Friday, February 24, 2017

Hey! Where did Small Success Thursday go?

It's on Facebook over at Catholicmom.com.  I don't know if someone who isn't on Facebook can read that link or not. Please, let me know one way or another.  I'm still mulling over how to manage this weekly counting of the blessings of the past week if it isn't able to be shared beyond the walls of Facebook. 

Suffice it to say, here's the key point:

We went to the zoo.  As happens in most field trips with kids, it got hot. They got hungry. We had to walk everywhere, and there was a temptation to turn what had been a treat into a trial.   We got through it and with that struggle, came this insight.   

Suffering, albeit in a tiny way, somehow made the whole trip more memorable, the way a story becomes more memorable than if once upon a time, everyone lived happily ever after, the end. I thought about this as we prepare for Lent, knowing we're to recognize, the only way to Easter, is through the cross. Embracing suffering doesn't mean seeking pain, but weathering it well, and weathering it with other people when such moments occur, being the Simon or the Veronica to someone whose burden becomes visible. 

So this week's small successes became focused around when we had the opportunity to be a Simon or a Veronica, did we take it?

Please, leave a comment in the com box if the link works or not (if you are NOT on Facebook).   Thank you. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Over at Aleteia Today!

Getting ready for Lent? Want Ideas? This isn't a piece giving you 40 ways in 40 days, but trying to get at the reality of how we should approach Lent, no matter what form of Lenten service and sacrifice we adopt.

Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea Podcast is Up!

You can listen to Mark Shea, Rod Bennett and me talk about writing, the process and some of the inside baseball of the writing life.  It helped me get back in the saddle about submitting.

One of the big issues for writers is isolation, which is why when writers get together and talk shop, time falls away.  For one of the fastest hours on the internet, start checking out Connecting the Dots every day at five o'clock.  Rod Bennett will be back Wednesday as Mark's co-host.  I'd also recommend listening to one of Rod's talks: Four Witnesses Brought Me Home.

I'm honored to be in such company.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Real UnFake Super Serious Threat to the US that is US

So this weekend, the President made writing humor easy when he mentioned the uptick in crime to Sweden, and pundits and newspapers and countries pounced on his mischaracterization of the increase as a form of terrorism.

However, researchers here at Chocolate for Your Brain dug beneath the easy headlines to discover a true national security threat: a threat we've refused to acknowledge despite the danger, a threat we have in our homes, a threat we wear, we drive, we eat, and which is as insidious as an earworm from Momma Mia.

That's right.  we're talking about imports from Sweden.
Now the ambassador has offered to brief the President on how things stand in Sweden, but honestly, what else is the ambassador from Sweden going to say?  They won't acknowledge the danger their export culture brings to our shores, so Chocolate For Your Brain will.  (Being patriotic and all that).


For those who don't know how much hails from that land of Bjorn Borg, we present to you, the top ten threats which must be stopped before further infesting American culture. I also never knew about a site called Highsnobiety, which gets points for the name alone. 

10) H&M clothing.  Designed for people who cannot float because they ski cross country to work, and have less than .002% body fat.  Even the mannequins are sucking in to look good.  For the sake of not shaming all of us Americans who now have the luxury of three different types of Big Macs to choose from on the dollar menu, this particular shop and all its ilk must be stopped at the border. 

9) Swedish Meatballs.  I know, it's in Babylon 5 and the nerd in me wants to give it a pass for that reason alone, but really, I'll put it this way.  Even the Country Buffet which has everything (my daughter's favorite restaurant), doesn't have this on the menu.  So if you're hosting any Narns, you'll have to make your own.  However, again, in the interest of keeping Earth Narn free, it would be best to nix any bringing of this dish onto Yankee soil. 

8) Stockholm Syndrome.  Why?  Because there is no vaccine and so before we catch it maybe we can get the current administration to ban it. He might if we told him, there's no vaccine, or maybe if we told him there was one.


7) ABBA Covers.  There is only one ABBA, and all others are just profiteering. 
Cue music! 



6) IKEA.  I know bringing this up is like shooting Swedish fish in a barrel, because everyone's got an Ikea story.  Nothing ever looks like it does in the store, and no one can ever build them properly.  I suspect there is always a missing instruction which would be available if anyone read Swedish or Norwegian or Danish (which are reportedly similar according to PopSweden.com).  For the sake of our already overtasked, overwhelmed brains, we need less hassle, ergo, this has got to go.

5) This guy may already be in trouble (baring continued intervention by the courts), since the Muppet revamp didn't take and there doesn't seem to be a high demand for his type of cuisine, not even by visiting Narns. 
Stereotyping is bad, so he should be Robert Borked Borked Borked Borked.

4) Besides, I suspect he is the original creator of these.  They are my daughter's favorite candy.  Somehow, I find this disturbing. They look like they should not be edible.


3) If anyone based on class and national origin should be banned, it's this guy.  He comes armed.  He comes with full intent to pillage, and he hasn't been funny in years.  Also, as a preventative measure, it's vital he be sent back to his native land, lest the mentally bankrupt genius types in Hollywood decide we need a CGI generated version of Hagar and the Lost Tribe for our summertime entertainment.   So for the safety of our people and the good of humanity in general, let's say "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, Hey...Hej da."
2) Volvos and SAABS.  Why?  First, they're Swedish and the whole issue is to isolate the threat brought by particular countries correct?  That's the plan, so why not?   Second, Volvos and Saabs do not follow the American Car product model of planned obsolescence. They last.  That's...UnAmerican, not getting a new car every three to six years.  Think of the jobs in finance, in retail, in sales, in repairs, which go unfilled because the Swedes have the audacity to create machines which don't break down.   Besides, I'm running out of ideas that aren't universal enough to exploit for humor's sake.

1) Actors with names involving more than six vowels or who have an umlaut or krouzek. We have enough trouble with just how many consonants these Swedes employ.    Americans struggle with the schwa.  We don't cope well with things that make our English look less processed than our cheese.  This shouldn't be too much of a problem since Hollywood is threatening a strike.   We'd name them but we can't because we don't know how to spell names with an umlaut or a krouzek and we wouldn't want to give them publicity anyway.

*As a final editor's note, sure, you could find alternative sources of information which say none of these things should be banned, but that would require research, critical thinking and above all, judgment.  We're making it easy and digestible for you here.   Why?  Because we love you and we're patriots.
All that other stuff that says nothing is rotten in Sweden, that's all just fake news.  You shouldn't listen to it really.  







Saturday, February 18, 2017

Questions

For all who cannot discuss the current resident of the White House without taking blood pressure medication, I have a few questions.  Not to worry, I have some for those who feel it necessary to be defenders as well.   I will probably zero out my followers, my statistics, and eliminate all friends and possibly family when I'm finished.   President Trump seems to have a gift for creating a wall in a metaphorical and philosophical sense, if not in reality.   No one is luke warm.

Question #1:  Regarding the election.  Why would Trump claim election fraud if he was aided by the Russians in securing the office?  Why would he even bring it up?  Caveat, you can't claim he's sly like a fox  and dumber than a bag of hammers in the same breath.

Question #2:  How would targeting the DNC and hacking into their system, affect the election?   I get that the CIA and FBI and Obama administration and members of congress briefed on the matter all agree, Russia backed Trump and attempted to hack into the DNC and gather information from said emails to support him.  I can't say leading up to the election, that I saw any public/media based information to indicate Trump would win.  Here's the best and most complete discussion I've found on the issue. 

Question #3: If through harrassment, public social media trashing, and extreme vetting as it were, all individuals tapped for the task of leading a cabinet are destroyed, as are their families, only the unscrupulious and the lone wolves will be left, those who need not worry or care about public opinion.   How do we attract people of good character to the administration, if their character even solely by association with President Trump, regardless of their own personal faults or history, becomes instantly the social and moral equivalent of slime, putriousness and muck?  How do we preserve our government if as a people, we think it is okay to destroy people when we disagree?How do we get anyone to be willing to serve, if the cost is all peace all the time?

Question #4:  I know people who are convinced, the President should be impeached. On what grounds?  Here's a reasoned discussion, and here's a fact check of what's happened thus far, and here's what keeps people I think feeling keyed up...a quick google reveals nearly an article a week from a major media outlet, Politico, Huffington Post, Salon, Independent, and Chicago Tribune since the election, either advocating it happen or declaring it's a slam dunk certainty.  As I recall, there was a great anger over the use of impeachment on the President (Bill Clinton) as it could be used to weaken the executive branch and should not be engaged for mere political points.  This goes back to the real question, why should he be impeached?  On what grounds?  Most people are willing to say yes, I will take the consequences when there is no sacrifice on their side.  My question is, what are the consequences if this tool is used in this manner?


Question 5:# What would be the principle which would break the social contract between the government and the people?  If we chaffed (and many of us have) at executive orders under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, we ought to still be agitated now.  We ought to recognize, if conservative principles mean anything, they can't be abandoned when it is convenient.  (See article I cited above).

Here's one of the better articles I've read recently discussing the issue of how necessary priciples are before politics or politicians. 

Question #6: What are the principles we're going to cling to regardless of party?  Regarless of power?  What will we stand for?  If we're going to be a good people, and not merely prosperous, we can't let parties determine our moral values.  Parties have only one objective, power.   Principles are the first thing to go when the option is principle or power.  

Question #7: Are we only talking and not listening?  Are we only saying, "It's our turn now?"  The goal of checks and balances, of divided government, of a democracy, is to create the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people and to be as universal as possible, as fair as possible, as ideal as possible.   Are we?   If not, why not?

It will require of us a higher level of vigilance with respect to this and every subsequent executive who takes power.  We can't only listening to those who agree with us or presume those who disagree are either ignorant or willingly deceptive.  We also have to not go nuts everytime something is said which seems outrageous.  In other words, "Verify, then trust."   That goes for the executive, legislative and judicial branch and media.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Against the Current Stream

The great temptation in this country, is to define who we are by what we do.  It happens in every arena of endeavor.  "I'm a writer.  I'm a runner. I'm a dancer. I'm a lawyer...." But those are activities we opt to embrace, we choose to do. We are kind or we are cruel. We are generous or we are stingy.  We are loving or we are not.  Who we are, is not what we do, that is merely the means by which we reveal who we are.  Who we are, gets revealed by how we treat others, and what we hold to be non negotiable values of infinite worth.

What we hold precious, indicates where our hearts lie.  What we can ignore, reveals where our hearts aren't.  So the question becomes, what should we ignore, and what should we not?  What is important, and what while interesting or even challenging, isn't.

The internet can make it seem one must become Mad Eye Moody about everything everywhere, and indeed, it's purpose is to feed you a constant stream of rot-gut designed to convince you, never before have so many been so ignorant about so much in such a short time.  I assure anyone reading this, most of us are very ignorant about many things, and we are ignorant about so much, so much of the time, it's par for the course with all who came before the internet throughout history.

These days, that ignorance is better preserved.  We can tweet, blog and status update about it to thousands of followers equally lacking self-awareness about their own blind spots.   We repeat rumors, we repeat spin, we delve and revel with dark joy over incidents which echo our sympathies, or which reveal the wrongness of those who do not.  Everything is either proof and vindication, or falsness and calumity, and no where is there any room for the more complex reality that is reality, because the goal is always to pick a side and buttress it, or pick a side and destroy it. If we want a better reality than this cycle of churning through policies and people, we're going to have to do something other than feed it.

We will have to 1) recognize truth exists 2) it is messy and complex, and 3) will not necessarily fully champion a political ideology or agenda or destroy a political ideology or agenda. Truth will necessarily involve encountering other people as they are, messy, unscripted, and having a story that does not fit a party line, but which nevertheless, should be heard.  If politics could fix the human heart, choosing Barabas would have been just dandy.   If social policy could cure our hearts of their darkness, utopia should have arrived by now.

Who we are will always boil down to how we treat those with whom we do not share sympathies.  If we treat the opposing side with dignity because they exist, we value the dignity of every human person over agreement with a given ideology. If we hold a faith as long as it does not challenge our lifestyles or comfort zones, we value the lifestyles and comfort zones more than the faith or being challenged.  If we fight because we believe the other side to be evil, and use that belief to justify acting in unjust ways, we cease to fight evil, we do not value justice.   With the internet, what we can stomach is becoming only what we need not challenge.  We are becoming a nation of islands, who do not want to disturbed by any other islands or their opinions, but if we are going to live in a society, we're going to have to break through and pierce those willed bubbles and allow our own to be pierced, and love our neighbors.

 I think the crosses of this age will be recognizing, we have up to now been luke warm.  We've told ourselves, it was good enough to give partial allegiance, but not whole, because that would involve giving up everything.   I worry a lot of us will be tempted to go away sad.

It is not an easy thing to stand against all tides which crash against the soul, and to not be eroded in the process, but as Chesterton said, "a dead thing must go with the flow, only a living thing can swim against the current." I would add, only a solid thing, anchored on something bigger than itself can stand against the flow of everything else.  I think, Catholics, if they are to be Catholics, will be spending a lot of time swimming against the popular current, or at the very least, standing as it flows by.   I think, we will have to be both and, swimming against the tide, and standing firm.










Link up!

Monday's Podcast with Mark Shea over at Connecting the Dots focused on encouragement. We also punned and talked about when God decides to pull back the veil in response to the cry of our hearts.   Wish I could have thought of a good pun in response, but I promise you, it's a great one worthy of preserving in internet amber.

It's an odd thing, I'm quicker on the keyboard than on the spot, so when the lead teacher asked me to give an example of verbal irony, I couldn't think of one, I got tongue tied.  She said, "Very good."

I'd love to say it was intentional, so let's go with that...

Monday, February 13, 2017

8 Stammers equals No postings and a Bad blog.

I keep trying to write funny pieces, or thoughtful ones, and get 1/3 of the way through, before realizing, this is stale or this is not quite what I was trying to say.  Ergo there are lots of drafts in my blog roster with incomplete stats.   So I told myself, if you're going to stay a writer, you can't do that anymore. You have to write each day, even if it's a poem.  Even if it's a writing prompt.  I got a book of writing prompts so I will be able to stay on this track.

Every writer hits walls, when they don't want to bleed more, or they think, they've found everything they might imagine.  There are tricks to the trade, reading, writing prompts, setting a timer, jumping genres, doing a list, doing a rant, and they all work, but what works most efficiently, is sitting in the chair and writing.  

Like I am now.

Work and Mothering and having some life outside of the computer has cut back on the musing/writing time I had up until work showed up, and the adjustments to time and schedules have come slowly if at all.  However I woke up agitated, knowing I haven't given writing any time, and as such, my brain feels as if it is going to explode with words, and at the same time, has no focus whatsoever over them.  

I wanted to do a post for Saint Valentine's day on how to show love to your teens.  I didn't get to it, and I didn't get to sending them flowers either.  Goes off to take care of that little detail...

I wanted to do a post on teaching about showing love to younger children...I didn't get to that either.
Goes off to welcome kids with snack, greet the bus...

I wanted to, I wanted to, I wanted to.... The road to blog hell is full of unpublished drafts, lacking focus, courage, wit and finishing.  

I'm finishing this damn post before I discover fifteen more I wanted to ideas I didn't excute.  
Happy February 13th.  Show your family you love them by loving them.   I'm getting ready to help with a science project and make cookies.  

  • See you tomorow when I hope to have some insights on procrastination.   

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wow! This Just in....

I didn't know this piece got published until I began my book keeping for January. Over at Aleteia, there's a piece about learning to "Be not afraid," when it comes to letting my son Paul grow up. I love the title, That Time when the Holy Spirit Hit Me Right Upside the Head.   Live Action News also asked for a reprint of the piece, the Happiest Most Pro-Life Story.  

Also, today Mark Shea and I had a blast talking on Connecting the Dots about the philosophical/moral error of Either/Or when it comes to addressing human need.   We also talk about snow, G.K. Chesterton, mention the interview of Bishop Robert Barron on the Rubin Report and the Superbowl.  Like I said, it was a blast.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Fight Fake News

A colleague's pet project (forgive the pun), A Dog's Purpose was the victim of fake news, wherein the movie project got almost destroyed by rumors an animal was abused in the course of the making of the film.   The animal wasn't harmed, and if you have the opportunity, go see the film.

Tom Brady got sacked twice in a single drive and I thought for the first half, had the Patriots been victims of fake news with respect to Atlanta?

When it comes to fake news, the question becomes, how do we know?  I've seen some good discussion on this matter, mostly focusing on where you get your source material.  Reuters, BBC, the Wall Street Journal and AP have become my favorite places to get information but the eroding of public trust, both by what is omitted and what is trumpeted, has resulted in a fundamental shift in how everyone views the news.

We all must become editors, who must engage in extreme vetting of all information which might inspire an outraged reaction on our part and all information which might gladden our hearts.  In short, if there's an emotional response generated by an article, one must pause and wonder, is that not merely the point of this piece but the author's intent?

If there is a silver lining in all this, the need for trusted sources may be cause for a great renaissance in journalism as the media must reestablish itself against the White House spin, and internet noise.

We will need the fourth estate in fighting trim to help reestablish genuine affection across the political divide, to reveal how truth is stronger than ideology, and reality is often full of peole who aren't one sided or blind to their own failings or the "other side's" virtues.   We will need to reconnect the whole of the country, united in creating a stronger community, whether or not the government goes along.
The great divide of politics so sharp and hard on Facebook and in the election, serves the parties and the game of politics, but not communities, and not friendships.

Hopefully, we remember this and let such barriers vanish when we see each other face to face.  I firmly believe that when we interact to deal with the real problems we should address every day in our own communities and stop treating each one and everyone we disagree with as an unclean other unworthy of our consideration.

Bring everyone along with what we agree about, because building community is based on mutual respect, one heart at a time.

Oh, and NEVER count the Patriots out.  Unbelievable!  Or it would be, but I watched the whole game so I know what happened.  UNBELIEVABLE!




Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mulling over O'Connor, Copying Machines and Minutia

As an assistant in the room, my presence is only an augmentation of the learning enviornment, and some days, the pay is for dealing with difficult students. However, keeping machines on task proved far more daunting. Today, I spent the bulk of my afternoon attempting to amass and assemble copies of O'Connor's most famous short story. The first machine needed a part. The second machine (in the office), could only be used for school business, not classwork. The third copier flashed evil red lights.
With the new semester, we had six more students than versions of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," and while the students could listen to an audio verison and follow along with their phone; for annotation, they needed an incarnational version. Flannery would approve. She also knew, the way we come to understanding of all things, is suffering. I suspect she had a hand in the matter.
After twenty minutes of waiting for the office copier (There was a queue of teachers and assistants ignoring the policy), I attempted to fix the third machine by rebooting it. Much to my astonishment, the screen cooperated and I thought, "I am the master of my domain!" for the five copies of page one it spit up, before flashing the same error as before. Undeterred, I turned off the machine and rebooted again. Five more copies. I now had page two. Each page grew subsequently lighter. At seven pages long, I pressed the buttons and my luck turning the machine on and off for the subsequent five reboots before sneaking out of the copying room with my six versions of the story. I did have to trace the last page with a marker.
Leaving the machine with a red flashing light bruised my conscience, so I rebooted one more time. The next person might not need more than five copies of any one thing, and thus not find out the machine needed a serious repair. That afternoon, four students showed up having lost their versions.
I tried the staff room and planned to simply pull up a pdf of the story and have the computer print it. It did, but swallowed the last line of each story. It also printed them front to back, and flipped every other page, making the new version almost unreadable if you didn't know which way to turn for each page. I spent the rest of the period writing out the missing words of O'Connor's prose at the end of each page and wondering if the whole thing would have been easier and quicker if I'd retreated to a monastery and copied the needed documents by hand.
Having missed period five and six in the classroom, all for papers needed in period five and six, I pondered whether I could plead temporary sanity and remove all the infernal copiers to the outside, and perhaps invite all the faculty to take turns shooting the machines in the woods for being misfits. I thought it would give me great pleasure to imagine the machines being destroyed, or it would if only they could feel pain.
Somehow, the demonic desire for their demise wouldn't find any pleasure unless the copiers experienced agony, my irritation, my annoyance, and the collective pain of the staff and students. I told myself, it wouldn't be a sin, except I knew better. I wanted more than justice. I wanted revenge, and not just revenge, universal revenge for all the printers which ran out of ink, all the copiers which failed, and all the technology that made all of us slaves to their convenience, and masters of nothing.
A fellow teacher came into the staff room ranting about how the machines. He cursed them all and we agreed, Hell is littered with office machines, all unable to print or copy more than a page at a time, and with jams and no ink, and in Heaven, they don't bother with machines because everyone has a copy of the book and they can't lose it. I took satisfaction in the theological rightness of this revelation, that no technology would be saved and even better, I had no obligation to pray otherwise.  I pulled out four old Norton Anthologies which included O'Connor's story from the library for the next day. If the kids needed more copies, I'd be ready and maybe, save my own soul from spending further time in preemptive purgatory.  A good man may be hard to find, a good soul even harder, but a good copier, that's the stuff of legend.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Teens and I


Today on my computer, I found this as my screen saver on a pseudo post-it note:

To Do list

*Fix John's watch
*Have A great Day
*Write 
*Read 
*Eat,live and do alllll the other important stuff

You finished reading the naggy list I made for you. I hope you enjoyed it.

-love your naggy son John  *__*<------you after="" p="" reading="" this="">
                  \
                    [How does he nag THIS much]

Just in case I needed help figuring out what to do today.  

Other children have less direct ways of communicating, but they are as effective.

This morning the clothes I'd washed and put in the dryer were back in the washer.  I wondered why. Having opened said dryer, the answer became clear.

One teen wanted dry clothing and thought the easiest way to get it, would involve removing all of the wash from the dryer, and puting only said teen's clothes in the machine.

I'm guessing this child in particular didn't think the rest of us would mind wet clothing.

I did ask, "Wasn't it a lot of effort to take all the clean wet clothes out of the washer; put them in a laundry basket, and dump all the damp clothes from the dryer back in the washer before putting ONLY the teen's clothes in the dryer?"

The teen answered, "Yes."  
I asked if it might be less work to have let the first wash finish drying, and simply switch out the clothes when the cycle ended.

"Perhaps," the teen responded.

Letting the world know this sequence of events and revealing teen reasoning might not be something I ought to disclose.  Humanity can only bear so much truth at any given moment, and nature has deemed it wise to only allow for the onset of adolescent mood swings, eating you out of house and home, driving lessons, dates, text messages and explaining how the books aren't like the movies even if the movies came out recently and star famous people, after we as parents have demonstrated sufficient love and commitment to these gradually maturing human beings.

Writing about teenagers and tweens and children skating the edges of adolescence, I'm spending a lot of time discerning what is their intent, and what does their action/speech really say.  

Is Puzzlement!

These days, getting time to write comes at a premium. The going price for writing a new piece is sleep.  Editing comes at the expense of dishes, and posting, well, that cuts into life when everyone else is up and about.   I'm not complaining.  I'm explaining why you might be complaining about the sporadic nature of this blog.  I'll be over here, trying to convince a teen to do the dishes from the extra supper cooked, and get another one to take a practice S.A.T.   Getting to know teens day by day, I'll just state for the record, and I mean this with a full heart:  Potty training was easier.  


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If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!