Monday, July 24, 2017

A Random Assortment

~ More Jean Vanier. (And there's a documentary, Summer in the Forest! It's a bit over-produced, but the story is, of course, wonderful.)

~ Fireworks!

~ I had no issues with Goodnight Moon, but I do now.

~ I had never even heard of the Donner party before visiting the site. Reading more about it is even worse.

~ I think PAL would've liked this (about McDonalds).

~ On typewriters in prison.

~ The inventor of a self-cleaning house. (Charlotte Perkins Gilman might have loved this.)

~ Jane Jacobs, Georgia O'Keeffe, and the Power of a Marimekko Dress.

~ I think this is a powerful piece with an implicit criticism of the terrible NYTimes article advocating for the murder of disabled children.

~ I am partial to the Modern Love series, but this is especially profound. And I think it's applicable to more areas of life than just love.

~ Foster Care as Punishment: The New Reality of 'Jane Crow'." In the community I grew up in, CPS was eschewed because they might interfere with parents' decision to punish their children as they saw fit (i.e. with spanking). But racial and class-based interference is a far bigger problem. Free Range parenting should have something to say about this.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


(All from Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal)

"Please let Christian principles permeate my writing and please let there be enough of my writing (published) for Christian principles to permeate."

"Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted."

"Oh dear God I want to write a novel, a good novel. I want to do this for a good feeling & for a bad one. The bad one is uppermost. The psychologists say it is the natural one. Let me get away dear God from all things thus 'natural.' Help me to get what is more than natural into my work--help me to love & bear with my work on that account. If I have to sweat for it, dear God, let it be as in Your service. I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that keeps me in is hope."

"If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me. Right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can't write a thing. But I'll continue to try--that is the point."

"Maybe I'm mediocre. I'd rather be less. I'd rather be nothing. An imbecile. Yet this is wrong. Mediocrity, if that is my scourge, is something I'll have to submit to. If that is my scourge. If I ever find out will be time to submit. I will have to have a good many opinions."

"What I am asking for is really very ridiculous. Oh Lord, I am saying, at present I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately. But then God can do that--make mystics out of cheeses."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Yesterday, one of Ilana's students asked if I am her twin. It made my day.

(I'm 9 years and one kid older than her, which is a lot. Ilana suggested I show them my graying temples to straighten them out.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Beach Reading

Wise Blood

Wow--O'Connor is amazing--every word perfectly in its place. And oh what mystery. The irony, the humor, the intelligence, the subtlety. I don't think any words I have to talk about this book are adequate. Plus I never really begin to get O'Connor until I'm several readings in. It's an odd book, but somehow her telling of this odd story makes it feel less strange than it is.

That Nothing May Be Lost

I'm only halfway through and happy to have more to read. How wonderful it is to have a friend who writes a book. (I mean, I have plenty of friends who write books, but the academic sort aren't actually meant to be read.) Anyway, it's like being back in NoVa and getting to go to the nicest Catholic church around, to hear the best homilies. Clearly, Fr. S (I forgot his old blog name) is well-steeped in the scriptures and in the Catholic tradition.


I got to hear the author read from this book last year, and she mentioned in her talk that a couple of people I know a little bit are characters in the book. Well, they don't appear until near the end, and it's an odd book, but it was well worth reading just for their appearance. I would love to be a character in a book. Take note, dear readers who might also be aspiring writers.

Anyway, this book is weird--it's meditative and stream of consciousness and really meant to be read out loud. It's sort of great--it's a meditation on the ending of love and on identity after child-birth (and of course on the tension between work and care) (I love that stuff). 


Today is our fourth anniversary, which we discovered in an email of congratulations from Fr. OP, who married us.

Francisco: "I guess we have our bachelor's degree in marriage."

Also, I think that today, four years in, we've come across our first irreconcilable difference--Francisco prefers lights to come on when the car door is open; I prefer none.

Me: "Who says you get to decide?"
Francisco: "God."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


"Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Isaac grew, and on the day of the child's weaning
Abraham held a great feast."

I think that on the day of Chester's weaning I will hold a great feast. Although as time passes it seems less and less likely that such a day will ever arrive. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Random Assortment

~ On video games and work. A colleague suggested that virtual reality will be a cheap, useful diversion when the end of work arrives. This concerns me.

~ Calders in motion.

~ Gotta love Philly. (Francisco says it's civil society in action. I will be staying out of the dumpsters.)

~ Is there any better writer anywhere? I suggest not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


"You get used to it." --Francisco, about the dill pickle potato chips he inadvertently purchased.

Later: "I asked you what kind you wanted and you said you didn't care!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


At the place where we are summering (my parents' house), we have between 1 and 5 desserts per night. The kid woke up the other morning and immediately said, "I want dessert." #dessertlife

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goodness (Children's Book Version)

Since most of my spiritual reading these days comes in the form of children's books read to my son before bed, I thought I'd tell you about some of my favorites. 

When my father read us books growing up, he always insisted we pick out the Christian ones, which always made us grumble. And in our defense, the Christian books we had were not always the most enticing. But now I understand--I love reading to my son about the saints, about people loving God and following Him. I am basically always moved and inspired by these stories, and hope the kid will be someday, too. 

(And I do think that there are better and worse Christian books, and there are stories of goodness that are outside of the Christian tradition.) 

Christopher, the Holy Giant

Tomie de Paola is the best children's writer that I've encountered at presenting worlds that are permeated by the supernatural. And he's also great at portraying people doing the thing that they were created to do, whether it's his autobiographical works about his own devotion to drawing, or legends of people working at their own art and skill, and doing it for God. 

The story of Christopher is my favorite of the Paolas I've read--which is not as many as I wish of his 250 plus books. Reprobus the Giant wants to serve the strongest person in the world (a noble endeavor), which sets him off on a journey that leads him to Christ. The hermit he meets tells him a profound truth--that Reprobus can't find Christ, but that Christ must find him. What shall he do in the meantime? Pray, and serve people by using his size and strength to carry them across the river.

The Clown of God

Similarly, a clown in his declining years offers his best skill--juggling--as a gift for the Christ child. What a reminder to offer our talents to the Christ child. 

Old Befana retells an old Italian legend of a woman obsessed with cleaning who sees the star in the East and seeks the Christ child. To be perfectly honest, I'm not 100 percent sure that I understand the story, but I like that it merges with the Three Kings, a favorite in our house. 

Legend of the Bluebonnet

And I think what I love best about Paola is that not all of his legends are Christian. He tells the story of a little girl who sacrifices her most beloved doll for the people who become her people. The childlike obedience is inspiring. 

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is the story of an artist who is so devoted to his calling that he is ready when the divine intervenes. (And it reminds us that we're just supposed to do our own job, and not wish we could do the jobs of others.) 

On to non-Tomie de Paola books:

Saint George and the Dragon

Don't we all need lots of courage plus divine assistance? And aren't we all tempted to go straight for heaven and skip the difficulties of earth? 

(I'm not too comfortable with all this knights-rescuing-princesses business in general, but I really like this story.) 

Legends of the Saints

I think I mentioned before that I wasn't expecting the kid to have a long attention span for this at his age, but he especially loves Saint Blaise because there are lots of animals and a fish bone. 

The Selfish Giant

I love Oscar Wilde and was thrilled to discover that he wrote a children's story. Add in that the Christ child appears in the story and there's a conversion and it's my favorite book ever. (Although, at least in the version that I have, the picture-to-words ratio is a little off.)

Song of the Swallows

I love the missions in California. This book has beautiful illustrations, a mission, and music (not that I can figure out the tune).

(I'm a little uncomfortable with the priests-coming-to-help-the-poor-Indians-who-didn't-know-anything-about-how-to-live narrative, though. It sure as heck also shows up in that Thanksgiving book everyone reads.)

Good King Wenceslas

We sang this a million times at Christmas. What an excellent reminder to share what we have with others. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Memory of PAL

When my grandfather died several years ago, what stood out to me the most from his funeral was the number of other people who had been the co-beneficiaries of his kindness and generosity. My grandfather made me feel like the only person in the world, so lavish was his steady affection, but really people he encountered in all the other areas of his life--Boy Scouts, choir, the funeral home where he worked in his retirement, and his church--were similarly cared for. I guess it's not shocking: If someone is good, that goodness will show up everywhere, but it shocked me. 

When I found out about the great PAL's death on Tuesday, I had the same realization. I feel his loss acutely, but so do hundreds of others whom PAL treated with the same generous respect. Reading remembrances on his facebook wall reveals students, colleagues, and friends who all say the same things. I'll say them, too. 

I met PAL when I was an undergraduate at a summer program. We were at Oriel College. The thing I remember most from that week is PAL talking to me about my evangelical upbringing with fascination and respect, as if I had something to teach him about the world. He also mentioned wryly that I'd need a new religious tradition for my time in graduate school, and that Catholicism would be best. And so he set me on the path to my conversion. He instructed me later, ever the pragmatist, Don't be a zealot about it. 

Between graduate programs I gave a paper at a conference and he happened to be on the same panel. It was the first paper I ever gave. Afterward, he took me out for a drink, gave me comments on my presentation, and just talked. PAL never had anything to gain from me, but looked out for me throughout graduate school--inviting me to dinners, events, just to catch up, introducing me to many of his friends. He was a reader on my dissertation. The last time we spoke was this spring to talk about which academic position I should take. He was the best person to get advice from and with whom to work out a tricky situation. He was a constant supporter.

Once I ran into him in advance of a dinner or event that we were both attending. I saw him go into a store and so I followed him in. It turned out that when he packed for the trip, he grabbed two maroon shoes that almost, but didn't quite, match, and so had to pick up a third pair of these virtually identical maroon shoes. I thought this the height of silliness and didn't shy away from telling him that. Ever self-deprecating and sheepish, of course he didn't mind.

Which brings me to his sense of humor, which isn't even remotely like any other I've encountered (I suspect it is similar to that of WCM, who I never met). He mumbled his jokes, under his breath, so you have to be listening carefully to even hear them. They're always sarcastic, extreme, and just sort of ridiculous, and he follows them up with an "uhhhhh." He's the funniest political theorist I've ever met. 

I haven't even gotten to his insights, which I always found sane and refreshingly fleeing any whiff of ideology. PAL was conservative and was suspicious of "conservative" theories that weren't grounded in practice. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Walmart isn't great, he would say, but there are plenty of big Catholic families that couldn't live without it. And of course, the infamous, oft-quoted solution he had to our demographic crisis: Get married and have babies--really take it seriously and stick with it; and start smoking--and really stick with that, too. 

PAL was a Catholic political theorist, bringing the insights of Augustine and Tocqueville, Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, and Friday Night Lights and Mad Men, to bear on contemporary problems. He emphasized our relational nature and our alienation in the world. There's really no one who so eclectically and agilely interprets anything from GIRLS to transhumanism from the Christian perspective. His unique voice will be greatly missed. And of course, his use of capitalization. 

His death is a great loss to me and to countless others and to our world. And his seemingly boundless impact makes me aspire to treat my students with the same generous respect, patience, and attention with which he treated everyone he encountered. May he support us as much from heaven as he did on earth. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017


29 months

Chester is starting to listen to the sounds in words and think about what letter they start with. 

He loves books and often asks for one to sleep with. The other day he sat on his little chair and read a book to his stuffed dog, "Robbie" (this is the first stuffed animal he has named beyond identifying what kind of animal it is). 

Things have not been going well with his daycare--we are very dissatisfied with it and don't have other choices right now. He is incredibly flexible, though, and just goes with the flow. That, at least, is a relief. 

He's taken to asking both parents for anything he wants. He has to compare notes before he accepts defeat. And he is quite aware that daddy is more likely to give him nice foods and shows. 

​He announced the other day, happily, that he is pissed. I guess it's time to restrict my language further (didn't even realized that I said that much). Alas. ​

He's hilarious--intentionally and unintentionally: Riffing off a book on early locomotives we have, at dinner he claimed that there was prairie dog rather than chicken in his chicken gravy. After his uncle showed him a skunk, every time I tell him that he's being bad, he asks if I'm going to spray stinky on him. The other day I asked him what an ancestor is (it's in one of our books); he got excited and said, "Nana is my ancestor!"

He is obsessed with dragons recently. We told him he was a brave knight after getting some blood taken and now he proclaims that widely.

When we're having dinner and Francisco and I get to talking about stuff, Chester interrupts us, saying, "What are you guys talking about?"

30 months

Down to nursing one time a day!

He has never had a blanket, but he's recently become very attached to my tea towel--it is his apron and priest outfit, as well as a picnic blanket. Plus he sleeps with it.

I don't think I recorded it here, but sometime a little before he turned two, he started sleeping through the night. Bliss!

He remains, however, a terrible napper. I can't always get him down; thankfully, daycare usually can.

He now talks nonstop and asks why constantly. It's a combination of super annoying and hilarious. The stories he tells!

His favorite color is brown.

Almost 31 months

For lent, we're trying to sing a verse of "Lord of All Hopefullness" at the appropriate time of day. 

Lord of All Hopefulness 

1. Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever child-like, no cares can destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
2. Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
3. Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
4. Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

This mostly only works for us at nighttime. We each (including the kid) hold a sheet of paper and sing. The kid never starts to sing until he's holding the sheet of paper, as if he doesn't know the words until he reads them. Other times he insists on holding the sheet for his father, but holds it so far away that his father can't see the words. 

He knows most of the words of the Lord's Prayer now, although he's silly right before bed and often recites them in a silly voice. 

He starts every question with, "Hey" right now--I guess he picked this up from me. And after every answer we give, he says, "Oh." 
​31 months

He has begun to dissolve into tears at the slightest thing--I put blue socks on him instead of brown, we ran out of sour cream for our chili. Or my personal favorite: We insisted on accompanying him to the counter of our local fast food spot to buy ice cream together. He would have preferred that we give him the money and let him do it himself. The kid is 2 and a half. ​
​32 months

Sometimes when he's playing priest, he says, "The holy gos-i-pel."

He's been able to say almost all of the Lord's Prayer for some time now (although rarely can be cajoled into keeping his attention through the whole thing), but at some point we switched to chanting in together before bed and he likes that so much more. It's amazing what music does for a toddler.