Busted Halo
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June 15th, 2003
The Quieter National Pride of Canada Day

I’m relieved July 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, unattached to a weekend. It means, yay, that I won’t have to mark the Canada Day holiday by accompanying my husband on a three-night excursion to his parents’ lakeside “cabin.”
No toilet, no wayThere’s no way I’m up for lugging my two-year-old son and eight-months-pregnant belly off on a prolonged visit to a place with no running water or beds fit for sleeping. Yeah, the fresh air’s nice and the scenery is lovely, but right now I’m just too fat and uncomfortable to care. I’d be more gung-ho if there was an actual toilet.
My husband is among the many Canadians who love spending our country’s birthday…

April 20th, 2003
The Unexpected Wonder of Expecting

My two-year-old presses his ear to the bulge that is my belly.
“She’s not big enough yet,” he informs me, his diagnosis delivered with tiny confidence.
“What will happen when she’s big enough?” I ask.
“She’ll come out,” he says.
I have over three months left in this pregnancy, but already I feel huge and uncomfortable. I dread stepping on the scale and seeing the inevitable upward curve of the little black numbers. When I lament to my husband he pinches the fat newly layered on my arm, thinking I will find him cute. I snarl and make him drive me to Dairy Queen.
But those are the bad days, the times I give in to fixating on the minor inconveniences of helping God…

February 20th, 2003
Cinematic Evil and the Real Thing

One weekend afternoon when I was a kid, the 1958 film The Blob came on TV. Maybe my mother shouldn’t have let me watch it. That scene where the terrified crush of young patrons spills from the movie theater, the murderous blob oozing after them, became one of my earliest movie memories.
The blob was so grisly and unstoppable. It made me very uneasy. What would people do if something like that really happened? How would we all get away?
I watched a lot of horror movies when I was young, saw hours of pretend evil. I absorbed the catalogue of cinematic monsters and all the different ways they did their victims in. There were the guys like Freddy and Jason, slashing and hacking and stabbing, and never really being dead.…

December 23rd, 2002
The Unconditional Heart of Yuletide Lunacy

My father is never satisfied with the trees my mother hauls home from the gas station Christmas tree lot. Every year he produces the garden shears and goes about pruning. No one bothers trying to stop him anymore. We gather to watch dismembered tree pieces fall to the living room floor and agree when he says the thing looks much better. When he wanders off we fill the gaping holes with tinsel and reminisce about the time he broke out the saw.
Norman Rockwell doesn’t live hereIn my family, we don’t have Christmas traditions so much as recurring patterns of well-established holiday behavior we have all come to expect. Like my mother corralling all seven of her unwilling kids down to the Styrofoam Santa Castle…

November 7th, 2002
Beyond Empty Calories to Real Spiritual Sustenance

Oatmeal is not a favorite food of two-year-olds. Mine wasn’t too thrilled to see it arrive on the breakfast table this morning. He ate grudgingly, intermittent spoonfuls hitting the table and floor. I cajoled it into him, bite by bite, nudging the bowl back every time he pushed it away.
It would have been a lot less hassle just to slap a box of Reese Puffs or a couple of those frosted toaster treats in front of the kid. Or any other of those morning-time goodies that fill our supermarkets, such as breakfast pizza or one of those frosted, sugar-dipped, marshmallow-laden “cereals” always prancing across our TV screens. All fast, easy, and purportedly tasty, at least to kids.
Junky breakfast food…

November 5th, 2002
Meditations on Who Wears—and Irons—the Pants

Are we allowed to say “housewife” anymore? I doubt it’s ever been a flattering word — brings to mind frumpy ladies in hair curlers with ambitions no grander than getting good deals on rump roasts at the local supermarket. My overachieving parents raised me to look upon the fate of housewives, homemakers, as rather unfortunate. Having a successful career was a very important thing. Much of the other stuff could be muddled through. Suppers could be thrown together; nannies could be hired. From my mother, there was always this unspoken but unmistakable plea that I should never marry the type of man who expected cooking and cleaning and having his pants ironed.
My mother cried through my entire…

October 17th, 2002

No one comes running to meet me when I get home from work. The house is disappointingly dark and silent, the loves of my life hours into sleep. Since there’s no one around to talk to, I turn on the television and sigh as I sit in the dark flipping through infomercials and bad late-night movies.
Getting home at one in the morning is something I tolerate, for now, because my prospects of finding similar kind of work, with normal hours, are limited. But I’m waiting for the day I can be one of those nine-to-five lucky people. They may have to put up with rush-hour traffic and eight a.m. meetings, but at least they get to be more or less in tune with the world. I feel so out of synch with the natural rhythm of things, eating…

September 11th, 2002
A Sampling of Saints for the 9/11 Anniversary

Saint Francis of Assisi is up for bid on eBay . Several of him, actually. There’s Saint Francis in terra cotta or hand-painted ceramic, and also a lovely and practical Saint Francis birdfeeder . And he’s not alone. All over the internet you can get same-day shipping of pretty much any saint you want. Medals, statues, pictures—just a click and a credit card away.
Maybe I’ll get myself one of those saints. Maybe Saint Lucy , a patron of writers. She might be a comfort, perched serenely on top of my computer monitor. Really, I wouldn’t mind her face peering down at me. I like that about being Catholic, getting to have all those famously holy people around. It was actually the impending anniversary…

September 10th, 2002
More Guts Than Blood in Red Dragon

I once had a roommate who disapproved of me watching the X-Files. You know, because of all the murdering, and that creepy music. She would glide past the TV Sunday nights gently tsk-tsking, and recite a Bible verse, or at least part of one, about God “not giving us a spirit of fear” (Romans 8:15 ). Meaning that choosing to be afraid was wrong, even when only pretend, and for fun.
I guess I shouldn’t have seen Red Dragon then, what with its cannibalism and blood spatter. Actually, and good for it, this Silence of the Lambs “prequel” spares us the gratuitous violence as it tells that tale we’ve heard before: the haunted FBI agent tracks a cutely nicknamed serial killer, with help…

September 4th, 2002
Life at the Bottom of the Corporate Heap

A few weeks before she finished her pharmacy degree, my younger sister called to tell me she’d just been offered a job paying something like $60,000 a year. My mind sprouted dark, envious thoughts as she described the retirement plan and giant signing bonus, but I gritted my teeth and congratulated her. “Wow,” I said, trying not to choke, “good for you.”
That phone call left me depressed for months. I had logged just as many decent grades and years in university as my sister, more even. No high-paying career for me, though. Thanks to a combination of choice, chance, and a not-quite-planned baby, I hadn’t gotten any farther than the bottom of the corporate heap. I earned my living…

August 30th, 2002
The Unexpected Joy of Parenthood

Their faces keep surfacing on the evening news, in snapshots pulled from fireplace mantels or the pages of the family album. These are photos never meant to be here, at the tragic center of a swirl of frightening images—police detectives, disbelieving neighbors, yellow-taped crime scenes. To my horror it goes on and on, the story beginning again every few days.
Another child vanished, snatched from the sidewalk or her bed or while walking to school. Mercifully I am only a bystander. I have little to do but shut off my television and pray, and turn to my belief that God is with those who suffer.
Once, stories of stolen children disturbed me. Now, two years into my unexpected motherhood, they have a cold, haunting…

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