Internet Down



The other day I caught part of an interview about cyberterrorism. It was frightening to realize that malicious hackers have the potential to disrupt communication, financial transactions, and even the operation of a hospital. This is our brave new world, one in which we have become increasingly dependent on the internet.

This realization hit home in a much less serious way this week after a storm played havoc with our WiFi, and we have been without reliable internet service for the past two days. Aside from missing my daily Facebook fix, I found myself frustrated with the inability to order my daughter’s schoolbooks, print a summer camp packing list, check my email,or (horror of horrors) even write a blog post!

I have come to so take for granted the use of the internet, that I find myself at a loss to figure out another way to accomplish many routine tasks. Is the crutch of the worldwide web causing us to lose some skills we may later miss – the way young people can no longer write, and more importantly, read cursive?

Yesterday I went to the library to look for a book and chatted with the staff member at the help desk, who assisted me in placing a hold on a couple of titles from another library in the system. I asked her whether the internet disruption had affected the library, and she said it hadn’t. How, I wondered, would you check out books if the system went down? She said they had a manual backup on the computer system they could use as long as the power wasn’t also out. The conversation made me remember the old days of little pockets inside each library book that would be stamped with a due date and matched with a card held at the library to keep track of checkouts. I also thought about long hours spent with the card catalog, flipping through index cards to find material on a particular subject.

There is no doubt the internet has made life so much easier for us. I love Google. I can search for anything from a product I want to purchase to a subject for a blog post to the name of that actor in that movie we were just talking about the other night. But I worry that my dependence on the web will make me unable to function in a world without WiFi.

I now have access to the internet again, and it has restored some equilibrium in the household. But maybe I’d better practice some old school techniques such as looking up phone numbers in the phone book so that I’m not at a total loss the next time our internet is down.


The Trumperor Has No Clothes



In the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” two con artists convince a vain ruler that the clothes they are spinning for him are the finest in the realm. They are so fine, in fact, that only nobly bred and extremely intelligent people can see them. Not wanting to seem ignorant or low class, all of the royal court as well as the emperor himself claim to see the beautiful garments when there is nothing there. The emperor is finally exposed when he marches through the kingdom in his underwear and the common people laugh and jeer, pointing out his nakedness.

Donald Trump has provided a twist on the proverbial tale with his empty words and facile promises throughout this presidential campaign. The twist is that Trump is the con artist and his supporters are the ones being duped by his parade of nothing.

The other evening I was held hostage in a car by a right wing extremist (my husband) and forced to listen to Sean Hannity’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention. I had thought the Fox News fawning reportage of the Republican Convention was hard to stomach. On the show, Hannity interviewed Trump to get his take on the Democratic convention, and, as in his own acceptance speech at the RNC, he had nothing but bluster to contribute. He basically kept saying that the whole thing was a “disaster,” that Hillary’s choice of a running mate was poor, and that the system was “rigged” against poor Bernie Sanders.

Somehow Donald Trump gets away with uttering platitudes like “We’re gonna make millions of jobs, ” and no one calls him on the lack of substance in his statements. I realize that political candidates don’t necessarily put out hundred-page plans for every promise they make. But Trump’s promises at the RNC were nothing short of childish. Over and over again, he claimed he was going to wipe out ISIS, fix the economy, and eliminate illegal immigration immediately upon taking the oath of office. This isn’t just hyperbole; it’s the mark of a juvenile individual who has no real substantive ideas about how to govern.

Early in the primaries, so many conservative politicians and media personalities were harshly critical of Donald Trump – with good reason. Now that he is the Republican nominee, they seem to have become expert gymnasts bending over backwards to find redeeming qualities in the man.

As Donald Trump parades through the campaign season, when will his supporters stop chanting “Make America Great Again” and notice that he has no clothes?

What a Way to Get Your Kicks!



It’s a blisteringly hot week in Blaine, Minnesota, with temps expected to reach the high 90s. My sister, who has lived in the Minneapolis area for 43 years, told me that this week in July is known historically as being one of the hottest in the area every summer.So naturally, Schwan’s Food Company is hosting its annual USA Cup international youth soccer tournament this week.

Tuesday night, thousands of kids on teams from across the United States, as well as such far flung countries as Argentina, Sweden, and Japan, crowded the stadium to kick off the extravaganza of soccer and sweat.

Now I love my child, but I’ve got to be honest. There are dozens of places I’d rather be than sitting in the blazing hot sun and watching girls run around battling for a soccer ball. In between games, I’ve been going on Facebook and jealously noticing pictures of my friends on family vacations. But for reasons out of my control, my husband and daughter are obsessed with her soccer development. So traveling out of town to tournaments constitutes a vacation in our family.

Today the games were moved up earlier because the mercury is supposed to climb up to 97 degrees. We just beat a team from Iceland, a country with summer average temperatures in the mid-50s. I guess you could say we Midwesterners had a home field advantage, the opposite of the one that the Chicago Bears enjoy when they play Miami at Soldier Field in January.

Okay. I admit it. It was a lot of fun watching my daughter and her team, the Wizards, dominate the field today. Our daughter had some spectacular plays and looked a bit like a sleek thoroughbred filly sprinting down the field. And our defender had an amazing goal from midfield on a foul call. I enjoyed hooting and hollering along with the other Wizard families.

There are worse things than seeing 13- and 14-year-old girls be fierce, athletic, and competitive. They have a great camaraderie and are learning some important life lessons about teamwork, effort, and fair play.

I guess a family vacation revolving around soccer is not so bad. And lucky me. After the tournament is over, we will be staying on to watch our girl on the court in an AAU basketball tournament.

I predict we will have a ball.

Call Me Martha



The gospel story of Mary and Martha always used to make me angry. In the story, Jesus visits his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha is busy running around making a meal for them all while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to him. At one point Martha, exasperated, asks Jesus to tell Mary to get off her tush and help her. Jesus defends Mary, claiming, “Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

I always felt frustrated for poor Martha when this story was read at Sunday Mass. Here she was working her fingers to the bone while Mary was sitting around being a kind of Jesus groupie. Who wouldn’t be resentful? After all, Jesus’ dinner wasn’t going to make itself!

You see, my name may be “Mary,” but I am a “Martha” at heart: always busy, always overburdened by responsibilities and to-do lists. There have been many times in my 27-year marriage that I have resented my husband’s sitting on the couch watching TV while I cooked, did dishes, and attended to the kids. The everyday chores of life sometimes make me tired and cranky.

But I was missing the point of that gospel story of Mary and Martha. Jesus’ point was that although we may have cares and responsibilities, the most important thing in life is really to stop and listen. So many times I have been too busy to pay full attention to my kids, for instance. What mother hasn’t answered the absent-minded, “Mm hmm,” to her children as she only pays half attention to their verbal ramblings?

And it’s not just chores that keep us from the truly important things in life. We fill up our minutes and hours with television, Facebook, the news etc. and don’t nurture our relationships or our inner life. We don’t take the time to meditate or pray.

The story of Mary and Martha urges us to take that time, to stop and breathe and focus on what is truly important in our lives: God, our families, goodness and love. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to try becoming more of a “Mary,” and it’s one I am making the effort on in my daily life. I plan on “choosing the better part” and becoming more closely the person I am meant to be.

Comedians in Cars Being Offensive



Comedy, like beauty, is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder. One fan’s hilarious is another’s offensive. But there are some topics that just don’t lend themselves to laughter, and abortion is one of them.

NARAL Pro Choice America recently released a video on YouTube that attempts to use humor to make a point about abortion rights. Unfortunately, “Comedians in Cars Getting Abortions” completely misses the mark. The short video is a spoof of Jerry Seinfeld’s popular web show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The NARAL spot features a male and female comedian driving around the Los Angeles area trying to get an abortion.

The ostensible point of the 6 minute video is that state laws have made it unduly burdensome for women to receive an abortion. But no matter  which side you come down on in the abortion debate, you are bound to be offended by the callous, leaden jokes about fetuses, religious beliefs, and women’s self-centered reasons for seeking an abortion.

You know it’s bad when I find myself agreeing with conservative political writer Heather Wilhelm, who wrote a scathing and spot-on opinion piece that appeared in today’s Chicago Tribune under the headline “The abortion lobby’s horrifying new ‘comedy’ act.” I share her bemusement about the comedic nature of comments about not wanting to bring any more bratty toddlers into the world and avoiding certain abortion clinics because demand will be high due to the Coachella Festival last month.

Far from furthering the pro-choice cause, “Comedians in Cars Getting Abortions” paints women who seek abortions as selfish, superficial, and unfeeling monsters who care not a whit for human life at any stage. I’m also puzzled that the YouTube video features a Prius commercial to match the sporty red Prius used by the comedians. If ever there were a piece of entertainment that advertisers should avoid like the plague, it’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Abortions.”

The subject of abortion is an incredibly important and divisive one. It’s worthy of serious and thoughtful discussion, not flippant parody. NARAL, you need a new public relations team.

July 4th Red, White, and Blues



Every Fourth of July, even as I am enjoying the fireworks grand finale, part of me is depressed that summer is half over. My email inbox is filled with school registration information, and I keep getting catalogs featuring dorm necessities and back to school supplies. Slow down, I want to tell Summer. I am just getting into the groove of hot days, beach reads, cool glasses of chardonnay on the porch.

The waning of this particular summer fills me with angst. Along with a young daughter who will be starting high school, I am preparing to move my son across the country for college. The prospect of completing all the paperwork and furnishing a dorm room are daunting enough. But what I’m really dreading is the moment when I have to say goodbye (his own sort of Independence Day).

To be sure, summer is here in full force. The days are sunny, hot, and humid. In the evening when I take my walks, the air is thick with the mating calls of cicadas. The local pool is crowded with kids splashing, shrieking, and laughing. The ice cream stores have lines of customers waiting for a cold, delicious cone.

Yet autumn looms over us: a time of schedules and responsibilities, dwindling daylight and warmth. I long to put summer on slow motion for a while. I just want to enjoy these sultry, lazy, lay-about days with my children before they move one step closer to becoming the adults they are meant to be.


It’s the Guns, Stupid



Police shooting blacks. Blacks shooting police. Terrorists shooting civilians. Children shooting their siblings, friends, parents, and each other. Husbands shooting their wives or entire families. Shootings precipitated by road rage, noise complaints, jealousy, unhappiness in the workplace. Accidental firings that kill or wound in shopping centers, medical offices etc. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the common denominator here.

Studies have shown that the more restrictions there are on the purchase of guns, the higher the street price goes up on illegal firearms. It’s Econ 101, the law of supply and demand. Similarly, there may be an occasional situation in which a law-abiding gun owner protects himself or someone else. But there are far more needless killings than there are heroic saves by gun-wielding civilians. If readers have facts to show otherwise, I’d truly like to see them in the comments section here.

You might argue that the situation with police officers shooting blacks does not apply, since police officers are allowed to carry firearms. But it’s not actually a given that cops should be allowed to carry guns routinely. In European countries such as England, Ireland, Iceland, and Norway, most police officers do not patrol with guns. Their feeling is that the presence of a gun creates provocation and engenders more gun violence.

I’m not advocating that the government take away Grandpa’s antique hunting rifle. I just see no need for the average citizen to own handguns or semi-automatic weapons. I get that some people just enjoy shooting. If so, have highly secure shooting ranges available and allow people to fire weapons at them – and then go home and leave the guns behind.

My readers may wonder when I am going to stop harping on the gun control issue. The answer is: when common sense gun laws help create a safer environment in this country for myself and my children.


Just Click “Like”



As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I find myself clicking the “Like” button a lot. Here’s a photo of my friend’s vacation (Like). Another friend’s family portrait (Like). Graduations. Birthdays. Block parties. (Like) (Like) (Like) Sometimes it gets tedious, all this “liking.”

But I’m afraid to stop. What if I “like” one friend’s post but not another’s? Will the other friend be insulted? It begs the question: What, exactly, do we get from all these “likes” on our Facebook posts? I think the answer is: validation. When I post something, I am gratified to see the number of “likes” the post gets. It makes me feel noticed, appreciated in some way. And so I want to extend that same courtesy to my friends who have taken the trouble to “like” my stuff.

The need to be liked seems universal. When Sally Field won an Oscar for her role in the movie Places in the Heart, her famous response was, “You like me. You really like me!” Not, say, I appreciate being recognized for my talent, hard work, etc. Just the fact of being liked seemed to be the most important aspect of her acknowledgment.

When we were young children, the worst taunt you could throw at another child was, “I don’t like you.” It was a guaranteed ego-crusher. My own kids would often hurl that insult at me when they were little. Sometimes I would revert to a preschool mentality and toss back, “I don’t like you either.”

Although Facebook “likes” may seem superficial, I enjoy giving and receiving them. Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with people from various parts of my life: family, friends, former co-workers and students. I actually learn a lot about these friends’ beliefs and opinions from what they post, more perhaps than I would in casual conversation in the limited time I might have with each one. However small and fleeting, there is a connection on Facebook that I truly appreciate having with people in my life. That is definitely something to “Like.”