Pope Francis is kind of awesome

The least popey Pope?
The least popey Pope?

Well, we saw this one coming: Conservative and traditional Catholics are “shaken” by Pope Francis’ statements on abortion and gay marriage, according to this report from NBC News. One critic apparently called him “the Joe Biden of our era,” referring (I suppose) to the pontiff’s off-the-cuff style. Such as: Last month, Pope Francis ditched his prepared remarks at a meeting with unemployed Sardinian miners, saying: “The world has become an idolator of this god called money.” Such as, his landmark statement about gay priests: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

I was with my parents when the aforementioned quote hit the news. We have a gay family member. My parents are Catholic. They love this family member more than the Church, so they’ve moved away from mass in recent years. They were floored by the Pope’s statements about homosexuality. My dad is unequivocal in his hatred (yes, hatred) of Pope Benedict, who he feels kept the Church in the dark ages. My mom would get mad at that, cross herself or whatever, but I know the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” stuff aggrieved her. It’s the conundrum many observant Christians/Catholics face: Do you have to believe in everything your church espouses? Can you be a “cafeteria Catholic” and still be a good Catholic?

I have no use for the Church because of their doctrine on homosexuality (and women in the clergy), but when I heard the Pope say that, I actually, for a second, considered trying again. I’ve shopped around since my divorce 16 years ago, trying to find a church that felt right. Nothing really has. I have to admit: I love the traditions and the rituals and how nobody expects you to talk to anyone. The times I’ve spent at Episcopal or “hands-in-the-air” churches (I don’t know the denomination) made me uncomfortable. Too much touching. Too much talking.

But the stuff coming from Pope Francis gives me pause. He’s a Jesuit who really walks the walk. He eschews the splendor and pomp of the papacy, taking the bus instead of the Popemobile to a public appearance. He lives in a Vatican hotel rather than the Apolstolic palace. He washed the feet of female prisoners —something conservatives believe should be limited to men. However, he stands with Church doctrine on female priests — not gonna happen.

Many Catholics love his humility and modesty. Millions of pilgrims staged a flash mob for Pope Francis in Rio. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, said in the Huffington Post that Francis “is an answer to despair.” Despair is one way to describe the mood of many good Catholics, following the child sex abuse scandals that came to light over a decade ago. Weekly mass attendance has steadily declined in heavily Catholic countries such as Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Poland and Italy for 25 years, according to research from Georgetown University. Holding firm to the doctrine may make you a good Catholic, but it’s not filling up pews.

Is it actually possible for me to be a Catholic again? A part of me would like to be. My 5-year-old son still isn’t baptized because I just didn’t want to find a random church and have it done. The whole point of church is community — in my mind, anyway — and none of the churches I’ve found gave me that “I belong here” feeling. Catholicism certainly never did. Ever. This will make my mother cry, but I hated church. I used to sleep as late as I could, in my teen years, to avoid it and my dad actually didn’t force me to get confirmed. When I went to an Episcopal service a few years ago, and heard a female pastor preach, I got tears in my eyes. Looking back, I think I deeply resented the male-dominated Catholic church. My life was already dominated by a strong man, and I didn’t want more of them telling me how to be a good girl.

If nothing else, this new pope — his courage, his convictions — have made me think a lot about my beliefs and languishing spirituality. I just don’t  know what to do about it. Yet.

Why “The Monkees” are better than Power Rangers

Monkees vs. Power Rangers
The guys on the right were giving Bini nightmares. So I introduced the fellows on the left.

Six weeks ago, I ordered the entire DVD collection of “The Monkees” TV show to cure my son of his Power Ranger addiction. I’ll explain.

First, a disclaimer: If you’re a parent who doesn’t allow TV, that’s terrific. But this isn’t the blog for you. Kindly go read something else.

We have Netflix, a lovely digital-distribution service that is a godsend for parents of small children. Netflix, in its brilliance, has amassed a huge collection of kids’ TV shows available for on-demand streaming. And around mid-July, I stopped caring how much TV my kid watched. Oh, give me a break. It was a long 12 weeks.

Ten Things I Like Better About Paris

Paris Métro
Public transportation is high on my list of things I loved about Paris.

I’ve been keeping a mental list of the things I loved about Paris, things I wish we had here, or that would be possible to integrate into our lives here. I will do another list, of things I like better about the U.S. But before I do that I need to actually have a list. Two things is not a list.

Ten Things I Like Better About Paris (in no particular order):

  1. French pharmacies. Oh, mon Dieu. If only the Walgreens could be like this! Fancy French hair products (Renee Furterer, Kerastase), skin care products (La Roche-Posay, Vichy, Caudalie) and cosmetics (T LeClerc).  I bought some of their famous pressed powder, after asking the pharmacist what I could do about the redness in my face. She said, gently: “I do not think you have so much red. But this product, this will help you if your face gets a little greasy, no?” This is not to say that these products are not available in the U.S., or any cheaper in France. In fact, they weren’t, at all. But I love that you can buy a Mason Pearson brush and then, in an intimate environment (most Parisian pharmacies are cozy spaces), ask the pharmacist for advice about your psoriasis. Not that French women probably get psoriasis.
  2. People read paperbacks. Steve and I rode the Métro a lot, which was a great place to observe “real Parisians” (and tourists). And I saw lots and lots of people reading books. Real paperback books. I actually wondered if maybe Amazon’s empire didn’t extend to France, but yes, indeed, there are French books available for Kindle. And I own a Kindle. It just pleased me to see people reading actual books.

I should be cleaning/unpacking/doing laundry …

… but I don’t want to. I want to sit here, with my dog snoring behind me, and type on the computer.

It’s strange to be home. Home feels unfamiliar, actually. Steve left at 8:15, to take my parents to the airport, as I was walking Bini over to meet up with the walk pool. I offered to walk the kids, but my neighbor told me to go home and “rest.” I’d slept 11 hours, and it was 5:00 p.m., Paris time, but I appreciated the sentiment.

As I walked down the sidewalk back to my house, kicking wet red leaves, I felt a stab of intense sadness.  After being in a big, dense, lively city for a week (and on a big, dense plane for 11 hours), I was suddenly quite alone.

I went to class at Bar Method, just to be around people, and that may have been a mistake. Jet-lagged + tough workout = Dazed. Now I’m surrounded by mounds of laundry and stacks of mail. All of the things I was going to deal with post-Paris are coming due now.

Still, despite my melancholy (an unofficial side effect of jet lag), I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That neither plane crashed. That we didn’t get killed in a freak Metro accident. That I have friends who took Bini for play dates and to soccer practice and kept things normal for him. That we were able to go and have a wonderful time in a beautiful, vibrant city while people we trusted took care of our little boy. That’s a huge gift. Also, my mom cleaned out my pantry. My dad fixed things around the house. I’m not sure how best to thank them.