Victoria Fedden, who sometimes writes some funny stuff, has some really funny stuff at her blog, “Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds,” about going back to school in the seventies as opposed to 2014.
A sampling follows:
Back to School in the 70s
1. Take the kids downtown to go shopping at Sears for back to school clothes the last week of August. Get everyone a new pair of corduroys and a striped tee shirt. Buy the boys a pair of dungarees and the girls a pair of culottes. No, Jennifer, you can’t have that orange and red poncho. Promise you will crochet her a better one with much more fringe. Get the girls a package of that rainbow, fuzzy yarn they like in their hair. You are done. You have spent a total of $43.00. Now take everyone to the Woolworth’s lunch counter for grilled cheeses and chocolate milk.
2. On the night before the first day of school (that would be the Sunday night after Labor Day, of course, you know, mid-September) throw the kids in the way back of the station wagon and drag them downtown to Eckerds, K-Mart, Ames, Dollar General, Drug Fair or the like and hurry them over to the back-to-school area to pick out a lunchbox. Make sure to tell them get a move on because you don’t have all night for them to make a damn decision. They need to get in bed by eight and yes, they’re going to miss the Wonderful World of Disney if they can’t decide between The Fonz and Dukes of Hazzard. Good Lord, why is it so hard for them to pick? Tell Kimberly if she can’t make up her mind between Holly Hobbie and The Bionic Woman then you’re going to pick Pigs in Space and you don’t want to hear another word about it until June. Grab a composition book for each of them and a pack of pencils too. That’s all they need. Remember to save some grocery bags so they can cover their textbooks with them after the first day of school.
3. Buy yourself a pack of Virginia Slims on the way out and smoke three of them on the way home.
4. Get up in the morning and make yourself a cup of Sanka with Sweet ‘n’ Low. Line up all the lunchboxes on the formica counter top in your kitchen. Open up a bag of Wonder Bread and do this assembly line style.
Back to School 2014
1. Take five deep breaths and say a positive affirmation. School begins in two weeks. It is the middle of July. Don’t worry, you still have time to order BPA-free bento boxes and authentic Indian tiffins made with special stainless steel that did not involve any child-labor, sweat shops or animal cruelty. Remember, you have Amazon Prime. You can get the free two day shipping and you will have plenty of time to read reviews and make this very important decision because your kids are in summer “camp” which is actually just another word for school in the summer because OH MY GOD you were so tired that day you had to have them home all day with you and you couldn’t go to your restorative flow class at yoga. And that was also the day something went terribly wrong with the homemade glitter cloud dough recipe that was supposed to go in their sensory bin and the very same day that they were out of soy milk at Starbucks and you had to immediately email corporate to let them know that duh, they should actually be selling almond milk and/ or coconut milk. Get with it Starbucks. Soy is so 90s. Ugh, but you digress. The tiffin. The bento boxes…
2. One Week Later: The bento boxes and tiffins have arrived. So has your childrens’ school’s annual list of school supplies that you must purchase and deliver. It is three and a half pages long. It includes a ten pound bag of flour and several cleaning products and also requests a Costco-sized package of toilet paper.
3. Begin frantic online search for backpacks and school bags made from all natural materials yet still “cool.” Have them monogrammed.
I’ve often pointed out that while I moved to Belize largely because I like to beach bum, I was also attracted to so much of the other stuff Belize offers with its rain forests, mountains, rivers and waterfalls here on the mainland. It’s why I live close to Mountain Pine Ridge where one can have so many thrills in finding unique ways to break a bone or two.
It’s been two weeks and a few days since I hurt myself at Big Rock Waterfalls, where I fell down on the rocks. (Which explains why its nickname is “Falling Rock.” I’m not the first who ever took a tumble down there.)
At least I fell at what has been ranked No. 1 among “the most amazing waterfalls” at Mountain Pine Ridge:
I strive to be Number 1 in all things.
Here are two of what might be the loveliest paintings–both of which bespeak the spiritual richness of simple living–that you’ll see all day, all week, all month, lest you spend some time looking for some of the lovelier things in life to dwell on.
And more thoughts on simple living as it pertains to spiritual poverty below.
Spiritual poverty does not necessary require living in destitution or neglecting to provide for our future. It means simply that our resources are not amassed in order to establish an arrogant self-sufficiency, but are aligned in a planned manner to enhance our relationship with God and others.”
— Wilkie Au, author of By Way of the Heart: Toward a Holistic Christian Spirituality and Enduring Heart: Spirituality for the Long Haul.
Today’s “Big Amen of the Day to That!” . . . is from my main man the mystic Mr. Merton, whose social criticism needs to be considered today as much as it needed to be heard when he wrote this in his journal on July 3, 1968:
“One has to remain pretty critical and independent about all ideas. Come to one’s own conclusions on a basis of one’s own frank experience. Both the conservatives and the progressives seem to me to be full of the same kind of intolerance, arrogance, empty-headedness, and to be dominated by different guides of conformism: in either case the dread of being left out of their reference group.”
Your scripture for the day, especially for those who think they’ve done too much evil in life to be forgiven by the God of endless love, endless grace and tender mercies:
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of our sins,
“Who, O Lord, could stand?”
— Psalm 130: 3
One of the best, most prolific and most provocative (i.e., always controversial) of Catholic spiritual writers, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, has yet another new book, this one called The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.
Sister Joan has a knack for saying one thing after another that makes you go “Wow! What an insight!” Or, “Wow! What a turn of phrase!”
Such as this about our “headless society”:
“Retirement can be the worst thing that happens to a person in this society, because we tell them, ‘Here’s your watch. Here’s the banquet. See you around.’ Except we don’t ever really care to see you again. In 24 hours, your name is off your door. The drawers are empty. Nobody ever calls to say, ‘You know, when you had this case, how did you decide it?’
“Nobody sits them down and tries to tap into their experience. In our youth-centered society, experience is getting short shrift, and it’s showing in our decision-making. It’s showing in our whole attitude toward the corporate world.
“How does it show? If it’s not new, it’s not newsworthy. And if it’s new, you have no criteria for comparison, no criteria for evaluation of any kind. We’ve become a headless society.”
Or this about the “commuter generation” ruts . . .
“Given the nature of our industrialized society, we hear a lot about how we spend all our working lives earning money for when we don’t earn money, but then we don’t know what to do with it, because there’s nothing else we do except earn money during these years.
“When you think of the old agricultural schedules, there were so many months a year that you just waited for the seed to lie fallow. It changed your life, too. Why did agricultural societies have all those feast days? They had them to bring people together; they had them to break life up for outreach.
“We have moved so quickly from that kind of society to this ‘commuter generation’ society that there’s very little that fills those gaps. I argue that you just simply have to get yourself involved in other, life-giving things. Don’t get in that rut.”
Those are excerpts of an interview with Sister Joan in the August 2014 edition of “U.S. Catholic” that can be found here. Check it out.
A love letter, of sorts, that photojournalist James Foley* (killed at the hands of ISIL savages who will have to be stopped by some unfortunate but “necessary evil” in the form of serious force) wrote to his alma mater Marquette University about his first imprisonment as a hostage in Tripoli:
Marquette University has always been a friend to me. The kind who challenges you to do more and be better and ultimately shapes who you become.
With Marquette, I went on some volunteer trips to South Dakota and Mississippi and learned I was a sheltered kid and the world had real problems. I came to know young people who wanted to give their hearts for others. Later I volunteered in a Milwaukee junior high school up the street from the university and was inspired to become an inner-city teacher. But Marquette was perhaps never a bigger friend to me than when I was imprisoned as a journalist.
Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.
I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.
Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well.
One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”
I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”
“Jimmy, where are you?”
“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you. How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.
“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”
“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”
“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t.
“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.
“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.
The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.
“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.
I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.
My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.
*A statement from Marquette today:
“Marquette University mourns the loss of James Foley. A prayer service planned for Tuesday. “The Marquette community is deeply saddened by the death of alumnus and freelance journalist James Foley, Arts ’96. We extend our heartfelt prayers and wishes for healing to James’ family and friends during this very difficult time. James, who majored in history at Marquette, had a heart for social justice and used his immense talents to tell the difficult stories in the hopes that they might make a difference in the world – a measure of his character for which we could not be prouder.”