Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Words and the bloggers who love them

I failed to mention one of my favorite things about Spo-Reflections in my recommendation the other day: his fascination with and willing use of unusual words. In his honor, I offer the following list I found on Listverse:

1. Erinaceous: Like a hedgehog

2. Lamprophony: Loudness and clarity of voice

3. Depone: To testify under oath

4. Finnimbrun: A trinket or knick-knack

5. floccinaucinihilipilification: Estimation that something is valueless

6. Inaniloquent: Pertaining to idle talk

7. Limerance: An attempt at a scientific study into the nature of romantic love

8. Mesonoxian: Pertaining to midnight

9. Mungo: A dumpster diver – one who extracts valuable things from trash

10. Nihilarian: A person who deals with things lacking importance

11. Nudiustertian: The day before yesterday

12. Phenakism: Deception or trickery

13. Pronk: A weak or foolish person

14. Pulveratricious: Covered with dust

15. Rastaquouere: A social climber

16. Scopperloit: Rude or rough play

17. Selcouth: Unfamiliar, rare, strange, marvelous, wonderful

18. Tyrotoxism: To be poisoned by cheese

19. Widdiful: Someone who deserves to be hanged

20. Zabernism: The abuse of military power or authority 


Thanks for dropping by, folks!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


When I was in fifth grade, we had to write a story. I wrote a two- or three-page rip-off of The Lost World, having seen the movie not long before. That was the beginning, I guess.

I don't recall writing anything other than school-related essays after that until my senior year in high school. At that point, I began to write poetry. Pretty bad poetry, of course, but at least it didn't rhyme. I had a sense of the rhythm of language but not much sense of how to make the lyrics match the beat. I wound up being interviewed for an article about my poetry in the school newspaper, and two or three poems were included. The only thing I remember about the article was that it started out with, "If you see Mike Dodd and he's not smiling, then that's not Mike Dodd." It struck me as funny at the time because I was in a pretty depressive period. Hence the poetry, right?

I got a couple of things published in a national college poetry review when I was at Michigan State, but I did not put much energy into writing. Well, except into letters. I kept up a voluminous correspondence for a few years in there with friends back in Texas. My roommates hated me my freshman year because I received at least one letter every single day, and sometimes as many as seven or eight.

After entering the monastery, I wrote articles for the magazines that the Carmelites published, and over the years got involved in other ways with their publications, writing, translating and doing some light editorial work. I had things published in the States, in Europe and in Africa, twenty or so articles and book reviews. I edited a quarterly province-wide newsletter and a monthly vocation newsletter. When I was prior at Holy Hill, for three years I contributed an article to the monthly news bulletin.

A guy I knew from my doctoral studies at the Catholic University of America asked me to contribute an article to The New Catholic Encyclopedia of Spirituality, a work he was editing. He was happy enough with what I sent him to ask me to write five more when other solicited contributors failed to meet their deadlines.

I finally published my first novel after leaving the Carmelites, although I  had begun writing it while still a friar. The Dark Night Murders: A Fray John of the Cross Mystery appeared in 2009, followed a few months later by two short works of nonfiction -- Elijah and the Ravens of Carith and Jerome Gratian: A Treatise on Melancholy. The WhoVille books, Wicca in WhoVille and Wickedness in WhoVille came out last year. A third one in the series, Wacky in WhoVille, is in process.

I began keeping a blog in 2004, I think, or soon thereafter. The first one was called Damien's Spot, in honor of St. Damien the Leper, and it dealt with whatever struck me at the time. It was more issue-oriented, dealing especially with topics of religion, gay rights and progressive politics. After a couple of years when I had run out of things to say, or lost interest in some of those topics, I dropped that blog. For a couple of years I kept one called Sleeps with Dragons, and then dropped it, too, deciding to move away from controversy. I started In Dodd We Trust mainly as a way of communicating with my family in Texas about my life in Wisconsin. 

I like blogging, as Michael/Ur-Spo said about himself, because it is one way to scratch the itch of wanting to be a writer.

Cooking tips

My friend Lee, whom I have mentioned in the past, was at Michigan State when I was there. Although I believe we never took a class together, we moved in overlapping circles and, if memory serves, were confirmed in the Catholic Church at the same celebration. He was also one of the guys with whom I shared an apartment the summer between my graduation and my entry into the monastery. 

Lee tracked me down -- or stumbled across me, I am not sure which -- by way of the blog and has been a faithful reader ever since. He is one who does not post comments, however, but we engage in frequent emails. In the charming, though no doubt naive, belief that future generations may wish to know the subject and content of our correspondence, he even makes copies of all this and at the end of the year sends me a DVD containing the past twelvemonth's exchange. 

At any rate, after reading my post about the beefs this morning, he sent me this message that I thought worth passing along to you:

Here is a tip that my friend Shirley passed on to me several years ago and I've followed it faithfully ever since.  Instead of spraying your slow-cooker with Pam (or whatever) to make for easy cleaning, put the removable bowl part of the slow-cooker into a turkey-sized oven bag and then put the ingredients into the now-protected bowl.  The bag is designed not to catch fire or burn.  Once you're through cooking and have dumped the contents out into a serving dish you simply pull off the cooking bag and have a completely clean crock-pot.  It works wonderfully and I've been doing it now for several years.
Life just gets easier and easier, don't it?

Images for my NaNoWriMo people

Click on any image to enlarge.

Cold comfort [UPDATED!]

It was not exactly cold when I got up this morning. It was, however, raining and about 55 [12.77 C] and only expected to go up to 64 [17.77 C] by mid-afternoon. Tonight it will dip down to almost 40 [4.4 C], which is just a little below average for this time of year where we live.

Still, I had volunteered to cook and the weather called for comfort food. So I decided to make Frito Pie: easy peasy, tasty and comforting as all get out -- as long as one ignores the sodium content. If you are not familiar with this culinary delight/abomination, I posted about it and gave the recipe here. It is, of course, one of those recipes that exists in many iterations and you can do whatever you want with it.

Speaking of recipes, I had a request for the one I mentioned recently that included stew meat and whole cranberry sauce.  I got the bare bones of that recipe many years ago from a Jesuit who was part of the retreat team for a thirty-day retreat I was overseeing in Ohio. His was very simple and I call it Jesuit Beef.


1 pound beef stew meat in one inch cubes
1 can whole cranberry sauce

Place meat in slow cooker. (Spray inside of cooker with Pam or something like that to facilitate cleanup.)
Dump can of cranberry sauce on top and break up.
Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. Or on high for four hours.

That is okay, but I thought it needed a bit of perking up. So this is my version.


1 pound beef stew meat in one inch cubes
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/4 - 1/2 cup red salad dressing (e.g., French, Western, etc.) 
Splash of cooking sherry or marsala
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Cooked rice

Place meat in slow cooker. (Spray inside of cooker with Pam or something like that to facilitate cleanup.)
Sprinkle onion soup mix over beef.
Dump can of cranberry sauce on top and break up.
Add salad dressing and cooking wine.
Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. Or on high for four hours.
Remove meat from cooker, leaving juices inside. Turn cooker to high if necessary.
Stir cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water until dissolved. Stir mixture into juices in cooker and let simmer for five minutes to thicken.
Return meat to sauce.
Serve over rice.

UPDATE:  I usually use a pound and a half of meat but leave the spices the same. The one pound serves four in theory, but if you think you will want more, it is easy to throw in more meat.

This morning I found a recipe similar to my version online, called Slow Cooker Cranberry Roast, pictured above. It calls for chuck roast instead of stew meat. If you want to see that, click here.


Happy feastday to Michaels, Gabriels and Raphaels and any variation on the theme

September 29 is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. These are the three named in the Catholic and Orthodox versions of the Bible. Michael and  Gabriel are well-known to Portestants as well, but Raphael appears only in one of the deuterocanonical books (Tobit) and may not be as familiar.

In the Kabbalah, in the Book of Enoch which is canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and in the writings of various Church fathers, there are other named archangels. Anglicans celebrate today as a feast of All Angels, thus covering the bases without having an endless litany of difficult names to pronounce.

How wise some liturgical traditions are!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Winning, losing, winners and losers

A friend mentioned last night that he had been to see a performance of Eric Simonson's Broadway play "Lombardi" at a local Dells theater. This led to a discussion about Lombardi's trademark quote: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

People had various takes on it, some as amateur athletes, others as a questionable life principle when applied outside the context of professional sports. But one of the guys, reflecting on a long career playing softball as an adult, mentioned that he had learned to think of winning and losing in terms of games, not in terms of who he is. 

"We lost this game. They played better than we did today. We won this game. We played well today. I played well today. I did not play well today."

But never, "I'm a winner! I'm a loser! They are all losers!"

This touches on my Am I the only one? question.

I think if I could see people's behaviors as good or bad or better or worse but somehow not make the jump to seeing the people as good or bad or better or worse, that would be progress toward universal compassion for me.

My early morning routine includes reciting a reflection recommended by the Dalai Lama. This is part of that reflection, an intention for the coming day: 
I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.
This does not have to mean I am blind to the things that are wrong in the world or the things that we do to make things wrong. But it does mean I can learn to distinguish between actors and act, even when the actor is me. 

BTW, I tried holding this attitude in mind when dealing with a difficult issue today and it worked well. Not only was I polite to the person handling the problem, but I did not even feel angry at her. I was not repressing or suppressing emotions. I am not happy about the problem, but I was not unhappy with her. She was actually pleasant and helpful, although I am reasonably sure she can do little to produce the solution I want.

But I did not make her day worse by being rude. And that means I did not contribute to her feeling bad and passing her pain along to the next person she talked to on the phone.

Baby steps, Michael. Baby steps.


Kato -- after posting a quite thoughtful response to my question Am I the only one? -- asked if using the Anonymous profile is the only way to leave a comment if one does not have a blog of one's own. I am not sure. I understand that you can post comments if you have a Google or gmail account, even if you do not have a blog, and your comment links to that. (Not sure if that is correct.) People may not want to put such information out there for general consumption, and I understand that. 

I do appreciate it, though, when someone opts for Anonymous and then signs a name so that I have some idea who it is.

Some people create a blog on Blogger but never post anything on a blog. They use it only so that they can post comments on other blogs. So there are workarounds.

BTW, I screen comments, which means I read them before approving them to show up on the blog. Anyone who wants to reach me directly to initiate an email conversation can do so by posting a comment and noting that it is not for publication. You can give me an email address and I will get back to you. And then everything will be as private as anything on email can be, I suppose. 

PS -- Yesterday I had quite a few more pageviews than normal. I am not sure how many of those to attribute to Ur-Spo, but here's to him!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


 Lately when I go to the gym early in the morning, there has been a lot of fog. Even though I spend almost two hours there, the fog is sometimes worse on my return trip. I am surprised at how many people drive in such fog without any headlights on. I realize that the lights may not illuminate much of the path for you, and having your bright lights on can make it worse. But even having on your parking lights helps other drivers see where you are.

This morning on the way back I saw a large rafter of turkeys right beside the road. (As far as I can tell from my research, that is the correct term. Whatever. Such names for groups are fluid.) A bit further down the road, I hit a patch of particularly dense fog. I was glad the turkeys were not there. Then I saw coming out of that heavy fog about two car-lengths ahead of me (fortunately on their side of the road) a smart car with no lights on.

Smart car? Not smart driver.

Maybe that was the real turkey.

Kind words

One of the blogs I read regularly is Spo-Reflections, written by another Michael but under the pen name Ur-Spo. A psychiatrist who lives in Arizona, he says this of himself:
I am 53 years old; I am well over four feet.
I started blogging in February, 2006. I use the pen name “Ur-Spo”, as “Ur” suggests something ancient and primordial while “Spo” is a funny sounding word I remember from youth. Saying it always made me smile.”Ur-Spo” sounds like the start of a joke, or something archetypal and comic. It is a rather lofty pen name , for someone who just wants to write dribble.
My real name is Michael.
I have a long time companion, who , in my blog, I refer to as “Someone”. This is a reference/homage to one of my favorite authors, the late Alice Thomas Ellis, who referred to her spouse as Someone in her “Home life” series.
I write about my daily doings and what is on my mind. My blog is my way of scratching an itch to be a writer. 
Today he mentioned several blogs that he suggested his readers visit, and he included In Dodd We Trust among them, to my delight. Here are his kind words:
In Dodd we trust – I almost did not put Michael’s blog on this list for I suspect he has lots of readers but apparently they don’t comment. His thoughtful contemplations bring me serentiy and smiles and a few chuckles to boot.
If you are not already familiar with Spo-Reflections, be sure to pay Michael a visit and also check out the other blogs he recommends.

I am trying to convince Michael to draft a novel in November. If you read his posts, you will see why I believe he has the talent to do it. 

The world as you know it ...

will end tonight.

At least according to the Blood Moon Prophets, John Hagee and Mark Biltz. This is because of an ongoing tetrad (a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses—coinciding on Jewish holidays—with six full moons in between, and no intervening partial lunar eclipses) which began with the April 2014 lunar eclipse is a sign of the end times as described in the Bible in Acts 2:20 -- [The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord] and Revelation 6:12 [I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red.]. The tetrad ends with the September 27/28, 2015 lunar eclipse. 
It will be total around 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, but start watching about 8:10. You will need an unobstructed view to the east.
 Of course, there have been 62 tetrads since the first century AD, eight of which have coincided with both the feasts. Thus, the event is not as unusual as Hagee and Biltz imply. Additionally, three of the four eclipses in the tetrad will not even be visible in the biblical homeland of Israel, casting further doubt on Hagee and Biltz's interpretation.

So don't put off paying your bills or feeding your cats on the assumption that this will be unnecessary tomorrow morning.

At any rate, the world as you know it will end tonight. The world as you knew it yesterday ended. Some of the people alive yesterday have died -- lots of them. Some people unborn have been born. Leaves have fallen, you have aged, a bit more of the Antarctic ice has melted. It is a new world each day. 

So enjoy it!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Am I the only one?

Does it bother you more to discover that someone you thought was admirable had done something pretty bad, or to discover that someone you thought was despicable had done something really great?

It concerns me that I tend to be more upset to discover that someone I thought bad has done good than the other way around.

Why do you suppose that is?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Just sayin'

Plan plans, not outcomes

This weekend is the ginormous Cranberry Festival in Warren, Wisconsin. It is promoted as the World's Largest Festival. 
One site says largest cranberry festival; another says largest festival. Whatever. It's big. 
We have never gone but recently thought we might give it a shot. I printed out a map and instructions on where to catch a shuttle bus so that we would not have to fight the crazy traffic near the actual site. Tom got information loaded into the GPS. And we went to bed, assuming Warrens would be our destination, after I returned from my stint at the library.

This morning we both woke up thinking that maybe this was going to be more trouble than necessary. Probably the big attraction of the Festival for us, besides the opportunity to eat a gazillion things made with cranberries, is a huge arts and crafts fair with 850 booths. And as much as we enjoy those, we realize that because of our planned move to Madison, we are not buying anything that we will have to pack or just donate to St. Vinnie's in a few months. And the thought of driving an hour to Tomah, waiting to catch a shuttle bus that runs every twenty minutes (not bad in itself) and then riding a bus to the festival, then plowing through the mobs  to look at things in booths we probably won't be able to get near because 120,000 people are expected  ... well, you get the idea. 

So change of plans: I will go to the library and do my volunteer schtick without feeling rushed to get home. Tom will go to the little railroad and do whatever to help get things in shape for the annual membership meeting this weekend. As for the Cranberry Festival, we will be satisfied with the fact that for dinner last night I made a slow cooker full of a sort of beef stew cooked with whole cranberry sauce, onion soup mix, a splash of Western salad dressing and a bit of Marsala wine.

And today suddenly got more relaxed. Or I did, anyway.

Mulligans, Part 2

Mitchell's comment on the Mulligans post reminded me of this story:

One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.

Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, "What a shame.  Now your only horse is gone.  How unfortunate you are!. You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?" The farmer replied: "Who knows? We shall see".

Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral. 

Word got out in the village of the old farmer's good fortune and it wasn't long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck.  "How fortunate you are!" they exclaimed. You must be very happy!"  Again, the farmer softly said, "Who knows? We shall see."

At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer's only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer's son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg.  One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer's latest misfortune.  "Oh, what a tragedy!  Your son won't be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You'll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad".  they said.  Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, "Who knows? We shall see"

Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor's men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor's army.  As it happened the farmer's son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg.  "What very good fortune you have!!" the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. "You must be very happy." "Who knows? We shall see!", replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.

As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. "Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you"!  But the old farmer simply replied; "Who knows? We shall see."

As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: "Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy", to which the old farmer replied, "Who knows? We shall see!"

Thursday, September 24, 2015


"In golf, a mulligan, most simply put, is a "do-over." Hit a bad shot? Take a mulligan and replay that stroke.

A mulligan is never "legal" under the Rules of Golf. Mulligans are most often employed during friendly rounds by golf buddies; or during charity or playday tournaments where mulligans are sometimes sold. If mulligans are for sale, that means the golfer can buy, say, three mulligans for a set price each. The sale of mulligans is sometimes used as an additional fund-raiser at charitable events."
~ Source: What is a mulligan in golf? 

Another blogger asked recently, "If you were granted one 'do over' in your life, what would it be?" 

My response was, 
My first reaction is, "Only one?"

I suppose if I had one do-over, it would be to become the sort of person who goes with his gut and not with his fears. Had I done this at many points along the way, my life would have been different. Not necessarily better, perhaps much worse. My life has been, all in all, pretty good. But it would have been nice to have experienced it with less fear and fewer missed opportunities. 
Not surprisingly, given the nature of that blog, many/most of those who commented said they would have come out sooner. 

I also noted that people tended to wish they had done something they did not do (whether that was coming out of the closet or not) rather than undo something they had done. Of course, in many cases, that meant making a different choice, so that one would do one thing and undo another at the same time. 

As I looked back over my life, it was hard to pick one thing to do differently, because the turn taken at each potential fork in the road would have led to other forks later on. What if I had chosen to go to the University of Texas instead of Michigan State? Odds are I would not have become Catholic, and then not gone into the monastery and on to the priesthood. Or what if I had not changed my major from Spanish and continued on an academic path? Again, not likely to have wound up a friar but would be a retired professor in some small college town in the Midwest. Or later, what if I had chosen to drop all my ministries for two years in order to complete my doctoral dissertation? Had I done that, the odds are that I would now be in Nairobi where my friend Steve wound up, serving as head of a college and wearing myself out trying to guide the transition to university status. 

What if I had chosen to leave the monastery prior to solemn profession at the age of 28 and been open to a relationship at that time? What if I had never taken that first drink? What if I had ...

Too many what if's, but today I have been gently pondering the real decision points and the ones that could have been. In writing something about this to Lee yesterday, I sent this quote from Abraham Lincoln:
I don't really have any regrets because if I choose not to do something there is usually a very good reason. Once I've made the decision I don't view it as a missed opportunity, just a different path.
I am totally not that mature.



Randy's situation has made me think more about praying, naturally. It calls to mind something I was told more than a dozen years ago when a very dear friend was facing a prison term. I was still in the monastery, and as the time approached, I found myself uncertain about how to pray for him. I was not sure what I wanted to ask God to do. 

I mentioned it to someone who told me that he had faced a similar situation with a relative. He had decided to pray the Serenity Prayer for that person:
God grant him the serenity to accept the things he cannot change, the courage to change the things he can and the wisdom to know the difference.
It was great advice for me: to take a prayer that we usually pray for ourselves and apply it to someone else. I have found that approach very helpful in the intervening years. It does not feel like I am trying to tell God what to do and how to do it. But I am asking for what the person probably needs most -- not my all-too-feeble idea of a solution, but the serenity, courage and wisdom to live every day, no matter what the circumstances.

Randy update

I am sad to report that the doctors discovered that Randy's cancer has spread to his liver and that there is nothing they can do to help him at this time. This was not what we were hoping would happen, but given a long history of diabetes and other problems, it was not a total surprise. Thank you for keeping him in your thoughts. Please turn those thoughts and prayers to strength and courage for Carol and Randy as they face what lies ahead.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday wanderings

1) A nun friend from New York, in an email assuring me of prayers for Randy, mentioned that several of the community will be attending Vespers (an evening prayer service) with Pope Francis at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York tomorrow. I told her that for the first time that I can recall since the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, non-Catholic as well as Catholic friends remark on how much they like this pope. I know lots of people adored JPII, but sadly that faded a bit as his pontificate wore on. He may be venerated officially as a saint by the church, but even so ... My Protestant grandmother kept a picture of John Paul I on her dining room wall, a magazine cover she had cut out and framed. "I like his smile," she told me. It shone on the world all too briefly.

2) A friend complains that his wife complains all the time. (This is a fact, as far as I can tell.) I said that seems to be human nature. Whenever he complains about her now, I joke, "There's a lot of human nature around, isn't there?" He smiles, but I wonder what he thinks. At any rate, he is complaining about her complaining and I, in my way, am complaining about his complaining about her complaining. I guess there is enough human nature to go around for us all.

3) We have set dates for the October NaNoWriMo prep sessions at the library, and I am in the process of calling those who signed up to let them know about that. I got an email today from the NaNoWriMo Madison municipal liaison offering assistance. And another email from the "Come Write In" part of the program. So things continue to roll along on that front. Remember, dear readers: The World Needs Your Novel!

4)Today is the first day of Autumn, Mabon for Wiccans, in the northern hemisphere. Our friends in the southern hemisphere are entering Spring, and Wiccans are celebrating Ostara. It is also the date that some folks think will be the End of the World. What can I say? "Been there, survived that." There was an old Peanuts cartoon in which Linus explains that the world cannot end today because somewhere it is already tomorrow. Makes as much sense as most theories.