Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Script Notes for Huck and Jim: Escape From New York

The river sang to itself. It sang its summer song, of fish below, reeds waving in the current, the dip of a bird’s bill as it flashed down and skimmed over the surface. The song kept time against the shore and against the raft as it floated down the Mississippi

- Must it be the Mississippi? Why not someplace more exotic—the Nile or Ganges, perhaps?

- Could run up the costs, but we’ll check it out.

Huck dangled his feet into the water. He lay on his back, watching the last lace filigree of cloud pull aside to reveal a night full of stars. Jim stood at the stern, pole in hand, watching the dark surface of the river rise and move in its slow dance.

“What do you think, Jim?” said Huck. “Were the stars born or just made?”

- Which one is black?

- Jim.

- Okay, is he more a Morgan, or a Denzel?

- The focus group suggested Will.

- Will! Yes. Very bankable. And Huck is a woman, right?

- Um… we didn’t test that possibility.
You get the idea ... it goes on from there and is simultaneously hilarious and sad (as we suspect this is a reflection of all too real Hollywood thinking). Read it at McSweeneys. Via Heather at CraftLit.

Fascinating Facts: The 6 Most Frequently Quoted Brain Facts (That Are Total BS)

From Cracked, which means that there may be some bad language, but also means that it is probably full of interesting new info ... such as this ... which definitely made me feel better!
#3. "I'm Getting Older, so My Mind Isn't What It Used to Be."

What you heard: It's common knowledge that the brain deteriorates with age. That's why your grandpa keeps forgetting things, referring to the television as "the wireless" and calling you by your father's name. It's also why he's cranky all the time, and complains when anyone is making too much noise -- he's just getting on, and his old deteriorating brain can't handle the hectic modern world.

The truth: Discounting the ones who actually develop mental disorders like dementia or Alzheimer's, old people actually have better brains than the rest of us. Ironically, that's kind of what makes them seem so stupid -- their seasoned brains are taking in a whole lot of information that your comparatively idiotic brain just doesn't notice.

As it turns out, although your body tends to deteriorate as the years go on, your brain only gets sharper. Research has shown that, the older you get, the more information you take in from your environment. As a result, older people are actually better at problem solving, even though they become curmudgeonly and easily distracted at the same time due to the sheer amount of information their superior brains are taking in. ...
Read all about brains at Cracked.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Riparians at the Gate

Girls, even if you aren’t super gorgeous, guys are THAT interested in you, just because you are a girl.  You!  Yes, you!  You don’t need to “sell” yourself.  You don’t need to put your every asset on display.  Be a kind, friendly person who cares about others.  That’s what real men are looking for in a wife.
A great, practical piece on modesty, real attractiveness, and finding a guy who loves you from Jennifer Fitz.

Free on Kindle: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Seriously. Go get it.

Via Kindle Review which routinely has lots of free and cheap Kindle deals listed.

Update on Tom's Mom: Good News, Everybody!

After many days of no progress, suddenly some small veins in her leg have started letting a tiny bit of circulation through to her lower leg and foot. This brings us out of amputation discussions and back to more mainstream treatment of another surgery to open the blocked vein in her leg.

Obviously anything can happen as she is 87 years old with a dodgy heart, but it is supremely better news than anyone would have expected.

Thank you so much for the prayers. I believe they have made the difference in turning this from a terrible situation to one that has hope.

We appreciate your prayers so very much. Please continue them on this dear lady's behalf.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mumford and Sons: The Cave

Just because we all needed some banjo and some solid lyrics about what really helps us get through hard times, right? Thanks to Hannah for this one.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jeremiah, tell me 'bout the fire.

It's been a while since I featured this instead of letting it rest in the sidebar but this was echoing in my mind after listening to the Sunday reading from Jeremiah.

Yep. It's time for a little dose of Jeremiah via Sara Groves ... via Rose.

For those who don't know, I will add that Rose did this video for a religion class assignment in high school.

It reminds me of just how glad I was to be "duped." For as the Lord tells Jeremiah (Jer. 29:11):
I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.
Indeed, I have found it to be so.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend Joke: Why We Scream for Ice Cream

Many thanks to Doug Savage for letting me share his comic genius. Click through to see a lot more great cartoons.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Countdown: 9 ...

... days until Rose gets home from Chicago. For good!

Ok, she won't be staying in Dallas. After some quality home time she'll be going to L.A. to try her fortune there using her film editing major.

But she won't be going back to Chicago, not for the foreseeable future anyway.

I'm excited!

She's is almost done editing the Haiti documentary, Today We Saw the Face of God. She's been spending 8-10 hours a day working on it. On the plus side, we've been bonding over audio books as I've been sending her my treasures and she now has time to listen.

The prize moment was when she was so jazzed up after listening to White Cat and the sequel, Red Glove, that she had to call me to discuss them. Ah yes ... finally ... I have someone to talk to about them!

Ora Pro Nobis: The Anchoress' New Column at The Catholic Answer

She kicks it off with some G.K. Chesterton.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”
The Catholic Answer kicks off the Anchoress' new column by making it available to all ... so go by and read it.

For those, like me, who have very little Latin ... Ora Pro Nobis means "pray for us." (Thank you, Google, for making it so easy to find that out.)

DC Earthquake Devastation

Sent by a regular reader, this link takes you to a graphic photo.

Thanks Don!

Nina Simone: Sinnerman

Rose sent me this link to the full-length version of Sinnerman, sung by the incomparable Nina Simone. Video isn't necessary since it doesn't show her singing ... it is audio with some still images of her.

Just let it run in the background and listen.

I love it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Being Wrong ... and Erring on the Side of Mercy

I am hearing responses to my reflections on the homily and processing them has given me further food for thought. No one has been uncharitable, which makes me very happy. Conversations have ranged far and wide on the subjects of the Church, our many homilists, diversity, and so forth.

It makes me continue to reflect on our assumptions when we are right and our actions when we are wrong.

I cannot encourage everyone strongly enough to watch this TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz on being wrong. In the weeks that have gone by since we watched it, Tom and I find ourselves referring to it time and again. It is more complex than you'd think for a 17 minute talk.

This morning I found myself once again going back to a concept that Schulz discussed. (I'm going to have to get her book and read it all, obviously).

I do want to stress that Schulz talks about the wonders of being wrong (and there are wonders) as well as the dangers. Watch that talk for yourself.

However, to the point that I remembered ...
... trusting too much in the feeling of being on the correct side of anything can be very dangerous.

This internal sense of rightness that we all experience so often is not a reliable guide to what is actually going on in the external world. And when we act like it is, and we stop entertaining the possibility that we could be wrong, well that's when we end up doing things like dumping 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or torpedoing the global economy. So this is a huge practical problem. But it's also a huge social problem.

Think for a moment about what it means to feel right. It means that you think that your beliefs just perfectly reflect reality. And when you feel that way, you've got a problem to solve, which is, how are you going to explain all of those people who disagree with you? It turns out, most of us explain those people the same way, by resorting to a series of unfortunate assumptions. The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us is we just assume they're ignorant. They don't have access to the same information that we do, and when we generously share that information with them, they're going to see the light and come on over to our team. When that doesn't work, when it turns out those people have all the same facts that we do and they still disagree with us, then we move on to a second assumption, which is that they're idiots. They have all the right pieces of the puzzle, and they are too moronic to put them together correctly. And when that doesn't work, when it turns out that people who disagree with us have all the same facts we do and are actually pretty smart, then we move on to a third assumption: they know the truth, and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes. So this is a catastrophe.

This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to and causes us to treat each other terribly. But to me, what's most baffling and most tragic about this is that it misses the whole point of being human. It's like we want to imagine that our minds are just these perfectly translucent windows and we just gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds. And we want everybody else to gaze out of the same window and see the exact same thing. That is not true, and if it were, life would be incredibly boring. The miracle of your mind isn't that you can see the world as it is. It's that you can see the world as it isn't. We can remember the past, and we can think about the future, and we can imagine what it's like to be some other person in some other place. And we all do this a little differently, which is why we can all look up at the same night sky and see this and also this and also this. And yeah, it is also why we get things wrong.
The visuals accompanying this section boiled down to what Tom and I remembered this morning at breakfast.
Assumptions made about people who disagree with us:
  1. They're stupid. If not that, then ...
  2. They're ignorant. If not that, then ...
  3. They're evil.
In my experience, in American culture at least, this is practically universal.

(In this I am backed up by this piece about 6 double standards we're all guilty of. Note that #1, 2, and 3 cover it pretty well. Warning: language alert ... I read this a while ago and don't remember specifically but you can count on Cracked to toss profane language around.)

God knows our hearts and that is why his love gives us mercy as well as justice. We do well if we err on the side of mercy always, but especially with those who disagree with us.

The Anchoress providentially writes today about God's love and mentions this point.
It is beyond all of our knowing, which is why—no matter how tempted we are in our increasingly polarized church to stand with the Pharisees—we cannot. We must, ultimately err on the side of mercy, because mercy is what we all seek, and leave justice to the One who may be trusted to know what that is.
She's always worth reading, but never more than in this piece at First Things which I recommend to all.

I Can't Recommend Smallworld Enough

SmallworldSmallworld by Dominic Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I honestly did not mean to begin another book before finishing Silas Marner. However, Silas Marner isn't the sort of book I can read in bed before going to sleep. I have to be wide awake to pay attention and pick up on the subtle humor and other excellences therein.

So I turned to my Kindle, which I hadn't turned on in over a month as I recall. I was looking for short stories, figuring I could read one and put it down easily.

Turns out I was wrong. This collection of short stories that all are actually pieces of one larger story is indescribably amazing. Funny in a way that sounds corn-pone if I try to describe it, these stories are also gripping and will keep me up reading until I finish each one so I can see if the problem is solved, the danger averted.

Here's the description:
A strangely captivating novel from Hugo-nominated author Dominic Green. Mount Ararat, a world the size of an asteroid yet having Earth-standard gravity, plays host to an eccentric farming community protected by the Devil, a mechanical killing machine, from such passers-by as Mr von Trapp (an escapee from a penal colony), the Made (manufactured humans being hunted by the State), and the super-rich clients of a gravitational health spa established at Mount Ararat's South Pole.
The children's names are laugh-out-loud hilarious, but surprisingly you get so used to them that after a while you know exactly who is being spoken about.

Not done yet but I already know that this is one that I'll be giving as a gift as well as getting for myself in real paper, ink, and glue for rereading. I like it that much.

Monday, August 22, 2011

[UPDATED] Reflections on a homily: Positive emotion versus the clashing gong

One of the things that I love about the Catholic Church is how different the personality of each parish is. In Chicago, St. Peter's, Old St. Mary's, and the Cathedral are very different, even though they are all relatively close to each other. In Texas it would be difficult to find two more different communities than St. Francis of Assisi in San Antonio and our St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Dallas.

Likewise, Église de Saint-German-des-Prés in Paris, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (also in Paris), and Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde in Montreal are nothing alike.

Each time I visited one of these I wound up being either interested at some reflections of that parish's community which was different from my own. It added a certain spice to Mass.

At the same time, every single one of those churches is just alike. Like beads on a rosary, they are bound into one by the common thread of the liturgy.

I'll never forget being in Saint-German-des-Pres looking at the shrines when the Mass began and realizing that, despite the French, I knew just what point the Mass was at because they used the very same tunes for everything. Or being at a tiny African-American church near Mobile, Alabama, on the bay where the children's choir sang along with a cassette recorder, leading us in familiar hymns from the 1800s but with a subtle gospel swing that gave the songs a new zest.

Each church I have visited has its own special memory for me of the huge diversity of the Church that still gathers us in together as one Body of Christ.

To put it differently, I appreciate what a big tent the Church provides for very different groups of people. I loved the fact that Jesus met us where he found us and had the same attitude to everyone else. That lesson is one that I have reflected upon often and is a good reminder when I find myself among those with different customs.

I haven't ever thought before about what a visitor from Paris or Canada or Alabama would find at my church, but I now realize they would find Gregorian chant from the men's acapella choir at the Saturday vigil, some of the most beautifully arranged modern hymns in the country at our nine o'clock Sunday family Mass, and a full choir singing some of the most glorious songs by Handel or Bach at the eleven o'clock Mass. Every Mass would show them a congregation who kneels at the altar rail for communion and who give some responses in Latin.

It is a nice thought that we, too, reflect the beautiful diversity of the Church.

In fact, this was pointed up to me by working on the Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat when it was just getting started in our parish. The originating parish was in San Antonio and from a church that was just about as different from ours as an American Catholic church could be. Our needs to adapt the program for our parish's different style and needs meant that there was constant tension between the groups from the two churches as they worked out the kinks. However, it all worked out thanks to unfailing courtesy and the determination to do what we all saw as God's will in helping the retreat come to Dallas.

I came to realize that, as different as some of the other church's practices were, there was a deep love and reverence for the Eucharist to have developed a retreat like Beyond Cana. It helped me to appreciate that "big tent" yet again as I saw our common love for Christ. One of our San Antonio friends shared that he had faced great opposition from his group in working with a church that was "too different." He felt that God had deliberately put our two parishes together in this endeavor to teach us that underneath all our differences we were the same. Amen to that! It was through face-to-face work toward a common goal that we were able to come to that appreciation of each other's diversity.
I think that positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.
Cobb, Inception
The question of diversity in the Church, especially in our parish, was a topic of conversation around our house after the Sunday Mass.

The homily was given by a deacon who is not around much, but took the opportunity to scold us for not being more diverse like him (which is to say, we are a white/Hispanic, conservative parish). I won't drag you through it except to say that he wound up by speculating that if we were asked who Jesus was, we might give the "proper" answer copying what Peter said, but would need to look deep in our hearts to see what our "real" answer was because we might discover we were making God in our own image. He made it clear that he didn't think much of us on practically every level.

If this homily had been given by our pastor or regular deacon, I would have gone home full of doubt and examined my conscience. They are highly involved in the parish, don't bring the hammer down on us usually, and ... they love us. They are our shepherds and we know it.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the Truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
However, this particular deacon is rarely seen around the parish as he has a full-time job as a teacher and must be out of town a great deal when school is out. He's a nice enough guy, but the only time he has to show us any love is during his homilies. Needless to say, we weren't feeling the love on Sunday.

What he did, though, is spark us to look at our parish with new eyes. For one thing, we talked about the many wonderful churches we've attended which I mentioned above. We also talked about all the ways that our parish is diverse among our members. We saw ourselves for who we really are. Some rich, some poor, some jerks, some nice ... all struggling with life the way that everyone does. Trying to do our best for the most part and hoping to recognize that the guy who doesn't agree with us also is trying to do his best; he just has a different way of going about it. It made me love our parish even more because I know so many face-to-face and have gone through hard times and good ones with them.

It also made me very sad for that deacon who has lived among us for so long and still looks at us as a demographic of which he disapproves. Sad that he has not gotten to know enough of us person-to-person, face-to-face, which is how any real change is effected ... and how any real love is shown. God put him among us so that he could learn to know us and love us and we could do the same back. For whatever reason, that didn't happen. He can't show that love because he doesn't know us. He just knows a stereotype.

Or so it seems to me.

So I pity him. And I pray for him. And, as surprising as I found it this morning when I was walking and praying, I love him. I imagine he left that pulpit feeling that he had delivered a blow for much needed social justice. Instead, he delivered a blow that felt like an absent father showing up to slap an unsuspecting child in the face. No one wants to be that person. I know he doesn't either.

I've tripped over my own misconceptions many a time. I know how hard that fall is. So I love him, because he is just like all of us. Trying his hardest. Sometimes falling hard too ...

Lord have mercy on me and bless that deacon. Help us both to be the people you created us to be. And thank you for opening my eyes more to what I have taken for granted for a long time.

UPDATE -- speaking of tripping over my own misconceptions ...

A kind friend from our parish wrote to gently point out that, although I don't know this deacon well, many parishioners do know this deacon well ... and I'm selling him short to make it sound as if he is disconnected. He pointed out that those who know and love the deacon may well have walked away feeling as thoughtful as I described I would have if others had delivered that message.

I definitely thank my friend for that because, once it was pointed out, I could see it's a fair cop guv'nor!

I really appreciated the time and care that my friend put into the email. He cared enough to do the difficult task of correcting me so he put in the necessary work to make sure I understood his perspective first. And to be sure I understood that this fraternal correction was being done because my friend cared. How lucky I am!

Honestly, now that I think of it, if the deacon who gave that homily had taken similar care, I'd never have written this post in the first place. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it (at least it made me laugh). And also telling.

Thank you, my friend!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Match of the Week: Zoe the Dog vs. the Butter Wrappers in the Trash

Cayenne pepper - 1
Zoe - 0

As a ringside viewer, this was a great match-up. Zoe's determination made her a top contender but the sneezing from the trash can area gave early hints of the winner.  The butter wrappers were licked about half clean when cayenne pepper's punch kicked in to make Zoe throw in the towel.

Needless to say, this is the win the audience wanted.

(Otherwise, we'd have had to put a huge rock on top of the trash to keep her out.)

 Zoe licks her wounds and vows a comeback

2011 Cannonball Catholic Blog Awards - nominations open

It's time again for my favorite blog awards, the kind that don't take themselves too seriously but yet provide me with many wonderful new blogs to read.
It's a Blog Award for all us under appreciated types, and you are strictly forbidden from nominating anyone that has written a book... and that Peters guy. And fanciful cooking bird watching priests. And anybody else who has a blog better than me. So good luck with that.
So just when I thought that I had a chance of being nominated for something, she had to throw in that book thing. Ah well ... does it help if it is a very small, under-appreciated book?

I love the categories ... some are the usual, but some ... well, it's in the way it's said. As a sampling below shows.
More Catholic Than The Pope

Best Blog By A Heretic

Best Bat Shit Crazy

Best Popery of Potpourri

Snarkiest Catholic Blog

Most Hifreakinlarious
I will be dropping in there soon to nominate my own under-appreciated favorites. Go thou and do likewise!

An Apology to Reckon With ... Andy Levy is My New Hero

Via The Anchoress.

Weekend Joke

One Friday a traffic policeman stops a Maisie and asks to see her driving licence.

"Lady, it says here that you should be wearing glasses when driving."

"Well," replies Maisie, "I have contacts."

"Lady, I don't care who you know, you're still going to get a ticket."

Friday, August 19, 2011

10 Signs It's Hot Outside: Catholic Edition

Shamelessly lifted from the creative and funny Alive and Young.
10 Catholic Signs It Is Hot HOt HOT Outside.

  1. You understand the meaning of "Psalms 32:4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer"
  2. The Nuns are baking the communion wafers/hosts on the dash of their parked car.
  3. At the sign of peace, no one touches; instead, everyone waves quickly in attempts to create a breeze in the church.
  4. You repeat the line from Matthew 20 "Borne the burden and heat of the day." over and over again as a sign of repentance.
  5. You start wondering if it is liturgically appropriate to administer the blood of Christ chilled.
  6. Noah's flood isn't sounding too bad right about now.
  7. The Newly baptized ask Father for 15 more minutes in the baptismal immersion font.
  8. The discalced carmelites actually put shoes on.
  9. Gehenna, Shemehenna.
  10. For the homily, the Priest takes to the ambo and says, "You think it's hot as hell. It's not." then steps down and continues with Mass.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Talking with Leo Brown on Real Life Radio This Afternoon

It's that time again! The third Thursday of the month when I get a chance to chat with Leo Brown at Real Life Radio. I'll be on at 4:00 p.m. Kentucky time (that's 3:00 Dallas / Central time).

We're going to talk about Now I Walk on Death Row ... and I wonder if Leo likes to read those personal inspirational stories?

Did Jesus Really Mean What He Said? Reviewing "Now I Walk on Death Row"

This book is like a ticking time bomb. It should come with a label: "Warning: asking God to show you the world as he sees it and yourself as he sees you may cause disorientation and soul searching. Read with caution."

Why did I put Now I Walk on Death Row by Dale S. Recinella in my review books pile? Death row ministry and an endorsement by Sister Helen Prejean smack of bleeding hearts and that's not really my cup of tea. Nevertheless, there it was when I looked for something new to read.

I always evaluate every book I receive by reading the first chapter. What had I seen in this one that earned it a place in the stack?
I'll tell you ... in my A Free Mind column at Patheos where I review Now I Walk on Death Row, which I read in under 24 hours. (And not because it was short, y'all!)

Cooks, Gluttons, and Gourmets

Cooks, Gluttons and GourmetsCooks, Gluttons and Gourmets by Betty Wason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a charming history of cooking. I was interested to see from the introduction that the author went to considerable trouble back in 1962 to unearth much of the information in the book ... including finding a Chinese translator to read a 14th century Chinese cooking text. She writes in a personable way that makes you feel as if you have found a new friend.

This is a fairly comprehensive overview of the history of cooking from cavemen to Asia to Europe to New Orleans to 1962 ... and much more. A lifetime of reading food writing and history (especially the Time Life Foods of the World series) meant that little of the information was actually new to me. However, Wason tended to focus upon personalities to carry her histories forward and that is whence issued much of the book's charm. Many of the little anecdotes on the way were new and I very much enjoyed reading the history overall because of them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver in 6 Different Situations

I had to do the Heimlich to Tom once long ago when we were eating lunch at work. Talk about a terrifying moment.

I'm printing this one out ... read it at The Art of Manliness.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How could people do this?

The Deacon's Bench tells about the shocking practice of aborting one twin. I am not kidding when I say that I am struggling to keep from crying right now.

How could you look at your child for his or her entire life, knowing that you deliberately killed their twin? That but for the choice before birth, you would have murdered that very person who you love so much?

It absolutely breaks my heart.
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Isaiah 49:15
Our nation has so much innocent blood on its hands. God help us.

He Knows When a Sparrow Falls ... and Also a "Pinkie" Squirrel

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. (Matt. 10:29)
I was reading outside when I heard something that sounded like a really loud, shrill bird's call. As I found, when standing to look at the tree, three of our dogs were gathered around something on the ground, with the excited concentration of a group of kids waiting to poke something. Clearing them away I saw a naked pink baby ... but what was it? It looked like a rat, but a rat that big would have been old enough to have fur. And that long tail. It almost looked like a puppy, but no puppy ever looked like that. That long tail, curling ... yes, it had to be a squirrel.

I called Hannah out and she confirmed it and then scooped the poor thing up. It had ants all over and a bit of blood on the muzzle. She cleaned him up and Tom found a squirrel distress call on the laptop. They went to the back yard and then the front, but no mother squirrel ever came. Luckily, Hannah knows who to call (911 Wildlife) and they gave her the info for the Dallas animal rehabber who has the best luck with "pinkies." (Cute name, right?) The rehabber was at work until evening so we had the baby all day with the heating pad and Gatorade for nourishment.

Here's a 1 week old and here's a 3 week old. Ours had gray in places but no fur yet. And he slept with the baby abandon of that 3-week-old in the photo.

 By evening he was much stronger and crawling all over the place unless we held him. He was so small that he could curl into a perfect oval in my palm.

I have to admit that at one point I thought, "it is just another of a zillion baby squirrels" and then thought, "if God knows when a sparrow falls, then he knows that this little guy fell too and he cares." By the end of the day Hannah and I were telling each other how strong he was and how quickly he recovered after a little Gatorade. There is nothing like carrying a tiny pink baby with eyes not open yet curled up in the palm of your hand for getting a new appreciation of loving life in general. And getting a tiny glimpse of God's heart.

The rehabber told Hannah that our little guy was in good shape and a good size. He said that about 75% of the babies live. He has 700 animals a year come through his place (where they live in his back yard or second floor of the house). She gave him a donation, which wouldn't have occurred to me. If you have reason to encounter an animal rehabilitation person, consider giving them something to use toward food or other expenses. They usually do it with their own money and resources, for the love of the animals themselves.

Meet Reggie, the cutest little Buffalito Dog around

My review of Buffalito Destiny is up at SFFaudio, where you can discover just what the heck a Buffalito Dog is.

He had me at "joy" -- Catholicism series to air on PBS

I have liked what I've read by Father Robert Barron and the few times I've had time to watch his video commentaries they've been good. (If he put his audio out in podcast format, I'd probably listen to every single one ... I don't need to "see" him talking ... hint, hint ...).

So I was pleased to hear about his new book, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith.

I also was intrigued to see that its publication accompanies a 4-part PBS series carried on WTTW in Chicago. I was even more interested to find out that those are just 4 of 10 actual episodes. Naturally, when I was sent the trailer, I had to watch.

Wow. Looks fantastic!

Read about the episodes at Word on Fire. Read more about the series in CNA's story. Contact your local PBS station to see if it is carrying the series.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Catholic New Media Awards

Now here is a big surprise!

The Catholic New Media Awards have evidently been accepting nominations and I just found out. Guess I don't hang out in the right places anymore ... or something. Nominations are closed and voting has begun.

Anyway, I must not be the only one because there is a dearth of the "usual suspects" nominated. That is  all to the good, in my opinion. The "usual suspects" are already known. There are a lot of blogs and podcasts and suchlike nominated that I wouldn't have heard of otherwise. Which I think was the point of the awards when they were begun way back when. And it definitely keeps the voting lists shorter.

Go take a look around and see what you discover.

And, of course, vote!

I have to say that I wish I'd have known so I could have included A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, where Scott Danielson and I talk about books, movies, and the faith. I am really fond and proud of that little baby and would have liked to let more Catholics know about it.

But, c'est la vie. Every baby is most beautiful to its own parents, right?

Weekend Joke: Art

From Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Putting a Human Face on Abuse: Reviewing Restoring Sanctuary

For one long period, my idea of going to Sunday Mass involved parking near a church while Mass was underway inside, imagining sorrowfully the ritual by reading from a missal I kept in my glove compartment. I faithfully attended daily Mass, hoping it and “parking lot” attendance could somehow be calculated into a second‐class holiness. In truth, nothing could have made me feel worthy of Mass attendance: I was sure I was at fault for all that had transpired in my childhood.
These words are from a reflection that author T. Pitt Green wrote. Although not in the book, I found them when poking around on the author's site before agreeing to look at the book for review. Suddenly I identified a bit more with the emptiness and anxiety that a victim of abuse feels, especially if their abuser was a predator with a Catholic priest's collar.

Restoring Sanctuary languished in my review stack, pushed aside by the heaviness of the subject and by more immediate promises for columns or podcasts. Then my oldest daughter and I were talking about someone who left the Church because of a priest's extreme insensitivity, but who still longed for the Eucharist. She said, "Remember that lady you told me about who would sit outside the church during Mass and follow along outside?"

Indeed I did. And went to pull this book out of the stack.

Teresa Pitt Green suffered sexual abuse as a child from her parish priest. She later discovered that her mother had also been abused similarly long ago. On her deathbed, Green's mother asked her to write their story.

This unusual book chronicles an abuse victim's journey back to the Catholic Church but without details that might traumatize readers. We see her struggle to find a therapist who doesn't have an additional agenda, with the lack of response from the diocese, with illnesses like brain tumors, and from a physical attack as an adult.

The story is not all dark, however. Green tells also of inspired moments, one in particular after her mother died. She meets people who understand and provide support. Not least of all, she acquires a puppy who becomes her friend and protector. Underlying every experience, whether good or bad, Green is never without faith in Jesus Christ as the word speaking to her, the good shepherd guiding her recovery, and her savior.

It was Green's acquisition of McGee, a second puppy, that sparked a bit of true insight for me. I have had a very easy life by comparison. Although I empathized as I would with anyone who has suffered, it was without a personal frame of reference until reading about McGee. He was a rescued dog and became so afraid when Green brushed her hair that he went into seizures. I suddenly thought of our oldest daughter's dogs, both at least half feral when they were rescued and came to live with us. One in particular, a gentle Staffordshire Terrier named Kif, had over 50 birdshot under his skin when he was x-rayed. He would cower and quake if I reached up to open a cupboard. We had to be extremely gentle with him in order to teach him to trust people, a process that is still underway. I mean no disrespect, but I was able to see Teresa as a mirror image of Kif, who had been so victimized. Suddenly Teresa and her struggles became more real to me as I read the rest of her story. When she discovered a diocese victims program that cared more about the victims than the system and so allowed Teresa as much time and patience as she needed without judgment, I felt like cheering.

The fact that Green is able to communicate all this without revealing identities, going into details, and traumatizing the reader is extraordinary. We understand her struggles but are not pulled to the brink with her. This leaves readers like me who have never suffered in such a way with insight into the pain caused by predator priests and unresponsive bishops.

More importantly, it shows not only the anguish which such abuse leaves behind but looks at the problem of sexual predators with clear eyed reality. This reality accepts the fact that predators can be married or single, that their desire is ultimately domination no matter what means they use to achieve it, that they come from all walks of life, and that those who enable them are collaborating in evil. She does not condemn the Catholic Church as a whole, which is refreshing, but targets abusers and those whose behavior allows them to prey on others.

Green weaves the details of her recovery together with a larger call to action. She asks us to know the truth about how predators act, to be vigilant, and to act on behalf of the weak. She knows that there is not one easy answer. There is not a list of steps or a plan provided in how to do this. Green asks each of us to learn the truth, know it well, and to act upon it in our own way. In that, she seems to me to be mirroring Jesus, who gave his disciples the truth and then sent them out to act upon it wholeheartedly in the ways that worked with their personalities.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

His Yoke is Easy: A Wonderful Conversion Story

I used to be the kind of person that considers her limits sacred territory. "This is who I am", I would say, "and there is nothing I can do about it". This attitude led me to some wrongdoing, even towards my own mother. Before moving to the US with my husband and son, we stayed with my parents for a while. My mother was incontinent, but I refused to deal with this problem, leaving the burden of assisting her to my siblings. She didn't mind, but after my conversion I felt the desire to overcome my weakness. I wanted to make it up to her, but I would never have the chance because she had passed away while I was here.

And so I was glad when I was offered the possibility of redeeming myself. I took a two-week job as a caregiver, taking care of a 92 year old woman. I knew it would have been hard for me, but I dedicated my effort to my mother. Well, when I went back home after the first day of work, my son said to me:

"You have an expression on your face like someone who has seen things so terrible that she will never be the same again!"

And this was not an exaggeration. I was actually distraught. But when I returned to work the following day the little old lady was still in bed, because nobody in the house was willing to bathe her and dress her up. She said to me:

"I was worried about you! I thought you might not come back."

At that moment my heart opened up to her. She needed me, and I was happy to help her. She was very sweet, and although she hated to be so dependent on someone else, she kept a sense of humor about her situation, which I thought was remarkable. She even laughed when I struggled to drag her into bed at night because she was too heavy for me! I still think of her with great affection.

None of this would have been possible without Christ. I was surprised by the love He generated inside of me. I expected to struggle with myself for the entire time I had to be on the job, but instead I had completely overcome my problems by the third day! Why couldn't I do the same for my mother? Because no matter how much I loved her, I was unable to see her as a creature of God. I did not believe that she had a soul. I looked at her as a body more than as a person. I thought that I loved her, but true love has the power to move the heart.
This is just a bit of Antonella's conversion story, which you must go to On the Road to Jerusalem and read. The wonderful thing about conversion stories is that we can look at them and remember our own conversions while seeing another facet of how much Jesus loves each and every one of us. I especially resonated with Antonella's conversion beginning with books ... and not in the way you might think. Via Riparians at the Gate.

I'm pretty sure I remember how I got to Episode 16 ... so it isn't a dream ...

Scott Danielson and I discuss the movie Inception at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Snapshot: New Additions to My "Faves" Playlist

All thanks to Rose who had a soundtrack playlist I was checking out.

  • Cutting Bracken - The Killdares
  • Peggy Sussed - Underworld
  • Comptine d'Une Autre Ete - L'Apres-Midi - from Amelie


And I also laughed out loud. (Just like Ironic Catholic, which is where I found this.)

Reviewing: A Biblical Walk Through the Mass

Lead us not into temptation: This petition is not so much a prayer to avoid all trials and temptations in life. The biblical words express a request that God not allow us to enter into temptation in the sense of giving in to it. It is a prayer that God would strengthen us to overcome the temptations we face. Pope Benedict XVI taught that in this petition, it is as if we are saying to God, "I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me those trials ... then please remember that my strength only goes so far. Don't overestimate my capacity. Don't set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me." As St. Paul said, "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13).
A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Edward Sri is full of moments like the one above where a line from the Our Father is considered. Familiar phrases that may flow unthinkingly from our lips are  brought to new life. We are reminded how they apply to our own lives and perhaps given a new understanding.

Sri brings this depth and thoughtfulness to his explanation of the entire liturgy. Some places feature more biblical background, others instead contain thoughts from authorities like popes and Church fathers, but all are illuminated with Sri's own enthusiasm and love for the liturgy itself. One cannot read this without catching a spark that makes pages turn a bit more quickly or having some of that beauty splash onto the Mass the next time one attends. That has been my experience after reading this book.

In my opinion, one of the best unintended side effects of the new liturgy has been the recent spate of books covering the changes. We have gotten a variety of approaches and Sri's is one of the best. It is extremely accessible and helps us meet God personally in the liturgy. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ironic Catholic's Review of Happy Catholic: "The God and Culture Thang"

So when I read Julie's book, full of meditations and reflections on snippets of books, TV shows, movies, etc., I rejoiced!, because...she cut through all the dreck for me! These are great little insights, all the more appealing because they popped up out of a swamp. It's like you can't keep God, and human longing for God, down. He always rises to the top, like cream.
Ironic Catholic brings up a question I hadn't considered ... can someone who has completely given up television enjoy reading Happy Catholic?

We know that Happy Catholic is chock-full of television references. So I was very pleased to find that Ironic Catholic appreciated the good stuff being skimmed off the top and presented without the need for using a tv screen.

It is a very generous review and I am most appreciative.

It's Two, Two, Two Books in One: Reviewing "What Would Madame Defarge Knit?

It's is a set of essays reflecting on classic literature.

It's a knitting pattern book.

 Perhaps surprisingly, it functions beautifully as both.

It takes a special group of book-loving knitters to latch onto A Tale of Two Cities and ask, "Just what was Madame Defarge knitting? Is there a pattern? Let's make one!" What makes the book work ultimately is that editor and writer Heather Ordover pulls it all together and imbues it with the joy of curiosity, discovery, and whimsy.

Ordover is best known to book-loving knitters as the host of the CraftLit* podcast where literature and knitting gracefully combine. As much as I love the podcast, I would have thought it impossible to get it into a book. I would have been wrong.

The literature ranges from A Tale of Two Cities to The Wizard of Oz to Lysistrata to The Call of Cthulhu. The essays are thoughtful pieces divided into three groups: What I Did for Love, Song of the Sea, and Women of Valor. A variety of approaches  contemplative, some are analytical, some humorous, and some are resigned to loving tentacles wherever they appear, but all mirror the same passion for story.

Is there such a thing as a book report done in knitting? The patterns which accompany each essay range from simple to complex and reflect the literature very well. Projects range from Hyde's Hooded Sweater to an Ancient Mariner Watch Cap to Not-So-Ruby Slippers to Madame Defarge's Stole (and thus we discover what Madame Defarge was knitting). If you don't knit, there are other crafts included. I especially liked the Mermaid's Lagoon shadow puppets which included the crocodile.

Food and drink are available also, albeit via links to the book's website. Tips are scattered throughout to help with such challenges as crisp stripes, cabling without a cable needle, and attaching LED neckbolts (a tip that everyone will be sure to appreciate). I also liked the appendix that showed every time Jane Eyre mentioned a shawl. (There are a surprising number of times.)

It is not a perfect book but the problems are those that most readers probably will not mind as much as I do. Yes, my crochety side is emerging. As a design professional, I found the book layout a touch problematic but I won't harp on that since it was done by a small, independent press and I'm inclined to give them a pass and salute the effort that allows books like this to see the light of day. (I do mention it because ... I'm crochety!) As a knitter, however, I do wish there was better formatting of instructions. Glancing at other knitting books or even magazines would give a hint of how to help the eye catch lines of instruction without wasting space. It also would have been nice to have the author of each essay featured after the title. I continually found myself flipping to the end of the piece to see who was speaking before I began reading.

Another problem is that many items are found online rather than included in the book. This includes food and drink recipes, photographs, and some other features. To be fair, some readers love this, or so I have read on Ravelry. Others, like me, would prefer it all in one place. The reason for the on-line portions was to keep the book affordable. However, I would have preferred to pay more and have everything included in the book. I am not going to stop reading and look online. Just ain't gonna happen. Also, I think of what happens if my girls inherit this book and thirty years from now are paging through, looking for just how the back of that Jane Eyre shawl knits up. Will formats have changed, CraftLit no longer be with us (sob), and the times have moved on past when anyone would look online? (La, dear, how archaic!) The book is incomplete without all the trimmings in my opinion.

That said, those trimmings are just that ... extra bits. We can find recipes elsewhere and the charming wood cut illustrations do give some hint of how the overall piece should look. As to the other details, well that's where creativity will reign.

In other words, don't let my carping keep you from buying this wonderful book.

What Would Madame Defarge Knit gives us a wide variety of voices all mirroring the same love of literature, crafts, friendship, and creativity. It is an unlikely combination, but it works. You'll have a long reading list and a long knitting/crafts list to work from when you're done reading it. Highly recommended.

Note: I received a review pdf so that my blurb could be on the back cover, but I bought a hold-in-my-hands copy because I needed the real thing.

Second Note: For a review which also comments thoughtfully upon the small publishing world and a nonknitter's perspective, read this one at Pink Slip.

*It is an interesting age we live in where there are communities formed around a blog or podcast. Such is the case with CraftLit, "a podcast for crafters who like books." It provides classic literature in audio form so that listeners can do crafts and get a good story at the same time. Heather Ordover took this concept and enriched it by providing excellent information about authors, writing styles, time periods, and overarching literary themes. Essentially, CraftLit is the most enjoyable literature class you ever dreamed of.

Heather also talks about the crafts she's been doing with heavy emphasis on knitting, recommends other podcasts, and includes a lot of listener comments. The unique combination of knitting and literature has formed a large, supportive community.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Snapshot: The Fluffiest, Most Absorbent Towels I've Ever Used

I suddenly noticed that our towels were ragged. Really ragged.

When did this happen? And how? I mean, they were only ... wait, let me add ... only 15 years old? How did that happen? When did 15 years whisk by?

Anyway, I went looking for hotel towels. They always seem to me to be the softest. I suppose it does depend on which sort of hotel you are staying at. I had in mind those from the time we wound up unexpectedly staying in the luxurious Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Springfield, Illinois.

When I went looking, there was nothing obvious, but eventually I wound up at this selection from Towel King, which  is supported handily by Amazon's payment system.

I washed them when they showed up and was astounded at the fluffiness that emerged from our drier. These washcloths and towels make showering a real luxury. So much so that I have two extra sets en route so I can kick some more of those ragged bath towels to other service (drying dogs, drying cars, tossed over muddy car seats so a person can safely sit on them...).

Worth a Thousand Words: Bonus Edition

Photo by Doug Cadmus, Creative Commons license

Via Next Door Nature where you really should go to read the accompanying article. I don't know of anyone who writes more charmingly about nature while conveying lots of facts. I love that blog. Here's a sample to lure you into reading it all for yourself.
As the small face in front of me grew wider, I began to doubt that it would fit back through a 2” opening without leaving behind some of the payload. I forgot that by this time of year, even a young’un would be an old hand at this. She dove into the entrance without a second’s hesitation… and me right on her heels, having conveniently shrunk down to chipmunk size (in my mind, that is—there weren’t any bottles labeled “Drink Me” at hand).

Special Edition Papal Toilet Paper

Renova, a Portuguese paper company, is celebrating Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Madrid by releasing special edition Papal toilet paper. The yellow and white rolls–representing the colors of the Papal flag–are being released for World Youth Day. The product’s description on Renova’s website calls them “streamers,” yet they come in the same packaging as their toilet paper and can only be found in the toilet paper section of their site. Don’t be bashful, for Renova asks you to “Open your windows to celebrate!” when the Pope comes to Madrid.
Via The Curt Jester who says he now knows what to use when he TPs the Vatican. That I wanna see ...

Friday, August 5, 2011

"After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations."

H.L. Mencken was joking about Shakespeare when he said that.

We all know that I have a predilection for quotes myself.  This blog puts up a quote a day and Happy Catholic (the book) shares a lot of quotes.

I have a guest post up at American Catholic Blog featuring some new quotes and sources I have found that would make me beg and plead for a few more pages to include them in the book. There are 10 good 'uns and I'm fairly sure you haven't seen them all here yet. So check it out!

American Catholic Blog is the St. Anthony Messenger Press's blog. They own Servant Books, which is my publisher. It has been a bonus for me that not only have I gotten to know the Servant Books folks, but now am getting to chat more with the St. Anthony Messenger Press people. What a nice bunch they are! I'm looking forward to getting to meet some of them at their exhibit at the UDMC Catholic Conference that will be here in Dallas this October.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dragged Kicking and Screaming Into the Promised Land

You know who that's about, right?

Yep! Me!

My encounter with East of Eden by John Steinbeck is the subject of my A Free Mind column at Patheos.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Go-To Snacks of Literary Greats

Wendy MacNaughton loves to snack on garlic croutons when working and began wondering about what the literary greats snacked on.
Walt Whitman began the day with oysters and meat, while Gustave Flaubert started off with what passed for a light breakfast in his day: eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate. The novelist Vendela Vida told me she swears by pistachios, and Mark Kurlansky, the author of “Salt” and “Cod,” likes to write under the influence of espresso, “as black as possible.”
Luckily for us, she did a charming sketch of some of the great writers' favorite snacks. Check it out at the New York Times.

Via Scott Danielson on Google+

Finally ... Someone Who Liked Cowboys and Aliens

OK, here's the deal. When you're talking about a movie called “Cowboys and Aliens,” you'll do well not to overthink it.

I'm glad I hadn't read some of the reviews I've read today, before I went to see the film last night. Because I had a great time. I don't think I've sat in a theater seat and enjoyed myself so much since I saw “Taken.” When you're talking summer movies, it doesn't get much better than this, if you're asking me.
Lars Walker, my hero. Which must say something about how influenced I am by the critics' comments, in that I need someone's enjoyment to watch it.

On the other hand, movies ain't cheap these days.

Snapshot: How I Know I Was Super Distracted This Morning

Because walking down the hall to work, I realized I didn't do that thing where you mismatch socks.

I wasn't wearing socks.

But I mismatched my shoes.

True story.

One ballet flat.

One black sandal.


And now?

I'm barefoot. Until it is time to slink out of the building and go home.

Straight home.

No stops on the way.

It's Like He Read My Mind: the Pope on vacation and summer reading

Appearing on the balcony overlooking the square, the Pope said "each of us needs time and space for meditation, reflection and calm ... Thank God it's so! In fact, this requirement tells us that we are not made only for work but also to think, reflect, or simply to follow a story with our minds and hearts, a story that we can connect with, in a sense 'get lost' in to then find ourselves enriched."
Of course, Pope Benedict is talking about reading the Bible, especially those books that you might not have read before. I've gotta agree on that subject too. Ruth, Esther, and Tobit are some of my favorites and I'm always surprised at how few people have read them.

I'd also encourage investigation of Robert Alter's many excellent translations of the Old Testament. He is scrupulously accurate and yet makes the text really come alive.

Thanks to Scott Danielson for the link!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If God Had a Blog

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I’ve done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.
The comments are priceless ... my favorite, the one about the dodo. Read it all at The New Yorker. Via The Deacon's Bench. (Note: language warning)

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom!

I was just on the phone with Mom, having a delightful conversation, and she mentioned making an orange cake.

Now, she was talking about a bundt cake infused with orange glaze, but perhaps this sort of cake* has that same glaze between the layers, eh? It might ... and so we will imagine it!

It sounds as if she has had a great day so far which is just going to get better with an Italian meal planned for tonight. And presents! Always with presents!

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!

* Cake photo from Bayshore Cakes. I'm not in Salt Lake City, but if I were, that bakery would tempt me to try way too many cakes!

Snapshot: I'm spending the morning crying

I'm writing a Lenten devotional booklet and have arrived at Holy Week.

The gospel music has been on high and I've been singing along sometimes.

I've been digging into symbolism and getting blown away.

You simply cannot write about Holy Week without crying. The glorious thing at this moment though is that my tears are those of joy.

I have been realizing that under the sadness of the necessity for his glorious obedience and sacrifice, there is a deep strain of joy at finishing the race triumphantly.

My thankfulness and gratitude will never be enough.

I've known it before, of course. Felt it before, of course.

But at this moment, I am overcome with joy and love for Jesus, himself.

(I can only imagine how red my eyes are at this moment. Should make going to work ... interesting.)