Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Rhapsody in Blog

In the circles I move in, there's been a lot of hand-wringing about the demise of blogging, and nostalgia for the golden days where one could write thoughtful posts which got a lot of engagement, and which in turn were linked to by people carrying on the discussion. And there's analysis: did Facebook kill blogging? Is Twitter killing Facebook? Are we all doomed to converse in snippets of 140 characters or less, or worse, an endless series of curated images on Instagram? How do we revive the blogsphere?

So here's the curious phenomenon I observed, as I was off Facebook for Lent. Blogging isn't dead. It's just being carried on by the same people who've been doing it for years, who are used to the format and have the endurance to persevere in a less of-the-moment medium, who aren't looking to move to the next big platform where everyone's congregating.

The day of the Notre Dame fire, the most significant event on the historical and cultural scene since I don't know when, I refreshed my blogroll obsessively, since I was off other forms of social media. The list of people posting instantly and thoughtfully, and with updates, were few: Amy Welborn, Brandon. We ourselves, mere pikers beside these venerable bloggers since we've been going for less than 15 years, put up three posts in lieu of updates as we thought through the event and tried to process it. Anne Kennedy and Simcha Fisher, also stalwarts with more than a decade of blogging experience, also posted rapidly and with characteristically intelligent writing.

Doubtless people were throwing out their quick takes and feels and pix on more insta-forms of social media.  But when we talk about blogging, we are talking about writing with the long game in view. There are lots of people who start blogs and flame out, either because the time commitment is too great or because there are other platforms that offer quicker hits of engagement with less effort. To be a blogger, I think, you have to be resigned to the dry spells, the long stretches of writing as its own reward.

As I've been writing letters during Lent, it has struck me that letter writing has a lot in common with blogging. I put down my thoughts, process some idea, and send it out, without expecting a response. I'm content to know that what I've written has reached its recipient, and has perhaps sparked new thoughts or clarified old ones for my reader. Probably I'll never hear about it, and that's not the point. The point is that the idea travels on, and takes root in the minds of others.

When Pope John Paul II was Karol Wojtyła, acting in and writing plays in Poland, he wrote about a style of drama called Rhapsodic Theater. This theater wasn't heavily plot- or character-driven; rather, it engaged with an idea, explored it from new angles, drew out nuances, and, by speaking it aloud, presented the Word to the audience, who, by hearing it, received it and engaged with it in their turn. Wojtyła described the longer, more rhapsodic passages of theater as "song" -- a concentrated expression of idea, presented not as dialogue but as sustained thought.

Blogging, or letter writing, or any kind of long form writing, has a stronger potential than other forms of public interaction, to be Rhapsodic because it allows for more development time. A post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, no matter how thoughtful, is quickly swallowed up by the constant stream of new content pushing old content down and out. The idea is like the seed sown among thorns, which quickly takes root and springs up, but is choked out by cares and worries and entertainment and whatever is quick and easy and funny and new. And that's not considered a flaw -- it's the nature and goal of the medium, to be ever updating.

So it's not that you have to be ancient to be a blogger. It's that the field winnows itself out over time, and those who endure are those who have proven themselves over time to those willing to put their thoughts out there without thought of reward, in the quiet belief that someone out there is reading and receiving and developing the rhapsodic idea.

Friday, April 19, 2019

By His Stripes

The prisoner sat quietly in his cell, waiting for the guards. The firelight from the courtyard flickered through the bars of the narrow window above his head, revealing scratches on the stone wall. The man reached out, traced the rough angry characters, and spoke: "Yakob."

Across the city, in a squalid room, Yakob's feverish mutterings quieted. His wife, basin and cloth in her lap, gasped as she reached out to wipe his back, torn from a Roman beating a week ago, and found fresh whole cool skin under her fingertips.

The prisoner walked the length of the cell, passing his hand over the wall. His fingers found a deep gouge that ended abruptly in a broad gash.

In a tent in a desert work camp, an elderly slave sat up suddenly and lit a lamp with trembling hands. He stared in amazement at his left forefinger, as flexible as a ten-year-old boy's, unscarred by the mark of a careless chisel slip that had nearly severed it fifty years before.

The door clanked open. The gentle step of the prisoner was not fast enough to suit the impatient guard at the door. He opened his mouth to bark an order, then stood openmouthed as the prisoner passed him. With his tongue, he poked at his cracked molar, and felt no echoing stab of pain.

In the courtyard the prisoner was shoved along by the guards. He stumbled and caught himself against a long low row of streaks on the dusty wall. In the servants' quarters blind Maryam, daughter of the gatekeeper, her fingertips calloused from brushing them along guiding walls, opened her eyes and for the first time saw the morning stars.

The growling mob hustled the prisoner to the praetorium, all except the temple guard who stood in wonder, opening and closing the hand that had struck the man in the face, the motion no longer hindered by the puckered skin of an ancient burn.

The Roman soldier sighed in disgust at the prisoner's blood splattered across his sandals. He wiped his leg with a cloth, then wiped again, searching vainly for the scars of his wound he received from the rebels at Galilee.

In her cool room facing the courtyard pool, Claudia finally fell into a deep placid sleep, untroubled for the first time in years by the terrors that nightly tormented her dreams.

As Veronica held the grimy veil against her breast, watching the condemned man stagger away from her under the weight of the beam, the blood soaked through her dress, warming and melting away the hard tender lump that had troubled her for months.

Levi fixed a vinegar-soaked sponge on a stick and pressed it against the chin of the dying man hanging above him. As the vinegar mixed with spittle and blood dripped down his arm and shoulder, it carried with it all the pain of the pinched nerves that had kept him from standing straight for so long. He reached higher, finally resting the sponge against the man's mouth. The man sipped, shuddered, strained against the nails in his feet, and gasped, "It is finished."

Hannah woke suddenly at this cry, clawed at the sheets across her face, and pushed past the shattered rock of the tomb opening to gaze at the distant hill where a bloodless man with arms outstretched had summoned her forth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Symbol Between Heaven and Earth

Yesterday evening, Paris time, a fire broke out among the wooden timbers that support Notre Dame cathedral's exterior roof, and in the end the fire consumed pretty much the entirety of the roof. The vaulted stone ceiling beneath mostly survived. No one was killed, and while much was lost, much was preserved. As of this morning, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been pledged towards the rebuilding.

It's one of the oddities of modern technology that people around the world could watch on live video as the cathedral burned. Many feared the building would be a complete loss and expressed their feelings about this loss and its meaning.

I want to write about two particular reactions, because I think they throw a light on how we as humans relate to both the divine and to the beauty we create in this world in our attempts to honor the Good and Beautiful which is beyond this world.

First is the "fitting symbol" reaction which a number of people proclaimed, particularly while the cathedral was still burning and it appeared that the damage might be much worse than it thus far appears. This reaction was that the cathedral as a burned out shell would be a fitting symbol of what Christianity had become in the modern world. Some even went so far as to argue that the cathedral should not be repaired, because for a secular age to repair a sacred piece of architecture would be dishonest.

It is true that Christian beliefs permeated medieval and even renaissance Europe in a way that even those of us who are actively religious have a hard time doing today. This struck be when MrsDarwin and I were watching a production of Hamlet at the local college this last weekend. Hamlet is not any kind of paragon of faith and morals. Yet he accepts absolutely the idea that intentional suicide would lead to damnation and also the idea that if he kills his uncle at a moment when the uncle is repenting of the wrong he has committed, the uncle will be saved rather than damned (and since Hamlet wants his revenge to extend to the afterlife, he's intent on killing his uncle at a time when the uncle will be damned.) Admittedly, Hamlet's beliefs about judgement and afterlife are arguably simplistic, but it's significant that he holds to them without any real question, as if they are just how the world works, whereas in our modern world even many professed believers struggle with the idea of judgement and hell for anyone at all.

However, while it's true that Christianity had a centrality and acceptance in Medieval Europe which it does not now, the argument that it's somehow fitting that in our modern world a Gothic cathedral be reduced to a burned-out husk strikes me as being overly simplistic. Yes, there was deep acceptance of Christianity in Medieval France, but there were also a great many very bad Christians. Yes, the work that went into the cathedrals was in part of form of devotion, but it was also an employment and cathedrals served both as a way for the diocese to showcase its financial resources (which were often literally princely) and also as a draw to bring pilgrims and their money from far away.

To see cathedrals in their beauty as reflecting nothing but the purest faith is overly rosy, and to see modernity as not having sufficient faith to deserve a beautiful cathedral is to be too cynical. There are today still many people whose faith can be inspired by a beautiful church, an just as Abraham pleaded that Sodom not be destroyed if there were but ten good people in it, so we too should want to see the cathedrals continue to stand for the faith of the few, rather than destroyed for the unbelief of the rest. If cathedrals deserved to be burned for the unbelief of their people, then doubtless all cathedrals in all places and times would burn.

The second reaction of which I'd like to speak is the "a church is just a building" reaction. This is, of course, true. A church is just a building. There's a curious conundrum when it comes to preserving the material things precious to us. Firefighters risked their lives rushing into and onto this burning building to put out the fire and rescue relics and works of art from the flames. By doing so, they in some sense showed a willingness to give their lives to preserve a sacred and beautiful building. And yet, at the absolute level, we know that each human life is more precious than any building or relic. Even so, I don't think this willingness to risk oneself to preserve a thing of this world is misguided. A cathedral is not just stones. It is also a thing which makes concrete the work and love and belief of thousands. It is a work of art that serves as a sign. It is not of heaven, it does not, like a human being, possess the divine spark of a soul. And yet it is build to point us towards heaven and capture in some imperfect way a vision of the beauty and perfection that is God.

Thus, while Notre Dame is "just a building" it is also much more. Its value is not in the rocks and timbers themselves, but rather in the way that it points the humans who look at it towards contemplation of the beautiful and the divine. And its value is in the way that it records by its very being and construction the work and love of so many people over so many years.

We should not treat it as if it is itself a divine thing, yet we should treat it with honor and reverence because of the meaning that it conveys -- and it conveys more meaning than most other buildings.

Till Age Snow White Haires On Thee

The kids have been watching Howl's Moving Castle, which makes me long to sit down and read the book again. But alas, I have no time for that, so I'll have to compromise by reading John Donne, whose Song plays a significant role in the book (and none in the movie). Here's a post from 2007 with not only John Donne, but PoetBot.

Eat your heart out, Shakespeare -- PoetBot can say it in four words.

I've been reading John Donne lately, and here's what's been rattling around in my head:

Goe, and catche a falling starre,
  Get with child a mandrake roote,
Tell me, where all past yeares are,
  Or who cleft the Divels foot,
Teach me to heare Mermaides singing,
  Or to keep off envies stinging,
       And find
       What winde
Serves to advance an honest minde.

If thou beest borne to strange sights,
  Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand daies and nights,
  Till age snow white haires on thee,
Thou, when thou retorn'st, wilt tell me
  All strange wonders that befell thee,
      And sweare
      No where
Loves a woman true, and faire.

If thou findst one, let mee know,
  Such a Pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet doe not, I would not goe,
  Though at next doore wee might meet,
Though shee were true, when you met her,
  And last, till you write your letter,
      Yet shee
      Will bee
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Cathedral Design: The Roof That Burned, The Ceiling That Remains

MrsDarwin and I were looking at the news tonight, trying to understand how bad the damage to Notre Dame cathedral was. What seemed confusing was on the one hand the images of the fire which seemed to show the whole, burned roof collapsed amid a hollow shell of walls:

And on the other hand the first images from inside which seemed to show an interior which was damaged but not totally "gutted" as so much coverage kept saying.

Then I remembered David Macaulay's marvelous book Cathedral, which I'd read many times as a kid and watched the PBS movie of even more times. (Indeed, pulling up this link, I remembered that the story of the fictional cathedral in the animated sections begins with the old cathedral burning down, and the town resolving to build a new cathedral to house the relics miraculously rescued from the burning building.)

The outer roof that we saw burning is built of wood covered with lead sheeting, but under that is the stone vaulting which you see when you look up.

I think the lake of fire we see in the drone image at top is probably mostly on top of the stone vaulting, which acted as a fire break. Only in some places has debris broken through the vaulting down into the church below. In this picture you can see up through the breaks in the vaulting to the fire above:

The strength of those medieval stone vaults may have kept much of the fire up above, away from the interior of the church. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

A House for My Name

Thus says the Lord: Is it you who would build me a house to dwell in?

As long as I have wandered about among the Israelites, did I ever say a word to any of the judges whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?

Moreover, the Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.

2 Samuel 7:5,7, 11-13, 16

Persisting Images

Notre Dame de Paris has stood for over 850 years. I saw it for the one and only time just over twenty years ago in 1999, when MrsDarwin and I went there for Palm Sunday mass there during Spring Break of our European semester in college. I never would have thought that I would live to see it suffer a catastrophic fire.

One of the things that appeals to me about film photography is the way that it turns something as transient as an image into something which can remain for decades. My grandmother's box of photos included prints up to a hundred years old, most of them looking much as they had when first made. The four images above are ones that I took that spring day twenty years ago. After searching through a few boxes this evening, I found them as fresh as ever. It's hard to believe that cathedral roof and spire are now melted and caved in.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


This post from three years ago was apropos yesterday -- not because I was particularly restless, but because it was a glorious Lenten Friday and I was searching for the Stations of the Cross linked herein. I couldn't remember who wrote them. Charles Borromeo? Robert Bellarmine? You'll see I was kind of in the ballpark, anyway.
My soul rests in God alone,
from whom comes my salvation.
God alone is my rock and salvation,
my secure height; I will never fall.
--Psalm 62:2-3
Today is one of those glorious spring days that makes the soul restless. I want... I don't know what what I want, except that it's something other than what I'm supposed to be doing. I want to be outside. I want to be traveling. I want my children to do their work peaceably without my having to guide them. And none of these desires are bad. They're simply not the work that God has prepared for me right now.

Every Friday in Lent we go to Stations of the Cross at church. This is another experience that leaves me yearning for something else. Our parish doesn't use the meditations by Alphonsus Ligouri that I grew up with:
My Jesus! loaded with contempt, nail my heart to Thy feet, that it may ever remain there, to love Thee, and never quit Thee again. I love Thee more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Instead, we have a modern version that incorporates short monologues from various characters through the gospels. Every week these monologues grate on my dramatic soul, and instead of praying I find myself mentally rewriting them, again, and every week I go back, because this is how my parish chooses to pray together. And I wonder why there are three stations devoted to Jesus falling, and none devoted to Jesus getting up after he falls and starting again, putting one foot in front of another.

At his most restless, Jesus couldn't go anywhere. I feel nailed down, metaphorically, but he was literally nailed down as he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

The kids and I have a little prayer time each morning. After our Bible readings and meditation, we spend fifteen or twenty seconds in silence, listening to and talking to God. I call this practice, because if you don't practice prayer as you practice everything else, how will you grow? My prayer this morning was that God would show me the work that he has prepared for me today. Most of it I already know. Two loads of dishes. Some laundry, now that the baskets are finally empty of the clean clothes. Sweep the floor. Again and again, make the children go back and finish their work. Finish my own work

It's a good life, and I like it. I don't really want it to be different than it is. And so, when I feel this restlessness in my soul, I know that the end of all desire is God. I don't need a temporal change. I need my blinders off, to realize that this day I am with Jesus in Paradise, right where I am.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

15 Minutes on Thursday

(15 minutes on the timer.)

This has been a week filled with a thousand pinpricks of mortification, not the least of which was the necessity of writing to the editor of my textbook project and admitting that at least until summertime, I simply do not have the time to write, and if he needs to find someone else to handle the project sooner, he should. Ladies and gentlemen, I am so swamped. I don't understand how school parents get the kids to sports practice (every night) and juggle the small kids while there because the babysitters are all off doing drama, and then get people fed and to bed on time, and then get them up for school at dark o'clock and then go to work, while still getting the laundry done and taking the cat with diarrhea to the vet. This must be why people have 1.7 children and eat at McDonalds.

Today the older four drove themselves down to Columbus to tech the first of two performances today of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The next two are parked at home in front of Mr. Rogers (streaming on Amazon; you're welcome) while baby is finally sleeping off his fever in my bed. (All night he tossed next to me, fiery and fitful.) I'm taking this morning to nurse my sinus headache and try to salvage my voice before the press of Confirmation/Triduum/Easter, while running laundry and doing dishes and contemplating the state of the kitchen floor. Also, I'm chasing down the cat to give her her medicine, scrubbing yet another round of non-human poop off the floor, and feeding the guinea pigs that have been neglected lately by the thespians. This afternoon at rush hour the big girls will drive downtown for the final show, and I too will venture into very Columbus  with four children for an away baseball game, perhaps trading off at some point with Darwin if baby's fever comes back.

(If you are expecting a Lenten letter from me, the project will resume shortly; I was temporarily derailed by the obligation of writing letters of encouragement to all the kids in my Confirmation class.)

Timer's buzzing. Shall I do dishes? Shall I kick the kids off the computer and read to them? Shall I start dinner in the crockpot, or count on fast food this evening? Shall I worry about the girls driving on the highway in rush hour, or push that to the back of my mind because they've been fine so far? Shall I sit here navel-gazing, or take up my cross?

We who are about to die to self salute you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Refusing to Fight or Flee

As part of the inevitable give-and-take of church politics, I sent an email carefully crafted to be polite and conciliatory, while expressing my disagreement with a decision made. This morning I received a response which evokes two reactions:

1. Rationally, I wash my hands of the issue, acknowledge that I did my best, and accept a decision I dislike, but which is not a matter of faith and morals, obediently and do my best to cooperate with what I'm asked to do, while reading the more ambiguous passages in a charitable light.

2. Physically, my body has gone into an anxious fight-or-flight reaction. I feel off my feed, my coffee is making my stomach churn, I'm jittery and nervy.

I can't help how my body responds, but I'm trying to account for it in my interactions this morning, so I don't transfer my frustration to the kids.

--The first thing this requires is prayer, lots of it, and remembering to pray before I open my mouth or physically react to anything.

-- I have to intentionally not snap at the little boys for doing mildly frustrating things that I usually can ignore.

-- I can choose to let the older girls sleep a little later so I can process in some peace, rather than getting irritated because people aren't out of bed yet.

-- I can put off a less essential, non-time-specific business call that I need to make some time this morning.

-- I can join my lack of appetite to Lenten fasting.

None of these things make the physical reaction go away, but hopefully they'll help me regulate in time without making innocent people around me feel upset. And, ideally, it imitates Christ on the cross -- taking a particular suffering into my own body and letting it stop there.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Do You Want to be Well?

Notes on reading John chapter 5: Jesus heals the man at the pool of Bethesda (or Bethsaida).
After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep [Gate] a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
When Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed, the man does not say "yes" or give a direct answer. He has an ready explanation, a sad story about how he's a victim in all this.

But he obeys Jesus outwardly.

Jesus knows this guy is going to be trouble. He seeks him out -- he could have left him alone -- and warns him about falling into sin, about continuing in sin, that nothing worse may befall him.

The man goes and tattles on Jesus to the pious authorities -- again, an outwardly religious action, but one with evil results, since the authorities persecuted and wanted to kill Jesus.

Immediately after the story, verse 19: "The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise." We've just seen the Son healing and warning, having a direct personal encounter with the sick man. He doesn't offer the man platitudes or generic hellfire, but sees right into his soul and gives him a very specific warning tailored to his personality: "See you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may befall you." He knows this man, knows that physical healing has left his soul like a room swept clean and put in order but uninhabited (Luke 11:25). And immediately after this personal encounter, Jesus's unforced revelation of himself to the man, the man betrays him -- for what? For prestige? It can hardly be to escape punishment from the authorities, so it must be to curry favor or to establish himself as a right thinker.

The Son as mirror of the Father: Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that the Son does only the will of the Father. Do you want to know the mind of God? Read the gospels; study Jesus.

Verses 25-29: Jesus speaks of the hour when the dead will hear the voice of the Son and live. "For just as the the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself." Sounds like a prophecy of the resurrection. Death has no power over the Son because he has life in himself. He hears his own voice and comes forth from the tomb. (v. 28).

Friday, April 05, 2019

Take Me Out

Toward the beginning of Lent, I was flying high and ready to take on the world, and so, in what I thought was a moment of strength but was certainly a moment of weakness, I agreed to my 10-year-old son's request to play baseball for the parochial school. The fellow is a total rookie, has barely ever thrown a ball and certainly never batted one, but friends, my old man is a great student of the game and somehow I couldn't say no. They say a sucker is born every minute; I personally took the sucker slot for the whole week of Ash Wednesday.

Reckon to yourselves that we are not a sports family; that we have never had to follow a sports schedule; that we already have children signed up for ballet, tap, drama, taekwondo, voice, Boy Scouts, and religious ed. Reckon to yourselves that in the month since Ash Wednesday, Darwin has been away ten days. Reckon to yourself that the baby is 21 months, and that today I caught him banging someone's new toothbrush from the dentist (the one with the Stars Wars cover, not the one that plays "What Does The Fox Say") on my bathroom floor, but I wasn't worried about it because I'd just bleached the bathroom floor yesterday, because yesterday I'd come up looking for the baby and found him sitting in the toilet -- in the toilet, I say -- splashing someone's old toothbrush around, and I stripped him down and dropped his clothes in a puddle on the floor, and then after bathing baby and changing him, I came back up to gather up the laundry, and found that the cat had pooped on the wet shirt, so I dumped that in the toilet and took all the laundry down and then I bleached the floor so that it would be clean when he scrubbed it with his sibling's toothbrush the next day.

Reckon to yourself that I stood out in a cold park yesterday for an hour and a half while small fry tooled around the swings and slide, waiting for the baseball boy's practice to end, and today I have caught a cold.

Reckon to yourselves that today I screwed up the time table by ten lousy minutes, and so I missed the window to pull a child early from drama so I could go back home, pick up the other two, and go to the taekwondo classes that we've already paid for (while the new driver drove another child from tap to a late arrival at drama, because the early departure and the late arrival don't overlap).  In the end, no one went to taekwondo, and I took my budding shopper to the grocery store, where I spent more than I meant to and stayed later than I wanted to, and the upshot was that the four youngest were not in bed until 10 pm.

Meanwhile, Darwin in in Chicago, sleeping on a hotel bed, eating at classy joints, talking to people who wear name tags.

So yes, I'm feeling the slapdown of humility against my early Lenten pride, when I thought I was finally getting my life organized to do things, only to discover that I was relying on my own strength. And my own strength is mostly sufficient to meet obligations and get dinner on the table at the precise time when everyone is home, and to keep the dishes and laundry turning, but not to also do things I like, such as reading or writing.

Next week the games start -- on Tuesday and Thursday! I thought games were played on Saturday mornings? -- and then things are going to get really interesting as we have to travel around Columbus on weeknights. Especially since on the night of his first away game at a parish I've never been to, the oldest three are driving down into Columbus to tech a play for some homeschooling friends and so I may find myself schlepping three younger children to be bored in the stands -- including the 21-month-old, who doesn't need a toothbrush or a toilet to get into trouble.

Remind me of this next Lent when I start feeling uppity about what I can get done. Oh, and remind me to finally call the locksmith, so we can latch either the bedroom door or the bathroom door (I'm not particular, just so's we have one line-of-defense door that actually stays shut) so baby can't get into that toilet again.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Guest Post: Unplanned Reviews

The oldest three girls went to see Unplanned, the Abby Johnson biopic from Pureflix, at a benefit screening for our local crisis pregnancy center. The older two wrote up reviews and gave me permission to publish them.

Eleanor (16)

I figured I would go see this movie because my sisters were going to go see it. All three of us went and by the end all of us were crying.

Unplanned is the story of Abby Johnson, who was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. The movie starts when Abby is called into surgery to hold an ultrasound probe. She leaves the operating room after the abortion is finished and shuts herself in the bathroom crying. She has been watching the ultrasound screen and is in considerable emotional distress (as is the audience).

The rest of the movie focuses on Abby’s life before this dramatic scene. It shows us how she volunteered at the clinic eight years ago, as a parking lot escort. Here we meet a lady named Marilisa, a woman who is praying outside the parking lot gate. This character is what my sister Julia refers to as a ‘Nice, white, blonde prayer lady’. Marilisa is exactly that, and not much else. She is nice to Abby throughout the whole film despite them being invested in different morals on pro-life grounds. Marilisa isn’t much of a deep character.

We see Abby climbing the ladder inside the clinic, eventually working as a counselor. Abby gets married somewhere in the middle of the film, and, although actively taking pregnancy preventing medication, has a baby girl named Grace. This is much discouraged by her superior, the clinic director. Abby continues her work at the clinic (much to the disappointment of her family) and is promoted to clinic director. Abby goes to a big meeting for planned parenthood and is told that the number of abortions from the previous year must be doubled to fund a shiny new facility being built that will extend the age of fetus that they can abort. Abby is shocked at this because her morals are that she will not go past 18 weeks for an abortion. She gets reprimanded for asking a question about the increase in abortions for the next year.

Soon after this Abby is called in to hold the probe in the scene from the beginning in a spit perspective where we see Marilisa and her husband praying over barrels with aborted fetuses in them. Abby rushes over to the pro-life building to have a betrayed cry session with Marilisa and some pro-life workers. She says that she is going to turn in her resignation on Monday. After this Abby decides to join the pro-life workers in praying at the fence of the parking lot. The big boss from planned parenthood sues Abby under the premise of giving information to the public and being a violent threat.

At this point the best character in the whole movie is revealed. It’s a lawyer! He is the funniest character in the whole movie! The trial goes by like a breeze and Abby is proved not guilty. Then we skip ahead a bit and see that the planned pregnancy clinic is being shut down (at this point everyone in the theatre applauded). The sign for the clinic is pulled down and Abby makes a tearjerking speech in front of the fence. She then places two roses on the fence for her two abortions and says a smaller more tearjerk-y monologue as she places a letter to her two babies on the fence with the roses. We have a nice zoom out shot and see that the entire fence is covered in red and white roses, placed there by the people who heard Abby’s speech.

So that was what Unplanned was about. It was a good movie and I hope some more people go see it.

Julia (15)

I hadn’t heard of the film until a couple days ago when my Mom told me she had bought a ticket for me to see it. She mentioned that the movie was rated R for the abortion scene where you saw a CGI ultrasound. Not knowing very much about the procedures of abortions I thought that was a stupid reason to give the film a high rating.

Even going into the movie I was more worried about how cold I was going to be and if I was going to have a good view from my seat. 
The movie started off like a picture. The happy family who wakes up on a Saturday morning, The Mom goes to work, the daughter plays. At work we see our main character Abby, who has worked herself up to the top of the company and is in charge of a planned parenthood clinic. At work she is asked to help out with a procedure by manning the ultrasound. She watched the baby moving around at the small age of 13 weeks, and I watched the CGI ultrasound in pure horror. It was enough to make one sick.

We then travel through Abby's backstory where at an information table she is told that Planned Parenthood is trying to prevent abortions and find other options for unplanned pregnancies. There she signs up as a volunteer. She climbs the ladder of success for eight years while her parents and husband try and persuade her to leave, while she explains that a baby is just a blob of tissue until 18 weeks.

The movie did not have the strongest script or the best developed characters. We had the greedy and callous employer and the white christian prayer lady who prayed for Abby every step of the way.

This movie did have a strong emotional appeal. It had several heartbreaking scenes. Should it be rated R? Although your average action movie may have more violence and losing of limbs, these scenes are emotional and you might even say traumatic. I don’t think that this movie should be restricted to people over 18, but I don’t think this is the Christian movie to watch with your little kids.

Would I see this movie again? No, I probably not, but I don’t regret seeing it at all. It gave me something to think about. Will this movie last? No, I don’t think this movie will be a lasting classic. That being said I’m sure lots of people will watch it and I’m sure that some will have a change of heart.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Prodigal Son

In honor of this Sunday's gospel, here's a reflection on the prodigal son from three years ago:
"And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.

"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. it was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'" (Luke 15:21-32)
What strikes me is that the father tells each son what he most needs to hear. In the case of the younger son, he doesn't speak directly to the son, but to the servants and everyone around, officially proclaiming that he welcomed his son back into his household as a son, not as the lowly servant the son asked to be. He draws his son into his house by his actions. And what's interesting is that the way the father celebrates his son's return is by taking the very actions that got the son into trouble in the first place -- the partying, the music, the dancing, the rich clothes and food and wine and celebrating -- and turns them around to make them signs of love and forgiveness, not of decadence and dissipation.

The older brother is out in the field, doing his father's work, we assume. I guess you could read it as the son having separated himself from his father in some way, just as the younger brother had. Perhaps doing all this work day in, day out, doing his job and the job of the younger brother who has left, has worn him down. Perhaps he's taken on extra work he doesn't need to be doing -- this house is apparently lousy with servants and people who could be working in the field. Perhaps the father can afford to hire laborers for his vineyard, no matter the cost, as in the parable of the vineyard owner and the hired hands. But maybe older brother feels he has to do everything himself. After all, he's the responsible one.

Anyway, the older brother is out, and no one comes to tell him that his brother is home. No one calls him in to join in the celebration. So the older brother comes home, weary, hungry, maybe a little heart-sore, and he sees that there's some kind of extraordinary party going on, without him. He calls one of the numerous servants over, and gets the story, and he refuses to go into the house. Now, you could interpret this as the older son pouting, throwing a tantrum, but I read it a bit differently. When I myself am angry, I refuse to go in, in a sense. I try not to speak, to enter into whatever situation is making me angry, because I know that words spoken in anger can't ever be really forgotten. So I'd rather stay outside, so to speak, than do something that I might later regret. And perhaps the older brother knows that if he goes inside in the mood he's in, he'd cause some sort of scene that he'd regret. And he doesn't want to do that. He stays outside.

Just as the father did with the younger son, so he does with the older son. He goes to meet him himself, not sending a servant to reason with him, but coming personally to his firstborn. And the older son pours out his hurt and his frustration. "Your son," he says to the father, not even able to call that son his brother. How does the older brother know that the younger brother has squandered dad's inheritance on prostitutes? Probably because that's how the younger brother acted before. Why did he need all his inheritance now? Because he didn't have any money left of his own. Where did it go? I'd go with the older brother's assessment here.

But the father sees deeper than the complaints, and tells his son exactly what he needs to hear and has perhaps been hoping to hear: "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours."

The older son needs to know that the father loves him too, personally, that he's not just another cog in the machinery that runs the farm (even if he is a big cog), but that who he is and what he does matters to the father, that the father sees and cares what the son does. The son needs to know that he doesn't just get a fatted calf and a robe, he gets everything. The younger son had to take a portion of inheritance away to spend? The older son, living at home with his father, already has that portion, and so much more besides. His faithfulness hasn't been overlooked. It's already been rewarded, only the son perhaps didn't trust his father enough to ask for a goat to celebrate with his friends. The older son is more cautious than his younger brother, who was confident enough that his father would give him anything that he asked for his inheritance up front. The older brother is more reserved, more trustworthy than his brother, but I think he feels things more deeply too. The father knows that big actions and gestures will reassure the younger brother of his love, but that the older brother needs not only gifts (which the brother would take at this point as an insult, just an afterthought of his brother's celebration), but words, personal reassurance, a direct encounter with the father. As with the younger son, the father offers the older son the very thing that pulling him away from the father. I don't need to give you a goat, son. It's already yours.

And the father knows how to talk to this more cerebral son. He doesn't give him a guilt trip for not being happy for his brother or ply him with a sob story about how the brother came home dressed in rags and made this speech. Instead, the father says, "It is fitting to make merry and be glad..." This is the appropriate, reasonable action for a man of the father's stature and wealth in this situation, to throw a party for a son who was dead, and now is alive. It befits him. This explanation of the correctness of this action is exactly right as an appeal to the older brother, to help him understand and appreciate his place in the family and in the festivities, just as the father's dramatic gestures of throwing a robe around his son and making a proclamation and throwing a feast were exactly right for the younger brother's understand.

We don't see the reaction of either brother, mostly because the story is not about the sons, but the father. We assume that the younger son accepts his father's proclamation, because we know that the party is going on. We don't see the older son's reaction to his father's appeal, and in a sense he has the harder struggle, because he's wrestling not with his sense of unworthiness, but with his pride. Someone said that no one ever minds getting better than they deserve, and somehow I don't think the younger son felt many qualms about accepting the ring and the robe and the fatted calf, and being restored to the family. The older son, though, feels personally unloved and taken for granted, and that anger is hard to let go off. I hope he went in, because I hope that's what I would have done.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Concentrated Life

As MrsDarwin mentioned in her post about hot water (or the lack thereof) I had to make a sudden business trip this week. The last two days saw me at a company which was recently acquired by my employer, spending all my time trying to get the data about their pricing and discounting programs sorted out. This resulted in a very different work day than my usual routine.

On a typical day back at the main office, I'd spend 4-5 hours out of 9 in meetings, and the rest of my day in sections of an hour or less between meetings working on various short tasks or helping direct my team on the tasks of the day. Often, I'll find myself with 5-15 minutes free and end up using the team to read around and/or deal with email, because there's not enough time to really get into a major task. At the end of the day I invariably feel both exhausted and simultaneously like I haven't got much done.

During this trip I've been working longer hours, having only two days to deal with the tasks at hand and also not having a family to get back to in the evening. Yesterday I put in ten hours at the office, then went back to my hotel after dinner and worked till midnight. But all of this work has been on just one project. When I met with people, it was to get questions answered on the one project taking up my attention all day. And somehow, despite the longer, harder work (or perhaps because of it) I've come away from work each day feeling much less drained than usual.

By coincidence, as I was getting ready to leave MrsDarwin handed over to me a library book she'd just finished with, saying that she thought I might find it useful since it was more focused on business than she'd expected. I've read about half of Cal Newport's Deep Work now, and its basic thesis is that for "knowledge workers" to excel it's important to get away from distractions and devote themselves entirely to one thing at a time -- something that the normal frenetic pace of office and online culture does not allow for. He maintains that "deep work" is both more productive and also more inherently satisfying.

Overall, these couple days seem like something of a confirmation. My normal job requires that I spend a fair amount of time in meetings, directing other people and projects rather than doing things myself, but it would be interesting to see if I can move a bit more in the direction of Newport's "deep work" in my normal day to day.

Monday, March 25, 2019

There's No Hot Water (Except in His Hotel)

Happy Monday of the umpteenth week of Lent! At the house here, we are listening to drums in the deep, as rumbles and clanks from the basement signal the plumber in the midst of uninstalling the busted hot water heater. Since Saturday, we've languished in a cold-water economy, in which showers are icy and the dishwashing is a hand-numbing experience. Also, a disciplining experience, because one cannot leave the dishes to be done later. They must be rinsed immediately, and if you're going to rinse, you might as well wash right away too. 

Note on dishwashing: In cases of no hot water with which to operate the dishwasher, people would usually boil water, fill one side of the sink with hot soapy water, and rinse in cold on the other side. But we, due to the wisdom of the previous owners, have only a single basin sink. We do boil water, but the time of the process is doubled with needing to wash everything and then drain and rinse. So mostly we boil water to soak down big greasy things, and use soap and a lot of elbow grease on everything else. Also, I have no handy plastic tub to wash in, like people used to keep around, because some people around here break plastic bins by using them as stepstools to pantry shelves or the stovetop. 

The plumber's answering machine on Saturday morning gave us an emergency number for immediate action, but we debated. Does a downed hot water heater count as an emergency? It's not like we had flooding, or sewage backed up. And plumbers deserve a weekend too. The lack of hot water was an inconvenience (especially for some people who like to wash their hair every day), but it wasn't life-threatening. So we waited. 

On Sunday, this waiting corresponded with Darwin's departure for a four-day business trip, where I know he thought of us as he took his hot shower at the Hilton because this morning he fielded a call from the plumber at 5am his time and set up for them to come today. 

And come the plumber did, and looked at the hot water heater, and muttered, and took some photos.

"Gonna need a new gas line," he said, tracing the pipe with his flashlight through the maze of wires stapled to the beams on the basement ceiling. "Gonna cost extra."

"Gonna need the line bonded," he said, emerging from the basement. "Gonna cost some more." 

But we will have our new water heater, costing both extra and some more, by tonight, which means we can put eight people through hot showers or baths before we head down to Cincinnati to salvage a few days of spring break with the cousins. And Darwin gets home late Thursday night to trade the joys of hotel showers and a fresh bed with no small mammals, whether human or feline, for the warmth of family life and hot water from the tap. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Mary, Mother of Forgiveness

Our parish had it's Lenten mission last week, the topic being healing and forgiveness. There was much that it was good to hear and think on, but one point in particular that one of the priests made struck me.

He was describing an incident where a mother testified in favor of leniency for the young man being sentenced for driving drunk in the accident that killed her son. That's a level of forgiveness which it can seem challenging to imagine. And yet, he pointed out, we turn to Mary as our advocate in prayer every day -- Mary who stood and watched her son crucified for our sins.

Mary can seem like a very soft and easy figure in the religious imagination at times, the indulgent mother we can run to and ask to pray on our behalf. Surely Mary couldn't harden her heart to us, when she's without sin.

And indeed, being without sin, Mary does love us and pray for us. But what an amazing feat of forgiveness that takes, given that is our sins that cause her son's suffering.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Notes on Accountability and Homeschooling High School

I was supposed to present at a meeting today, but due to schedule constraints, my segment had to be cut. But hey! I have a blog. Here's what I probably would have said.

Hello, I'm MrsDarwin, and all you need to know about me is that I've known about this talk for two weeks, and I just wrote up these notes right now during the meeting. This isn't going to be a technical presentation. You've heard some about curriculum already, and you're looking at your notes thinking, This will work with my child. Yeah, we're not going to be doing that. No matter how new you are to homeschooling or how apprehensive you feel about the high school years and your own responsibilities, you already know something about the practical workings of your own child. And these are things that other people can't know, not without the years of field research that you have.

Everyone's heard about the college admissions scandal by now -- how parents were buying and lying their kids' way into college. That's repulsive on every level, and it goes against every reason that we homeschool. We don't want education as a commodity. We want children to be educated because we want them to be good, holy, honest, interesting people, capable of living life at an adult level. We want them to be able to think and reason for themselves. We educate for character and for maturity, regardless of the program we use, regardless of whether Johnny or Sally goes on to college, or starts working straight off, or gets married right away.

And that plays right into the topic of accountability. Friends, this is where the parenting rubber hits the homeschooling road. Through education, we're teaching not only subject material, but how to study, how to manage time, how to be honest about problems and mistakes and failures. And this is different for each child! This is where you stretch as a parent and as a teacher, realizing that what worked for your oldest is completely ineffective for your second or third or sixth.  And here's the kicker -- what worked for you won't necessarily work for your child. You may have been competitive, eager to prove you could get the grades. Your child could care less. Perhaps you were a slacker, scraping through by the skin of your teeth and needing every motivational hack to get through, and your child has already finished his history book and wants you to enroll him in an expensive enrichment course. And you as the parent need to set the priorities, be the authority, and provide guidance, all while understanding this personality you brought into the world.

When I was asked to talk at this meeting, I said that I'd have to talk about failing, because I don't already have a track record of a child who's graduated. And I can't give you a perfect strategy for helping your child develop accountability, because there is no perfect strategy. All I can do -- and all anyone can do, regardless of what they tell you about their system or curriculum -- is tell you what has worked for our family. And fortunately, we have several rather different children coming up right now, so I have a range of experience. Just wait until my son is old enough to start high school prep, and I'll have a whole 'nother set of skills here.

So. We had the expectation that high school would become very self-regulating. We write up the weekly assignments, present the kid with the list, and they'll really begin to take charge of their own education. To some extent that's happened, but we did need to reckon with the personality of our oldest. She's introverted and bookish and self-confident and docile, but not driven. She'll do anything you tell her to, and not a whit more than the letter of the law. And if she finds some loophole that keeps her from completing an assignment, she'll just stop, and not mention it to you until her online biology teacher is asking why she didn't complete the quiz, and she explains that there was a glitch in the system that didn't let problem 21 load. And she's always right about it -- she doesn't lie. But you could have told us!

For this one, developing accountability means that we regularly need to check in, to explicitly ask if there were any problems finishing the lesson, to stress that she needs to take responsibility for telling us about problems. We're also working on having her be proactive -- to take responsibility for checking ahead in her assignments and figuring out how she's going to meet them, instead of just docilely checking off the list handed her each day. That's nice (believe me!). especially when other children might fuss and push back, but we as parents need to not be complacent about having an easy child and resist the harder work of building adult character.

With number two, currently in 9th grade, the issues are different. She's driven and responsible, likes to get things done, and will work ahead to finish her week's work so she can be done earlier. And she's extroverted, with introverted parents, so we need to provide a forum for her to verbally process what she's reading. We need to make sure that she's not spending too much time shut in her room chatting with friends on my laptop after her work is done. We need to make sure that her sudden impulse to do a big project, and her forceful personality, doesn't disrupt and take precedence over the family schedule and budget. And we need to make sure that her voluminous letter writing doesn't take focus away from scholastic writing. With this one, it's really easy for us as parents to take the path of least resistance, so we need to provide the parental barrier  -- she can bounce ideas and projects and talk off of us, but we need to hold the line as the final arbiters of what is or isn't a good idea to add right now.

Number three is a rising eighth grader, prepping for more intense high school work. She too is a scheduler and very responsible in many respects, so it's easy to leave her to herself and focus on the younger ones who need more direct teaching. But she's still young, and after we had a come-to-Jesus moment about math work that just kept getting lost, we had to step into a more active management role. We needed to change up how she was learning, and also provide the accountability of sitting downstairs doing lessons in public, instead of doing work shut up alone in a bedroom. And we've had to gently remind her that constantly having some reason why you can't show your work gives the appearance of dishonesty, even if there's a legit-sounding excuse each particular time why your pages are missing.

In all this, we have to remember that these kids are still developing. They aren't born with the ability to manage their time or study effectively, or to know exactly how to ask for help. They will try, and they will fail, and it's better for them to try and fail and learn at home, in a loving and supportive environment, than to be sheltered and coddled from failure and roadblocks. Better to learn these things at home than at your first job or when you flounder through a freshman college course. Our job as parents and teachers is to help them develop these skills and find the strengths in their personalities that help them achieve what they're capable of. They're still works in progress.

And so are you! You're learning the high school process as you go along -- at least we are, and Darwin and I were both homeschooled through high school and went on to have successful college careers. There are a lot of discussions to have about curriculum, and about built-in, preassembled courses versus parental tailoring and eclectic styles. And of course, you're knocking the rough edges off your child's personality at the same time that he or she is knocking the rough edges off of you. No curriculum is going to do that for you, and that's the beauty and the frustration of homeschooling.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Cold Takes

As I've been off Facebook this Lent, my phone usage has fallen nearly 100%, and my news consumption is limited to the paper copy of The Wall Street Journal that is tossed somewhere in the vicinity of my lawn every day but Sunday. The upshot is that I've been blessedly insulated from a world of hot takes about everything from the New Zealand shooting to the college admissions scandal.

This is entirely positive, and I know this because I'm positively itching to read every snarky take on the college dealio. I'm ready to attend The University of Schadenfreude, as Dom Bettinelli termed it. The few pieces I've read in the Journal have just been flabbergasting. A father saying he doesn't really care about the moral aspect of the cheating, but only that his child doesn't get caught out? The pampered YouTube star who couldn't care less about academics but was using college to further her marketing deals with various companies, whose starlet mother (of Full House fame) faked an athletic profile for her?

It seems harmless to revel in this, because a) only a moral moron would know this wasn't right; b) it's totally, incontrovertibly illegal; c) these people thought their immense riches could buy everything; d) everyone involved sounds personally repugnant. I want public humiliation, I want jail time, I want a constant stream of articles so I can wallow in the fall of the rich and famous and stupid. And yet, what does it serve me to rejoice in the downfall of the undeserving? There's noting that helps me grow personally or spiritually in snickering over this situation. It pulls me away from more substantial and worthy topics. It reveals an ugly underside of my character.

More significantly, though, these people involved in ruining their own lives are still loved by Jesus. Each of them is a unique soul who reflects a never-before-seen facet of God's creative love. He loves them just as much as he loves me, who got into college on my own merits, without any coaching or even any support, who did all my own work and pulled my own weight. And none of this effort made God love me any more than he did at the moment of my creation. And it's only of value if it helps me love him more.

Which gloating over the college scandal does not. I think that there's an appropriateness to noting that pride goeth before a fall, and that actions have consequences, and that mail fraud is a federal crime, for Pete's sake. But if there's been any benefit to being off social media during Lent, it's the reminder that my life goes on regardless of the drama du jour. The drama will pass and be forgotten whether I remark on it or not. My local life is incredibly unaffected by most things that pass in the world. I can love my family and my neighbors and my God regardless. Also, drama will happen whether or not I have my finger on the pulse of the discussion of the day, and my being present or absent from that discussion will not make anyone in the world a whit more sensible. No one needs me to be the voice of reason.  If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead, even the little social death of being off Facebook for Lent.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Sensitive Child

Oh friends, help me out here. 

I have a child who is opposite of me, one whose needs I don't meet well. This child is sensitive -- not to sensory stimulus, but tender and needy. When this child isn't put to bed on time, evenings turn into the weeping hour, with moans of "I'm stupid!" or "Nobody likes me!" Now, nothing pulls my chain like this kind of fuss for attention, and I, being tired too, get over-reasonable, which I know tends to exacerbate this child -- and I just can't stop myself. 

If I ask the child what they want for breakfast, and display the least frustration because of indecision or flopping, the child will declare "I won't have breakfast! I'm not going to eat," in a way that reads as sulking, even though I'm sure that the base need is just for lots of love and patience. But I find that I run low on love and patience with sulking behaviors. As I say, the child and I have opposite personalities, and we probably trigger each other. 

Were you a tender, clingy child? Do you remember what made you feel insecure, or what parental actions made you feel secure and nurtured? Are you a parent to this kind of child? What do you do to help this kind of personality develop to its fullest and feel happy and at ease? What kind of affirmation do you give?

I am not a hands-off parent. I am happy to snuggle with my clingy child, but in the evenings there are other tasks that demand my attention, and other children to get ready for bed. And I know that it's good for my clinger to have to adjust to other personalities -- which is why it's good that we have so many personalities in the house. 

And now the child who refused breakfast just came and whispered in my ear that they put toast in the toaster, and could I make the tea? So I'm off to feed the child the best I know how, but I'd sure appreciate some advice if anyone's got anything for me.