Monday, September 24, 2018

Fall takes


Well, it's fall now!  And the weather fairies seem to have gotten the message, because on the Equinox it was clear and breezy, and since then it's been cold and drizzly.

Fall gives me weird feelings.  I don't know whether to cheer for the changing weather or dig in my heels ... because for a short time, it's getting better and better, and then suddenly it's too cold and going too fast and all the leaves fall off and then it's winter.  I really hate winter.  I hate not being able to go outside, but I'm very intolerant of cold so I sit inside staring out the window feeling trapped.  It doesn't help that our house has mostly small windows, and isn't very warm.

But we're far from that day just yet.  Last night we got to sleep with the window open and the fan off, which was lovely.  I'm not used to all that silence though.  The window units are like a jet engine.  When we turn them on in the spring, they're way too loud, but my ears got used to them and now expect them.  At least the crickets are still going strong!  I love the way summer nights in Virgina sound like we live in the middle of the jungle.


I'm still submitting my novel.  So far I've sent out 72 queries (meaning, a query letter and some number of sample pages) to literary agents.  I've gotten four manuscript requests, and most of the rest were either non-responses or form rejections.  All four of the people who read the manuscript turned it down.  But I did get a few encouraging responses saying the story was good, just not quite what they were looking for, and one actual piece of constructive criticism saying the ending was a little anticlimactic.  So I put the querying on hold for a while so I could rework the beginning a bit (since that's the part most people are seeing and not being interested in) and redo the entire ending.

I've gotten that done, and I think it's a huge improvement.  I blew some stuff up, that's always good, right?  So I'm ready to go back to querying, hopefully with better luck this time.


NaNoWriMo is coming soon and I am not sure what to do!  I feel overwhelmed with my life now, and what's going to change before November?  How will I have time to write anything?  But I remember I felt the same last time and I got it done.  So I'm not backing down just yet.

I think I've chosen a story.  I had like seven ideas to choose from, and a big part of me has been saying what I need to write is the memoir, the one about my experience in RC, but I just . . . really don't want to dig all that stuff up again.  So I'm thinking of the interstellar triller with the love story in it.  I came up with the idea when I was twelve or thirteen and reworked it many times without actually writing anything like a novel out of it.  It's hard because my main character is actually two people living in the same body.  How does one narrate a thing like that?  I'm planning on focusing on one of the two people, but they talk to each other and it's going to be a little difficult making all the inner dialog clear.  I tried a few pages in third person and they suck so I'm going to experiment with first person.  Not sure.  Third person is more the thing for adult sci-fi, but of course the right thing is the thing that works for this particular story.


So much political stuff going on right now.  I have been getting way too sucked in, and arguing with way too many strangers.  The one bright side is, a lot of the more-liberal Catholic facebookers keep friend-requesting me.  I never know whether or not to accept those.  Like, they seem like nice people and I'd probably like them.  But would they be super disappointed to find out I'm not actually in their tribe?

I have a smartphone now, which is mostly great because I can take good photos and the school can reach me when I'm at the park.  But it just makes my facebook addiction even worse.  I'm thinking of going back to screen-free Fridays.  Or at the very least, facebook-free.  My messenger conversations with friends really get me through the day, and of course there's writing and reading the news ..... BUT, on the other hand, it's one day a week and I have a pile of books to read.


I got the results from Marko's psychological assessment.  Did I mention we did that, back in August?  It took like five months to even get the appointment, and we had to drive an hour away, but insurance covered it so I really wanted to get it done while we've got it.  (Not expecting to lose it but in this climate who can say what's going to happen?)  Marko was luckily very cooperative.  It was really nice having a day out with him, without any of the other kids.  We even got burgers and milkshakes together.  His behavior lately has frustrated me to no end, so I really needed that chance to see his better side.

Well, he has autism.  Which obviously came as no surprise, but this diagnosis is official unlike the previous one.  We got a big packet full of resources to look into, which I stuck on top of the piano to look at later and really need to go through.

The big thing I need to look into is some kind of counseling for his emotions.  The occupational therapy he gets at school is focused on school stuff, like his (in)ability to write.  But his behavior at home has started to be really dreadful in the past six months or so, and a lot of that is because he is having interpersonal issues with his siblings.  He takes everything as a personal affront (them playing games that don't interest him; them playing pretend; anyone who is not him being first at everything) and, since he's learned to control his temper a lot better, he often doesn't melt down but instead passive-aggressively teases and annoys them.  It's like regular sibling rivalry, but on steroids because even when they're trying to be nice, he often interprets it as being mean.  

It doesn't help that Michael has a big chip on his shoulder lately and Miriam has tended to jump straight to banshee shrieking at the slightest offense.  Maybe they're hyper-defensive because of Marko's bad behavior.  Or maybe Marko's behaving badly because they're being so mean.  I don't know, but it's a big cycle and I keep trying and trying to break it, but the only thing that works is separating Marko from the others.  I keep begging him to please, PLEASE, read a book or type a story or play with your cards or ANYTHING that is not interacting with your siblings!  But that's not a long-term solution because he has to learn to interact with peers someday.  I had hoped he'd learn that at school, and he's made some small progress, but not nearly as much as I would like.  So that's what the counseling would be for.


Jackie is still so hard.  If she naps, she's up till ten or eleven at night.  If she doesn't nap .... she's still often up late because she took a 30-second doze at the dinner table, or because she was up late the previous night, or whatever.  But if she's up late once, she's tired and cranky and there's no way she's getting through the day without a nap.  It's a cycle I'm constantly battling.  And then I hear about 20-month-olds that both nap, even in the afternoon, and also go to bed at seven and I get sour about it.  Did you know that some children, you can deliberately mess up their nap schedule or take them to an evening activity, and the very next day they resume a normal sleep routine as if nothing ever happened?  SO UNFAIR.

In the daytime her hobbies including nursing for what feels like hours while humming Twinkle Twinkle, pinching my belly, and trying to flip upside-down; biting for no reason; demanding food purely for smashing purposes, and coloring on the walls with marker.  I mean, standard toddler stuff.

Her verbal skills have really exploded though.  From just a couple words, in a month or two suddenly she had dozens.  Other. Me. Blue. Purple. Yellow. Apple. Egg. My. Come on. Man. Out.  Some words she won't even try, like Marko or Michael's names; others she seems to pick up after hearing them once.  I can't say it makes her easier to please -- I mean, the main problem in her life isn't that I don't understand her, it's that I do and still sometimes say no.  That's when she goes ballistic and goes for the eyeballs.

Is Jackie more difficult than the standard baby?  Or am I just so tired it seems that way?  The world will never know.


Oh, I do have one thing I'm very proud of!  I finally went to the dentist and got my cavities drilled.  It was both very scary to face and very expensive, so I had every motivation to put it off, but I finally got it done and that's a thing I don't have to worry about again for awhile.

Now is it me, or do dentists univerally pick the worst possible music to play in their offices?  It's always eighties music, and not the good stuff.  Somehow easy-listening eighties music makes the skin crawl up the back of my spine.  It feels like something horrible is going to happen.  And I don't know if it's legitimately terrible music, or if I got this association from how dang often I've been scared in dentists' offices and that's what was always playing.

A few worst offenders: I'm Still Standing, Fly Like an Eagle, literally anything by The Police, Your Kiss is on My List, Take On Me.  Is it the minor keys, the synth, or what?  I don't know, but a whole lot of 80's songs give me the heebie jeebies.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Catholic way to be gay?

I read a lot of blogs by Catholic gay people.  Especially when I was dealing with my own different conflicts, I found a lot of encouragement from other people who felt they didn't fit in.  But of course, after a lot of reading, I started to feel pretty bad about it all.  It wasn't just that Catholic teaching itself is very hard to follow for a gay person.  It's that everything in the church seemed designed to hurt them and make them feel terrible.

Right now I've been seeing that in spades: nasty articles blaming gay people for sex abuse, saying that gay people have no ability to control themselves, saying that homosexuality is inherently pederastic, and so on.  These people love to make the assumption that any priest who says something welcoming to gay people is both gay and an abuser, and any priest who calls out homosexuality "for what it is" is a holy and virtuous man.  I've even read that when an antigay priest is caught in homosexual activity, it's always a setup.  The whole church is infiltrated with gay people, aka evil people.  How does it feel to be a Catholic gay person, following the Church's teaching to the best of one's ability, hearing stuff like this?

But it's not new.  As long as I've followed the subject, there have been lots of voices saying that gay people have a mental illness, that they should never say "gay" but "struggling with same-sex attraction," and that in order to be faithful Catholics, they have to not only be celibate but handle their orientation in the exact way the lecturer recommends -- which usually means being deeply ashamed of their orientation and never disclosing it to anyone.

It's gotten to the point that whenever I see someone say, "There's no such thing as gay, there are only straight people who are confused about their sexual identity," I roll my eyes.  Isn't that exactly what a gay person would say, if they didn't want the shame and stigma of being gay but also felt bad about lying?

The main points of this position:
-homosexuality isn't natural, but is caused by psychological trauma of some kind
-homosexuality can be cured by proper therapy
-it is important never to call a person "gay" but "same-sex attracted"
-gay people are emotionally immature and narcissistic
-gay men should never be priests because they can't have a spousal relationship with the church
-the "gay lobby" should be opposed in every respect

I don't know how this particular attitude became "the Catholic way to be."  The Catechism certainly doesn't support it.  I do think Benedict's instruction on gays in the priesthood has some hints of it.  And it's very much pushed by Courage -- a group which, to many people, spells out the Catholic way to be gay: be in the closet, while attending a secret support group a lot like AA to talk about your struggle with same-sex attraction.  What I have recently found out, though, is that its roots come from some unsavory places.

The first problematic root of this position is Freud.  The blogger Chris Damian has a five-part series explaining how it is derived from Freud.  Although Freud is appreciated today as having broken some new ground and asked some interesting questions, psychologists today largely don't approve his conclusions.

The second is Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage.  I didn't know anything about him till I read of him on Chris Damian's blog, but my eyes about bugged out reading this article of his from 1992, in which he argues pedophile priests can and should be returned to ministry.
"The success of the Saint Luke Institute Program in Suitland, Maryland, should also not be overlooked. Dr. Frank Valcour, Medical Director, reports that 32 of 55 child molesters who had completed treatment by September 1989, were doing well, with no reported instances of relapse and no new allegations of child molestation. 
Valcour concludes that, after making allowances for the possibility of some improper behavior which was not reported and for individuals who are impaired in other ways and thus not fit for future ministry, the majority of those treated have attained a new level of psychological and spiritual health. It would seem, then, that the risk of relapse will continue to be minimal and that these men should be reassigned to ministry under carefully qualified conditions. "
It seems that, after his work rehabilitating pedophile priests--where "the majority" of the priests did not offend again, but it appears about a third did--he turned his attention to gay laypersons.  Just as he thought he could "cure" pedophiles with psychiatric care and 12-step programs, he tried to do the same for homosexuals.  He seems to see both in the exact same way, as disordered, sexual sins, ignoring that one harms a victim and is a criminal offense.   Using the same approach for both is needlessly harsh to gay people, and unconscionably lax when it comes to pedophiles.

Another person who has been active in Courage and written a lot of their material is Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons.  He's written lots of articles on homosexuality that fits the pattern I've talked about above, stuff like this:

"The most frequently seen cause of sadness in the past leading to homosexual attractions in males was the result of childhood and adolescent rejection by peers because of very limited athletic abilities. Many children who have poor eye-hand coordination are not good in the most popular sports and are on the receiving end of harsh and cruel criticism and rejection by their peers. Subsequently, powerful feelings of loneliness, sadness and isolation develop. The craving for acceptance and love from peers results in strong emotional attractions to those of the same sex which leads many youngsters to think they may be homosexuals."

Now of course you don't become gay because you couldn't hit a baseball.  (I believe there is some correlation between homosexuality and Asperger's, both of which have genetic causes, and Asperger's does screw with your hand-eye coordination, so perhaps that's what showed up in his data.)  But I'm just going to go ahead and assume you'll agree this guy is an untrustworthy source when I show you what he said about priest abusers:

"Mental health professionals who are called upon to evaluate priests should report fully on the background of the accuser and should document how they have determined that the specific accusation against the priest is not false. The need for such an evaluation process is clear, given the extent of the false accusations made in our culture today. The same responsibility applies to review boards. 
Since the major unresolved anger that adults bring into their adult lives that is misdirected at others arises from hurts in the father relationship, a thorough history of the accuser’s relationship with her/his father is required. 
Unfortunately, some dioceses have supported false accusations by accusers with criminal records, who even spent time in jail. One such accuser, who had no proof of her accusation, received a financial settlement, followed by an attempt to laicize the priest. 
A veteran Los Angeles lawyer, Mr. Steier, who was involved in over 100 investigations into claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, wrote in a declaration to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2011, “One retired FBI agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the clergy cases told me, in his opinion, about one-half of the claims made in the clergy cases were either entirely false, or so greatly exaggerated, that the truth would not have supported prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse.....
The background for the work of the review boards is that the allegations of a charge of sexual abuse seem to be the one “crime” in our society in which the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent. This attitude in regard to accusations against priests, in particular, has led many priests to describe the present situation in the Church as a witch-hunt, comparable to that in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s."

 Elsewhere he says that informing the congregation of any allegations and asking anyone with information to come forward will simply "create false memories" and "destroy the priest's reputation."

Another leading light in all this is Fr. Tony Anatrella.  I've mentioned him before, because I'm so blown away how much of the fashionable viewpoint on homosexuality comes from him.  He even helped write Benedict's statement on gay priests, linked above.  He came under fire for telling bishops they didn't necessarily have to report sex abuse to civil authorities.  Later, he was accused by four people of sexually abusing them during "conversion therapy."

With all this, one has to ask if any of this viewpoint has any credibility at all.  If its main inventors were that bad at psychology, and that poor on the subject of abuse, why should we trust them on homosexuality?  And why do we have ministries for gay people entirely led by priests or doctors who claim not to be gay -- what qualifies them for this ministry?  I far prefer to listen to people who actually are gay, if I want to know what it's like to be gay and Catholic.

In that interest, I'm just going to signal-boost a few of my favorite blogs, which can tell you all you want to know about what it's really like to be gay.  They tend to be skeptical of the explanations of these "psychologists."  For instance, some come from families where they had good relationships with both  parents; some not.  Some were abused as children; some not.  Some have tried to be "cured" of being gay and had no luck.  Most agree homophobia is a serious problem, within and without the Church.

Chris Damian at University Ideas, who inspired this post
Gabriel Blanchard at Mudblood Catholic
Melinda Selmys at Catholic Authenticity
Spiritual Friendship, a group blog
Eve Tushnet

I would recommend straight Catholics read these regularly to get a sense of what it's like to be gay and Catholic, attempting to follow church teaching.  Stop getting your idea of what homosexuality is and how it can be fixed from wingnuts. 
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