Don’t ask

Chatting with a friend after a blessed morning at Mass I quipped that no one ever asks me for my opinions. She, not being a native English speaker, was confused. I clarified: “No one ever asks me, so what do you think about this or that. I actually think a lot of things, and have a list of opinions so long it probably reaches all the way down to hell.”

She looked at me with a grin and retorted: “It probably has its origins there.”

Very funny. But probably true. Aren’t most opinions just a kind of sideways complaint or criticism?

Useful Knowledge

It amazes me how many thousands of little things I’ve learned to do in 54 years. There are whole ranges of detailed movements relating to cooking, drawing, gardening, cleaning, and so on which would take a tome to catalog. Beating an egg is something one learns to do, and I remember it being difficult at first, with my little arms not quite able to master the rapid circular movements.

The timing and gesture most likely to snag a mosquito is something practiced, too. So is the shift in weight that means my shopping bag is giving way and the quick readjustment of grip needed to salvage the fruit before it rips through the plastic or paper and hits the sidewalk.

I was agreeing with a friend the other day that one thing that has ended up being so very useful in life is accounting, which neither of us studied formally but only learned by experience. It might have been helpful to study it more formally, as we spend hours a week laboring with the accounting for our households and small businesses.

Nominal regency

It’s fun to see what parts of Portuguese sort themselves out as time passes. The current theme is the gender of nouns (a task of memorization), and even more so remembering to match the adjectives to the noun. This latter part (called ‘regência nominal’) is not about memorization, but about real-time phrase generation and planning. Of course, it is dependent on the former problem, since if one doesn’t know the gender of the noun, no amount of planning will produce the right string of preceding adjectives.

I am not usually conscious of what noun I am going to say until I arrive at it, and by then I’ve already said all the adjectives, and now, if the noun turns out to be feminine and I just said a bunch of masculine adjectives (the most common problem), then I have to go back and re-say half the sentence. I think in time one must have at least an unconscious anticipation of the upcoming noun such that one can pre-match the gender of the adjectives before arriving at the end of the phrase.

Brazilians find this particular difficulty hilarious. ‘O PUC’ (pronounced oh pooky) once left a godson in stitches, and he couldn’t stop bringing it up for months. PUC is the abbreviation for a local university. University is feminine. It should therefore be ‘a PUC’ (ah pooky). He said o PUC sounded like the name of a dog. Here pooky, pooky. I give him credit for being one of the few people to ever correct me. I have carried on with silly errors for years, sometimes, because no one had the courage to point it out. The other day a gentleman I barely knew corrected me without hesitation, and it was so unexpected that I simply stared at him in confusion and someone else had to explain. Godchildren are the best for the correction, once they’ve gotten over thinking they have to be polite around me. Then they just mock my every error and have no fear of piping up in front of anybody to tell me what ridiculous thing I just accidentally said. Thanks be to God.


The other day I was looking at options for stand-up desks. I can’t go anywhere online now without seeing the same couple of stand-up desks over and over, on every site. I would love to see more options not just the same couple of options that I found unsatisfactory.

Which leads me to another subject:

Must office furniture be ugly? I use wooden dining tables for desks and a wooden chair to sit in. I can’t bear all that gray and black plastic stuff.

Speaking of dreadful workplaces full of endless gray and black plastic furniture, the call centers must have reopened today. I hadn’t had a sales call since March, and today I had three. Understanding sales callers in a foreign country is one of the final hurdles, one I have not yet overcome. The poor sound quality, background noise, specialized vocabulary and hurry make it generally impossible for me to understand anything.

I remember when I got good enough at Portuguese to understand multiple people talking around a dinner table in a noisy restaurant. That was a huge relief.


I’ve joked with friends that being an introvert in the Catholic Church is a particular challenge. Going to Church has inevitably been a very social undertaking: from the greeting rituals as one enters and leaves to navigating the shoals of the secretary’s office and other treacherous territories.

Today, thanks be to God, I was able to go to a normal Mass in a normal Church for the first time since March, and to my peace I discovered that the yellow tape obligated us to all sit several meters apart. Which utterly precluded the usual pre- and post-Mass chit-chat, as well is the in-Mass live commentaries,* besides sparing me the stress of snuggling up next to a stranger. It was an atmosphere that permitted me to actually read the readings and prayers, meditate, pray, and pay good quality attention to the sermon (a rare thing).

I even arranged to have lunch with a friend afterwards. She’s an introvert, too.

In fact, nearly every time I’ve said “I should write a book called ‘Catholicism for Introverts’ dozens of people say “Sign me up for a copy!” (Feel free to take the idea, I don’t have the time or interest to write it, but there seems to be a need.)

Any more said would probably just be complaining, and I’ve done enough of that. I’m very grateful. The Sacraments are a precious treasure.

*When the person sitting next to you makes clever or critical remarks in response to things that happen.

One of my favorite depictions of Holy Mass.

Two little lives

A brief morning stroll took a surprising turn when we arrived at the shore just as a search and rescue team brought in the bodies of two boys who had slipped off the rocks near shore and drowned yesterday afternoon. I thought of the agony of their parents, who would soon be shown the rigid, cold bodies of their once lively sons. And I thought of the fear of the kids, struggling in the cold, turbulent water.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedicta fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

(More) Life Tips

  1. If facing oncoming bicycle or pedestrian traffic, avoid the danger of dodging back and forth and then accidentally colliding by picking a straight line, looking at the ground, and sticking to your line. This allows the other person to make a plan and go around you.
  2. If trying to navigate a complex crowded area pick a large person who is going in the same direction you are and walk closely behind them. If they head off in another direction choose a new person. Alternatives to tall people and big people include mother’s with strollers, as they also tend to act like icebreaking ships to cut a path through crowds.
  3. Watching a parade? Station yourself behind a group of moms with strollers. They will keep away any very tall people who might otherwise stand in front of you.
  4. If you have to keep pulling down the hem of your skirt as you walk, it’s too short.
  5. If you have to pull down the hem of your skirt when you sit, it’s too short for church.
  6. Women’s clothes rarely have pockets. Women therefore use their bras to carry small items. Don’t do this with your cellphone, as it’s not good for the breast to have heat and possibly weird radiation pressed against it.
  7. Boldness is at least 5/10ths of success, probably more. Most people you see who appear to be really smart, successful and confident are just winging it.
  8. Being sincerely charming, pleasant, polite and friendly is a good portion of success. It can sometimes be superseded by Boldness, though. That’s how you sometimes get cranky, incompetent people in leadership positions.
  9. Pretty much anything mixed with cheese and baked will be really yummy (in other words, take your typical homemade macaroni and cheese recipe and feel free to add or substitute all kinds of leftovers, veggies, grains, meats, and so on. It’ll be a hit.
  10. Don’t waste your time passing around useless information (!), it serves no purpose except to waste other people’s time.