Archive for August, 2009


st lucy

St. Lucy, outside of an elementary parish school in the Bronx.  Interestingly, she has her eyes here; often, she’s shown holding her own eyes on a platter, referring to her martyrdom.

st francis

St. Francis of Assissi, across the doorway from St. Lucy.  I’m not sure why they’re flanking the same entrance, as Clare is the bosom friend of Francis.  I love his eyes.  I climbed up a pedestal to get this close to his face, and the difference from this proximity and how he looks from the street is so striking.  I was abashed to be so near him, to see his face so intimately.


St. Anthony of Padua, somewhere in the East Village.  He quite looks like the young wunderkind scholar and brilliant doctrinal mind he was, doesn’t he?  All cool, and a bit proud if you ask me.


Our Lady, on the Upper West Side.  Recent pilgrims had given her a fresh head-dress, and new blooming flowers for her to hold.

A side note– here in contemporary times, we see Mary looking down as a sign of humility. In the East, and certainly in Byzantine times, she looks down because she is a fine lady of nobility, and we are commoners– a noble lady would never look a plebe in the face.  I personally prefer the modest, downturned face to mean humility, but it’s interesting–as a young woman–to consider the other option.  And the extension of the argument– one needn’t necessarily be shamefaced to emulate Mary.  (I do think in this sculpture she’s being meek.  In the icons where she’s being fierce and noble but eyes cast down, she looks much stronger, and much less approachable.)


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This week, I’m doing my drama camp for neighborhood kids at the church where I teach Sunday school.  Last year, I described it in the “death of a pigeon” post.

Today was the first day, and I had clean forgotten how tiring it is to teach/lead children. They have so much energy!  They talk constantly!  They have so many clever questions that deserve and call for thoughtful responses!  They’re quicker than I am, there are more of them than me, and they always go right to the quick of the matter.

Today, we started our papier-mache masks, worked on acting out or displaying lots and lots of different emotions, talked about two Bible stories (Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers), considered how the various characters thought and felt, play-acted them out several times (in costume), made lunch for each other, played outside, learned a new song, and illustrated different emotional scenes.

Everyone at the church is surprised I don’t either make all the lunches, or have a volunteer make them.  But these kiddos are six and seven years old– they can wash grapes, cut bananas, stack cookies (they do it with such care!), make sandwiches, and set the table.  They like it– they like taking the sandwich orders, and working in the “big” church kitchen, and counting how many of everything they need.  Yes, it takes forever– I could do it much faster while distracting them with an activity, but I like them to prepare food for one another.  For me, preparing meals and sitting down to eat with one another is one of the big, _big_ traditions in Christianity.

Tomorrow, hopefully the masks will be dry enough for us to add noses and cut the eyes out, and then paint.  I was talking about adding noses, and Julliana said, “Oh, yeah. So we can smell.”

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I read _Schooling_ by Heather McGowan last week– it’s written in a very Joycean stream-of-conscious, no use of quotation marks, shifting point of view style. A young American girl is at boarding school in England; the story covers her immersion into the school, her grief over her mother’s death, her strange (inappropriate?) relationship with a teacher, and her coming of age.

It actually got tiresome after a while, trying to keep track of who was saying what, and which person’s perspective I was following.  This is a shame, because many of the scenes were very beautiful, and very memorable.

One of my favorite parts included as many terms for the color green-running to yellow as I have ever seen in one place. It was enjoyable and curious, reading them, to try and picture each shade, and to imagine the differences in hues.  The colors mentioned included:

luteous, copper, jade, loden, teal, jonquil, barium, turquoise, celadon

The girl’s teacher was giving her a painting lesson, and they were painting a garden– he was encouraging her not to use merely, “green,” calling green a “downward slope to nowhere.”  He was also warning her against plebeian ideas, so I’m not sure I agree with him in whole, but I do like the idea that we ought to think specifically, and to take time to imagine or articulate exactly the shade (or shade of meaning) that we mean.

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I always pick up pennies.  I can find three or four a day, sometimes.  And often a nickel or dime.  I feel lucky, and I also feel pleased to myself: over the course of a year, I’ll bet I find nearly five dollars in change on the ground.  It’s like a free five dollar bill!

Here in the City, I often see pennies that have been melted/pressed into the pavement of roads– I see them as I cross the street.  I know of a few that I see often.  I sort of wish I could bring a tool, and pry them up, these stuck pennies.  I’m not sure I’d have enough time, though, before the crosswalk light changed.

But this is a post about being thrifty.  I think I am naturally thrifty, but being in grad school accentuated things, because I had less money.  When I was teaching in St. Louis, I had a second part-time job at the mall– I’d go from teaching after-school right to a 5-10PM shift at Crabtree & Evelyn.  Yes, my schedule was crazy and I was often very tired… but when I wasn’t working, I had a deep worry that I _could_ be working, and so I _should_ be working.  These past three years, I’ve had three jobs, in addition to school, in addition to the journal.

But!  It’s not so bad, and I find that the different things I do cross-pollinate each other, and, I feel better when I have enough to make ends meet, and save when I can.

To that end, I don’t like to feel irresponsible with money, and feel good when I find ways to save.  Here are five of my top ways.

1. No paper towels.  None.  I use washable “un-towels” I found on Etsy, and after we hadn’t had them in a while, I really didn’t miss them.  Now, I can’t see why I would spend money on them, only to throw them away.

2. Bar soap.  A year ago, when we moved into our first apartment, I bought a four-pack of Ivory soap for two dollars.  We use a bar on the bathroom sink, instead of the [more luxurious] liquid pump soap.  And! a year later, I still have two bars left.  Back when I used liquid soap, it always needed buying, and it was three or four dollars a time.  The Ivory soap works perfectly, and I think it looks nice in its little white ceramic dish.  And every time I use it, I feel good and thrifty.

3. Cheap shampoo.  I’ve found that while I prefer to use a mid-range brand of conditioner, to really keep my hair from being dry, it doesn’t matter what shampoo I use.  So while I might pay two or three dollars for a conditioner, I look for the 99 cent shampoo.  And now that we’re in the Bronx, I get it for 89 cents. Exciting!

4.  Dried beans.  At one point earlier this year, Matt and I realized how much cheaper bags of dried beans (chickpeas, black, red, pinto, black-eyed peas) are compared to their canned counterparts.  And you get so, so much more!  We had to tinker around with the soaking process, to figure out how long it would take, and how to get the beans to a state where they’d be ready to use.  Now, we always have one or two big bags of “fresh” beans ready in the freezer.  Seriously: dried beans are pennies per serving. We use them to make: chili, nachos, fajitas, frittata, and dips.

5.  I make our own pasta sauce. Again, jars of pre-made pasta sauce are always more than three dollars a jar, and you only get one to two meals from it.  Big jars of crushed tomatoes can be found for right around a dollar.  This past grocery trip, the peeled tomatoes were the ones on sale, so I got them, and just cut them up with kitchen shears.  We have good spices, and so I make a delicious pasta sauce from scratch. And, because those cans are pretty big, we tend to get four meals out of a batch of pasta sauce.  We use it for: pasta, pizza, and calzone.

We have other things we do– we go to museums and free concerts, we go to the Zoo a lot (we get in free with Matt’s Zoo school employee ID), we go to the library nearly weekly, I’ve been cutting Matt’s hair, and I’ve just figured out how to make my own tortilla chips (with corn tortillas that we buy at 50 for 99 cents.)

The really great thing is that we have a wonderful life– we still love good, fancy cheese, bottles of wine on the weekend, and an occasional meal out if we can.  It just feels good to be living below our means.

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