Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Wait for Francis and Googling Humility

My four-year-old breathed a heavy sigh beside me as he sat facing my laptop.  “I just don’t like new popes.”  His little shoulders sagged.  

I had to agree—it did feel like forever from the time the white smoke came pouring out to the balcony appearance.  We were watching the Vatican channel on YouTube, and my son was only mildly impressed by the band and Swiss Guard.  He was mostly interested in seeing the new pope so that we could finally turn it off and turn on his video.  He dug his toes into the carpet sadly.

I was unreasonably annoyed by his total disinterest and by his heavy leaning on my knee.  I couldn’t wait to see our new pontiff emerge from behind that curtain.  Who would it be?  I felt keenly that I should prepare myself for something extraordinary and new, like the first African or Asian or—be still my heart—Irish-American pope.

I wiggled my foot.  I was getting antsy.  Pretty soon I’d have to shut it all down to go pick up my daughter at school and I really did not want to hear the news over the radio.  I wanted to see it, see the man.  And then—the curtain rustled.

“Look!  He’s about to come out!”  I waved my son back over to the screen, as he’d strayed a bit by seeing how many one-legged hops he could do.

The curtain parted and out came the cardinal to announce the new pope.  I strained to make out what he was saying.  Did he say Francesco?

More rustling and out came a man in white.  I stared at the screen, shocked.  Who was this?  I mean, there was nothing extraordinary about him.  He looked very much like a pope.  And then he just stood there.  

Oh no, I thought.  This isn’t going well.  I watched him size up the crowd.  Was he stunned by the events of the evening?  I didn’t blame him.  He had only time to receive the cardinals, get changed, and then come out to greet the world with a speech that would be the world’s first taste of his papacy.  And he had to pick a name.  I would’ve been stunned, too.  But, oh how I wanted him to do something—anything!

And then he did.  He started speaking in Italian and suddenly the whole mood changed.  What was he saying?  I didn’t know, but it must’ve been good because the crowd was cheering.  And who was he?  I still hadn’t caught his name, so I had to search online.

“We have a new pope!” I told my son.  “His name is Francis!”  That was the extent of my knowledge. 

“Oh, yeah!” he said with excitement, hopping up.  “Can I watch my movie now?”

I mumbled something, quickly reading as many of the search results as I could.  Huh, I thought.  A Jesuit.  And he picked Francis as his name.  And he’s from Argentina—memories from my month abroad in high school in a town outside of Buenos Aires came to mind.  Genius, I thought.  They managed to pick an Italian non-Italian.  My mind continued to crank as I put my expectations of the new papacy behind me and tried to process the actual events.  

By now it was time to hop in the car meaning that my son’s video watching would have to wait until after we’d picked up my daughter and he was quite annoyed and blamed Pope Francis.  I prayed this wouldn’t put him off the faith and we piled into the car.  I turned on Relevant Radio was so grateful for their coverage, hanging on their every word.  I couldn’t learn enough about this man who was winning hearts by the second with his undeniable humility.  Even the toddler was getting into it, wanting to hear more about the new “poke” whom she called “St. Poke”.

As the days have passed, and the beautiful anecdotes and Facebook pictures of Pope Francis kissing the feet of AIDs patients have circulated, I’ve wanted very much to follow his example and lead my children with humility.  The thought was thrilling and sounded very noble and the right thing to do, but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.  Because I don’t actually know what that means, to be truly humble.  I had to look it up on New Advent.  So I am looking to our Holy Father to teach me how to be humble in a world where we have to Google humility to find it.  

Pope Francis, you’ve got your work cut out for you.       


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Open Letter to the Holy Spirit Regarding Cardinal Dolan, St. Patrick, and All Things Holy and Good

Your Thrice Holiness,

I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee.  

And I have a suggestion for You for the conclave.

I couldn’t help but notice that this is the feast week of the glorious St. Patrick, patron of my ancestral home and spiritual father of the Irish diaspora.  I was thinking, what better way to honor this great lover of Christ—through whose progeny You’ve done so much good work--than if You picked one of his children this time to don the white cassock.  His installation Mass could be this Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, and, oh, I don’t know, maybe he could even choose Patrick as his papal name (and this has nothing to do with my bets in our diocesan papal pool).

Now, I know a guy.

There’s a cardinal dear to me, having served in my home state of Wisconsin for a while, who I think might be a good choice. 

He’s Irish (American) and therefore both naturally loveable and a gifted communicator.  While in Milwaukee, he dispensed his archdiocese from the requirement of having to abstain from meat on a Friday in Lent in order that they might properly celebrate the glorious saint’s day with corned beef.  Also while he was there I’m sure he must’ve developed a taste for Millers, and how awesome would it be to see our next pope with a High Life in hand during cocktail hour at the Vatican.

And he looks a little bit like this

I will love whomever you pick and promise to write about him and his many wonderful qualities next week.  But in the meantime, I thought I’d make this suggestion in case You were looking for ideas.

With great love and affection,


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Noggin Nest

He looks so confident, I think.  Like he knows everything’s going to be okay.  I peer at the baby pictured with the product.  He’s smiling, maybe even coming down from a laugh.  Totally relaxed, casually playing with his feet, he looks like he doesn’t have a care in the world.  And it’s clear why: his mom got him a Noggin Nest.

He’s lying on an upholstered mat with a donut-shaped pillow sewn at the end.  His head rests in the pillow, designed to take pressure off the back of his soft head.  If he were to sit up we’d see that the back of his head was still beautifully round.  It looks like it’s working for him, I think.  But will it for us?  My two-month-old’s head comes to mind—so sweet and beautiful in the front and so flat in the back.  I sigh.  

He was my big man, almost nine pounds at birth, and he arrived appropriately with a big, heavy head.  Though round at first, as the weeks came and went I had a nagging suspicion that little by little the back of his beautiful head was flattening out with each nap, each trip in his car seat, each morning after a long snooze in the bassinet.  

Gradually my anxiety mounted.  I’d run my fingers over his head after picking him up from his nap, feeling for any flat planes.  I’d hold his fuzzy head to my nose, and slowly turn him, my eyes searching for changes in how the light fell on his scalp.  Finally, I didn’t have to hold him so close.  It was clear as day: one part of his head was round, the other was not.  It had become a Problem, and one, I felt with certainty, that would end with him in a helmet.  I had to do something.  

I tried flipping him over in his bassinet so that he’d sleep on his tummy.  I found myself checking in on him every few minutes to make sure that he was still breathing, as he was fond of falling asleep face down.  I’d try to nudge his little face to the side to free up a nostril and he’d push right back, burying his nose somewhere underneath him.  I stood over him and watched him snore into the thin mattress and wondered how anyone my age ever survived tummy sleeping.  It wasn’t working.  I wasn’t getting much done during his nap and he wasn’t getting much sleep.   

My preoccupation with his head has only grown over the past few weeks and now I find myself face to face on screen with the Noggin Nest and the confident baby.

I notice at the top of the website that the Noggin Nest has received five stars according to 18 reviewers.  I’m impressed, but then notice that the last star looks funny.  Oh, there it is, I think.  Its right arm is not shaded in.  I figure it must work out to be four and seven-eighths and think that’s still pretty good.  I scroll down to see what people have said, hoping that someone with my story will have written to say that the Noggin Nest had fixed their problem in a week and half.

The first several reviewers tell how the Noggin Nest successfully prevented their babies’ heads from getting flat.  My heart sinks.  That wasn’t really helpful as my son’s head was already flat.  Had anyone had success with the Noggin Nest actually reversing the flattening?  I scroll down further.  When I’m thinking of giving up, there it is: a lady with a flattish two-month-old used this and in a week and a half the spot was gone!  There!

Before long a Noggin Nest was ordered, destined for our home, and I looked at the back of my son’s head smugly.  No need to worry anymore, I think.  The Noggin Nest is on its way.

I fight back the feeling that this will be another Juicer, the time I rashly purchased a $50 juicer, stopping to get kale, collard greens, parsley, celery, and one apple on our way home, certain that it would fix my little people’s aversion to vegetables with one whirl.  It did not.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I am putting all my eggs in One Basket, but I squash the feeling.  The Noggin Nest has to work and I know it will because it worked for confident baby.  And it’s received 4 7/8 stars.  I’m positive that in a week and a half (plus 5-8 business days) both our heads will be feeling better.