"Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Faith Filled Friday: Thanksgiving Blessing

It’s not quite Friday but it’s Thanksgiving Thursday night, and we have had our holiday dinner.  Our bellies are overstuffed and still there is lots of food left.  This is the moment to thank God for this wonderful life, abundant food, and love of family and friends.  God bless all that may see this.  I leave you with a blessing from Johnny Cash on his guitar.






Monday, November 24, 2014

Matthew Monday: Report Card



Matthew had his first report card last week.  He didn’t do too bad.  His penmanship is really improving, and as far as they teach Math in Kindergarten, he seems to have grasped everything they taught.  Even though it’s this new Common Core math, which neither my wife nor I completely get.  The one thing he didn’t do too well on his report card is follow directions.  Hmm, what a surprise.  Not.  He’s a stubborn little boy when he gets a thing into his head.  Well here’s a picture of Matthew doing his homework one night. 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Faith Filled Friday: Hating and Leaving Your Family

“Unless you leave your father and mother, sisters and brothers, and your very self, you are not worthy of me.”  -Luke 14:26

That is one of those Jesus’ saying that is really hard to get to the bottom.  Some translations have it as “…hate your father and mother, sisters and brothers…” Is Christ telling you to hate you parents and family?  The Catholic devotional magazine, Magnificant, which I love and think any Catholic should have, has a meditation of the day, and earlier this month they had a passage from St. Catherine of Siena—the patron saint of this blog—explaining it.  Apparently it came from one of her letters, but the passage is not identified, so I don’t know which letter.

I long to see you making your home in the cell of self-knowledge, so that you may attain perfect love, for I know we cannot please our Creator unless we love him, because he is love and wants nothing but love.  If we do not know ourselves we find this love.  Why?  Because we see our own nothingness, that our very existence is ours by grace and not because we have a right to it, and every grace beyond our existence as well—it is all given to us with boundless love.  Then we discover so much of God’s goodness poured out on us that words cannot describe it.  And once we see ourselves we so loved by God, we cannot help loving him.  And within ourselves we love God and our own rationality, and hate sensuality that would take inordinate pleasure in the world.

Some people delight in wealth or status, or would rather please creatures than the Creator.  These build their foundation in worldly appearance, pleasure, and enjoyment.  Then there are some who love their children or spouse or mother or father excessively, with too sensual a love.  Such love gets between their soul and god and keeps them from a clear knowledge of the truth of real heavenly love.  This is why gentle First Truth said, Unless you leave your father and mother, sisters and brothers, and your very self, you are not worthy of me.  God’s true servants have always been conscious of this, and quickly strip their heart, soul, and affection of the world and its pleasures and ostentation, and of loving anyone apart from God.  Not that they don’t love other people, but they love them only for God’s sake, as creatures boundlessly loved by their Creator.
           
            -St. Catherine of Siena


I am always amazed at that little lady.  For a woman with no formal education, she was quite a thinker and writer.  There is a lot there, including the concept of “the cell of self-knowledge,” by which Catherine means that one reaches the truth by going into the self and understanding that we are not and God is.  It’s a rather mystical (perhaps even Buddhist-esk notion) but from there one can then understand what Jesus is fully saying.  You have to lose your self—your will—to find Christ, and what is more integrated with the self than your family.  Ponder, then, Christ’s first Beatitude: “Blessed those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:3) What does it mean “to be poor in spirit”?


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Literature in the News: Making Time to Read

You know I don’t really care for The Huffington Post.  But I have to say they have occasionally good posts on books and reading.  Here is a post by Lauren Jensen on how to make time for reading.  She provides ten tips.  You’ll have to go over and read the details (it’s only fair) but I will list the ten and tell you which ones I already do. 

First let me say I’m not sure I would typically post this, but since frequent visitor here Victor (I call him Victor #1, since there are two Victors that frequently stop by my blog) in a comment the other day wondered where I find the time to read.  Well, first of all, I really don’t read as much as other voracious readers who love literature.  I know people who also have full time jobs who read at least a novel a week.  I’m really satisfied if I can get in one per month.  So out of these ten tips, I employ seven of them, which allows me to get a decent amount of reading in.

Here are the ten.
 
1. Read first thing in the morning and/or before bed.
2. Don't leave the house without reading material.
3. Make the most of your commute.
4. Start small.
5. Find books that are of interest to you.
6. Set goals.
7. Start or join a book club.
8. Exchange shows and movies for books.
9. Block out time in your calendar.
10. Set reminders for yourself.

The ones I don’t do are nos. 3, 7, and 10.  I car pool, and even when I don’t drive it’s too hard to concentrate on reading.  Normally I’ll just put my ipod and try to catch some sleep.  I don’t really like book clubs because I have set desires on what I read, though I did just join a Catholic Book Club on Goodreads.  We’ll see how that works out.  Finally I don’t need reminders on when to read.  If I’m not doing anything, I’ll look to read.

The ones I sort of do are Nos. 1, 4, 8, and 9.  Reading in the morning is absolutely impossible.  I am out the door for work at 5:30 AM.  But even on days I don’t work, I enjoy taking the dog out or getting up and making coffee.  I do read the news in the morning.  But I usually reserve a bit of time at night before going to bed.  I enjoy bedtime reads.  I really don’t start small, but I do mix in a fair amount of short stories in reading list.  It allows me the time to finish something within one or two sittings.  I irregularly block out times for reading, if that makes sense.  I’ll intend to read at lunchtime, unless someone asks to go out together somewhere.  Or sometimes if the weather is pleasant I will go out for a nice walk.  So my blocked off time is not strictly kept, but still it helps to know this time could be spent reading.  Finally I don’t watch much TV anymore and almost no movies.  I do watch some sports and occasional news discussion programs to my political bent.

The remaining three are the ones I absolutely advocate, Nos. 2, 5, and 6.  I never leave the house without a book I’m reading.  I have one or two in my briefcase and if I’m off to anywhere that requires a wait, such as a doctor’s office, I have a book with me.   Obviously books that interest one will make one persevere.  And finally as you can tell from my blog, set goals.  I’m a project manager in my real work.  Without goals and a plan you only accomplish a fraction of objectives.

Three other tips I can think of that help me.

1. Juggle reading more than one book at a time.  Now to some that might not be a good idea.  It’s a matter of preference.  But long books bog one down and to prevent brain drain, a change of pace helps me.

2. Use audio books.  I can’t just listen to a book being read, but many people can.  What I do is read along with the audio, and by doing that I read so much faster, get the entertainment of a talented reader, and it makes the book come alive.  I think there is power in doing that.  But I’ve heard from many that both audio while reading throws them off.  It’s probably not for everyone. 

3. Carry an electronic book reader.  My wife swears by it and I think reading a book electronically reads faster.  I don’t prefer it.  I don’t concentrate as well with an ebook.  I do sometimes use an electronic book since it’s so much cheaper and easy to carry around a whole library.


I hope that helped someone.  If you have any tips to offer, I would love to hear them.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Literature in the News: Teen Creates Book Charity

I thought this was interesting, and this young lady needs a fair amount of accolades.  From the U-T San Diego, which I assume is a San Diego newspaper:  “Teen turns passion for books into charity: Rancho Santa Fe's Sarah Lackey, 16, started the nonprofit Books for Friends, which provides free books to underprivileged children.”

You wouldn’t know it now, but when 16-year-old Sarah Lackey was in grade school, she was so painfully shy that she had no friends. Instead, she found solace and companionship in the world of books.

“When I was kind of alone, books were my escape,” she said. “Whenever I read, I went somewhere else. I didn’t have to think about my problems and books inspired me to do more with my life.”

In elementary school, Sarah would devour at least a book a day and would stay up late every night reading in bed with a flashlight. Over the years, her parents, Joseph and Stacy, were able to keep up with their daughter’s voracious habit by providing her with a steady stream of new books. But the growing stacks of novels around their Rancho Santa Fe gave Sarah an idea.

“Since books had always been an inspiration for me, I wondered about kids who couldn’t afford to buy books,” she said. “I thought that every kid should have the same opportunity to read, regardless of their situation.”

Since that day two years ago, the Cathedral Catholic High sophomore has collected and donated more than 8,000 books for local elementary schools, children in foster care, women and children in homeless shelters and for The Monarch School, which serves at-risk youth. She has also collected more than $5,000 in donations through Books for Friends, her recently incorporated nonprofit that uses 100 percent of donations on books.

Here I am at 52 years old and I wouldn’t have a clue on how to create a non-profit organization.  Her organization is actually a 501(c)(3) corporation.  And look at that, she goes to Catholic school to boot.  Here’s how she got started:

After her family moved to Rancho Santa Fe four years ago, she made a lot of friends at R. Roger Rowe middle school. While serving for two years on the school’s student council, she began organizing book drives. More than 2,500 books were donated to the foster care group Promises2Kids, and hundreds more were used to fill the shelves of the new library at The Monarch School campus, the school confirmed.

Since moving to Cathedral Catholic, Sarah has held another drive that raised 500 books and has two more planned in the spring. She has encouraged friends and family to host similar drives in Northern California and Georgia, and she has expanded donations to four area schools, including Solana Highlands Elementary in Solana Beach.

Now that is enterprising.  This young lady has got a future.  She has a website as well, Books For Friends.  

What do you do with your old books?  I hope you don’t say you throw them out.  Of the books I can depart with—and I have a problem getting rid of things, especially books—I donate mine, either to the local library or a Nursing Home.  I hope you do the same.

I see on her website that Books For Sale takes donations.  I’m going to send Sarah a small check.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cool Video: How Wolves Changed Rivers

This is a new feature for my blog, a means of presenting interesting videos I come across.  They probably won’t be very literary, but such is the nature of videos.

I’ve mentioned a number of times how I love wolves, and I even posted a photo essay a few months ago on my trip to a wolf sanctuary.  This first posted “Cool Video” shows the effects of re-introducing wolves back to Yellowstone Park.  I don’t remember what year my wife and I vacationed at Yellowstone, but it had to be shortly after 1995 when wolves started being re-introduced.  You can read about it here and here.  I remember on the trip trying to locate the one wolf pack there.  We never found it.  Wolves are extremely shy.


I came across this video on the ecological impact of  re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone.  I hope you enjoy it, and you see just how beautiful Yellowstone Park is.  The narrator keeps saying how wolves kept the deer population down, but the video shows elk not deer.  The reality is wolves probably kept both populations down, but there’s a disconnect between the narrator and the film, and it comes across as the narrator being a bit obtuse.  Still it’s an excellent and educational video.





If you’ve never been to Yellowstone national Park, I highly recommend it if you enjoy the outdoors. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Matthew Monday: First Spit Laugh, Chewing Gum, and Rosie Again

Matthew and I were having breakfast.  I made him those toaster waffles, you know the Ego Waffles, only these were Aunt Jemima’s. 



Matthew doesn’t like them crispy (no idea why, I prefer them that way) so I’ve come up with a process where instead of toasting them in a toaster I microwave them for one minute.  They are usually soft and yet warm, and instead of maple syrup Matthew prefers chocolate whip cream on top.  Matthew at five years old is a slow eater and gets distracted by the newspaper I’m reading on my side of the table, or chattering about any stray thought that comes to his mind.  So at almost every meal I have to focus him on eating or drinking, otherwise he’ll be at the table forever.

On top of that, he’s a fussy eater.  I’m like a wolf when I sit down to eat, gulping down everything in ravenous bites.  He’s like a cat, sampling everything, ordering what he likes to eat best, drinking at intervals to wash down what he doesn’t like.

So Sunday morning I’m urging him to eat up and drink his milk, which is also chocolate.  I know, he’s spoiled.  Suddenly he came upon a piece of waffle (I had cut them up into bite size pieces) that had hardened. 

“I don’t want to eat this one.  It’s too crunchy.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it.  Take a sip of milk.”  He was slow at drinking the milk too and he had hardly touched it.  So he took a “crunchy” piece of waffle and put it into his mouth.  I could see he wasn’t chewing it very eagerly.  “Take a sip,” I repeated.

He took a drink.

“And don’t tell me,” I said, “the milk is too crunchy too.”

It took him a second to get the humor of that and when he did his laugh caused chocolate milk to squirt out and dribble down his chin.  His first spit laugh.


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For the past few weeks Matthew had been bugging me about having a piece of chewing gum.  I didn’t think it wise to let a five year old chew gum, so I’ve said no.  He knows I keep a package of sugarless gum in my study.  One day this week he told me he’s figured out how gum works.  I didn’t quite understand what he meant.

“You chew it,” he explained, “until the flavor runs out and then you spit it out.”

“That’s right.  Where did you learn that?”  I figured it was some kid at school.  At least he won’t swallow it in the future.

“I just thought it and figured it out.”

OK.  He’s a smart kid.  A bit later I go into the upstairs bathroom and there on the floor by the little trash can that he obviously missed, was a little red something.  I picked it up and it was hardened gum.  I shook my head knowing full well that someone just three and a half feet tall chewed a piece gum and tried throwing it away.  I tossed the gum in the can, but then I thought better of it and took it out and put it back on the floor.

Later still, when Matthew and I were both upstairs I had him come into the bathroom. 

“Matthew, what’s that on the floor?”

“Where?”

“By the garbage can.”

“This?”  And he bends down and picks it up and holds it up.  “What is that daddy?”

“Don’t you know?”  Silence.  He says nothing.  So I ask, “Isn’t that gum?”

“Yeah, that’s what it is.”

“Well, how did it get there?”  Silence.  So I volunteered, “Did you take a piece of my gum?”

“Yeah.  But I figured out how it works.  You chew it until the flavor finishes and then you spit it out."

Sigh.

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It’s hard to tell if there’s any improvement between Rosie and Matthew.  He’s not quite as scared of her and most of the time now he fights back when they tangle.  Rosie sees him as a play friend, and play to her is to use her mouth.  And then he makes a run for it, which only triggers a chase instinct in her.  And of course she catches him, and so on.

Here she is giving him a lick.




And playing tug, Matthew trying to be as far from her as possible.




 As you can see in the five weeks we’ve had her, Rosie has really grown.  I’d say she’s more than doubled.

Here’s an interesting tid-bit of information for dog owners I discovered.  I was searching around to see if Rosie was on track with her weight.  There are a lot of dog weight calculators on the internet and when I put Rosie’ information in, they spanned from as low as 48.8 to 82 lbs.  Now that’s quite a range, which shows you they’re not worth much.  The one rule of thumb I found more often was that a pup of a medium to large breed at 14 weeks will be about 2.5 times that at one year old.  If Rosie is 20 lbs today at under 13 weeks, and she’s gaining over two pounds per week, I estimate she’ll be 24 lbs at 14 weeks, which will put her at 60 lbs at a year old.  That’s about right for a Lab.