Note from the Hufflepuff Common Room*


*Hufflepuff is a less-well known house from the Harry Potter book and movie series; I think of them as the average wizards, not the National Honor Society wizards. The picture of the Hufflepuff common room is from Playstation by way of Pinterest.

I am the perfect example of fakery.  I think of myself as a sort of middling wizard in the Harry Potter saga who has never had the guts to stop trying to pass as a Muggle because, while Muggles are clueless, my fellow wizards are unwilling to cut me slack.

Because I have certain skills at communicating in writing, other people expect that I should be able to put my thoughts together and spit them out of my mouth quickly in a coherent, consistent, compelling way, perfectly edited, not hard to follow, and never unwittingly offensive.

I have no such ability in any social situation where I am called on to do more than make a very superficial comment about anything. I never have.

My sister, who is so verbally competent that she is the only wizard ever to be sorted for both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, declared a couple of years ago, “You are exhausting.” Yes, waiting for me to answer a “simple” question, make a point, come to a conclusion . . . really, it exhausts *me* to try to find, streamline, and deliver an appropriate response out of the landfill of my brain.

If the right brain is the gas pedal on the backhoe of thought, and the left brain is the brake pedal, for me the gas pedal is almost always to the floor, and the brake pedal works only intermittently.  It is nearly impossible for me to scoop up any mental material with efficiency and precision.

It has always been this way. Always.

In science class, in seventh grade, I learned very well that the way I think and speak is not appropriate in most social settings.

The teacher had a prism and showed us how what we perceive as white light is actually made up of different colors, different wavelengths of light combined. When we see white objects, we see all the wavelengths of light reflected from that object. When we see an object of a certain color, such as a red apple, we are seeing only certain wavelengths of light.

I impulsively shot up my hand and was called on. I said, “That takes away all the magic [of color]!” (Said before I came to understand that magic is simply science that has not been correctly articulated yet.)

I basically responded to information the way I would have at home, in the safety of my neurodiverse family.

However, when my fellow students heard my comment, the whole crowd guffawed. The teacher rolled her eyes.

Score another one for the kid who, from first grade, collected many, many report card comments: “Does not pay attention” and “does not work up to potential.”

Since then, I have learned a lot about putting on a façade of some kind of vaguely snotty superiority–intellectual or creative or whatever–in order to keep that kind of ridicule at bay.

The reality is that we are all gifted and interesting and not ordinary in some way, and we all hide it or dumb it down or whatever in order to fit into our social environment, in order to find acceptance, in order not to be alone and afraid.

But sometimes the natural human reaction to things that are unexpected sends a powerful message, “You are not just unexpected, you have no place or purpose whatsoever.”

I spent most of junior high school and high school alone or with a very, very small number of people I thought I could trust, and I never got to know people who (I know now) would have made the best, most trustworthy friends . . . partly because of my overweening pride, and partly because I perceived there was no place in the public school environment of the day for someone with my verbal challenges.

(If I were in junior high today, I probably would have an IEP [Individualized Education Program] and therapy of some kind on a regular basis. Rather than be completely misunderstood by many, I would probably be understood to death by many and would have zero motivation to find ways to overcome misunderstanding through the best written communication possible.)

As it stands now, I will continue to exhaust, bewilder, and annoy.

Time has taught me that some people will always fidget and look at their watches when I am trying to get my words out in a straight line.

At this point in my existence, while my selfishness and cluelessness will *absolutely* always need to be measured against God’s standards for human kindness (and his standard is always more generous than human standards), I will never abandon my desire to communicate clearly merely because it is inconvenient.

Someone will always think of me as exhausting and inconvenient.  Oh, well.

After sixty-plus years, I am not yet in a place to say, “That’s okay,” but I pray I will be one day before I die.

Plenty of talk-talk. Damned little walk-walk.

Kim Kardashian’s Butt (55 pics)

I have come to embrace the term “value-signaling” as a perfect way to express a lot in myself and my culture that at times makes me want to rip my own face off and slap somebody with it.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?   If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  And he was called the friend of God.  You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

–James 2:14-26 (NKJV)

I believe Jesus died so I could get up off my fat ass and walk.  But there are days when I love my fat ass as much as Kim Kardashian loves hers.  Not the way it is supposed to be.

Give me your tired, your poor, your hungry . . . so I can shame them to death.

save-the-chn

So, the Christian worldview (and some other worldviews as well) holds that we are in a war, a real though invisible war between light and dark. It’s daily and lifelong. And I usually think of it as a sort of symbolic thing.

It struck me yesterday that, in a very concrete way, I am a witness to the third World War that everyone was always anticipating when I was a child.

Armies have been mobilized for years now. The world is full of spies, counter-spies, allies, enemies, victories, defeats, advances, retreats, large areas of land being blown up, wounded vets and wounded civilians, torture, treaties, cease-fires, sympathizers, and refugees.

We ARE caught up in World War III.

During WWII, people got freaked out about the Germans. The Japanese. The Italians. Jewish refugees were denied entry into the U.S.

During WWI, Americans in America killed a German man because he was German.

I live in a neigbhorhood in which the majority of people I know are survivors of religious persecution, genocide, and all the other delights of war.

They are desperate to put the pain, suffering, and death behind them.

They are desperate to sleep at night and to see their children (the ones who have survived bombing, freezing, and starving) thrive and grow up to have a safe, prosperous future.

And what do we Americans, who so far are only vaguely touched by the carnage, do for people who have genuinely suffered what we can only imagine?

It’s the old abuse victim denial story. “You must be exaggerating. You must have some bad agenda to come here and stir up trouble. It’s your fault. Nothing bad would happen to you if you would just stop being on the wrong side.”

I am absolutely opposed to running the U.S. in such a way that truly awful human beings have an easy time of infiltrating and subverting. But I am also opposed to treating victims of World War III as if they caused it.

I hate junk mail.

flyer_0003

I hate junk mail because I get so much stuff from people who want me to respond to their mail with great passion. However, they don’t know or care (or want to know or care) where my passion is focused.

Today in the mail I got a flyer asking me to support the New York State Reproductive Health Act.

The stupid statement that prompted me to write/message the groups that paid for the flyer was this: “When Washington fails us, N.Y. can protect us . . .”

Washington politicians, New York politicians . . . what have they ever protected except their right to frank mail and get better retirement than I’ll ever have?

So, I got some addresses and found some Facebook pages, and I responded to NIRH Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund, and the New York City Civil Liberties Union as follows:

Today in the mail, I received a flyer, paid in part by your organization (see attached copy).

I certainly do believe that New York State should do all in its power to protect my right to live freely and safely, unmolested in my mind and in my body by individuals as well as governments who do not care about the way I personally choose to live.

However, as far as I am concerned, your organization and similar ones for years have done an excruciatingly bad job supporting me in my concerns.

You’ve done a bad job teaching girls and women to respect their bodies, value their sexuality, and have the confidence to say “get the hell away from me” when anyone, male or female, tries to convince them they are freaks for wanting sex to mean more than genital stimulation.

When you champion women who want to keep their unborn babies as much as you champion women who don’t give a crap about destroying human potential (especially female–look at China), I will certainly support you.

When you do all you can to reduce the footprint of on-demand abortion in vulnerable minority neighborhoods, I will certainly support you.

When you spend as much money helping at-risk women to get pap smears, well-baby visits, and hormone replacement therapy as you do funding all your current activities, I will certainly support you.

Until then, please don’t pay to have my name slapped on a card that assumes solidarity with your goals. And if you can do anything about it, please get my name off any mailing list you have.

Thanks . . .

Cat, hat, pat, mat and all that.

 


I am pretty freaking excited. I discovered that Reading Horizons, a fantastic program for learning English reading, writing, and speaking is available in a hard copy format that would allow me to work one-on-one with a student without needing a computer.
 
It is a program I encountered in a digital format about seven years ago. At that time, the program was used primarily to help English-speaking middle-school and high-school students to improve their skills in reading, writing, and comprehension.
 
However, somebody got the bright idea to use the program with people just learning English who were not at all familiar with the craziness of English pronunciation OR the craziness of the English alphabet. And, as a volunteer, I was absolutely impressed.
 
When I learned to read and write my native English as a child, I made endless mental lists of rules and exceptions and variations and whatnot.
 
But this program sorted out and made sense of every strangeness that English spelling and pronunciation offers.
 
And in order to use the program with multiple students on multiple computers, lots of money for licenses was required.
 
The program in hard-copy format is not cheap, $500 for teacher materials plus $19.99 per student workbook. But it is sooooo worth the investment. So I’m going to make it.

And by the way, this is not an invitation for anyone else to do likewise.  What the poop would you do with a box full of manuals?  And the compensation I want from this is the satisfaction of seeing students kick butt when it comes to learning English.

Interesting creatures appear in spring.

The residents in my neighborhood are mostly a mix of homeowners and renters who are American-for-a-lot-of-generations folks AND homeowners and renters who are just-recently-arrived-and-getting-settled in the U.S.A. folks.  Mostly quiet folks, let-me-work-and-take-care-of-my-family folks.

It’s possible that some of these neighbors might be the same folks who scatter tiny bags that I find in my yard on occasion, tiny-zip lock bags that are known to carry servings of crack cocaine.

Possibly some of these neighbors are the folks who scatter such tiny bags on a regular basis.  Possibly they do this at night, possibly during the day when I am not at home.  I don’t think so.

For the most part, the neighbors I am aware of work during the day and are firmly asleep early at night because they all have to get up early the next day.

So, a couple of weeks ago, late at night, when I saw a station wagon parked in my driveway and a four-door sedan parked in front of my house, both with engines running and lights on, and tonight, about 8:15 p.m., when I saw a four-door sedan in front of my house, engine and lights as described above,  I did not assume they carried neighbors coming to visit me.

I did not assume they carried sightseers or Jehovah’s Witnesses either.  Rightly or wrongly, for some reason I assumed the cars I saw might carry people bent on procuring or perhaps simply using tiny bags of crack cocaine right there in front of my house.

And tonight, when the car I saw in the street just sat there, I called 911 and announced my concern, emphasizing that perhaps it was a matter for the police.  The 911 operator said she would notify them; I hung up; the car sat for twenty minutes or so and then left; no police arrived.

I’m thinking maybe the police know something I don’t know.  For instance, the tiny zip-lock bags left in my yard may be used by elves to hold tiny sandwiches that sustain them as they migrate across Rochester, moving from their winter homes in Florida to their spring homes in Ontario.  And the people in the cars in front of my house are elf-watchers, consulting their Audubon field guides and waiting for a glimpse of wee nocturnal travelers.

It would be nice if the elves are just a harmless species passing through rather than an invasive one ready to make a bigger mess for everyone than Canada geese.

 

You are my unflavored yogurt, my only unflavored yogurt; you make me happy when skies are grey . . .

yogurt-1786329

It’s seven days since I started eating and otherwise getting through every day with serious recognition that I simply cannot eat bread OR food with added sugar. And cannot eat other things that I have considered neutral or relatively harmless.

I have realized that, if I want to, as they say, close of the last quarter of my life by wearing out and not rusting out, I do have to treat sugar, and other non-sugar sweeteners as well, as if they are rat poison.

And I need to treat bread, which so often has sugar added to its high-glycemic tastiness, as the same thing.

My problem is not what I thought it was for years–that I ate too much junk food because I was too busy or stressed to feed myself well and thus set myself up for massive cravings for sugar (the fastest way to get a rush of energy).

And thus set myself up for massive weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, sleep apnea, mood swings . . .

For various reasons, it has hit me that even when I am relatively well-fed and well-rested and stress-free, I cannot be satisfied with just a taste of some things.

If I have a teaspoon of honey in a cup of tea, in no time flat I am eating it out of the jar. If I put a quarter of a teaspoon of stevia in a cup of tea (equal to a teaspoon), I end up putting a teaspoon (equal to a tablespoon). If I have one slice of bread with butter and jam and tea, soon I am eating six of the same. If I have one square of dark chocolate, I end up methodically working my way through a bag.

I have been eating what great-grandma would have called a “plain” diet for the past week, and though I am sort of down about voluntarily culling myself out of the crowd that eats cheap, plentiful, and sweet, I think I’ve done the right thing.

Clearing brain fog, more focus, more energy to get up and do (though not a lot more) . . . it could be due simply to the fact that I’m getting more sun here at the start of May.

However, I think that the trend will continue on cloudy days as well.

Katie is not quite Jesus.

If self-actualization is the highest good, then the song Chained to the Rhythm is just Katy Perry virtue-signaling. She doesn’t mean a thing she’s saying, except to the extent that it will earn her money and help her actualize her own self.

If Americans, especially of the up-and-coming variety, took her seriously, sales of mind-altering substances (legal and illegal) would plummet. Wasted zombies would go into rehab. Apple and Samsung would not be able to sell one more device.

Both locally and internationally, the rising generation would be getting their heads out of their asses as no previous generation has been able to. They would be finally solving, with wisdom and compassion, the problems of military imposition of political salvation, food and water insecurity, infant mortality, human trafficking, genital mutilation, racism, general human stupidity, etc. Right?

Or are Katie and company coming to realize that, like every other generation before them, they are failing to usher in a new age . . . and thus cannot help but run in search of newer, fancier shackles?

Chained To The Rhythm
(feat. Skip Marley)

[Katy Perry:]
Are we crazy?
Living our lives through a lens
Trapped in our white picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble
Aren’t you lonely?
Up there in utopia
Where nothing will ever be enough
Happily numb
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble

(Aha)
So put your rose-colored glasses on
And party on

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion

Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm
Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

Are we tone deaf?
Keep sweeping it under the mat
Thought we could do better than that
I hope we can
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble

(Aha)
So put your rose-colored glasses on
And party on

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

[Skip Marley:]
It is my desire
Break down the walls to connect, inspire, ay
Up in your high place, liars
Time is ticking for the empire
The truth they feed is feeble
As so many times before
They greed over the people
They stumbling and fumbling
And we about to riot
They woke up, they woke up the lions
(Woo!)

[Katy Perry:]
Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Turn it up (turn it up, turn it up), keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie (like a wasted zombie), yeah
We think we’re free (Aha)
Drink, this one’s on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm
To the rhythm
To the rhythm

It goes on and on and on
It goes on and on and on
It goes on and on and on
‘Cause we’re all chained to the rhythm
[From MetroLyrics]

International Women’s Day? This is all we get? Really?

Only one day to honor women when it’s women who have held civilization together since FOREVER?

Several years ago, in a women’s book discussion group I was part of, the point was made that evidence of women’s contributions through the humble yet necessary domestic arts throughout history have tended to be more susceptible to moth and rot than men’s armor and swords.

So the real contributions of women, the constant contributions of women, the endless contributions of women from the dawn of time until now . . . will never be known in their fullness.

It appears, based on hard evidence in existence, that women haven’t done anything “big.”

And maybe they never have. What if all the most valuable contributions really are all “small” stuff that women have done to keep civilization on track day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment?

They still deserve much, much more than one stupid day.

The letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life. Duh.

In so many areas of the world, for good and for ill, there has obviously been cultural slop-over for hundreds or thousands of years.

And maybe at the start of the slopping process there was much more consensus about what people adhering to the principles of being human do as an innate expression of their existence as human beings.

And maybe the principles of being human were much easier to do, or maybe people were more secure in their sense of themselves as human beings.

And maybe as a result, human beings could actualize their humanity based on broad and simple principles of thought rather than on narrow and complicated lists of behaviors.

Because of course, as anyone these days knows, you cannot decorate your house or feed your family or start an exercise program or be a good person (however you define that) without lists and lists of materials, tools, techniques, times, dates, places, experts, costs, opinions, ratings, blogs, favorites on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, orYouTube . . .

And if you dare to exercise your personhood with simpler lists, fewer lists, or no lists at all . . . then you run the risk of other people seeing you as much less dedicated than they are to being human. Or seeing you as not human at all.

Which is funny. Because when human beings are called animals, it’s an insult to animals. As far as I can tell, animals always act true to the principles of their animalhood.

They are always consistent about their behavior.

Their behavior has purpose and limits and operates on broad principles that they carry within them.

They co-exist with each other as different species much better than human beings co-exist as one species.

Their behavior only becomes aberrant when they are forced to act against their animal nature by human beings.

When people with lists compare the behavior of other people (with lists) to *their* lists . . . and determine that the other people must not be fully human because they aren’t acting according to the right list . . . and in fact must be less than human . . . what they usually end up doing is the endlessly popular activity of “demonizing” . . . labeling the other people as creatures who represent evil and are a threat and MUST therefore be eliminated.

As a Christian, I do believe in evil. And I do believe that there are people who, in pursuit of many different kinds of lists, willingly repudiate what is truly good and willingly ally themselves with what is truly evil.

They repudiate the broad principles of personhood for their particular list.

As a Christian, I believe that among other things, Jesus gave human beings broad principles of personhood that he said were in keeping with the essence of being human.

He made it clear that everyone trying to operate outside of those broad principles . . . with lots and lots of lists in single-space, eight-point, .25-inch margins . . . in particular Christians, but everyone else as well, religious or irreligious, political, apolitical, male, female . . .

Each one of those people would be choosing to be less than human . . . and every one of them would some day, by choosing over and over . . . end up in a permanent state of being less than human.

But not because of being born less than human. Because of choosing, for a whole host of reasons, to bit by bit abandon true humanity in favor of making lists and killing other human being with them.

I believe that God decided, before anything existed, that there would be many cultures so that people could express many facets of what it means to bear the image of God.

But somehow, cultures have become the means by which people obscure the image of God in each other and then torture and kill each other with endless tiny gashes from paper cuts from the edges of lists, with smothering clouds of punch-hole confetti from lists in binders, with crushing mountains of lists stored and stacked in copier paper boxes.

Jesus said, among many other freeing things,”If you love me, you will obey my commands.”  And human beings naturally think of commands as lists of stuff to do.

But what were his commands?  What are they?  They are NOT, if you know anything about the Bible, written on endless reams of human beings’ divisive, dehumanizing lists.

They have nothing with doing something but with being something.

His principles are so broad that human beings cannot contain them or understand them or put them into practice without his help.

And where cultures (even non-Christian cultures, even non-religious cultures) grasp in some way even a tiny part of this reality, human beings can wear whatever clothes they want, and eat whatever food they want, and speak whatever languages they want, and get whatever education they want, and marry who they want or not, and dwell in safety and eat and work together and sleep at night>

Wrapped in the arms of broad principles, not in the winding sheets of lists.