Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Month: June 2014

Getting through the Caterpillar Years: My Son and Eric Carle

My son Atticus is three years old. I call him a “young three” sometimes when I attempt to explain him and his ways.
I saw the wall clings while shopping for nursery decor once the ultrasound forecast a blue future. I saw the definition of boy: noise with dirt on it. I thought maybe, but maybe not. I’d had his sister Daina for a solid ten years already, and my home had been impervious to even her worst tantrums.
Daina’s messes were largely contained to my bedroom, consisting mostly of blankets, books, and Barbie shoes, lined up in perfect pairs and predictable gradations, moving from pinks to greens. Even her falls were predictable. She liked to run on the long couch and would fall in the same spot every week or so, knocking her head on the black lacquer coffee table edge. For a solid year, her pictures reveal bruises in still predictable gradations, moving from purples to yellows.
My son, however, is, well, unpredictable.
I have never apologized so much in my life as I do for Atticus’s transgressions in public spaces.
This shall be all that I say about it, as he may well be a writer someday, and these private and bizarre moments should be reserved for his own safekeeping and/or exploitation.
I will say this: His ascent into Northern Aggression has become so steep a climb that before he exits the car, he lists his own promises, as though rehearsed: “I not hit. I not push people. I not spit.” This list, sadly, goes on.
As a measure of comfort, a dear friend sent me to this article, which made me realize Atticus and I were not alone. There were others living our days.
But all at once and without much warning, my son caught me by surprise in the most beautiful of ways on Sunday. I had set him on the bed and was putting on his shoes while he grabbed for The Very Hungry Caterpillar book we’d read dozens and dozens of times, nearly all of which he’d sat silent through from start to finish.
The most peculiar thing happened.
He read it to me.
Now, of course, I know he wasn’t reading-reading. He knows a few letters, can spot an A and say it’s for Atticus, and he understands we move from left to right on a page and front to back in a book. But he can’t read. He can’t.
But he did. For him, I suspended all reality of his illiteracy and just fell in love with his voice all over again, his smallish teeth, his bold, wide eyes. I believed with him that he was reading-reading. Together, we pushed aside the impossibility of it all.
I stopped everything. I even tried to silence the cheering inside my own head. I might have teared up a little.
Page by page, his little voice said, “BUT, he was still hungry.” Every day in the book was Monday. Every number was three.
I didn’t care. It was the finest version I’d ever heard.
It’s incredible with these little people how much drinking in they do, how much they watch and listen, how much they absorb from just sharing space with us. It’s such an incredible responsibility I try to forget most days; it’s overwhelming. But it’s an honor I love to remember.
When Daina was little, I read her Stinky Face every day. It became a ritual, and it became one of those memories that you pack just beneath your skin so that wherever you go and whatever you do, it’s just there, hovering in the space just above your soul with you.
By the end of the book, the small caterpillar becomes a big, fat caterpillar then a beautiful butterfly. My son says beautiful with the longest U sound I’ve ever heard. It’s a little like a stretched out song, kind of full-bellied with hope and joy all mixed together. It sounds like the feeling I get when I watch him, dwelling and learning among us.
Our home is a cocoon of gentleman standards and a very lax dress code. I think his wings are itching some days. When the space seems tighter, it’s just because he’s getting bigger. Because the world is full of chocolate cake, salami, pickles, and too many hungers to count, I pray that, like the caterpillar, he finds some leaves and rest.
Because one soon day, I know he’ll fly away.

 

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The BIGGER Little Literati Summer Challenge for Adults (and Other People Who Pass as Adults)

I’m over the moon that so many of you are eager and excited to start the Little Literati challenge with your kids this summer. I’m excited about the memories you’ll make and stories you’ll share.
Me, actually being an adult with an infant at the doctor’s office holding my business cards. This is so very adult that I should be able to vote twice during each election. 
It came to my quick and mostly focused attention that somewhat less-Little Literati might enjoy the challenge, too. So, I’ve written an adult version for the Bigger Literati among you.

Here is your mission.

Find and read ten books that fit the descriptions below, and keep track of your progress. When you complete the challenge, email your name, mailing address, and list of ten books to thelittleliterati@gmail.com.

All who meet the challenge will receive a snail-mailed Little Literati envelope from the Prices with Little Literati tokens of affection. The drawing for the grand prize will be held only for the kids.

Submissions must be received no later than Friday, August 1, 2014. Only one submission per person.

Happy reading!

1.     A book set in a place you’ve never been
2.     A book that teaches you how to do something
3.     A book that most people have read in school but that you somehow dodged—until now!
4.     A book meant for young adults
5.     A book that was made into a movie
6.     A book about another world
7.     A long book—one that is longer than you normally read
8.     A book of poems
9.     A book with a bird or fish on the cover
10.   A book you’ve loved your whole life

Instagram #littleliterati with photos of you and your book picks so that we can see your progress along the way!

Invite your friends! The more, the merrier.

Coffee that says, “You can stroke people with your words.” I believe that.
And I believe in coffee.


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The Little Literati Summer Reading Challenge

Get your readers ready! The Little Literati in my house are challenging The Little Literati in your house to some summer reading with a scavenger-hunt twist!

Find and read ten books that fit the descriptions below, and keep track of your progress. When you complete the challenge, email your name, mailing address, and list of ten books to thelittleliterati@gmail.com.

All who meet the challenge will receive a snail-mailed Little Literati envelope from the Prices with readerly tokens and things that inspire little literary ones. All those who complete the challenge will also be entered into a drawing for a mystery book box full of reading and reading accessories (worth over $100). 
Submissions must be received no later than Friday, August 1, 2014, to be included in the drawing. Only one submission per child. Children through rising eighth grade may participate. The winner will be notified by email the first week of August.
Happy reading!
      1.     A book set in a place you’ve never been
2.     A book that teaches you how to do something
3.     A book that was your mom or dad’s favorite when they were a kid
4.     A book with a funny title
5.     A book with an animal as the main character
6.     A book about a make-believe world
7.     A long book—one that is longer than you normally read
8.     A book of poems
9.     A book about the sea or the sky.
    10.   A book about people who lived a long time ago
Instagram #littleliterati with photos of your literati pursuing the prize so that we can see your progress along the way! 

Secretly, we’ll all know that the reading is the real prize, but you don’t have to tell them that.


Plenty excited about this but don’t have any littles to participate? Share this post on Facebook or Twitter and cheer us on in the comments below.  

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Why Mom Blogs Matter: Me, the Moonshine of Virginia Woolfs

Lining her pockets with river rocks, Virginia Woolf walked into the water in a woolen coat, wandering and waiting on death to come rushing over her, as if to her aid.

I replay deaths that preceded my life over and over again, like I’m watching for quarterback mistakes. I live in Monday mornings. I am louder than a referee.

 

Names and dates ebb, barely touching the shore where the reasons lie dry and futile in the sun. Plath in ‘63.  Sexton in ’74. Details cling to me and bloom like barnacles, waiting for Virginia Woolf, in some form or another, to pass by.
We’re all trying for her in our digital streams of consciousness, struggling to traverse the distance separating wine from moonshine.
We are a million Mrs. Dalloways, deciding to buy the flowers ourselves.
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. ”

                                                                        —A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
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The Fault in Our Stars—A Double-Blind Review (in a Manner of Speaking)

I’m setting out on a paper adventure.
I have not read The Fault in Our Stars. I have not seen the movie either.
I’m reviewing it anyway. Daina reads John Green books as if Guy Montag himself is about to storm our house to burn them.
Every once in a long season, a book gets you feeling evangelical again about the power of a good story. You marvel at the author at whose hands you find yourself feeling both helpless and superhuman at the same time.
By the end of that book, a strange thing happens: someone else’s words form within you something so perfectly inexplicable that you suddenly have none of your own. You’re left empty and full all at once.
In that long season, wherein you have this sudden gift, you understand how words can break a person. You want the entire world to read them anyway because you know that an important part of being human is being breakable. Without books like these, we risk being unbroken for too long. We risk our ethical periphery someday shrinking to the size of a balance beam. We risk finding ourselves seeing only ourselves and an occasional other exactly like us.
I know The Fault in Our Stars does this because I’ve seen it in my thirteen-year-old daughter. I am torn between reading it because there are lines separating the goodness of things you believe in so much you start selling them, the goodness of things you value so much you don’t trust that others could ever care for them or understand them the way you do, and finally the goodness of things you call sacred. 

Until I’m sure I’ll get that right, I’m leaving it to her.  
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Some Days I Make Soup: A Writer in Progress

Lesson One about being a writer is that you should be able to admit in public over coffee that you’re writing a book.

The funny thing is I can’t say it above a whisper or while looking anyone in the eye. It’s as if the volume and eye contact is a verbal contract that I’ll finish it someday. Someone, eventually, would know that it happened and then, it would be in print forever, as if to suggest I’d be eternally bound to those opinions and that I’d have to defend them in even more public spaces in front of family and childhood friends who will always believe they knew you best and lament that you’ve “changed.”
The second funny thing is that I whisper confessions of writing among friends, too. This morning over coffee I admitted that I’m working on, not one, but two books and that one of them is a book of poems.
And why is this so hard to say? Why is it that the thing that every kid brags about and posts on refrigerator doors is something that grown, passable adults somehow must attribute to French blood or mental illness? It’s all fine and dandy to have it done and published, but to be working on a book? It somehow feels sadder than it should.
So I give myself a hard time. I’m used to having writing in progress, but I’ve suddenly come down with a bad case of being a writer in progress.
I think of awfully vain questions some days like when I will need a dot com and how many books it will take until I matter. When my mind wanders in these ridiculous ways, I bring everything to a grinding halt and thrust myself back into an actual moment with actual people.
I find someone small to celebrate.
I find someone who needs loving on.
I make soup.
On days when we’re still in our pajamas until noon, my three-year-old son invariably asks if we can make soup. So, we do. And I savor the details.
I start with swirls of olive oil to shine and pop in the silvered pot bottom. I dice onions that haven’t sprouted anything yet (the others, I count as freestyle gardening; I leave them boasting in the windowsill). We sweep them in to the pot to shine until they look like wet glass.
I mash garlic like potatoes and toss them in for a short chat with the shallots, and I splash chicken bouillon in for nothing more than the sound of the sizzle.
I add money-carrots, we call them. I cut them in coins and, because of this, we must wish on them as they fall into the pretend broth fountain. Celery follows and swims around like small green rafts for shredded chicken moving like minnows closely behind.
We hold hands over the can opener to turn and count and turn and count until the top opens, leaving us with a rinsing job that is best likened to dismantling a bomb. And the defused can of beans goes in with three hard shakes best done by my son, followed by more shakes of dried herbs as though he is overfeeding fish without the risk of anything but glory.
It simmers while we tell stories.
He asks between stories a string of questions and answers as the world’s smallest sous chef: “Is it hot? No, it’s not hot. Is it warm? It’s not warm. It’s perfect? It’s perfect.”

Yes, it’s perfect.
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Words from the Wastebasket: Outtakes from a Work in Progress

At the goading of many friends, I have written the beginnings of a book manuscript and am in the process of making deep editorial cuts to recenter the work. The book is called Status: Finding Grace and Meaning in a Life Online, and it delves into the subject of how we struggle to find self-worth and purpose in digital spaces, offering up online artifacts from my own Facebook page as cases in point and talking, ultimately, about what an authentic, messy, attempt at Christian life looks like when lived out online.
I am a fast, unrepentant writer and an editor who relies on the kindness of strangers for input and direction. I must borrow phrases from dear friends to explain what this post is. My friend Jill calls struggling works in progress “drafty drafts.” If I had her red stamp to note the fledgling status of this interlude, I’d use it here. 


I love the truth of the following passage, but the idea of “killing the darlings,” those which you love but must be sacrificed for the betterment of the work as a whole, a phrase I borrowed from Amy and Vickie, both dear colleges and dearer friends, had to apply here.
So here is a bit about me, straight from the wastebasket. 

Introductions are in order. In the spirit of all things alive online, let me begin with me.
I am a thirty-two-year-old wife and mother of three children with a Ph.D. in literature and new media studies, a homeowner, pet owner, literary magazine editor, and professor. I am a Christ-follower. I am a white American who stands five six and carries the accumulated and neglected baby weight from three pregnancies, as well as the aftermath scar tissue from three, count ‘em, threecesarean sections and more stretch marks than stars in the sky. I have twin penchants for writing and coffee, especially free verse poetry and equally especially grande Americanos with cream. I live very much online, partly because of my job as a professor who teaches hybrid and distance learning courses but also, maybe even more honestly, because I like living online. It suits me painfully well.
Let me explain, as I have several confessions. We’ll start with bad habits. I have a shoe pile—just my shoes—that forms in the foyer of our house throughout the week. This isn’t to preserve carpeting or prevent germs or dirt from being tracked in, like a cultural or germaphobe practice that I’m copying. The shoes go there simply because it was all I could manage to wear them out and about, and once I’m in, I’m in.

The tame father-son shoe section. My pile (not pictured).

Actual sign my daughter posted after we broke glass in the kitchen.


Jewelry is the same. It all comes off in various phases, starting with the key hook by the front door, which will double as a necklace holder, the rack holding my husband’s guitar pedals, which houses bracelets nicely, and my wedding rings that I leave in a tiny porcelain bowl beside my sink. I simply cannot keep any of it on. I have babies to hold, dishes to wash, clothes to fold, all of which require flexibility in my fingers—and apparently my wrists and neck, too.
Pants and the ponytail are last. My husband has begun laughing at me because he has, in recent years, picked up on the pattern of my saying, more regularly than I realized, “I’m going to go change my pants first.” And what this means is that I’m switching over from whatever is not yoga pants to whatever is yoga pants.
I’ve nearly stopped announcing it because it garners such negative attention for my affinity for pants with stretch and a fortunate, blessed wide waistband, but occasionally it slips out, and I become the subject of a Someecard where a twentysomething is sitting on her bed being lazy while talking on a corded phone, supposedly to another female friend. Hello, Someecards, no one talks on a corded phone anymore. Also, we don’t all look like the seventies’ version of Suzanne Somers although athletic knee-high socks coming back into fashion would cut my shaving time in half in those hygiene-heavy summer months.
Speaking of hair, when the pants are on, the ponytail goes up. It’s really non-negotiable.
I have three of these four ‘undoing’ rituals at work and friends’ homes. The exception of the four is that I wear the same pants once I’m in the door. Every other ritual remains the same; wherever I am, it’s home.
As a mother, my car is my home, too. Much like the shoes by the door, objects accumulate in my car from week to week. Multiple sizes of diapers, swim diapers, spare sets of clothes for one who is potty training and the other who still spits up sometimes. Before I know it, straw wrappers are littering the floorboards with sippy cups and bottles, papers from work, stray books and folders, and Goldfish crackers who either swam away from my son or whom he, benevolently, threw back.


It’s not all their fault. People have necessary accoutrements. Again, not their fault. But we drive through drive-thrus more than I’d like to admit, and the “evidence,” I’ve begun calling it, routinely gets stuffed under car seats and into backseat floorboards to temporarily hide these shameful outings when an unexpected person enters the car. This is something I have not yet grown out of, this ‘trash in the car’ thing. I’ve tried the trash bag system—yes, I count it as a system because it didn’t work for me, and I need to justify that by chalking it up to a complexity in the mechanism, so system. Also, I’ve practically pushed the children to blood-brothers’ style swearing that we’ll never let it get this bad again. Nothing has worked, so I file it under confessions you need to know before we begin.

I want you to see me nice and authentic, not just a dusting of cake flour on my nose while I’m in the kitchen of a chapter, lips perfectly lined and pouty, while I whirl around on 1950s’ laminate flooring in an apron that might as well double as a tutu. Cake flour on a girl’s nose? Child’s play.


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