Saturday, September 29, 2012

Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

In the past few weeks I have done some tempo runs with friends--tempo runs are sustained high speed.  We have run the streets of East Baltimore and both times two specific runners have been clearly ahead of me starting some time in the third mile or sooner.  The first time, I motivated myself along.  The second time, I had two friends who helped keep me going as strong as I could.  Better run the second time.

In all the 5K's I've run recently, I have never had someone to run with virtually the whole time.  Today, at the starting line, I was with three other gentlemen from Back on My Feet and knew that there would be several others from Back on My Feet out on the course cheering us on.  Two of us had visions of running about the same time.  (We had similar recent personal bests.  I call mine a recent personal best as there was a time when I was 17 that I could run a lot faster but that almost counts as "someone else".   At this point in my life after 6.5 years of being back into fitness, I should just focus on the recen times.)  In any case, we went out.  One gentleman (who admittedly had worked last night and had not kept up with his running so much recently) fell behind early.  One gentleman went out fast (after having already done a distance run this morning) and pulled away in the first mile running a sub-6 but later burned out (his words) so that at about the 1.8 mile point the other two of us passed him.

The remaining gentleman and I ran the first mile just together at 6:15 pace.  Then we hung through the second mile together.  Every once in a while one of us would pull ahead slightly and then we would regroup.  I don't recall the time that was shouted out at exactly the 2 mile marker, but I know that we were running very consistent with our first mile.  It was interesting as my GPS watch and the course matched up exactly for mile 1 and almost exactly for mile 2.  Mile 3 on the course seemed a bit long and I pulled away slightly.  Ended up ahead of the guy I ran the race with by 4 seconds.  I would hardly say I "beat" him as it wasn't about winning or losing at that point.  It was just about pushing myself to my own limits (20:00.2 for the official time but I honestly thought I had broken 20 minutes on my watch) and seeing how well teaming up to run with someone else would help me and help him.  It helped us both amazingly.  Pacing together and not wanting to let the other person get too far away and encouraging each other throughout made a huge difference.

I hope to run with someone who runs my exact pace in a future race.  Two of the other three runners I began with asked if I'd be running either the Baltimore or Philly marathon this year.  Unfortunately, no and no.  As I've discussed before to prioritize in my life, I have chosen to step away from marathon running until Boston next year.  But, next time there is a Back on My Feet 5K or any other even where I see Road Runner, Michael, or Ryan, I'll know who to team up with to try to have more than one of us set a new personal best.  Running with a little help from friends is such a gift.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Last Two Elements of My Second Personal Vision Board

Now to finish my discussion of my second person vision board.  Having discussed my friends' wedding day extensively and noting that one of the entries was actually entitled wedding music brings me to the last two elements of the personal vision board I am imagining.  The first is music itself.  It has been an important part of my life from the time I liked to imitate Buddy Holly as a kid (and had a few of my classmates since along as Kevin Frick and the Ladybugs rather than Buddy Holly and the Crickets) to playing bass in the church's worship band (which, being at a Catholic church, led a protestant minister to refer to St Pius X as a reformed Catholic church).  I figure since the vision board includes a mockingjay, I could have musical notes coming from the bird's beak.  One option would be just four notes--much like Rue used in the first book.  A nice tip of the hat to popular culture.

The second option would be a tie in with strengthening marriage and strengthening family more generally.  Inside my parent's wedding rings and inside mine and Sherry's are the letters "ILYMTTY".  For anyone old enough to recall the the Spiral Staircase song these letters are from the main part of refrain from an old song, "I Love You More Today than Yesterday".  And of course, logically, if you can say that every day the next line follows, "But not as much as tomorrow."  This is a wonderful aspiration for marriage.  It is also a wonderful aspiration for family.  And not that I don't already love my sons for all I'm worth but each day brings a new way of expressing and talking about the love I have for my family members.  The opportunities for growth and diversification of the ways we show our love are endless.

So the alternative option would be to have the notes of the words that go with ILYMTTY as the notes coming from the mockingjay.

Much like my first permanent personal vision board, i.e., my tattoo, this would be more like a mural than a single picture.  That is fine.  It is my way of connecting the dots in my life and thinking about things.  It is a series of symbols that characterize me.  As one of my colleagues who has now seen my tattoo commented about it, he said it was odd but me.

Not sure what I'll blog about next but life always seems to provide me with more than enough to ponder and comment on for all who are interested in sharing my world.   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Last Few Thoughts on Friends' Wedding

A few final thoughts on my friends' wedding last weekend...

First, during the procession into the church, it was very touching to see the groom pushing his father's wheelchair into the church.  I had not known that the groom's father was in a wheel chair.  Anyone in the groom's family could have wheeled his father in.  But it was yes another sign of the giving of self and completely being there for others and not focusing only on one's own needs even on the wedding day.

Second, the couple has asked two of their guests to read the prayers of the faithful.  In asking for a prayer for a particular set of individuals, one reader become incredibly emotional.  Obviously even being asked to read this particular set of names was a big deal, although I did not know what the connection was.  The other person who had been asked stepped up and took over reading the rest of the intentions.  A sign of being there for another without question.

Third, at the receipt of the Eucharist in the Catholic church, for years there has been a practice of having individuals other than the priest helping to distribute Eucharist.  I have never been to a Catholic wedding mass at which the bride and groom assisted in the distribution of the Eucharist--in this case the wine that is the Blood of Christ.  Another sign of giving themselves and connecting with the congregation of guests.

Fourth, the bride after the Eucharist played Pachabel's Canon in D on piano in a duet with the violin player.  I was amazed that she could do this.  This was a great example of putting all of herself (and a talent I was unaware she had) into the experience of her wedding.

Finally, the table at which I sat was a table dominated by people tied to Back on My Feet.  An organization that both the bride and groom have participated in and which the bride has helped to make a huge difference in Baltimore.  An organization of individuals who give of themselves to lift the lives of others.

So, in summary, a wedding day that began with bringing together a large group to celebrate an aspect of life giving experience (running and meeting others), with a mass whose readings made me think of humility, perseverance and being open to the grace of God, with music that was uplifting and focused on humility and justice while representing the diversity of musical heritage in the Catholic church, with other acts of being there for others and giving of self throughout.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wedding Music

The songs for the mass on Saturday were also amazingly fitting.  The refrain for the opening song that was entitled come to the waters was, "Come to the waters, flowing clear/...where new life abounds/Live by the spirit, do not fear/God is here, love surrounds".  A total reliance on God.

The responsorial psalm was from Psalms 116 with the title God is Near.   It is a beautiful song that I know how to sing along to with a response of "I will take the cup of life, I will call God's name all my days."  Again, a complete reliance on God.  Interestingly enough being completely reliant on God was exactly what the priest who says the mass I most frequently attend at St. Pius X talked about in his homily on Sunday.

The Alleluia was sung as Halle Halle Halle!  It was an uplifting and inspiring version that brought percussion into the music for the first time.  It was incredible.

For the offertory we sung A Place at the Table.  This is one that I had not heard before but I was amazed at how fitting it was as it talked about welcoming everyone to the table (something that Jackie and Patrick do quite consistently in their real life behaviors) and bringing about justice and joy.  The work each does for social justice speaks for itself if you know the two of them.

The communion song was We are Called which I knew well enough to sing along to for the most part.  The refrain again emphasizing justice and walking humbly with God.  Another reflection, much like the first reading from Micah, of the need to live humbly.

The closing song was also one I had not heard before--The Canticle of the Turning.  (I am familiar with a song called a Canticle but that is the Canticle of the Sun).  In any case, it was a cool song because the music was different in tempo and rhythm from much of what else is sung at most masses I've ever attended.  The link I've given above gives it a bit of an Irish feel.  The way it was played at mass with a violin made it feel a little more like country.

The instrumentation throughout included several very strong voices, piano, organ, violin, guitar, bass, and drum.

The music was another uplifting part of this celebration of the start of what will be a wonderful marriage.  So much of the music focused on reliance on God, humility, and justice.  More great messages.  The music also reflecting the wonderful variety of diversity of music that is part of the Catholic heritage at this point just added to the celebratory atmosphere of the mass.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three Well Chosen Readings

Each Catholic wedding has the potential to be a unique experience.  At least among people I know, the bride and groom working with the priest who will celebrate the wedding mass have a chance to choose the readings.  A Catholic mass typically includes one reading from the Old Testament, one reading from the New Testament that is not part of the Gospel, and a Gospel reading.  Each couple has many reasons for choosing the readings they do.  Each couple is at a unique point in their lives in terms of their understanding of their faith and their understanding of themselves.  The choice of readings was guided by both for me and Sherry 20+ years ago when we planned our wedding.  We were just two people of an age we now refer to as "kids" (22 at the time we were married) who had attended mass regularly, had some exposure to what was called CCD at the time (Sherry having more than me), and had been involved in the campus ministry while in college.  At Jackie and Patrick's wedding (at a slightly later point in their lives with a different background in exposure to and working with their faith) the choices were clearly inspired by their understanding of themselves and their faith.  And, as I am clearly one who thinks about how the words I am hearing from the Bible relate to the current day (myself or, in this case, those whose wedding is being celebrated) I projected from the readings onto my own life experiences and the lives of the two beautiful individuals getting married.

The first reading was Micah 6:6-8
With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old? 
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with myriad streams of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my crime,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
I have never known Jackie and Patrick to be anything but humble.  Quiet--not necessarily.  Shy--definitely not.  But wonderful examples of humility before everyone and focused so much on the lives of others.  Giving not to be noticed but because it is right and it all comes from their hearts.

The second reading was from the letter to the Hebrews (12:1-3)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us 
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. 
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
As I heard this one, I looked around at the packed chapel on Loyola's campus (where Jackie and Patrick had met, gotten engaged, and were getting married) where they were surrounded by a cloud of witnesses as two people whose eyes are truly fixed on Jesus.  Running races (both figuratively and literally) is something they do a lot and endurance (whether the opposition of sinners as mentioned in the reading or, more, in a running race) is an important part of their lives.

Finally, the Gospel reading was Luke 24: 13-35, the story of the Road to Emmaus.  I won't copy and paste the whole thing (it is a long reading) but there is a link above.  It mentions that the disciples were walking a distance of seven miles when they came upon the person they did not recognize as Jesus at first.  In the reading, they ended up walking seven miles to Emmaus and seven miles back--14 miles or just over the distance of a half marathon.  Yes, my brain actually went to thinking about how it was like an "out and back" course that the two disciples ended up walking.  What else did I think about?  Jackie conducts many of the orientations for community members who want to be new participants in Back on My Feet.  I remember that she told us to try to remember to say hello to as many people as possible when out on our runs.  Just to be polite.  Just to try to brighten people's day.  Whether the person was homeless, outside a shelter of some sort, at a bus stop, or at Health Care for the Homeless.  There are many popular stories about how a person might come to meet Jesus or someone representative of the qualities of Jesus in a modern setting and overlook that person.  This is where I connected the story.  When we are out running with Back on My Feet, we never know who we will meet on the road.  We never know what type of difference we might make for the people we meet or what type of difference they may make for us.  We never know who might be able to demonstrate for us and share with us the grace of God.  In fact, we never know anywhere in our lives when we will come upon a sign from God or the second coming of Jesus himself.  Yet we should always be open to it.  And the disciples, once they realized that they had seen Jesus, did the second half of their "course" quickly and shared all the news when they returned.  Again, so closely similar to the experience of many runners who share stories about what they saw, who they experienced, and how they felt when they get back from a run.  And this relates to Jackie and Patrick not only because a half marathon distance is something with which they both are familiar but also because I know that they live their lives in a way that shows they are always open to receiving God's grace.  To welcoming a stranger.  To extending hospitality to a stranger.  To listening.  To relating.  And to sharing stories of the little things and most important things in life.

Their three readings were well chosen for them.  And their three readings served as a reminder for me. Of how incredible my two friends are.  And of the importance of living a life of humility, perseverance, and openness to the grace of God every day.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Amazing Wedding

Yesterday was an amazing day for my friends Jackie and Patrick.  It will take me more than one blog entry to write about everything that I observed and connected with on their wedding day.  I'll outline what I want to comment on here and then take however many days I need to get through it all.  The fact that this will all be about a wedding will then lead into my last entry for my personal vision board.  Sometimes it amazes me just how much aspects of my life intertwine.

I'll comment most fully on how the day began.  The day began with a run.  I know that some people may find this totally crazy.  Who starts their wedding day with a run?  A run at 6 AM in downtown Baltimore.  A run with 100+ friends.  A run in which out of town family is invited to attend the run rather than sleeping in on the wedding day--and many of them came.  It was incredible.  It shows how important running is to both of my friends.  It shows how much family embraces the fact that running is important to both of my friends.  And it shows just how much the two of them have helped in building up the community of Back on My Feet (running to help with part of recovery) in Baltimore and how that entire community embraces them.  It shows how their love of others, their kindness, their helpfulness, their generosity even overflows into their running.  It was also the second time I had met Jackie's father after running.  It was nice to then be able to meet him after the wedding in the receiving line to show that Jackie's academic advisor does not always look totally winded and sweaty. I haven't run downtown on a Saturday morning with Back on My Feet in quite some time.  I forgot that one of the most exciting things about running as part of a community is the chance to meet new people almost every time I am out there.

The things I would like to comment on from the wedding and reception include: seeing Patrick helping his father (who was in a wheelchair) into the chapel; the appropriateness of each of the three readings--they fit perfectly for the two of them representing what I have seen in their lives from my Augustinian prayer life perspective; the appropriateness of all the songs they chose and the ease with which I could sing along with several of them; the wonderful music that drew on instruments including the piano, violin, guitar, bass, and drums in ways that made the mass come alive in ways that I have not seen at other Catholic masses; the fact that Jackie and Patrick served as extraordinary Eucharistic ministers sharing the Blood of Christ with everyone who received communion; the fact that Jackie played the piano part of Pachabel's Canon in D as part of a duet after communion; and the band at the reception.

So many wonderful moments yesterday.  For them.  For everyone they brought together. For the community of friends and family.  A wedding planned down to each amazing detail.  A ceremony that I hope others will also remember as representing the couple for whom we were celebrating the beginning of their married life in a way that seemed as close to perfect as I could imagine.

Today will be another wonderful celebration of life--teaching third grade students in St. Pius X's religious education program about the importance of community (including our faith community), having lunch with my parents for a belated celebration of my middle son's 13th birthday, playing bass at mass, and catching up on some work. 

Embracing Franciscan Spirituality

First a very short entry this morning.  On Friday I was driving in the area of Baltimore on Madison approaching Fallsway.  As I was watching the road, I saw a rat running from the south side of Madison to the north side.  Without hesitation, I hit the brakes so I did not run it over.  When I pondered what the meaning of this might be and posted a comment on Facebook the director of the religious education program at St. Pius X had the best comment--that I was embracing Franciscan spirituality.

As I have mentioned, Franciscan focuses on the here and now.  Its other focus on reality focuses on nature.  A love of all of nature.  Rats are a part of nature too.  And I suppose it does show a respect for all life by choosing not to purposefully running over a creature that (at least at that moment) was minding its own business.

If nothing else, it gave me some interesting things to think about when it comes to how my spirituality is lived out in the rest of my life.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Telling the People You Love that You Love Them

Over the next three days I will celebrate a beginning and an ending.  Two stories of love.

Tomorrow, my advisee, fellow runner, and friend Jackie will marry Patrick.  I've known Jackie for a little over a year and Patrick for a little less time.  They are two wonderful people.  Two giving people.  Two smiling people.  Two amazing people.   Two people who think so much of others.  Tomorrow we celebrate their promise of love for each other.  I am confident that it will be a long marriage and last through the challenges that all couples face as life goes on.  We celebrate a beginning.

On Monday, the woman who raised the girl that I have come to know as "my oldest son's girlfriend" will be celebrated in a memorial service.  She last her battle with breast cancer and its complications.  I never met her in person.  But I get the sense from listening to Kelsey and from seeing how Kelsey turned out to be such a wonderful and amazing person that her grandmother must have been incredibly loving.  Incredibly caring,  Incredibly strong.  We celebrate a life lived on Monday.  An ending.  People coming together to share grief of what is still in some ways a beginning--the beginning of the challenges of life without the person.  In this case, a grandmother who will be remembered in many kind ways.

Life is full of contrasts.  I could look to Ecclesiastes as a reminder of this.  Of course, while I can look to scripture for a guide, there is really no need to go beyond personal experience.  I know there are ups and downs.  I know there are good times and hard times.  I know there are wonderful times and sad times.  I know there are times I cry tears of joy and times I cry tears of sorrow.  I know that both the beginning and the ending that I will be involved in celebrating mark experiences of love.  A love being promised.  A love being celebrated.

And the beginning and ending celebrations of love remind me of how important it is to share feelings of love--or really appreciation in general--with those around you.  Because of life's unpredictability the promises we make can be ended in ways that always seem too soon after the fact.  It's a good reason not to forget to share the fact of my love with those whom I do love.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Short Thought for the Day

The end of my post yesterday discussing how I would add a call for concentration that is similar to the strength and endurance shown by St. Sebastian was useful as a focal point for me yesterday in my running yesterday (6.25 miles in 42:15 which is faster than I ran a local 10K race last spring) and today (6x1/2 mile with each run in less than 3 minutes), and my work yesterday (focused and got a lot done).

After a great morning, all I have to say is the refrain of a song that we play in the worship band at our church sometimes:

"Praise the Lord with all your heart,
with all your mind and soul; 
with all your strength give praise."

So, once again today, I give everything to God and I lift my heart to the Lord in praise of a wonderful life and a wonderful day.

Enough said.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Day Pondering Franciscan Versus Augustinian Running

Today, I plan to do a tempo workout on the track.  For my non-running friends, a tempo workout is where I try to maintain over several miles (this morning it will be 6.25 miles--or 25 time around a local high school track) a pace at which I won't be carrying on a conversation.  In fact, the pace will be faster than I ran the one 10K (6.2 miles so 0.05 miles shorter) I ran this spring.  It is in an effort to get ready for a half marathon race in two months.

This type of workout I suppose should at least be easier than a similar distance on a treadmill, although at the Y they at least have treadmills with individual TV screens.  Where at the track all I will have to look at is the track in the relative darkness.  Some I know who have done similar workouts talk about how this type of workout is as much mental as it is physical.

On the mental side, there will be many temptations to just let my mind wander--to be Augustinian.  Imagining.  Thinking ahead.  Just letting my mind ponder everything other than what I'm supposed to be doing.  To wonder rather than to notice.

What I need is a very Franciscan run.  In the moment.  Taking notice of everything as I go along.  And taking notice just for the sake of taking notice.  Taking notice so that I can ponder later.  Keeping track of what I feel.  Keeping track of my breathing.  Keeping track of my time.  Just taking it all in.  

In my prayer life, my approach, as I have mentioned before, tends to be much more Augustinian.  So, today will be a physical test--can I run 6.25 miles in less than 43:45? Today will be a mental test--can I concentrate on just one thing for 43:45.  The mental test will hopefully translate into something spiritual and something work-related.  That is an interesting juxtaposition.  But I am almost always multi-tasking.  And sometimes it is a challenge for me to spend 43:45 on just about anything.  Maybe I should just take 43:45 and meditate over something related to my religion.  Maybe I should break my day into 43:45 segments and just concentrate on one thing for that amount of time.  Always ready to move onto the next item of business, but focusing on just one thing at a time.

With my tattoo of St. Sebastian, I have been inspired to look up prayers that focus on St. Sebastian.  One I found in multiple places is below:
Dear Commander at the Roman Emperor's court, you chose to be a soldier of Christ and dared to spread faith in the King of Kings---for which you were condemned to die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and the executing arrows extremely weak. So another means to kill you was chosen and you gave your life to the Lord. May athletes be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been. Amen.
I would add to that "May I concentrate on my faith as much as my Patron Saint has been strong in his faith and as much as my Patron Saint's body was strong."  This is an interesting prayer of intercession.  It is, in part, asking for the Patron saint's intercession by addressing him.  I know there is much controversy over whether saints can intercede for people.  If we place that issue aside, this is much more a prayer of asking God to help me be like a saint whose life story I admire.

We'll see how I do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Imitation, Innovation, and My Second Personal Vision Board

I have talked about numerous parts of what would be my second personal vision board--bread, the golden apple, the cornucopia.  There are three parts that remain.  I was not sure when I would get back to it, but I heard a story while driving to pick up my 13 year old from boychoir last night that inspired me to bring it out now.  

The program is a program that I hear on the local public radio station.  The program is called The Story.  The stories are long discussion format like some other public radio programs.  But the discussion is usually between the host and one person at a time.  There is no call in.  And each night there is usually a theme.  I'm not sure what the overall theme was last night, but at the conclusion of the program they were reflecting on some feedback they had received on a story about plagiarism.  Being a college professor and serving on or as chair of numerous academic committee, I think about plagiarism a lot.  It, for obvious reasons, has many very negative connotations.

However, the discussion about the piece on plagiarism also spent some time reviewing the concept of imitation in general.  And they closed with a thought for which I hav found a link that attributes it to jazz trumpet player Clark Terry: that the learning cycles can be summarized in three words: Imitate. Assimilate.  Innovate.  

That is a pretty cool thought.  The key is that the first step really is imitation.  Of course, I must begin by saying that this does not in any way, shape, or form excuse plagiarism.  But there are lots of ways in which I have imitated.  Prayer.  Lecturing style.  Overall approach to research. Playing bass.  Writing music.  Parenting.  The list goes on.  The key is that I have learned from others and whether I imitate consciously or subconsciously, I know that a lot of what I have done over time is to take the best of what I have observed and tried to make it mine.  It is just that I don't have to put in a footnote when I imitate through my parenting.

The assimilation.  Going along with the prayer theme, it is taking the ideas and making them an ingrained part of my way of living.  Taking the teaching, it is making an approach to leading a lecture or helping others to develop their faith (in Sunday school) or professional opinion of economic or cost-effectiveness (in my day job) a part of what I always do.  Yes, I am imitating at first because I learned from my teachers from elementary school to graduate school what are some of the best ways to present information.  However, I then assimilate and make each part a part of me.

Finally, I innovate.  Once I am comfortable using whatever the approach is in writing, playing, parenting, teaching, or praying (or anything else that I have learned from others), then I begin to make up my own themes.  I change things a bit.  I experiment.  I try things on for size.  Eventually, what was a shadow of what my mentors had done and then became an integrated part of my persona becomes truly mine as I find ways to bring it alive that are unique to my interest.

Now, unlike my love of the kitchen that could be usefully summarized in bread or my love of teaching that could be usefully summarized in a golden apple or the abundance with which I have been blessed that could be summarized with a cornucopia, it is not so obvious how one would summarize the learning process that is encapsulated by the three words: imitate, assimilate, innovate.  

However, I draw on The Hunger Games for some inspiration here.  Perhaps that is just a function of what I read this summer, and I certainly would not have been able to call on this image before this summer, but I like the mockingjay.  Why?  Well, think of the third book.  It is when Katniss who has really been led into things earlier on and has tried to imitate (listening to Haymitch) and then assimilated (taking what Haymitch said and acting on her own decisions) truly comes into her own and innovates.  It also fits quite well with a description of the mockingjay that appeared in the second book, Catching Fire on pages 91 and 92 of the hardback version.  I will close with that as I imagine having a mockingjay sitting atop the cornucopia on my virtual vision board.

“The jabberjays were mutations, genetically enhanced make birds created by the capitol as weapons to spy on rebels in the districts.  They could remember and repeat long passages on human speech, so they were sent into rebel areas to capture our words and return them to the Capital.  The rebels caught on and turned them against the Capitol by sending them home loaded with lies.  When this was discovered, the jabberjays were left to die.  In a few years they became extinct in the wild, but not before they had mated with female mockingbirds, creating an entirely new species.

 “But mockingjays were never a weapon,” said Madge.  “They’re just songbirds.  Right?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said.  But it’s not true.  A mockingbird is just a songbird.  A mockingjay is a creature the Capitol never intended to exist.  They hadn’t counted on the highly controlled jabberjay having the brains to adapt to the wild, to pass on its genetic doe, to thrive in a new form.  They hadn’t anticipated its will to live.

Now, as I trudge through the snow, I see the mockingjays hopping about on branches as they pick up on other birds’ melodies, replicate them, and then transform them into something new.  As always, they remind me of Rue.  I think of the dream I had the last night on the train, where I followed her in mockingjay form.  I wish I could have stayed asleep just a bit longer and found out where she was trying to take me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lift Up My Day to the Lord

So, I missed writing this morning.  And I missed running this morning.  Not the best morning for the things that I usually find enriching.  But I did get some work done and that was a good thing.  In fact, I went to bed early last night because I was trying to get some work done after mass (at 5:30 PM) in which I played bass and dinner (yummy pork, sauerkraut, and carrots in a slow cooker on homemade rolls) but I was falling asleep working.

So this morning I got work done before 5:30. Then I made some honey wheat bagels.  Then I went to the grocery store.  Then I had a nicely productive day at work.  Then I came home and did dishes.  Now, I am looking at reading to my seven year old, going to pick up my poster for tomorrow, picking up my 13 year old from boychoir, making banana bread for the family tomorrow, maybe running tonight, and then having a nice day at the conference tomorrow.

So, today has been a day of doing.  And while I would love to reflect on my first day of teaching 3rd graders about faith formation, or yesterday's second reading, or playing music, or any of another large set of things about my faith, I think I will make one simple statement today.

As a very Franciscan style prayer--I lift up my day to the Lord.  That is actually sort of part of the definition of prayer in the kids' book.  The definition mentioned talking to and listening to God.  It also mentioned lifting up the heart and mind.  Today I lifted up my mind and my actions and tried to make sure my heart was guiding me as well.

Was everything full of grace?  No, probably not.  Was I using all the gifts God has given me to try to make the world a better place?  I tried.  So, I lift up what I did to the Lord.  And I continue to make the commitment to make the effort better each day in the moment and for the good of today as well as the good of tomorrow.  (I typed that last part in without even thinking but it seems like an Augustinian twist is nearly inescapable in my spiritual life).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Day of Faith Formation at St. Pius X 2012-13

We have finally reached the first day of Faith Formation at St Pius X Catholic Church in Towson.  Back when I was a kid we called in CCD.  When I first began teaching it was called school of religion.  It has also been known as religious education.  I generically use Sunday school in conversation.  It gets grouped with faith formation because tonight is also the start of classes in preparation for confirmation for this year's 9th graders at St Pius.

In preparation for the first class, I have done a lot of thinking and some writing since last Sunday about Franciscan and Augustinian prayer.  There are two other types that correspond to the other combinations of intuitive/sensing and thinking/feeling in the Myers-Briggs personality types. Although it is interesting to note that the intuitive is grouped with thinking/feeling while the sensing is grouped with judging/perceiving.  In any case, one of the other types is Ignatian.  In that style, I get the sense that the idea is to put myself in the ancient text rather than trying to relate the Biblical words to life today (as is the most common idea that I perceive in Augustinian) or praying just out of experience of reality, particularly nature (as is the most common idea that I perceive in Franciscan).  Putting myself in the ancient text would be like trying to imagine the experience.  I suppose I did that best when I wrote a play for the religious education program to do at Christmas a number of years ago called "Who Makes Time for God?"  It still have a bit of an Augustinian element because the problem faced by one of the shepherds was having too many things on his "to do" list so that he didn't make it to see the baby Jesus as the other shepherds did at his birth and that is a very modern problem.  But I'd imagine that even the shepherds then had to think about their duties and their flocks and make a decision to listen to the angel.  My writing involved trying to imagine what the experience was like.

So, as I jotted down my notes for this morning, I found myself thinking about the many different types of prayer and the reality of creation.  With a lesson on creation, obviously the simplest prayer style to think about is Franciscan.  What do we see, what are we thankful for, and why?  As we look at the two stories of creation in Gen 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4-24, we find that there is some room for both Augustinian and Ignatian.  On the Ignatian side, I could have the students try to imagine what it would have been like if we read Gen 1 literally and Adam and Eve were told by God to fill the earth and subdue it.  Then, in an Augustinian twist, I can ask the kids what does that mean today-what is not only our dominion over the plants and animals but our responsibility for them as well.  Referring to Gen 2:2-24, I could, in an Ignatian way ask them to imagine being the only human (as Adam is described) and then the joy at having someone else around for the first time-then join that with an Augustinian approach to asking about how important other people are in their lives today.  Unlike Simon and Garfunkel, we are not rocks or islands.

In addition, I can also introduce the basic most basic concept of prayer.  No, I am not going to introduce my 8 and 9 year olds to the four types, but there is a nice definition in the book we will use that talks about talking and listening to God and goes one step further about lifting our hearts to Go.   We can discuss rote prayer (the Our Father is always a good starting place) and prayers for intercession to saints, and since I have been looking at things about St. Sebastian for my own life, I could share some of that with the children.  

Plus drawing a name tag for each kid's desk so that I learn names quickly.  With only 13 (so far) it should not be too hard to learn their names.

A lot to pack into the 45 minutes to an hour I'll have with them on day 1.  That is okay as I try not to dwell on any one thing for more than about 10 minutes.  That leads to thinking about a minimum of 4 or 5 discrete activities even in 45 minutes.

This year will be an interesting challenge.  I am really looking forward to working with the kids and continuing my spiritual growth through that work.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Color for My Tattoo

Short entry today--yesterday I got color added to my tattoo.  One more full visit after today and then a final touch up visit.  Yesterday the human figures and foreground were pretty much completed.  Next time it'll be the background.

It was a different experience than the outline.  And even Emily (at the end) pointed out how differently the color (particularly when some large areas are covered) stresses the skin differently.  More discomfort.  More noticeable.  But the end result was beautiful.

I won't post a picture until after it heals a bit.  The tattoo just looks better after healing.

In addition to changing the intensity of the experience from the first time when the outline was done to this time with the color, the other thing that was interesting was the range of topics of discussion...

Myers-Briggs personality types
Different ways of praying/different spirituality experiences
Taking kids to baseball games
Meaning of tattoos
Differences in priorities between spouses
Cooking & foods in general
Sunday school
Skin protection
How much the average American really tests themselves spiritually
How individuals use tattoos to "brand" themselves
Bread and circuses (a quote from the third book in The Hunger Games)
The creative process
The distinction between vision and implementation of the creative process

Interestingly so many of these tie together under one heading--self expression.  A critical aspect of life.  Something that I think very hard about a lot of the time.

Two and one-half hours of having a tattoo applied is a long time for conversation.  Having a tattoo artist who is also a very intelligent and thoughtful, spiritual mother of a five year old makes for interesting conversation and makes the amount that I concentrated on the tattoo itself a lot less.

I hope to post a picture by the middle of next week and will, of course, post a final picture when it is done.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Personal Vision Board II Part III: The Cornucopia

I have discussed the bread and the golden apple as the first two elements of my second personal vision board.  The third element would be the representation of the fact that I have been blessed with an abundance.

Born in America--an abundance of freedom
Born into a great family--an abundance of love
Given an abundance of academic smarts
Given an abundance of drive to succeed
An abundance of resources for living
An abundance of friends--some love to run, some love to run fast, some love to hear about all the good in my life, some like to tell it like it is, all are blessings
An abundance of interests--music, cooking, spirituality, academics
An abundance of love within the family that Sherry and I have created

The list could go on.  These are all blessings.  They are all important.  They are all things that if I did not have my life would be much different.  And it is for that reason that I would add a cornucopia to my personal vision board.

In fact, if I were an artist I would have the Golden Apple and the multiple breads all flowing forth from the cornucopia.

Three more elements of the vision board to go.  Those will come up in the coming weeks. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thirsting for the Lord

On Sunda at the mass attended by all the catechists, we sang a song based on Psalm 42 that mentions in verses 2 and 3
As the deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
This made me think of Psalm 63 that a favorite Steve Angrisano song is based on which also talks about thirst and the Lord.  

I have always struggled with this phrase.  What does it mean to "thirst" for the Lord?  Do I have to want to follow God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul 24/7?  Do I have to be super evangelical?  Do I have to always "put on the mind of God" (referring to a discussion earlier this week about the meaning of prayer)?  Do I have to be charismatic?

After this week spent really thinking about prayer styles (particularly the Augustinian style that characterizes my approach so well), I don't think so.  I think what I need is just to continue to do what I am doing.  To want, to long, to year to spend a little time each day looking for answers as to how the Word of God through the Bible relates to me today.  It is the seeking.  It is the yearning.  Thirsting for answers in my relationship with God and my fellow humans.  Thirsting for insight.  Seeking (and sometimes finding) ways to express my fellowship with others and following of the Lord through actions, words, song, and symbols.  That is my version of thirsting for God.  

Am I perfect?  No, of course not?  But it has given me a new perspective on how to live up to the songs I sing at church some Sunday.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Little Franciscan Prayer--And Plans for The First Day of Class

Today, I am taking a much needed day of rest from exercise.  The past six days included a tempo run at the Y on the treadmill, the rowing machine, a 6.6 mile run in ridiculous humidity with some big hills, a 10 mile run on a cooler morning at a faster pace, biking, and a tempo run on the streets of Baltimore that was nearly as fast (on average) as the tempo run on the treadmill.  Life is good, but my legs need a rest.  

Resting my legs gave me a chance to take my dog for a longer walk than usual and for trying a Franciscan prayer approach.  The other day I mentioned that we had learned about four types of prayer and that one of them was Augustinian.  My "default" type of prayer.  Lots of thinking.  Lots of pondering.  Transpose the Words of God into life today.  Helped along by images, music, etc.  Highly symbolic prayer.

So, today, when I took my dog for a slightly extra long walk, I tried Franciscan prayer.  In one description it goes along with the SP personality type.  This is not "diametrically" opposite of mine (that would be ST) but it is much different.  It is described as "The SP personality type does not respond well to the symbolic but is primarily interested in the real and literal."  This is a stretch for me.  It means looking at nature.  Looking at the here and now.  Not focusing on symbols and what could be.  It focuses on action rather than process.

So, as I walked the neighborhood I just looked around. And I thought of all the things that I saw that I could be thankful for.  I was thankful for uphills for making me stronger when I run.  I was thankful for downhills that make the going easier.  I was thankful for the red of the stop sign that is associated with safety when everyone follows the rules.  I was thankful for the yellow of several signs for the beauty of yellow--particularly forsythia yellow--that is my favorite color.  There were sunflowers.  I thought of dandelions.  I was thankful for the grass.  Soft to run on.  Soft to walk on.  Soft to lie down on after a hard run.  And the color green for being the symbol of forward motion.  I was thankful for the moon--it's beauty and it's light.  I was thankful for the stars and planets--the light and the patterns that move across the sky in ways that make humans imagine and think.  The list went on. This is a common approach in Franciscan prayer life, apparently.  Free flowing and made up as you go along prayer.

You can even see that within my efforts to think in a Franciscan way I was still a little Augustinian.  Several of the reasons I was thankful for real things I was seeing had to do with the symbolic meanings that were attached.  I can't escape being an Augustinian at heart.  But that is not a problem as long as I recognize the value of other types of prayer for me to try and for my students that may be the most appropriate.  

While not every third grader will be an SP personality type, third graders are into literal and concrete things.  The first lesson in the text book that I will be using this year is about creation.  There could not be a better way to try Franciscan prayer with my students.  If the weather holds old (rain is predicted for Sunday) we may go outside on the first day and look around.  I will have the kids walk with me and take turns noticing things that they notice, thanking God for them, and thinking of the reason that we would thank God.  I might even try to get the kids to think a little about how we could write a creation story today if God had created the world as we see it now.  It could be really fun to get the kids to think about how they would divide up the days.  And what they would say is good. And how they would tie it together.  I suppose that is again a little Augustinian twist on a very Franciscan approach, but it should be fun.

Finally, on a side note, I have thought about my recent running and the Augustinian versus Franciscan prayer life.  For my next race, I think I'll try to go a little more Franciscan during the race.  I want to try to concentrate only on the here and now of the race.  Not thinking about the end of the race when I start.  Not thinking about my next race.  Not thinking about the bigger picture of all my running in the past six and a half years or over my lifetime.  Instead, just focusing on the here and now.  How does my body feel?  How can I remain under control?  What will make me run the next step at least as face as the one I am in the process of running?  A very concrete here and now approach to running.  Never a dull moment in how my prayer life and running life are related.     

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What is prayer?--Or Another Thing I Learned at the Start of Another Year of Religious Education

On Sunday morning, after we discussed personality types, the next item was the definition of prayer.  Among the six tables of people entrusted to teach mostly children and some adults about our faith, we could come up with things like "talking to God" or "talking with God" or "a conversation with God" or "listening to/for God".  While all those were interesting, the director of child and youth ministry at our church wanted something a bit bigger.  Below is something close to what she said.  I could not tell whether this was three separate ideas or a single quotation she took from someone else.  But this is what I came away with
The practice of the presence of change my own mind to put on the mind of Christ...enabling grace to break into us.  
There are three distinct ideas here.  The first is something quite important.  It is not just "practicing" but "a practice" (or in this case, "the practice").  The key here is that we are focused on remembering that I am in the presence of God.  Recognizing that I am in the presence of God.  Acting like I am in the presence of God.  Using the presence of God as a motivator.

The second idea mentions the mind of Christ.  There is a mention of the mind of Christ in 1 Cor 2:16.    It certainly seems to me that it would be much easier to "put on the mind of Christ" or "have the mind of Christ" or "know what the mind of Christ is thinking" (e.g., "What would Jesus do?") if I am in the practice of being in the presence of God.  Or, better yet, to be the presence of God for someone else, i.e., God's hands and feet, eyes and ears here on earth.

The third idea is that it should involve grace.

The key with these ideas is that almost anything can become a prayer.  Prayer can be loud or silent.  Prayer can be speaking, reading, or listening.  Prayer can involve meditation or activity.  Almost anything that involves God's grace, remembering that I am in God's presence, and thinking about acting as Jesus would can be a prayer.

So a life of prayer or a life lived in prayer, does not mean being in a church praying all day.  Instead, it can mean doing all the things I would do otherwise but always with an eye on God's grace.  There are some things I imagine that definitely don't show God's grace.  The goal then, for me, can be to live a life always showing God's grace and living out the implications the words I pray aloud and listen to in church.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

What I Learned on Cathecist "In-Service" Day

I've taught Sunday school for 9 of the past ten years and in the year I took off, I helped with the program at our church.  Does that make me a saint?  No.  Does that make me crazy?  I'm sure some people would think so to deal with 9 and 10 year olds for that long.  Does it fulfill a need in my life?  You bet.  It fulfills my need to continue to think about and engage with my religion.  It then gives me the gift of sharing that experience with others.

I could say a lot of things about yesterday's "in-service".  It was definitely one of the BEST in all 11 years that I've been a part of at least one in-service.  We talked about a definition of prayer (sure to be a subject of a future blog), heard about different ways of reaching kids through prayer, talked about personality types, and talked about different types of prayer.

The last time I took an official Myers-Briggs personality test I came up INFJ.  I'm never quite sure whether the N and F are typical parts of quantitative individuals lives, but I've also never seen data on that.  Yesterday as we simply read descriptions, I am pretty sure that if I tested now I'd be an I/E, i.e., somewhere much closer to the middle but still leaning I, and I'd be P rather than J.  I will go into detail on that in another blog entry as well.

The most interesting thing to me from an intellectual and spiritual point of view, however, was the four prayer styles.  I had never heard of them before--that I recall.  This morning I will discuss the one that I find most suitable for me and where I go most of the time.  It is called Augustinian spirituality.  As I read over the description my jaw almost dropped.  Not over the fact that it is found (in some survey(?), although the leader didn't identify where the data came from) that this temperament is found in only 10% of church ministers and a higher percentage among the clergy.  Not sure what that is telling me other than that I am not part of the big crowd.

But here is the rest, "Needs: to find meaning in everything; uses intuition and feeling to make connection of Bible to present; sees spiritual task of transposing ancient words and ideas into the present context today..."  Then as an example, "When have there been desert experiences in my life?  Combine intellectual and affective elements, but may make leaps other types cannot follow."  (And I must say that on that last point it does not imply that my leaps are right..."  Finally, "Helps: In meditative ste ask, What did the text mean then?  What does the text mean now?  DIALOG inwardly and using a journal."

It was the under the example and helps that my jaw nearly dropped.  Why do I like Fr. Sam and before him Fr. Hank--each one will often give some historical context--not just talkt about the verses but really put it in context.  What do they also do?  Bring it to our lives today.

What do I do? I spend time writing a blog (a journal I share with others) where I think a lot about the words now.  I don't always have the full historical context to think about the words then, but I definitely do a LOT of transposing.  It is what I thrive on.  As far as my spiritual life goes, it is what I live and breathe.

My blog is my Augustinian spirituality brought to life.  I'm not sure what else to do with that information.  but it truly puts my blog in a context I had not even known existed before.  And it makes me feel like there is more meaning here for me--not just in the words I consider but in the words I write and how they can help me grow over time--than I may have realized.

Further, even the last sentence form the website I linked to above is very fitting for me, "Ikons, statues, and other representations of art which express beautifully and symbolically a good relationship with God will also help the iNtuitive-Feeling personality in prayer.". This suggests to me that my tattoo really is a part of my Augustinian spirituality as well. There is something I never thought I'd be writing.

So many lessons learned. So many more out there.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A New Beginning

Today is the first cool morning in a long time.  I'm going to go for a run that I had not planned two days ago.  I had planned to actually sleep in on a Sunday.  However, after not going the planned distance yesterday and wanting to enjoy the weather, I'm headed out today.  Hopefully the cooler weather really marks a new beginning for consistently cooler weather.  It will make fall running much more pleasant if it does.

Second, today is the Sunday of orientation for religious education (or Sunday school and what we used to call CCD) teachers in my parish.  I look forward to meeting returning teachers again, meeting new teachers, and getting back in touch with this aspect of my spiritual life. It is an important aspect.  Where I am now is so much different than where I was a year ago.  From many more reflections on the Bible and Sunday readings to my tattoo of someone who is described as having energetically spread the Word of God. I hope to make the class more interesting for this year's third graders and a more enlightening experience for me.  I think I have the capacity.

Third, and finally, I'm going to go back to Facebook earlier than planned.  But with a new statement about what I do and do not want.  And a bit of re-organization of priorities.

Three new beginnings.  Nice to start it with a refreshing run.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Core Strength: It's Physical--but It's Also About Activities and Values

As someone very much into exercise, I have heard the term core strength a lot.  It makes me think of crunches and planks.  It makes me think of yoga.  It makes me think of abs, back, and pelvis muscles. And yesterday I was reminded how in this year of training since the race I ran that allows me to register for Boston next year, how I had not concentrated on this issue.  I used the rowing machine at the Y yesterday for the first time in months.  On it, you push back with your legs and pull back with your arms.  You sit on a little seat that slides when you do this.  There is nothing to support the back. That fact was VERY noticeable yesterday.  It reminded me that if I really want to run a great race on Thanksgiving weekend and try for a new half marathon personal best, I am going to have to concentrate hard on regaining some of that core strength in the time leading up to that race.

As I went through the day yesterday (my trips to the Y usually are done by 6:30), I thought about two other interpretations of core strength.  One is in the activities that I do.  I love baking bread.  It is what appears most often in my other blog about being in the kitchen.  I mention it all the time.  When I post pictures to Instagram, I am often posting bread.  I even talked about baking bread during happy hour with masters students yesterday at the end of the day.  I found a recipe for Kaiser rolls on Thursday and made them on Thursday night.  This is one recipe for which I'm not sure there will be any easy shortcuts.  The recipe calls for two hour long risings before the rolls are shaped and then another rising after the rolls are shaped and they require 25 minutes to bake.  That is a long time.  But they were so good.  My wife was impressed by the look at the taste.  She said they reminded her of having a sandwich from a deli.  I plan to make them again and will post next time.  What do I think of as a core strength for an activity--it is the activity that is the core of me.  What can I rely on.  What is it that makes me "me".  What do I know I can go back to and be good at when nothing else in the world seems to be working.  Bread.

And core strength with respect to values?  I interpret that as any value that I live out and that I know I will live out no matter what.  I'm not sure what that is for me.  There are no simple answers.  I know my values are rooted in my faith.  I know I value family.  I know I value hard work--but sometimes there are so many things to work on that even valuing hard work leaves so much undone.  But it is and will remain a challenge to myself--not just to focus on the core strength of my musculoskeletal system.  Not just to focus on my core activities.  But to also focus on my core values.  And to make sure that I continue to live them out every day.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

What was my race time last Sunday? And What Inspiration Can I Find?

I went into the 20 mile race on Sunday hoping to run the distance in 2 hours 26 minutes. In the end, my published time was 2:36:26.  I thought that the originally published time was off a bit, but perhaps I was so out of it after the race on Sunday, that I couldn't read straight across to see what my time was.  The 2:36 time is about what my watch had.  And, there is a lesson there.

I had a hard time finding an inspirational verse to go along with a time of 2:26.  But when I thougth a little harder and was guided by the 2:36 time I ran and thought about my own behavior in an argument last night, I came to Proverbs 2:3-6 where the blessings of wisdom are being discussed:
Yes, if you call for intelligence,
and to understanding raise your voice;
If you seek her like silver,
and like hidden treasures search her out,
Then will you understand the fear of the LORD;
the knowledge of God you will find;
For the LORD gives wisdom,
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding
In short, a reminder that God is the source of wisdom.  God is the source of knowledge and understanding.  These come from God's mouth.  

From my own mouth?  Sometimes a lack of wisdom.  Sometimes a lack of understanding.  Sometimes wonderful examples of the incivility that I discussed in the last blog entry.  

Sometimes in-person discussions can be easier to work around incivility because I have a chance to explain something I said.  Other times in person discussions contribute to incivility as there is not the time to process what I am saying and to ponder it before I write it down.  

These four verses just serve as a simple reminder to me to look for the same inspiration as to my behavior, my wisdom, my understanding, and my civility for my life at home as for my blogging and my interaction with the rest of the world.  And a reminder that sometimes that premise is a fail for me. So, I have to continue to work harder at living up to showing how my inspiration leads to better outcomes in home life as much as it does in writing, advising, teaching, and running.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Civil discussion--and why Ted Strickland wouldn't be welcome on my Facebook Timeline

So, ever since I started my temporary but planned to be lengthy (till the day after the US Presidential election in November) removal from Facebook posting and commenting, I've been thinking about what I do and don't want to encourage on my timeline when I return to posting.  Of course, people are allowed to have whatever opinions they want to have and are allowed to post on their own timelines whatever they want.  This is American and we value freedom of speech.  This is American and we value freedom of association--or not association.  On the "not association" side, essentially, I've gotten up, walked off, and left the conversation.  I had done this once at a parents meeting at my kids' school when it was clear that there was nothing further to be gained.  I sort fo felt that way on Facebook last Saturday evening.  We also value allowing diversity and heterogeneity of opinions.  

I don't want all my friends to be just like me.  That would, in fact, be pretty dull.  But I do want people who choose to post on my timeline to be like me in one way--that we all agree on the need to maintain civility.  And just because one person shows a little incivility that should not mean that the automatic reaction should be to one up that person arguing back.  Rather, I hope that I (if I ever post anything that even starts down the road toward incivility again) or my friends can just "tone it down".  That is one problem with politics (for which many people have passionate opinions) and asynchronous communication--where people can't "take back" something they wrote so easily and where the opportunity to explain often only comes after others have had a chance to stew over an issue for a while.

When it comes to incivility, I've seen more examples than I care to count recently.  So, let me elaborate a bit.  On the first night of the Democratic national convention, Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, gave a speech in which he said, “If Romney were Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves."  I heard this on the news.  No one questioned it.  Maybe one commentator later mentioned that he thought that the governor was a bit over the top.  It is enough that when I get around to it, I plan to change my party affiliation to independent rather than what it always has been as I am plenty dissatisfied with both sides.   

If I were to see someone post Governor Strickland's comments  to my timeline it would make me pretty unhappy and I would cal it out as incivility.  I don't believe that our supposedly serious political debate at a time of national crisis and a national turning point needs to sound like late night comedy.  I don't believe hat insults are necessary.  What I hope is that those who want to lead us can rise above insults, rise above comedy, rise above derision, rise above mockery, and instead of telling me everything about what an opponent will do wrong, will instead tell me what they will do right.  Don't tell me why the glass is half empty if the other person gets elected.  Instead, tell me why it will be half full if you get elected.  And when writing on my timeline, I hope that I and my friends will use similar discretion and think about what is being written.  Rarely will a statement that begins "Everyone who is in category X must think thing Y" absolutely true.  Rarely do I know a person's true and full motivation unless they have told me.  So, I should not be stereotyping.  I should not be presupposing motivations.  I should not be prejudicial.  And I hope that my friends will agree that these types of behaviors really don't help anyone.  

In general, I'm a "glass half full" kind of person.  Ever the optimist.  Ever trying to make the world a place in which more people can be more fulfilled.  It's not that only you or I can be fulfilled, but why not find a way to have more overall fulfillment and then divide it up?  

I noticed that I was so sensitive to potential incivility that it has begun to influence my professional writing.  A colleague asked me to sign on to a response to letters from others about a recent article we published.  The word "foolishly" had been used to describe a policy concern raised by those who had written about our article.  I insisted that the word be taken out and replaced with just stating that we believe that there is a different policy question to be addressed.  There are almost always multiple ways to approach policy evaluations and I didn't think it was out place to judge whether another person's premise was foolish and that such language would not help us to be taken any more seriously.  I also pointed out that to dismiss the ethical argument about what we had written as 'non-existent" rather than simply "kess important than those writing the letters seemed to think it should be" was also not the best decision.

I'm not saying that there are no black and white choices.  Sometimes there are.  But my world has a lot of mixed and jumbled colors that come together to form an interesting tapestry.  One in which I look for the beauty in what is there rather than trying to be critical.  And if and when I am too critical, I need to remember the lessons in civility and use the words I have written here as my guide.  It is not always easy for me to live up to.  But I have a clear idea of the politeness that I will expect to show and hope to find in others when I return to Facebook posting at some point.

Enough of dwelling on civility.  Simple enough to say--I plan to try to work harder to be polite and to maintain politeness in "my little part of the Facebook world".