Monday, December 27, 2010

What's YOUR Bullseye?

Random mental 'overspray' from a short time ago, wending west on I-90 after a brief trip to the suburbs; a.k.a. the Percolator version of "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey"---who, I believe is an actual person; but I digress...

OK, so if Life is a journey with definite starting and ending points, one must be going somewhere. *Clouseau accent* Is it not so? One could delineate two aspects...the Journey and the Destination...connected, yes, but disparate.

Depending on one's Point of View, mind set, hierarchy of values, or whatever label you use to identify What You're About, you may emphasize the importance of the Destination over the Journey, or vice versa. But how often do we really think this through?

At this time of year, i.e., the end of the calendar year, when literal and cyber-mailboxes bear tidings from far-flung family and friends, I tend to take stock-or at least make a stab at it.

One thing I've noticed *"Profound" alert* is that as people keep inhaling and exhaling, time passes, we all get older, and things run down [I think academic people call this entropy]. These run-downs can be failing health, failed relationships, or readjusted aspirations. They may be, rather than run-downs, let-downs. [N.B. Mrs. Goodenough in Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, upon seeing a disappointing excuse-for-a-duchess - "WHAT a LETdown!!!]

In fact, I would go so far as to say that let-downs and run-downs are inevitable and inescapable...and think how insufferable are those people we run into now and then who have yet to be tempered by life's trials? Eeeeeeesh!

Both the Journey and the Destination are important...but I think it only just now occurs to me how easily I misread and misjudge the life trajectory of others, not to mention myself.

What's going on while we're hurtling through space, nodding off, or frantically trying to make course-corrections? What are we even aiming at? And is it a worthy goal? How much attention should we pay to the apparent goals of others, when we really have no control over anyone's but our own?

I think of an e-mail I just read, confirming that the headlight of terminal cancer looms closer and closer in the tunnel for a man with young adult children and tiny grandbabies. There no more brakes to apply, nor remedies to attempt. The only 'suspense' left is when the call will come for this godly man to step into God's presence. It's the destination he's been living for...the destination he'll find himself in when this life is past. But on the way, he and those who love him are seared with pain and sorrow that seem unendurable.

Or the well-known maxi-family whose day-to-day life with one and a half dozen offspring is chronicled weekly on a popular reality TV series. Good grief, what is it with these people, many ask. Since I'm not a member of this clan, I can only surmise, but I don't think they're about flaunting the size of their carbon footprint. I think they're aiming at a bullseye that few would consider valid: not acquiring credentials or property or influence...but forming and molding eternal beings who are living testimonies of what is right and good. Not making the mark all the time; not a foolproof recipe; but an honest, all-in effort that will be shown to be worthy.

And me...what of my own journey? More than half over, no doubt. Expected mix of sweet and sour, high and low...but is my focus clear?

And what's MY bullseye?

Monday, October 18, 2010

When the Answer Comes in Tears

I asked the Lord today to soften my heart over a situation for which, I fear, I am growing hard-hearted; a hardened heart, even as a response to authentic hurts, is not something to give quarter is insidiously destructive, cloaked in justification.

I think it's only realistic to acknowledge this visitor, when it comes calling. But don't put out the Welcome mat. It seems to quickly grow tendrils, which morph into fetters.

So when the tears kept trailing down, as I eased the car into dusky evening traffic, I was only momentarily mystified. This was,appparently, my answer.

I've heard it said that tears cleanse the soul, and even that God puts our tears in His bottle [Psalm 56:8].

I suspect tears also lubricate the heart.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010



"We interrupt this broadcast to bring you the following special report..."

As of last evening, a new presence has been noted on Glen Abbey Drive, in the fair hamlet of Loves Park, Illinois...

Editor: Ben Holliday, I have been officially informed that if I want any credible information about the new black sedan resting coyly in a certain driveway, that you--and you alone-- are the Source to query…can you help me?

Ben: Indubitably! I am, without question, the proud new owner of a 1999 Chevy Cavalier!

Ed.: Surely you jest!

Ben: Do I look like a jester? Wait--DON'T answer that...where were we?

Ed.: I think I've lost the thread, too...well, what color is the new chariot?

Ben: Sleek Black…

Ed.: To match your sleek hair, right?

Ben: My hair’s not black.

Ed: OK, well, work with me here…we’ll call it VexCon Black. Ben Holliday! You have your own car! That’s outstanding!

Ben: It is, isn’t it? It looks quite well on me, don’t you think?

Ed: Well, I haven’t seen you in it, but black flatters everyone. Not that you're like, I mean, there's no one like you,'re...well, you're YOU! When did you make this spectacular purchase?

Ben: October 2 of 2010 I finally decided between the two runners-up of my Car Capade…it was down to the Cavalier or a 2001 Plymouth Neon…in a weird kind of maroon color…not quite as cool.

Ed: Is this your first self-owned vehicle?

Ben: Yup! …and it feels like a big accomplishment…it’s like a manhood milestone kind thing, you know to go from non-car ownership to finally having my own wheels.

Ed.: But, be honest, dude, you had to have shed a secret tear or two to know that you were leaving that smokin’ hot, chick-magnet Dodge Caravan behind…

Ben: Hmmmmm... to be honest, I really liked the minivans, plenty of room to haul around the whole circus, you know, but, at long last, it was time for a change and athe Cavalier was the perfect change for me.

Ed.: Do you have certain “Look” you sport when behind the wheel? You know, a certain set of shades, a particular Billy-the-Exterminator bandana, a chilled thermos of M&Ms, or anything?

Ben: When behind the wheel, I sport my Vexcon bandana, a pair of sunglasses (one of my vast collection) and , of course, my Trademark Crooked Grin. And when people on the street see me whiz by, the think to themselves, ‘there goes Ben Holliday, an American Legend.’

Ed.: I'm feeling faint...

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Miss Cee: "MOM!!!! When were you born?"

Moi: "July 9!!"

Miss Cee: "No, I mean WHEN!!!!!!!"

Moi: "I think it was a Tuesday."

Miss Cee: "No, Mommy."

Ben: "OK, Cec, Mom was born in 1700."

Miss Cee: "Really? Where is that page? I have to fill stuff in on my Timeline book for school."

Ben: "OH-HO! heh-heh"

Miss Cee: "These are all 19s..."

Ben: "OK, maybe it was really, when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock...see here, this little guy with the funny hat?"

Miss Cee: "Well, Mommy doesn't wear a hat like that..."

Ben: "Yeah, but I think she likes rock."

Miss Cee: Is THAT on the timeline?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Tenth Inning...with John Daniel

John, Ben, and their Esteemed Sire have just returned from the Cubs-Brewers game in Milwaukee...they are tired, but still smiling. "Cubs Win!!!"

John: "But only by one point."

Ben: "John, a win is a win."

Dad: "Still a W, buddy, just remember that."

So, how was your first Major League Baseball game experience, Mr. John Daniel, part-time reluctant film reviewer and full-time Cubs and Bears fan???

John: "Well, it was fun, but Mom..."


John: "There were a LOT of DRUNK people up there!"

Well, that's bound to happen at an evening game in Milwaukee, you know, buddy, they don't call it Suds City for nothing....

"Huh? Well, anyway, when one of the Cubs got a home run I was jumping up and down and cheering and clapping."

Sounds reasonable...

John: "But not everyone was..."

Well, Little Man, remember, you were in Enemy Territory...

John: "No, it wasn't just that...this guy was really...I think Dad calls it 'sheets to the wind' or something...just really too many beers...and he was gettin' mad at me and saying a lot of bad words at me..."

Hmmm, not cool...

John: "But it may have partly been because when we won I started cheering and pointing at him."

Um, did DAD know you were doing that?

[ignoring the foregoing question]- "Well, the other guy was telling me the Bears would never make it to the Super Bowl again...and he kept saying the F-bomb..."

Oh, lovely! Probably because you were proudly wearing your Bears hoodie up there in PackerLand, huh?!

John: "Well, he was just *shrug* giving me lip because he doesn't know who the best team is..."

Well, you know, when anyone starts Giving You Lip, it's time to mind your Ps and Qs...

John: "Peas?"

Another Matter of Definition

Here we are again, gentle readers, back again at 9-11. The ninth anniversary of the most significant attack on American soil in my own humble lifetime, and probably in most of yours.

Far from being the galvanizing force it was in its immediate aftermath, 9-11 this year is fraught with discord...those attacks were not an innoculation against fractiousness in our society; if anything, nine years on, they seem to have served as an injection of continuing upheaval. Just check out all the hoo-haw chronicled in the headlines of the last few weeks...the virtual firestorm surrounding efforts to establish a Muslim 'Cordoba' community center in close proximity to Ground Zero, the literally incendiary plans of Rev. Terry Jones to burn copies of the Quran, the warnings of reprisals against deployed American troops...the dominoes keep falling.

[I have been plenty exercised about the afore-mentioned Muslim center and have sputtered away considerably at the trusty keyboard here, but have spared you the unsatisfactory results (be glad). Far better that I direct you to a well-wrought column by Charles Krauthammer on this subject...if I can find it, I will post the relevant link here shortly.]

But today, this news item snagged my attention:

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (Sept. 11) -- The victims of Flight 93 are an inspiration and all who visit the rural field where they died on Sept. 11, 2001, will now "see how a scar in the earth has healed," first lady Michelle Obama said Saturday at a memorial service at the crash site honoring the 40 passengers and crew who died.

Former first lady Laura Bush joined Obama in rural western Pennsylvania, marking a rare joint public speaking appearance by two first ladies. Obama thanked her predecessor for helping the country through the difficult days following the attacks...Future generations would come to the site, she said, to "see how a scar in the earth has healed."

"It is truly my prayer today that all who come here will be filled with hope," she said."

Well, now, I must say, hope was not the first thought that came to my mind when our family happened by the clear, low-tech sign announcing the site of the Flight 93 this summer. Nope. We were driving home from our week in Washington,DC, our family vacation destination this past summer. Shanksville, as its name might suggest, is small town, rolling, green rural Pennsylvania. I doubt that many noticed they were driving through it prior to 2001, and I can testify that two months ago as we drove through, it would be easy to miss the white painted sign. But, Mr. H. slowed our vehicle and pulled over to the side of the two land road for a few minutes so we could read and remember...and explain to the younger Hollidays who were 10, 7, 4 and 1, respectively, when that rural field became an unplanned landing site.

Chalk it up to my more melancholy temper, but hope was not the emotion that sent a few tears trailing down my cheeks. It was sorrow for the death and destruction to which this site bore testimony. And awe at the selfless courage that drove victimized air passengers to thwart the evil scheme of evildoers. And anger.

Not having the ability to read the intent of Mrs. Obama or her speechwriter, I can only speculate that her reference to "hope" was meant as appreciation for the valor if the Flight 93 passengers. But, such virtues do not spring forth in a vacuum. A quick perusal of transcripts from cell phone calls of those passengers made minutes before impact makes it clear that many of them were drawing on a Source outside themselves to overcome what others had 'meant for evil.' If anyone needs a refresher, check out Let's Roll, by Todd Beamer. There's nothing unclear about what Rock he was standing on. His hope had a Source.

Hope IS important; I agree with Mrs. Obama on that. But let's be clear about how we define it--because it makes a difference. Without the real source, it's just empty rhetoric, devoid of the power so desperately needed. Real hope only comes from the Lord.

"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God"
Psalm 146:5

Thursday, September 9, 2010


"I don't want to, that's why."

How many times have I said this, heard this, or rued this inflexible statement? Too many times to count. Of course, when it's coming out of my own mouth, it's merely a matter of asserting my own prerogative...and, well, I’m Right.

When I hear it as a response to a parental suggestion I’ve made, it elicits no joy.
And, when it is the case-closed, closed-mind refrain I hear after putting far more thought, prayer, wisdom, and heart into my appeal than the nay-sayer can ever imagine...well, that's an even darker shade of disappointment.

As parents, how clearly we see the diametrically opposed consequences to the yea or the nay response our children hand down! How much we desire, out of pure unselfish love for them, that our own would trust our counsel –-at least now and then--and how much quicker we seem to feel the sting of their folly than they do themselves.

A short time ago I was sitting, partially benumbed, watching an installment of "Teen Mom," on MTV...right down there on the list with "Toddlers and Tiaras" when it comes to the nadir of media culture...only worse, because these programs chronicle what happens in real lives after the real ‘unexpected bundles’ arrive into nests of arrested development.
Unlike T&T, which is mind-bending because it documents the ‘unusual’ ambitions of Pageant Parents, “Teen Mom” features no tongue-in-cheek connection between the camera and the just is what it is and, sometimes, it’s hard to watch.

If I have, at times, despaired at how difficult it is for a child of mine to trust my instincts and wisdom, (despite the fact that I offer them infrequently now), I can only conclude it must be "Game Over" for those of my generation who wake up one fine day to find that their life seasons have been telescoped on overdrive, and that their teen son or daughter is about to present them with a prototype of the next generation.

New life-always a blessing, and undeniably a burden in some sense; but the proportions of those two ingredients vary widely from situation to situation . As the years go by and I witness this scenario play out in the lives of more friends, I realize how much of life is held together by tightly stretched heartstrings...

Which is why, a few minutes ago, my own heart unexpectedly glowed with thanks…

Earlier this week, “because I don’t want to” was the expected but still discouraging reply I received after prayerfully encouraging Mr. J (also known to moonlight in this space as a reluctant film reviewer) to go to Heartbeat on Wednesday night.

“Heartbeat” is the junior high/middle school youth group at our church…meeting Wednesday evenings to focus on the Stuff That Matters in Life, by means of teaching, discipleship, fun, fellowship, missions, and of course, snacking….

Heartbeat is to youth ministry what rich compost is to a garden….potent fertilizer with proven results…no guaranteed yield, of course, but the recipe is, most certainly, Tried and True. Heartbeat was the ministry context from which two of our offspring launched into their first missions trips…spiritual reference points for them both; in particular, for our daughter who was baptized in a Kentucky river on one such trip.

Like so many things in life, Heartbeat is an Opportunity Gift which requires a bit of courage to open…first of all, there are those indistinct voices of discouragement buzzing around reminding the Not-Kid/Not-Yet-Adult prospect that this evening may not be ‘cool.’ And of course, there may be no real likelihood of a fast-food stop on the way; the odds are good, they surmise, that they won’t know a living soul there, and if so, it will the kind of person who is sure to step on their very last nerve.

So, um, no thanks, Mom, I don’t want to go to Heartbeat…or anything else you suggest today, either. And, by the way, I’m not your little kid anymore so I’m exercising my ‘No’…and I hope you get it!

But, undeterred, I pulled my mom-guts together and pressed on, employing the Father Factor for the full-court press.

One often doesn’t get quick feedback from these episodes…sometimes you really never do know what happens. In this case, Mr. J., as we were enroute last night, bore more than a passing resemblance to Eeyore…a familiar alter-ego. Nor did the return trip show any signs of a happy metamorphosis.

“Because I don’t want to to, that’s why,” echoed in my mind as my few tentative inquiries went unanswered.

But tonight, when it was no longer even on my mind, I chanced by his room after tucking Miss Cee in for the night and found him still awake.

Checking in on him, I heard a deeper-than-it-used-to-be voice murmur, “Mom, I’m glad I went to Heartbeat last night.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Did I Ask?

"Your pants are too fancy!"

Thus quoth Miss Cee at lunch today.

As I often recount to my better half, many of the absurdities of my life seem to occur while I am 'just minding my own business, not bothering anybody'--in short, just trying to do what I think I'm supposed to be doing at a given time.

But, keeping my head down is no guarantee of a peaceful day. Due to an incredible and ghastly oversight, I somehow appeared at school today, one of my assigned days to serve as on-site teacher helper, clad in four-year-old beige capris of indistinct pattern. Did a brick fall on my head? What could I have been thinking? Do I know how to think?

And, gentle reader, it gets worse! Brace yourself!

Peering at me as if I were a mounted slide under a high school microscope, Miss Cee continued the unsolicited critique...

"Well, look, your lips are TOO dark!"

What do you mean?

"I MEAN your lipstick is too, too dark!" *scrunching up nose*

But this is the same lipstick I've worn for, like, three years....

"It's actually, like BURGUNDY!!"

Really? Seriously?

By now, both she and her best friend were shaking their heads in synchronized censure...had I been a few years younger, or having a very bad hormone day, I might have cried...

"Just too dark," she pronounced, putting this unseemly episode to bed.

Strangely, a couple of hours later, someone looking remarkably like Miss Cee...truly, it could be her identical twin!...asked me, while licking the last vestige of ice cream cone off the corner of her mouth...'Can I call Alyssa and see if she is busy, or...something?'

Well, on an ordinary day I might be able to take this under consideration but, you see, today has been rather traumatic...what with my pants being too fancy...

"They're not TOO fancy...they're just, you know, KINDA fancy..."

Oh! This is an interesting philosophy...

And then there's the issue of my wicked burgundy lips...

*eyebrows arched* "Um, well, they aren't quite as dark now...especially your lower lip...maybe you licked it and now it's better..."

Or, maybe, being wise in your own little nine-year-old eyes no longer seems quite so fun as checking to make sure that Alyssa is not too busy....but, that's a guess...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time Warp

This Afternoon…

David: “Well, what if they legalized pot, Mom, I mean, would you think it was OK, then? If it was legal, you know, since somewhere it says to, I don’t know, obey civil authorities or something…”

Moi: “I think I understand what you’re saying, but I personally would not start toking away, because I try to hold my standards higher than just what the law prescribes….I mean, not all things legal are advisable…as ‘it’ also says somewhere…

A ‘Few Weeks ‘ Ago…

Moi: “To the tiger at the zoo, Madeline just said…”

David: “Poo-poo!!!”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it with my own ears."

Have you ever heard anyone say that? Have you ever said it yourself? Well, I have...most recently, well, just about 20 minutes ago.

We all know that "knowledge is power"...that's why it's so important to be well fact, the last I knew, this was codified into the founding documents of the U.S....does 'First Amendment rights'...guaranteeing freedom of speech and a free press ring any bells?

With information, --as with any valuable commodity-- we do well to heed the warning "caveat emptor"-buyer beware. In other words, if you're seeking to be informed, go to the trouble to discern if you're getting 'the straight scoop:"true information. Because, inconvenient as it may be, the dichotomy does exist: Right v. Wrong, True v. False.

Why does it matter? Because what we believe to be true arguably influences most, if not all, of the decisions that adults make. Thus, the concern that media outlets should, and in fact used to, have for accuracy and objectivity.

Which brings me to the issue of disinformation, not to be confused with MISinformation, which is unintentionally false.

"Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately," according to Wikipedia and general public consensus.

At sometime between 2 and 2:30 pm, CST today, I heard the following statement made on National Public Radio:

"I think no one argues that Israel is there [in the Middle East] or doesn't have a right to exist."

Say what? Who said this?

Well, I will tell you: the speaker was a guest, named Graham Fuller, who apparently served as a former vice counsel with the National Intelligence Council at the CIA. Mr. Fuller has just written a book, A World Without Islam, for which he seems to be on a promotional tour. I heard him today interviewed by Neil Conant on the NPR regular feature, "Talk of the Nation." The thesis of his book, according to Mr. Fuller, is 'how much Western relations with the Middle East would be different if there were no Islam.'

Perhaps a more pertinent question would be how much of this book is factually based? Ah, those pesky facts...they can so easily get in the way of what we want to say...

So, really, Mr. it true that "no one argues" about Israel's right to exist? What have you been smoking?

Is it for no reason that Israel is one of the best armed nations in the contemporary world, and until recently was known as the only nuclear power in the Middle East? Is it not the case that the history of the modern state of Israel, since its founding in 1948,is littered with incidences of armed conflict and even declared war waged over territorial boundaries? Why would this happen if no one was bothered by their presence on that tiny little finger of ancient land? Is Israel afflicted with some psychotic paranoia that causes them to doubt that her neighbors wish her good will?

And, here's a quandary; the following quote, taken from the IRIB News/Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting's online news network reported on October 26, 2005 that:

Tehran, Oct 26 - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the President told a conference in Tehran entitled 'the world without Zionism'.

"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land," he said.

"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad, referring to the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini.

Seems pretty clear to me.

In fact, as I listened to Mr. Fuller's statement, I found myself raising my voice to the air: "Are you kidding me?!!" Is this some ill-conceived, unsuccesful attempt at geopolitical satire? Did show host, Mr. Conant, momentarily black out, causing him to let this statement simply slip by?

Acknowledging to myself that I am certainly no expert on Middle Eastern politics, I checked the search engine to see if my understanding of these statements was somehow faulty. What I found was a rather tedious discussion about whether the referenced quote used a Persian idiom that literally meant 'wiped off the map', or 'erased from the pages of time.' I see no difference in intent between these two.

Allow me to quote Pres. Ahmadinejad further, as posted on the IRIB website:

"Anyone who signs a treaty which recognises the entity of Israel means he has signed the surrender of the Muslim world," Ahmadinejad said.

"Any leaders in the Islamic umma (sic) who recognise Israel face the wrath of their own people."

Further internet research, to those so inclined, may lead to non-substantive parsing, such as the following,

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, agrees that Ahmadinejad's statement should be translated as, "the Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).[13]

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly, as "be eliminated from the pages of history."[14]

According to Cole, "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to 'wipe Israel off the map' because no such idiom exists in Persian". Instead, "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse."[15]

So, why do I go on and on about this incidental statement from a former government official? First, because it seems to be an egregious error, at best, and one would expect better from an author touting his tome over national airwaves. But second, and most importantly, statements presented as fact are often accepted at face value..thus influencing opinions, presumptions, decisions, and even textbooks, potential legislation, and political positions.

I am one of those who remain firmly convinced that the blessings enjoyed by the US for more than 200 years have come from the hand of God. The US is still considered the land of promise and opportunity, the country that many from other nations aspire to make their own, often due to harsh conditions and suffering in their native lands. Not least of those who have come here for a better life are the Jews, God's chosen. I believe we have been blessed as a nation, in part, because we have been a haven to those persecuted, and because we have stood as a stalwart ally of the state of Israel. God keeps His Word, and He clearly states:

"I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 12:2-4

In my view, this is The Unimpeachable Source. Far be it from us to be lose sight of what's true because we are beguiled or led astray by false statements masquerading as truth.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hearing Test Needed?


Gack! What is that horrible smell?!!! An acrid stench is infiltrating the whole house...of indeterminate origin...but whatever the source had been, it is clearly beyond total incineration now...can ashes smell THIS bad?

Ben: "Well, Mom, you can probably smell something, right?"

Editor/Mom: "Um, now that you mention it..."

Ben: "You're probably wondering what that is, huh?"

EM: "Well, I'm actually trying to decide if I really want to know...or if ignorance is the better choice here..."

Ben: "Uh, yeah...well, I can see where that might be something you'd want to think about first..."

EM: "OK, you've tipped it...what is it? And was anybody hurt?"

Ben: "Well, we don't have any shortcakes anymore..."

Might this be one of those days when I'm tempted to pull the covers back over my head...and then realize that my absence in the kitchen might have contributed to this unique surprise?...just a thought...

EM: "Shortcakes..."

Ben: "OK, well, just so you know, Cecily put some know those little round yellow ones from the store...and decided she'd microwave them...*wrinkling nose*...and, uh, yeah, she kinda overdid it..."

EM: "Ben, do you know what an understatement is? Never mind; obviously you do...not that this is necessarily a bad tends to be calmer...fewer 911 calls are made and cooler heads--not that your sister seems to have one--tend to prevail...OK, tell me, how long did she nuke them for?"

Ben: "Heh-heh...well, I think it was about three minutes...instead of 30 seconds..."


EM: "Did anything melt?"

Ben: "It's kind of hard to know that glass plate in the microwave that turns around...well, usually...? It seems to be a different color now..."

Uuuoooohhh boy...I suppose even the molecular structure of tempered glass can change under sufficiently extreme conditions...we all have our melting point...I'm pretty sure I've reached mine....

Well, one thing I've noticed over the years [not to mention decades] is that there are some upsides to being dysthymic, as I am; one is that you tend not to scream or carry on, because it just takes too much that can be much better spent making coffee, knitting, ordering more novels from

At the moment, I'm quite amazed that the smoke alarms have not gone off...maybe the batteries have been taken out to make them less annoying...and, oh yeah, less effective...but I digress...

A small sliver of a familiar brown head appears around the corner...

Miss Cee: "Mmmmmooooommmmmm?"

EM: "Yes?"

Miss Cee: "Can I light a candle?"

EM: "What would be the purpose of that?"

Miss Cee: "Well, I had a little bit of an accident..."

EM: *eyebrows rising* "An....ACCident????"

Miss Cee: "Well, I thought it would be a good idea to make some shortcakes for breakfast....and, um, wasn't written down anywhere how long to cook them...and, well, I thought I'd do like you...and just kind of put some numbers in..."

Ahhhh...some numbers...yeah, THAT'S the ticket...why get all anxious over a few pesky numbers?....

Miss Cee: "And, it was maybe too many..."

EM: "What happened?"

Miss Cee: "Well, I think it was too long...I mean, yeah, it was too long...I think..."

EM: "So what does this have to do with candles?"

Fast forward five painstakingly explanatory minutes....

EM: "OK, so what have we learned here?"

Miss Cee: "To not cook things so long."

EM: "Uh, no. We've learned that you're not to use the microwave. Now, what have we learned?"

Miss Cee: "To ask how many minutes before I do "START".

EM: "OK, this is no longer funny...actually, it never was...what did YOU learn, Cecily"?

Miss Cee: *blue saucer eyes search the heavens* "Um, I learned"

EM: "You are NOT allowed to use the microwave!!!!"

Miss Cee: "Ever, ever again??!!!" *semi-convincing lip quiver*

Ben: "One adventure after another, right, Mom?"

Monday, August 2, 2010

When Rest Is Praise

Sorrow and unequal parts and at unpredictable intervals. This undulating pattern comprises much of our lives. Solomon examined this reality a few milennia ago in Ecclesiastes.

It seems clear, but not always noted, that far less ink is spilt on the mountain tops of earthly experience than on the valleys...the nadirs, not the zeniths, spur more contemplation, it would seem. We think we 'deserve' to be happy; we often don't understand when we're not.

Maybe that's because joy, and it's lesser cousin, happiness, are the objects of desire and pursuit...almost everyone seeks them, at least at times. The responses elicited by Good Things are no-brainers; but few crave heartache. It takes a while to go through the acknowledge-accept-resolve process provoked by pain.

Perhaps this is an echo of our desire for How Things Were...back in the Garden, when all was as it had been created to be. Now, we have to wait to be 'present with the Lord' to experience that.

There's a place for grieving and tears...and it's a place we return to again and again, if not willingly. Devastation of many kinds may roll in unexpectedly, like a tsumani that threatens to take us under. It may loom on the horizon, and then inexorably advance upon us as we watch and wait helplessly. Or, it may be a persistent series of defeats posed by a challenge we can't master...

But whatever the source or shape sadness, like everything else down here, it is temporary. We should acknowledge and grieve, but I don't think we should camp there after we've done the necessary processing.

Pardon? This from the ambassodoress of emotional expression? Well, yes. I'm not advocating denial, just a God-designed balance.

When my tears fall, it is often because I am more focused on the object of my prayer than on the One Who Answers. And it's important to make that shift in focus from the horizontal to the vertical. Looking to Jesus is where we find Real Life, anyway.

Being a leaky faucet, tears have always come (too) easily to me. I can find occasion to weep not only over heartache, but also in gratitude for God's faithfulness and character. Whether the cause is joy or sadness, tears are not wholly unexpected from time to time.

But peace and serenity are. Especially when they seem to be incongruous to the present context. That's when people notice. That's when they either think you're dissociative or intriguing...and they look more closely.

And it's at such times, I'm thinking, when we are resting in Him--despite everything else--that we may demonstrate the most powerful testimony to who God is. Inexplicable peace is a form of praise...

I think it's likely that, for every person who is put off by hand-raising, hymn-singing worshippers who are hard to relate to, there may be at least one person who wants to know what is really going on; when we rest in the peace that passes understanding we demonstrate that it is real and possible.

When we beseech the Lord in the valley, we bear testimony that He is and that He listens. But when we rest in Him, it's a special kind of praise.

So, the next time I need to be reminded of this...hopefully not before tomorrow!, please feel free to give me the necessary poke...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lost in Insomnia Land...

a.k.a. The Land of the Living Dead, but that, perhaps, is taking it a bit too far...

However, the whispered rumors you may have heard are true...Your Faithful Correspondent seems to be developing Swiss Cheese Brain at an alarming rate, and it seems to be not wholly coincidental with my recent tenure on Lunesta...there's always a kink somewhere...

Thus far, I have taken a stab at the following remedies...if you know of any Olde Wives that may have other 'tried and true' remedies...please send me their links!!!!!!!!!

* cold chocolate milk
* no Real coffee after 12 noon
* turkey coldcuts [can you say TRYPTOPHAN?]
* riding 8 miles on a cardio bike at 9 pm [while watching Cake Boss, of course...I feel less "deprived" that way...]
* warm chocolate milk
* wine [danger! danger!]
* OTC Unisom (virtually a placebo)
* staying up late and not being able to get up early....not exactly a solution
* not obsessing about my missing bicuspid and the "hillbilly" taunts from the Fruit(s)of My Womb---I am in the middle of a dental implant saga...but that's for another blog post....but, of course!
* tepid chocolate milk
* Valerian Root herbal tablets....the jury's still out on the efficacy of this one, although Mr. Bill is still sleeping like a log....but, wait! he doesn't have insomnia to begin with...perhaps if there were a way to withdraw some of his Perfect Somnolence Adult Male Elixir and make it into a smoothie for myself.....
* endless reading....

Actually, I just yawned now, but it's only 5:24 p.m.

---To Be Continued in Future Wakeful Moments---

Monday, July 19, 2010

Say What?

Overheard at Peak Sports Club...mere minutes ago...OR...
Ben Gains Further Practical Insight Into Parental Aggravation

Voice of [presumably hunky]Lifeguard over PA system: OK, time's up...everyone who's not an adult, time to get out...Time for Adult Swim...

Ben [trying to wrangle Miss Cee, who is blissfully ignoring undesirable instructions]: Cec! Cecily! It's time to get's Adult Swim time...

Miss Cee [sputtering]:

Ben: Didn't you hear the lifeguard? It's Adult Swim! We have to get out now?

Miss Cee [disbelieving]: What's adult swim?

Ben: [perturbed]: It's time when only adults can swim...

Miss Cee [cocking her head as if to say, 'And your point is...?]: Yeah?

Ben: Adult swim time! You're not an adult!

Miss Cee [indignant now]: I can SO be an adult!!!

Ben: NOT YET!!!

John: WHAT a RIP-off!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not a Playground...

Note to self: The next time you find yourself staring glassy-eyed through the windshield, spending more time that you don’t have to spare shuttling, yet again, the surly, hardened, and undeniably unpleasant fruit of your womb on another inconvenient errand necessitated by said offspring’s irresponsibility…

And you’ve forfeited irreplaceable time searching for the Certificate of Live Birth that officially confirms your parent-child bond to this person-- who once was a great joy, and now seems a source of pain…yet still bears an undeniable resemblance to your beloved life partner…

And he’s broken curfew within the first 36 hours of returning [temporarily] to the refuge of your roof…

And you find yourself subconsciously counting on your fingers again for no reason other than a vain effort to suppress anxiety that you resent feeling…

And there are no more tissues…not even pre-used ones…in the car with which to erase the tears that slide out from under your sunglasses…

…acknowledge your angst, but don’t let it eat your lunch.

You’ve been here before, and probably will be again, and you haven’t died yet. Inhale, exhale. Each breath comes from the Lord.

Remember, as He’s reminded you before, that He sees it all. He’s taking notes. He knows the end from the beginning. He is your portion.

You’ve been reminded of that even within the last few hours, by texts, calls, and the swift recall of Scripture. If it feels like you’re plummeting down a vortex, it’s just a lie.

We’re not living in a playground down here, regardless of how much the world, the flesh, and the devil try to deceive and distract. Recall the uncomfortable but undeniably True words you’ve heard proclaimed from a Reliable Narrator: “we know…that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” [1 John 5:19]

And that includes your misery-making passenger. He has not yet decided to be rescued "from the dominion of darkness and brought..into the kingdom of the Son..."

But you belong to Him “Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” [Ephes. 3:20]

This is the prelude to the indescribable reality of eternity, the glories of which will make today’s pangs a dim memory, if that.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Stick to to the Knitting"

Just received what can best be described as a 'spiritual kick in the pants.' It was needed, of course. I'm not silly enough to deny it. The substance is basically the title of this post, above. "Stick to the knitting" is probably an old aphorism, but I heard it for the first time only a few years ago. Like quite a few other meaty, worthwhile sayings that tend to reveal all too clearly my self-absorption and sense of entitlement, this one is not about feeling good or being convenient.

In fact, I'd say it fits into the category of that other pithy nugget quoted here before: "When you're not sure what to do, do the hard thing." I note that Elisabeth Elliot, from whose lips I heard these words, is no slouch in doing hard things...and she exhibits the character to prove it.

But, back to this morning's Kick.

Here's the context: I too often find myself faint of heart when it comes to persisting and persevering. It's not so much that I'm a child of this immediate-gratification culture; it's more that I'm lazy and too easily discouraged. I have a situation that has lain and is still laying heavily on my heart. I have prayed for literally some years now for this matter. I pray with a dear sister most Sunday mornings about this. I'm humbled to know that many friends and family members have lifted this matter in prayer for us, and even fasted.

I have grown weary and discouraged by the seeming lack of any answers or progress. I'm not expecting an explosive geyser of answers, although I know He sometimes does that. Just a little glimmer.

As has been said about Job's lament to the Lord {and certainly I do not equate myself with him}, the heavens seem to be brass...with nothing getting through.

Of course, I know that's a fallacy. He remembers our frame(s) and knows we are dust. I remind myself that 'while we wait, God works.' "We walk by faith, not by sight." It was true yesterday, and it's true today. But sometimes just knowing these true things doesn't seem enough. What is the deal here?

On Mt. Carmel, Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal that their god must not have been asnwering them because he was, to put it politely, 'indisposed'. But the God of the Bible is never indisposed. Not slow of hearing. His arm is not too short.

And, sometimes, we can figure out what we DO know, by what we DON'T know. For instance, I have absolutely no evidence, documentation, or other reason to think that God has lost interest and switched to another channel. If that were the case, it might be time to pack up the tent and move on. But, to the contrary, He is the same "yesterday, today and forever."

I am certain that what I'm asking for is in His will. So why is this taking so long? I'd be lying and wasting your time and mine if I purported to have any answers to this question of the ages. As another wise woman told me only a few years ago, "Some things God just doesn't give us to know." He's allowed to do that because of Who He is.

But the sharp kick I experienced was the reminder that my part of this communication transaction is not to faint, not to rant, not to allow myself to tumble into a vortex of doubt, and--certainly--NOT to give up. What I'm asked to do, I am made able to do.
As I've heard myself say too often, "if it's important enough, you do it." So is this matter important. Unquestionably. Have I been relieved of my assignment? That would be a 'no.' What am I to do? Keep at it. For the duration. Ask for strength and encouragement when my own supplies run low. But press on.

I think for me, it has been One Thing to hear and give intellectual assent to the myriad places in Scripture when we are exhorted to persevere. Yes! Keep at it! And, unfortunately, a Very Different Thing to connect the dots between that clear call and the virtually unbudgeable situations I often confront. "Open sesame" doesn't apply here.

How do I know I need to keep at it? Because it hasn't been accomplished yet. The answer is still in the offing. I don't even know how close it may be to looming on the near horizon. I don't need to know. I don't even know how it will be answered, or if I will even occupy my 'jar of claly' long enough to witness it here. And, thankfully, I am not responsible for the outcome. But, it's important, so praying for it is important... and when it's important enough, you do it...

Note to self: resolutely refuse to glance down at how tired I am of this, how discouraged I get or how impervious the situation appears. ESPECIALLY, refuse to gauge the attention or concern of the Answerer by focusing on the prayer object. This is an effective stratagem of the enemy.

The treasure has yet to be keep digging. As hard and as well as I can, and no more. But persist.

Stick to the knitting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Snarky Form Letters v. Real Communication

Heigh-ho, faithful few…

It is probably symptomatic of my somewhat melancholy nature that I am moved to post about some continuing unfortunate correspondence, while still having not yet uploaded photos of Ben’s happy graduation and party…I still intend to do that.

However, since this blog often serves as cheap therapy for me, and an effective means of processing *German accent* schtuff, here I am again.

Likely I am only exercised about this particular matter because it has to do with Ben’s health, for which we have considerable spiritual and emotional concern and investment (as most parents do for their offspring). And we will never be done being thankful, not only for God’s healing of Ben, but for the overwhelming love and support we received from so many.

But, to resume my tale: Here I was, contentedly at home, washing dishes and minding my own business, when the doorbell rang, heralding the arrival of our faithful postman. No mysterious packages this time. Nope; instead a registered letter from Ben’s erstwhile endocrinologist. My heart sank.

Why, you ask? Well, the brief history is thus: some months back, Ben had an afternoon appointment with Dr. C. When I went to pick him up from school, he had forgotten the appointment, which necessitated my going in to the school office and having him paged. He’s an 18-year-old and another medical appointment was not exactly at the top of his list. Needless to say, we arrived 20 minutes late. I will not mention that we have often had to wait to see doctors, including this one. And their time is indisputably valuable. We were curtly informed that we had missed the appointment, the doctor had returned to the hospital, etc. This was clearly our fault. We made a new appointment.

However—and this is my gripe—the mindless, soul-less, automated System In Place kicked out to us an even more curt form letter (I won’t mention the various careless errors therein, including a reference to Ben as “she”) warning us that we were on the precipice of being Discharged, and that a new appointment needed to made post-haste. Hmmmm…

Being communicative by nature, I felt the urge—which I should have resisted—to reply politely that we, in fact, did appear for our appointment, albeit late; I apologized sincerely, and had—in fact—made another appointment, which I assured The System we would keep. Of course, you know what’s coming…

Since I had expended more emotional energy on this incident than was warranted, my trusty mate assured me that he would take Ben to the newly scheduled appointment…and then forgot, as did Ben. Thud. ANYthing would have been better than this. Even worse, for reasons still mysterious to me, the needed phone call to the doctor’s office to acknowledge and apologize for this lapse was not made until AFTER yours truly received a—you guessed it—snarky call from said office. I needed a stiff drink.

But, alas, we do not keep alcohol in the house, and for good reason. But, I digress…during this unpleasant phone call, I expressed our sincere apology and explained that we would happily pay for any missed appointment fees, etc. and understood that we were now discharged from Dr. C’s practice. Case closed…I sincerely hoped.

I also had it in mind to write a personal note to Dr. C., but I questioned whether he would ever actually see it, and my persistent Too-Busy, Approach-Avoidance complex set in; this remained a Good Intention, not acted upon (to end with a preposition).

Still, I was surprised to receive two copies of this letter a few minutes ago, which I had to sign for, etc. Curiously, I received the letter today, June 23, and the letter is dated “May, 13 2010” (sic). The boilerplate body of the letter again explains that “after careful consideration…I have decided to discontinue my relationship as your child endocrinologist” (sic)---funny, he looked old enough to be an adult, to me—“effective thirty-(30) days from receipt of this letter”…no clue as to whether the 30 days was counted from “May, 13” or June 23…that must be the suspense element…

Further, we are exhorted to secure “the services of another provider as soon as possible to assure the continuity of your care.” This is the only positive part of this whole saga…that I am able to write him back and explain that, due to God’s healing, Ben is no longer a diabetic patient, as confirmed by his primary care physician, on the basis of Ben’s most recent lab report.

The reason I even go on about this subject is that the Official (not to mention unprofessional) nature of this correspondence so utterly differs from the actual, face-to-face relationship we had with Dr. C. These two experiences could not be more different.

When first breaking the news to us in the hospital about Ben’s DM1 diagnosis, Dr. C was kind, focused on us as people, and patiently informative. Our subsequent office visits were even more so, as he followed up his thorough examinations with sincere interest about Ben. Were it not for his facsimile signature at the bottom of the letter, I would not believe they involved the same person.

Of course, I understand that this is an automated chain of correspondence, no doubt executed accurately according to the computerized code that issued it. I’m sure Dr. C is somehow aware of our status. And he is in the business of providing expert care to patients, not in cultivating personal relationships. But, this seems not to be a very satisfactory explanation of the jarring discrepancy between personal contact and automated communication. Or, more precisely, such automated communication too often undercuts the real communication that may have been, and should be, established between doctor and patient.

Seriously...if communication is important--and it is--it should be the result of considerably more careful, thoughtful and professional effort than has been exhibited here.

Perhaps I am naïve; perhaps I have too much time on my hands—well, really, that’s not the case.

The final irony was too glaring to ignore…part of the letterhead includes this health system’s motto: “Respectful Care.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Percolator Interviews John Daniel, Definitive Walking Example of Savoir Faire

Percolator Editor: Good Evening, Mr. Daniel. And what brings you here?

JD: Well, it’s been a while, and I knew you needed to boost your readership.

PE: Um, well, thanks for that. You’re so thoughtful.

JD: Thank you. I mean, you’re welcome.

PE: Well, the talk of the town has been the Benster’s Graduation Open House, on these very premises, yesterday…do you know anything about it?

JD: Well, yeah.

PE: Were you invited?

JD: Well, the party was at my house, and I kinda live there, so…

PE: Oh, yeah, silly me…well, what was it like?

JD: There was a lot of people, so I couldn’t really move throughout the house…

PE: Oh, dear…I trust no buildng capacity codes were violated...

JD: No, we don’t have a code, whatever that is. But it just seemed kind of cramped. There was a LOT of teenagers. And, I’m gonna become one, so I just have to live with it.

PE: Such a stalwart attitude!!! But, back to the party…

JD: Well, there was a lot of food, but it just rained, so we couldn’t really play outside. And that was not too good. But, on the good side, they did have a pretty tense pool tournament going on in the basement with some of Ben’s wacky friends. Don’t tell him I said they were wacky. Andrew and Shelly kept trying to win over each other, and they kept betting that whoever won, the loser would then have to make them a lot of sandwiches…like a LOT! So, you wouldn't want to be a loser...I mean, the loser.

ED: I think I would have gone for the chocolate trophy myself, but to each his/her own.

JD: Um, that man who is waving at us...and not in a good way...through the French door...he's my dad, and he want's to get on the computer now...


Friday, June 11, 2010

Being There

It's funny what comes to mind at this stage of (my) life. Being There happens to be the name of a book by Jerzy Kosinski that I was supposed to read for a Mass Media class back in college. I have no clear recollection of what it was about,really , but I think a film version--starring Peter Sellers?--was made of it later.

But, as usual, I digress.

Being There-- the concept has all sorts of possible implications.

This afternoon, I spent a bit more than an hour in the head-below-feet position of my friendly, neighborhood periodontist. When the last stitch had been tied off, I'd been fitted with my 'flipper' [middle-aged version of a Retainer], and I had pocketed the all-important prescription for narcotic drugs (!), I noticed that, indeed, over in the waiting room, someone was 'being there.'

"Hmmm, another poor sap!," I nefariously thought, as I glimpsed a figure out of the corner of my eye. Double take.

There, patiently waiting, was my partner and completer.

"Well, that was so sweet of you to come and wait for me like this!!! Thanks!," I blurted with unsuspecting delight. To the receptionist lady, I explained, "this is my husband."

"I know," she twinkled...I guess he had been there a while.

Of course, there's usually a back story, and there is here, as well: Back in the
1980s, when we first met and decided we 'fancied' each other, the unwelcome realities of grad school kept interrupting our idyll.

One particularly low point was the evening I shuffled into an evening class for a midterm exam, opened my bluebook to begin writing, and found my mind completely and utterly blank. As in, how did I spell my name? What WAS my name? Did I really register for Restoration and Jacobean Literature, and if so, WHY?

I remembered that the book had a red cover adorned with illustrations of notable dead-and-dust English authors; I had fallen asleep with this volume many times over the previous week but, alas, osmosis did not occur and the subtleties of The Duchess of Malfi, let alone The Alchemist, had not made a sufficient impression on my little grey cells to allow for any recall, whatsoever. Nada. Zilch.

It was an unhappy, virtually dissociative experience that I could barely believe was happening. As the hands of the clock moved at a glacial pace, and my classmates busily scratched away page after page in their blue books, I sank lower and lower.

When we were finally told to close and turn in our blue books, I slunk out the door in a daze. A few feet away, seated on the floor was someone I had recently met. And begun dating. Just waiting. Being There: at the moment I most needed to be propped up and validated, in spite of my immediate academic disaster.

Just There. That was (dare I count them?) almost 30 years ago now. Obviously, the delight of the discovery is with me still.

Since then, there have been many incidents when one of us has needed to be there for the other; somehow, it seems to me that more often it has been me on the table, in the chair, or in the hospital bed. What a difference it makes to have the Important Someone being there Being There, too.

I need to make it a new aim to be aware of ways I can Be There...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ben's Graduation Moment

Due to copyright restrictions, I am unable to directly post this photo...but, trust me when I say, it is worth the download (IMHO) we always say, Ben brings the party with him...

Thanks to photographer Eddy Montville of The Rockford Register Star

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Try Next Week

Overheard in the Produce Dept. at Valli Foods this afternoon...

Mom: OK, OK, it's Johnny's turn to push the cart this time. THIS is John...YOU are not John...capish?

Miss Cee: [unintelligible murmuring]

John: [smugly smirking; raises eyebrows in an undeniable gloat] Mmmm-hmmmm....

Mom: [distractedly searching for sun-dried tomatoes]--- are you guys getting along?...I need an answer!...John!!! What happened to your nose?

John: What do you mean?

Mom: I mean that little bloody scratch on the bridge of your cute nose...

John: Oh, it's not that bad...

Mom: Where's the Usual Suspect....Cecily? Cecily, come here now!!!

Miss Cee: [sheepishly appearing from around the berry display] Yes, Mommy?

Mom: Did you scratch John again??...Did you scratch his nose right here?...I'm listening, but I'm not hearing you answer!...

Miss Cee: Well, I didn't do it today...

Mom: But you DID it, didn't you??? [glancing at John who is unconvincingly trying to portray nonchalance]

Miss Cee: Well, it's kind of hard to say...because I'm not really scratching him THIS week...

Raising my eyes heavenward in disgust, I spy an older lady trying to refrain from least SOMEONE was amused...

Monday, May 24, 2010

They Didn't Tell Us THAT Part...

Other tidbits of information, none of them so joyous as that related in the last Percolator post, gleaned from our appointment this morning:

• Did you know Gardasil, the 3-part vaccine that is supposed to protect sexually active young women from cervical cancer is now approved to be administered to young men? I didn’t either. The last I knew, young men don’t come equipped with cervixes. But, in this ‘brave new egalitarian world,’ even sexually transmitted diseases don’t discriminate…so treatment is now ‘equal opportunity’ as well; we’re still not stepping into this line, though.

• We can surmise what we wish, but there is a definite rise in credibility when a medical doctor recounts his own clinical experiences, even when they are …unsavory…such as high school and college-age patients who come in for STD treatment lamenting, “you never told me it would be this bad!”

These communication transactions don’t break down on the sending end. Nope; the messages aren’t received when their content does not correspond to what people want to hear. Come to think of it, I think this happens in other spheres of life, too.

• There followed some graphic descriptions of how these infections can manifest—which seemed bad enough until mention was made of certain body parts needing cauterization, etc….at which point, I will now desist.

• I mentioned that both of my older sons had heard the message loud and clear in their school health classes and had quoted, more than once, the ominous statistic that 25% of American women between the ages of 18 and 25 have or have had an STD infection. Not true, we learned.

“It is now 35%, and that is based on the ones that are reported. This type of thing is usually under-reported.” Nice.

• National Health Board-I haven’t been paying enough attention, being a rather shameless approach-avoidant type, but evidently this new gorgon is part of President Obama’s Health Care program which, sorrowfully, has come to pass. It is always easier to get into a mess than to get out of one, and that is no less true here. In fact, I think only a resiliently salient temperament will maintain that there can be any turning back once the juggernaut launches. Among changes we should expect:

o Online patient records. “Did you know that doctors have been offered an incentive--$40-60K—to have their patient records put online? People don’t know this. But it is true.” Evidently, he was recently at a townhall meeting and mentioned this; constituents were unaware. Then, our district’s federal representative, who was present and who had convened the meeting, corroborated the truth of this. Why would the government want everyone’s patient records online?”

Well, probably for no good reason, but I would guess so they can know everyone’s business.

“It’s because then they are accessible to the National Health Board, who can see how often you’ve been seen and by whom. Then if you’ve been to see a doctor five times, say, they can tell you, ‘no more; you are done.’ Someone over here has seen no one for 5 years…so it all has to be evened out and rationed so that everyone gets the same number of visits” – apparently, details such as who has paid for health care become irrelevant. [Rationing?]

“And doctors will already have received this incentive money.”
Which probably buys some “loyalty” to the program, at least in some quarters. And there is more; but, for the moment, I am sufficiently discouraged.


24 May 2010

[Andy Rooney voice] Have you ever wondered how sometimes the news you’ve been waiting to hear can creep in so quietly that it barely registers at first?

Maybe it’s a matter of too many kettles whistling on the range at the same time…maybe it’s a function of too much water under the bridge or atrophied attention span…it really doesn’t matter, because answers are answers, even when they don’t hit you over the head.

This was our answer this morning as Ben and I sat in Dr. B’s office: “Well, what should I do with you? You don’t have diabetes now. You see here, your A1C is 5.5 [needs to be 6 or above for DM1 diagnosis]and that means you don’t have diabetes.”

So we’re all done?

“Yes, I don’t think I need to send you to anyone else, because you no longer have diabetes. You had stress diabetes. “

The diabetes part of Ben's journey has run from January 2009 until, officially, today, May 2010. He's had no insulin for 10 months, since July 2009.

When we got home, the kids and I sat in the living room and bowed our heads before the Lord to thank Him, and praise Him with lifted hands, for being Ben’s Healer and our never-changing Rock.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Momentary Musing...


The sun is shining, and today is a better day. I just returned from some pre-graduation stealth in surreptitiously dropping off absconded items from Ben's room to be arranged in a shadow box by one of his bosses at Perfect Frame...there is more to this reconnaissance mission than one might think...

Then, off to his soon-to-be alma mater to turn in four photographs to be used in the PowerPoint presentation that is flashed up during the commencement ceremony as each graduate crosses the platform to receive the coveted diploma...

These are days of worldwide stress and turmoil, quite a bit of it--it seems to me--unprecedented.

Thus, I was struck by the sense of peace and thankfulness that came over me as I walked the halls of Ben's and Alina's high school. Nowhere is perfect. As with most (if not all) of life down here, educational choices -if they exist at all- are often choices between relative better and worse. It is cliche to mention how very much different today's high school experience is from what Mr. H. and I remember.

But my just-completed trek to the high school office was a reminder that our kids have been privileged to be in a good place; not perfect, but much better than some. There are no policeman present, no postings or policies that are objectionable to our values and principles. Students and staff seem at ease...

This was a good thing to be reminded of.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Truly, It's Painless...

OK, gentle readers...just a mild warning...this has not been a good day for your faithful correspondent...

Worry not, I will spare you from any hideous details or ear-burning rants...but I cannot help put pose this query: What is it with men and PHONEBOOKS????

Twice in one day (that being, today) I have been placed in a disadvangateous position because certain males seem not to be acquainted with the concept of telephone directories. For any one who needs to know, these are annually distributed, carefully compiled lists of various businesses (not to mention residences) and even--gasp--professional offices! and their corresponding phone numbers. Who knew?!?

The paper versions are not exactly high-tech but they remain very effective ways of learning phone numbers, and they are even free! I may need to check with a sociologist about this, but I will go out on a limb and say, to the best of my knowledge, consulting a phonebook...i.e., perusing with your own eyes and letting your very own "fingers do the walking" ... does not in any way diminish a man's virility, masculine prowess or mystique [wait, the mystique thing is a feminine facet...Venus and Mars, or is the other way around?)

ANYway, use of a phonebook is a useful and gender-neutral practice...not like eating quiche or *shudder* asking for directions...

With a bow to the old Midas Muffler television commercials, I say, "Yah PHONEBOOK!!! Use it!!!"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

What nationally recognized 'holiday' [as opposed to 'holy day'] carries more potentially positive AND negative emotional payload that this day to honor mothers?

Thank you to my mom, who brought me forth and nurtured me, doing better for me than was done for her, and to my mother-in-law, who reared a wonderful husband for me...

If it is true that the most intense blessings also can carry the sharpest pain [and I'm maintaining there's a strong possibilty of that], than Mother's Day is, indeed, the celebration du jour...

I'm thankful not only for my husband, five children, and family-of-origin heritage, but also for the sisters in Christ who held my hand and whose hands I held this morning; the hugs I received and gave; my husband's handkerchief when the tear wells overflowed and wouldn't stop; the empathy of sister-moms' hurting but hopeful hearts...and especially for the promise of Psalm 138:8..."The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me"...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Heading Into the Home Stretch...

Not often does one get the chance to capture an image that illustrates a life milestone both literally and figuratively...but I'm claiming that for this image...

It is Ben heading into the straightaway on the Christian Life oval track during a recent home track meet. If I do say so, this is not too shabby of a shot taken with my little digital Olympus at standard speed, and without a fast-speed option.

I'm getting an enlargement made for Mr. Bill's is, for us, an eloquent illustration of answered prayer and God's healing power as we prepare to launch BENJAMIN, "the son of the right hand."

Sweater in ICU!

Bonjour, gentle readers...

Today's post is actually more of a 'condition report', such as I used to give in a previous life when I worked in the Community Relations department of a local hospital that context, newspapaper, TV, and radio reporters would call to get the 'condition' of certain patients who were connected to news stories, and I had to find out if the patient was in 'good', 'critical', or whatever the other condition options were....I kind of think they don't do this anymore, probably for liability reasons...I think all they say now is 'stable'...

Well, today's patient is the handknit sweater over which I've labored these many weeks in my Intermediate Knitting class through the local community college. It has been an excellent class, and I am actually completing a garment (for only the second time in my life!) But, said sweater is now on life support as I have totally messed up my sleeve attachment (see photos);

Cause of injury: insufficient understanding of exactly how to do a Two-Needle Bind-off.

Exacerbated by: spine-chilling panic that my entire garment would immediately unravel at warp speed if I somehow did not arrest this row of vulnerable stitches...

Action taken: desperate attempt to avoid sweater annhilation by means of severely inexpert whip stitching...

Current condition: life support seems to be the only available option, at this point...

Prognosis: Uncertain...

Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heads Up! It's Not a Game

Well, dear readers, [if indeed the plural form is not an exaggeration here], you can't say these Percolator blog posts ['Yeah, my mom thinks she's a coffee pot...']are too homogeneous...they are probably nothing if not diverse.

So, from the innocent content of children at a symphony concert [my just-previous post], I delve once again -- briefly -- into another layer of the underbelly that constitutes our cultural milieu...which, of course, is now defined as "global."

As I have mentioned before, please feel free to take a pass on any installments here that seem just too discouraging...and this might be one.

But, as a 'prehistoric' parent who too often is left in the dust when it comes to current techno-culture, I offer this as an advance warning...or, if this is not news to you, consider providing me with additional useful information of this ilk [I mean, ick!]

I am talking about yet another internet website that is blazing new trails in the cyber-world of social networking. It's called Chatroulette [as in 'chat' and roulette wheel--isn't that charming?]and evidently has gone 'viral' in terms of its popular growth, particularly among teenagers.

The following is a copy and paste excerpt from my source here, the London Daily Mail:


"It's the fast-growing, latest fad among teenagers - a quick and easy way to communicate online with people from all over the world.

"It works literally like roulette. Users log on, press a big button labelled 'Next' and it then randomly connects you to any one of a number of people across the world currently logged on. The gimmick is the fact that all of the users have webcams - so they can 'meet' the random strangers...

"...It was the idea of 17-year-old Russian schoolboy Andrey Ternovskiy. He launched it in November last year and his business quickly grew virally from 50 users to 50,000 in its first month.

"One million people now visit it each day. However, what may have started as the innocent game of a Moscow schoolboy has quickly become a potential tailor-made portal for perverts and paedophiles - proving once again that the internet is putting the lives of our vulnerable teenagers in jeopardy.

"The images I encountered were shockingly pornographic, and it disturbs me profoundly to think that my 16-year-old has been exposed to them, even if she does have the street smarts to move swiftly on if she encounters anything unseemly...

"...The site is little more than a haven for exhibitionists and voyeurs...

"...It's not a game, it's porn, and pornography is addictive, corrosive and promotes unhealthy sexual stereotypes and behaviour for girls and boys. It undermines dignity and respect for others by making sexual intimacy into little more than a spectator sport without love, commitment or responsibility."

So, there you have it. I used to like to think that 'forewarned is forearmed'...but I'm less convinced of that now. It seems more likely that the devolution of modern culture has achieved warp speed, and it is virtually impossible to stay either warned or armed.

I'll close here with a couple fundatmental truths [at least this is how I see it]:

(1) Parental vigilance will always be tiring and discouraging; but it is never unnecessary. What is, perhaps, most unnerving is how very early in life young children can stumble upon, or be goaded into, finding these sites. In some ways, they're another extension of the 'reality show' craze, only taken to a new, more personal level--one that redefines or even negates the concept of 'intrusion.'

(2) It is more crucial than ever before (IMHO)to try to instill a biblical 'values filter' into children to help them not only own a sense of morality, but also to help them apply it, by developing appropriate criteria that, coupled with convictions, can allow them to recognize harmful, devaluing content quickly and, thus, exit such sites.

(3) Let's keep reminding each other that no matter how vast and deep the morass becomes, God is bigger still. When we belong to Him, we are indeed indwelt by His Spirit--a limitless, undefeatable source Who is both eternal and victorious.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Dash of Culture

After seemingly endless weeks of keeping their little charges’ noses to the grindstone, and busy pink hands clenched around those battle-worn yellow No.2s, the wise [or at least adventuresome] parent/teacher may find it helpful to change things up with a field trip…

Such was my strategy this past Friday when the Hollidayettes and I embarked on a journey to the center of Downtown Rockford. I must confess at the outset that I entered this episode no longer a ‘greenhorn.’ Nope, I’m a veteran field trip mom, and know all too well that Certain Resident 12-Year-Olds have absolutely no use for field trips of any kind unless weapons, warfare, and ordnance play the starring role. I will refrain from recounting just how I learned this…be glad.
However, this field trip definitely did not ‘pass muster’ [sorry for the pun…too little self control on my part] in this regard, so I Anticipated and Prepared.
Dinner Conversation the night before…

Mom: Oh, just as a reminder, John, Cecily and I are going to the Rockford Symphony tomorrow for the Youth Concert, and I KNOW—

John: *eyes already beginning to orbit*

Mom: --that this is not exactly EVERYone’s cup of tea…

Miss Cee: What KIND of tea?

Alina: Cecily: It’s just an expression…

Mom: HowEVER, *meaningful look shot to the Patriarch* it is important to be open to new experiences, especially one as special as this! Don’t you agree, John?

John: *suddenly losing altitude in his kitchen chair* Yeah, whatever…

Mom: NO, NOT ‘whatever’! This is taking time and money, and doesn’t happen that often…and we are Going and will have a respectful attitude. You don’t have to enJOY it…you DO have to behave!!!

Dad: Are we clear on this, John?

John: *unconvincing shoulder shrug* Why is everyone looking at me?!?!

Ben: Gee, I can’t imagine….

Mom: Because you have been known to morph into a bona fide EEYORE on field trips that don’t have to do with shooting people, and that will NOT be acceptable. Do you read me? Ben, you making silly faces at your brother is not helping matters…

Miss Cee: BEN-NEEE!

Finally satisfied that the message had been relayed and receive [not to say, “accepted”], we eventually tucked in for the night and woke to the new day…

After making it downtown with no wrong turns (!!!), and actually finding a slot in the parking deck, we trotted out into the damp and chilly breeze to wend our way up four blocks to the illustrious Coronado Theatre.

Miss Cee: Wow! This is just like New York!!!

John: YOU’VE never been to New York, Cecily, so don’t talk so big!

Miss Cee: Well, but I know what it’s like!

Mom: Well, I’ve been in downtown Manhattan, and actually, this is pretty small potatoes in comparison. You can’t even see the top of the skyscrapers there…and it is much busier and noisier

Miss Cee: Um, I think THIS is pretty noisy…

And sure enough, as if on cue, we heard a retching sound and cast our innocent eyes across the street in time to see a homeless person throwing up into the municipal trash can. Nice.

Seriously, the Coronado Theatre is quite a place. Not for no reason is it now on the List of Historic Landmarks. It is an old downtown theatre that has been restored to its former vintage glory and more…and very much worth a look-see.

Upon reaching our destination, it seemed apparent that every school child in the Midwest had also decided to come to the Coronado for the Youth Concert. There were swarms and swarms of stir-crazy kids and beleaguered looking adults wearing lanyards and ID badges. This was the first show letting out…we were there for the second of the two performances. It reminded me of the old circus act where an impossible number of clowns keep pouring forth out of a miniature car.

Once inside, we mounted the ornate staircases to the dizzying heights of the lower balcony and settled in. Or at least as settled as hundreds of grade schoolers ever get. “After what seemed like an eternity,” to use the cliché, the house lights went down, the concertmistress came out, and it occurred to everyone to applaud. It started feeling like a Real Concert was imminent!

And, indeed, it was. In short order, Stephen Larsen, the RSO conductor, stepped out and addressed the noisy throngs. What we were about to hear was the famed series of Mussorgsky movements, “Pictures at an Exhibition.” After explaining the occasion and inspiration leading to this composition, Maestro Larsen explained that the vast slide show projected behind the orchestra was comprised of photos and chromatic visual studies taken by professional photographers in and around Rockford to illustrate or in some way correlate with the various musical passages we heard.

With that, he thanked us all for coming and wished us a Good Morning of musical enjoyment, to which many hundreds of little voices called back, “Good MOOOOOOORRRRRning!!!”

Except for my seat mate; without batting an eye, Miss Cee lifted her self-assured little chin and [of COURSE I’m not making this up!] called out, “GOOD MOOOORRRRNING, DUDE!!!”

Clearly there is a bit of work left to do in the music appreciation conduct part of her education. Who dropped the ball on this one???

The concert and slide show were extremely well turns, thought-provoking, whimsical, ponderous…an especially memorable segment was a speeded up series of tiny children, dressed as chicks in eggshells who seemed to scurry back and forth across the screen as woodwinds mimicked chirping sounds.

There was one brief moment of alarm when M. Larsen explained that an upcoming musical passage had been inspired by a Russian fable about a ‘baba’ [evidently Polish for ‘old lady’]or witch who ate children! Two round, blue, and significantly alarmed eyes turned on me: “Are they REALLY going to show a witch eating children?!?!”

Well, no, but it might not be a bad thing if the fear of it silenced a few of the noisier attendees behind us…just sayin.’ [Note to self: always remember that no matter how many times the audience is coaxed or warned, there will ALWAYS be at least one inane mother who will insist on bringing her colicky baby to the performance…and said child will miraculously synchronize the volume of his shrieks with the output of the timpani…it’s a law of physics.]

But, in general, all went well, and it was a very worthwhile excursion. And of course, our school created its own special memory there when one of the first grade boys “accidentally” found his chewing gum plummeting down from the balcony to bless an unsuspecting concertgoer below.

We can only hope that the guilty are kept anonymous so that we may, someday, return.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Car Cosy

I must admit, I am really enjoying my Intermediate Knitting Class (every Saturday for 10 weeks, through the local community college), but this surpasses any aspirations I have ever entertained...


My Knitting Teacher: This is hilarious!

John: What? WHAT? Are you serious? Wow....that is...

Cecily: Awesome!! Can YOU do that, Mommy?

John: I'd say that lady has too much time on her hands...and, anyway, I don't think you can actually drive it...


Imagine your Faithful Correspondent, drifting up from the depths of somnolence this morning...the windows are closed, so there is no lilting chirp of busy robins to herald the start of a fresh, new day...

No, instead, I reach complete consciousness as the following exchange becomes too loud to ignore...

[Salient information: Regrettably, John recently lost his prized Nintendo DS handheld game...I think this was once known as a GameBoy, but that is SO passe! Annoyingly, Miss Cee has Her Own Personal DS, which she doesn't hesitate to play with in front of John. In fairness, she sometimes allows him to use it, mainly to discern how he achieves higher levels in the game...but, alas, her inherently mercurial temperament means that one never knows when she might be coaxed into a Sharing Mood.]

JOHN: Cecily! That's not fair! You said I could...

MISS CEE: *imagine Smug Smirk*

JOHN: [threateningly] If you don't share...I'm going to get MOM!!!

MISS CEE: *imagine Smug Shrug*

[Momentary inaudible verbal skirmish...]

MISS CEE: [singing] Take ME out to the BALL game, Take MEE out--

JOHN: [more threateningly] CECILY!!! Stop singing!!!!!!!!!

MISS CEE: --to the--

JOHN: [now sputtering] Cecily...

MISS CEE:--show!--Owww! This is MY DS!

JOHN: I'm ALMOST at the next level...

MISS CEE: I'M playing now.

JOHN: OK, get OUT!

MISS CEE: No! [impossibly high-pitched giggle]

*sounds of alternatly playful and ominous tussling*

MISS CEE: Oweeeee!

JOHN: Eeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeee...

MISS CEE: can't get me...

JOHN: Hey, Cecily...I'll let you play with my gerbils....

*Imagine tiny, fragile gerbils quaking with fear*

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not Again!


The nether regions [substitue *-*-double-toothpicks] hath no fury like Miss Cee thwarted yet again!

Who would dare go where angels fear to tread, you ask?!

I will give only a broad description, in order to activate the Witness Protection Program for Dire Cases...

The moronic culprit is one of the local drive-through coffee bar franchises which has now -- twice consecutively!-- failed to deliver. It gets worse...on each of these two occasions, I, the HRA [Hapless Responsible Adult] have asked and ascertained that said establishment did indeed have blueberry muffins available. Further, I have ordered one such pastry for my IC [Insistent Consumer].

Only to come away from the drive-thru window with a latte (not always the correct size), but SANS MUFFIN!!!

Are you kidding me? Do they not know with WHOM they are dealing? Or, more precisely, into WHOSE disappointed busy pink hands they are delivering me? Is there not a Geneva Convention that covers this type of egregious infraction? Call Secretary Clinton, asap!!

Last time, I explained to the questionably competent window attendant that she had shorted me a muffin.

"Oh, you ordered a muffin?"

Um, yes. Actually, my Hard-to-Ignore Passenger ordered it. She's the one whose teeth are now gleaming in your security mirror.

"I don't think I charged you for that...would you like me to ring up another transaction?"

Dilemma: I could all but feel the imaginary pistol barrel boring in on one of my thoracic vertebrae. At the same time, there appeared to be a startlingly long queue of caffeine-deprived drivers behind me...

"I guess I'll get it next time..." I wimped out.

As I eased out of the drive-thru, I pleaded for clemency and desperately anted up with a promise of Wendy's for lunch (on which I delivered! I know when not to press my luck...)

If only the same could be said for The Establishment Which Shall Remain Anonymous.

Fast-forward to this morning. Having broken through my previously impenetrable wall of slothfulness (exacerbated by my current quest to achieve a nightly somnolent state without benefit of Lunesta....which, I just discovered, costs $7.50 per pill!!!...but that is another post) this morning by going to the health club at 5:40 this morning (applause is appreciated), I decided it would be Effective Positive Reinforcement to get myself a 'skinny latte' after dropping Ben off at track practice...

"Good morning! Welcome to ***[our name is mud]*** What can I get for you?"

Do you have any blueberry muffins this morning?

"Um, yes, we have two left."

I'll take one of those, please. And a whip.

"Thank you! Please pull ahead to the window!!"

Of course, I think it is always suspect, and no doubt part of the problem, that the owner of the chirpy sing-song voice just quoted never seems to be the same person who takes your payment and hands over the goods. In my haste to hoist that first sip, and with the burgeoning queue again in my rearview mirror, I pulled out...only to realize the Absence of the Muffin. Check the, I was not charged for it...check the length of the least six more vehicles...clearly this aversion to muffin-selling is not advsersely affecting their business...ha! it adversely affects MY business!!!

Back at home, I try to conceal my cup as I enter the kitchen...but the glinting eagle eye has already spied it.

"Hi, Mommy! I see you went to ***[their name is mud]*** did you get me a blueberry muffin?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Steeling myself, I recount the sorry saga.

"Well! I think we need to go there and say HEY!!!! WE REALLY, REALLY WANT JUST ONE BLUEBERRY MUFFIN!!!!!!!!!! Oh, and a CUPPA COFFEE!!!!"

I guess you just have to know how to put it to them....[to be continued]....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Which is More Heinous?

Caveat: If you are a person of humane sensibility, you might do best to ignore this post. If, for any reason, you feel the need to stay informed about new depths in the devolution of modern global culture, you may want to read on. Of course, the very question of how much one "needs" to know probably depends on one's personal definition and tolerance...

Excerpted in its entirety from earlier today...

"Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- The game begins with a teenage girl on a subway platform. She notices you are looking at her and asks, 'Can I help you with something?'

"That is when you, the player, can choose your method of assault.

"With the click of your mouse, you can grope her and lift her skirt. Then you can follow her aboard the train, assaulting her sister and her mother.

"As you continue to play, 'friends' join in and in a series of graphic, interactive scenes, you can corner the women, rape them again and again.

"The game allows you to even impregnate a girl and urge her to have an abortion. The reason behind your assault, explains the game, is that the teenage girl has accused you of molesting her on the train. The motive is revenge.

"When does a video game go too far?

"It is little wonder that the game, titled RapeLay, sparked international outrage from women's groups. Taina Bien-Aime helped yank the game off store shelves worldwide.

"'This was a game that had absolutely no place on the market,'" said Taina Bien-Aime of women's rights organization Equality Now which has campaigned for the game to be taken off the shelves.

"But the controversy that led to stopping sales of the game instead took it viral.

"That was how Lucy Kibble and Jim Gardner in Britain heard about it.

"'I think the idea that you can do it by wholesale banning is just never going to work anyway because we downloaded it for free off the Internet,'" Gardner said.

"In the case of RapeLay, he was right. It is still readily available on dozens of Web sites, sometimes for free.

"'What happened to RapeLay is an example', said Bien-Aime, of why Japan needs to police game makers.

"'It's obviously very difficult to curtail activity on the Internet. But the governments do have a role in trying to regulate this sort of extreme pornography of children, both in their countries, and through the Internet ,'" she said, adding that they were calling for the Japanese government "'to ban all games that promote and simulate sexual violence, sexual torture, stalking and rape against women and girls. And there are plenty of games like that.' "

"Those games are known as 'hentai games.' Almost all feature girlish-looking characters. Some of the games are violent -- depicting rape, torture and bondage in detail.

"Step into a game shop in Akihabara, Japan's electronics district, and hentai games are readily available. In minutes, we found a game similar to RapeLay. The object here is also revenge: Find and rape the woman who fired the player from his imaginary job. Along the way, the player can rape a number of other girls and women.

"Hentai games are not new to Japan. This country has long produced products the rest of the world would call pornographic. But before the arrival of the Internet, such items stayed in Japan. Now, once a game goes on sale in Tokyo, it is digitized and shared everywhere.

"Japan does have censorship laws for sexual content. In games and videos, genitalia are obscured, even if it is animated. But Japan's laws do not restrict the themes and ideas of the games.

"A national law that would make possession of real and virtual images of child porn illegal is under discussion, but no serious legislation has moved forward in Japan's parliament.

"CNN contacted the Gender Equality Promotion Division in the Gender Equality Bureau of Japan's Cabinet Office, which is charged with handling the hentai gaming issue.

"Despite repeated calls over a period of weeks, no representative from the government office would comment to CNN on camera. The office refused to make a statement on paper. A spokeswoman would only say over the telephone that the Japanese government was aware that the games were a problem and it was checking to see if self-policing by the gaming industry was enough.

"A member of the Institute of Contents Culture, who did not want to give CNN his name, said restricting game themes limits freedom of expression.

"'In my opinion, RapeLay's storyline went too far. However, if a game creator wants to express something and create content out of it, a government or public entity shouldn't have the power to restrain it.'"

"Lucy Kibble and Jim Gardner, the gamers in Britain, said trying to control games on the Internet was futile and that content control was up to parents.

"'The idea of banning it, or telling people what they can and can't do just because on the off chance some kid might get involved with it is just ridiculous,' said Gardner."

So, here's my question: Which is more heinous?...the fact that human beings, all brought into the world by means of female childbirth, would design, produce, market, and profit by such vileness? Or the fact that there are those who not only defend the existence and marketing of such products, but who even denigrate any impulse to thwart the spread of same? Have we reached the point that absolutely NOTHING trumps 'freedom of expression?'

And if so, in my view, nothing blots out the guilt inherent to such a notion. Haul out all the 'old saws' you want; the fact remains that we are not animals, we are not descended from primates, and that, as eternal beings, we are ultimately accountable in ways that no other form of life is. Try using the 'freedom of expression' argument at THAT Interview-the one that will take place for each of us at the threshold of eternity...good luck with that.

The Plumb Line: "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God game them over to a depraved mind...and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." [Romans 1: 28,32,selected]