The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

28 January 2012

Like a stone

This song has a great line:  You wore me out like an old winter coat.

22 January 2012

Of politics and flair

My sister (known in other posts as Mama Nut) and I just had a political discussion.  American politics, in fact.

The discussion was not unusual - we often talk politics and world events over the remains of the latest meal.  The topic is not always so lofty, for we are equal opportunity gabsters; so celebrity on dits are just as frequently hashed over (did you know Beyonce and Jay Z named their little girl Blue Ivy?)

Tonight's theme was about the need for passion and honesty in public life.  Not amorous passion, you understand, but rather conviction in what you stand for, and campaigning with what you believe in, rather than what opinion polls suggest you should be saying.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty tired of vetted and tested position statements - not to mention the approved red or blue ties according to party allegiance. Where's the flair rather than the fear of offending? Where is the fire to serve instead of the hunger for power or prestige?  If a candidate doesn't really believe ethanol is the answer to the energy question, why talk it up as if it were his most dearly held ambition to make every vehicle ethanol burning because he's shaking hands and kissing babies in Iowa?

Clearly we had the answers to all things and managed to solve the problems of the world in a short 30 minute conversation.  Should the leaders of the free world need advice and guidance, we can be reached here, at The Lighthouse. We're offering our insights for free.

20 January 2012

Back in the day we had phonics

Working in schools as I do, I have frequent occasion to reflect back on my own school days. Rather more frequent than most people who have left blackboards and detention far behind.

Schools sure have changed since my day. For one thing, it's whiteboards now (with high-inducing markers) or futuristic smartboards. Technicalities of teaching technology aside, I am - at last - grateful I grew up when I did... waterfall bangs and all.  We wore our very best jeans to school dances, where the girls, assembled in large circles according to clique, shuffled their feet back and forth from side to side. When truly moved by a song (such as Steve Winwood's Higher Love) we would snap our fingers. At the first strains of a slow song, girls would travel in packs to the washrooms, and boys would peel themselves away from the wall they'd been holding up, hoping to intercept a girl seperated from her herd.

These days, an ordinary school day requires the assembly of paparazzi-ready outfits fully accessorized with professional level hair and makeup. I blanch at the thought of what a Friday night dance would warrant!  No two-foot shuffle for the modern student, either - these kids have been to the school of Beyonce and Bieber where hours of perfecting the steps are necessary.

As for the classroom, teachers today have to contend with mobile devices, helicopter parenting, precocious sexuality, diseases disabilities and disorders, attitude, broken homes, the fallout of overly involved Ministries of Education, and the age of rights and freedoms.  In my day, orientation had to do with a map and a compass, and gender was clear cut.

I don't envy teachers at all.  With their plates full of issues, who has time for phonics?

16 January 2012

Words are powerful

I entered the Church post Vatican II during the “Jesus is our friend” era of the 80s. Religion classes in Canadian schools focused on anthropological questions like what footwear was popular in biblical times, and our spiritual life was addressed by memorizing the Lord’s Prayer.  The first has been useful when it comes to the annual Passion Play; the latter has stood me in good stead every day since my conversion. As a method of religious formation, however, this curriculum was seriously deficient in encouraging a relationship with God, or fostering a love for the rich beauty of our faith.

Unfortunately the parishes I attended after that, though full of wonderful people and shepherded by sincere priests, did not inspire me to delve any further into the depths of Catholicism.  The buildings were rather bland, the music often trite, and the homilies made us feel good rather than challenge us to strive for holiness. Don’t get me wrong: I loved being Catholic and enjoyed going to Mass on Sunday.  For a long time I didn’t even realize I was missing out on the real meat of the faith, that I was still subsisting on milk and bread.

Later on as a young adult, I was fortunate to find a parish that offered instruction and formation.  There, I went on to learn about salvation history, the sacraments, doctrine, doctors of the church, lives of the saints, liturgy, tradition, and so on. A whole new world was opened to me in which I discovered that Catholicism is vibrant, rich, and relevant.

And yet. Though I’ve grown in knowledge and spiritual maturity, I don’t think I ever entirely let go of the notion of ‘Jesus: my brother, my friend’ fostered by what I call Wind Tunnel Jesus, or Surfer Dude Jesus.  You know those pictures of Jesus from the 70s and 80s, either as the Risen Christ with arms outstretched and hair blown back, or as a gentle and loving bearded friendly man done in pastels?  That man was our friend, our brother -- a kinder and gentler version of Mr. Smith who teaches kindergarten and also has a beard. Those seeds of “Jesus: just like you and me” were planted deep. The notion of a teaching so radical it changed the world and a sacrifice so great it saved the world was hard to accept as absolute truth.

Much of the language of the Mass further encouraged me to acknowledge the humanity of Jesus over His divinity. The prayers were littered with images of friendship and brotherhood. Revised hymns celebrated the people in the pews rather than the great majesty of God.

Then, on the Sunday of Epiphany, came the words of Eucharistic Prayer I, “... when supper was ended, He took this precious chalice in His holy and venerable hands...”  There, in my pew, I had one of those surreal movie moments where my vision telescoped and I’m sure I even felt the earth jolt under my feet. In plain English, two words elevated my friend the wind surfing Jesus, to a sacred realm, because He lifted the chalice in His holy and venerable hands.

What I knew in my mind -- that the Mass makes present the great sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ, Son of God – became present to me in that moment. As Father duplicated the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper and spoke the words of consecration, I could feel their truth, the weight of their significance.  Holy and venerable.

The good intentions of making elements of our faith accessible are now being tempered with restoring glory, majesty, and mystery into the language of the liturgy. I hope to see the same initiative happen in the vocabularies of church architecture, sacred art, hymns, and (especially) RCIA programs.

Words are powerful.

14 January 2012


Isn’t it convenient that when someone in a movie or on tv is conducting surveillance, the person they are surveilling performs the vital actions in front of a window?

I was able to watch a little footie today.  My boys in red and black took on some Wanderers and beat them 3-0.  Well done Manchester United!  Even better, Paul Scholes, came out of retirement at the age of 37 to score the first goal of the match -- his 103rd League goal for the club.  What I like about him, other than his talent as great midfielder, is that, Mancunian born and bred, he's been with United since the age of 14.  Good to see you back in the red and black kit, Mr. Scholes.  Today's perfection was topped off with Ryan Giggs also taking his place on the pitch.  Just like the good old days!

Number Two and Number Three Nephew are going to Britannia on holiday soon to visit the English branches of their family tree.  They're crossing an ocean!  It's hard to believe they're big enough to go so far away... but it's also hard to think of them being so far away being as little as they are.  I don't know how you parents do it, honestly I don't.

Confession time: I have an addiction.  I am totally, fully and completely hooked on Downton Abbey. Having to wait a whole week to find out if Slimy Thomas will get his comeuppance, or whether the Countess will finally clue in to the utter spite of O'Brien is almost more than I can bear.  And that's after having to wait months and months for series two to make its way to our shores from the Olde Worlde.  Is there a happy ending in store for Anna and her Mr. Bates?  Matthew will survive the war won't he, and surely he won't marry that blonde piece (to quote the oh so fabulous Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham). I can't wait, and honestly, having to go a week between episodes is a bit like knowing there is a chocolate cake out there but I only get one slice at a time.

Speaking of all this tv watching, what did people do before there was a boob tube?  I marvel at the idea of how much I could accomplish if only I didn't spend so much time in front of the box... or in front of this screen tapping away at the keys.  And I'm not even all that far gone!Do you see those stats that come out about how many hours a day some people devote to watching tv or playing video games?  Shocking.

This old (old?  it's all of 3 years old) portable laptop I use is not so much portable as a pain in the bottom these days.  The battery is good for about 5 minutes. The power cord doesn't fit in its doober anymore so it has to be put in at just the right angle, held in place just so under the corner leg of the computer.  The external speaker doesn't work either, unless the headphone cord is halfway in at a precise angle. So convenient.

I was recently linked to at a website called  After it happened, there was a spike (ever so brief) in the number of page views here at The Lighthouse. My first thought after seeing my name at was chagrin - something along the lines of "Oh crap! Now I have to be serious." I was embarrassed to have the nonsense I write about seen by serious Catholics.  That feeling soon faded, so don't worry, Reader dear, I shall continue to be as trivial as ever.

The last random item I'd like to share with you comes from my journal of a few days ago.  I had been reflecting during prayer that I was experiencing prompting to intercede like I used to years ago during a very spiritually intense time in my life.  After, I opened my bible randomly and it fell to Psalm 139:24
"And lead me in the ways of old." Isn't that cool?  I love how God does that.


"Four, I'm compleply done." Five to his older brother, mistaking the consonant.  He also says "I meed to find my socks" and, "the ninoceros is a big animal" I will really miss this when he gets his speech sorted out.

"I know the way home; me, the bat." Four, assuring me we were going to get home ok while we were out walking.  He was wearing his batman cape at the time.

"I can't find my leaf!"  Walking down a path through the woods completely covered with fallen autumn leaves, Four dropped the one leaf that was very special to him. Sad eyes implored me to help him, so we retraced our steps home in the attempt, with no success.  That was a terrible day.

"What on the earth?"  Don't you love it when they get grown up expressions wrong?

"Guess what you get to play with tomorrow?  Me!" Five preparing me for the delight that waited for me when his brothers went off to school the next day.

We like to walk the neighbourhood at night when the houses are all lit up with lights and Christmas decorations. Four and Five squealed in glee to each other when they saw two white, twinkly creatures in the lawn down the street from our house.  Look, said one to the other.  Look what they have: the Christmas pig and the Christmas goat!  (In fact a polar bear and reindeer.)

"Mama, do you know how to make a dolphin?" I overhear the most interesting things sometimes.

Five was sitting beside me one day when he seemed to develop a sudden and massive twitch. "Can you hear this?  Can you hear what's inside my head?"  (Shakes head vigorously from side to side)  "It sounds like a forcefield."

I'm going to share this story with you, but please don't be offended.  Keep in mind that this was said during Christmas when songs about button eyes black as coal, and coal left in shoes on St. Nicholas (St. Nicholas whose assistant is Black Peter) Mama and Papa Nut are God parents to a boy named Cole, so the name comes up during bedtime prayers every evening.  Four was cuddled in his daddy's arms one such evening as the boys went through the usual prayer routine: God bless Mommy and Daddy; God bless all the Brothers; God bless all the cousins; God bless ... and so on.  Then came Cole's turn, to which Four pipes in, "Cole... is he the black kid?"

Five was successfully potty trained many months ago.  Now begins the process of teaching him bathroom hygiene for full independence. (By which I mean to imply that we are still wiping his bum) He is still so sweet and squishable, not to mention well mannered so it really isn't a hardship. However, this House of Nuts does on occasion become... nutty, shall we say?  Poor Five will be sitting on a throne either upstairs or downstairs politely calling out "Somebody!  Somebody!  Can you please wipe my bum?"  On one such hectic and loud day, he was waiting for some time for someone to hear him.  When I finally clued in to the fact that what I was hearing was a cry for help, I couldn't figure out where the voice was coming from, so I was yelling at him to tell me where he was. When I finally tracked him down I told him he had to tell us where he was or we wouldn't know where to go.  From then on, this is what we hear, "It's me, Five.  I'm in the upstairs bathroom. I need help."

08 January 2012

The Inside

of my brain would be a scary place if it were exhibited for everyone to see.  For that reason (among others of a more cosmetic nature) I am grateful that my brain is not on public display.

I think of this often because of one of my favourite reread books - trilogy, actually - by Judith Tarr, called The Hound and the Falcon (The Isle of Glass; The Golden Horn; The Hounds of God) about a monk in the early 13th century who is more than he seems.  Alf was a foundling taken in by the monastery, but it isn't until much later in life that he learns the truth about who he is - one of the elven folk.  Does this stretch your imagination too far?  If fantasy isn't your thing, these may not be the books for you, but I'm entranced by Alf, a gentle and wise monk who finds himself taking part in the Fourth Crusade, trusted advisor of King Richard of England.  Tarr interweaves historical fact with an intriguing plot and fascinating characters - a combination I really enjoy.

Anyway; Alf is able to perceive the thought patterns of other people.  He sees the workings of their minds as though their thoughts were threads of a tapestry.  For example, his young friend Jehan has a very tidy, orderly, mind.  One of the bad guys has a mind like a black hole, while most people are more like the tangled back side of a tapestry, all knots and confusion.

That's what my brain feels like to me: tangled knots and confusion.  It doesn't help that when I try to sleep at night, I subject myself to obscure radio broadcasts of libertarian-type pundits like Lew Rockwell or Scott Horton (the latter from Antiwar Radio). They have turned my ideas about the reality of our society - politics, foreign policy, economics - on their ear.  The groundwork for this was laid a few years ago by an American friend who shared YouTube links with me about alternate history (unrevised history, as he insisted on calling it) in which the Second World War was unnecessary and the government was manipulating vast portions of our life.  He also told me about the Austrian School of Economics and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (their economic thought has to do with a market economy, private property, and sound money).  I didn't realize before this that there were different schools of thought when it came to the economy.  I thought the government was supposed to intervene, because... well, because that's what it did.

Those conversations with my friend really freaked me out.  My brain in those days would have looked like scrambled eggs pressed against one side of the frying pan in fear and trembling.  Then recently, when I was looking for something other than music to listen to at night to help me drift off to sleep, I stumbled on Antiwar Radio, and realized a whole lot of people out there think the same way as that American friend of mine.  I was intrigued to learn more about Libertarian ideology and I started to think about politics and world events in a different way.

I haven't become a radical anarchist, wanting to do away with government completely, but there is a fair bit of Libertarianism that is beginning to make sense to me, given the state of affairs, not just in the US, but in my country and most of Europe as well.  The monetary system is messed up, armed conflicts instigated by meddlesome third parties are dangerous and senseless, the lack of honour and - to use an overused word - transparency in politics is becoming dangerous.

Nevermind what the inside of my brain would look like to Alf the monk; what would the power centres of the world look like if we had the eyes to see what was really going on?

(Libertarianism is, loosely, a political philosophy valuing personal freedoms over state authority)

**  Addendum
The Republican Party of the United States is undergoing the process of nominating a new candidate to run against President Obama in the upcoming federal election. What an interesting field it is!  Thanks to Dr. Ron Paul, 12 time Congressman from Texas, the candidates are talking about the Constitution, about limiting the powers of government, decreasing the bureaucracy - not to mention the debt. I admire him for his boldness in calling politicians on their voting record, for addressing the dysfunction of Washington, and for proposing radical solutions.  It takes someone like him to effect real change rather than just bring in a different colour of tie to the same old suits in public office.
Some of the other candidates have promise as well. I can't predict who will eventually win the nomination, nor will I ever have the chance to vote for one, but watching the Republican debate in New Hampshire last night, I was electrified by this one moment from Newt Gingrich. As a Catholic, I wanted to shout "Hallelujah" from the rooftop when I heard these words come out of his mouth, and I am tempted to send this clip to every major news outlet in Canada, as well as a few politicos north of 49:

06 January 2012


I do a lot of complaining here, so it only seems fair that I be just as verbose when it comes to baring the good things, too.

Finances are rather tenuous at the moment.  In the words of Georgette Heyer, I'm rolled up, and could use a repairing lease. (I've mentioned recently that I'm seeking to make a change, work-wise, and until I get that sorted, my wallet has room to let)  I'm having fun, actually, exercising my Dutch inclination to guard my pennies, making them last as long as possible.  It's a challenge that offers satisfaction - I feel that I've won a victory when I resist the siren call of two-for-one cotton balls, remembering that I have half a bag still at home.

Satisfying though it may be, there are times when the red line comes too close and I can't help but worry a little. I know that I am called to trust in Providence - that if I am a a good steward of what I have, and seek to honour God with what I do, all will be well.  Not necessarily easy,but well.

Christmas brings its own financial challenges,and for me this year, particularly so.  I haven't been getting much work at my current job at all, and wondered if I would be able to meet a certain financial obligation.  So, yesterday, nervous and somewhat reluctant to learn the truth, I logged in to my employee account to see what my next pay cheque would bring.  The amount I will receive exactly matches the amount I have to pay.

Ask and you shall receive.

05 January 2012

A thousand words

This, my friends, is a portrait of Yours Truly as drawn by Number Five Nephew.  Actually, it might be a portrait of the two of us together, I'm not sure.  What I am sure of is that I love it... look how long my legs are! Apparently I'm also strong and agile, as the two of us might be doing one-armed lifts on a trapeze. Watch for us at the circus coming to a town near you.

The Other half

I've gone silent.

There is a military expression about silence that I can't remember exactly... operational silence, radio silence... ? Whatever. I have silence because my rational, communicative, aware brain isn't with me at the moment. It's gone underground.

This happens to me whenever I need to process something - a change, a decision, a brilliant insight. My introverted brain needs to deal with the data in seclusion and solitude, only sharing the result with the rest of my brain when it's good and ready to do so.  Sometimes that can take a long time.

Meanwhile I'm left out here wandering the world with half a brain. You know how people say, "I've half a mind to..."?  Well, that's what I'm operating with at the moment: half my mind.

I'm looking forward to the reunion.  I've sent out invitations, prepared nice activities for when we're together again, and made sure the place looks warm and welcoming to entice an early arrival. I'm worried that it's found a better home, one where it is fed fish oil, where a crossword puzzle a day keeps the Old Timer's away, and it isn't asked to recall inane lyrics of the 80s.

Has anyone seen my other half?