Thursday, May 22, 2014

Getting back into fiction writing

I'm still attempting to get back into fiction writing on a regular basis.  The school year is drawing to a close; my second oldest will finish high school in a few weeks (yay!); and it's time I started setting some real deadlines for my two outstanding projects.

So, of course, I've decided to add a third.

It's not another Smijj/Telmaj book, actually.  It's a not-yet-completed story that reads a bit like an alternative universe Regency romance, except that it features evil mermaids, kind-but-slightly-nerdy vampires, and a human girl in the midst of all the faintly Gothic weirdness.

My daughters love this manuscript.  They keep begging me to finish it and make it available through Create Space.  So, even though I need to have Book Three in the Tales of Telmaja series edited and available for sale by late fall at the latest, and even though I need to finish the manuscript of book five, I am also working on finishing the as-yet untitled mermaid/vampire book, with a deadline for the completion of the first draft that is completely ridiculous.

Which is a long way of saying that I'm taking a blog break.  Like most of my breaks, it won't be total silence; I'm sure I'll have things to say.  But for the next few weeks, I won't be posting anything like daily.  For those of you who read my blog daily, your patience, as always, is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The wicked pro-gay marriage culture of stupidity rolls on

So, yet another pathetic judge dreaming of immortality, or at least recognition, decides to toss out Pennsylvania’s sane, sensible definition of marriage in favor of a mishmash of nonsense and offensive rhetoric.  Nobody takes His (dis)Honor apart more satisfactorily than Joe Grabowski in his open letter to the idiot judge:
You see, Your Highness - er, rather, Your Honor ... or, well, which do you prefer? A careful reading of your recent decision leaves me in doubt - I am one of those who believes that the institution of marriage is fundamental to the health of society, and that the family founded upon the union of husband and wife is the sine qua non of a healthy public order. I also believe that the "first of the firsts" of our rights as citizens - the right to free exercise of religion - is most threatened today by attacks upon this institution. Yet you, in your decision issued yesterday, wrote that laws defending this institution should be "discard[ed]... into the ash heap of history.”
That was, by the way, a fabulous turn of phrase. Did you write it, or a clerk? I hope no overtime was spent on it, but I do know how evasive le mot juste can be and how easy to rationalize can be one's attempts in tracking it down. I note especially your careful avoidance of the more standard idiom - pardon me, but I can't help observing the fact, having a Masters in English myself - that you chose not to reference the "dust bin" but the "ash heap." Of course, to non-British readers, perhaps "the ash heap" registers more readily. Or perhaps did you intend something more? There have been, after all, those in history who have suggested that laws attested in Holy Writ be ultimately relegated to "the ash heap" - and perhaps you meant purposefully to ascend to their ranks? [...]
You write further in your decision that '[w]e as a people are better than what these laws represent" - with "these laws" referring to enactments such as Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996. Here, I'm afraid, I must beg to disagree. Saint Paul tells us that marriage between a man and a woman is a type of the relation which Christ has to His Church. Whether you agree with me that that Man was divine, you must certainly admit that there's a certain beauty to Saint Paul's assertion in this regard. Yet, as I look around the world today, I don't see that beauty reflected in marriage. Men and women don't seem to bear the same manner of commitment in approaching marriage as Christ bore on his way to the Golgotha. They don't seem to be willing to commit 'til death do them part, or to the sacrificial and self-giving love exemplified in Christ's outpouring on the Cross. They seem much more apt to prefer their own advancement, their own good, than the good of the other - to say nothing of the good of the only-as-yet-imagined others that might spring from their sexual union, their children. Sex is for their benefit first, and not ordered toward the good of others. And so when it results unexpectedly in a new life, it seems to be the case that often one or the other - and I'm ashamed to say, it is most usually the man - will run from the obligation implied in the act of depositing his or her seminal biological potential into an equation outside of his or her complete management. Thus, we have "dead-beat dads" and so many other social ills.
In the face of such problems, I am inclined to think that we need, if anything, to bolster the notion that sexual congress demands commitment, that responsibility to the consequences of one's sexual actions are demanded by the choice to engage in those actions. I am also inclined to think that we grow stronger as a society to the extent that men and women accept such responsibility and do not look at the first opportunity to pass it on to the broader population. And I am finally inclined to think that there is no better way of maintaining and communicating such expectations than promoting the institution of marriage.
Joe’s letter is superb; I hope you will go and read the whole thing.

I am afraid I am not capable of writing such a letter to the judge myself, not only because I am not a resident of Pennsylvania, but also because such a letter would require me to pretend to respect the judge.  And I don’t respect him.  Under that black robe is the soul of a political prostitute, a charlatan who cares nothing for law or justice and everything for the prevailing winds of political opinion.  At least when Richard Rich sold his soul for the praise and acclaim of the powerful and pretty, he got Wales in the bargain.  Jones doesn’t even get Pennsylvania, and I have to think that those American Humanist banquets are more along the lines of appropriate punishment than any sort of reward.  But maybe, if he grovels and spins and bootlicks and toad-eats just a bit more, he’ll be invited to play himself on some upcoming episode of Modern Family, or something.  Which would be just about the most fitting reward for his service I can imagine.

The wicked pro-gay marriage culture of stupidity rolls on apace.  But the craven and the evil and the stupid have been trying to destroy virtue ever since a certain Crucifixion, and they won’t succeed now, either.  Their victories will all be Pyrrhic and their celebrations short-lived.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Back on Facebook

Well, I'm back on Facebook!

And if you go to my Tales of Telmaja blog, you can find the nifty Facebook button along with the super-neat email and Amazon(tm) buttons my talented oldest girl and her super-sweet aunt made for me.  'Cause I'm hopeless at this stuff. :)

Visit the Tales of Telmaja Facebook page if you're a fan of the book series!  And check back for updates on the editing of Book Three, the completion of the first draft of Book Five (soon, I hope!) and other important information for Smijj fans and Telmaj followers. :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

The call to love

I missed this May 9 tweet on Pope Francis' Twitter account:

I love this tweet for three reasons:

1. It shows our Holy Father's gentle sense of humor.

2. It shows that our Holy Father recognizes something that some priests and bishops honestly don't seem to: that married life, with all its consolations, isn't somehow "the easy road" as compared to priesthood or religious life.  To be fair, I've known lay married people who think that priesthood or religious life is "the easy road" because it doesn't involve toddlers and 2 a.m. feedings or the sheer amount of recreational vomiting children seem to be capable of, and that's not the right way of looking at those vocations either.  The truth is that the path to sanctity--to holiness--is a sacrificial path no matter what one's vocation, as His Holiness points out.

3. It contains in a nutshell the Church's teaching that marriage involves a total gift of self to other.  One reason the Church will never accept gay marriage or adulterous marriage or any other perversion of marriage is because you can't be giving yourself as a free and total and sacrificial gift to someone while at the same time actively participating in gravely sinful conduct with that person that could well lead to that person's eternal damnation.  The definition of love, like the definition of marriage, presumes that you want only the best for the person you love--and eternal damnation isn't something anyone wants for his or her beloved.  Is this hard?  Yes, whether you are gay, whether you are a heterosexual adulterer, whether you really want to live with someone you can't marry in the Church, because love IS hard. Love IS sacrifice.  But it is also joy, which is something that gravely sinful conduct never, ever is.

Marriage, like every Christian vocation, calls us to empty ourselves of our selfish and sinful desires, to take up our Cross, and to follow Christ.  There are tremendous joys in marriage as there are in priesthood or religious life or even the call to remain single for the sake of the Kingdom.  This is contrary to what the world preaches, the empty false gospel of instant gratification and total selfishness. But the call to love and the call to sacrifice are always the same call.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Like most people in America, I've been horrified since I heard the terrifying story of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for marrying a Christian.  Mariam's refusal to renounce her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence is a stunning reminder to us comfortable Christians that, yes, there are still martyrs for the faith.

And what's even more encouraging, to me, is that in the midst of our culture-war battles people on both the left and right sides of our political divide are drawing attention to this story, praying for Mariam, writing to their Congress members, and otherwise doing what they can to try to save Mariam.

Rod Dreher has posted on this a couple of times.  Under this post from today comes this terrific comment:
A Congressional staffer who reads this blog says:
We’re raising as much hell as we can, sir.

I've got to admit: that made my day.  It's easy to have a completely negative view of our federal government, a view which, alas, is my default setting.  But sometimes we're not Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives or right-wingers or left-wingers or partisan hacks or political toadies.  Sometimes, we're just Americans.  And those are the best times.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Let them wear pants!

Have you all been reading the Modest-a-palooza blog posts, articles, and stories out there?

I'd link to them, but actually I'm having a bit of trouble with my browser.  Someone sent me one blog post by a Catholic blogger whose post I'd probably agree with, but I can't get the blogger's page to load at all. It's a small price to pay for not using Mozilla, though.

If you haven't seen the posts and articles and mainstream news stories that picked up on the posts and articles, essentially a young woman wore a short sparkly dress to a homeschool prom, and though it technically met the dress code's rules for length it was deemed to be too short when she actually moved (and there were accusations about her dancing provocatively, but she says she wasn't and another girl says she was), and there were questions relating to attitude, and the whole thing seems like a lot of teen drama considering that the main problem lies in these two words: homeschool prom. (Okay, don't get mad, but really--homeschool prom?  I thought part of the whole homeschooling joy was getting to skip stupid stressful expensive cliquish nonsense like prom.  Was I wrong?)

Anyway, I looked at the piece by the "wronged" girl (Note to the young lady: using the "F" word in the title of your post is not a great way to impress people with your maturity, respect for adult rules, and willingness to compromise), and I looked at the pictures of the dress.  It was indeed short.  I wouldn't want one of my girls to wear it, and they are not 5'9" (well, not without heels).  But it did cover the important areas, and it didn't appear to be provocatively revealing.  What it was, however, was both tacky and ill-fitting.

The "ill-fitting" part is easy to see.  The young lady's photos show her to be somewhat pear-shaped (as are many, many women).  In the first picture, which looks like a "try-on" photo, the dress lays flat across her small chest; only in the "prom" picture is there anything that seems like cleavage.  As I commented on another blog, this is a rookie mistake: attempting to create cleavage with a foundation garment or push-up bra does not make an ill-fitting dress fit better, but worse.

The bigger problem, however, is that the dress is clingy and tight at exactly the point where a pear-shaped woman does not want it to be.  The young woman is young enough to think it is attractive for a dress to end at the thickest part of her thighs, but she will learn.  Well, hopefully--I've seen pear-shaped women make this mistake even into middle age, especially with shorts.

I agree that "tacky" may be in the eye of the beholder, but for anybody over than age 5 who is not a Disney(tm) princess, a dress that is sparkly all over is a bit much.  It looks like, and is probably meant to be, a cocktail/nightclub dress.  Which, by definition, is not a prom dress and is also not an appropriate dress for a girl in her late teens.

Having said all that: the prom people were wrong to throw her and her group out, especially since they said they'd refund everybody's money but only refunded hers.  Why?  Because they were the stupid people whose dress code said that as long as the dress met the "fingertip rule" (e.g., the dress is as long as your fingertips when your arms are hanging down at your sides) it was fine.

You simply cannot complain that a dress that meets the fingertip rule when the girl is standing still rides up when she walks.  Of course it does!  Even if it has a full, swingy skirt, the full, swingy skirt will float up and down past the fingertip mark if that's as long as it is when the girl isn't moving.  This is why the fingertip rule is a stupid, stupid rule.  "No more than an inch above the knee," maybe, or "Knee-length--reaching to at least the top of the knee," or even "At or below the knee;" those are all rules that will ensure the dress is never shorter than the fingertip line.  But you can't tell girls they can wear a dress to the fingertip line and then throw them out for wearing exactly such a dress; that's making teen girls pay the price for adult stupidity.

Now: why was there such a rule in the first place?  As someone whose daughters are taller than I am, and whose daughters are also very uncomfortable in anything that isn't at least knee length (and even then usually not for dressy occasions), I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say that some mother or group of mothers fought for the fingertip rule because they think their daughters look awesome in short trendy "juniors dept." prom dresses.  I have met moms like this.  One minute they're all Super Awesome More Catholic Than Anybody moms, and the next minute they're fighting for their girls--and their boys, for that matter!--to wear what everybody else does so they won't look like Weird Prairie CatholicAmishWannabe Homeschoolers.

And I get that.  I do.  It's hard to be different.  It's hard to stick to your clothing principles when nobody else seems to care, or, worse, when everybody else seems to want to prove they're Not Weird Homeschoolers even if that means buying prom dresses that look like nightclub wear.

Of course, the solution is simple: let them wear pants!  Because when modesty debates reach this kind of level, it's pretty funny to think about the arguments that pants on women are inherently immodest.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tales of the Disney(tm) Character Therapist

I was having a chat with Hatchick last night (yes, we do "cutesy nicknames" here.  I have blog stalkers. If cutesy nicknames bother you: sorry, but protecting my children's anonymity is important to me) and she told me something funny: she and her sisters were having a great conversation the other day about what kind of conversations would take place in a therapist or counselor's office between that professional healer and just about any Disney(tm) movie character.

Of course, in real life it's the teen pop stars manufactured by Disney(tm) who end up on the therapy couch, so to speak, but I had to admit that their idea was amusing--so much so that I decided to try my hand at it as well.  Yes, this is Total Random Silliness.  It has been that kind of day, anyway.  You know I'll revert to something serious soon.

So, here are just a few random conversations:


Conversation One:

Therapist: Okay, so last time we were talking about your relationship with your stepmother.

Female patient: Yes, she and I really didn't get along.  She pretty much hated me, and she even tried to kill me...

Therapist: She tried to kill you?

Female patient: Oh, yes.  She sent me out into the woods with a man who had a big knife.

Therapist:  Mmm.  I see.  And was this a dream, maybe?  A nightmare?

Female patient: Oh, no.  He really did have a knife.  But he had a kind heart, so he let me go, and I think he killed an animal and brought my stepmother its heart instead of mine.

Therapist: Oookaaay.  And then what happened?

Female patient: I moved in with seven really short men who lived in the woods.  To help them keep house, and for my own protection, of course...

Conversation Two:

Therapist: So your problems really started when your father died.

Female patient: Yes.

Therapist: What happened?

Female patient: My stepmother started treating me like a servant.  She made me live in the attic and do all of the chores, and...

Therapist: Did you tell anybody?  A trusted adult, or Child Protective Services?  A teacher, maybe?

Female patient: No.  I did talk a lot about things with the birds.

Therapist: The birds...

Female patient: But the mice were my real friends.  I talked to them the most.

Therapist: You talked to mice?

Female patient: Mmm hmm.  They were so cute, and they talked to me, though they couldn't speak all that well...

Therapist: They talked to you?

Female patient: Of course.  And I made them clothes.  Little shirts, and things.

Therapist: And would you say they were your best friends?

Female patient: Well, close, but I'd probably say my best friend was my fairy godmother. When she came to me and turned the pumpkin into a coach, and my rags into a beautiful gown, and sent me to the palace ball...

Therapist: Now, you know that I'm not criticizing or being judgmental, but I have a question, and if you can give me an honest answer, we might make some good progress, okay?

Female patient: Oh, sure!

Therapist: Have you ever experimented with recreational drugs or other substances?

Conversation Three:

Therapist: So your wife is very fond of swimming.

Male patient: It's more than that.  She gets physically ill if we're not near the ocean. And my work takes me all over the country, pretty far inland, so it's starting to be a problem for us.

Therapist: But she hasn't agreed to come with you to therapy?

Male patient: No, not yet.  She thinks that people like you are prejudiced against people like her.

Therapist: She thinks therapists are?  Or doctors generally?

Male patient: No--humans, actually.  She thinks people who were born human don't quite understand her way of thinking.  Except for me, and a few others she trusts.

Therapist: I'm not quite following.  Your wife thinks she wasn't born human?

Male patient: Oh, it's not just something she thinks.  It's the literal truth.  She was born a mermaid. You know--half woman, half fish, lived underwater, could breath both water and air...

Therapist: I see.  And you encourage this belief?

Male patient: Encourage it?  I was there when she changed into a human, and then back into a mermaid, and then back into a human again.

Therapist: I see...

Conversation Four:

Therapist: So when you say you were a beast before your marriage, you don't mean figuratively.

Male patient: Oh, no.  I was an actual beast.  You know: fangs, fur, claws--the works.

Therapist.  Okay.  And you and your wife are having some difficulties, you said last time...

Male patient: Oh, not with each other!  We love each other.  She kids me about my table manners, I have snowball fights with her--we're just like we were back in my "Beast" days.  It's great.

Therapist: So, then, what is the issue?

Male patient: We're having some trouble with our housekeeper.  Both of us, but my wife couldn't make it this time.  She wants me to explain it to you, and then next session she'll come too to get your advice.

Therapist: I'm not sure I understand.  If the issue is your housekeeper, why not fire her and hire someone else?

Male patient: We couldn't do that.  She's been with our family a long time.

Therapist: I see.  So what is the problem exactly?

Male patient: Well, she's getting up there in years, and lately she's been a bit senile. She thinks she's still a teapot on occasion.

Therapist: A teapot?

Male patient: She was a teapot for ten years.  While I was a Beast, you see.  You know, "I'm a little teapot, short and stout..."

Therapist: You mean she dealt with your...your Beast convincing herself she was a teapot?

Male patient: No, she actually was a teapot.  A singing, ambulatory hunk of porcelain. Pretty funny, actually, at the time.  But she turned back into a real woman when the spell on me was finally broken. Only lately she gets confused.  She tripped in the kitchen and thought she had smashed her handle, but she'd only broken a wooden spoon.  We had the hardest time convincing her that she wasn't damaged.

Therapist: Um...

Male patient: I know!  Maybe next week, when my wife comes, we should bring the housekeeper. We can bring her son, too--he's quite worried.  And he's perfectly sane, even though he used to be a teacup...

Therapist: I see.  So quite, quite sane, then.

Male patient: Yes.  He's adjusted as well as I have.

Therapist: Good to know...



Monday, May 12, 2014

Kevin O'Brien on torture

Kevin O'Brien wrote a terrific piece against torture and dissent today:

The Torture Debate was the first issue I engaged at the time. The Torture Enthusiasts, who since they Dissent from Church Teaching I will henceforth call Dissenters (though clear terminology makes them furious - see below), were using this approach ...

  • They denied that the Church forbid Torture, or else they claimed that Church teaching forbidding Torture in any and all circumstances was not Magisterial or was still in flux.
  • They claimed that the act they were defending (in this case waterboarding) was not in fact Torture.

I later discovered that this handy template is the only one that's used by right wing Dissenters on all their precious issues. Just fill in the blank and you're good to go. And go and go and go. If you're a Dissenter and your opponent demonstrates that the Church forbids, for example, LYING in any and all circumstances, you can claim that the act you're defending is not LYING. If your opponent demonstrates that the act in question is undoubtedly LYING, you can jump back to claiming the Church does not forbid LYING. Or USURY, or TORTURE or what have you. And you keep this up ad nauseum, jumping from tactic one to tact two until your opponent gives up in frustration.

Read the whole thing here.

For me, the question of dissent is a simple one.  It boils down to the following:
  1. Dissenting from Church teaching is a bad thing to do.
  2. Discussing and arguing about Church teaching in order to understand it more fully, embrace it more deeply, and apply it more significantly to one's own life is a good thing to do.
  3. Discussing and arguing about Church teaching in order to come up with an excuse to keep doing something the Church clearly says is wrong is not the same as the second point above.

To illustrate, let's take a matter of merely Church law as an example.  The Church says that Catholics must go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation unless prevented for some serious reason.  It is perfectly acceptable to discuss this law, its meaning, and its ramifications; it is even okay to discuss what constitutes a valid reason to miss Mass without incurring any sin.  The Church doesn't give us a list of reasons; she expects us to figure this out, and to be capable of asking for our pastor's advice if necessary (e.g., ordinarily missing Mass because there are no evening Masses where one lives and one can't get up in the morning would not be a valid reason--but if one can't get up in the morning because one is struggling with persistent insomnia or because one takes a prescription medication that makes one too groggy to make it to the only Mass in the area or one must care for one's bedridden elderly parent who never falls asleep until 4 a.m. or something, one might be surprised to discover that one's pastor agrees that that is a valid reason to miss Sunday Mass for the time being).

However, if one discusses and argues with the law requiring Sunday Mass attendance with the purpose of trivializing it or declaring it outdated, or, on the other hand, insisting that one is not required to attend an Ordinary Form Mass because this Mass is an occasion of sin for one and therefore when one may not attend an E.F. Mass one is excused (an argument I've seen made, in fact) then there is no question that what one is doing is more like point #3 above--arguing and discussing only to find loopholes and excuses, not to embrace one's duty to obey the Church more fully.

I used an example of Church law in order to illustrate that this process we go through doesn't even depend on the thing being debated being an intrinsic evil.  We humans are simply quite good at convincing ourselves that what we want is good and what we don't want isn't binding.  Add intrinsic evil to that (torture, abortion, contraception, cheating one's employees, lying, etc.) and we become even better at twisting ourselves in knots to rationalize that the Church really didn't mean that this particular evil is really evil, not for us, not this time.

We've been doing this sort of thing since Eve ate the apple--and since Adam joined in that sin of his own free will.  You'd think we would know better by now.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Top six things NOT to say to your wife on Mother's Day

As every mother knows, this Sunday, May 11, is Mother's Day.  For the gentlemen readers who just gasped in surprise--you're welcome.

I always get spoiled rotten by Thad and the girls on Mother's Day, which I really appreciate.  But I've gotten some heartbreaking emails and comments from moms in the past whose husbands ignore them on Mother's Day--please note: I'm not talking about couples who have decided together that the Mother's Day/Father's Day holidays aren't important to them, or who celebrate Mother's Day on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God and Father's Day on St. Joseph's feast day, but couples where the husband expects his wife to send his mother (and hers, of course) a card and/or gift on Mother's Day and to lavish attention on him as well as his father and hers on Father's Day, but feels totally free to disregard her on Mother's Day.

For those husbands, I have the following helpful list of things NOT to say to your wife on Mother's Day.  They are in no particular order:

1. "But you're my wife, not my mother."  I'm a redhead, so I always have to fight the urge to slap a man who says that, especially since the men who say that usually do so with a smug, satisfied, "I'm so logical and wise!" look on their faces.  Gentlemen, I assure you that no woman who has ever heard that from her husband has ever thought, "Oh, how logical and wise he is!  I must renew my marriage covenant with him this instant!"  Instead, she feels hurt and disrespected that as the mother of his children she gets no special attention from their father on Mother's Day.  Trust me on this.

2. "Wait--today's Mother's Day?"  Yes, the calendar can get away from us.  But if you wait until after Mass, when the mothers get a special blessing (and sometimes a flower), to notice that it's Mother's Day, you're betraying the fact that this isn't an important holiday to you, even if it is to her.

3. "What's for dinner?"  Okay, I'm not saying you have to take her out for dinner; in fact, as Mother's Day is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, she may prefer not to eat out when it means an hour wait for a table and a noisy, crowded environment.  But give her the gift of a conversation before Mother's Day to find out what she'd like to do. She may want nothing but a tray of cold cuts and other sandwich fixings eaten picnic style in the living room with a family-friendly movie in the background. Why not?  But let her know you've thought about this and are willing to help.

4. "Did you remember to send my mom a card/gift?"  This question is fine if you have a card and gift for her, too, but it's just more heartache for the woman who is expected to do everything for your mom and her own while knowing you don't care enough to make anything special happen for her.

5. "Bye!  See you later!"  This one is fine if you work in the medical profession or law enforcement or some other job where you most unfortunately must work on Sundays.  It is the very opposite of fine if you are leaving for a fishing trip with your buddies, or a golf outing, or some other completely optional activity.

6. "You know we can't afford to do anything for Mother's Day."  I'm not saying that you have to spend money foolishly if you are in a dire financial situation; no wife or mother wants that.  But there are SO MANY ways to spoil your wife without spending money on Mother's Day, if finances are too tight for a gift.  Make her a card, for example, and put in on the breakfast tray when you bring her breakfast in bed before Mass.  Or make dinner (see #3).  Or make her relax on the couch with a book while you and the kids vacuum and clean around her (if the kids make a paper crown for her to wear, it's even cuter).

I'm sure there are more.  Perhaps my readers will add to these in the comment boxes. :)

One thing is certain, gentlemen: it never hurts at all to remind your wife, the mother of your children, just how important she is to you and to them.  But it can hurt her quite a bit if you never do.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Facebook or not?

This post is a "bleg" to my readers, and especially to those of my readers who are interested in my Tales of Telmaja book series.

My question is simple: would you find it easier to keep up with my book-related news if I had an Author page on Facebook that was updated with those items?

Please answer in the comment box!  Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Smijj of Adventure: Kindle Edition Now Available!!

Good news for those faithful and much-appreciated readers of my Tales of Telmaja series!  Book Two, A Smijj of Adventure, is finally available as a Kindle e-book!

Go here for A Smijj of Adventure on Kindle--only $2.99!

More good news: I have enrolled both The Telmaj AND A Smijj of Adventure in the Kindle Match Books program!  That means that if you purchase a print copy of either book, you will be eligible to purchase the Kindle edition for only $0.99.

Now, I don't know for sure how long it will take for the books to show up as Kindle Match books, but I believe they should be available that way soon.

Thanks again to all my wonderful (and patient) readers!  Next up: A Smijj of Danger, Book Three, which I'll be editing over the summer! :)

(Cross-posted at Tales of Telmaja)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Do we need a part-time workers' bill of rights?

I'm noticing lots of talk at different Catholic blogs and sites about the various proposals to raise the minimum wage.  It seems to me that people tend to get caught up in a few different issues:

1. It is definitely wrong to pay people so little that they have to use welfare to make up the difference in order to live.

2. It is not a good idea to make part time work, student employment, and other jobs for people who need to earn money but are not living on those wages disappear completely.

3. The rights of workers to earn living wages are real, but the right of investors and business owners to make a fair return on their capital is also real.  Balancing these two sets of rights is important.

4. It is naive to think that businesses will always do what is right and just in regard to their workers.  It is also naive to think that government regulations will fix everything. Nevertheless, it is not right to throw up our hands and declare the problems unsolvable.

In general, I support an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage because I think it is unfortunately true that for many business owners and companies the minimum wage becomes a kind of maximum wage. I think this could be done in such a way that the rights of some part-time workers, such as student workers and others who need to earn money but are not the primary wage-earner in their household, could still find jobs.  In fact, I think we need some kind of bill of rights for part-time workers to help spell these things out.

What would such a bill of rights look like?  I don't know.  I cheerfully admit that economics and finance are not things I know a great deal about.  But it seems to me that there should be some way to balance the needs of workers who do low-wage jobs for a living, and workers who wish to work such jobs temporarily to earn a little cash while living with another wage-earner (usually, but not always, a parent) who is earning the family's primary income.  We used to be able to do that sort of thing in America--so why, in an era where the CEOs of major big-box stores are bringing home $20 million or so in compensation every year, is it impossible to pay someone who needs to support a family enough to live on without needing government aid in the form of welfare, Medicaid, or other federal benefits?

Americans talk a lot about the dignity of work.  We get sort of self-righteous about it, in fact.  But few of us have been in the position where that $8.00 an hour is our sole wage, such that if our boss actually does offer us a few more hours a week here and there we have to worry that our food stamps will disappear (because a couple extra hours a week at $8.00 an hour isn't going to pay for groceries). When we talk about the "working poor" we tend to get a bit moralistic about how if they really wanted to improve their lives they would just do X, or Y, or Z--and X is "get a better job," Y is "go to college," and Z--well, Z involves speculating that they'd be better off without kids, as if that changes the situation when the kids are already there.

I'd like to see an attitude among my fellow Catholics that remembers that the working poor are our brothers and sisters, too.  Sure, they may have made a few bad choices here and there, but chances are they also didn't have most of our opportunities, either. So perhaps a part-time workers' bill of rights that would protect the workers who need to support families while making room for students or others who just need a little extra cash might be useful if we're going to raise the minimum wage.