Jan 162017

Having made it just over two weeks into the new year 2017, perhaps the time has come to make a second (or third) attempt at fulfilling those New Year’s resolutions. What difference, after all, does an arbitrary date on the calendar have to do with making a change in our lives? If a change needs to be made, why wait? And if the secular calendar gets in the way, you can always turn to the Church’s liturgical calendar.

After four weeks in the Advent season preparing for Christmas, and a slightly unusual Christmas season ending on a Monday, the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church has finally entered Ordinary time. The time between Christmas and Lent, Easter and Advent. The time when Sundays are simply designated by number in order – ordinary time.

But nothing is mundane about Sundays in ordinary time. Each is a celebration in and of itself of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And there is nothing mundane or ordinary about the weekdays in Ordinary time, either. Each is a gift to be savored and celebrated, an opportunity to do good – or bad. To heal – or hurt. To bring together – or push apart.

As I write and publish this, it is the 16th day of the new year 2017. It is also the first Monday in Ordinary time. A first Monday seems like as good a time as any (and perhaps better than most) to try and make a new start.

So if you have fallen behind on a resolution, take heart. Tomorrow is a new day. It might be an ordinary day in ordinary time, but there is no reason it can’t become an extraordinary day.

Sep 192016

If you can read this, thank a teacher. We’ve all heard that one. We’ve likely all read it it. If you were born – and who reading this wasn’t? – especially if you were born after 1973 and post Roe vs. Wade, thank your mother. If you are home schooled, thank your mother for both.

If you value freedom, you should thank a veteran. All veterans. That is to say, any veteran. Any one who served deserves our thanks. Any one who fought, and especially anyone who fell, should never be forgotten.

Surely someone taught us to read, so we should thank those who teach others to read. Undoubtedly we are all here because our mothers bore us. Thank you mothers. And if veterans had not been willing to fight and die to preserve our freedoms, we would not still have those freedoms. Never forget.

There is another slogan similar to those above. If you ate today, thank a farmer. But that doesn’t seem right at all. We don’t owe a debt of gratitude to farmers if we ate today, we owe them a debt of gratitude if we have ever eaten. At all. At any time.

Without farmers, we wouldn’t have our daily bread. But we need our daily bread every day. That’s why it’s daily bread and not just today’s bread. It isn’t just bread, either.

It doesn’t matter if you are vegan or a paleo carnivore. A gourmet or a gourmand. A fast food aficionado or gluten free. All natural, no preservatives, no artificial flavors and no preservatives or a connoisseur of overly processed snacks. If you eat, it’s because a farmer raised it.

Even babies who are breast fed wouldn’t eat without farmers. Moms have to eat, too.

I suppose if you are completely self sufficient, growing all of your own food in your isolated bunker where you hope to live out the coming zombie apocalypse, market meltdown, energy crisis, alien invasion, nuclear attack or what ever paranoid doomsday you fear, you can just thank yourself. But you probably are off the grid, off line, and will never see this anyway.

For the rest of us, Winston Churchill’s words uttered in a different context come to mind. Never was so much owed by so many to so few. Of course, he was referring to the Royal Air Force and their efforts in the Battle of Britain and an unprecedented situation in the history of conflict, not a basic necessity of human survival.

I’m certain Winston Churchill never imagined the agricultural conditions of early twenty-first century America, where a sizable percentage of the population thinks food comes from the grocery store just electricity comes from the light switch. A place where zero-order thinking prevails.

Hopefully, you are not one of these people.

Who do you think of for your daily bread? When next you express thanks and bless your food, think of those who, by the help and grace of God, provided it, and bless them as well.

Jun 272016

Tattoos appear everywhere and on everyone these days. When I was young, only sailors, Marines, and felons sported tattoos. You had to be tough to get a tattoo. It was a painful – and potentially dangerous – process.

Now, thanks to modern technology, health regulations, and advances in anesthetics, every teenage girl wants butterflies on her butt or a ringlet of flowers around her ankle. And a growing number of men and women want to turn their bodies into a walking art gallery or personal history exhibit.

Which is why I am offering the following five rules for anyone considering permanent body art.

1. Don’t.

The first rule is simple – don’t get a tattoo. Follow this rule and you can ignore the rest. If you are considering getting a tattoo, stop. Don’t do it. Turn around and walk the other way. Don’t listen to anyone trying to talk you into getting a tattoo. They are not your friend.

If you think turning your body into a canvass for body art will make you more attractive, think again. Take the long view. Take a close look at someone fifty, sixty, or even seventy years old sporting a tattoo.

Bodies change. Tattoos change. Seldom does either look better as a result. Fashions change. Tattoos don’t. What if you couldn’t change your hairstyle and clothes? Look at pictures from 1986. Do you think that tattoo will still work thirty years from now?

The Rest of the Rules

I realize some people get tattoos to prove their “badassness”. These people want to be cutting edge. They cross boundaries. They need to break rules. If you’re this kind of person, make this first rule the one rule you break and follow all the rest. Otherwise, follow this one rule and ignore the rest.

Now for those who, despite the drawbacks and warnings, decide you can’t live without being illustrated. You have something to prove and you want to prove it by having ink permanently injected into your skin. You just need to decide what and where.

2. Remain nameless.

Avoid names of anyone still living. Better yet, avoid names completely. Not even Mom. It might make your mother happy, but what about your girlfriend? What if she wants equal space? What happens when you break up? It’s even more foolish for a woman to get a tattoo with her boyfriend’s – or even a husband’s – name. Men just don’t look at it the same way.

The ban on names includes celebrities. Relationships can go south, and so can a celebrity’s reputation. Think Bill Cosby. The meaning could change as well. Think Bruce Jenner.

3. Location, location, location,

If you must get a tattoo, keep it hidden. Put it some place where you have to show it, not in plain view for everyone to see. This may not fit well with demonstrating your “badassness” and edginess, but a few years from now when you take your future kids or grandkids to the pool, “badass” might not be the message you want to be sending.

4. Make it small

Big tattoos make bold statements. Statements difficult to retract. Remember, the statement you want to make today might not be the statement you want to make five, ten, or twenty years from now, and bigger means more to remove. Besides, if you need to keep it covered – and there will be times when you will want to keep it covered – small is better.

5. Take the long view, make it a selfie

So make it small, in a normally concealed place, and avoid names. Also, take your time. Never get a tattoo on an impulse. If you want to place a permanent image on your body, make sure it is something which reflects you. And not just you right now, but you several years down the road.

If you must get a tattoo, get it for yourself, not to impress someone or with the hope it will make someone like you. You’re the one who has to live with it every minute of every day for the rest of your life.

In a sense, you are marrying your tattoo. The two of you will become one. And just like a real marriage, getting a divorce will be expensive, painful, and leave a nasty scar.

So, would you get a tattoo? If so, what and where?