Daily Selfie App Didn’t Survive iPhone Upgrade, Time to Rethink Priorities

2018-11-17 EveryDay images

I’ve been using Everyday.app on my iPhones since April 2011, using it to grab a daily selfie that could be used to create time-elapse videos. This was something that I began, in part, because these videos disproved something that I was accused of many years ago, that I only published flattering photos of myself while not giving others the same treatment. Continue Reading

My Addiction: A Blogging Problem

My name is Joe and I have a problem working on my blog or creating new blogs or posts when I have more important things to do. Even if I have student projects to grade for the next day or new curriculum to create for next week, I find it hard to not fiddle with my blog, fixing formatting, adding images and coding HTML. It’s even worse when I have a whole new blog to organize and create. It’s so weird, I don’t have time to get everything done as it is and I decide to jump into figuring out all sorts of blogging minutiae and creating new posts. Damn. In fact, except for random FB posts, I’ve been avoiding my blog(s) for months because there’s just not enough time to get things done. Well that didn’t work.

Monday Morning Reflections & Renewal

Nothing represents new beginnings for me as much as Monday mornings. Or maybe I’m just being influenced by the changing weather/seasons and the approach of Spring Break almost immediately followed by Summer Break. It’s all one giant RESET button for me, right now. I’m thinking what do I have to get done right now, what do I have to get done this week, what can wait for Spring Break and how do I fit in all of the things that never quite make the daily/weekly schedule?

I just heard an ad for WordPress.com (wordpress.com/TWIT) and reflected on how much my blog and podcast has suffered over the past year, since the move and election and how to or whether to bring it back. I mean, as much as I loved blogging, I never got nearly the same response level from blog posts as I got from stupid FaceBook posts and I’ve known for some time that my more important writing goals, getting a few novel projects “done,” haven’t moved an inch in years because I’ve failed to block out time for them. Since moving to Las Vegas, adapting to the new teaching job has been the priority (though I note that this time around, I’m more able to walk away from things and/or go to sleep than I was when I first started teaching over twenty-years ago). So, job first, with spaces made to hang-out/nap, but I’m really having to deal with how I manage my time and what is really helping me achieve my goals.

So, how have I spent my time lately? For the past two-weeks or so I’ve put all of my “free time” into getting my photo libraries synced/backed up/etc. Besides all of the events that I never quite edited, getting my new iPhone 7-plus last October added the unanticipated wrinkle of how to archive “Live Photos” (in as much as the iPhone camera can be set up to record 4-second video clips that are associated with a still image). I love the feature and it can be fun, but it was also a pain in the ass to figure out how to get the image-package off of the phone so that they could be stored outside of the photos.app, etc., etc., etc. Anyway, that’s been an adventure and that completely derailed anything related to posting my photos library on my blog, etc.

So what am I doing while I post this (Monday evening)? I’m drinking beer and hanging out at Hop Nuts Brewery with a bunch of LV crazies and artists. Life is better when you draw outside the lines and know that whenever you get another Monday morning (which ISN’T guaranteed!) it’s a new reset to life. Enjoy ’em.

Another Excuse to Not Write About to Disappear

Daily Random Shit for 2016-06-27: Another Excuse to Not Write About to Disappear

I’m running out of excuses for not getting my long-form writing projects done… Grrrr, I mean, Yeah!!! Actually I’ve been dying for the long delayed release of the iOS version for quite awhile. But with the purchase of my jumbo iPad Pro it went from “this would be nice,” to, “must have.”

Resource:

Scrivener for iOS: It’s Time to Talk

The Modern Scholar: Tolkien and the West by Professor Michael Drout

As a wanna-be-writer, graduate with a degree in ancient texts (Biblical Studies) and a lover of the world of Tolkien I found Professor Drout’s 5-hour lecture on Professor Tolkien, his world and his works to be a wonderful mix of academic discourse presented in almost conversational tone, both comfort and approachable. There’s a lot here for the fan of the books, the movies and even the computer-games. Tolkien’s brilliant scholarship, imagination, passion for tales that reach back to the beginning of time is captured, not so much explained but, one is given a walk-through of Tolkien’s works. Professor Drout uses his own background as a philologist and scholar to connect both Tolkien’s Middle Earth with European Mythologies and his work of revealing ancient worlds through the study of languages. The lecture series isn’t a criticism, but a short course on Tolkien’s process of creating or rather revealing the world of Middle Earth, Before and Beyond.

Available on Audible.com: The Modern Scholar: Tolkien and the West by Professor Michael Drout

Neglect Is A Subtle Form of Murder [short story]

“Dammit, don’t leave me sir!” The EMT pushed another dose of adrenaline into the unresponsive man. Jason instructed the other EMT to look for any clues about what they were dealing with, but without moving anything. A heavy musty smell filled the darkened bedroom like nothing had moved in the room for days if not longer. Jason prepared the prone figure lying on the floor for transport. The other EMT found nothing out of the ordinary in the other rooms beyond an empty refrigerator and bare pantry. Dozens of tabs of what looked like over the counter sleeping pills were mixed with prescription pain pills spilled out of a couple overturned bottles on one of the nightstands. Pulse weak and thready, pupil dilation unresponsive, Jason and the other EMT moved their patient to the stretcher and were heading out of the bedroom when a phone rang from under the bed covers. Building security was talking with police and quickly moved toward the phone. Jason stopped and turned his head toward the sound, trying to recognize the ringtone…

“You and I were friends from outer space,
Afraid to let go, The only two who understood this place
And as far as we know, we were way before our time…”

The officer answered the phone but there was no one on the other end and the phone was dropped into an evidence/property bag. Jason and the other EMT hadn’t gotten very far into the hallway outside the apartment with the stretcher before the unconscious man silently expired. Jason was too tired from the day and the past hour to do much more than quietly cuss under his breath. He called over one of the officers and the officer frowned and shock his head saying something about “fucking paperwork,” when he heard they were now heading to the morgue and not ER. Jason agreed, “fucking paperwork.” He and the other EMT then took what was just a moment before a human being to their van, to be refrigerated until the ME could run whatever test were needed to determine the cause of death, and mentally geared up for the pile of paperwork they’d have to do before calling it a day. In the end, he thought, a human life is just a pile of fucking paperwork.

Resources:
Image: Chevrolet Express Emergency Response Services by Michael Gil, Creative Commons – some rights reserved, https://www.flickr.com/photos/msvg/4433428957/

This Ain’t Goodbye [short story]

Intro: This week’s short story assignment was to create a Twilight-Zone-esque tale. Enjoy.

How long has it been? A little over a year since she went away. “Went away,” over a year and I still can’t wrap my head around losing her or use words that aren’t overly euphemistic to communicate her death. A little over a year and I still find myself having all of these conversations in my head fully expecting her to laugh at some joke or poke fun at something I said, but always with a smile. I stare at the ceiling in the blackness of my bedroom and still can’t move past the emptiness of this place, this world without her.

At first I spent most nights lying here trying to separate what is from what was and usually failing at some point as I drifted off in our empty room. Occasionally I’d find myself back in the hospital room just staring at her motionless body connected to those goddam monitors with tubes and tape obscuring her silent beauty. Tears well up, wishing that she’d wake up; I hold her hand pleading with the universe to take some of my life and let it flow into her body. I never sleep well when my mind goes there.

But more often I find myself some place familiar doing something inconsequential and she’d walk up behind me and brush the back of my neck with her hair and then a quick kiss. Try as I might I never seem to be able to react quickly enough to return her kiss before she gleefully jumps away and happily mocks me from another room. It was her way of having fun with what others might have seen as an annoying habit. She always said that I tended to focus so much on what I was working so hard that the whole world could fall apart around me and I’d never know. Too true, my love.

Then we’d be out some place laughing, loudly talking with friends and listening to music and she’d pull me on to the dance floor. Protesting was futile. Besides, any excuse to hold her body close to me was a great day and she knew how to make me want her all the more just with just her mischievous smile. How much rock and roll and sex can anyone take? I was more than willing to find out and she never greeted me with anything less then her kisses and smiles. Smiles, we did a lot of that.

Then we’d be in a car driving across the country, just ‘cause we could and it was fun to be out exploring places we’d never been before. Sun setting outside the windshield and she would curl up next to me in the front seat as I drove and drove. Stars outside, blackness and headlights, my whole universe existed in that small moving space. Glancing over at her sleeping so peacefully, I knew so much bliss just in those precious moments. Deep internal smiles, invisible to others and impossible to explain but I could stay there forever, just to feel her peace and affection.

Most mornings I’d wake and squint to remember which part was real and which was memory. It was so real. Most of me wanted to go back to sleep, just so that i could smell her perfume just one more time or hear her laugh that invariably would turn into a snort, that embarrassed her and made her laugh all the more. Smiles, I’d hold on to the thought. We’d silently stared at each other before I opened my eyes and got out of bed.

The part I’d left was becoming more real than the day I was beginning and like a secret cache of gold I held onto the memory and began to look forward to the end of the day when I could rejoin her in that world we had together. No one said anything about how little I was getting out. That I was just getting up every day and going to work was sign enough to them that I was dealing with it and would eventually get back to the old me. But I didn’t go to work every day because I was somehow getting “better.” I did it because it was what I needed to do so that I could get to the end of the day and rejoin her in the world behind my eyes.

There was this song that popped up in my player one day after she was gone and I held on to it in my mind to help me get from morning to evening:

“You and I were friends from outer space,
Afraid to let go, The only two who understood this place
And as far as we know, we were way before our time
As bold as we were blind, Just another perfect mistake
Another bridge to take on the way to letting go

This ain’t goodbye
This is just where love goes
When words aren’t warm enough
To keep away the cold”

I played the track over and over. Sometimes, when no one was around, I’d silently cry. Other times it helped me hold on to her memory, knowing that I’d see her and be with her again once I fell asleep. No one knew what I was listening to and seemed happy that I seemed to find my smile again, but it was just the song helping remind me of her, so, on the outside I smiled. But really, nothing else mattered.

I can’t believe that I used to hate coming home and facing the night alone. The truth is that I’m not alone and I will never be alone ever again. I can’t explain it to anyone and I don’t really care if they ever understand. Some days I ache to hold her again and feel her squirm when I touch that place on her waist that no one else knows is where she is impossibly ticklish. Laughter is the medicine that makes everything else go away and we have a lot of it. So I did the daily grind to get to the end of the day, when I could be with her. And I don’t care if anyone else understands. Let the rest of the world be damned.

“We were stars up in the sunlit sky
That no one else could see
Neither of us thought to ever ask why
It wasn’t meant to be…
Oh no, this ain’t goodbye
It’s not where our story ends”

I’d come home and she’d show me what she bought today, hinting that there were some things that she bought that she couldn’t show me until later… Some nights we’d watch some TV series we loved, other nights we’d drink wine and just stared into each other’s eyes. Some nights she’d pull me up out of my chair and we’d dance and dance until we couldn’t stand up any more.

I got to the point where I didn’t need to sleep to see her again. I just needed a comfortable spot to be in and just close my eyes and there she’d be, just like it always was, as it would ever be. If I wasn’t asleep, I really had to concentrate hard to make it work. But if there was anything I could do, I could concentrate the hell out of anything, as she always said.

“You and I were friends from outer space,
Afraid to let go, The only two who understood this place…
This ain’t goodbye
This is just where love goes
When words aren’t warm enough
To keep away the cold.”

If I lie here, perfectly still, I can barely feel the sheet over me and the song in my head drowns out the urgent sounds of people rushing about. And if I concentrate really hard I no longer feel whoever it is who is sticking needles in me and yelling something meaningless. What do I care? As long as I can smell her hair and feel her touch, this ain’t goodbye.

This Ain’t Goodbye by Train (Save Me, San Francisco)

 

The Nogales Incident [Short Story]

Intro: This week’s assignment was to re-interpret/reimagine a classic fairy tale. Enjoy.

After-Incident Report 7756 – Fort Huachuca – 31.8801 (lat) x -109.7543 (long) – Southwestern Continental Territory – Special Agents Collins, FA and Rigen LM reporting – transcript via automated systems Zx10010 – Interview with LIA (local indigenous administrator) Juarez, ZL. Contextual information: Juarez ZL, approximately 55-standard annum, approximately 1.5748 meters tall, approximately 81.6466 Kilograms, no known allergies, no known illnesses, current LIA rotation 9-months, position held over 30 annum.

Juarez: Before we begin, can you guys turn some lights on in here, I’m not used to working when it’s this dark.

Special Agent Collins, adjusts to photo-limiter: Mr. Juarez, what can you tell us about the incident on 21 May Universal-Standard-Calendar 7058?

Juarez: Ummm…

Special Agent Collins: … That’s when you first took over as LIA a little over 30-standard-annum.

Juarez: Oh, right, okay… Let’s see… Oh, okay, you guys want to know what happened just before what you call the Nogales Incident…

Special Agent Collins: Please, Mr. Juarez, do not speculate. Just tell us what you remember around 21 May.

Juarez: Sure, okay, let’s see… well, this area alway had a lawless rep with illegals crossing back and forth across the then border as far back as anyone can remember and it was my job to make sure that everyone was documented and accounted for, being one of few who knew how to read and write in Ingles. So I was used to the usual flow of human traffic.

Special Agent Collins: 21 May?

Juarez: Well, several months before the date the traffic changed. I mean, it used to be only young men would hazard the crossing, but maybe four- or six-months before the date little kids started coming across, sometimes in groups, a lot of them completely alone. What the hell was that all about? We just passed them off to some government agency and let them worry about it.

Special Agent Collins: 21 May?

Juarez: Right, so, not my job, man, I just filled out government forms and helped those who could afford it to find other family members in the territory. But we knew that there had to be some adults helping all these kids make the journey, but they never showed on any of the sensors or cams, just dozens and hundreds of children running the last 500-meters across the open border. And managing these kids was getting more and more difficult. A lot of officers and agents quit around this time because we were never set up to handle this kind of group and certainly not in the numbers that were coming.

Special Agent Collins: And…

Juarez: So, I’m thinking that maybe I should look for something else to do. I mean, processing kids, it’s one thing to send adults off to some camp until they can be processed, you don’t worry that anything will happen to them because, well, they’re adult… but kids… Yesus, some weren’t even ten. So, this one little girl is being worked through the system and no one can help her find her abuelita… and she starts to make a real ruckus, because no one can help her… I mean, it was really upsetting.

Special Agent Collins: And then?

Juarez: And then she just disappeared.

Special Agent Collins: Disappeared?

Juarez: Yeah, someone lost track of her and she didn’t show up on any follow-up surveys.

Special Agent Collins: So what does any of this have to do with 21 May?

Juarez: At the time we didn’t think it had anything to do with anything. But when things started to really fall apart we did an internal report and one of the officers remembered her saying something about getting the Coyote who lied to her, that she was going to fix things.

Special Agent Collins: Coyote?

Juarez: The adults who help the illegals make the crossing…

Special Agent Collins: And?

Juarez: So, like I said, we didn’t think anything about it, until a couple weeks after we lost track of the girl, bodies started showing up, first in the local area and then across the region.

Special Agent Collins: Bodies? Kids?

Juarez: No, adults… usually young men… the first few were ID’d as being part of the Coyote-trade… at first we thought they’d double-crossed some drug lord… good-riddance and all that… then drug lords started showing up in the morgues…

Special Agent Collins: I don’t understand…

Juarez: Best we can tell, that little girl we lost track of wasn’t so helpless after all, and then something clicked, and all of those thousands of kids we’d sent to camps realized that there were hundreds of them to every single adult. 21 May. No one thought they’d turn violent… they torched everything and killed everyone … I survived because I had a panic-room and could wait it out until the smoke cleared…

Special Agent Collins: How long was that?

Juarez: Hmmm… Let’s see… a little over 18-months…

Special Agent Collins: … What?

Juarez: Yeah, those little buggers were vicious and I wasn’t taking any chances… but eventually they needed someone who could communicate with the outside world, so I became useful. And I wasn’t any threat to them… I mean, look at me, even then I was just a short-fat mechliano… who could read and write. So, we stayed out of each other’s way and things pretty much settled down.

Special Agent Collins: Wow, well, I’m sure you’re glad that those days are over.

Juarez: Like I said, we stayed out of each other’s way and I did okay, doing the paperwork and all that.

Special Agent Collins: Right. Anything else you can tell us about the little girl?

Juarez: Hmmm… Nope, nothing that I can think of.

Special Agent Collins: Ok, we’ll…

Juarez: Oh yeah, one thing, what you call the Nogales Incident we call “El Dia de la Roja Mija.”

Special Agent Collins: The Day of the Red Girl?

Juarez: Here, let me show you something…

Special Agent Collins [to recording device]: LIA Juarez is handing a old photograph to me…

Juarez: See that splash of red at the center of the image? It’s only image that we have of her to identify her… her and her damned red-hoodie.

Sources:

image: NPR Borderland – documentary/app, http://apps.npr.org/borderland/

Sister Mary Holywater and Friends [short story]

Intro: The original version of the following short story was written in 1984. I did some re-writing and re-editing before sharing it this week with my short stories group. The theme, if you cannot guess, was Catholic schools. Enjoy.

“Good morning, sister.”

“Have you read today’s lesson?”

“Yes, I have sister.” I had glanced at it five minutes before walking into the room.

“All right then, hand me your book and recite for me the ‘Our Father’.”

“uh… Our Father… who art… in heaven… uh… hollow bee… uh… uh…”

“Thy name.”

“Thy name. uh… uh… Why kingdom come… uh… Why… uh… Why…”

“Not ‘Why kingdom come,’ but ‘Thy kingdom come’!”

“Thy kingdom come… uh… Why what begun… uh… uh…”

“On…!”

“On earth who sits in heaven!” I stared out the window of the school’s classroom to an ugly overcast day. I kept staring out the window, hoping that sister wouldn’t know…

“Young man, are you sure that you read this week’s lesson?” Somehow sisters always seem to know everything.

“Yes, sister,” I said weakly.

“All right then, recite for me the ‘Hail Mary.’” My weak smile broke and my mind went blank.

“Hail Mary.. uh… uh… Hail Mary… uh… uh…”

“Young man, do you or don’t you know the ‘Hail Mary’?!”

“Yes, sister, I do… but right now I don’t.”

“Very well then,” she began to scribble something into my workbook, “when you get home show this to your mother and see to it that you do your homework before you come to class. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sister.” I reluctantly took the workbook and walked out of the classroom like a sentenced criminal. Even though I was only in second grade I knew that some doom was impending, and failing a test with a nun spelled doom as clearly as anything. Forget about what God thinks, my mother was more the one who was going to kill me. When I got outside I looked at the note that sister had written. Darn it, she wrote it in cursive. She knew I can’t read handwriting. Here I am carrying my death sentence and I can’t even read what it says.

When I got home mom automatically took my workbook and read the note. She shook her head and gave me her “you’ll never amount to anything” look and walked to the kitchen to start dinner. This class was supposed to prepare me for my first Holy Communion but all it really seemed to do was cause my mom a lot of heartache. I wasn’t very hungry that night.

The other years that I had been in C.C.D. (the Catholic equivalent to Sunday School) all we had to do was listen to dumb stories about some guy with this boat full of animals that got swallowed by a whale and draw pictures of God. But now we had to learn prayers and ceremonies, and with nuns! (Pity to you parochial school kids! I only had to put with nuns for one year, just one day each week, and that almost killed me). And what was worse was that we also had to go to our first Confession. Why anyone would stick a scared seven year old in a dark box to confess to a stranger things that he wouldn’t share with his best friend was beyond me.

Fortunately, at least this time I knew what to recite… “Bless me Father, for I have sinned, this is my first confession.”

“Continue.”

“Oh, these are my sins: I lied to my mom and I lied to my dad. I broke my little brother’s bow and arrow and told my mom that my sister, Tina, did it.”

“Anything else?”

“Nope.” I didn’t tell him about wetting my pants earlier in the week and then throwing my underwear away.

“Well, then…” The man proceeded to rattle off some prayer in some foreign tongue. “Your penance is to say four Our Fathers and six Hail Marys.” Oh God, not more Our Fathers and Hail Marys! I walked out of the dark box, knelt in the empty church, prayed to the invisible God, then went home to tell my little brother about the funny man in the box.

A week later I found myself with a hundred other squirming second graders being herded into a processional line in a back room of the church waiting to begin our first Holy Communion ceremony. The head nun, Sister Mary (why are all nuns named Mary?) addressed us:”Boys and girls, your mothers and fathers are going to be very proud of you when they see you march up to the front of the church, so please stay in line and do not converse with one another. Remember that the little Lord Je…”

“Sister!” A boy ahead of me in line was waving his hand in the air and frantically jumping up and down.

“Sister Teresa, will you please take little William to the restroom?” We all giggled and pointed at the puddle that William was standing in.

“Boys and girls, please remember that the little Lord Jesus is in the church and is waiting for you to receive him in the Host. This reminds me of what Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say to her congregation of nuns when they used to walk through the streets of that God-forsaken city…” She talked so long, I swore we were going to grow out of our brand new suits. “… Now, Father is waiting for us in the front of the church, so let’s walk in. Remember two lines and no talking!”

We all began to file into the church. By this time most of the adults were leaning on their elbows, the weight of their boredom causing them to disfigure their faces, making them look like pudgy little pigs. We sat in the first rows of the church, boys on the right side and girls on the left. After we sat down, Father O’Donnell and his two altar boys paraded around the altar in their robes, kneeling and standing and praying and doing things with their hands. Some of the kids were enthralled to be so close to the front of the church for such a holy event. But after a while my friend, Chuck, and I got bored and began a silent game of “paper-scissors-stone.” When the time finally came to receive communion, having missed our cue to stand up, we were prompted by sister’s loud cough.

Heads bowed, we slowly walked up to the railing at the front of the church and knelt before the altar. Then the priest went down the row, with the altar boys on either side of him while he placed thin white pieces of stiff bread (it looked more like small circle of white construction paper than bread) on our out-stretched tongues, each time repeatedly chanting something that sounded like “Body cry.” When we got back to our pews we had been instructed to kneel and pray with our faces in our hands, thanking God for our teachers and parents. Anyone who dared to look God straight in the face while praying would be struck dead. Luckily, God must not have been looking in my direction when I tried to peek at Him through my fingers.

When Mass ended we filed out amidst flashing cameras and crying mothers. At home there was cake and punch and a gift from my god-parents. I worried a little bit that Jesus might not enjoy the company of the cake and punch in my stomach. He was there first. But it didn’t seem to bother him.

A week later life was back to normal. We found our usual place at church, standing in the back because we were always too late to find a place to sit in the pews. My brother and I played our game “the Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Each of us would stand with our legs together and lean in every direction like a spinning top that was slowing down. The object of the game was to see who could lean the farthest in any direction without falling down. My brother usually lost. That was the extent of my religious life. I guess I was too busy dreaming about becoming an astronaut or some great football player. And no one really seemed to care; that is until I reached the eighth grade.

In the eighth grade we were all poured into one large group where we had “rap” sessions each week. I still have no idea why these were called “rap” sessions. It just seemed like an excuse to let the more extroverted kids (usually the girls who were beginning to fill out their sweaters and the guys who had a real reason to use their fathers’ razors) to voice their confused frustrations. Anyway, to climax these weekly excursions into obscurity, we were given an eighth grade retreat.

The retreat was supposed to prepare us for our Confirmation. They wanted us to become committed Catholic young men and women.

“What we would like for you to do is pair off into groups of two and…” Everybody got out of their seats and started shuffling around in search of a partner. The extroverts in the front, the introverts to the closet, I thought to myself. I ended up with my best friend. “… And please make sure that the person that you’re with isn’t a close friend.” My friend and I looked at each other while everybody else got up and changed partners.

Shaking his hand I said, with what was supposed to be an English accent, “Why, it certainly is a pleasure to meet you, Master Charles. My name is…”

“Please introduce yourself to your partner and then we will give you five minutes to ask your partner these questions: What is your favorite color and why, what is your favorite season and why, and what is your favorite food and why? After you have asked these three questions your partner will have five minutes to ask you the same questions.”

“What’s your favorite color Charles? No, let me guess… pink!” We laughed while everyone else struggled through the questions. What these questions had to do with Confirmation, we didn’t bother considering. Besides, after the first question my friend and I pretty much ignored the rest of the questions and proceeded to play “paper-scissors-stone.” The eighth grade version of the game the loser didn’t get whacked on the wrist, he got slugged on the shoulder. Unfortunately one of Chuck’s more perfectly aimed slugs caused me to fall over and knock some girl in the head (don’t ask me how that happened… I guess she wasn’t paying attention or something). Anyway, Chuck and I were separated. He had to pair up with a teacher and I had to sit with a homely girl who had no partner and who I couldn’t hear because she never looked up and barely spoke in a whisper.

After watching a film and some more ‘rapping” about the masks people wear we listened to sermon number 651 provided that afternoon by Mister Jonathan Conner entitled: Commitment and Hypocrisy. Tall, serious, determined, Mr. Conner, roamed across the front of the room as he began to speak, “Many of you consider yourselves adults. You think that you’re old enough to make your own decisions, to exercise the freedom that everyone’s talking about. You live in a generation that is very quick to point out the hypocrisy of my generation… How we say one thing and do another. Well, many of your points are well taken, I mean, you’re right about the hypocrisy and the phoniness of my generation, in many instances. But so far, all I hear coming from your generation is just a bunch of talk.”

“Okay… here is an opportunity for you to do something about this hypocrisy, the hypocrisy in the church as well as in our community. In two weeks we’re going to be administering the sacrament of Confirmation. Now most of you intend to show up because ‘mommy and daddy’ want you to, and that’s good, you should want to please your folks. But, if that is your only reason for attending, then you’re going to miss a lot of the significance that this sacrament could hold for you.”

“God sent his Holy Spirit into this world so that we as Catholics might be able to live a good life, just as the gospel says: ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, because you love one another.’ And, we, meaning you and I, if we are going to get rid of the hypocrisy in the world, then we’re going to have to start by eliminating the phoniness and hypocrisy in our own lives. To do this we need the Holy Spirit.”

I always thought that Mr. Conner was an okay guy. But I kind of lost interest a couple minutes into his talk and when I left the retreat I could not help but feel as if all that I had received was more empty words.

Two weeks passed. I found myself in church, in the same front rows, with basically the same people surrounding me. There was Father O’Donnell up at the pulpit giving the same long winded indecipherable sermon. We, in the meantime, were trying to decide which girl was the hottest. Later we decided that the girl who slipped on her way down from the altar literally showed the most potential. The sign of the cross, a light tap on the cheek by the bishop, and back to my seat I went, to pray to God with my face in my hands.

When Mass was over there was the same array of camera flashes and the same weeping mothers. And at home more cake and punch and a gift from my god-parents. Only this time I did not worry about whether Jesus or the Holy Spirit enjoyed the company of my cake or punch in my stomach, because if they were there I did not know it.

image: Eileen Fisher, Snapple, nun by Timothy Krause, creative commons – some rights reserved, https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothykrause/5837887406/