Rockin’ the cradle: Heavy metal for the kiddos

Yes! It’s true — what we’ve all been longing for has finally happened.

Metallica wrote a children’s book!

Metallica book

I know what you’re thinking.

You thought it was enough singing little Timmy to sleep with the soft, melodic tones of “Creeping Death” and “Seek & Destroy.” Must you read to him as well?

But hear me out: this way Timmy can learn heavy metal and his ABC’s. At the same time!

No more will he ask why mommy wears so much leather, or wonder at the meaning of daddy’s tattoo — the one with the bloody hammer and the words, “KILL ‘EM ALL.”

Preorder your copy now and receive it in time for Christmas!

metal christmas

Full Disclosure: I’m 99.9% sure the target audience for this book are fans and collectors. Not children. Also, a portion of the sales goes to charity.

So there’s that.

And before any metalheads accuse me of casting aspersions on their band, let me set you straight: I recognize Metallica’s talent and influence. They are legend.

They’re not my cup of tea, but I recognize their talent.

When I was in high school my taste ran more toward oldies (Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens). Though I was also fond of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. (I believe I was about Timmy’s age when “Dark Side of the Moon” came into being.)

Oh, and sometimes in the early evening when the cloud cover was just right (for some reason it worked best with clouds), I could get a jazz station on my little radio that looked something like this:

radio

I’ve no idea if it was real jazz or not, but it seemed so to my teenage ears and I felt quite sophisticated listening to it. Later I came to appreciate classical music as well, my taste heavily influenced by Bugs Bunny.

The point is, I like a wide variety of music. Especially when it’s done well, and I can agree Metallica does their thing well.

But in case you’re one of those holdouts who think heavy metal isn’t all that heavy, just hear what a couple of classically trained musicians do with Metallica.

The video is a bit old – 2015! – but worth a listen just the same:

Rock on, baby. Rock on. 🎸

One year, one week, two days and eight hours ago… we moved. Also, results from our birthday poll!

It’s true. I’ve been a Minnesotan for over a year now, survived a winter even the natives are calling “brutal” and, in case you’re wondering, I’ve not yet adopted the dialect… dontcha know.

I’m working on a post where I’ll talk about all the things I’ve learned this last year: the differences between city folk and small town folk, what it’s like moving across the country, switching from a desert landscape to a snowy one, stuff like that there.

And by working on it, I mean I sometimes think about it. There may or may not be actual sentences written down.

In the meantime, below are some pictures of our recent trip with our kids. They came up for a visit and to escape Phoenix heat. We traveled over to Duluth for a few days as well as spent some time in the cities. (This is a true sign of Minnesotan: I now say things like, “We went to the cities.”)

Here’s a few from Duluth (click on an image to enlarge):

Note the big ship? When you see ships like that, you begin to realize just how big Lake Superior is.

Here’s the aerial bridge lowering once the ship passed through:

Gotta pity the poor cars who had to wait all that time for the bridge to come back down. It had to be at least 15 minutes from the time the bells first started ringing.

Speaking of which, they really don’t give you a lot of warning as to when the bridge is going to rise. On our last day there, we thought we’d walk across it.

Full disclosure: we had noticed a ship was coming but there was some debate on our part as to whether the bridge would have to rise for it or not. In any case, the walking light still showed “Walk” so we walked across.

It was at the halfway mark — and believe me, this is one long bridge — when the bells start sounding and a voice comes on telling us to “Get the hell off the bridge.”

Okay, so maybe he didn’t say those exact words. In any case, we got the hint and picked up our pace. Like, ran. We made it just in time before it started to rise.

Death comes to us all_2

Other than almost dying, it was a great trip. We toured a maritime museum, a whale back ship and a mansion, though I didn’t think to take pictures at any of them. I guess we were enjoying ourselves too much?

Though I got a picture of my ice cream:

curry caramel cashew and salted licorice

On the left is Salted Licorice, on the right is Curry Caramel Cashew. Sounds weird, right? Yet they were delicious. Daughter had a scoop of Honey Chamomile in a cup of espresso. (Calming and invigorating.)

So then we went to the cities and hung out mostly in downtown St. Paul. Son said it was kind of like New York City but without all the people.

That’s me getting friendly with F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Did you know he was from St. Paul? It’s true!)

Charles Schultz is from Minnesota as well, so the whole Peanuts gang is hanging out in Landmark Park. That’s Husband discussing philosophy with Linus and Sally.

I have one other photo I simply must show you. After we dropped the kids off at the airport, Husband and I stopped at an antique shop in Elk River.

Where I found this guy!

Froggy friend

Is he not the most glorious fella you’ve ever seen? I mean, he’s so charming holding the completely impractical planter I found at WalMart for five bucks.

Say, if any of you have any suggestions as to what I should name my froggy friend, let me know. Right now the leading contenders are Bowie, Elton, or Irving.

Alrighty, so now it’s time for the results of our poll. We really seemed to hit a nerve with this one. You people have some strong opinions on birthday parties for adults.

For a reminder, these were the questions:

poll questions

As it turns out, 40% of you find parties childish while 32% of you accept them only if you’re hammered.

Only one person — one person mind you! — threatened to end our friendship over this. I found this heartening. (No one chose the final question.)

There was also a write-in option. These were the responses:

Other answers

If we evaluate the overall intent, I think it’s safe to say none of these responses are in favor of parties. Though I want to pull out the final one:

I love to celebrate life, on any day. Blessed to be alive.

Yes!!!

That’s the ticket, friends. Rather than reserve one day out of the year where we honor each other, how about we celebrate every day?

Though maybe without the noisemakers and pointy hats. Ain’t no one in favor of those.

Birthday blues (1)

To all of you who took our poll — and waited so patiently for the results — thank you for playing.

Now go eat some cake and start celebrating life. 🙂

happy

 

All hail Lord Cockroach! (It’s only a matter of time.)

At my old job, if a cockroach was spotted in the front office or hallway, I was the one who dealt with it. It wasn’t in my job description but beings how I didn’t run off screaming at the sight of them, it fell to me.

I will now pause to discuss the two types of cockroaches of which I am most familiar. My plan was to add pictures of real live cockroaches, but I feared some of you might run off screaming. Therefore, I shall try my hand at drawing them.

The cockroaches of my youth, the little ones who regularly visited my childhood home, were these guys:

cockroach german

They are commonly called German roaches, though as a rule, cockroaches care little for ethnic labels.

They are about an inch long, have a dusty brown coloring and can be found most anywhere, such as in your kitchen right now.

They are looking for a snack and really wish you hadn’t tossed that rotting fruit as it’s one of their favorites. That was very wasteful of you.

They’d also prefer it if you’d stop cleaning so much. You’re wiping away all the good bits. And not to make too fine a point of it, but you’re cramping their social life. How do you expect them to find their friends if you keep wiping up their poop trails?

Honestly!

The other roach of my childhood was not as frequent a visitor, though he made quite an impression with my family nonetheless. My mom referred to him as a sewer roach, but he’s more commonly called (at least in the U.S.) the American cockroach.cockroach germanYou’ll note I used the same picture, just made it bigger. It’s not just that I’m lazy… okay, yeah, I was being lazy. But really, their bodies aren’t that different. It’s all about size and coloring.

He’s much bigger than his German counterpart and more of a shiny, reddish-brown.

Oh, and here’s an interesting fact: the American cockroach didn’t originate in America. He came from Africa. Wanna guess how he got here?

That’s right! It’s commonly believed they arrived on slave ships. So the next time you see one of these buggers, meditate on that.

The reason my mom called them sewer roaches (many in Phoenix do) is that they often come up through the drains. Plus, they’ve got that shiny thing going on, giving them a lovely sewer aesthetic.

Ah, the memories these fellas conjure up for me. I can still see Brother running out of the bathroom screaming, streaking down the hall because a roach came up the drain as he showered. Or my parents practically tearing apart our T.V. room because they spotted a particularly large one scurrying across the tile. “It’s as big as my foot!” my mom sputtered, somewhat known for exaggeration but in this case, she wasn’t far off.

Good times, good times…

It was the American cockroach I dealt with at my old job, back when I worked at a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sometimes we’d find them in the hallways, but more often they hung out where we did, in the offices and our break room. One of the offices was very close to both the break room and janitor’s closet. Meaning it saw a lot of cockroach action. Sadly, the secretary who used this office really really really hated cockroaches.

She and I, we became friends. All she had to do was come to my desk and give me that look.Bonnie

I’d ask her where it was; she’d give me its last known whereabouts. I’d open my cabinet and withdraw my tools: a plastic cup and a stiff piece of paper. After locating the little fella – who was rarely little – I’d slip the cup over him and slide the paper underneath.

cockroach method

Live capture, folks. I only do live capture.

Once he was safely ensconced within his plastic dome, I’d take a walk outside. He and I, we’d make our way across the staff parking lot and over the rocky landscape, out to the tall chain-link fence that held us prisoner. There I would set him free.

cockroach leaving

You see, I wanted to give the guy some options. He could take his chance crossing the street to enter one of the nice Scottsdale homes on the other side, where they probably served premium cuts of meat and world-class wines. Or he could return to our break room for a stale donut and old coffee.

My method had its detractors.

It is amazing, is it not, how many people are in favor of capital punishment? “There’s a roach in the kitchen! Kill it!”

I never argued with them. Instead I would say, “I don’t like to hear the crunch.” Because, you know, there’s always a crunch.

And besides, I liked getting outside. Dawdling by the mesquite tree, breathing in the city air… ah, the smell of exhaust fumes on a hot afternoon. There’s nothing quite like it.

“They’re just gonna come back!” my detractors would say in a terribly condescending tone. (My detractors were always men.)

I’d say, “probably,” and return to my desk.

The truth is, I kind of knew they were returning. I figured that was why they became so easy to catch. I think they recognized me.cockroach waving

“Oh, it’s the blonde – no need to worry. Field trip!”

What I didn’t realize was that they were returning for a reason and that reason was not stale donuts.

It happened during my last summer at the school. Our bookstore manager was trying to track down a package and was concerned it had gotten mixed in with some other boxes headed to storage. “I really don’t want to go in that room,” she told me, “but I think I have to.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“It’s the Roach Room.”

Gasp!

I’d heard tales of this room but I’d never actually been there. Now was my chance! I quickly offered my assistance. She said yes!

We made our way down the empty hallway. The room was at the end of the Social Studies department, where students learn history, political science, and how we got into this mess.

The bookstore manager got out her keys, unlocked the door and shivered a little. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked me.

“Yeahyeahyeah,” I said.

She opened the door and flipped on the light. I expected to hear scurrying… there was none. We stepped in. No roaches. None!

I was indignant. “I thought you said—“

She turned to face me and her eyes got wide. She pointed behind me. I turned toward the wall…

Holy hell!cockroach wall

It was just like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland where all those bugs are crawling up the cave wall!

It. Was. So. Cool.

She did not share my enthusiasm.

Anyway, here’s the thing: there were no drains in this room! No sink, nothing containing water or food. Nothing! Just boxes and boxes of books and old files. That’s it.

So what were the roaches doing there?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? They’re educating themselves. Reading up, studying our history. No doubt making notes of our failures and weaknesses.

Make no mistake about it, my friends. They will one day rule us all. They were here long before us and they will remain long after. We have to come to terms with this. There’s little sense in fighting it.

And when they finally rise to power, who do you think they spare but the one who showed mercy?

So the next time you smush one under your shoe and hear that crunch, remember there’s another one nearby. They’re always nearby.

They’re watching you.

They know what you’ve done.Cockroach mad

On racism, white saviors, and being honest with ourselves

About a month ago – for reasons too vast to explain in a 1,000 word blog post – I found myself creating a timeline of “Racism and Immigration” in the United States for the convent’s biannual community gathering.

And because I can never do anything half-way, I wound up filling 21 large bulletin boards for the Sisters.

The only reason I stopped at 21 is because I ran out of bulletin boards.

Seriously. There was no shortage of information.

I’m considering creating a wallet-sized version of my work so the next time I hear someone claim this nation was founded on Christian principles, I’ll just whip this puppy out and say, “OH YEAH?!”

The magnitude of the information I found was overwhelming. There were times I had to get away from my computer. Take a walk. Breathe in some fresh air.

The weird thing is that I knew this stuff. I was a history major. My studies focused primarily on American history. I even took a course on Civil Rights.

Still. When you see everything together, all at once… it’s maddening…

And once again, it was plain to see how much my family benefited from America’s racism.

Sure, they were poor immigrant farmers who worked hard to make a life for themselves in Dakota territory. But the only reason they were allowed to make a life for themselves in the Dakotas is because they were white and the people who were forced off the land weren’t.

Indian_Land_for_Sale_Poster

So there you go.

Did my family understand what was happening? Did they care? I have no answer for that.

My guess is they had some kind of awareness, but they looked the other way. After all, it’s what most of us do. We see things we don’t like, but it doesn’t affect us — or it somehow benefits us — so we look the other way.

Except my work on this timeline meant I couldn’t look the other way. It stayed with me long after I left work.

It’s with me still.

One of the photos I spent a lot of time with was a familiar one. I’m sure you recognize it:

Little rock

We usually see it every February during Black History month.

The year is 1957 and the girl in the white dress is Elizabeth Eckford, one of the “Little Rock Nine” — the nine African-American students who desegregated an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I got to thinking about the woman behind Elizabeth. The one baring her teeth. A look of sheer hatred on her face. I wondered what she thought of the photo. I mean, if I’m seeing it every February, she must see it too.

How do you live with something like that? How do you explain it to your kids?

Or is it something she’s proud of? “Yes, that’s me and I’d do it again!”

Little rock (2)

But that’s freezing her in time. Not allowing her to grow as a human being.

A little bit of snooping gave me the story: her name is Hazel Bryan and she was 15-years old when the photo was taken.

Fifteen years oldLet that sink in a bit.

How many stupid things did you do when you were fifteen? How many expressions of hate crossed your face?

Yeah. Me too. Only in our case, there was probably no camera around to catch it.

As it turns out, Hazel was ashamed of that photo. It pained her every time she saw it. Years later she apologized to Elizabeth and it looked like they might become friends, but that’s a Hollywood version of the story. Real life rarely plays out so sweetly. (You can read the more complicated story here.)

Speaking of Hollywood, one thing I thought about as I looked at the picture: who would I be in the story? Had I lived in Little Rock during that period, would I be one of the people walking behind with a smirk on my face? Or if I was friends with Hazel — would I be sneering too?

I know who I’d like to be. I’d like to be the girl who broke from the pack. The one who stood next to Elizabeth and became her friend. The one who made her feel welcome and included.

You know. The one who never existed.

But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’d probably be the other girl in the photo. The one who looked away just as the picture was taken.

looking the other way

Because that’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve never taken part in a protest, marched, or did any other daring activity. Heck, even when I saw friends and family showing their insensitive whiteness on Facebook regarding the Kaepernick/national anthem controversy —  did I leave a thoughtful comment, lovingly correcting them? Or even a snarky comment?

I did not. Instead, I just avoided Facebook until the controversy died down.

I looked the other way.

But there’s no looking the other way anymore. We can’t wish this gone or pretend we’re colorblind. We’d just be fooling ourselves and that doesn’t help anyone.

As the speaker told the Sisters during one of their meetings (they let me sit in for one of the days), “Racism is more than racial prejudice. It is more than individual attitudes and actions. Racism is the collective actions of a dominant racial group.”

Meaning whether I’m a nice person or not has very little to do with it. If we ain’t gonna change the system, it’s just gonna keep happening…

Timeline 19

I could easily have continued the timeline to the present, but I decided to end it with the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 and a challenge by Martin Luther King Jr. — a paraphrase from the book of Amos, 5:24:

“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I figured the Sisters would appreciate it.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll notice I’ve only shown you 19 bulletin boards when I claimed I did 21. The fact is, I didn’t take a picture of the other two. One was an “Additional Information” board, where I left copies of speeches, in-depth articles, and other items I couldn’t fit on the timeline. For the last one, I put up a blank poster board and asked the Sisters to add their thoughts and memories. My hunch was they’d have some interesting ones.

It was one of my better ideas.

Remember how in a previous post I told you these Sisters were a bit radical? Back in the day, several of them were involved in protests, some took part in civil rights marches, and a few spent time in jail. In other words, they never looked the other way.

I’ve so much to learn.

Listen, I realize this was a heavier post than I usually write, but it’s been occupying my thoughts for some time and I needed to let it out. Fortunately, I came across something funny that is related to the subject at hand. (No, really!)

Imagining myself in the “Little Rock Nine” story led to think about White Savior movies. You know the ones I mean, right?

Wikipedia has an interesting entry on the genre. I particularly appreciated this bit:

(…) continued cultural hypersegregation led to the common misbelief, by many American white people, that the nation had reached a post-racial state of social relations. (…) That reappearance of the white-savior narrative occurred because the majority of white people in the United States had little substantive social interaction with people of different races and ethnic groups.

Seems pretty clear, right? The less social interaction we have with each other, the less aware we are and the more insensitive we become. Meaning the less willing we are to support real social and political change, and then… my God… we get movies like this:

All kidding aside, I don’t have an easy answer to any of this, probably because no easy answer exists. But interacting with people different than us, following a wider circle on social media, reading books and novels written by people of color (I recommend Jessmyn Ward and Paul Beatty), dismissing the white savior flicks and watching “BlacKkKlansman” instead (or hey, have any of you seen “Sorry to Bother You” yet? That’s a trip!) — all of these seem like a good first step.

And if you know of any second, third, fourth… tenth step? Let’s get this conversation started…

My little chickadee friends

What with one thing and another, mostly another, I find that the post I had planned for this week is not quite up to snuff.

Meaning I haven’t started writing it yet.

Instead, I’m going to show you one of the little chickadees who’s been visiting my bird feeder:

chickadee 2

Yeah, I know, it’s a lousy photo. But hey, considering it was with my phone and he was on the other side of my window — which could do with a cleaning — it’ll have to do. At the very least, you can see what dapper little birdies they are and will now understand why I’m so smitten with them.

I’m told they can get quite tame around humans. A woman from church told me that every morning as she fills her bird feeder, several come along and sit on a fence just a few feet away from her, waiting. Which I find rather charming, don’t you?

Also, here’s a YouTube video of my backyard bird sounds (gosh I hope this works):

Did it work?

If it did, you should be able to hear a two-note call over and over again (along with some geese and robins and I think at one point some ducks). That call is from the chickadees’ repertoire. Birders call it “fee-bee” and I’m told it roughly translates to “hey, sweetie.” Or as I like to think of it, “how you doin’?”

It’s a call you hear primarily in Springtime, as they’re looking for a mate to settle down and have kids together.

Admittedly, when I first heard these two notes over and over and over again, it was driving me nuts. But then I found out it was just a little chickadee looking for love and my heart went out to them. I hope they find it.

Before I go, I want to show you something I found in my quest for chickadee info. This came from a site run by a Dr. Laurie Bloomfield, who studies songbirds:

Chickadees use both songs and calls to communicate with conspecifics, and possibly heterospecifics. Songs are typically regarded as more complex signals than calls, however with only one song type (fee bee), several calls produced by chickadees may in fact be considered more complex. The vocalization made for which the birds are named is the chick-a-dee call. This call contains four notes types (in black-capped chickadees): termed A, B, C and D notes. Although the note types are almost always found in order from A through D, the number of notes in a call may vary and individual calls may not contain all note types.  For example, a call may be as followed: AAACDDD. The chick-a-dee call shows that chickadees may have an extremely complex communication system. For this reason, research continues in an attempt to identify the information that the chick-a-dee call is able to convey to conspecifics (and possibly heterospecifics). Another type of call produced by most chickadee species is the gargle call, which is used during antagonistic encounters with conspecifics.  Chickadees are well studied compared to many other species of birds; however there is still a lot that can be learned about their complex communication system. Each call variant by the birds needs to be analyzed further to elucidate the potential “message” attempting to be conveyed.

I don’t know about you, but I find the fact there are people in this world studying songbirds and analyzing their calls very reassuring. Whatever crap might be going on in the world, whatever garbage you hear in the news, somewhere else in the world there is a person looking up a tree with a mighty fine pair of binoculars, jotting down notes and probably wearing cargo pants.

I mean, just the idea that someone would write a paragraph about chickadees that includes the words “conspecifics” and “heterospecifics” fills me with joy. I must pursue this further.

Which is why I signed up for a birding class this summer in Storm Lake, Iowa. It’s part of a week-long “synod school” Husband and I are attending in late July. They have both fun and serious classes, and since he couldn’t do the ballroom dance class with me, I opted for the one called “Robins, Raptors and Ducks: The Basics of Bird Watching.”

According to the course description, two class periods will be spent at different “Northwest Iowa Watchable Wildlife areas.” Also, it says I’m to bring a good pair of binoculars, so if you have any suggestions for me, I’d appreciate it.

five birders with equipment
I will soon look like one of these people. (Gah, I need to get a hat!)

A birthday party for a 100-year-old Nun — and some God talk

A couple of weeks ago I attended a birthday party for one of the sisters at the convent. She’s 100 years old.

100 year

There were balloons, flowers, two sheet cakes and plenty of ice cream.

Lots of people came. All the sisters, of course, as well as others who knew her and even a few – like me – who never met her before.

I’m sure she didn’t care.

It’s unlikely she has any memory of the event and given her blank stare, it was unlikely she had any awareness of what was happening. But she enjoyed her cake and ice cream. That’s the main thing.

I sat at a table with three other employees. One of them has been working at the convent for 40 years(!) and she was the only one among us who really knew Sister Theodora. She told us a few stories.

Sister Theodora was a very kind person who loved talking to people. She was trained as a nurse, spent her early years caring for children but found her true calling when she was moved to elderly care.

Several times this employee would look over at Sister Theodora and say, “It’s so sad… it’s just so sad…” and the others nodded in agreement.

I’m probably alone in this, but I didn’t see what was so sad.

She lived a rewarding life, enjoyed her work, she made it to 100 and now she’s eating cake and ice cream. Okay, so maybe she doesn’t have memories of her past or knowledge of who she was as a person, but does she need them?

What is better? To keep your mind and be aware of everything you lost—your health, your family, close friends—or to lose your mind and not count the loss? In other words, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. Why is that sad?

We are the ones who make it sad. We are the ones who look at people with dementia and think, “Oh, I hope I never get like that.”

As if our lives have worth only when we are of sound mind and body. As if that is what makes us who we truly are.

All right, I’m going to drift off into a bit of God talk right now, so if you aren’t into that sort of thing, just scroll down to the next heading.

Look, I’ll even give you a warning:

Warning: Contains God Talk

As I said before, one of my job requirements at the convent was to “be knowledgeable of Franciscan spirituality or willing to learn.”

I’ve been learning. One thing I learned is that Franciscans are real big on Humility and Contemplation.

(Notice the capital letters? That means they’re big on them.)

The key requirement for each is a self-emptying. Letting go of all those things you think make you who you are — your ego, your ambition, your work, your desires — and opening yourself up to fully experience God. They call this giving up your False Self in order to find your True Self.

(Again. Capitals.)

Another thing they’re big on is that this is a continual process. They call it Continual Conversion.

(Not only do they like capitals, they’re fond of alliteration.)

It’s ongoing. We can never fully achieve it during our lifetime, but there is joy in the trying so we keep at it.

I want you to know these aren’t wholly new concepts for me. Protestants also speak of emptying ones self, but we tend to breeze over it because it makes us uncomfortable. It smacks of obedience and frankly, we’re not real big on obedience.

Even so, I’ve been giving it a go and so far my progress has been… um… maybe “progress” isn’t the right word. Let’s go with “inching forward at a snail’s pace.” Yeah. That sounds about right.

Emptying myself by inching forward at a snail’s pace is going fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

Okay, let’s breeze over that for the time being. What I really wanted to say was that the morning after Sister Theodora’s birthday party, this popped up on the app I’m using for centering prayer. It’s by St. Ignatius – the founder of the Order of Jesuits. That guy.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

Take note of that second line: “my memory.” Even that. Are we willing to give up that?

Fact is, we may not have a choice. We can (and should) take care of our bodies, eat well, exercise, yada-yada. But even then, our genes or our environment or whatever will have the last say. We entered this world not knowing anything, we may very well exit it not knowing anything either. One way or the other, we are emptied.

But to empty oneself willingly, that’s what old man Ignatius was talking about. Remember the chief goal: we are emptied in order to be filled.

The more I think about it, the more I believe we should consider this phase Sister Theodora has entered not as sad, but as sacred. She will soon achieve her True Self and return to God. She has entered a time of Holy Returning.

(Caps all mine.)

Does this sound foolish? If so, I’ll gladly play the fool.

FeedingonFolly

End God Talk

Sister Theodora didn’t stay long at the party. They say she’s not fond of big crowds so once she ate her cake and ice cream, her nurse took her back to the second floor — the Memory Care Unit, where her and five other sisters live.

They receive excellent care there, as do all the sisters who need medical attention. One time at lunch, a sister who recently moved back to the convent admitted she felt a little guilty by how nice she had it. “So many people don’t have what they need, and here I am living in comfort.”

Sitting at the table was one of my bosses — I have two and they’re a married couple, so we’ll call him Mr. Boss.

Anyway, Mr. Boss said to her, “The way I think of ‘privilege,’ it’s not that we should take away the things that bring us comfort, but that we should make sure everyone else is raised up so they receive them too.”

I rather like how he put that, don’t you? And you know, from what I learned about Sister Theodora, I’m pretty sure she’d like that too.

The Secretary and the Worm: A True Story in One Act

Get this guys: when I was driving home from church the wind was blowing really hard and making the snow swirl and dance on top of the road. It looked a little hazy and super cool, like you were about to have a dream sequence.

And if we’re really lucky, it’ll be the one where Gilligan thinks he’s a vampire.

Gilligan

But I’m not here to talk about Gilligan’s Island or the weather. Instead, I’m going to tell you about something that happened right before I left my old job at the school. It was a small incident and normally I’d never remember it, but this time my memory was razor sharp, and …

Okay, fine, I didn’t remember it. Fact is, I was cleaning through my closet and going through my stack of notebooks.

I have a serious notebook problem. Problem being, I keep losing them so I wind up buying new ones. So all these notebooks are half-filled or in some cases, two or three pages filled. It’s pathetic.

In any case, it was in one of these notebooks that I found this conversation I had with a teacher.

First, some background: the teacher and I, we have a history. He had a pathological need to be liked, and I didn’t like him.

I should have been more patient with the guy and I think I could have been, had he not been so damn annoying. Every morning he’d walk through the front office — most teachers don’t, you need to understand that. If their class was in the main building, they might, but even then they usually entered by a side door as it was closer to the parking lot.

This guy didn’t work in the main building; his class was in the “D” building, just outside. So coming through the front office didn’t make sense. Unless, of course, you wanted to go to the break room and see if anyone brought in donuts or muffins or homemade cookies.

After scarfing down several, he’d then make the rounds and say, “Hey good buddy,” to every secretary in the office. After they responded, he say, “Have a good one.”

If you didn’t respond — and this is the key point here — if you didn’t respond, he’s back up and repeat it. And he’d keep this up until he got your attention. Even if you were on the phone, you had to wave or acknowledge him in some manner.

You had to greet him. You had to.

secretaryHe’d also come to the front office at the beginning of lunch and during his prep period. Sometimes during passing periods too. And every time he’d check out the break room.

One time someone bought two pizzas for the front office staff. They wrote on the boxes in big bold letters, “FOR THE FRONT OFFICE.”

Not five minutes after the pizza was put in the break room, he was seen leaving with not one, not two, but three slices. When one of the attendance clerks pointed out to him what was written, he claimed he thought it said “From the front office.”

Yeah. That makes total sense.

worm

Anyway, before you say “Oh, those poor teachers. They don’t make enough and he’s forced to be a worm,” that would be a no. This guy was the wormiest of the worms. He was a Super Worm.

He was also a bit of a dope, and that’s where this exchange comes from. I enjoyed it so much, I shared it with every co-worker I could find.

Fortunately I also wrote it down because my memory is crap.

Scene: Break room of a large suburban high school. I’m sitting at the table eating my lunch, no doubt a homemade tomato/basil soup with freshly grated Parmesan. Just then, Worm arrives to fill his water bottle. (Oh! There’s a story with the Worm and the water cooler too! Damn, I don’t have time to go into it. We’ll save it for another time.)

Enter Worm

Worm: (facing water cooler) Have a good life in Iowa.

Me: (doesn’t say anything; I thought he was talking to the water cooler)

Worm: (turns to face me) I said have a good life in Iowa.

Me: What?

Worm: Aren’t you moving to Iowa?

Me: No.

Worm: I thought you were moving to Iowa.

Me: No. Minnesota.

Worm: Oh, right right right. Minnesota.

Me: Yeah.

Worm: (thinking hard) That’s where Lincoln was from, right?

Me: No. You’re thinking of Illinois.

Worm: Right right right, Illinois… oh, I know, the Packers!

Me: No. Packers are Wisconsin.

Worm: Right right right, Wisconsin… (snaps fingers) Cheese!

Me: Wisconsin.

Worm: Right right right…. You know, I didn’t study geography.

Me: Neither did I.

Worm: Don’t worry, I’ll get it. Before you leave, I’ll get it. I’m not giving up!

Me: *pleasegiveup*

For the record, he never got it.

 

 

On white decor, deaf dogs, and a folly-challenged blog

I’m taking a lesson from my wise friend Andrew and decided not to wait for something clever to pop into my head before I wrote a blog post.

Just write, he said. So that’s what I’m doing. Just writing.

(The advantage of this is that if you don’t like the result, blame Andrew.)

It’s 25° as I’m writing this and we haven’t seen temps on this side of 0 for some time. Lord knows when we will again, so I should be outside. Only my jacket is in the dryer right now, so there you go.

This is what happens when you buy a white coat — this is my smaller coat, not the huge quilt I showed you in my previous post. This one is more like a ski jacket, very lightweight but waterproof and windproof and surprisingly warm. It’s also white, because I have a thing for white coats.

That reminds me. There was a new alto in choir last Wednesday. She just moved into the area and was telling me how hard it was to find a house to buy. They looked at seven in their price range and one was really, really nice, but it had white carpeting in the dining room. So they went with a different house that wasn’t as nice, but at least it didn’t have white carpeting.

This led to a discussion among the altos and a couple second sopranos as to what sort of person chooses white carpeting for a dining room. The general consensus was that it was a childless couple with no pets. “And they only drink white wine,” I added.

Though really, it goes without saying. Only Pinot Grigio goes with white carpeting.

I used to have a white couch. It was a beautiful couch. I loved it very much. Then we sat on it. It wasn’t white anymore. But man, for those first 15 minutes? It was gorgeous.

One of the second sopranos said people who choose white decor are delusional. “Do they think it’s going to stay that way? They’re insane!”

I disagreed with her, but I kept it to myself. You just never know with second sopranos. They look harmless enough, but they can be feisty.

I think white decor enthusiasts know exactly what they’re doing. They know it will show dirt. It’s kinda the point. They want to know when it’s dirty so they can clean it. Such is their dedication to cleanliness.

And I am right there with them, too. Boy howdy. Totally with them. If I lived all alone, that is. And didn’t live in a slushy area. And have a black cat. Or drink red wine.

Like, ever.

white couch
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Yeah. Totally there.

Gah, I just had to let Dog out for the second time. She paws at the back door to be let out, then she walks around to the front of the house to be let in, waits five minutes and then paws at the back door again. Pretty sure she wants a walk.

What I should do is grab my coat and take her outside, but, you know, it’s in the dryer. And my other coat is way too warm for 25°.

The annoying thing is that the whole time Dog is outside, and I’m meaning the whole time, Merricat, who is not allowed outside, meows. On and on and on, she meows. And she doesn’t stop until Dog comes back inside.

Merricat in window

Oh dang, I just missed Dog at the front door. When I got to the door she had already turned around and was walking away.

She’s pretty much deaf now, so the only way I can get her attention is by throwing something at her.

Snowballs work, but I’ve got lousy aim. So now I have to wait until she’s facing me again. While Merricat sings the song of her people.

Don’t you wonder about dogs when they go deaf? I mean, they don’t know they’re deaf right? So they’re probably wondering why we’re not talking to them anymore.

Or maybe they feel bad for us. “Oh, my poor human. Her mouth is moving but no sound is coming out. I wonder if she knows?”

Dog

You know what I think my problem is? (I’m off the topic of deaf dogs now, she’s back inside.) This is regarding coming up with ideas on what to write.

I think it has to do with my title, Feeding on Folly. It’s hemmed me in. Fact is, I’m not seeing a whole lot of folly nowadays.

There was a time when folly was all around me. Working at a high school in an affluent area, people taking themselves too seriously, taking their jobs too seriously, taking everything too seriously. Especially the secretary who worked right across from me, the one who left anonymous notes in the breakroom regarding coffee cups she never used. Man, she supplied me with countless example of folly.

But now, working at a convent? There’s a woeful lack of folly. It’s weird, but of all people who probably have a right to take themselves seriously, nuns don’t.

chapel at convent
Sacred Heart Chapel (just down the hall from my office)

By the way, did you know they’re not technically nuns? Technically speaking, nuns live in a cloistered community. If they work outside the convent as teachers or nurses or whatever, they are sisters. All nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

Not that it matters much. One of the sisters told me most Catholics don’t know the difference either, so they don’t worry about it. If people call them nuns, they just roll with it.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, a lack of folly. What to do, what to do…

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Write about the convent, what it’s like to work there, what I encounter and such, keeping in mind very little of it is folly-related. OR,
  2. Now that I no longer work at the school and there can be no repercussions, really let loose on the folly I witnessed there. OR,
  3. Alternate between the two, cause why not? OR,
  4. Write whatever the hell I want. Folly or not.

You know, this is about the time we should start questioning Andrew’s wisdom, but maybe he was on to something. (We probably shouldn’t tell him that, though. He’s a nice guy and we don’t want him to get a big head.)

Oh hey, my coat is dry and oooh, it’s so white and clean! Guess I’ll be taking Dog for a walk after all.

Okay, so that’s it for this post. Stay tuned til next week when we’ll be talking about nuns… I mean, sisters… or my folly-filled memories, or whatever the hell I want.

Keep it real, friends.

Ceiling Theology

According to my blog’s stat page, I haven’t written squat since Christmas Eve. Is that right?

*receives note*

Okay, my editor says I shouldn’t openly admit how long it’s been since I last wrote, and…

*receives another note*

Okay, I’m also not supposed to mention how my editor sends me notes.

*receives third note*

Oh for cripes sake, I TOLD you the chocolate is on the second shelf, toward the back. Sheesh!

Anyway, sorry for ghosting on you. Been a bit busy and all that. I’ve got a couple blog posts percolating, but nothing quite up to snuff. So instead we’ll be doing a quickie for today.

This came to me via a sister from the convent. She works with college students at a volunteer ministry and they were studying the creation story. One of them brought up the scene from the Sistine chapel. The part where God is reaching out to Adam.

You can picture it in your mind, right? I don’t need to show it to you.

Okay fine, I’ll show it to you:

creation

So the student pointed out something I was aware of, but never really thought about.

Look at how how God — he’s the one on the right — is stretching out with everything he’s got. You can see his muscles at work, he’s straining, doing all he can to reach Adam. The angels look like they’re holding on to God, afraid to let go.

And then there’s Adam. Lounging about, taking it easy, barely managing to hold his hand out.

I mean, he’s not even looking at God.

creation (5)

Did you ever notice that? I didn’t.

I don’t know what Michelangelo had in mind, but I couldn’t help thinking this is like an extremely condensed version of the entire Bible.

God — forget for the moment he’s shown as a white-haired old man (this is art, baby) — God is always reaching out to us.

creation (2)

Come on, people… just a bit farther… you can do it!… I’m right here

And we’re all, like…

creation (4)

Hmm? … Oh, yeah… um… I don’t know, God. I’m kind of swamped right now...

Isn’t that interesting? And when you think about the Biblical stories — taken as a whole, I mean — then it seems clear that…

*receives note*

Okay, my editor thinks I’m getting too religious and need to back off. But you all know I work at a convent now, right? It’s gonna be hard not letting it creep in a little.

*yet another note*

What do you mean you can’t find it? You freak out over a misplaced apostrophe, but you can’t see a box of chocolates right in front of your face?! Geez!

I better go. I’ll see you all next week. In the meantime, keep reaching…  😉