Archive for September, 2014

Sam’s Progress

kenneth D Dowdy

The doctor today said that Sam is doing well. One large area on the baby’s chest that he was worried about healed well, but there are still several smaller spots on his belly, leg, and arm that may need surgery. They are going to change his dressings daily and assess his progress. The worst possible outcome, at this point, seems to be some scars in places only seen when more or less undressed. So thank God for that. What is hard on a parent is seeing your baby wrapped in bandages and suffering. And the poor little boy has already been through so much in his short life.

I sometimes only believe that God is good and loves us because Jesus told us that, and Jesus taught us the Way to live in peace in the Sermon on the Mount, which those who say they love Him generally ignore or explain away.  And He lived the perfect life and suffered and died and rose triumphant.

So Jesus has credibility.

So I do thank the God who loves us (because Jesus told me so) that Sam’s injuries are not worse, that the scalding tea missed his face, and that my union job means that I will be paid while I stay home during the time it takes for his healing.

While my life, with one income and eight kids, more resembles that of the working poor than that of my comfortable two income two kid coworkers, it is so much easier than the lives of most of the people in my neighborhood, who would lose money for every day they missed work and probably be fired if it went on for more than a week if this happened to their child.

Lord have mercy.

And God damn.

Icon by Kenneth D Dowdy

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Sam Falls in Love

Spent the day in the hospital with Sam and his mom. A doctor came in after they had changed his bandages to tell us that there are two places, on his thigh and on his arm, where the burn appears deep. We will know for sure on Monday if he will need surgery.

Sam, who is usually happy and rowdy, has been subdued with the pain medication. He will smile weakly and play for short spells, but mostly he nurses and sleeps. He has been wary of the nurses until a young nurse with pretty eyes came in. As soon as he saw her he smiled, and then he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He gazed at her with a sweet smile, like he was in love, and cried a little when she left the room. And she was so good with him, clearly someone who loves babies. Like I said, everyone at Akron Children’s Hospital has been great, with Sam and the many other times our kids have been there. If you work there you love children and see them suffer daily. It is a No Asshole Zone. But this young nurse was, even in this environment, extraordinary.

Me, I spend most of my time trying not to cry for my poor baby.

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Pray for Sam

Our baby Sam, who is one, pulled over a pan of hot tea on himself this morning. He is at Akron Children’s Hospital with second and third degree burns over about 20% of his body. He is awake, medicated for pain, fussy and needy, but he smiled at me a couple of times. There were only minor burns on his face, thank God. We will not know until the dressings are removed on Thursday if he will need surgery, or if he will be scarred. So, prayers, please.

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Jewel Weed


SkippingStones alan bray

Sunday afternoon I took the Difficult One, the nine year old, on a hike in the Jackson Bog, which I have mentioned before. In truth, we rarely go to the bog itself. The bog – or more accurately, the fen- can only be seen up close by walking a fiberglass boardwalk that snakes along its edge. That may be fine if you are studying the exotic plants growing there, but it is an imposition. Plus the walkway is just across the water from a ridge filled with huge houses, where dwell the bourgeoisie, who sometimes serenade the hiker with loud music or lawnmowers.

But the other trails are among the finest in the area. The trees are mature and one glade of tall elm trees, their small leaves all lacy and high, looks so elven that we call it Lothlorien. This we contrast with some of the other trails in county parks, with woods so rough and overgrown that they look like orc habitats.

So we walked the wooded trail along the hillside, gathering flat stones to skip when we got to the pond. The mosquitoes were the worst they have been all summer; they have gotten worse every time we have come. The mosquitoes of September make one welcome the first frost. Death to the bloodsuckers!

We took our shirts off, swishing them like tails. Michael still got eaten up, me not so much.

We were talking and not paying much attention when I realized with a start that everything looked unfamiliar. I felt strange, like I had wandered into another world. We kept following the path uphill until we were on a higher ridge than I had ever been in that wood, with the bog pond shimmering through the trees in the distance.

We kept on until we came out onto the familiar wider path of the hillside trail. I figured out that somehow we had wandered onto a small trail I had never seen, which circled, like a horseshoe, the ridge I had never known existed.

It was delightful, realizing that this relatively small patch of woodland, tucked into the suburban landscape, still had hidden treasures, after sixteen years of hiking. I thought of our last discovery, a few months ago, of a pond down a trail we had always assumed just ran up to the athletic fields of the high school, which the bog nature preserve borders.

We made it to our favorite spot down that path, the hidden pond, still and lovely, blue sky and white clouds reflected in its waters. (Native Ohioans would call it a lake, but to a Michigan man this is a pond. On the other hand, any little trickle in Michigan is dubbed a river). On the edge of the pond, in the sunlight, with a slight breeze, the mosquitoes did not bite us.

We each had about ten stones and took turns skipping them. All mine skipped. Most of Michael’s did. One of my stones skipped about twenty feet, which was deeply satisfying. We each had stones that skipped seven or eight times. We took our time, digging around for other stones on the picked-over shore.

We began the hike back, maybe a mile and a half. Michael was being devoured. I suggested that he run all the way back to the parking lot, outrunning the boogers, and he thought that was a great idea. He took off and I enjoyed the solitude.

Exiting the forest I picked a bunch of orange jewel weed flowers, which I crushed and rubbed on Michael’s welts. I thought what a gift it is that when the mosquitoes are thickest there is a plant blooming that assuages the effects of their bite.

There were no signs of bites by the time we got home.

Thank you God for jewel weed.

Even though you made the bloodsuckers.

I would say you have a lot to answer for, but I have read the Book of Job.


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The Drums of War


Armed protesters, Holly Michigan.

Last week a friend of my nephew’s shared a Facebook post from a woman near my hometown in Michigan. According to her, her husband, a soldier, had stopped for gas at a Mobil station in Holly, the town just east of Fenton, where I grew up.

The soldier was wearing his uniform, and according to the story the ‘Arab’ manager looked him up and down and declared that he would sell him no gas.

There was an outcry. People vowed to boycott. A protest was planned.

My almost infallible bullshit detector started squawking. This sounded extremely unlikely. First, most Middle Eastern businessmen in the US are Christian, not Muslim. Second, it is unlikely that an American Muslim would do this. It took only a few minutes googling to learn, from a response by a man who manages a restaurant in the station, that in fact the pumps were malfunctioning. The manager is Indian, not Arab, and his English is not so great. The soldier, filtering everything through his prejudices, reacted angrily to the perceived snub.

The station had been receiving threats, and the protest did in fact take place, with some of the protesters carrying guns.

Another story featured spray painted messages about the Koran defacing Christian churches. Yet another featured a supposed photo of a sign outside a mosque, taunting America and threatening destruction.

Again, the bullshitometer squawked. It is highly unlikely that a minority, one which is perceived with hostility by a large number of Americans, would draw negative attention to itself at a time like this. The spray paint incident was no doubt carried out by Islamophobes . The sign was obviously photoshopped.

Plus, real jihadists are sneaky.

We live in a moment when War Fever is high. The very real outrages of ISIS feed the frenzy, though I do not know why, if the beheading of two Americans is cause for war, the killing of over 500 children in Gaza does not provoke calls to attack Israel.

ISIS is indeed an alarming phenomenon, too brutal even for Al Qaeda, with greater organization and resources than any previous group of Islamist militants. But people who are sowing fear that soon the jihadists will be beheading Christians in Des Moines are fools. ISIS may be inspire homegrown American militants to violence, but it in itself is no threat to the security of the United States. If it even succeeds in its immediate goals it will be a small state surrounded by enemies, Muslim, Jewish and Christian. Its plans for extension include taking the sacred city of Mecca and destroying the shrines there.

We will see how that goes over with the Muslim world. The ‘caliphate’ has indeed united Muslims worldwide, but they are united against it.

The papers recovered after Osama bin Ladin’s assassination reveal a man racked by doubt. He had come to see that Al Queda’s brutality, its indifference to civilian casualties, and its killing of other Muslims had created a backlash. He feared that militants would go too far, declaring a caliphate, bound to be seen as a threat by virtually every other Muslim organization in the world.

And that is in fact what has happened. ISIS, in spite of the chaos they are perpetrating, is doomed.

But to the neoconservative war criminals who are whipping up the war frenzy, ISIS is a gift. Nothing rouses the mob like tales of atrocities, even if the worst of these (beheading children) are proven to be false. But the neocons are so deeply enmeshed in a false narrative that they have no credibility. ISIS rose not because of some flawed Obama strategy but as the direct fruit of long term American policy. Most of its members, I would wager, have personal grievances – dead family, bombed-out homes, mistreatment at the hands of Americans- at the root of their transformation into militants.

I would like to see a catalogue of American atrocities in Iraq, but I don’t hold my breath.

This is one case where I hate to have been right. I said, when Bush & Co decided to attack Iraq in 2003, that this action would beget a long cycle of violence. I was not alone in this analysis; John Paul said the same.

Now over ten years later, we are seeing the fruit of that violence reach a new level of brutality. And Islamophobic propaganda, most of it clearly phony, is all over the internet. Some Catholics, to their shame, are posting memes of Crusaders, apparently having learned nothing from history.

I have lived through this sort of thing before, watching the gullible, who are legion, being whipped into fury by atrocities real and imagined, stories demonizing Muslims at large, as if a billion extremely disorganized people act in accord (most of the victims of Al Queda and ISIS are in fact Muslim). People are being manipulated by the masters of war, the partisans of Empire.

The drums of war are pounding.

I am not marching.


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Straw for the Fire IV

albert edelfelt

Return of the Vortex…. ?

Dear God, no.

I read in the paper today that certain scientists are claiming that various factors, including the melting polar ice caps, are changing global climate so that last winter may become something of the norm for the eastern United States.

Like global warming may lead to regional ice ages.

The explanation sounded reasonable, but the article did note that more conventional climatologists disagree.

I comforted myself last winter, as I toiled in the biting cold month after month, by telling myself that this was The Winter of a Lifetime. While I am rooting for the conventional climatologists, I also remind myself that I did prove I can do it.

But really, this news story coming just days after I wrote that I am ready for the change of season?

On the other hand, if every Vortex Winter was followed by a summer as sweet as this one?

I might take it.

Anecdotal Wisdom

Do not scorn anecdotal wisdom. Any other kind is just something you read or heard or memorized. In fact the person who continually experiences things contrary to what they believe should happen, given what they are doing in good faith, and doesn’t start to wonder if they got it wrong is really an ideologue, refusing to question his or her premises.

Which can be frightening.

Our human constructs, whether religious or philosophical or political or whatever, make us feel safe, sure that we have a grip on The Real. Realizing that we may have erred is terrifying.

But refusing to admit it and look at things with questioning eyes is a living death.

George Fox

… was right. There is an inner light. Humans can experience some small glimpse of holy Being.

As humans, though, as soon as we open our mouths it gets distorted.

Wisdom, Be Attentive

I have begun to reread Gaudiem et Spes, the Vatican II document that Francis was obviously referencing when he called his pivotal Apostolic Letter Gaudiem Evangelli. I have recently become aware that whatever the feuds in the very recent aftermath, historically speaking, of that Roman Catholic Council, that Council has recently been defiinitively ratified by Francis, who canonized the two popes most identified with it. It is clear, especially if you are apophatic regarding the age and future of humanity and the Church, that if the doomsday prophets are wrong, as they always have been so far, that the Council, and the post-conciliar popes, will be the major influence on Catholicism for the near, and possibly the not-so-near, future.

Granted, the language of the documents may be off-putting to moderns, postmoderns, millennials, and especially most everyone under the age of 45.

Every reference to the human family is rendered ‘man’.

It is all ‘man’, ‘mankind’. and ‘he’ and ‘his’.

I once wrote a sort of apologia for such exclusive language. Sort of the ‘you know that really means humanity, right?’ approach.

Well if that is what it means then let us say what it means.

Which creates certain aesthetic and grammatical problems for those who pay attention to such things.

But it hit me reading the Council document: the key to this dilemma is in using the real inclusive language. Use ‘we’ and ‘our’ for every ‘man’ or ‘man’s’. Try it. It reads well and if translated like this could have a great impact on the future of, well, Us.

Franciscan My Ass

As I am suffering from acute outrage burnout I am not even going to comment on this. Use your imagination for my rant:

“Fox News commentator Lt. Col. Oliver North, of Iran-Contra Affair fame, is the scheduled keynote speaker for a Sept. 13 benefit dinner in Dallas to support the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, a U.S-based ecumenical operation dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”

Read the whole sorry tale if you must:http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/oliver-north-raise-money-franciscan-holy-land-foundation

Painting by Albert Edelfelt

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