craft!  Maybe work on something educational!  Why not?

Lots of adventures, lots of pictures.

And all this stuff both makes me feel a lot happier about life in general, and less terrified of the new baby.  Because if I'm happy and managing fine now -- well, that's a good sign.  And it stops the clock I have running in my head of "time I've spent being miserable/not accomplishing anything I wanted due to having children."  One shouldn't count the cost, but one does, and I've spent a lot of years on baby-having.  Yet most of those years have not actually been miserable or unproductive, so why assume the remainder will be?


Well, that's the good news.  The bad news is that my back is in rather horrible shape.  I thought, after it was doing so well when I was pregnant with Miriam, that I had cracked the code on pelvic girdle pain and just wouldn't get it anymore.  No, apparently it's more complicated than that, and while the tricks I learned last time do help, I'm constantly discovering new things that screw it up.  Once my pelvis is out of joint, it's in pain all the time, whenever I move.  I'm getting better at putting it back into place, but after this has happened, it's fragile for some time thereafter, so I screw it back up rolling over in bed or lifting a heavy pot.  If I can go a week or two without injuring it, I'm sure it will be less delicate, but that never happens.

The good news is that exercise seems to help, not hurt, so it's not holding me back from walks.  It does hurt to walk sometimes, but it seems to keep the joints mobile enough to keep away the extreme pain and stiffness I get when I sit for too long.  Ditto for the way the kids have a million demands that make me run up and down the stairs all day -- it doesn't seem to be making anything worse.


Ooh, but I have exciting good news!  A friend of mine handed down a spinning wheel to me which she inherited from her grandmother.  Along with it came an entire trunkload of wool, some of which I probably won't use, but some of which is very nice.

Now wheel spinning is not quite like spindle spinning -- you have less control, plus you can't take it with you and do it for five minutes at a time between stuff -- but I am addicted to it anyway.  It's just so mesmerizing watching the wheel go around and the yarn just pile onto the bobbin.  And it's much, much faster.  There are definitely projects that I'm going to be using that wheel for, even while others require the spindle.


In less cheerful news, we're starting to get really worried about Marko.  On the one hand, he's really a delight to be around, a good listener, whip-smart, and tries very hard to be kind.  On the other .... many of the worrisome behaviors that have troubled us for years, which we've assumed he'll grow out of, he hasn't.  He still chews on his collars pretty much all the time.  He throws major gale-force tantrums if you say something that isn't literally accurate, or if you try to switch up a routine he's dependent on.  His stammer is still severe enough it keeps him from communicating with most people outside the family, even though he's finally reached the point of wanting to talk to other people.

Adding these things up, plus many other minor concerns, has settled us on taking him for a developmental evaluation.  After all, we figured, knowledge can only help us help him. But I'm surprised how much anxiety it's given both of us.  I mean, what if he winds up with some kind of diagnosis?  Isn't there something wrong with putting a label on a child?  Does this mean we've failed him by not getting him assessed before now?

I have to keep repeating that nothing is going to change my beautiful child; a label of any kind won't transform him from his wonderful self to some other, more damaged, kid.  And it wouldn't mean all his quirks are now bad.  They're a part of who he is.  At the same time he seems to be held back in some ways from things he would like to do by those same quirks, and it would be nice to be able to teach him how to manage the world we actually live in a little bit better.

*bites nails*   Well, the appointment is Tuesday, so I'll just be here worrying till then.


The kids are very excited about Halloween.  Marko and Michael are going as skeletons.  Because I loathe commercialism, I am spending just as much money on black clothes and white paint as I would have on premade costumes.  Oh well.  They can have skeleton pajamas to sleep in hereafter. I won't repeat past mistakes -- these costumes are going to be comfortable and they will be able to move in them!

I thought I would have to decide for Miriam, but nope -- she made up her mind immediately when I asked her, and has been quite steadfast about it.  She wants to be a kitty.  And when she knocks on the doors, she's going to say "meow meow meow."  The cuteness. It's unbearable.  For her, I bought a costume, because they had them at Aldi for nine dollars and there is no way I could make something that looked equally cat-like for any cheaper.  I mean, it's basically just jammies with ears and a tail.  But I'll assuage my crafty conscience by painting whiskers on her.  She'll like that.

I am disappointed, though, that the kids didn't stick with their original ambition (dreamed up November 1st of last year) to be Luke, Han, and Leia.  It would have been super adorable.


The election is super close now.  Like I need more anxiety in my life.  Right now I have a whole calendar of Stuff to Worry About: first, getting Halloween costumes done in time; next, Marko's appointment; third, election; fourth, Christmas presents; fifth, having a baby.  By my calculations that doesn't allow me a lot of nights to not lie awake stressing out in.

Oh, and I forgot the World Series!  I am very worried about this.  I want the Cubs to win -- John's family has been waiting for them to win the world series for three generations! -- but if they don't win, imagine the disappointment, since they've gotten this far.  And though the odds-makers say they're favored -- well, I just can't believe the Cubs will ever win.  Last night I spent three hours watching them fail to score.  It was not an enjoyable use of my time.

Anyway, I'll be happy when the election is over.  However, I fear the anger that's been stirred up by it won't dissipate overnight.  The people who said all Hillary supporters will go to hell are still going to be there.  So will the people who said grabbing women was no big deal.  Once you've said this stuff, it's out there, and enemies made in an online debate aren't necessarily going to kiss and make up.  I do a bit of debating, from time to time, but I've had to bail on more than one discussion that got ugly.

And gosh, I really hope we don't end up with a reality-show star as President. Even if it means we basically have to have Frank Underwood from House of Cards.  I remember some months ago hearing the Philippines' new president being characterized as being like Trump, and now he's apparently killing people by the scores.  So, you know ... I would like that not to happen here.  (Though maybe news gets distorted from countries away -- is it really that bad, Enbrethiliel?)

While I'd like to hopefully remark that perhaps we'll get Rand Paul or someone like him in 2020 -- let's get real.  The Republican Party has been shattered, and the largest shard is the Trump shard.  The establishment, social conservatives, and libertarians can't be counted on to stand together -- in fact, this election has shown that they'll mostly just move Trump-wards to get in on that sweet, sweet popularity.  So I foresee some long, dark years in the GOP, where they abandon everything I liked about them, while at the same time not winning elections because most of America still doesn't like Trumpism.

Anyway, I guess I can pride myself on not having unfriended anyone this election season, and if anyone has unfriended me, I don't know about it.  And it seems that's the best anybody can hope for.

How have you all been?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Going from one to many

So, frequent commenter Sojourner is going to have her second child any time now, and it seems a good moment to write a bit about what it's like to go from having one kid to having more than one.  Some people say it's incredibly hard, others that it's actually easier to have several kids than just one.  In a way, it's both.  It's easier in some ways and harder in others.  But one thing is for sure -- it changes the whole dynamic, a lot more than adding more kids later does.

1.  It makes you less invested.
As an empathetic person, when I had just Marko, I found myself completely emotionally entangled with everything he felt.  He was having a bad day -- I was having a bad day.  He was happy -- I was a success as a parent.  We were super close, and it was kind of sad to lose that closeness when Michael was born.  But on the other hand, sooner or later I would have had to become less entangled, because it certainly isn't healthy for a mother to be that emotionally reliant on her child long-term.

When I had Michael, the emotional flood coming from Marko was diluted and I didn't automatically get carried away with it.  I was able to distinguish between one or the other of them having a hard time and everything being terrible.  And when one child had a tough day or a tough stage, I was a lot less tempted to think I was a failure as a parent because I would have another kid still doing fine.

2.  You get way more overstimulated.
Again, it's partly a me-specific thing -- I'm very sensitive to noise and touching as it is.  But when I had only Marko, I wasn't often "touched out."  He wasn't very high-needs and there was lots of time in the day when nobody was touching me or making any noise.  Multiply the kids and you increase the stimulation by a lot.  I started having to plan for it, which sometimes meant putting myself and Michael in a different room from Marko so I could nurse without Marko also trying to touch me or talk to me.  It was hard -- I felt like a bad mother for not being able to snuggle every child at the moment they wanted to.  But it does get better, because kids slowly reduce their need for touching.  Michael is happy with one big squeeze every once in awhile, and Marko is finally learning that he can ask for a hug instead of just coming over and leaning on me till I tip over.  Miriam's the only one who's very physically needy -- well, her and her baby brother or sister, because babies in utero somehow sap my tolerance for overstimulation just as much as they do on the outside.

3.  Eventually, they play together.
I thought I would have to wait at least a year before my kids would play together, but nope -- Marko came up with games Michael could play from when he was a few weeks old.  He would pull a chair over behind Michael's bouncer and "play bus," or he'd show his toys to Michael.  It was super adorable and it's only gotten better.  I basically don't play with them anymore because they entertain each other -- I'm for providing food and snuggles, not games, and that suits me fine because playing kid games isn't my bag.  They do fight, but on the other hand, I do feel they've developed a ton of social skills by playing with each other so much every day.  They know about bargaining with each other to find a game they both like, about negotiating for a desired toy, and how people play with you more if you're nice.  And their verbal skills surely have been helped by having hours a day of talking with each other -- and that means they don't have to be exclusively talking to me all day.  (Though don't get me wrong, they do talk to me a lot.  Sometimes at the same time.)

4.  Logistics can be hard.
Dealing with two awake kids in the middle of the night is a nightmare unless you have help.  I'm not going to gloss that one over.  And bedtime can involve a lot of juggling.  At this point I manage bedtime pretty easily with all three, even if John is out, but you may remember that for a long time this was my nemesis.  Details like getting shoes on everyone before leaving the house, or figuring out when to go home from the park when Miriam is bored and the other two want to stay forever, can be challenging.  With multiple kids, you are forced to plan more instead of drifting through the day like the free spirit I prefer to be.

5.  They eat SO MUCH.
It isn't just that I have to buy three times as much food.  It's that their appetites influence one another so somehow they are eating ALL THE TIME.  I mean, it goes something like this.

7 am - Miriam is starving, demands cereal.
7:15 - boys see her eating cereal, demand toast. Miriam sees their toast, rejects her cereal, and demands toast too.
7:30 - Marko finishes his toast and wanders off.  Michael has a sandwich.
7:45 - Miriam throws her toast on the floor and wants a sandwich.
8:00 - Marko wanders back into the kitchen and realizes Michael had a sandwich.  He now wants a sandwich.
8:15 - Marko is finished and leaves the kitchen.  I make tea for myself.
8:30 - Miriam sees I'm having tea and wants some.
8:45 - Michael sees Miriam drinking tea and wants milk.

This goes on ALL DAY.  I am not kidding.  I do better when I get a little ahead of them and make something nice that we can all eat and then all be finished, but invariably if there is only a little of something, they all want it, and if there is lots, two out of three kids don't like it and want something else.  When I'm cooking, I have no problem with slipping one kid a little bite, but I have to resist because it attracts the others .... and, like locusts, they leave nothing left.  In the past I've been a strong believer in letting kids' appetites direct what and when they eat, but you just can't do that with multiple kids if you want to ever not be making food.  More and more often I've been trotting out my mom's phrase -- "The kitchen is closed, no more food till noon/three/six."  And I'm sure it's not bad for them to have some structure to their food schedule.

6.  You get to enjoy just watching them.
It's really fun to watch kids interact.  They talk to each other, hug each other, play.  Marko is the bossy one, by virtue of being the oldest: he comes up with complicated games and tries to enlist the others, with mixed success.  Michael is the happy-go-lucky one -- happy to go along with Marko's plans at the outset, but rapidly getting bored and introducing non-canon wackiness.  And Miriam is the empathetic one -- cheerily handing toys to anyone who seems to really want them, hugging and kissing anyone who is sad.  One of the most hilarious parts is listening to them talk about the way they think the world is.  Without the interference of an adult to say, "Well, ACTUALLY the ocean is too large to build a bridge across," they come up with crazy versions of reality.  They'll learn the way things really are later -- in the meantime, they're hilarious to listen to.

7.  Babywearing no longer solves everything.
Well, unless you're a lot more buff than I am.  I drew the line once their combined weight hit 40 lbs.

8.  You don't get breaks.
Even if you're lucky enough to have only kids who nap (ah, how blissful that must be!  I wouldn't know) what are the odds they will all nap at the same time?  You certainly are not getting a nap, not without the aid of the television at least.  (If you are anti-TV, the sooner you get over that, the better.  I'm not kidding.  It helps a whole lot when you have a toddler and a newborn, and you can always phase it out later.)  So you are on from wakeup to bedtime.  I have always managed, eventually, to coordinate their bedtimes within an hour or so.  I don't know if all kids are amenable to this, but I sure hope so because that off-duty time is necessary to my sanity.

9.  You will feel horribly guilty.
All mothers feel guilty, and more so if you have multiple kids.  Because there will be times when they both need you at the same time, and you'll have to choose one to take care of.  The other will cry and you will feel like a terrible person.  You will worry that you are picking favorites (and you are, but only till the next one needs to be your "favorite") and that one or both of your children are being neglected.  The fact that you care about this will probably help you not actually neglect them.  But it's hard, I'm not going to gloss that over.

10.  But sometimes, you'll feel like a star.
Those moments when everything comes together and you successfully schlep all the kids to the store and back without disaster -- you'll realize you are really, really good at what you do.  The meltdowns your youngest throws at you will not phase you, because you'll have seen these stages before and you know what to do -- and that they pass.  People will question you, like they did when you had one, and you can just say "oh, I have x many, I know what I'm doing."  It just doesn't get under your skin the way it did when you have one.  You work out ways to make your life easier and ways to manage things that, at first, you thought you couldn't possibly handle.

I am very glad I have more than one child.  Sometimes I wish I'd spaced them out more, but I have no regrets at all about going past one.  It really has enriched my life and theirs, despite the struggle of adjustment each time we've added one.  (And don't get me wrong, just because more than one is good, doesn't mean I want to have an unlimited number.  I haven't changed my mind about that.)

Good luck, Sojourner!  Hope your next child is as mellow as can be.

Friday, September 30, 2016

7qt - September rain


Alas, right after the beautiful, cool, clear weather that signals the start of fall in Virginia, we always get a wet spell.  That's okay, though, because it doesn't last -- it just clears the air for a lovely October, usually.

The cool, damp weather is reminding me of the Northwest.  I actually got up the nerve to take a walk the other day -- all three kids, plus the dog on his new no-pull harness.  (He still pulls, but less at least.  Sigh.)  It was really pleasant, if a bit misty out.  Our new neighborhood is fairly flat for some distance, with a lot of branching roads and interesting houses to look at.  Much better for walking than our old place, where there was one short route you could take unless you wanted to brave the steep hills, which I almost never did willingly.

I am really proud that I walked almost a whole mile.  My back has started to give some trouble already.  I can't figure out what sets it off; it isn't walking and it isn't carrying Miriam.  But if I spend a day doing housework it gets pretty screwed up.  I don't know if it's lifting things, vacuuming, bending over, or just too much standing, but it takes a couple days to recover.  Anyway, I figure light exercise can help, and I had the energy to do it for once.


Fall weather means fall food.  I am the last person in the world to diss pumpkin spice -- it's basically crack -- but let's not neglect the other delicious fall flavors: apple, cinnamon, winter squash, sweet potatoes, sage, sausage, celery, curry, chili.  Or am I the only one who craves these things in the fall?

My new thing with chicken is to butterfly it instead of roasting it whole.  It cooks in half the time, the skin is crispy all over instead of just on one side, and I really think it helps keep the breasts from drying out.  Up to now I've been putting it on a bed of lemons and fresh herbs from my new garden, which is always good.  But last time I put it on a bed of carrots, celery, and onions, and it was SO GOOD.  The vegetables cooked in the chicken juice, and those that stuck out from under it caramelized.  And there's just something about cooked celery with poultry that makes me think of Thanksgiving stuffing.  Heck, cooked celery in general is kind of magical.  Maybe I'll make cream of celery soup tomorrow.


Here are a couple recipes for you guys, because if you visit this blog for recipes you are the World's Most Persistent Readers and I love you for it:

Pumpkin Muffins
(my mom's recipe, for which she is justly famous)

1 1/2 cup squash (cooked, pureed, or else canned pumpkin)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses (or maple syrup)
3/4 butter (BUTTER. Nothing else.)
2 eggs
 2 1/2 cup flour (any combo of white and whole wheat you prefer)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup pecans (optional)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger

375 degrees for 20 minutes. 10 minutes for miniature muffins.  They are best when you eat them hot -- you can split them open and put butter inside.

Cabbage Chili

1/2 cabbage
1 onion
1 lb beef
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can pinto or kidney beans
1-2 potatoes

Brown the beef, with the onions and cabbage if you prefer, and drain out the grease.  Then combine all the ingredients and cook for about half an hour.  Season with garlic, salt, and chili powder.  Warms you up deep down.


Another thing I am doing lately is bread.  It's been at least a year since I inadvertently killed my last sourdough starter -- very sad, because it was a great starter that endured neglect very patiently and still gave me good results.  But I have started another one and after a lot of pancakes and English muffins, it's finally reached maturity and can do bread.

Artisan sourdough bread is not difficult, but it can be scary, because you can spend a day and a half working on it and get bad results sometimes.  The first one I made with this starter was a brick because it wasn't really mature enough, and the second was too wet and collapsed.  But the third one was the charm!

And it's just so delicious when it actually turns out ... that's what keeps me trying even at risk of disaster.


We had a little health scare with Miriam this week.  She had a little sore on her butt that looked like no big deal, but then a couple of days later it appeared to have grown.  (I don't look at her backside often since she's out of diapers.)  And then the next day it looked blistery around the edges.  I worried that it might be infected, so I put some peroxide on it, but that made her scream like a banshee.

Then the day after that, she had three cold sores on her face.  That started to freak me out.  But I heard heard that hand, foot and mouth disease was going around, and the facebook group I ask these questions in was very emphatic that that must be it, it doesn't always present with fever.  Okay, so I canceled any outings for the week and planned to settle in and wait for the rest of the kids to get it.

Only John really thought I should take her to the doctor to be sure, and later that evening I found out that HFM blisters are very small, whereas what Miriam had looked more like impetigo.  (Thank goodness for the internet and pictures of every nasty skin condition you can imagine.)  So I made the appointment and sure enough, that's what it is.  Impetigo is a staph infection on the skin which is both painful and really gross-looking.  It's very good we brought her in when we did, because without antibiotics it can continue to spread and get quite serious.

The doctor prescribed both oral and topical antibiotics.  Alas, my child's perfect untouched gut flora will probably never be the same.  The first time we gave her the meds, she spat at least half of pink liquid back out on John and me, and the ointment ended up almost everywhere.  But now, thanks to bribery (one mL of medicine, one sip of juice) and letting her do some of the ointment herself, she's pretty cooperative.  Apparently she is no longer contagious and the sores should start to heal in a few days.  But the meds have to be continued for a full ten ... oh joy.

I'm hoping that as the sores heal, she'll start sleeping better.  Her sleep has been terrible lately, and that has resulted in me spending hours on the floor of her room, screwing up my back.


It appears the problem with Marko is that I was pushing on to new things too fast.  Unfortunately I have only a few super easy readers, and the easy readers at the library are much harder.  Marko can read those, but they are really hard and long for him.  If I have him read the really easy ones we have at home, he does much better, and gains confidence.  I need to look out for more like that, because the entire point of homeschooling is that everyone can go at their own pace.  If he's going to feel dumb because he's being asked to read things he isn't really ready for, he might as well be going to school!


I was going to let the kids watch the debate, because I remember being a kid and watching the debates in 1992 and it just seemed like one of those historical moments to let kids be a part of.  But I forgot that when I was a kid, we were in Pacific time and so we watched those over dinner, while apparently on this end of the country you're stuck watching them well after bedtime.  So I watched them alone.

It was fun, I guess.  Sometimes I got frustrated and turned it off for awhile because I couldn't deal with watching them just shout over each other.  Other times I laughed because Trump kept digging himself deeper and deeper holes.  Don't get me wrong, I think Clinton deserves credit for baiting him, but he made it very easy.  Paying no taxes is "smart"?  (Does that make him one of Romney's 47%?)  Failing to pay your contractors is "good business"?  Insulting women is okay if they "deserved it"?  The guy has basically no awareness of how these things look to people who are not his fanatical followers.

And part of it was just, I've been a woman debater.  I know how it is having guys shout over you or bluster with such confidence that they get believed even though they're making stuff up and you prepared for hours.  It made me feel good to see a woman on the stage doing just fine, even when I don't agree with a lot of her points.  (Between the two of them, I feel very scared for Syria.  Whichever one wins, they are likely to feed the conflict there, and it's not going to be pretty.)

How has your week been?

Friday, September 16, 2016

7 fall takes


John, I'm sure, would remind me that fall has not started yet.  And therefore we can't be experiencing "fall weather" because the weather we're experiencing is normal for mid-September, which is part of summer.

BUT.  I am wearing a sweater today.  His argument is invalid.

It's not just that either.  There is a tree in our yard with one reddish branch.  The oak tree has brown leaves starting to appear here and there, and all the black walnut trees in the area have yellow ones scattered around.  I haven't seen any sumac lately, but it might already be finished -- it's always the first to change colors.

So yesterday I called it: since it's definitely feeling like fall, that means it's definitely time to make pie.

Apple, because I'm not a lemming.  Just because pumpkin spice is "cool" doesn't mean pumpkin is what you start fall with.  You start with apple and move on to pumpkin in October.  Well, that's my opinion anyway.

Did you know pie is actually REALLY easy to make?   You hear complicated instructions about pie crust, but it's not actually hard to get it "good enough."  Perfection -- both flaky AND easy to handle -- is hard, but if you're willing to accept a slightly messy-looking pie because you tore holes in it and had to patch it, that's pretty simple to do.  My crust took a total of about 20 minutes to make, and it was deliciously flaky if a little homely.  And the filling, that's just a matter of cutting up fruit and sprinkling it with flour, sugar, and cinnamon, even easier.  You should make a pie today.


I had a really, really horrible week or two healthwise.  I just felt so lethargic.  Getting up from chairs, I felt dizzy and saw stars.  Functioning as a responsible adult felt like this Herculean task.  I was getting pretty good sleep most of that time, but I still would find myself dozing off in the afternoon -- which I really can't afford because even with the TV on, the kids get in fights or wander off.

It was really demoralizing; I couldn't do anything I enjoyed.  Even reading a book felt really hard -- I couldn't focus.  Answering emails?  Forget it.  Too much work.  I scrolled through Facebook a lot, aching to lie down but afraid if I did I would fall asleep.

I considered a lot of possibilities.  It felt like low blood sugar, dehydration, or sleep deprivation, except I was eating, drinking, and sleeping fine.  Might have been anemia, but my midwife should have my lab reports by now and I would think if they showed anemia she would have called me.  (Of course I could have called her but that is HARD.)  Then again low blood pressure is common right around this part of pregnancy because your blood volume needs increase.  My blood pressure was normal at my last appointment, but then I felt fine that day anyway.

Then weirdly I just started suddenly feeling better.  It could have been any number of things.  It could have been that I started putting flaxseed in my English muffins or that I ran out of prenatal vitamins (have they been POISONING me?) or that I started soaking in epsom salts for the magnesium.  Or maybe it just passed.  All I know is I can go to bed at 10, be up for an hour with Miriam at night, get up at six or seven, and feel okay all day now.  I have accomplished several things per day without hating every minute!  So, all I can say is, I hope this lasts.  I like functioning.


Marko is officially registered as a homeschooler, just in time for him to lose all interest in school.  I really believe it's best for him to be mostly self-motivated right now and that if he's not keen on reading at the moment, I should wait.  But MAN does it take patience and forebearance.  I know it'll turn him off reading if I push too hard.  On the other hand I don't want him to forget all he knows.  I've done a trade with him ("if you read five pages of this book to me, I'll read this Star Wars book to you") and I've tried to incorporate his current obsessions ("I wrote a story about ghosts and skeletons for you!") but it's been kind of like pulling teeth.  I blame how fun our new house is, and how busy he's been playing in it.  Plus, I haven't been as available for school stuff in the past couple months as I should have been.  (This is why I shudder at the thought of homeschooling while having  a baby every other year.  Isn't that a guarantee that the older kids' school will be constantly disrupted?  It's disrupted enough with just Miriam, who does not like sharing my attention.)

I figure I'll just keep offering stuff and checking out easy readers and we'll see how it goes.  Maybe now is a better time for math or science than reading anyway.  I just feel like the pressure is on because at the end of the year we have to "demonstrate progress" in one of several approved ways and the whole concept terrifies me.  What are they going to do if they don't think he's made enough "progress"?


I have officially read all the Terry Pratchett books the library has.  They were all super awesome; I highly recommend them.  There's adventure, but not a lot of gruesome death or heartrending loss.  There are interesting themes but no preachiness.  I think my favorites are Small Gods and Reaper Man -- one about a minor deity having a change of heart and the other about Death having a change of heart.  What can I say -- I guess I'm interested in the theologically impossible!

What should I read next?  I have already forgotten everything people have recommended to me in the past, so .... feel free to repeat yourselves.  I need to keep a running booklist.


It's always on the verge of having another kid that I start to really appreciate the size family I have.  Three kids is a really good number.  And more importantly, not having anybody under two.  It's especially great when we go out.  When it's time to leave the house, everyone uses the bathrom before we go and no one has to wear a diaper anymore.  Everyone can run out to the car themselves and only Miriam needs help buckling.  Everyone is good about holding my hand in the parking lot.  And we're good for a couple of hours at the park or library before anyone starts asking to go home or eat a snack.

Now, don't get me wrong: if I mistakenly try to do a big grocery shop in the afternoon when they're tired and cranky, or if Miriam is having a tough day and wants to spend the entire time at the park being held, it's not super fun.  But it is just so much easier to do stuff when you don't have a baby (and a hulking diaper bag) to worry about.

At home, too, they sometimes all disappear outside or into the playroom and don't fight or cry for minutes on end!  Or they all split up and play their individual things perfectly happily.  Miriam tends to stay up a little later than the others, and though I wish she wouldn't, I have to admit it's really fun to sit with her in the playroom as she makes tea for me, makes food for her "babies" (one of which is a koala and another of which is a bear), sits her babies on the potty, puts them to bed, builds towers of duplos, and basically is busy as a bee doing what she calls "work."  As I've said before -- Peak Cute.


So I read a news story about the SSPX, which got me googling for more information, which led me onto some traddie blogs.  I usually try to steer clear of these because they raise my blood pressure, but it's kind of like a train wreck -- I get fascinated by the awfulness.

You see, most Catholics are very cagey about the more iffy things in the Church's history.  They either don't know about that stuff, or they pretend it didn't happen, or they have complicated reasons why that wasn't doctrine, or there was a good reason for it at the time, or whatever.  And in some cases they have a good point.  But traditionalists aren't so bashful.  They actively dig up the worst, most embarrassing words and actions of early Catholics and gleefully agree with them.

Which is why there's no better way to question your faith than by listening to them.  They will tell it to you straight: the Church used to teach some really awful things.  It's up to you to decide if that's a dealbreaker or not.  The traditionalists don't seem to see why it would be.  Their problem is trying to figure out how a church supposedly guided by God could stop believing that stuff.

Anyway, I'm sharing the really horrifying links because I want to point out that Catholicism is, in many ways, a big tent and that these ideas have been held by many, many faithful Catholics over the centuries.  Saints lived and died believing them, as the quotes attest, and while there are really good arguments why Catholics today don't have to .... it's still kind of bad that they're in there at all.  And I am tired of constantly being told that the Church "never taught that" or "never did that" or "only bad Catholics would ever say that."

Here and here are two on the Church's treatment of Jews.  Both authors wrote their posts to defend their own anti-semitism.  They point out that forcing Jews to wear distinguishing marks, expelling them from countries, or enslaving them are entirely within the tradition of the Church -- and therefore, of course, that makes them perfectly justified in wishing to do the same things.  Finding quotes from the saints in there -- St. Pius V, Bl. Julian of Norwich, Padre Pio, etc. -- was kind of shocking to me; I guess I had assumed that these were people who would take the moral high ground even in opposition to cultural prejudice.  I found both posts eye-opening because I wasn't really aware of the extent to which Jews used to be persecuted.  I guess that's something we can thank Hitler for -- that now very few people want to be anti-semitic, because we know how bad it can get.

And here is a post making the exact argument that I have made here: if God wanted to save everyone, he could do it; the fact that he doesn't do it proves he doesn't want to.  Only I shied away from the conclusion he draws.  My conclusion was that there could not possibly be any hell because it didn't serve any of God's stated ends.  His is that God prefers to glorify himself by the eternal torment of most of the people he ever created.  [Because yes, of course this guy believes that the invincibly ignorant and unbaptized infants are punished just like sinners are.]  I hear Calvinists believe the same.  It seems obvious to me that a being that would do a thing like that would be unworthy of worship.  Yet I understand the argument -- on the one hand, morality does not exist apart from God so if God says it's the right thing to do, it is; and on the other, morality doesn't matter because what really matters is making sure you're not one of the ones being tormented forever.  I disagree with both premises, but that would have to be a whole other post.


John's work recently had their big annual fundraiser, which is a benefit polo match.  Polo looks to me like a sport for crazy people -- I mean, hockey is dangerous enough when you don't bring horses into it.  But the donors love it.  There's a fancy-hat contest and a luncheon and all the posh things you might imagine.

So after it was over I got some leftover party favors: four boxes of fancy chocolate.  I want it out of my house so it doesn't tempt me, but on the other hand I want to eat it all.  And I can now, because my stomach has gotten a lot better.  I did get a stomachache one time when I had four pieces of candy after dinner, but at least I can have some.

Still.  If you live near me and want some chocolate, send me a message.  Like, soon.  :D
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