Monday, May 22, 2017

Summer Bucket List

As some of ya'll may know, I've been going through a health challenge.   Been doing all I need to do to overcome it, praying I'm back to normal life soon, as in by this summer which we're about to go into.   As I wrote about before, I'm keeping up my new garden and daily exercise.

God willing here's some things I'd like to do this summer, a Summer Bucket List.

1.  Outing to Blue Hole Springs near Salina, OK, a privately owned Eden-like oasis park built up around a refreshingly cold Spring.   Its a must go for Okies, but a hidden gem.  I've got the low down on the details, but they are on FB.

2.  Trip to Eureka Springs, AR, another surreal spot of heaven, imo, i.e. if you can ignore certain local politics if you know what I mean.  European village-like arts and crafts, bed and breakast getaway nestled in the Ozarkmountains.  Serene, relaxing, otherwordly.

3. Beach picnics.   With Oklahoma's endless lake shores--we've got a lot--there's plenty of little beaches, some very nice out of the way hidden ones, that would make you think you weren't in Oklahoma.   A little hibachi grill to grill tilapia and salted sweet potatoes, a few towels, and some sunscreen.  Nothing like it.

4.  Set up a bird bath.  To compliment my bird feeder I made last summer.  By the time our flowers bloom and garden starts producing, it will be invigorating to see the lawn come to life.

5.  Bbq on the front porch.  Admiring the garden--God willing it is bountiful--while sipping diet Coke with Rum.  Maybe some sparklers too.

6.  Adoration chapel visits. I should already make more, but a renewed health would compel me to give thanks after thanks to the good Lord.

7. Participate in some local trad events.  You can count on them over at St Peter and Paul parish or Most Precious Blood. Hope to visit with old friends again.

8.  Hiking in Arkansas.  Maybe Devils Den day hike.   Their camp restaurant makes the best butterscotch pie.

9.  Picnic at Greenleaf lake. Then visit Batfish submarine museum on the way home.   My present nerves would prevent me squeezing through the submarine, but by then, God willing, I'm comfortable again in situations like that.

10.  More summer blogging.   To refocus daily health challenges back to my old daily past times.   Would be nice to chime in on President Trump and Church events.

Dear Readers, please keep me in your daily prayers I recover my health and can take on some of this Summer Bucket List.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Dog Today

The morning sun was streaming through the blinds.  I was curled up under the comforter, hugging my pillow.  The wife up earlier than me, as she usually is, opened the bedroom door and in skipped Peanut, my canine "man's best friend."  She leaped across the room and jumped on the bed.  One of my doggie commands I've managed to master with her is the command "Curl!" which means to curl up next to me in bed, which she did.  I tucked her under the covers, and she nestled next to me, her head on the pillow, staring up at the ceiling.

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I was in the middle of eating my sunny side up eggs, mackerel fish, and oatmeal breakfast (cue my recent blog post about renewing my lower carb diet: here), when I heard a high pitched yelp from the living room. It wasn't our mild mannered, quiet Japanese Spitz named Snowy.  Of course it was Peanut, saying "Hey, when are we going for a walk?"

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Morning walks have become a habit the last month or two, and that usually involves Peanut, and sometimes Snowy if I'm up to two dogs pulling me like a human dog sled through the neighborhood.  "Bobo, Peanut, Bobo!" I called out.  That's another command for the dogs, but one that doesn't always work, which means to me, and hopefully by now the dogs, "No bark! No bark!"

This morning both Peanut and Snowy enjoyed the walk.  It did help the wife joined in, with Snowy on her leash.  By the way, if you're a regular reader and forgot, Peanut is a Dachshund.

If you know Dachshunds, they have a particular set of behaviors specific to this species.  They love to dig their noses in the dirt, they can use said long nose to unfold any blanket and wrap it around themselves.  And they are hyper.  Peanut is hyper, especially when it comes to any opportunity to go outside.

So it was this evening going out to water the garden.  Yes, still keeping up my renewed hobby I talked about here.   A little, tolerable bark reminded me to take you-know-who outside.  One thing I have to always watch our for about Peanut, when we go outside, is her untethered compulsion to squeeze through the side gate of our front fence and head towards the nearest stray cat or dog (which we get a few of on our street).

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Peanut's been doing this.  

Right now as I write this, its just past 9pm, and I'm sitting in my proverbial Okie Armchair, glancing to my right across the room.  Peanut is curled up under her blue blanket, with her head set on part of the blanket puffed up like a pillow.  She looks tired, a good tired, because today she spent a lot of time outside!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sitting on My Perch: a Personal Reflection

Recently, as I looked out across the landscape of my little life here in Oklahoma, across this state and diocese, across the historical timeline of my own life and the last several decades, across the crisis in the Church that deepens every day even in our own backyard, I actually became very acutely aware of something.  Something I've noticed before, but not given much attention.

That something is that when I think and talk and write about life and society and church, in my mind's eye I am often "sitting on my perch" looking down on it all.

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What do I mean?  Imagine sitting on a branch in a tree looking down on people.  You have a distant, imperial vantage point in your mind to look down on everything and make judgments and prognostications.

For example, imagine this historical timeline:

1900------------1950----Vatican II, etc-------2017

I know every mind is unique and has its own ways of imagining and conceptualizing.  I often literally imagine this timeline in my mind.  And it is like I am perched up above it looking down from a distance, judging and prognosticating.  

We do have to step back and look over things objectively. When monks take their afternoon walk up the hill to look down on their monastic grounds, it affords them a brief retreat to look at their life from a different vantage point, the advantage being a moment of calm recollection.

But folks, I must confess I too often perch up high looking down.  There's wisdom to be gained, but its also dangerous.

We see so little from even the highest spots, with the highest IQs, and with the most information.  We see so little.  But we (I) pretend to see so much.

There's an awesome power and talent in being able to rise above events and geography and look out across it all with logic and vision.  Perhaps traditional Catholics, especially those who read and think a lot, as it seems we often do, have that ability, but its a powerful, potentially harmful gift, if we are not humble in our intellect.  And the older and more aged I get, the more I realize I need to spend more time on the ground.

Am I making sense?  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

More Thoughts on Friendship, part 2

I reflected yesterday and today on these posts I've been making about friendship, and was reminded of a major point Aristotle made (who St. Thomas calls "The Philosopher" by the way) about Friendship, in his book on Ethics.

In a nutshell, he said one of the main mistakes people make about friendship is mistaking what kind of friendship it is in the first place.  He delineates three kinds of friendship:  friendship of pleasure,  friendship of utility, and friendship of the good.  The third one is the ideal, which the first two should tend towards.

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He does accept the legitimacy of the first two kinds, but notes one of the fatal mistakes people make is in misconstruing the nature of the relationship.

People need people.  If your car breaks down, you may need a friend to give you a ride. If you're bored, if you need someone to just hang out with to relax, there are plenty of average folk out there that will do just fine.  That other person doesn't need to be very wise or virtuous, as long as the nature of the friendship isn't misunderstood.

I confess that has been one of my mistakes.  My Myers-Brig temperament is INFJ, which is called "Idealist-Counselor."  I'm wired to think in high ideals, with lofty, optimistic expectations.  Pragmatism isn't part of my DNA.  We're all different.  After all, there's something like 16 personality types.

Is it even possible to have more substantial friendships today, of the third kind described by Aristotle?  Not necessarily a sublime communion of holy men, but a meeting of sincere minds and hearts, united along a common path towards similar, virtuous goals, those goals being in tune with Our Lord.  The older I get in this dark age we live in, the more I realize that is a rare gift.  But likewise, I also understand more and more how important it is, so I continue to hope and search for these kinds of friendships.

They can be found.  It might be someone unexpected. Someone who may not even be religious. A coworker, a neighbor, a pen pal you meet in a forum.

But at the same time we need just pals to talk to, to hang out with, as long as there is a mutual respect of each other.  But even that is a special fortune, since "respect for each other" does require at least a basic amount of Christian civility.

Friendship.  It's a lost habit, a forgotten virtue.  But I still believe in it, as I do any other Christian truth.  I'll always seek out good friends, because being a good friend to others is part of what it means to be a good man.

What are your thoughts on friendship?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

More Thoughts on Friendship

Last night I reminisced on what I think was the best friendship I've ever had, a happy memory from childhood, and how true, lasting friendship can be a rare thing, especially in adulthood.  I had a couple readers comment about friendships that have lasted the test of time.

One reader, signed in as "Anonymous," shared how they had a friendship that was loyal and lasting despite some heated conflicts.  Their friend recently passed away, and he and his wife were able to comfort him in his final hour.  My condolences, and may he rest in peace.

Philosophers, theologians, and poets have waxed and waned about the virtue of friendship since time immemorial.  I've read some of their pages over the years. What does it mean to be a friend?  When do you know that someone is an authentic friend?  I've asked these questions many times as an adult, with all the experiences I had with "friendship."  I'd venture most of you have too, if not in such formal, philosophical terms.

I believe we need friends like we need anything.  We need food and water.  We need health care, shelter, and social support.  And we need friends.  That's a Christian truth.  It is essential to our human nature, and when we are without friends, or sincere friendships, it is like being severely malnourished or blind.

But I think most moderns don't believe this.  They think an individual is somehow fine on his own, a world to himself, a separated reality, and that if there is friendship, it is mainly for pleasure or utility.  

The Christian ideal of friendship based on mutual respect and self-giving, based on a shared wisdom and virtue--or at least the pursuit thereof--is treated as something odd if not repugnant.  Expecting friendship to be long-lasting, civilized, and loyal is almost considered a sin against modernity.  That's what I sense from most anyway.

Well, I could have easily subscribed to the pop-cultural mindset about friendship.  It would definitely have been an easier philosophy to follow.  Ironically, truth be told, if I did, all or most of those I've called friends over the years wouldn't last all that long as friends, since they haven't exactly been the most pleasurable or useful people to know.  But there was a reason beyond pleasure or utility I sought out their friendship.

For all the effort you can make in making friends, and nurturing that friendship, whether or not it turns out a success is as much partly outside of your control, as is good health or financial success partly outside of your control.  It is a myth that the best efforts always spell success; or inversely, that failure indicates a lack of effort or character.  

At least from your own perspective, whether or not the other person actually returns the friendship with an equitable respect is 100% not in your control.  That's what makes a good, lasting friendship a blessing, a fortune from God.  It's 50% up to you, but the kicker is it's also 50% up to them, and you have no control over that part of the equation.

I've been blessed with lasting friendships, but I know firsthand how rare they really are.  And as much as I must always seek out food and water, I will always seek out true, Christian friendships.  I have to because I am a human being.  

In the end, despite my best efforts, I may or may not be successful in friendship just as I may or may not be materially successful.  How poor or blessed we are in this life, when it comes to money or relationships, it is mainly up to God.  Not us.

In the end, isn't it true that what matters is becoming saints, that ultimately is why we must be true friends to others?

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Best Friend

It was a warm summer afternoon and I was playing outside, exploring the grass and trees.  I was four years old.  I looked up and coming down our cul-de-sac was a four year old boy on a Big Wheel.  His name was Randy.  He saw me running around the yard, and got off his ride and ran over to play.  The rest is history. 

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For the next 14 years, Randy and I were best friends. Maybe the best friend I've ever had.  We spent endless days, evenings, and weekends playing anything and everything.  You name it.  We were truly best friends.  True friends.  We would have laid down in traffic for each other.  I remember when his parents got a divorce, and I spent extra time with him since I could tell he was having problems with the change. He spent more time at our house, and going with us to Mass.

When neighborhood rivalries sprang up, we stuck by each other's side.  The authenticity of the friendship just was.  I didn't philosophize about it.  The loyalty didn't take long hours of discernment to commit to.

Flash forward to senior year high school.   Randy jumped off the deep end of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Looking back on it, I am sure his bad choices reflected his increasingly difficult home life.  But his departure from innocence divided us.  I was not willing to jump into the deep end with him, and in a year or two,the 14 year friendship--which was probably one of the most authentic and truest friendships I have known--unfortunately faded away forever.

The thing is Randy was not raised in a religious home.  One time coming with us to Mass, when he heard the reading from the Epistle of St. Peter, he asked if one of the altar boys was St. Peter.  When it came to religion or God, he was largely ignorant.

But for those 14 years, that friendship was the most Christian friendship I've ever known.  It wasn't a fair weather friendship, or mere utilitarian friendship.  Since adulthood, I've not been lucky enough to have such a lasting, authentic friendship.  Perhaps such is a rare gift in life.

How about you?  Have you been blessed with true friendship?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Some Daily Thoughts

I love my dog Peanut.  What a loyal friend.  She has a keen sense of what I'm going through.   She's basically been a barometer of my ever-fluxing state of well-being.  In a moment she is on my lap to gaze into my face, give me a little kiss, and push her chest up against my own. I love that dog.

The love of a good wife is infinitely better and more comforting.  My wife is a saint.  Hard-working, dutiful, pious, and cheerful.  I admire her positive spirit in the face of adversity.  If everyone in her life died and she was homeless and destitute, I'd bet she'd still be able to sleep, get up and carry on through her day with sustained faith and buoyancy.

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Oklahoma weather.  Well, I've talked about it before, how our weather is very unusual and unpredictable.  I have memories of Spring-like weather on Christmas day, and snow in April.  Today is April 30, and it was chilly with a whistling wind reminiscent of winter.  Had to turn on some space heaters.

West Wing.  I'm rounding 3rd base now on season 6.  Very liberal, yes, yes, I know.  But the plot and character development got me hooked.  I especially like the character Josh Lyman, a special advisor and writer for the president.  He's got a lot of energy, spunk, and enthusiasm for his job.

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Ok.  Got to go to sleep soon.  Tell me your thoughts.  Pleasant dreams, and that include's Matthew over at Matthew's Dreams Blog.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Way I See it, You've Got Three Choices

Imagine the poor souls who become disabled by a serious medical illness.  Or someone who loses a spouse or child.  Or someone who is unjustly sent to prison for life.  The list could go on.

And imagine there is no way to undo the situation.  No way to go back and prevent it, or to go on living as if the circumstances of your life haven't been permanently changed.

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I listed above some extreme examples, but many of us have or will deal with some life-altering personal challenges.  A surgeon has to quit doing surgery after losing some fingers to frostbite climbing Everest.  A married couple can no longer have marital relations because of some kind of unusual, medical complication.  One day you wake up and your vision is so bad you can no longer drive a car--at least legally anyway.

Many of us will have some kind of mutilating experience in their life, or know someone first-hand who has.  And a choice has to be made.

The way I see, you've got one of three choices:

1.  Jump off a bridge.  I don't see any upside here.  Either you go from a state of seeming misery in this life to an infinitely worse and permanent state (hell), or if you'd be lucky to make it to purgatory, the suffering would be instantaneously worse.  

2. Give up on life and sit around feeling sorry for yourself.   Become a drunk, druggie, self-loathing, life hating, morbidly depressed dropout on life.   I can see one upside here.  In the moment, there might be some relief from escaping reality.  But given enough time--days or weeks would do the trick--you'd have sunk into a deeper state of misery.  Life would be even worse.

3.  Which brings us to door #3:  maximize your life the best you can despite your handicap or debilitating cross.  If you lose your legs, learn to walk and run using artificial prostheses.   If you lose a spouse to death, mourn and then move on, finding new or renewed relationships.

In the end, no matter how awful the situation may seem, if we care about God and our life, we don't have any other choice than #3.  That's the raw fact of life.

This post is a bit of hyperbole.  Many fortunately will not face tragic change in their life.  Not sure the % in that category, but reflecting on the three above choices, I can see how they'd apply to any trial or cross you're facing, whether it is small or large, temporary or permanent.

In the end we can a) completely give up on a situation, b) retreat into self-pity and a kind of self-indulgence that really hurts more than relieves, or c) grab that bull by the horns, overcome the setback, refuse to throw in the towel, and choose to live fully and as blessedly as possible this little life God has given us.

Our Faith tells me that's the only way to be happy in the next.  And ironically, common sense tells me that's actually the only way to be happy in this life too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Committed to My Hobby

I did it!  I resurrected my old hobby today, planting a vegetable garden + some flowers.   I was following through on a promise to myself about having regular hobbies--which I chatted about here.  There's something cultivating and rejuvenating for the soul when making something--whether it's a birdhouse, song, recipe, or a garden.

I headed over to Home Depot for some cheap seeds--cucumber, zucchini, and swiss chard.  Last summer the cucumber harvest provided us with endless cucumber salads, but the zucchini plants were a flop--I'll give it a go again.  The Swiss chard package said it can be planted as late as May in Oklahoma, so we'll see.

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Then I headed over to a local specialty gardening store which happens to sell a bunch of vegetable plants at very inexpensive prices.  For about $2, you get four plants.  I picked up tomato, yellow summer squash, and eggplant plants.  Plus some yellow and pink flowers--didn't look at the name--but these are the one's we planted last summer which exploded in color and lasted until October.

Later at home I pulled out my Joy of Gardening book--which seems to be popular among trads btw, considering it's for sale by the Angelus Press--and set the plants and seeds on the front porch.  Some weeds needed weeding, and my hoe came in handy chopping up the soil.

What makes my garden this year unique is that it's all in our front flower beds.  Would take too much labor to dig up all the grass from the garden patch I prepared last summer all by hand.  When you're pocketbook and yard size is limited, you make do with what you've got.

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Dreaming of Tomatoes

In the front row I planted a big yellow to it a small summer squash plant...then a pink flower, repeating that combo a few times down the line.  In the side bed, I spread out some swiss chard seeds towards the front, and in back cucumber seeds, planning for them to grow long vines across the sidewalk and spread out across the yard.  In the very back is a large square bed, where now resides four tomato plants, four eggplants, and some sewn zucchini seeds.

On the porch I planted more of the yellow and pink flowers in a large pot, and in some small pots, and in a middle-sized pot I planted tome red, tropical-looking flowers my wife likes since she is from a tropical country.

If the success of this garden/flower planting is anything like last summer, it will make for a beautified front yard to give pleasure to passersby for months to come, and supply some fresh, organic, homegrown produce for the kitchen!

Every man needs a hobby.  This summer at least, gardening will be mine!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Our First Day in Heaven??

I wonder what our first day in heaven might be like?

After a long, valley of tears.  After a long series of crosses and mystifying sorrows.  For some, after a good spell being purged by fire in purgatory--if we're blessed to die in God's grace.  When all the suffering this side of heaven seems unending.

Think of all your ailments, failures, rejections, hardships, and dark periods.  Think of all the inconveniences, aches and pains, sleeping troubles, depressed periods, loneliness, etc, etc.  Think of the eternal relief and reward that awaits us.

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The Valley of Tears, bu Gustav Dore

I'd like to think our first day of heaven will be like a marathon runner crossing the finish line, being brought refreshments, as a reward for being dehydrated, hungry, and tired.  After all, that initial reward and relief is something the runner aims at in finishing the race.

Perhaps that first day of relief will be different for everyone.  For a poor, deaf and mute, blind, quadraplegic (I imagine there is someone out there so afflicted), that first day through the pearly gates, they will get to run through wide fields of fresh grass, hearing symphonies, and viewing majestic panoramas, while speaking with the angels.

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For me I would like to think on my first day in heaven, I will be surrounded with family and friends who have passed on and made it to heaven, to really have long talks and to laugh.  It would be splendid to have a long, blissful sleep, and to awaken refreshed like I use to as a child.  I would love to experience perfect mental and emotional clarity.  I would also love if I can practice any of those talents and gifts God gave me in this life that circumstances have not allowed me to fully express.  It would be awesome to experience what it would be like to be a surgeon.

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Then again, our first day in heaven may be angelic simplicity gazing on the Beatific Vision.   God knows.  But looking forward to that first day in heaven is one thought that keeps me moving forward in this marathon of life.

What do you think your first day in heaven might look like?  The Comment box is open!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Good Sunday Memories

It's Sunday morning and I'm sitting in my Okie Trad armchair starting season 4 of The West Wing on Netflix.  The show is liberal, and not all that interesting, but I'm sorta hooked on it.  The characters are interesting.  The plots are a good mental challenge to follow.

And the little lady is in the kitchen making scrambled eggs and bratwurst.  Mass is later.

This restful Sunday morning, I'm reminded of good experiences I've had over the years on Sundays.

Growing up we either went to the 5pm Saturday Mass, or 11:30 am Sunday Mass, so when we got up at 7 or 8 on Sunday mornings, we had the liberty of a fine, Sunday breakfast and to lounge reading the funny papers.  I remember waking up my parents by crawling into bed with them under the sheets, asking for pancakes.  Pancakes were a Sunday special.  I have a warm memory of Sunday mornings laying on the living room floor, basking in the morning rays of the Sun, reading the comic section of the Sunday paper.  Dad would be reading the news.  Mom would be checking out the advertisements.  Those Sunday mornings are a warm memory from childhood.

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As a teenager, I became best friends with my older sister's boyfriend--now husband.  During their few years of courtship, it was a Sunday habit for them to come to our childhood parish for Sunday Mass.  Sundays would become a close time for family.  I remember the first time I ate pizza dipped in ranch dressing.  One restaurant we frequented after Sunday Mass was Simple Simon's pizza.  My brother-in-law and I mused how customers were using ranch with their pizza, and it caught on.  Next thing you know we were drenching our pizza slices in ranch.

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Most Sundays we had dinner back at the house, and it was my mom's homecooking that filled the house with a delightful aroma.   Our favorite Sunday meal was spaghetti with all the sides.  We would play chess, other board games, and Nintendo.  But we spent more time outside playing basketball, hitting plastic golf balls, and building tree houses.  As time has passed, those relationships are now substantially different, but those Sunday memories will live with me all my life.

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Flash forward, and in my 20's, when I lived in another state, a good friend of mine and I liked to attend a very conservative novus ordo parish far removed from the city, and along the way go bouldering and hiking at a mountainous park surrounding a lake.   Over the course of a year, we probably took a half a dozen such trips, which were surreal to me.  We had so much fun.  It was a day full of spirituality and adventure.  After climbing a tall rock face, we would perch on a ledge and pray the psalms.  On our way home, we stopped at a rural Catholic retreat center immersed in nature, to pray at their Perpetual Adoration chapel which looked like a log cabin.  These were unforgettable times.

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Probably for most of us, most of the time, Sunday is a simple day like any other Sunday.  Hopefully that means Sunday Mass.  But how much do we really keep the day holy?  How much true leisure rules the day?

I can imagine an idealistic Sunday.  Sunday morning Latin High Mass.  Coffee and donuts with fellow parishioners.  A full Sunday brunch of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and OJ.  Family games and quiet time to study the catechism and for leisure reading.  A visit to a family member in the nursing home, or a shut-in at home to give some comfort.  Then a hike in the park, dinner, and an evening bonfire.  I do hear-tell there are families that manage to live Sundays like that.

Tell me about your Sundays, and fond Sunday memories, in the Comment box below!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Our Dads

Yesterday I talked about how I managed to force my mind to slip into a subconscious, trance-like state while my head was bolted inside a helmet, and my body stuck in an MRI tunnel for 30 minutes.  Good times.

When your fight-or-flight response wants to high jack your psyche, unnecessarily, there is an alternate impulse minds are meant to resort to--the parasympathetic response.   To slow breathing, heart rate, and calm the mind.
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Being stuck in that MRI, my mind managed to do that, and part of what carried me through a half hour laying in confinement, was imagining in exacting detail my teenage camping and backpacking trips with my dad.

I should preface this post with the admission that in my 20's my relationship with my dad did shift from something benign to a very strained situation.  BUT, by the grace of God, however, we made our peace before he died.  That period is come and gone. May he rest in peace.

So this post is about my father, and our fathers.

Except for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it seems according to some Doctors of the Church St. Joseph too, all of us are a mixture of virtue and sin.

So it is with our fathers, with my father.   They go off to work and bring home the bacon.  They change the oil and balance the checkbook.  

Like many men out there, my dad had a good side and a dark side.  There's the side that wants to do good by their wife and children.   And there's the side where...well, fill in the blank.

Our backpacking trips were magical.  Something eased my dad's nerves into a state of sustained serenity and well-being.  Even mishaps and misjudgments were met with a very moderate response.  Something about the outdoors.  Something about taking a Time Out from the social grind.  It's a natural mystery, how the outdoors, at least in my experience, is civilizing and balancing.

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Perhaps you have experienced the vexing and strained side of your father, or worse.  I'd imagine most have.  But for me these outdoor trips were a taste of heaven.  A time of serenity and joy.

Looking up the side of the small mountain (I say small because the "mountains" we backpacked in Oklahoma and Arkansas were, relative to most, small), I took the backpacks out of the trunk.  Dad had the map spread across the hood of the car.  It was always a pleasure to scan the map and see where the sites along the way were marked by symbols in the map's legend.   It was as much a symbolic journey of accomplishment, to make it through the ups and downs marked by the map, as the actual physical accomplishment.

Before passing the trailhead, we checked our gear and food, but once we stepped onto the trail, we entered a new reality.  The reality of father and son enjoying the pure outdoors.

One of my fondest memories is of our times, at the end of a day of arduous backpacking, when we reached the bottom of a valley along a creek or small river.  Tent set up, water gathered, campfire roaring, dinner cooked, the nearby stream giving gentle, relaxing sounds, father and son would settle in by the fireside for a good long talk.

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We told stories.  We talked about life.  We celebrated our day's accomplishment.  We planned the next day's route.

Those were blessed times.  As a nature lover, and a Catholic believer, I imagine heaven being a natural place of mountains and streams.  It was the book of the Apocalypse after all that revealed heaven would be a "new Creation."

And so that is my hope.  My hope is that one day, when we have steadfastly endured the hike of life through this valley of tears, we will join our loved ones in the new Creation.  There I hope to enjoy a campfire again with my dad, and a good, long hike.

Friday, April 21, 2017

CT Scan Today. Wondered if It'd be like my MRI Experience.

I have a fullness in my right and left middle ears, with some recent tinnitus (which I pray is temporary either from allergies or my TMJ issues), and also some painful cheekbones.  My ENT recently thought I'm having sinusitis and ordered a CT scan.  I finally made it in today to get 'er done.  Boy was I relieved it was no big deal.

I was somewhat resolved to doing it going into the radiology department at the hospital down the road, not knowing how confining and prolonged the CT experience would be.  Back in February, I had a first time MRI to rule out some things (which it did), and that was purgatorial.  When I made the MRI appointment they asked if I'd like "conscious sedation" which I'm still unclear as to what it exactly is, but it's for people who are claustrophobic.  I am historically not.  Until this MRI anyway.

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The MRI machine they used for me didn't have a round tube.  The ceiling came almost down to my nose.

For the MRI, I walk into a small room and there is a large machine with a tunnel.  I think "no big deal" until after I lie down my head is completely locked into a bolted-down helmet and when I am transported back into the tunnel, there is maybe an INCH between my nose and the ceiling of the tube, and I'm immersed in it from the top of my head down to my elbows.

You might think "yeah I can do that, no problem."  But the sucker took 30, yes 30 minutes with no stops, the whole time my head completely locked in the helmet.  If I should want out, it would take a chunk of time, and ruin the scan.  This is what you're made aware of by the tech who counsels you before he sends you into confinement.

Oh and just for fun, you're hearing clunking, electrifying, weird Star Trek kinds of sounds of all sorts.

The first few minutes I felt okay, but then it starts to sink in you're going to be in that stuck position for a Half Hour!  Deep breathing helps, but when those strange sounds start pounding and clicking, you have to resort to other measures.

So for the next 25 or so minutes, having made a deep down decision I MUST do this MRI and endure it, for my health, my subconscious mind reverted to an ever more subconscious trance-like state.  I would transport myself back in time and relive every camping and backpacking trip I took with my dad as a teenager.  That's how I got through it.

I imagined the car drive, the food and gear prep, stopping at the ranger's station, what I was wearing, the feeling of excitement to explore the outdoors, the various vistas and valleys we hiked through, the campfires, stories, mishaps, and thrills.  I relived several of those trips in that half hour.  It was a mental marathon.

So going in to do a CT scan today of my sinuses, I had no idea if I'd be confined like that to a tunnel or for how long.  Boy what a relief when the tech said it'd take 5 minutes, and it really only took 2-3 minutes. There was no tight tunnel, and most of the time my head was covered just to the neckline, and just for a short time down to my shoulders.

Fun times.  Anybody ever had the fun of an MRI or CT scan?  Share in the comments section below.

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The CT scan today looked like this.  So much bigger diameter, and no tunnel.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Hirsch Files: a Must Read!

I want to recommend my readers once again to frequent the informative, entertaining, and well-written blog of my Trad Blogger colleague, none other than the Bloggermeister of bloggermeisters, Laramie Hirsch over at the Hirsch Files.

He and I haven't made time to hang out for a while, or collaborate like we use to about our blogging hobby. From time to time I do peek in on his daily labor of love, and am delighted to see how well he sustains his zeal and energy for the subject matters he most writes about.  

For some time now, he has zeroed in his focus more and more on matters of faith, for the Catholic, as an advocate for strength and courage in fighting the culture war.

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Hirsch has a talent for writing, of which I will never come close in a long shot. If this were high school sports, he would be senior varsity, and I would be freshman JV. 

The man has a gift for research, reasoning, and articulation.  His knowledge of politics, history, and current events is stellar.  I'm lucky if I keep up with some latest headlines in yahoo news, or can sketch out in my mind the simple basics of Western civilization.

Some people do not like to read the Hirsch Files. Laramie can be offensive.  Laramie can be very cynical.  Laramie can take online squabbles in the blogosphere and forums to new heights of analysis.  So be it. His style is not for everyone.  

But for the record, I have enjoyed enough campfires and cigars with the man to know he is a gentleman who, in his own unique way, is devoted to using his blog to promote Catholic truth.

Kudos Hirsch!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Well, I have to admit my life has not exactly been a state of Zhen-like balance.  My daily schedule is not a rhythmic flow of work and leisure.  Mostly it feels like work, then chilling out in front of a screen of some kind.  Mea culpa.

The wife and I were talking about this lately.  In her free time she likes doing arts and crafts, writing letters, and sewing.  Me, blogging, Netflix, and the occasional stroll in the yard.

When you've been around enough to see 7 presidents in office, at my age it's a bit of a challenge to acquire new hobbies, or any new habit for that matter.  Many years ago, it was a regular habit to go hiking, backpacking, camping, and fishing.  Now at most I take out the outdoors gear sporadically throughout the calendar year.

Truth be told, what I really enjoy is:  reading, writing, movies, cooking, gardening, and outdoor recreation.  Did have a Summer and Fall garden last year.  Do sometimes pull out an old recipe and roll up my sleeves in the kitchen.  Still maintaining this blogging hobby...But I guess what I'm confessing is I've seldom managed to weave the habit of these regular hobbies into my weekly schedule.  

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I'm thinking of the kind of talent-oriented, mindful hobbies that often sustained our forefathers after a hard day of work.  And I don't mean sitting around drinking beer.  I mean things like woodworking, automobile restoration, bee keeping, and such.

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...well there's no time like the present.  It's still early enough to plan that summer garden.  I've got 5-10 recipes I'm fond of making, and I can start doing a couple a week.  Plus the Sun is out longer and the Spring temperatures are ideal for hiking.

Case in point.  Relative to the plain and rough landscape of Oklahoma, there is a pristine piece of Colorado-like public land reserved for hiking called Red Bud Valley State Park.  The main trail is a a big loop, with a few miles of trails total.  

I usually go clockwise, getting the hard part out of the way, climbing up a rock staircase of sorts to the top of a hill where the habitat shifts to a desert-like landscape of small cacti, lizards, and sandy soil.  Then it's down some cliffs, passing under some shady overhangs (a huge deer with gigantic antlers once stared down at me from one of these overhangs) and past a few caves that give rise to springs.  The last part is a winding path along a raised platform trail through a moist, cool valley of moss and fern trees.  For the Okie who yearns for more majestic natural beauties, this hour long hike is a pretty good fix.

That'll make a good start for kick-starting more hobbies in my daily life.  Plus making some smokey, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers.

So do you have hobbies?  What are they?  The comment box is open!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My "Eating Plan"

For years I ate a refined, processed diet with a lot of sugar, flour, and soy bean oil.  Basically, if you could boil down the main ingredients of most items in the aisle section of your supermarket, you'll get those three ingredients.

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The Standard American Diet

A few years ago I wanted to make a change, and we switched to a mostly "whole foods" diet.  It helps when you have a wife with very good health habits.  We switched from breakfast cereal to oatmeal, from lots of pasta to brown rice, and from meals in a box to fresh fish.

The next phase of my health journey was to reduce carbs, even the unprocessed kind.  The Atkins diet kicked it off, but it evolved, and I was eating a lot of veggies, salads, nuts, seeds, and cheese, as well as eggs, fish, and meat.  I lost a lot of weight and felt great.

With my health challenge right now, which I recently posted about, I'm not doing a strict low carb diet, that's too much stress on my body, so I'm doing what Dr. Andrew Weil (expert in "integrated medicine," has a big, fluffy white beard) calls an anti-inflammatory diet.  I basically did this before low carb. And it is actually a semi-low carb kind of diet, in that it really cuts out a lot of simple carbs, pasta, and bread.  It emphasizes foods that do not raise your blood sugar.  Not that I'm diabetic--I've been tested--but recent nutritional science has highlighted the importance on low glycemic index food, i.e. food that does not raise the blood sugar much.

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Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet (ie way of eating)

The mechanism goes like this:  with high glycemic index food dominating the diet comes high insulin levels, which causes inflammation, and inflammation is synonymous with disease and illness.

If you have a bad cold, eating a Snickers will probably make it worse, even an orange.  Both are boiled down quickly to sugar in the blood stream, which increases inflammation (cue nasal congestion) and lowers the immune system.  In a matter of just a few minutes!

But if you're trying to overcome an ailment--who doesn't have an ailment?--and if that ailment is largely due to inflammation, itself largely due to high carb food, then it makes sense to eat an avocado or some strawberries instead of that orange.

So that's my eating plan right now.  Thoughts?

Monday, April 17, 2017

The movie "The Catholics"

Was chatting today in the comment section of yesterday's post with my fellow Trad Blogger Oakes Spalding about the cinematic history of Martin Sheen.  I'm musing about this as I sit here another night running the next Netflix episode of The West Wing.  Sheen is about as liberal as they come, but he has some deep Catholic roots, at least culturally, and I respect his style and gravitas on screen.  That includes an old movie from the 1970s he starred in called "The Catholics," later renamed "Conflict."

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I agree with Oakes the end leaves something to be desired, but I think this film almost qualifies as a much-watch for trad families, or at least it deserves a spot in the dvd collection.  I picked up a few copies once at the dollar store to hand out.

For those who haven't seen this picture, it is about an Irish monastery that refuses the New Mass and sticks to the Latin Mass.  Sheen's character is a liberation theology, secularist Vatican priest investigating the traditionalist stance of the community.

Some favorite scenes from the movie:  the laity gathered on a hill while one of the priest monk's offers the traditional Mass on a rock altar.   It is a sad but heroic scene as Irish trads gather in clowdy, rainy climate typical of Ireland, solemnly observing the ancient rite.  I also liked the scene where they carry out a large, baked salmon into the refectory as the monk's relish sharing a piece of newly caught fish.  The best scene to me is when the abbot, the liberal priest, and an old priest monk are talking in a stable as the old monk gently feeds a baby lamb while admonishing the young liberal Sheen about a secularized Mass facing the people in the vernacular.

Let me know what you think of it if you've seen it, or check out some clips here:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The West Wing

First, Happy Easter Okie Trad friends.  It's been a while.  May the radiant light of the empty tomb lift you up and preserve you.

I've been watching old episodes of the West Wing on Netflix.  Feels like I've been into it for a long time already, even though I'm just getting through season 2, and there's what 8 seasons.

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So to start overcoming my blogging atrophy, I'll comment on some thoughts I have from watching the West Wing--or as a conservative friend jokingly calls it the "Left Wing"--from the perspective of a traditional Catholic.

(Preface:  for newcomers, by traditional Catholic, I mean a believing, practicing Catholic, following the bi-millenial tradition of the Roman Catholic Church...that said...)

So if you've ever watched the West Wing, you'd know it takes a lot of mental work to follow the plot.  A graduate degree in political science wouldn't hurt either, lol.  Scene after scene is a chaotic flood of political strategizing, as characters wind in and out of one office room in the White House after another.  If you're trying to exercise your brain muscles, this beats crossword puzzles or

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More than a decade ago, I spent some time watching these programs, but at the time I was focused on the liberal crap that the show does seem to promote.  The characters are liberal Democrats, and they are always arguing with idealism and virtuosity the merits of the socialistic approach to government.

What is the philosophical question about art--does art reflect society, or does society reflect art?  Without probing into the question, it does seem self-evident that the West Wing is/was a propaganda tool for the Democratic party.  Big media has ubiquitous power to manipulate the minds of evening TV watchers across the nation.  Have not many priests and bishops warned about the influence of TV on corrupting the minds of the youth?

At the same time, art reflects society, and in that respect perhaps the mature mind can take in said art and filter out the liberal values it is reflecting from society.  In other words, for entertainment purposes, I think an informed Catholic can watch shows like the West Wing while filtering out the liberal messages, so that one is not imitating the art.

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I'm impressed by Martin Sheen's character President Bartlett.  The character is full of life, even though he knows secretly he has a diagnosis of M.S.  He is full of energy, humor, and passion.   His team of experts make for a fun and at times funny dynamic.  There's C.J. the press secretary.  The part you have to filter out is her feminist, aggressive personality.  The part that sticks is her humorous awkwardness.  Then there's the male trio speech writers/advisors to the president--Tobby who can always be seen carrying some kind of bagel or danish;  Sam, played by the dashing (yes I said dashing) Rob Lowe; and Josh, the neurotic, impassioned, idealist.

In conclusion, while I find the progressive politics of the West Wing to be uninteresting, I think this series is worth watching for mature audiences (hmm, I guess I'm saying I'm in that audience), if for no other reason than to challenge one's mental faculties.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ask Your Doctor to Check Your Vitamin B12!!!

So, it seems very likely my recent health issues follow a Vitamin B12 deficiency who knows how long I have had.  Turns out you MUST consume regularly beef and milk.  We've been chowing down on chicken and ground turkey for years.  And I'm thinking Almond milk, despite its high amounts of Calcium, isn't a rich source of this vital substance.

Consider this a service announcement, interrupting your evening Netflix program.

If you are experiencing a) extreme fatigue, b) insomnia, c) muscle aches and pains, d) numbness/pins and needles in the extremeties...

GET Thee to a Doctor and get tested EARLY (as it seems I did).  You DON'T want these symptoms to go untreated.

IF you don't like doctors, scram down to your local lab and have them run a blood sample.  Normal range is 200-1000.  I'm sitting at 392 which is low, but still in the "mildly deficient" category.  If you're low, pick up a bottle of B12 at the pharmacy, the kind you put into a dropper and put under your tongue (really gets into blood stream).

I'll keep you updated on my B12 recovery.  Blessed Lent.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Oklahoma "Winter" Weather. Global warming?

If you've passed through the Okie Heartland recently, or live within it's humble borders, you may have noticed an uncanny trend of warm, pseudo-Spring-like weather since Christmastide.  Not a flurry nor a day of freezing temperatures, that I can recall anyway.  Not in February, and not in March.  Well as I've maintained before, Oklahoma is already a bit it's own Twighlight zone, and the weather is no exception.  After all, we have the #1 Meterology school in the WORLD at our own University of Oklahoma-Norman campus because of our funky, educational changes in climate (+ tornadoes, cue the movie "Twister").

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This begs the question:  why the warm winter?  A happy smile from above? Just one of those serpentine meanderings that nature takes throughout cosmological time? How about a sign of global warming?

I suspect some of my fellow trads will rule out global warming.  Before all my fellow traditionalists, I must confess I do believe in it for two reasons.

1. science.   2. philosophy, i.e. Catholic philosophy.  Here me out friends.

1.  Science.  Drawing on logic, I find it highly unlikely that the overwhelming majority of environmental scientists in the last several decades would be SO blinded by intellectual pride and new age earth worship that the encyclopedic data they put forward to support global warming would so biased and skewed to cast doubt on the established scientific theory.   For the sake of argument, let's say most DO succumb to these vices, but we are talking about global consensus of world congresses of the most reputable scientists.

There is a supreme place for the Baltimore catechism, and a high place for the humanities--especially Catholic-oriented Literature, but there is also a very important place for science.  This is Thomistic.  According to the Angelic Doctor, knowledge of the Creator is based on knowledge of His Creation.

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2.  Philosophy--i.e. Catholic philosophy.   As Thomistic philosopher of science Fr. S.L. Jaki articulated,  while modern science may tend to separate itself from philosophy, especially that inspired by the Catholic system, a true life of faith necessarily wed to philosophy cannot be something separate from natural science. Otherwise faith is based on blindness or emotion, and not reason.

So, to me, from a Catholic philosophical perspective, looking out across the Globe these couple centuries, one cannot help but see modern man raping the Earth.  Descartes was one of the pioneers of the modern experiment, and he decided that the human mind is separate from the human body.  Later modern philosophers would extend this to a "Man vs. Nature" philosophy.  Cue Charles Darwin and Jack Landon's Call of the Wild.

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Descartes.  A Founding Father of Modern Philosophy

The dynamic basically works like this:  if the mind floats above and disconnected from the body, so modern man has dicatorship over nature, and is not bound by its laws.  We do not have to "act in conformity with nature," which is one of the precepts of Natural Law ethics.  How that plays out in modern history is alarming.

There are little checks in place to curtail modern man raping the Earth, from the industrial revolution to nuclear weapons to environmental pollution.  The common denominator is a few powerful tycoons with modern technology aimed at the surface of our planet motivated more by greed and lust for power than a love of God's Creation.

I have my own biases.  I spent a large portion of my childhood learning life skills in the outdoors through the Boy Scouts.  In college I would major inbn biology.  God has always given me a reverence for his Creation.

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Also, I am Catholic.  While I would be one the last people to read Francis' document on the environment, it is Catholic Tradition that compels me to respect all God has given us in Nature.

The mountains, rivers, and streams.  The birds, butterflies, deer, fish, cats and dogs.  The majestic vistas, cool valleys, and mysterious caves.   The blue sky, the sun, the wind and rain, and the seasons of the year.  When I focus on the altar of sacrifice, it is not just the angels and saints I imagine looking down on it, or us believers gathered in a church to receive the Bread of Life, it is also the stars, the heavens, and all life on earth that is oriented there.

I hope I've made a compelling rhetorical case for my conviction that "global warming" is likely if not certainly a reality, at least something to think about.

Tell me what ya'll think in the comment box below.  Whether you are an Okie or not, a trad or not, or a Catholic or not.  This is my reaching out again on this little blog.

Friends, a blessed remainder of Lent.  May the crosses you are given during this season gain you a higher and more glorious place in heaven, where St. John says God will create a "New Earth" (Book of the Apocolypse).