Thursday, July 20, 2017

St. Margaret of Antioch Proves That What the Catholic Church Thinks About Women is That They Can Totally Kick Satan's Butt

Happy Feast of St. Margaret of Antioch, virgin, martyr, dragon-slayer. And YOU thought St. George got to have all the dragon-related fun! 

Whenever anyone says the Catholic Church wants to subjugate women, I want to make them read The Golden Legend. Because, sure, SOME religions DO want to subjugate women. But ours super-duper does not. The Golden Legend is a collection of hundreds of hagiographies (I 💓 that there is a special word just for "biography of a saint") first compiled in 1260 by Blessed Jacobus da Varagine, Italian Archbishop.

It was the second most widely read text of the middle ages, after only the Bible, and nearly a thousand old copies of it are still in existence. It's where all the craziest (slash AWESOMEST) saint stories come from, and the good archbishop does take care to remind us that the more fanciful parts are almost certainly apocryphal. These are the stories that were told again and again for generations to Catholic children and adults. These are the lives that were held up as examples of heroic faith and virtue. And you would be AMAZED at the variety. There are meek saints and mouthy saints, rich saints and poor saints, skinny hermit saints and (literally) giant saints.

The women of The Golden Legend stand up to their fathers, and to kings and emperors. They endure tortures just as grueling as the boys', and they're just as tough doing it. St. Katherine of Alexandria faces down the pagan emperor's wisest advisors in a debate beat-down that ends with the advisors professing their faith in Jesus Christ and being martyred on the spot. Then, while imprisoned in the palace dungeon, two hundred members of the royal court come to visit her and are converted, including the emperor's own wife. That's some sound apologetics right there.

Whether these legends are exactly historically accurate (fingers-crossed) or are just meant to be inspirational, what they show us is that the Catholic Church has always celebrated the virtues of all kinds of people and all kinds of saints, and that includes all kinds of women.

St. George may have saved the princess of Silene from a dragon, but St. Margaret of Antioch saved herself, thank you very much.

The legend goes that Margaret was taught the Christian faith in secret by her nurse. When she was fifteen years old, the provost of Antioch saw her walking along the road. He was struck by her beauty and decided to make her the kind offer of allowing her to become his concubine. When she declined, he had her arrested and thrown into prison.

Again and again she was offered the choice between worshiping the pagan gods of the provost and living as his concubine in luxury, or enduring torture and privation in prison. Again and again, she held fast to her faith and principles.

One day, Satan himself came to tempt her.

He first appeared to her as a dragon, and swallowed her whole. But Margaret, not to be defeated as easily as all that, used the crucifix she was holding to burst free from the dragon's belly (or back?), safe and sound. I love how in the paintings her dress is still trailing out of his mouth and she's already burst back out. Easy come, easy go. *Quick aside, it's for this reason that St. Margaret of Anitoch is invoked as the patroness of safe childbirth. In kind of an opposite day, no, you don't look like a dragon at all darling, sort of way.*

Margaret kneels down in prayer after her victory, but then Satan appears to her again, this time as a man. When he again attempts to tempt her with his lies, she rises from prayer, grabs him by the neck, and full-on-WWE body-slams him to the ground. Then taunts him for getting whupped by a girl.

Seriously. I am not exaggerating: "She caught him by the head and threw him to the ground, and set her right foot on his neck saying: Lie still, thou fiend, under the feet of a woman."

She makes him admit who he is and why he's trying to corrupt her, "And when he had said thus, she took off her foot and said to him: Flee hence, thou wretched fiend. And anon the earth opened, and the fiend sank in. Then she was sure, for when she had overcome the master, she might lightly overcome the minister."

So then, finally, eventually, she receives the crown of a martyr at the hands of the provost.

So, if you're worried that you're not exactly cut out for the gentle and quiet path to heaven, know that there's also one where you get to fight a dragon and then execute a piledriver on the devil.

St. Margaret of Antioch isn't one of the feast days I put in the upcoming book, and it's not one we have a special family observance for, but writing this up HAS given me a bit of a hankering for dragon rolls . . .

You can read the whole legend of St. Margaret of Antioch here.
And St. Katherine of Alexandria here.
And St. Christoper (the giant) here.
And St. George here.
Or just get the (abridged) book version here.

Happy feast day feisties. 😘


Monday, July 17, 2017

I Have Some Things to Report: Part II (a skull fracture)

And now back to the continuing saga of what we've been doing for the past seven months. In Part I (here) we learned that I don't yet have a good grasp of what goes into to painting a room, despite having painted like . . . thirteen of them now. Also, that breaking tailbones is not fun.

Speaking of broken bones . . . we've really been surprisingly free of them around here. All these kids riding bikes and scooters and ziplines, and climbing trees, and jumping on trampolines, and we had NEVER had a broken bone. We'd had two nursemaid's (dislocated) elbows. For the first one, we went to the urgent care, for the second the husband just watched a youtube video and fixed the kid himself right there in the church parking lot. And we'd needed stitches three times (once in France). We didn't take care of any of those ourselves. Although giving myself stitches IS on my bucket list. (I have a weird bucket list. It's mostly dystopian.)

But other than that, over fourteen years, eight (at the time) kids, never a broken bone, never a trip to the ER. I guess when we do something, we like to REALLY DO IT, ya know?

The husband was out of town (in my experience, husbands are usually out of town for this sort of thing). The kids and I had just finished eating dinner out on the patio and I had gone back to the computer to work on the book. Betty was getting the girls ready for bed. The boys were SUPPOSED to be doing the dishes. Often, when the boys are supposed to be doing the dishes, they are instead having dishtowel battles. This time, when they were supposed to be doing the dishes, unnamed brother A picked up a three-foot length of three-quarter inch diameter PVC pipe he found in the yard and winged it towards unnamed brother B. Ya know, like ya do. Brother B deftly stepped out of the way like a bull fighter, and Frankie got javelined square in the forehead.

Brother A came running inside to get me, distraught enough that he couldn't really articulate anything. I came out to find Frankie standing there bent over at the waist with blood pouring out of a cut on his forehead. It was pretty clear he was going to need stitches. Just then Jack got home from baseball practice, grabbed a couple towels and put some pressure on the wound and offered to go to the ER with us. (He's always been SO good in a crisis.) We gave Frankie a sucker to try to calm him down and off the three of us (and my seven month belly) went to the closest hospital ER.

When we got there we were triaged to the front of the line. They took a look, he answered their questions. They agreed that he needed stitches, wrapped him up like a mummy, and sent us back to the waiting room for a few minutes.

Jack, who hadn't eaten dinner, went to the vending machine to get some chips, oreos, and soda (dinner of champions) and I thought Frankie was just resting on my shoulder. But when Jack offered him some soda, he was unresponsive. His eyes were open, but he just wasn't there. It had been maybe thirty minutes since the injury at that point. The nurse was just on her way out to get us, so she took us in a wheelchair to get a CT scan instead of stitches. While in the machine, he started having a seizure. First it was just a twitch on his face, then it was his whole body.

That's when things got crazy. They cut him out of his clothes, and put in an IV, which he didn't respond to at all, then they pulled the curtains and Jack and I were standing out in the hallway. My worry was tempered a bit by frustration and disbelief that all this could have come from something as silly as a piece of PVC pipe.

I called Jim (again) and told him what was going on, and he got up and left his conference dinner and got in an Uber to the airport. I called my friend Micaela and she went over to my house to be with the other kids, and my parents, who left a fancy gala dinner in San Diego and headed up to L.A.

The hospital we were in didn't have a pediatric trauma center, so they called for an ambulance. There just happened to be one there, that had just dropped someone off, so they loaded us in and off we went zig zagging through evening L.A. traffic. Jack in the front, where he got to operate the siren, and Frankie and I and some very nice firemen and paramedics in the back. It was in the ambulance that I learned that he had a displaced skull fracture. That means a whole piece had been broken loose and been pushed inward, increasing the pressure on the brain which resulted in a post-traumatic seizure.

They took us to L.A. County Hospital . . . which was good and bad. Good because they have a LOT of experience with trauma. But bad because it's in a sketchy part of town and the hallways of the ER were lined with shirtless tattooed dudes on gurneys. The lady on the other side of the curtain from us was explaining to a police officer that she didn't know how her teen-aged son got his gun shot wound, because he never tells her anything. Super sad. I'm still praying for her. To get into the main entrance, you have to go through a metal detector, and there are signs on the first floor directing you one way to the cafeteria and the other way to the prison. Because in addition to a top notch pediatric trauma center, they've got a prison.

But really, they were great. We were met by multiple pediatric neurologists and neurosurgeons. It really was amazing. All we could do at that point was wait and see if Frankie had any more seizures, and would therefore need immediate surgery. I was really glad MY teen-aged son was with me (and GSW-free). All those aspects of his temperament that made him tough as a toddler and a little kid, make him really helpful as a teenager. He filled out forms and answered nurses' questions and kept me company for some very long hours.

Eventually, my friend Jennifer came through the metal detector to pick him up, and bring me my medicine and my charger, and she also picked up burgers and brought those too, because she is an awesome mind-reader.

After a couple hours of observation, they brought us to a room upstairs in the pediatric unit. They finally stitched him up, and Jim arrived from the airport just in time to go with him to his second CT scan. They wouldn't let me and the belly even go to that wing. He opened his eyes and seemed to recognize Jim, but still couldn't really talk and was very disoriented.

Then it was just more waiting.

I had shared the picture of Frankie with his head bandaged on social media, because I thought he looked like the "injured guy" emoji, and at that point it was just a trip to the ER for stitches. If I'd known it was a serious injury, I think I probably wouldn't have shared the picture, or anything, on social media. But I ended up so glad I had. It was such a comfort knowing so many people were praying for him and for our family.

The next morning, on the feast of St. Gianna Molla, pediatrician and mother, Frankie woke up at about four in the morning. He didn't have any memory of anything after getting in the car at our house, but he was pretty much himself already. He was excited about getting to eat jello, and about the red light oxygen sensor on his finger, which he liked shooting at people.

He spent the day in the hospital, getting an EEG, watching movies, and playing with toys and games that the candy striper brought. Jim and I spent the day with him, just kind of bewildered that such a silly, freak accident could turn so serious, then completely resolve itself, over the course of one very long day.

The kids were very excited to have him back home. Especially unnamed brother A, who was kind of a wreck about it, even though it really was an accident. Fortunately, it's all pretty much forgotten now. The only lasting effect was that the traumatic brain injury and the anti-seizure medication he was on, kind of reset Frankie to his original factory settings. All the impulse control we have worked with him to develop over the course of many years was right out the window. If he got it into his mind to make a weird noise every few seconds, there was just no stopping him from doing it.

We had a follow-up visit with another pediatric neurosurgeon at another hospital a week after his injury and they took him off the medication which helped a lot. He's back to like 80% whackadoodle, which is better than 120%. And he's got this cool, exactly 3/4 inch diameter, scar. Chicks dig exactly 3/4 inch diameter scars.

The doctor cleared us to go on our scheduled trip the next week to Destin, Florida to meet up with my mom's whole side of the family for my cousin's wedding. It was BEAUTIFUL. My kids are used to the gray water and brown sand of the Pacific. At first, Lulu thought the beach was covered with snow! And it was the perfect opportunity to spend some time being grateful for each and every member of my family!

Still to come . . . my to do list before baby, including item #1: finish book, and item #100: have baby.


Friday, July 14, 2017

I Have Some Things to Report: Part I (mostly house stuff)

Hey guys. Did you miss me?

I figured there might still be a few of you who would be interested in some updates to my announcements in my last post (seven months ago!). Let's begin with the most exciting, shall we?

Introducing . . . baby George!

After a very fast (and very easy) labor two years ago resulted in Mary Jane being born at home in the tub after about 8 contractions total and about 45 minutes of labor, start to finish (read about that here) . . . we -- well, mostly the husband -- had really been hoping that we'd make it to the hospital this time. We have moved since our last birth and had a new OB and a new hospital that I was comfortable with, but which are a good twenty minute drive away. I had been praying, and so had many of you! that I would feel labor early enough to head for the hospital before it was too late to even try and that labor would be long enough that we could comfortably drive there and check in and whatnot. And, well, you've heard the one about being careful what you ask for? . . .

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When last I posted, it was early December, I was hit pretty hard by first trimester fatigue and barfiness and I wasn't going to make my December 6th deadline on the liturgical living in the home book manuscript. The folks at Ignatius were very understanding, and gave me another six months to get the book to them. In late January, I finally started coming out of the fog. So, because I am a person who never, ever learns her lessons, I decided to patch and paint and furnish and decorate the first floor of the house real quick, THEN finish writing the book.

It's mostly Betty's fault.

Her thirteenth birthday was February 6th, and in early January I had told her I just wasn't feeling up to throwing a complicated birthday party, and she suggested that we just have a Sense and Sensibility tea party/movie night with a few girlfriends. That sounded perfect. And easy. But then with just over a week before her party I started feeling a bit more like myself* and all of a sudden I couldn't live with the mac and cheese yellow walls patched with white in each place that the construction guys had put in a switch or outlet. At first I told the husband that all I really needed to do was just prime the walls in the living room and dining room. Then they'd be white not yellow for Betty's party and I could live with that. I'm pretty sure he knew better than to believe me.

* "like myself" meaning "crazy" apparently

As keeps happening on every "little" project I try to tackle with this old house, I kept backing in to bigger and bigger projects. The patched parts of the walls needed texturing, there was a big hole that needed patching -- and texturing -- in the ceiling, and THAT is a huge mess and needs to be done before priming. There was yellow overpaint on the edges of all the wooden doors, and the brick edging, and the stone fireplace. And if we were going to move all the furniture into the middle of the room, we might as well just rearrange it all to its permanent location, right? I didn't want the TV and the comfy couch in the formal living room long term, but that meant I also needed to paint the playroom/TV room and put up curtains in there so we could set up the furniture in that room. Once I had the walls painted, I realized how dingy the ceiling looked and so on and so on and so on.

So, in the week I had before Betty's Jane Austen Tea Party, all I did was make the house a MUCH bigger mess than it was before.

But the party must go on, and it did. We had the couch and TV moved into the playroom and we had the party in there and a good time was had by all. Although I did have to pause the movie and explain to a bunch of 10-14 year old girls what an "illegitimate" child was. 😳 (How great is Col. Brandon? SO great.)

Anyway, I decided to keep up with the painting and decorating until the big annual St. Patrick's Day Hooley, and I managed to finish the living room, dining room, TV/playroom, big kid game room, breakfast room, and mudroom/pantry. I need to do a whole house tour series one of these days, so I won't photo dump now, but here's a sneak peek of the living room.

Better, no? (That's a built-in leather-doored liquor cabinet next to the phone, if you're wondering. And we got the phone many years ago from Pottery Barn, and they don't seem to carry it anymore. But here's a similar one.)

The guest bedroom, main back hallway, school room, and two downstairs bathrooms did not get finished. And still aren't. But I had to quit anyway, because there was still the little matter of this book to finish in about three months. Also . . . I fell off a ladder painting and broke my tailbone. In the middle of the night. The husband was out of town, of course.

I know what you're thinking, "Wow! How fun and exciting! That must have been really awesome!"

But, surprisingly, it was not. It hurt a crazy amount, I think more than anything I've ever experienced before, mostly when trying to stand up, or drive, or move when sleeping. And, unfortunately those three things are things I have to do e'rry day. I'm happy to say, it is FINALLY better, which might surprise you once you know more about Georgie.

Okay, I think that's enough catch-up for today. I still need to tell you all about the book, and more about baby George, but first, there's the whole Frankie in the hospital thing . . . stay tuned.