25 April 2011

"Dad may try to ruin your style..."

Has anyone seen the new Tide commercial with the white mini-skirt?

In the commercial, Dad, who is fixing a rusty gate, spies a white mini skirt hanging on the clothesline. He takes it down and uses it to wipe his rust-covered hands, dropping it into the hamper inside the house. Teenage Daughter comes along and digs out the skirt, is appalled to see its condition, and takes it to Mom. Mom knows what to do--Tide will get the stains out. Mom also clearly knows that it's Dad's fault the skirt is stained. Daughter parades through the house in her white miniskirt and Dad is appalled that his ploy has not worked.

Leaving aside the unrealism of Dad actually putting the skirt in the hamper (apologies to any men out there who are tidier than the ones in my life), this commercial ought to be a shocking portrayal of the disintegration of family life, albeit not a surprising one. Dad apparently cannot just have a discussion with Mom about Daughter's immodest attire, and agree that the mini skirt should go by the wayside. He has to take an underhanded approach. This would never have happened in the house where I grew up. First of all, a natural sense of modesty was inculcated from an early age--I would not have worn a skirt that short, even if my mother allowed me to own one. Second, Mom and Dad would have discussed something, and my Dad would not have had to sneakily plot to get rid of an objectionable piece of attire.

I suppose it's meant to be a lighthearted look at fathers who don't want their daughters to grow up too fast. But it's right for fathers not to want their daughters to dress like tramps, and the daughters and their mothers shouldn't want it either.

22 April 2011

Baking Disasters

I thought that I would be very clever and bake pretzels for our fasting "snacks." I've never made pretzels before, but I looked through several similar recipes and it seemed easy enough. I am a novice bread baker, but I have done a bit of bread-baking before and am starting to get the hang of dough textures, etc. So, I thought I could handle this. The recipes promised beautiful pretzels like in the picture above, like the kind you'd buy at a mall pretzel stand, or, more familiar to me, at a German music and beer festival.

Perhaps my mistake was improvising slightly. The uncooked pretzels are supposed to be dragged through a bath of baking soda and warm water, which kick-starts the chemical reaction that gives them that beautiful brown, soft crust. The recipe I used called for just a warm water bath, but more traditional recipes use slightly boiling water (really traditional recipes call for lye instead of baking soda, but I don't trust myself around strong chemicals; the last time I used oven cleaner I burned my arm quite badly--twice--so if I were to use lye in an edible application I'd probably inadvertently poison us both, if I didn't burn through the skin on both my arms first). So I used simmering, slightly boiling water with the baking soda. I don't know whether I left them in the bath too long or not long enough, or whether I should have used an oiled instead of a floured surface to roll them out, or whether I miscalculated regarding the consistency of the dough (it was sticky, hence needing to flour my hands and the board I rolled them on). They came out looking like this:

Vaguely pretzel-like, but hideous. Ignore my lack of dough-twisting skill (that especially deformed one was fine until it was in the water bath, but it came untwisted)--that's not the real issue here. They are lumpy all over and not smooth. They are slightly brown in some places, but mostly not. I promise I did cook them long enough--they're the right texture both inside and out, they're just ugly. My husband really likes them, but to me they taste awful, like they've been dusted with baking soda instead of sea salt. Oddly enough, the taste exactly reminds me of a bad batch of waffle batter I made a couple of weeks ago, when I tried a new recipe that called for a teaspoon of vinegar (note: add the vinegar to the milk to sour it and make it like buttermilk, do not add directly to the batter). So, husband will eat another one or two later in the day, and the rest I'll put in baggies for him for the rest of the weekend. I guess I'll have to stick to the store-bought bread for my own needs today. Clearly I need a lot more practice at bread baking.

Do any bakers out there have an idea of what I've done wrong? Should I just forget about the baking soda bath and use an egg wash to make them brown? Should I use both? Was it wrong that the dough was sticky--insufficient flour? I'm sure there's more than one place where I took a wrong turn. I'd like to try making pretzels again, but I'd like to make ones that look pretty and taste nice!

21 April 2011

Maundy Thursday Madness

My husband was at the walk-through for the Triduum services this morning. Apparently, there will be foot-washing of both men and women tonight, in defiance of the rubrics. My husband was asked if he thought I'd like to participate and have my feet washed. He demurred on my behalf. He sent me this text message:

"Hope you don't mind that I opted you out of the foot-washing. A pretty thing such as yourself shouldn't be mistaken for viri selecti."

(Apparently he gave a version of this comment to the people who had asked him. They did not find it quite as amusing as I and the parochial vicar did. I hope he doesn't get in trouble!)

15 April 2011

Pink Slip
For TR

A letter to announce a sudden end:
They could not bear to tell you face-to-face.
A note was all they could endure to send.

Eighteen years of service to this place.
“Stop filling young minds with worthy thoughts,”
They could not bear to tell you face-to-face.

In a different time, we’d go call out those snots.
We suppose that you’ll go elsewhere. Now,
Stop filling young minds with worthy thoughts,

It’s time to pack up. We can’t tell you how
It saddens us to see things end this way.
We suppose that you’ll go elsewhere, now.

It sounds as brass on our ears to hear them say,
“It saddens us to see things end this way.”
A letter to announce a sudden end:
A note was all they could endure to send.

14 April 2011


Jeffery Tucker has posted a Faculty Profile of Edward Schaefer for the Sacred Music Colloquium over at the Chant Café. This makes me happy and kind of annoyed at the same time. Ever since the New Liturgical Movement blog got going, I've been trying to tell them about how awesome Dr. Schaefer (or Rev. Mr. Schaefer, if you prefer) is. He was my mentor, and Lizzy's too, and neither of us would be where we are today without him. My whole life as a musician, as a student, and as a Catholic would be quite different--and much worse--without the things he has taught me.

I and my husband have pointed out Dr. Schaefer's admirable work in the NLM comboxes numerous times, only to be ignored or told that his work was not as admirable as we believed it to be. Once upon a time, I emailed Shaun Tribe and asked him to put up a notice on NLM advertising one of Dr. Schaefer's workshops, and was refused, because, "We don't advertise for people we don't know." Well, the tiniest bit of investigation would have presented all the knowledge necessary. A year later they were happy to put up notices for one of his workshops, and even to post a report that I wrote about the workshop. Still, only about a year ago did I finally see Mr. Tucker and his cronies begin to acknowledge that Dr. Schaefer's work was important. Now, here they are, praising him to the skies. I wonder if in private they are eating their earlier words, or if they even remember a little, insignificant combox inhabitant's staunch advocacy of Dr. Schaefer's scholarship and skills.

So, I am really, really happy that Dr. Schaefer is getting more recognition for his work. He is a brilliant, humble, kind, devout, amazing man, and a wonderful musician and teacher. He deserves recognition. I'm just very annoyed that it's taken so long; that not only Gonzaga but also fellow inhabitants of the small sacred music world downplayed his accomplishments and virtually ignored him for years.

Maybe I'm just especially sensitive this week, because of what happened to my high school mentor, being fired from the school he has worked tirelessly for these last eighteen years. And what is continually happening to my husband, the put-downs he suffers at work (have I mentioned that his boss occasionally addresses him as "Boy"? or that the boss has ignored my husband's suggestions about the new church organ and wants a pressure-sensitive keyboard on the new digital monstrosity?). Why is it that people I admire are not--or have to wait years and years to be--admired by people who have the power to put them in the limelight?

12 April 2011


Image: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives by Frederick Edwin Church, 1870.

Holy Week draws near. I am not at peace, for many reasons. My dissertation is not progressing at the rate I'd like, and I blame my own laziness. The house is not clean. My husband's boss is ill, and the prognosis and potential treatments seem to change every week, so that we do not know if he will retire or stay on, if he will take medical leave or not, if my husband will have any opportunity for a much-needed vacation this summer if the boss cannot be at work. The dog is...well, the dog. His epilepsy is under control, but the twice-yearly blood tests that accompany the medication are not cheap, and he continues to flip-flop between being cutely affectionate and testing the limits of our tolerance.

A few weeks ago, I found out that the former pastor of the parish I grew up in had died. He heard my First Confession and gave me my First Communion, Confirmed me (a story for another day), received my father into the Church and convalidated my parents' marriage. So, he would have been an important person in my life even if I didn't like him. I did, as it happens, like him. He was not a very good preacher, he didn't give acute spiritual advice, and he wasn't a good business manager. He was humble and kind.

He left our parish under rather mysterious circumstances, about 10 years ago. There were some accusations that he'd had an affair with an unmarried woman near his own age. It's sad, perhaps, that the news of the exact nature of the accusations, after having heard rumors of misconduct, was almost a relief. There had been a horrible scandal about eighteen months before which involved our bishop, our parochial vicar, a couple of teenage boys, and a lot of embezzled funds. So perhaps you can understand why an affair with an adult woman seemed so normal and tame. Nevertheless, probably because our diocesan shame was so recent, Father was spirited away, literally removed in the night, and we never saw him again. Newspaper coverage abruptly stopped, and all we were told was that he'd gone home to the place where he grew up. Never whether he was guilty or not, or what happened to him. This ate at me for a long time. Thankfully, I discovered that I know a priest in the diocese where my former pastor died, and he was able to fill in some blanks for me, and give me a little peace.

Now, tonight, I find news via Facebook that my high school mentor, my favorite teacher, will not have his contract renewed at my alma mater. He is to be let go at the end of the term. No one has said why, only that it is not, as some speculated, for budgetary reasons (he is the most senior teacher, and thus the highest paid, hence the speculation). A cold little fear gnaws at my heart, a fear that I may not ever know why this decision was made. A fear that they have no reason, or a fear that they do have reason? I can't imagine that they have a real reason, although they may have imagined one. But it scares me a little. My college mentor quit his job the year after I graduated, largely because of institutional politics. O halcyon days, when I dreamed of sending my children to the same schools I attended! There's no reason to, now, since they will soon not be the schools I remember.

02 April 2011


Yesterday, I volunteered to cantor for Stations of the Cross. We usually have an opening and a closing hymn, for which the cantor sings into the microphone, and then, not using the microphone, the cantor gets everyone started for each verse of the "Stabat Mater" so we're all singing in the same key. It's all a cappella, and no big deal, musically. It was also my first experience of official, parish Stations of the Cross in several years.

I had forgotten about the Stations of the Cross calisthenics. Genuflect, stand, kneel, stand, repeat fourteen times. Not such a big deal if you're in a pew with a kneeler, but it is if you're the priest who's kneeling on bare marble (and Monsignor is not young), or a cantor kneeling on the hard, industrial carpet in the sanctuary. My legs were already sore from sitting in a weird position earlier in the day, and by the end I was actually in a great deal of pain. I thought about how much pain Monsignor might be in, and wondered if he'd ever considered dragging a pillow along to kneel on. I thought, maybe he prefers to perform the mortification of kneeling on the floor, and offer up the pain. I thought, I'd prefer not to perform that particular mortification--but is it really a mortification if you don't have a choice of whether to use a kneeler or kneel directly on the floor?

Upon reflection, I realized that hardly ever in my life have I been given that option. Most Roman Catholics, I think, don't give a second thought to dropping the kneeler in their pew and putting their knees on it. But I am a choir loft rat. My parish church as a kid did not have kneelers in the choir section. My school, where I attended daily Mass for years, rented its property from a Baptist church and used their chapel, which had no kneelers. The cantor standing at the front of the church, a position I have often assumed, doesn't usually have a kneeler. The choir at my college chapel where the Schola sang had no kneelers. The lofts at St. Paul's, St. Victor's, St. Catherine's, and my current parish have no kneelers.

So basically, the only time I've used a kneeler is when I was a kid too young to sing in the choir, or on vacation, or sometimes at daily Masses in a normal parish at which I am not singing. This is a comparatively small percentage of the Masses I have attended in my life.

Our parish is in the process of raising funds for a new building. We have the money to build the structure, and are now raising money for the interior furnishings. I think I will ask whether the new choir section can pretty please have those chairs with kneelers attached to the back, and enough space between the chairs to actually let them down. I doubt that my years as an Irish dancer have done my knees any favors, and although at 26 years old I am still fairly young, I still feel like I'm getting a bit old for kneeling on the bare ground, just as my relatives kindly informed me a couple of years ago that I was too old to be expected to give up my bed and sleep on the floor for the sake of holiday guests.

I might still kneel on the floor occasionally as a penance, but I'm awfully tired of not having the option of padded kneeler.