Friday, August 8, 2014

Piece of Advice #112: Pray

As the world spirals into chaos, with Russian separatists bombing airliners full of HIV researchers out of the sky, and ISIS beheading toddlers, and militant Muslims destroying millenia-old Christian communities and committing genocide, while Israel decides now is the time to show the Palestinians who's got bigger guns, Ebola rips through Africa and missionaries put self-preservation ahead of the safety of the whole North American continent, the U.S. Government deliberately floods our southern border with tens of thousands of  homeless children with a variety of contagious medical conditions, and the majority of people in post-economic-recovery America can't scrape together $400 for an emergency expense, the future seems bleaker by the hour. Add in extreme cold and extended drought, wars and rumors of wars, famine, livestock disease, oil spills, poisonous solvent exposure, groundwater contamination, and nuclear waste, and it feels downright biblical.

Of course, none of this is new. Horrors have happened before, on a grander scale, and some survived to tell of the carnage and degradation. Drought and dust storms have happened before and been addressed, albeit with tremendous environmental damage and human suffering. Christians and Jews, Russians and Chinese, as well as any number of other religious and ethnic groups have been targeted for genocide, not even that long ago.

It's frightening, though, when stories like this one hit your local news: a twelve-year-old boy walks up to a nine-year-old on a playground and stabs him repeatedly with a knife, killing him, then turns himself into the police, saying, "I don't want to be on this earth anymore." It makes you doubt your own advice and think twice about ever letting your kid out of your sight again. You get to wondering if these parts can be cleaned, if the puzzle can be put together again, or if this time things are too messy to put back in order again.

It's during these times that I've taken up prayer again, albeit in a different way than when I was a child. For one, I no longer really expect miracles or direct intervention in my (or others') problems. I pray for perseverance. I pray that I will be able to be generous with others instead of hoarding and counting what savings we have. I pray that people will build community and that they will be grateful for what they do have instead of resentful over what they do not. I pray that I will build community and that I will be grateful. I pray that my husband will figure out how to make the hours he's put into his business pay off.

Over a year ago we found out my husband was going to be losing his job, and I decided to say my rosary daily so he would find something else. Our income was drastically reduced, and I've had to step up my hours writing to keep the family economically afloat, and during the long, horrific winter, I got fairly discouraged.  But I kept praying. During Lent I asked if anyone needed prayer, and slowly my prayer list has gotten longer and longer. I didn't realize before how many people in my social circle were struggling with health issues, family problems, unemployment, grief and sorrow. Praying for them made me realize how common my problems were, how this was just another thing people, even people who plan and prepare, go through and endure and try to stiffen their spine through. It's been humbling and eye-opening.

There really isn't anything I can do right now for Christians being murdered in the Middle East, except pray for them. But I can pray for them. And the act of prayer connects me to them and to all the other people who pray and have prayed. Some people say that prayer is worthless, that time and money is more important to give. But I've found that, by praying, I am more aware and concerned about the people around me. I check in on them more and am moved to be more personally generous. If I pray for the Israelis and Palestinians, I conceptualize them as people with needs. I know that when people tell me they are praying for me, I feel loved and cared about. And if that is the main gift I can afford to give now, that's the one I'll give.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Piece of Advice #111: Bypass Craigslist Casual Encounters

The big news in my neck of the woods this last week has been the triple homicide that resulted from a Craigslist Casual Encounters sex meetup gone wrong.

Police are being somewhat mum still, but only hours after Brady Oestrike fled a police chase, slammed his car into a highway barrier, and shot himself, and the police recovered the body of 18-year-old Brooke Slocum and her unborn baby from his trunk, people online were already making connections between Slocum and several Craigslist postings from June and July.

Apparently, Slocum, 8 months pregnant with her boyfriend Charles Oppeneer's baby, arranged to meet Oestrike with Oppeneer at a park for sex. Oppeneer's headless body was found on Wednesday, July, 16, and a search for Slocum was carried out and ended with the aforementioned chase, crash, and suicide.

I've covered stranger danger here at  TLAoS-PfW and have argued against Craigslist as a good place to look for love or sex, even. As I've explained to my 10-year-old son, repeatedly, you do not know who is on the other end of an internet chat, and it's imprudent to meet anyone you don't know in anywhere other than a very public place (and never without adult supervision). From interviews with Slocum's family members, it seems this was not a first encounter for Brooke Slocum. She'd been augmenting her income through Craigslist for awhile - until she met the wrong guy and was murdered.

This story is depressing on so many levels. You have Slocum and Oppeneer strange relationship (Oppeneer had two children from a previous failed relationship) and plans to co-parent, with or without the third party Slocum was seeking out for true love (?). So there's three children with precarious futures because clearly these two weren't going to make it as a couple. And then there's Slocum's apparent attempt to hold on to her boyfriend by including him in other sexual adventures. She's an attractive enough young woman with her whole life ahead of herself and this is the best arrangement she can create for herself?

Additionally, you have Slocum's family who could not control her behavior. Her father was quick to say in interviews that Brooke "wanted love" and to justify his daughter's behavior as a desperate attempt to "keep her new family together." Based on Brooke Slocum's online profile's, it's obvious that her home life had taken a few beatings long before she signed up on Craigslist. She was writing letters to her unborn baby, Audi, explaining why she met men on Craigslist for sex.

Who does that? Not anyone who's had healthy parent-child relationships patterned for her.

And then there's the killer Oestrike who is more of a cipher at this time. It appears he had used Craigslist before for role playing stuff (that he paid for). He seems strange, lonely and obsessed with weaponry, particularly guns, but not a poster child for triple homicide. And where did he put Oppeneer's head? Police have taken apart Oestrike's car part by part, and gone through his house, ripping apart furniture and walls. I suppose we will have to wait some time to get a reason for why Oestrike took it in his head to murder Oppeneer and Slocum.

It's not surprising that in a country when we have government subsidized Planned Parenthood employees educating 15-year-old girls about rough sex and bondage, you eventually get young women comfortable enough with prostitution to turn to it for money. It's also not surprising that, given the divorce rate, many young people are insufficiently supervised and get into trouble. But how sad and unnecessary this all is.

I hope that any young readers of this blog will think twice about their safety before they go anywhere with people they don't know and will skip Craigslist Encounters altogether. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Piece of Advice #110: Don't wrap your kids up in cotton wool.

Did you have a Big Wheel?  I had one, the ugly orange original, not some fancy, rigged up glitter princess one.  Remember how loud they were, that plastic grinding against the dirty blacktop?  What a great memory.

Gosh, and remember when kids wore shorts that short in a completely non-sexual way?  I spent much of the 70s (by 1980, being 9 years old, I wouldn't have been caught dead on a Big Wheel) hanging out in hideously ugly green/yellow/orange androgynous polyester two piece pants sets.  And my hair was like that boy's.  Ugh, what a horrible decade for fashion.  But, man, as kids we were still allowed to do stuff.

One summer my sister and I built forts out of wooden pallets left behind by the developers who carved out my suburb and stopped more or less with our house.  They dumped a whole box of nails and all kinds of 2x4s and pressed wood a big ravine they dug out behind our house (Hill #1), and we dragged all of it up the hill and got out our dad's hammers and went to work. We made this rag tag shack fort and we were so proud of it.  The boys from a street away came and tore it down in the night, and we vowed we'd build it again.  And we did.  Again and again.  Stepping on rusty nails did not stop us!  Ripping open our scalps on broken wood from low door "frames" didn't stop us.  We had the best time getting sunburned and scabbed and poked and cut and showing those boys we would not be defeated.

We walked and biked all around our neighborhood, all day long in the summer.  I don't even know if my mom even knew where we were.  We were just supposed to be home by dinner and not watch TV. We'd ride over to the park and swing on the rusty swings and fling each other off the paint chipped merry-go-round.  I distinctly remember riding the steep hill down Packer Dr. with my feet on the handlebars and my hands up in the air and, of course, no bike helmet.  No one wore a bike helmet.  No one.  I didn't tell my mom about the feet on the handle bars thing, though.  No, I did not.

Elbow and knee pads too!
There were creepy adults in the 1970s and 80s, but we didn't look at adults as creepy.  Now as parents we read all the time about sex offenders and kidnappers and closed head injuries and we want to protect our kids against all of that.  Of course we do.  But we're getting pretty paranoid.  There's no real reason toddlers need to wear helmets on their scooters.  They're not going very fast and they aren't going to be out of the supervision of adults.  But I've seen all kinds of moms apologize for their tiny kids being "in danger" from not wearing a helmet. 

My son rides a bike and a scooter and roller blades and I've never been able to get him to wear one.  I also can't get him to put a coat on for half the winter, let alone mittens or gloves.  I do not let him wander about the neighborhood because we live in the city, only a couple of blocks away from a middle school in which my cousin's wife remembers seeing one girl shiv another with nail file in the hall.  The houses across the street from the school have had any number of break ins too.  He plays in the park and walks the neighborhood, but I wouldn't be comfortable saying, "Be back by dinner."  I just don't know my neighbors like we knew the neighbors growing up - and I have tried.  Three different neighbors moved out this year, ones I'd gotten to know some. 

Still, I let my son climb trees and slide down icy hills in winter.  I don't make a big deal out of it if he get a boo boo.  Cuts and bruises and scabs and scars are a part of growing up.  Life is full of pains, large and small, and if he doesn't learn to deal with them now, he'll be too weak to deal with larger problems later.  And I'd prefer that he not turn into a huge whiner who thinks it's other people's responsibility to shelter him from any and all adversity in life.  If you let life be the teacher and hand out consequences for homework, they'll learn some important lessons earlier on and probably be more pleasant to be around in the here and now.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Sorry, I can't get behind this blog/Twitter trend.  And it's not because I'm not consistently appalled by the amount of weight Americans have gained over the last 20 years.  I am.  I remember driving home from work sometime in the late 1990s and hearing on the radio that two-thirds of Americans were overweight and feeling shocked.  After that I started spot checking each roomful of people to confirm this and realized that, clearly, we have a problem.  It's not confirmed that obesity causes higher morbidity, but it's certainly correlated with a swath of horrible diseases - diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and strokes, and it exacerbates other conditions like joint problems and arthritis.  That only makes sense; if you load up a person with mobility issues with, say, 10 bags of flour, they're going to find it more difficult and painful to get around.  Added to the fact that people who are obese tend to have become obese by eating incredibly unhealthy foods, and we have a severely health compromised citizenry (and right when we're looking to socialize medical costs too!).  I fully support any sort of research that could provide solutions to turn this trend around.  It's particularly troubling to see children and young people get fat because their obesity will directly impact their overall quality of life and the array of choices they will get to make.

But fat shaming is like slut shaming - obesity and promiscuity are established practices in the western world, and we've reached and passed critical mass for turning it around by social shunning.  When 7 out of 10 people in a room are fat, your trenchant commentary on their expanded waistlines is going to have little effect - except for arousing anger and hard feelings.  Sure, feel free to reject the lunacy of the "Heathy at Any Size" propaganda.  You don't have to believe things just because people really, REALLY want to you to believe them.  But we're going to have to come up with better solutions than tossing epithets like "fatty" and "land whale."  Or snapping pics on our cellphones and uploading them to Twitter.  Seriously, that's just self-righteous cruelty. 

You can give people information, but until they're ready to hear it, or until we install a better system of incentives/disincentives, you can't control people's weight. 

I've heard the argument that social shunning turned cigarette smoking from cool to prole, but while there is currently a lowered status assigned to smoking, it was government intrusion and eventually very, very expensive lawsuits that turned things around for our collective lungs.  It was only after Big Tobacco's back was broken that we all fell in line and denied ever EVAR smoking those cancer sticks.  We then shunted the addicted to roped off ghettos and eventually out into the cold, cold night.  Only people who ride very large motorcycles or work in black fingernail jobs like auto repair management can smoke with impunity now.  The government could probably do the same with fast food (or alcohol!), but it's in bed with Big Ag and Big Sugar - so no dice.  Unhealthy people with unhealthy debilitating addictions are easier to push around too, so perhaps it's not in our government's best interests to encourage it at this time.

Obesity affects everyone - outside of the weight loss/bariatric surgery/dialysis industries - negatively, but this is not an effective answer to the problem. 

Monday, September 16, 2013


Western culture is clearly coming to a breaking point between the two competing ideologies of Liberalism, which has its "religious" expression in Humanism - with or without the atheism - and Christianity, which is considerably weaker than it's ever been in the West, outplayed and outshone by its competitor's easy breezy narcissistic hedonism. 

The two have coexisted uneasily for this last half century, but cannot much longer now that Liberalism has decided to directly and unambiguously target religion and the religious as Evil, and has decided that nodding and smiling is not enough of a response to affirmations of its core tenets of democracy, diversity, unfettered sexual exploration, and redistributionism.  So, here we go.

The Pax Dickinson skirmish of last week, was one of many recent examples of people being fired for saying something - instead of say, doing something - the other side considered going against the narrative and outside the realm of acceptable thought.  My response to it was rather personal as it happened to me, on a much smaller, less public scale a few years ago.  I had done volunteer work for a reader's website for about 10 years and had gotten along just fine with the site's administration and readers all that time, until I strayed from the party line on frats, alcohol and rape, and then people made a lot of noise, called me a lot of names, attempted to psychoanalyze me online, and called for my dismissal.  I decided to resign rather than apologize and (maybe) be forgiven.  Doing thousands - literally thousands - of hours of volunteer html coding behind the scenes no longer seemed so appealing.  The hardest thing for me to swallow was the accusation that my son was obviously in an abusive situation with me as his mother, if I thought the way I think.

I saw the same sentiment echoed in Anil Dash's words about Dickinson: "So, to be clear: I have no interest in playing an agent of Pax Dickinson's redemption. I do not want him anywhere near kids of any sort, let alone teaching anyone." 

Words now = pedophilia or child abuse. 

I was also extremely put off by how the people who criticized me seemed to revel in my newly cast off status, how they gleefully proclaimed, "Google is forever," as if my never getting a job again was suitable punishment for saying women shouldn't go to frat parties and get completely hammered because it wasn't safe.  Justice served!  Maybe someday she and her (abused kid) can starve!  We can always hope!

To be clear, I believe (among other things):
  • Order > Chaos
  • Self control > Hedonism
  • Community > Individual expression
None of those values would have even been questioned by the majority of Americans fifty years ago.

It's interesting, though, to see how the other side reacts when someone of their values wanders past the ideological fence and gets taken down.  The outrage, the cries of unfairness, the accusations of injustice, bigotry, McCarthyism; it's all the same.  In this case, a lesbian Catholic school teacher was fired for coming out and stating she was in a lesbian relationship.  She wanted to express her values, and since this is not in accordance with the Catholic Church's "branding," she was fired.  An entirely predictable outcome. 

Note that children are once again involved.  It's really starting to heat up over children and who gets access to their minds.  This is because we're splintering as a society into groups - not even cohesive groups - but everyone knows that children are the future, and if people can choose how and where and why to educate their children, they may not choose as directed.  Should be interesting. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Twitter and humanity

It was reported today that Business Insider today fired Pax Dickinson for his history of "offensive tweets" on Twitter.  Business Insider characterized it thus:
A Business Insider executive has made some comments on Twitter that do not reflect our values and have no place at our company. The executive has left the company, effective immediately.
A bit coy, but whatever.  I guess Henry Blodgett doesn't have to tell us whether Dickinson will be eligible for unemployment or not.  He's busy bending over to please a bunch of implacable harpies.  Apparently this whole thing was sparked by someone named Nitasha Tiku who noticed that Dickinson has little love for feminism and became all OFFENDED.  Commence Twitter firestorm, and emails fired off to Blodgett calling for him to axe Dickinson, and a day later he is no longer working for Business Insider and his reputation is in the dumpster.

You ever get the feeling that the adults are not running the show anymore?  That we are now living some large landlocked Lord of the Flies experiment with the angry, hysterical kids getting all the pork?  I mean, honestly, who cares what a segment of people on Twitter think?  Do none of these company heads have the basic fortitude to simply reply, "Thank you for your concern," and hit delete?  And what is with all of the asinine snark?  Is douche one of those words that you can just add any noun to in order to enhance its basic quality.  Douchecanoe?  Are we in 7th grade?   Don't people get that the brogrammer tweet was supposed to be self parody?  And why is it kosher to mock his name?

Again, are we in middle school?  I feel like we're in middle school, and the teachers are long, LONG dead.

I don't always agree with Pax's tweets, but I've found a lot of them funny.  I felt the same way when I was an expat in Russia and would get together with other Americans.  There's nothing funny about the fact that Russians use a spoon to eat their cake instead of a fork.  Unless you and everyone else in the room have had the experience of picking up a fork and being laughed at for it.  Then it is hilarious.  Just hilarious.

Here's my serious question to all the people who ganged up to deprive Dickinson of a job, are rejoicing that he's unemployed now, or are happily making comments threatening his physical safety:  what are you supposed to do if you actually, truly don't believe all the humanist, progressive propaganda the news media/educational system/corporations shovel at you day in and day out?  Think but never talk?  Talk only in whispers amongst your family and hope a neighbor doesn't hear and report you to the Party?  Because it gets old, really really old absorbing it all day long and never venting.  Do you enjoy mouthing a creed you don't believe in?  Somehow, I think not.
I mean, what if you don't believe white people are the source of everything that's wrong in the world?  What if you think traditional gender roles worked just fine?  What if you think the overall impact of religion was - gasp - positive for humanity?  You can't say these things at work any more.  Or in college.  Or high school.  Or in news articles about cops being shot during traffic stops. Not without being downgraded for it.  Or suffering endless anti-religious trolling.   Or being fired.  And apparently you can't say them on unrelated social media either.  Teachers have been fired for status updates, and kids get sent to jail for making sarcastic comments on Facebook.

Does this seem a little controlling to anyone else?  I thought in this brave new post-modern, post-Christian world we were all supposed to live and let live, to accept diversity, to coexist.  To tolerate each other.  Who goes around gunning for the jobs of people they haven't even met and feels all righteous doing it?

Ironically, it's the behavior of these people spouting off their humanist values that make me sigh for humanity today.  We are so tribal, and ever ready violently vanquish anyone from an "enemy" tribe and whoop it up at the post blooding celebration.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Piece of Advice #109: Don't deliberately sabotage your looks

At the risk of being accused of pulling a "Kids today..." curmudgeonly rant, it does seem like many young people are deliberately making themselves unattractive, and I do not understand for what purpose. 

And I'm not talking about the tattooing/piercing/branding trends, although I find myself horrified by those as well.  I get that those are a fad, fed by our narcissistic cultural urge to be unique while still being conformist.  I'm talking about people who seem to want to make themselves look as ugly as possible.

This week my family and I were standing in line at a store and two young women came in.  They both had shaved their heads in some sort of hideous long Mohawk, but the second one was also grossly overweight, had two sets of spacers in her earlobes (in orange and green), and was wearing an incredibly sour expression.  Everything about her was off-putting.  I tried imagining what she would have looked like circa 1985 (or, heck, circa 2000), and while she would never have been stunning, under different circumstances, she could have been attractive.  But everything she had done to herself made her look more tribal, more sullen, more hostile, and it had to have been deliberate.

Was she motivated by some sort of self-loathing, I wondered - did she choose to repel people rather than wait for them to reject her?  Or was this some sort of political or sociological statement she was trying to make?  Was I supposed to notice her or was I supposed to avert my gaze? 

A week or so ago the local shelter put up pictures of new dog and cat adoptive families, and one couple was strikingly unattractive.  Both the man and the woman were heavy and dressed like itinerants, but the woman had dyed her spiked hair a fluorescent pink, and had an illustration from The Giving Tree tattooed all over her shoulder and arm.  Why, why, WHY? 

Neither of these women were physically ugly in their basics, but they had made themselves so with their clothing/ornamentation/lifestyle choices.  I'm not talking about people who have let themselves go or people who, for instance, have inherited unfortunate dental problems but can't afford to get braces.  I understand laziness and poverty.  But I don't understand self-sabotage.

The fact is that even if you are not in the dating market, your appearance does affect how people perceive and, therefore, treat you.  Your choices about what you wear and choose to look like affect the choices people make in how to treat you.  We all may secretly dream of being treated according to our inner selves, but people judge you on what they see, and if you look scary, hostile, threatening, sullen, unapproachable, outlandish, or just plain ugly, they will treat you worse than if you were beautiful, attractive, or even plain.  Most of us aren't beautiful, but we can at least strive for clean, pleasant, and unremarkable.  You may think, "I'm not interested in meeting anybody," or "I'm not looking for a job," but the way you present yourself now affect the way people will feel about you and talk about you when recommending (or not) you for anything in the future. 

So don't wreck your looks on purpose.