Monday, May 23, 2011

Graduations, Graduations...

Well, I've been busy. We have been busy. Kid #2 graduated from college, and I'm not sure where the time went. He was just in kindergarten. Really. He's now sending out resumes for a teaching gig, and fingers are crossed, candles lit, etc. -- we're hoping he gets something soon.

Seed Stitch Tie
Anyhow, here's the tie I knitted for him. It was a merino/alpaca blend. It was a little long, but then, he's 6' 1" so it works. In honor of his request to remain anonymous, here's the tie only. He showed it to some of his fellow grads and he says they liked it. I'll choose to believe that!

It's a lovely red/navy colorway, and while my LYS owner had to buy 10 hanks, all 10 of them are gone! I think she'll buy more of this because it worked up great. It's done in rice stitch. Click on the picture for an up-close view.

I have enough to make some coasters. Yeah, coasters, but that's because there really isn't enough to make another tie! Maybe a small scarf for me? Who knows. Not there yet.

The other big news is that our elkhounds both got their CGC certification. That's the AKC's "Canine Good Citizen" exam. We worked for well over a year with them to get this certification. It's a mark of obedience, good pet ownership and just generally making sure you and your dog are a team.

Tippi, our intrepid elkhound reporter, will have more to say at a later date.

Then, the same day, we went to my nephew's graduation party for high school. Yesterday, he was an infant. Seriously. Now, he's off to IIT to study architecture.

Well, at least the grand-nephew is STILL an infant! No pictures of him here... we want to keep him to ourselves for a while.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pfleger is Wrong.

Mind you, 99.99% of the time, I would disagree with Cardinal George on just about anything with regard to the Church. I think he's got blinders on in a great many areas, and he's too theoretical for his diocese. The church has lots of problems, and the administration often fails to address problems until they are forced to do so.

But in this case, Cardinal George is right.

There are 3 vows that most religious take when they are accepted into a vowed community: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.

The Catholic Church has a requirement that priests be moved every so often. Even with the priest shortage, the various dioceses will try to shake things up. Even in my community - they did that a few months ago by moving two priests - Priest A went to St. Something, and Priest B, formerly the pastor of St. Something, went across town to Priest A's church, Holy Smokes. I obviously made those names up, people, but the point is, our diocese just switched two of 'em around. It was time.

Fr. Pfleger has failed to lead his congregation. He has failed in the most basic task that Jesus taught: servant leadership. Yes, he was instrumental at St. Sabina --- he brought that church back. That's a great testimony to his leadership.

The next best testimony to his leadership is to move on and go lead somewhere else. Can he honestly tell Cardinal George that St. Sabina will fall apart without him? Can he honestly in his heart say that there isn't a troubled parish somewhere that he couldn't help?

Can St. Sabina's congregation say in all truthfulness that they will leave en masse if he's transferred? And if they can, then how strong is their faith in the Church as opposed to their faith in Fr. Pfleger? When you get baptized and agree to join the Catholic Church (if you join as an adult, you agree ... babies are just baptized by their parents), you pledge your faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not the guy in the cassock standing there.

Cardinal George floated the idea of Pfleger being the president of a Catholic high school. What better position for a true leader to be in? Think of the way he can energize and motivate the young students at that school. And for pete's sake: it's in the same neighborhood as St. Sabina. I think that's a mistake, but I'm not in that position, so I can't say what's up, unless Cardinal George thinks this is a "kinder, gentler" move for Pfleger.

Now, according to today's Chicago Tribune, Pfleger is threatening to "go preach at other churches." And he's saying that his lawyers tell him that the Cardinal was not following canon law by suspending him. Really? Is he so delusional as to think that Cardinal George wouldn't have thought all this through? If you agree with nothing else, you can see that George is a pedant. He makes sure every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed.

I know that in some denominations, it's not uncommon to see a pastor who's there for decades. In one of our Baptist churches in town, one reverend who is very much respected in our area was there for over 45 years. But that doesn't mean the Catholic Church should do the same. I believe the Church's policy of moving religious is a good thing: you are not your assignment. You are not the center of that universe. You are a disciple of Jesus, and he didn't stay in any one place very long either.

Heck, my favorite priest (so much a favorite that Kid #2 is named after him) got moved after TWO YEARS to Guam!! Of course that was while he was serving in a Naval chapel on a base, and they moved them every 2 to 3 years. That was normal. But that doesn't mean we didn't mourn the loss just as much as any congregation.

And let's talk a little about this concept of servant leadership. Pfleger actually meets many of the criteria for a successful servant leader: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and building community. It's an old concept, going back to 490 BC, where Lao-Tzu writes: The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware...The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say, 'We ourselves have achieved it!'

Following the concept of servant leadership tends to give a leader more authority versus power.

The concept was "revivied" in a way when a man named Robert Greenleaf wrote an essay in 1970 called "The Servant as Leader." I remember taking a class for my MA where his subsequent book was the centerpiece. I attended a Catholic university, and part of our "mission" classes (everyone has to take these to graduate) include classes on social justice and social responsibility. We turn out students who are hopefully aware of their place in the world, and that they have to leave the world a better place than when they got there. 

Where Pfleger went wrong is that he assumed "power" was the issue. It was a power struggle between him and the various cardinals in the hierarchy. Where the Diocese of Chicago got it wrong was that they left him there lo those many years. He should've been moved out of St. Sabina after a maximum of two "terms" (which would've been anywhere from 12 to 16 years total in one parish) and he should never have been allowed to stay there. He's been there since 1981, and he was ordained in 1975. Being at the parish that long is just not done.

Has he done good things? Obviously. But has he also thumbed his nose at the Church? Yes. Adopting children in direct opposition to his Cardinal's orders is just one of the problems. The kids obviously needed a good home, and that's great. But before those kids, the collar was there.

And it's not a collar that stifles you. It's a collar that reminds you of your vows. Reminds you who your Ultimate Boss is. And why you need to be reminded. And reminds you again that you are living a specific life, with a specific mission. Your mission is to go out and preach The Word. To everyone. Not just your parish.

You really aren't supposed to be the end-goal. You're the rudder, steering your parishioners toward their goals. You're not the ultimate achievement of your flock. A good leader is "invisible" to the process. Again, he's done great things. So now it's time to go do those great things elsewhere.

Well, Fr. Pfleger. Go.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

"Dear 16-Year-Old Me....."

This video deserves to be passed on. To anyone you know who's a teen. To anyone you know who's always outside in the sun.

To anyone you care about.

It's a "hanky-alert" kind of message at one point, but it immediately gets across to you that it's not all "beat you over the head with a stick." It's a very strong message about something so simple - that we take so much for granted.

I had a bad burn at age 13 or so. I didn't realize the implications till a few years ago. Now I get checked. I'm fair-skinned to the point of "blending into the wall." I would never tan the way my peer group did "back in the day" when baby oil tinged with iodine was the best way to get that golden glow everyone was after. And now, I couldn't even think about sticking my 53-year-old self into a tanning bed! Ick.

But you know you know people who do it. All year 'round. Send this to them. And then talk to them.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

It's the Black Guy... the White House.

Seriously, that's the meat to that nut. It's The Black Guy in The White House.

NOTHING will change in the next year or so with regard to the right wing. And when he gets re-elected, NOTHING will change again.

The level of disrespect is out of bounds, even with the fact that we live in a most un-civil time. Personal relationships are all about "my truth" instead of "being connected in a community." It's what matters to "me" that's most important, screw your feelings.

President Barack Obama made a very difficult decision. He made a decision that could've made or broken the remainder of his term in the White House. He called for special forces to kill Osama bin Laden (hereinafter "bin Laden" or "OBL"). There are many clips of Shrub where he's clearly saying, "I honestly don't waste much time thinking about OBL. Really, he's not in the front of my mind." It's a documented fact that GWB eliminated the OBL task force. He redistributed those folks to go get Saddam. Because OBL "wasn't important."

That's because Shrub was determined to "prove his manhood" by finishing Pappy Bush's job. To prove to his family that it wasn't a mistake that Jeb wasn't the one in the White House. It wasn't a fluke; Cowboy George was gonna get Saddam. God told him to. No matter that it wasn't the best idea; no matter that evidence clearly showed that OBL was a growing threat. God told him to take out Saddam, and By God, he was going to do that. He must've gotten that epiphany while he was out on vacation chopping brush. He certainly felt free to receive that message, and apparently not receive the intelligence briefings warning him several months in advance of 9/11 that the attacks were "imminent."

So. We had the "birthers" who demanded in the face of incontrovertible evidence that President Obama produce a "real" birth certificate. And President Obama, after dealing with that craziness, finally did. So, now the birthers still don't believe him! "It was doctored." "It was PhotoShopped." "It doesn't use the right words." I'm telling you, if Jesus Himself came down along with St. Peter, the Virgin Mary and Pope John Paul II (recently beatified) and all of them, along with a choir of the Seraphim and Cherubim told the birthers, "It's cool - he was born in Hawaii," they'd shriek collusion, conspiracy, cover-up because that's all they know.

And now I'm watching the blatant disrespect and disregard for the office of president - much less the MAN who holds the office. Because he's black. And the white crazies are not that far removed from their KKK days and Jim Crow. Harsh? To quote Tea Party Diva Poopsie Palin, "you betcha."

Harsh is as harsh does. Poopsie herself credited Shrub.... Shrub - for the capture of OBL. Really? What planet are you on? The Planet Denial, because it's a Black Guy in the White House.

President Obama hasn't always lived up to my own expectations. No president in history, no matter how sanctified and holy they may seem in retrospect, is perfect. JFK had affairs. Nixon was paranoid. Lincoln was a closet racist, and Jefferson owned slaves. And that's just a small slice of history.

But he's still the president. His office is due the respect, even if you can't manage to speak his name without gagging.

We like to think that in America we have a melting pot. That may have been more true in my parents' and grandparents' ages when immigration was all about people coming to America to be American. It was a proud moment when you became a citizen and learned English. Yes, there was racism. "No Irish Need Apply" is just one of the idiocies.  But by and large, there was more respect for the immigrant who came here to make a better life for himself or herself.

Now, the "immigrant" (and by the way, unless you're a direct descendant from Plymouth Rock, you are of "immigrant stock" somewhere in your family tree) is viewed as "the other." And not in a good way. And "the other" is to be suspected. "The Other" is someone who is "Not Like Us" and "Strange" and "To Be Viewed as Different."

And to be fair, sometimes immigrants give themselves a bad rap. They do get all, "We need to keep our heritage pure and we CANNOT ASSIMILATE." Well, yeah, you can because when you assimilate, you add to our collective culture and you enrich it. When you expect us, as your adopted country, to adapt to your ways and you refuse to adapt to ours - well, we wonder why you came here. What's the point when you don't want to be bothered to change or enjoy the delights of the variety of our culture, and you demand that yours be treated as "better" than ours?

Anyway, I digress. The point is, we are still a very long way from being color-blind. This generation coming up (my kids and their friends) are a heck of a lot closer to being color-blind than even my generation. My generation likes to talk a good game, but as you can see by pundits and talking heads in the media, we're not there yet. There's a huge segment of the population my age and older who don't like The Black Guy in The White House. And they'll do everything to stonewall him. To their own detriment and the detriment of everyone around them.

Why are they so afraid? Why does it enrage them that President Obama stated in his campaign that he'd get OBL, and he did? The spin coming from the right is enough to adjust the tilt of the planet's axis even more than the earthquake in Japan did.

Just suck it up and put on your big-boy skivvies. President Obama is the one who can truly fly the Mission Accomplished banner. But he won't. It is what it is - he got OBL, he visited the 9/11 survivors. He invited Shrub, and Shrub declined. The first statement was "he wants to stay out of the limelight" but now the radio is saying that he "feels dissed" because he didn't get "the proper credit."

Really? When GWB was using the bullhorn on the 9/11 site, did he thank President Clinton for leaving all that wonderful intelligence for GWB and his crew to use? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

And also, the idea of releasing the photos? Keep them hidden. Look what happened with the release of the photos of Saddam's sons, and the Abu Ghraib fiasco. Anyone with a grain of common sense or a few working brain cells can tell you that those pictures are deliberately inflammatory. The Abu Ghraib photos specifically have been used in anti-American propaganda. Those pictures hurt our military. Wave your flag on that fact.