Monday, December 31, 2012

And another one ...

Someone said youth is when you are allowed to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve, middle age is when you are forced to and old age is when no one can make you.

I won't say into which category I fall, but I expect to greet the New Year at some point in the wee morning hours when I get up to go to the bathroom.

This past year has been interesting to say the least. On February 29, Piper Leigh joined the Dodd clan with a birthday that is unique to us.  In July I retired from the library and in October was hired to do some freelance editing work for the Carmelite publications office. We had the mob for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas, which meant we got to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners at neighbors' houses, making our own holidays bright and easy. We survived the summer drought and a December blizzard. The cats are still demanding snacks every time they wake up from a catnap. A former apartment-mate from Michigan State contacted me and it has been good renewing that friendship. I weaned myself off of Facebook again. I have a couple of writing projects underway, and every month brings in a little bit of royalty money. My books are available on Kindle and Nook now, and selling reasonably well on Kindle at least. The royalty money helps because my Social Security does not even cover the cost of my health insurance, much less any actual health care. But no need to talk about things like that, right?

There is not much news today and tomorrow will probably be calm, too. The weather will be dry but cold, with lows below zero at times this week. And the University of Wisconsin Badgers will be playing football somewhere ... California, is it? They expect clear weather and a high of 59 for the game. Poor them!

I hope you and yours enter into the new year with hope and that in every way things are getting better for you all. Certainly 2012 brought surprises and 2013 will, too. "Big wheel keep on turnin'," as the song goes, whether you want it to or not.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolution: A better New Year for others

 In the wake of our nation’s grief over the Sandy Hook massacre, NBC’s Ann Curry has urged Americans to undertake one act of kindness for each of the 26 innocent lives that were lost.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Be kind

One of the finest men I have ever known was Fr. Gerard Taylor, a member of my Discalced Carmelite Province. When he died, a priest friend who was with him turned to one of the friars who was also there and said, "Who would have thought that so great a heart could ever stop beating?"

Gerard used to say, "Always be kind. And if you can't always be kind, be kind now. And if you can't be kind now, just be kind anyway."

As one year draws to a close and another is about to begin, this is the thought I want to share. Seems I am in good company.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quick thought and weather report

I am taking a break from my editing work -- which is going well -- to report on our weather and to share a quote.

First, the quote, for which I have no attribution:

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be  yours” 

Second, the weather: We woke to over 7 inches of snow this morning. Now at 11:30 a.m., it is 9.5 inches.

Snow is expected to continue through the day and turn into a blizzard (not just a big snowstorm) around noon. Total accumulation may be 18 inches by the time it is over tomorrow morning.

Stay calm (and warm) and carry on.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I think we (I) must learn the lesson of Job. We (I) must avoid the pious temptation to be like his so-called comforters.

This may take some time.

I have a major project to do for the Carmelites, and I will not be posting here for some time.

Enjoy the break!

Thought for the day

Pride without gratitude is arrogance.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holy Innocents

Matthew 2: 18:  "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

God help the families and the children of Newtown, Connecticut. 

Because my mind works this way while it is waking up in the morning ...

Back in the day, one of my favorite television programs was Zorro, in which Guy Williams played Don Diego de la Vega, who disguised himself all in black to fight corruption in Spanish California. The character was based on a creation by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919, and has appeared in numerous films and television shows. The name our hero gave himself, Zorro, means fox in Spanish, which makes for a good name and also allows the distinctive Z that Zorro slashes into those he has bested.

But this morning for some reason, I was thinking that one word for skunk in Spanish is zorrillo, which could also be interpreted as little fox.

Does that mean when Don Diego was just a boy, he was Zorrillo, the skunk, and that he did not slash a Z into their shirts but splashed them with a really cheap cologne?

Like I said, that's just the way my mind works in the morning.

Just fly

If you wish to travel far and fast,
travel light.
Take off all your envies,
and fears.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The New Normal

No, not the television show. (About which ... meh!)

This year we will not have "the family" here over Christmas, but I have been reflecting on what the holidays mean. Our family in some ways reflects the new normal in terms of which holidays are celebrated.

We have some family members who celebrate what most Americans think of as a regular Christmas on December 25.

We have at least one who celebrates the Orthodox Christmas, which takes place on January 6.

We have those who celebrate Hanukkah.

I have family members who belong to Christian churches that intentionally do not celebrate Christmas Day as a religious holiday at all. That is the way I grew up, celebrating the secular holiday but not the religious one.
I remember once remarking to a friend that it struck me as odd that we went to church three times a week, but we did not go at all on Christmas. He looked at me suspiciously: "What are you, Catholic?"
And of course we have family members who do not belong to any religious tradition and don't celebrate anything as a religious holiday.
Sundance and Cassidy, I suspect, keep their own ancient Egyptian belief that cats are divine beings and expect us to celebrate the two of them with snacks and other offerings every day, not just once a year. 
We all manage to sit down and enjoy Whatever, by the way, when we do all get together. (We haven't had to resort to calling it Christmukkah or Festivus, yet.) We try to do this as seamlessly as we put together menus that can accommodate those who need to go gluten-free, those who cannot eat shrimp, those who keep kosher, those who might be vegetarian or whose fast days happen to forbid even fish on certain days. That's what you do. You don't get all agitated or try to force me and John to eat shrimp, no matter what it may do to us. You work to make everyone comfortable at the table. It doesn't always work out without struggle or tensions, but that is part of the new normal, too.

The strange mix of divorce, remarried, partnered, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian as well as Orthodox Jew, atheist, agnostic and haughty feline seems to represent the American reality in 2012.

I look forward to the day when, as a nation, we can all sit down at table together and celebrate it all. Hasten the day!

And, oh, yeah. I have been told that Normal is just a setting on the dryer anyway.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Photo change

A friend told me that the blog photo of me in the straw hat made him think I was a farmer wanting to sell him organic veggies or something. So I am posting a new one, taken a couple of years ago.

Pardon the smirk. I have a very English gap between my two front teeth -- "All I want for Christmas ..." -- and have never learned how to smile naturally. I either look preternaturally (look it up!) solemn or snarky. This one is a mix of the two, I guess.

This is more or less what I look like now, except my hair, what there is of it, is longer. (Santa, if you're listening, besides the two front teeth, I would be happy to get my hair back ...)

Tom's Hanukkah movie

It's not that there aren't any Hanukkah movies out there during the holiday movie season, but just for fun, you might run through your listings and see how many you can find. even has a joke list of the top 10 Hanukkah movies -- and it's blank. A couple of movies are mentioned there, however,including Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights, Rugrats Chanukah and The Best Christmukkah Ever. I have seen the Rugrats one, natch, but I am not an Adam Sadler fan and have no idea about the Christmukkah one, except that it is an episode of the 2003-2007 television series The O.C.

A few years ago, we ran across this Disney Channel made-for-tv movie, about a basketball team at a Philadelphia Jewish school, who get help from a professional player who is in a personal  slump. Tom looks for it every year now. (I think it is not so much that he likes the movie, he just likes the fact that there is at least one!)  In case you want to watch it, I want add any spoilers, but it does bring in the Hanukkah miracle of lights for a truly Dinsey-esque ending.

Friday, December 7, 2012

So I'm a little OCD about being late...

Wednesday, December 5, I got out an old shoe, put paper cups in it, filled the cups with individually-wrapped Godiva chocolates, made a tag wishing the library staff and volunteers a Happy St. Nicholas Day, stuck the tag onto the shoe took it over to drop it off ... and then realized St. Nick's Day is December 6, Thursday. Wednesday is my day to volunteer, so I took it anyway.

So in keeping with the tradition of being a wee bit early -- which I inherited from my father -- here is my Hanukkah greeting for friends and family who are getting ready for the Festival of Lights:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"It's easier to be critical than to be correct."
- Benjamin Disraeli

Another sad story

Bullying Led To Gay Michigan Teen's Suicide, Say Parents

Josh Pacheco, a 17-year-old junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., took his own life on November 26, after he was relentlessly bullied for being gay, according to his parents.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

December 05 2012 1:42 PM ET

Josh Pacheco was a junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., where he loved theater, his Advanced Placement history class, and his friends and family, his mother Lynette Capehart told Michigan Live. But the "sensitive" teen was also the target of relentless antigay bullying, which his parents believe led the 17-year-old to commit suicide on November 27.
Pacheco came out as gay to his mother just two months before he died, Capehart told MLive. Capehart and her husband, Pacheco's stepfather, didn't know the extent to which their son was bullied, being shoved into lockers and harassed both in and outside of school. Their first indication was when Pacheco returned from a homecoming dance on October 6 in tears, but wouldn't elaborate on why he was upset.
"He was having problems with bullying," Capehart said. "He didn't really want to tell us very much. It was very disheartening to me."
MLive reports that Pacheco questioned his life and his future in conversations to his siblings, which prompted his mother to make him an appointment with a counselor. But Pacheco never made it to the counseling appointment, posting on Facebook near lunchtime on November 26, a quote from J.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."
When a neighbor checked in on Pacheco at his stepfather's urging, the neighbor found the teenager unresponsive in his truck, which had been running inside a closed garage. Pacheco left a note in the truck which said, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."
Capehart says that since her son's death, students and teachers have approached her, telling her they knew that Pacheco was being bullied. She told MLive she was upset that school officials never notified the family about the problems. 
"We weren't aware of any specifics," Superintendent Ed Koledo told MLive. "There's been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into. We are trying to put new programs into place, so [students] feel more comfortable [talking to administrators.]"
In response to Pacheco's death, school officials accelerated plans for an antibullying hotline called the Eagle Hotline, available at 810-373-2131.
Young LGBT people struggling with depression, isolation, or suicidal thoughts can call the Trevor Lifeline and speak confidentially with a trained counselor 24 hours a day at 866-488-7386.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Well, I completed the National Novel Writing Month program, although I have not completed my project. I hit the goal of 50,000 words on November 20 and had 70,253 on November 30. I have continued writing and when I quit writing earlier this morning (December 1) I had 72,360 words. In pages formatted like my three published books, that is 342 pages. 

I have been using this process to write my memoirs, so I consider it cheating because it is not totally fiction. On the other hand, memoirs tend not to be totally non-fiction, so it is a gray area at best. 

In the story-thus-far, I am 24 years old. If I were to keep going at this rate, the final product would run about a thousand pages. No one needs to read that many pages of my life. It would take too much time away from their own life!

Of course, this is an unedited draft. Also I have no intention of publishing this. I have shared parts of it with a couple of interested friends, but this is not something designed for general circulation. Mark Twain points out that no one can be totally honest, no matter how hard they try, with their own life story. I agree with that, but I have tried to be as honest as I could.

Anyway, I am just reporting in that I accomplished this short term goal. I have learned a lot about just-keep-writing, which is the most important point of this activity. Now I have to turn that to the things I do want to publish.

On another note, I heard this week from the editor for the Carmelites. She had two good bits of news. First, the timelines I worked on were fine and I can expect payment for those soon. Second, she asked me to do a first-read-light-edit of a manuscript she had just received. This is a translation of an autobiographical text by Jerome Gracian, who is a character in my mystery novel and the author of the Treatise on Melancholy that makes up the bulk of one of my other publications.  

(Tom designed that cover, using an old drawing of Gratian. BTW, his name is spelled Gracian in Spanish and both Gracian and Gratian in English. The translator, editor and I all agree to use the Spanish spelling in this new work and in all future volumes from ICS Publications.)
I hope to receive that in the mail next week, and that should keep me busy for a while. I am not sure how long the manuscript will be, but the published Spanish edition runs to almost 400 pages. Yipes!