Odds and Ends Again

Yesterday’s guest speaker for my church’s “insight service,” the principal of Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys, was much more interesting than I had expected. The speaker, Steve Straessle, offered both a polished delivery and an engaging message. His topic, “Awakened Youth: Engaging the Generations,” offered some thought-provoking ideas about encouraging young people to be engaged with the world around them. A point he made repeatedly was that kids should be given opportunities to think and do for themselves, rather than having everything delivered to them. Parents (and teachers, etc.) who think and act for kids instead of expecting kids to think for themselves are doing the children a disservice. Straessle mentioned his school’s policy surrounding “stuff” left at home; parents are prohibited from bringing forgotten lunches, homework, etc. to school. Students are expected to figure out how to deal with such matters; Straessle stressed that kids need to be given the opportunity to develop their own problem-solving skills. I was surprised to learn that the Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys has a significant percentage of non-Catholic students. The more I learned about the school, the more convinced I became that the school’s curricula, even the religious curricula, are likely to be invaluable to students as they develop their own problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Hmm. Who knew?


My used copy of Gretel Ehrlich’s The Solace of Open Spaces arrived in the mail a few days ago. I have not opened it yet and probably won’t for weeks to come. Many other books sit on my desk or on my shelves, unread or incompletely read, awaiting a sudden change in my outlook that will prompt me to voraciously consume books as greedily as I consume food. For reasons I attribute mostly to my imperfect eyesight, I haven’t been reading much of late; I stick to my computer screen, which is easier to read that the books that await me. I still haven’t made a happy and comfortable transition to Kindle-like devices in lieu of paper books. Another book I have picked up several times, only to put down when I get sidetracked by mundane stuff that interferes with more pleasurable pursuits, is a non-fiction book, Kings of Texas by Don Graham. A friend who knows my early years were spent in South Texas lent me the book; he rightfully assumed I would find the subject of the book (the King Ranch and its environs and the history thereof) intriguing. I need to focus my attention on reading. But almost all of my free time of late has been directed toward matters involving reading two houses for a move. I am so very, very ready for that process to come to a happy, relaxing end.


I’ve had Last Tango in Halifax on my watch list for quite some time, but until recently it did not make it to the top. My sister-in-law—the one who lives in Mexico—recommended it to me ages ago. Only after a friend repeatedly urged me to give the series a try did we give it a go; we started watching it just a few nights ago. Last night, we finished watching episode 6 of the first season. I am hooked on the series. The fact that the series features one of my favorite British actresses (Nichola Walker) in a starring role had something to do with my interest in including it on my watch list. Once I started watching, critics’ rave reviews about the series’ acting, storyline, and various other attributes made sense; it’s a fine piece of work.

Other viewing experiences of late have not been as enjoyable. Wheelman, for example, was an absolute waste of time; I am embarrassed to have had the program on any screen in my house. And In the Dark, though not horrible, did not grab me; although we did watch five episodes of the program before veering into quality (Last Tango…).   It occurs to me that I could have been reading instead of watching television series and films; but, of course, it is easier to sit and be entertained than to sit and participate in the process by engaging one’s eyes and imagination. Consuming books require more creative energy that does consuming video entertainment. It is time I stretch my creative-energy-muscles more aggressively.


Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.

   ~ Leon Trotsky ~


Several nights of  reasonably long and restful sleep came to an end last night; it was a dramatic departure from those nice, long periods of sleep. An unhappy return to insomnia. I woke just after 2, following a few hours of inadequate sleep and only moderate rest. After getting up for half an hour or so, I tried again to sleep, only to give up around 3:30. Some restless nights coincide with moderate levels of creativity; not so this night. I’ve tried, to no avail, to engage my mind in a way that would enable me to write creatively. My creativity seems buried under layers of anxiety and related emotional upheavals. However, I did have some (maybe one?) dreams before I woke. I remember only one with any level of precision; a friend came through a door into the room I occupied and asked me to help her put on her socks. She was full dressed, including a heavy coat, except her feet were bare. While I was pulling her socks over her feet, her husband came through the same door and stood nearby. He, too, was dressed in winter clothes but he wore no shoes nor socks. Though he did not say anything, it was obvious to me that he was in line for me to help with his socks, too. I remember nothing more; I do not remember whether I ever managed to help him with his socks.


Wisdom follows loss.
Loss is the greatest teacher;
knowledge born of pain.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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