Thursday, October 31, 2013

And a cool spooky Halloween to you!

Tom and I have lived here since 2006, but it being a country road and all, we have never had anyone come by for trick-or-treats. We always have candy on hand, but no takers. Fortunately no trickers, either.

Until this year.

Our neighbors down the road finally have a child old enough to go out panhandling for sugar, so tonight a little ninja appeared at the door with the traditional cry: Trick or treat! His mother hovered and shivered in the background.

We let him help himself to the mini-Snickers -- and he even took one of the sugar-free candies, unknowingly I suspect -- and thanked him for being the first Halloween visitor we had ever had. His little sister, apparently, had become cranky being lugged around and then having to sit in the car while her big brother got to go ring doorbells. So she had been dropped off at home before he came to see us.

Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, stay cool, spooks!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Political ads

Political ads are constantly showing up on my e-mail and tablet and so on. Many of them remind me of this saying:

It isn't difficult to make a mountain out of a molehill
- just add a little dirt.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Colors of the wind

Last night we went to the Dells High school fall choir concert at St. Cecilia's Catholic Church. A friend of ours is the director, and we went to support him as much as anything. The choirs -- there were three groups -- did a fine job. One of the songs they sang was "Colors of the Wind" from the Disney animated feature, Pocahontas. It struck me as particularly poignant last night because of the number of Native American students in the choir.

You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Christmas ideas?

Bvlgari Man Extreme Eau de Toilette

  • Charismatic fragrance with citrusy Mediterranean freshness and sophisticated woodiness
  • Top notes of pink grapefruit, Calabrian bergamot, and cactus zest
  • Heart notes of white freesia, Guatemalan cardamom, and amber
  • Base notes of Haitian vetiver, Laoese benzoin, and balsa wood
  • Launched in 2013
  • 3.4 fl. oz. spray bottle
  • $79.00 


The emailed ad I received -- clearly from someone who knows me not -- described it as "tailed by balsa wood."  Tailed?

And where exactly does one get cactus zest? Does one use a lemon zester? And how does one avoid getting spines in the zest, not to mention in one's fingers? Should they have mentioned the possibility of coppery notes of fresh blood in those top notes?

But, honestly, what more could one want for $79.00?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Liberty and Prosperity

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the Union, although it is only 11th in total population. It is 37% Catholic and has the second largest Jewish population (after New York) and the second largest Muslim population (after Michigan.) The entire state lies mostly within the metropolitan areas of New York City and Philadelphia. State motto (on the flag): Liberty and Prosperity, exemplified by the ladies on the state seal.

Lest we take ourselves too seriously

All men are equal before fish.
~ Herbert Hoover

And don't get me started on what cats think of us!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

And because good people still do the right thing ...

A New Hampshire waitress who picked up the lunch tab of two National Guard soldiers affected by the federal government's shutdown has been repaid – more than 300 times over – by television star Ellen DeGeneres.

Sarah Hoidahl, a waitress in Concord, N.H., just wanted to do a nice thing for the soldiers, so she paid for their lunch. It cost her $27.75. On Friday, DeGeneres squared the tab and then some, giving Hoidahl $27.75 in cash and a check for $10,000.

An emotional Hoidahl buried her face in her hands and thanked DeGeneres as the talk show host repeated, "You're a good person."

Click on the arrow in the center of the picture to see the five-minute clip.

Be kind to one another.

Wayward boys and cats

Sunny recently posted a photo of a couple of young kids sitting atop a fence, smoking cigarettes. She was surprised at how young they looked. It reminded me of this photo I found online some years back. I used it to make a sign for our guestroom: Tom and Michael's Home for Wayward Boys and Cats.

I adapted the name from an article I once read about a Mormon woman in Salt Lake City who ran a boarding house for single men and who -- apparently -- had lots of cats. They called it "Leila T. Ethington's Home for Wayward Boys and Cats." For more information on that, click on this link.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tree fell in forest; no one heard

Apparently actor Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing on Friends) broke up a year-and-a-half ago with an actress he had been secretly dating for six years. The news people didn't know they were dating for six years and did not know for eighteen months that they were no longer dating.

So why is this in the news today?

I don't know.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Because we need to be reminded that good people still do the right thing.

Cameron Lyle, a Division I college athlete in New Hampshire, has decided to shorten his athletic career for a chance to save a life. 

The University of New Hampshire senior will donate bone marrow Wednesday, a decision that abruptly ends his collegiate athletic career but one that he calls a "no brainer." 

Lyle, 21, had his mouth swabbed to join a bone marrow registry two years ago in the cafeteria at school. He didn't think any more of it until a few months ago when he got a phone call that he might be a match. He took more tests and discovered a month later that he was a perfect match. 

"When they first told me, I was like, 'OK, cool. I'm definitely going to do it,'" Lyle said. "After that I kind of went to tell my coach and then I realized slowly that my season was over." 

Lyle's main events are the shot put and the hammer throw. 

"It's just a sport," he said. "Just because it's Division I college level doesn't make it any more important. Life is a lot more important than that, so it was pretty easy." 

Lyle competed in his last competition Saturday and said it was "kind of emotional." His teammates rallied around him to cheer him on. 

The person who needs his help is a young man with leukemia. Lyle was told that the man only has six months to live without the transplant. 

Lyle of Plaistow, N.H., said he had been told there was a one in five million chance for a non-family match.
"It was kind of a no-brainer for a decent human," Lyle said. "I couldn't imagine just waiting. He could have been waiting for years for a match. I'd hope that someone would donate to me if I needed it." 

After he got the call, Lyle knew he needed to speak to his mom and his coach. 

"My son and I have a pretty funny rapport together so when he tells me things, it's usually in humor," mom Chris Sciacca said. "He simply sent me a text that said, 'So I guess I have a chance to save someone's life.'"
The two sat down and talked through the decision, but Sciacca said it was ultimately a decision that "came from his heart." 

"We talked about in five or 10 years, is he going to look back and say, 'Damn, I wish I went to that track conference,' or is he going to say, 'Damn, I saved someone's life," she said. 

"I know my son very well and I know where his heart is and I knew that he would make the right decision.
"He made his decision. He gave up his college season to do this. He's a gentle giant," Sciacca said of her 6-foot-2-inch, 255-pound son. "He'll do anything for anybody." 

What Lyle was most nervous about was telling Coach Jim Boulanger, who has been his coach for four years.
Boulanger said that a nervous Lyle came into his office, shut the door and told him he wouldn't be able to throw next month at the America East Conference championship for which he had been training. 

When Boulanger asked why, Lyle told him and found that his coach was completely supportive. 

"Here's the deal," Boulanger told Lyle. "You go to the conference and take 12 throws or you could give a man three or four more years of life. I don't think there's a big question here. This is not a moral dilemma. There's only one answer." 

Boulanger said he's "very proud" of his athlete. 

"He's very approachable. He's very funny," Boulanger said. "I don't have any doubt that he's very compassionate and it was just a given that he'd do it. 

"You can't ask for any more out of a person than to help another person," he said. 

Lyle's mother is just as proud. 

"I am beyond words proud. He is my hero," Sciacca said. "When your children inspire you to be better people, you know it's come full circle and he's inspired his mom to be a better circle." 

Lyle will make the bone marrow donation soon at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. A needle will be used to withdraw liquid bone marrow from his pelvic bone. After the surgery, he will not be allowed to lift more than 20 pounds over his head, which rules out all his athletic events. 

Lyle and the man have to remain anonymous to each other for at least a year, but can then sign consent forms to release their identities if they want. 

"I really want to meet him," Lyle said, "and I hope he wants to meet me."

Feline scratch pole

Our friend John, the track master out at the little railroad, is staying with us this week while he and Tom oversee some work being done replacing ties. Yesterday the weather didn't cooperate, so they devoted some of their time and energy to converting one of the support poles down in the basement to a scratching post for the cats. Now that the basement is somewhat finished, the two-by-fours that used to serve the cats for filing their claws have disappeared behind drywall. So Tom went online and found how to wrap a support pole with rope to give the cats a new place to claw. It took 200 feet of rope to wrap the entire almost-seven-foot pole. And that's tall enough for us to rub up against and scratch our own backs.

I am not sure if the cats have tried it out yet. We may have to rub it with catnip to get them interested.

Tom was also determined to build some cat perches for them. They seem particularly upset -- whine, whine, whine -- that the remodeling has displaced a lot of places where they used to climb and survey their domain. He still may construct something needlessly elaborate, but it turns out that the cats are perfectly happy sitting on the deck chairs that Tom and John brought downstairs to get them out of the bad weather. Since the  chairs had already been serving as feline furniture on the deck, they made for familiar sitting for Sundance and Cassidy. And cats do like the familiar.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Semper paratus

Got an email today, supposedly from the U.S. Coast Guard -- motto: Always prepared, above in Latin -- saying they had a scholarship offer for students like me with tuition and a monthly stipend of several thousand dollars. You know, 63-year-old students like me.

Not really trusting that offer for some reason ...

Made me think of the late Fr. Peter Roberts, however, a friar I lived with for a number of years as a student, as a colleague and lastly as his local superior. He had always wanted to go into the Coast Guard, but he wasn't good at math and that was a major stumbling block.

His first assignment as a young Carmelite priest? Teaching math in the high school seminary.

Who says God doesn't have a wicked sense of humor?

God rest you, Pete! After all, St. Therese said that the only thing God doesn't know is math -- because God doesn't keep count of how many times we mess up, only that we keep turning back for mercy.

Because bullying in not a gay problem only

Some people -- sadly, even some who claim to represent Christians -- lobby against anti-bullying legislation, claiming it is just a gay rights agenda. They are wrong. It is a human rights issue, a children's rights issue, an issue that is long past ignoring and long overdue for attention. How many more children must we bury before we do the simple right thing?  

And imagine how much the girls (and probably boys, too) who tormented this child to death must be suffering themselves to have taken out their pain on someone so vulnerable.

2 arrests made in death of bullied Florida girl

Pallbearers wearing anti-bullying t-shirts carry the casket of Rebecca Sedwick, 12, to a waiting hearse as they exit the Whidden-McLean Funeral Home Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Bartow, Fla.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Two girls were arrested in a Florida bullying case after one of them admitted online over the weekend that she harassed a 12-year-old girl who killed herself last month, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said they arrested a 14-year-old girl because they were worried she would continue cyberbullying other girls. The girl is accused of threatening to beat up 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, telling her "to drink bleach and die" and saying she should kill herself, the sheriff said.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick, 12, was found dead at a cement plant near her home in Lakeland, Florida, after reportedly being cyberbullied.Rebecca Ann Sedwick, 12, was found dead at a cement plant near her home in Lakeland, Florida, after reportedly being cyberbullied.
After nearly a year of bullying by as many as 15 girls, authorities said Rebecca climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant Sept. 9 and hurled herself to her death.

Judd said police arrested the 14-year-old girl after she posted Saturday on Facebook that she bullied Rebecca and she didn't care.

"We decided that we can't leave her out there. Who else is she going to torment, who else is she going to harass?" Judd said.

Police also arrested a 12-year-old girl who is accused of bullying Rebecca. Both have been charged with felony aggravated stalking.

The sheriff's office identified the two girls, but The Associated Press generally does not name juveniles charged with crimes.

Judd said the bullying began after the 14-year-old girl started dating a boy that Rebecca had been seeing.

She "didn't like that and began to harass and ultimately torment Rebecca," Judd said.

A man who answered the phone at the 14-year-old's Lakeland home said he was her father and told The Associated Press "none of it's true.

"My daughter's a good girl and I'm 100 percent sure that whatever they're saying about my daughter is not true," he said.

A message left at the 12-year-old girl's home was not immediately returned.

The girls were arrested Monday night and released to their parents' custody. They remain on home detention.

The 12-year-old girl was Rebecca's former best friend, but the sheriff said the 14-year-old girl turned her against Rebecca. Other girls also stopped being friends with Rebecca in fear of being bullied, the sheriff said.
Judd said he was upset the girls still had access to social networks after Rebecca's suicide.

"If we can find any charges we can bring against their parents, we will," Judd said.

Judd said neither girl's parents wanted to bring their daughters to the sheriff's office, so detectives went to their homes and arrested them.

Judd said the 14-year-old was "very cold, had no emotion at all upon her arrest."

Friday, October 11, 2013

October 11: National Coming Out Day

I love Disney's Phineas and Ferb, especially the catch phrase, "Why yes, yes I am." Since I doubt you watch the show, the protagonists are stepbrothers who are doing something incredible to make every day of summer vacation amazing. This often involves them ordering supplies like a gazillion pounds of sand. When the delivery arrives, the driver inevitably asks, "Aren't you a little young to be buidling a beach in your back yard?" To which Phineas cheerfully responds,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Work in the basement has moved along quickly and things are nearly done. Certainly done enough that we moved most of my stuff down to the new office today. Tom also cleaned up and shifted some items in and out of storage. Here are a few photos with explanations.

This is my new office area as you face it from the center of the basement. The bookcase is in front of my desk, and that black thing on the desk is the laptop.Off to the left is a bookcase, sitting on top of which is a painting Tom did for me. It is waiting until we get a chance to hang it on the wall.  The black chair/bench back there is where I sit for my morning meditation. More on that below. I have wall decals of stylized bamboo to put in that corner after the baseboards go in. That will give a little more definition to that space and add a bit more color.

When I worked at the library, I discovered that it is good to have a work counter as well as a desk. Beneath is room for storage and the counter itself is fine for spreading things out. It also gives me a chance to stand and work a bit after sitting too long. The statue you see back in the corner represents Thoth, the Egyptian god of scribes. It was a gift from the library a couple of years back.

This is the painting. That corner of the office will be my meditation space, and I like this Rothko-esque**  square as a sort of imageless focal point.

The wall opposite my desk is an alcove of sorts where we plan to put a television (temporarily?) for guests, shelves for games and puzzles and other miscellaneous storage. Tom put the tree out because this will be where we celebrate Christmas with the family. And he wanted to get it out of the storage area back behind that alcove to make room for other things. The paintings are just leaning there until he decides where to put or hang them.
* Nigh, of course, means near. It is not used as much as it once was, seems to me, but I have always liked the sound of it. I heard it a lot as a child in east Texas and once heard it defined as "purt' near but not plumb." If you are from the south, you can probably figure out what that means.
**Mark Rothko (d. 1970) was an American painter of Latvian Jewish descent. Rothko's work matured from representation and mythological subjects into rectangular fields of color and light, that later culminated in his final works for the Rothko Chapel in Houston. That chapel is where I first encountered his paintings as a young Carmelite, and they struck me as powerfully contemplative and evocative. They remind me of John of the Cross and his teaching that we encounter God in the darkness and silence. So I asked Tom to do me a Rothko-esque painting for my meditation space, and this is it. Needless to say, photos do no justice to Tom's work, and certainly photos fail to capture the mystery of Rothko's paintings.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Spooks in the basement?

First of all, the "This blog is shut down ..." post was meant as a slam at the foolishness in DC. A couple of people sent messages wondering what was going on, so here are the lessons I learned.

1) Other people cannot read my mind.
2) I cannot read their minds, either.
3) A joke that has to be explained is (a) no longer funny and (b) probably not all that funny to begin with.

'Nuff said on that.

I just went down to the basement to look for some leather cord, and when I turned on the lights at the bottom of the stairs, this is the sight that greeted me.

Is it just me, or is that a little spooky? The weird light that seems to be emanating from the far wall is caused by reflections off the ventilation shafts on the ceiling. This part of the basement will be Tom's studio, and he has been playing around with where to put his easels. Here is a closer view of the face.

This is typical of one of Tom's styles -- monochromatic studies of male faces. Often they are based on people he knows or knew in Hyde Park. When I asked him who this was, he said it was just a face he had imagined. He also said he didn't like it and was planning to paint out the mouth. So I decided to wait and show you the before (above) and after (below). The paint on the "after" is not quite dry, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013