I like to walk every day. I’m fortunate today to be walking on one of my favorite trails along the Allegheny River near the campus of St. Bonaventure University. Ten days ago it appeared as though we’d have an early onset to our winter here in southwestern New York State. Now we’re having a respite from the snow and cold and I can easily stroll along with it fear of slipping or losing my balance on ice or snow. I love coming here and sitting next to the river. There’s a lot more water in the river today than the last time I was here three weeks ago.
I’m drawn to peaceful spots like this. It’s a tonic for my soul.
I’ve been following the NYSCATE Conference on Twitter using their conference hashtag #NYSCATE22. This has become an annual event for me to attend via the Twitterverse. I last attended NYSCATE as a presenter in 2012 when I talked about how we had published a book in our digital citizenship class using Moodle and Lulu. The idea for that activity came from a presentation I had seen the year before by Adam Bellow at NYSCATE 2011. I reported on that conference for Opensource.com
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like ten years and at others it seems like an eon ago. I didn’t realize it then but that 2012 conference would be my last. I retired from public education the following year.
Attending via Twitter is an incomplete experience but from it I’ve learned that some of the buzz this year is around augmented reality and virtual reality. I’ve seen many examples of interactive whiteboards. This morning there was a talk about cyber-security by FBIjohn. I’m sure that would have been very interesting and certainly timely too. One of the presentations that got my attention was connecting classrooms globally with digital pen pals. That resonated because we did that once in the 1990’s when Franklinville Elementary connected with the Dalkey School in Dublin, Ireland. Another session that got my eye was “Promoting an inclusive and accessible learning environment.” Accessibility has become more important for me as a person with whose hearing and sight aren’t what they used to be. Here is a presentation that I would like to have seen in person but learned about on Twitter and it involved some of my favorite topics: STEM, veterans and computer science.
I recognize the names of some of this year’s presenters too. Some were colleagues at one time. Last year our family attended MakerFaire Rochester which is part of the conference too. An active life precluded attendance this year but I got an update from a new follower on Mastodon in addition to following the event on Twitter.
Yesterday on Vietnam Veterans Day I had the privilege of listening to a lecture from a guy who’s pissed that Joe Biden is president and that gas prices are high. In the spring of 1972 I registered for classes that coming fall. I went home like all the other kids expecting to see them in August or September. When I got home there was a notice of pre induction physical for the draft. There was no sophomore year nor junior and senior year either. In August when my former classmates were slapping each other on the back and shaking hands I was in recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois.
I don’t regret my naval service. I’m proud to have served this country. I still have my dress blues even though they don’t fit. There was a time I prayed that my brother and later my son wouldn’t have to serve in the armed forces but I’ve come to believe compulsory national service would be a good thing. A recent poll of Americans revealed that only 55 percent would come to the aid of the country if we were invaded.
We’ve spawned several generations of folks who think they’re entitled to life on their own terms no matter what. On the world stage we’re witnessing the brave people of Ukraine fend off invaders and the disruption of life as they knew it by a bunch of lawless thugs led by the man who tried to subvert our democracy. I’m sure they’d be willing to endure high energy prices for some peace and freedom.
Freedom isn’t free. Doing what you want when you want how you want with no regard for others isn’t citizenship. It’s lawless and childish. If you’re still driving a gas guzzler 50 years after the energy crunch we lived through in the 1970s then you’re not too bright. End of rant.
Yesterday I drove one hundred forty miles east of my home to receive the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine. I was so anxious that the night prior to that I slept very little. Last night I slept like a log. I’m hopeful and grateful today for the team of scientists who created this remedy to the Corona virus. I’m grateful for President Biden whose team has expedited these vaccines. I got my shot at a CVS. The folks at the store were very professional and put us at ease. I felt like I was surrounded by angels and indeed they were. I’ve had a lot of vaccines in my life but none so anticipated. My arm is not sore. It’s just a little tender around the injection site.
My wife got her vaccine the day before. She said that this was a Valentine to remember and indeed it was. We enjoyed our trip together to central New York State. We passed through the Finger Lakes region and enjoyed its beauty and bounty. Along the way we passed a motel that looked like the one in Schitts Creek. That gave us a chuckle. Later we passed a store front that reminded of Roland Schitt whose one of the characters in the series we’ve been enjoying lately.
Today I’m returning to my daily walk which I missed yesterday due to our travel. I’m grateful to be alive and grateful for the professionals at CVS and the leadership of the man who carries the Rosary and gives me hope. Peace.
I’m at St. Mary Parish in Arcade, NY for Eucharistic Adoration and I’m facing a statue of St. Joseph. I’ve come here many times but today I’m struck by the flesh tones of the statue. I grew up in this parish. I served Mass here on this altar many times and I never really appreciated that all the depictions of the of the stained glass, statues, paintings and even the crucifix are of a white person. I’m currently enrolled in a class at Houghton College. It’s “Racism and American Protestant Christianity.” One of my classmates shared on our class Moodle site that they had grown up in a segregated community and attended segregated schools. That’s when the scales fell from my eyes. I too grew up in such a community. We weren’t segregated by law but by the fact we had no non-whites in our church or our school. Our church was for white people and we didn’t even know it. We worshipped a white God. Did I ever think of God as anything other than white. No of course not. How could I?
We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here, and in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
St. Francis of Assisi
Two years ago I was in Assisi with a group of United States Veterans as part of a Franciscan pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. That morning the friar leading our pilgrimage celebrated Mass at the Portiuncola. It was a peak experience for me and other members of our group. Now, two years later as we are reeling from the effects of this global pandemic those days come into sharper focus. Pope Francis has designated the entire month of May as a time of prayer for relief from Covid-19. Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM who is the provincial of Holy Name of Jesus Province of the Order of Friars Minor has designated today as a special day of prayer.
Therefore I’m joining Franciscans and others in a special day of prayer. The crucifix below is a San Damiano Cross I received on the pilgrimage.
I was listening to a Super Soul podcast with Oprah Winfrey interviewing Eckhert Tolle and as they were talking about the present moment I had a helpful insight. In the midst of all this stress and daily projection and worry I haven’t been living in the present moment. Sometimes words are just words until they come to have meaning in my life. Today was one of those days when the present moment became more than two words. A chap once said to me, “if you were to ask God what time it is what do you think he would say.” I said, “I don’t know.” My friend said, “he’d say it was now.” Many years later the thought of the conversation returned and I came to appreciate the power of now.
The past and future are imaginary. The only thing that matters is now. All we have is now. Right now I’m okay. Earlier today I had a chance to visit one of my favorite quiet spots in nearby Ellicottville. I visited Nannen Arboretum. It’s a very contemplative setting. It was a beautiful day.
A year ago when I snapped this picture I felt the presence of a loving force for good in my life. One year later after almost two months of quarantine and thousands of deaths I’ve begun to question that presence and the effectiveness of prayer. Daily the death toll increases and our ability to shield ourselves from its destructiveness is very limited. Some of our leaders like Governor Cuomo seem very qualified and caring but our national leadership is grossly incompetent and riddled with cronyism.
Where is God? I told a friend yesterday that I had increasing doubts of the existence of God. Where was God at Auschwitz? Twelve million people were slaughtered by the Nazis and God didn’t stop that. I do believe in good. Doing good helps me to move forward. Doing good helps others too. Is God in the good we do for each other? Maybe. Governor Cuomo is doing good. The frontline first responders are doing good. The essential workers are doing good. What motivates some to do good and others to do nothing or work against the good.
Almost everyday for much of my life I’ve had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my lunch. It’s a taste I acquired in elementary school at St. Pius X in Delevan, New York. Back then the bread was white and the jelly was almost always grape. Later in life while working at Franklinville Central School my coworkers marvelled at the lack of diversity in my lunch choices. While they enjoyed ham and cheese, egg salad and other choices I had PB&J. The choice of bread varied and the brand varied from time to time but my favorite brand since childhood has remained Monks Bread. Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York is about an hour’s drive from where i live and when we are no longer social distancing it will be one of my first visits. The Abbey was established in 1951 and one of the early Trappist brothers was a former US Navy baker. He began making bread for the community and in time they decided to marked the bread to stores in the area. As a boy I remember they had three flavors. White, wheat and cinnamon raisin.
My first visit to the monastery was in January 1979 and I’ve been returning ever since. My last visit was March 9 of this year. Today I ordered three loaves of Monks bread for my lunch meals. My favorite is sunflower but I also like multigrain and wheat. The monks make a number of other flavors and in recent years have begun to make biscotti in a number of different flavors. My favorite biscotti is dark chocolate. Though I cannot go there whenever I open the package of bread for lunch the aroma reminds me of the monastery and its prayerful presence. If you’ve never been there I encourage you to visit when its okay to visit people again. You won’t be disappointed.