Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quick Succession of Busy Nothings

My first weekend in the city! I do love big cities. I grew up in the 'burbs of a big city, moved to a neighborhood in city limits during high school, went college in a very small town and am now checking back into the bigger city scene. I won't be bragging about my derring-dos of this weekend, unless getting a mass amount of work done to catch up from vacation counts.  There are too many other things I'd rather be doing (including blogging, obviously) but I hate feeling behind in work and thus sacrifice part of my first weekend. I also get to sleep more, so I am not complaining.

Last night I saw "Inception" with a group of friends. Only LH and I really liked it; the other four people were not as wild. Joe made the excellent comment about Leonardo DiCarprio's films actually being worth watching in the last 5 years and this is definitely one. I would even see it again in theaters, and I don't see movies very often. The story line is complicated but followable. The special effects are amazing but don't look like effects-- they just flow, like water from the facet. The cast doesn't have one weak link and the movie kept me on edge the whole time, which hasn't happened since I saw Hitchcock's "Notorious". I felt like going for a run afterward, I was so exhilarated by the ending.

"Inception"'s trailer:

Blessings on your weekend and happy almost August! Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Pray that the order returns to orthodoxy and continues the work of Christ.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Once More, And With Feeling!

A few more interviews with State Reps yesterday. One of them went to ND for undergrad and then UC for law school and was in the same class as my Dad! Apparently they "shared a few beverages together." He also remembers going to my parents' engagement party- how fun! I love finding connections like that.

The flowers Betsy brought me!
Today, like this week, continues busy, but not as broken up. Bets stopped for dinner at my apartment on her way home to Cincy last night (she had been in the NE corner of the state for teaching for a few days). Life is blissful in the company of such a friend and I do so enjoy walks in warm weather! She'll be married in less than four months now, but she was just living across the hall from me less than three months ago...! Numbers like to remind me how we really are grown-ups now, although one shouldn't always act so. Only bores do.

"The Thousandth Man" by Rudyard Kipling 

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine nundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him.
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man h's worth 'em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight --
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot -- and after!

Here is a plug for my friend Andrew and the Jugulars, his med school's juggling club: they made it on the Chicago news! The juggling is great and the kids are super cute. Wait for the little kid who says he's going to be a good juggler and when the lady repeats him, he lisps "Yes ma'am!" Adorable!

Yesterday, on National Cowboy Day, my "little" brother became a legal adult. Is life moving fast for y'all too? Be sure to star gaze or make someone laugh today or smile, even if you don't feel like it.

Also, from Cupcake's gchat status: "Our generation, in particular, is prone to radicalism without follow through. We want to change the world, most of us have never changed a diaper." --Kevin DeYoung

Oh, and if you haven't been on my actual blog recently, I've made a few more updates and additions, so be sure to check them out. They're pretty nifty.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And She Lived To Tell The Tale...

Today is Heather's first day of job orientation! For those unawares, Heather was my roommate from the first day of freshman year of college in McIntyre (where our room was fondly called "the Cave of Wonders") to the last minutes of senior year, after we had graduated and couldn't quite believe we were actually leaving our beloved KKG 11.

Bear's going to be a teacher at a charter school back in her hometown out West, teaching three sections of Biology and one section of the Fine Arts. I am so excited for her! I supported her through a Biology-English double major and minor in Art History; she was there for my American Studies major and minor in overcommitments; together, we shared Kappa.

Here's a re-cap of four fabulously fun years:

Freshman year before the Garden Party!
Sophomore year: We fly like paper, get high like planes.

Junior year: the Infamous Pickle Picture at Zingermann's.

Later that day: at the Gap, waiting for Heather's sisters to finish trying clothes on; this was before a mannequin fell on me.
Senior year: welcome to KKG 11!
The last home football game and one of my favorite pictures of us.

This is only a snippet of her wonderfulness. She is kind, gracious, witty and coffee-nated. She's also a kindred spirit, a fellow soul who know me so completely, it's as if we've always known each other. If you know Heather, do send her a note. :) I know she'd love it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation; Or Rather, What I Read

Last week, I went on vacation up north with my family. While I had plenty of fun swimming, playing on the raft with the entire family (parents, siblings and dog-who-is-not-a-fan-of-swimming), jet skiing, getting sunburned, etc., I also read and wrote a decent amount of non-work related material. It was fabulous to do so and thus submit my thoughts on the books here:

Father Elijah: An Apocalypse 
by Michael O'Brien

This book is long-- a few pages shy of 600. Needless to say, I started this book when I graduated college and finished it two months later. I've been ignoring it for the past month at least, so I don't feel too bad about how long it took me to finish it. It was my first specifically Catholic thriller and truly was an intriguing read. A good friend recommended it and my Uncle Mark gave it to my Dad a while ago, so it's been tantalizing me for the past semester. I don't know if I'd read it again, but I am glad I read it once. I'm at least going to have to go over all the passages I underlined, checked, starred and parentheses'd off again. O'Brien made many acute observations and phrases things beautifully, but a little high-handed. Overall impression: he's a good story-teller.

Desert Wisdom: Sayings From the Desert Fathers
Translated and art by Yushi Nomura
Introduced by Henri J.M. Nouwen

I saw this book in a box with towels and goggles and picked it up, expecting a much heavier read. What I found was a delightful and thought-provoking read, accompanied by Nomura's ink sketches. The Desert Fathers were early monastics who fled the cities to make a new life in the wilderness in asceticism and solitude. I don't know if this book is explicitly Judeo-Christian, but it was definitely God-centered. A few favorite passages include:

"Abba Anthony said: The time is coming when people will be insane, and when they see someone who is not insane, they will attack that person saying: You are insane because you are not like us."

"A brother asked an old man: What is humility? And the old man said: To do good unto those who hurt you. The brother said: If you cannot go that far, what should you do? The old man replied: Get away from them and keep your mouth shut."

"The brothers asked Abba Agathon: Father, which of the virtues is our way of life demands the greatest effort? He said to [them]: Forgive me, but there is no effort comparable to prayer to God. In fact, whenever you want to pray, hostile demons try to interrupt you. Of course they know that nothing but prayer to God entangles them. Certainly when you undertake any other good work, and persevere in it, you obtain rest. But prayer is a battle all the way to the last breath."

I recommend picking it up.

The Southern Critics: An Anthology
Edited by Glenn Arbery

The first of the three books I'm reviewing this summer (so far). I got the second one in the mail last week and the third one today. Both should be excellent to read and review.

The first part of this book is four cultural essays on the South, the second part is eight academic essays on poetry (which shows the Southern Agrarians' immense influence scholastically) and the third part is four essays on religion and literature in the "Sacramental South". I really like the compilation of essays' flow and have a new interest in Caroline Gordon's writing. Donald Davidson's too, even though he technically does not take his stand with the Agrarians, interestingly enough. His defense of the South in "Why the Modern South Has a Great Literature" is very moving and grounded.

The quote at the beginning of the book, by Flannery "my favorite American writer" O'Connor, is really neatly phrased:

"The image of the South, in all its complexity, is so powerful in is that it is a force which has to be encountered and engaged. The writer must wrestle with it, like Jacob with the angel, until he has extracted a blessing."

And, finally:

Wise Blood
by Flannery O'Connor

An impulse buy a few weeks ago when I went South to visit my oldest friend Bianca. I want her second book 'The Violent Bear It Away' more, but this book is highly acclaimed and so far, a good read. I can't wait to get further into it.

Mom bought me one book as well when we were visiting Charlevoix-- 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' by Baroness Orczy -- but Dad read it and never gave it back. Odds Fish, m'dear! I bought Tacitus' 'Histories' yesterday. So excited! I was looking for Percy's 'Lost in the Cosmos' but, alas. I have been to four book stores so far and cannot find it! I am going to be an optimist and think it's because people bought it out, but know that is definitely not true for at least two of them.

I started buying books in the 8th grade (that's when I decided I wanted my own library) and have accumulated at least.... well, the number is high. We have a great half-price book store near my Dad's work and I really bulked up during high school. College only fueled the fire. Most are at home still, but I have enough here in German Village to keep me happy for a while. Do not worry, I'm still carefully budgeting; I won't go bankrupt for books.  I'm more interested in paying off my student loans and not having any debt. :) I suppose I should re-title this post "Just Another Reason It's A Really Good Thing I'm Employed."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

To Agree or to Disagree, What a Question

We agree about the evil; it is about the good that we should tear each other's eyes out. We all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad thing. We should not by any means all admit that an active aristocracy would be a good thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious priesthood; but some of us would go mad with disgust at a really religious one. Everyone is indignant if our army is weak, including the people who would be even more indignant if it were strong. The social case is exactly the opposite of the medical case. We do not disagree, like doctors, about the precise nature of the illness, while agreeing about the nature of health. On the contrary, we all agree that England is unhealthy, but half of us would not look at her in what the other half would call blooming health.

-- "The Homelessness of Man," from G.K. Chesterton's book 'What's Wrong With the World'

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Halfway to Home

At my Aunt Nancy's house, waiting for my cousin Sarah to come home so we can take a walk. Home tomorrow, then back to my apartment. I have my first board meeting on Monday and my first presentation to the board as well. 

"Murder in the City" by The Avett Brothers, one of my favorites

favorite line: "always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's Never Just Another Day

"Starfish" by Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life's way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won't give you smart or brave,
so you'll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
stopped when you should have started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm in a Green Acres State of Mind

"The Need of Being Versed in Country Things" by Robert Frost

The house had gone to bring again
To the midnight sky a sunset glow.
Now the chimney was all of the house that stood,
Like a pistil after the petals go.
The barn opposed across the way,
That would have joined the house in flame
Had it been the will of the wind, was left
To bear forsaken the place's name.
No more it opened with all one end
For teams that came by the stony road
To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs
And brush the mow with the summer load.
The birds that came to it through the air
At broken windows flew out and in,
Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh
From too much dwelling on what has been.
Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,
And the aged elm, though touched with fire;
And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm;
And the fence post carried a strand of wire.
For them there was really nothing sad.
But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
One had to be versed in country things
Not to believe the phoebes wept.

and another:

"The Oven Bird"

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Justice League has a new member...!!

My sister just posted this picture of our dog and labeled it "Captain Heidi."

Heidi, the Top Dog of our household, is fightin' crime one mailman at a time; and when she's not barking at every person, dog, cyclist or car that goes by our house, she's smoozing for a belly rub or treat. Heidi is a champion napper, can magically open/ get through closed doors and she has the softest and most snuggly fur. Bonus: when she's been bad, she usually goes into her cage without much prompting.

My sister told me this weekend that she is four years old! I don't know how long that is in dog years, but it's wild to think she's been with us for what sounds like a short period when it feels like forever. I suppose some things are meant to fit and feel like an old sweater, even a relatively new addition.

Heidi the Great!

We're not ones to dress up our pets, but I think this is pretty funny. I'm going to have to call home later to find out the story.

[Update from my sister: "The story is that I gave her a bath and she only shakes when she get out of the tub, so I covered her up so she wouldn't shake on everybody." Thus Captain Heidi was born!!]

Okay, back to writing my article on how the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has been selling private information because it's apparently all public records anyways and still epically fails to make a profit.

Two final thoughts:
1. “Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.” --C.S. Lewis

2. Milton Friedman putting a young Michael Moore in his place. Yay free enterprise! H/T to my office mate in the Batcave.

Happy Tuesday, folks! My big April is back in town and we're going to get lunch today at Dirty Frank's, Hipster HQ in this splendid metropolis. It's National French Fry Day too, but I think I might opt for the tator tots...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Liberalism, how chic!

I started re-reading Leo Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' to relax after work today, and I came across these two paragraphs which I think properly shows today's political and cultural liberalism; nice to see how much people have truly progressed! Oblonsky is the the brother of Anna. He has been caught having an affair with his children's French nanny and is in hot water with his wife Dolly. He has thus been sleeping in his study, and is now reading his morning paper...

"At the same time he unfolded the still damp paper, and began reading. Oblonsky subscribed to and read a Liberal paper – not an extreme Liberal paper but one that expressed the opinions of the majority. And although neither science, art, nor politics specially interested him, he firmly held to the opinions of the majority and of his paper on those subjects, changing his views when the majority changed theirs, – or rather, not changing them – they changed imperceptibly of their own accord.

Oblonsky’s tendency and opinions were not his by deliberate choice: they came of themselves, just as he did not chose the fashion of his hats or coats but wore those of the current style. Living in a certain social set, and having a desire, such as generally develops with maturity, for some kind of mental activity, he was obliged to hold views, just as he was obliged to have a hat. If he had a reason for preferring Liberalism to the Conservatism of many in his set, it was not that he considered Liberalism more reasonable, but because it suited his manner of life better. The Liberal Party maintained that everything in Russia was bad, and it was a fact that Oblonsky had many debts and decidedly too little money. The Liberal Party said that marriage was an obsolete institution which ought to be reformed; and family life really gave Oblonsky very little pleasure, forcing him to tell lies and dissemble, which was quite contrary to his nature. The Liberal Party said, or rather hinted, that religion was only good as a check on the more barbarous portion of the population; and Oblonsky really could not stand through even a short church service without pain in his feet, nor understand why one should use all that dreadful high-flown language about another world while one can live so merrily in this one. Besides, Oblonsky was fond of a pleasant joke, and sometimes liked to perplex a simple-minded man by observing that if you’re going to be proud of your ancestry, why stop short at Prince Rurik and repudiate your oldest ancestor – the ape?"

Quite telling, I think. Literature is some of the best social commentary and criticism, transcending time and place with the universals even when in the particular.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Poems Like This Remind Me Why I Love Calvin & Hobbes

A former teacher of mine, an Austrian economist by vocation, and I are pen-pals. I sent him a brief note and poem in June and he returned the favor in July. He sent this poem in his letter, which I received this past Tuesday.

"Leisure" by W. H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Over the holiday weekend, I went home and read through one of the many Calvin and Hobbes books my family owns. Calvin and Hobbes, perhaps the greatest comic strip ever drawn, chronicles six-year-old Calvin, his stuffed tiger Hobbes and his imagination. This poem, although beautiful on its own, seems to me something Bill Watterson could have synchronized into the strip in a very clever way.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

State Budget Meeting, Round Two

At the second budget meeting for the summer: "The State Fiscal Situation." The room is absolutely packed. The guy presenting this power point can't be more than two years older than me.

Speaking of age gaps, my youngest sister made herself a Gmail account. I found this out when the three little kids group gchatted me right before the meeting started. Even though I enjoyed talking to them for a little bit, I felt a little sad at how fast they are growing up. Getting an e-mail always seemed like a rite of passage for me. I made one when I was 13. I remember this random Julie trivia because my e-mail address was "julesrob13" (I've always been really creative with my e-mail).

The ten-year-old to me : i'm so excited
now we can talk more often!

Next guy up, at least 8-10 years older: “State Measures to Balance FY 2010 and FY 2011 Budgets” and he's discussing tax increases: gambling, motor fuel and vehicle taxes/ fees; sales, corporate income and personal income taxes; selective taxes; other revenue taxes (i.e. film tax, condiment taxes, soda tax). Now talking about making cuts to K-12 and higher education...

Okay, this meeting is tedious. I've got 3 articles to finish, so I'm going to multi-task now while still listening. I can't believe this commission only intends on having two meetings. They have a lot of work to do between now and November. I too have a lot of work to do, but between now and 8 p.m., which is when I have dinner plans. I can't find a copy of the power point on Gongwer either, which slightly annoys me.

I started making my own budget last night. I'm currently deciding how much of my salary will go towards living expenses, paying back my loans, shuffled into savings and having available. It's a good exercise in priorities!

Oh, there's another presentation: "Ohio's Budget: Steady Fiscal Control in Turbulent Times." How jolly. There's a gavel! And so it continues... another Great Depression reference.

Also, if it seems that these presentations are going fast, don't be deluded. The first set took and hour and a half. :) I just type fast and then ignore the post until something slightly worth commenting on happens. Lots is happening, but not much is worth a mention. I wonder how much more fun this job would be if people cut the BS. For instance, Sabety: "While I am optimistic, clearly, we are not out of the woods yet." Wah-wah-wah! Oh! Her system is shutting down! This is incredibly ironic.

Today it's David McCullough's birthday: "Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Support the Kids. Buy Local.

Yesterday, my friend Chuck drove through my hometown on his way from Hotlanta (he's interning at the Foundation for Economic Education this summer) to his own home farther north, so we met up for lunch. On my way home, I passed two little kids bouncing up and down with their "Lemonade For Sale!" signs. I was going the other direction and kept driving, every minute feeling horrible that I didn't have the common courtesy to patronize a local business of little capitalistic entrepreneurs-to-be.

So, I turned around and pulled up to the curb to two little boys, now jumping excitedly up and down. They charged 25 cents for a cup of lemonade, so I paid in full, complimented their lemonade and gave them a 400% tip ($1) to encourage them on the rather warm day. My parents are really big on buying local and supporting small businesses, and I too think it's important to do the same, especially with the smallest businesses of all. They acted really shy when I was around them, but I still loved and remember the huge smiles on their face that I stopped at their stand.

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July! What a stupendous day. This time next year, one of my little brothers will be in the military. Here's a few words from Calvin Coolidge, my favorite president:

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world."

The poem "High Flight" from a short film showed on t.v. stations in the 1960s before they signed-off for the night (h/t to Jim Robbins, an editorial writer at The Washington Times) seems appropriate to share today:

Mom and Dad are at the swim club with Meg, who is running interference for Kato, Muff, John and me while we work on their anniversary video. We have about an hour before they get back for dinner, then we'll watch fireworks up at the park and stop by my good friend Sarah's grandmother's house (who lives up the street from us), where her uncle Michael will set off more fireworks and we'll eat popsicles.

Happy Independence Day!! Today is the perfect day to catch up on your American prose, especially the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Always good to read, as well as being the purpose and foundation for this country. :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Second post of the day, I know. This incident is from a little less than 3 years ago, but with Christopher Hitchens recent self-removal from his book tour to attend to his throat cancer and have chemotherapy, I stumbled upon it. (I'm a reporter, I like to dig around deeper and wider.)

Imagine this: an encounter between Fr. George Rutler, the Roman Catholic priest who served the firefighters in NYC on 9/11 and a convert from Anglicanism, and Christopher Hitchens, the gifted writer and Atheist.

Hitchens described the encounter like this in the September 2007 issue of Vanity Fair:

May 1, New York City: An evening at the Union League Club, sponsored by the conservative David Horowitz. A full house of upscale right-wingers who at least agree with me on the single issue of fighting Islamic jihadism. A generally receptive and friendly audience as I am interviewed by the publisher Peter Collier. He's just closed the meeting when a man in a clerical collar puts up his hand. In a magnanimous mood, I say, Fair enough—let's extend the event for a man of the cloth. This turns out to be Father George Rutler of the Church of Our Saviour, who announces that he's on the committee of the club and will make sure that I am never invited there again. There's some shock at this inhospitable attitude, but I think: Gosh. Holy Mother Church used to threaten people with eternal damnation. Now it's exclusion from the Union League Club. What a comedown. In a brisk exchange near the elevator, the good father assures me that I shall die a Catholic. Why do people think this is such a good point?

Here's a brief transcript from Elizabeth Scalia's First Things blog:

Father Rutler
I have met saints. You cannot explain the existence of saints without God. I was nine years chaplain with Mother Teresa [inaudible]. You have called her a whore, a demagogue. She’s in heaven that you don’t believe in, but she’s praying for you. If you do not believe in heaven, that’s why you drink.

Christopher Hitchens
Excuse me?

Father Rutler
That’s why you drink. God has offered us happiness, all of us. And you will either die a Catholic or a madman, and I’ll tell you the difference. And secondly, I’m an officer with this club. And this conversation has been beneath the dignity of this club.

I've been thinking a lot about God and Catholicism as a whole lately. Being Catholic is the hardest and best part of my life. Today was no different. I'm too rebellious by nature; God has been slowly taming my soul. This has not been easy for me, but very necessary.

Pascal talked of the God-shaped vacuum in people's lives. Augustine wrote in his Confessions that our hearts are restless Lord until they rest in thee. B.H. Fairchild wrote in his essay "Credo" that the reason Christians attend mass or services is because they are admitting they are weak; they talk to God.
Pope Benedict says there are as many ways to God as there are people; that being said, Jesus Christ is the only way.

And to get to Christ, He uses the worst of us. He befriended the tax-collectors and prostitutes. He gave the keys of the Church to a coward who denied him three times. I sometimes think, if there were no homeless, would we still be thankful for the roof over our head and our covers at night? If no one was persecuted, how could we taste justice? Resisting temptation bears fruit of contentment. When I leave the office late only to continue working at home, I'm glad I have the crucifix to remind me of what a blessing it is to have a job after college and the chance to write for a living, among many other good things.

The subjective nature in which people see the world always makes me think of E.A. Robinson's poem "Richard Cory":

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

With all the material gain in the world, Richard Cory still had nothing to sustain him. "Cum panis" is Latin for "with bread." It is a simple phrase my good friend Betsy brought to my attention in the spring in a letter; about the significance of communion and community when friends and family share bread together at a meal- or, for me at least, when Catholics gather to celebrate the mass and the Eucharist.

My fellow reporter doesn't get why I go to mass every day I am able. "Again?" she once said, slightly exasperated. I smiled and said "Yes!" but wanted to elaborate. I wanted to share why I feel compelled to go and why I must go. Yes, must. How mass (ergo, God) comforts me in estrangement from dear ones, drives away doubts about my purpose and His will, quells fears that I will end up alone, gives me the gumption to do my job, fills me with His Love and gives me peace. As St. Ignatius Loyola said, "Go forth and set the world on fire." That I will, God-willing.

Perhaps I have told too much and gone on for too long but something compels me to tell this story (most likely the Holy Spirit; I loathe to think I wrote this for my own silly purposes). I hope this aids or supplements something on your own minds or hearts. God works in mysterious ways but purposeful ways.

And something else to think about: how momentous would it be if Christopher Hitchens had an Alexander Flyte from Brideshead Revisited moment? The English do have their fair share of famous converts!

I'm like a bird/ I want to fly away

I really love this poem.

"Designed to Fly" by Ellen Waterston

After ten hours of trying
the instructor undid
my fingers, peeled
them one by one
off the joystick.
"You don't need
to hold the plane
in the air," he advised.
"It's designed to fly.
A hint of aileron,
a touch of rudder,
is all that is required."

I looked at him
like I'd seen God.
Those props and struts
he mentioned, they too,
I realized, all contrived.
I grew dizzy
from the elevation
from looking so far
down at the surmise:
the airspeed of faith
underlies everything.
Lives are designed
to fly.

Happy July!
July is the the National Month of Grilling, Ice Cream, Hot dogs and Tour de France, four wonderfully marvelous (and delicious) things.