How to Keep Your Tiger Safe from COVID-19

TigerCub
All artwork is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Click through on each image for descriptions and licensing information.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has spread to tigers, you’ll want to sit down with your tiger and discuss the CDC’s recommendations for protecting itself from COVID-19.

Brahmin talking to a tiger.

It’s not always easy to talk about such a frightening and confusing topic with your tiger, so I’ve gone ahead and prepared this illustrated guide.

Hand Hygiene

Explain to your tiger that germs reside on frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs.

File:White Bengal Tiger at Door (11889542686).jpg

Encourage your tigers greet one another using alternatives to handshakes.

Royal Bengal tigers playing with paws in air.

Discuss the importance of frequent hand-washing,

Tiger splashing water

especially before meals.

Anthropomorphized tiger sitting down to undersized dinner (Puck)

Aim for a minimum of twenty seconds of washing with soap and water.

Bengal Tiger in Water

Social Distancing

In order to “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of the virus, your tiger needs to learn about “social distancing.”

Young tiger playing with its mother

This includes avoiding unnecessary outings,

Two anthropomorphmized tigers going for a drive in a convertible

especially to places like crowded bars and restaurants.

Cafe Bar sign with tiger on top

While introverted tigers may be more than ready for an extended vacation from too much social time,

File:Tiger Family.jpg - Mother tiger with wide eyes

more extroverted tigers may find social isolation depressing.

File:Eugène Delacroix - Royal Tiger - Google Art Project.jpg

Your tiger may be tempted to sneak out of the house to meet with friends,

File:The Naughty Adventures of Mr. Jack by James Swinnerton cover (1904).jpg

or defy instructions to keep a minimum of one tiger-length apart.

Anthropomorphized tiger pulling back curtain on two tigers embracing

Firm, consistent reminders,

File:Kishi Ganku - Tiger - 36.100.11 - Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg

including posters or other instructional material,

Siberian Beware of Tiger Sign

may help your tiger remember the rules.

Safe Working Conditions

Unfortunately, many tigers have jobs that involve close contact with others, who may carry the virus without realizing it.

File:Thomas Daniell - Tiger Hunting in the East Indies - Google Art Project.jpg

Tiger attacking hunters on elephant

Tiger attacking passenger elephant

Peter Paul Rubens, animal battle scene

Ask your tiger to discuss with its employer whether work-from-home is possible.

Book plate "Industria et Perseverantia" with tiger holding ruler

Certain white-collar tiger occupations naturally lend themselves to work from home.

Tiger reading long scrolling paper

Readily available software may allow your tiger to meet with colleagues via “zoom” conferences,

File:Tiger Fangs (1943) film poster.jpg

even for very large groups.

Images of wild cats in separate frames

Less-technically savvy tigers may find conferencing software overwhelming, however,

spiraling images of british colonies

and may find it simpler to conduct business via telephone.

tiger on telephone

Finally, for tiger occupations which require heading into the office, organizing the workplace to allow at least one tiger-length of space between employees can keep everyone safe.

tigers in distance approaching fort

Personal Protection Equipment

A tiger cough or sneeze can spread virus-laden droplets much farther than we realize.

File:Puck's political weather forecast for Fourteenth Street and vicinity - Dalrymple. LCCN2012648722.jpg

Unfortunately, an extensive review of the literature shows little evidence that adequate PPE is available for tigers,

Rory cartoon tiger doing laboratory experiments

and thus your tiger may have to do without, rely on donations,

Anthropomorphized tiger begging (Puck)

or sew up its own.

Boy with needle and tiger

Be Safe, Practice Tiger Distancing!

Meanwhile, readers, if you are worried about catching COVID-19 from a tiger, do like I do and keep a safe distance from tigers at all times.

PS: Feel free to share your own favorite tiger art in the blog discussion group.

***

Artwork credits, in order of appearance:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TigerCub.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger-Brahmin-Jackal.gif

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Bengal_Tiger_at_Door_(11889542686).jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_bengal_tiger_play.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Don_go_away.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_dish_but_mightly_little_turkey_LCCN2012648582.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bengal_Tiger_in_Water_(13290323163).jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Young_tiger_playing_with_its_mother.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conti_echo_23_winter.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bar_Trafalgar_-_Santiago_de_Compostela.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger_Family.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eug%C3%A8ne_Delacroix_-_Royal_Tiger_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Naughty_Adventures_of_Mr._Jack_by_James_Swinnerton_cover_(1904).jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sc%C3%A8nes_de_la_vie_priv%C3%A9e_et_publique_des_animaux,_tome_1_0480.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kishi_Ganku_-_Tiger_-_36.100.11_-_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Siberian_Tiger_Sign_cropped.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Daniell_-_Tiger_Hunting_in_the_East_Indies_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Briton_Rivi%C3%A8re_Tigerjagd.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:W._Jardine,_Natural_History_of_Pachydermes…_Wellcome_L0030793.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_Paul_Rubens_110.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hume_bookplate.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colorado_College_Nugget_(yearbook)_(1904)_(14777209654).jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger_Fangs_(1943)_film_poster.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Das_thierleben_in_Sch%C3%B6nbrunn_(1904)_(20219627673).jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bodleian_Libraries,_Tour_through_the_British_colonies_and_foreign_possessions.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Review_of_reviews_and_world%27s_work_(1890)_(14784324615).jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birmania,_caccia_alla_tigre,_1900_ca..JPG

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Puck%27s_political_weather_forecast_for_Fourteenth_Street_and_vicinity_-_Dalrymple._LCCN2012648722.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rory_experiment.png

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:In_dire_distress_-_F._Opper._LCCN2012648559.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_d_batten_1892_10.jpg

RIP to Science: One Hair Dryer (Mask Test)

I was attempting to answer the question for my kids of whether an improvised mask, such as a cowboy-style bandana over your mouth and nose, could help slow the spread of disease.

Hypothesis: Even though an improvised cloth mask won’t filter viruses, it does limit the distance air coming out your mouth travels, and therefore reduces how far any germs get spread while talking, coughing, sneezing, etc.

Experiment: Well, about that.  So my plan was to set up a measuring tape on the bathroom floor showing the six feet of “social distancing” and then blow various lightweight items (dust, loose powder, wadded up scrap paper) using the hair dryer.  We’d see how far the hair dryer blows these items when unmasked and how far it blows them when masked with various garments — my favorite scarf, a standard bandanna, etc.

I decided to run some preliminary tests before the kids woke up, because if my hypothesis (or my experiment) was obviously wrong, that was something I could learn on my own, thanks.

I got the measuring tape out, found a scrap of (clean!!) toilet paper on the floor (note to self: CLEAN BATHROOM), and dug out my circa-1994 Salon Selectives hair dryer, currently collecting dust thanks to social-distancing.

==>Thanks Mom! That was an awesome Christmas present, even though I wasn’t sure what to think about it at the time. Just a few months ago we were marveling it had held up so long and showed no signs of giving up the ghost.==>

With the dryer on its high setting, I could blow a scrap about four feet.  I put the bandanna over it, and could only blow it about one or two feet.  Also, there was this slight burning odor, which I figured was all that collected dust burning off.  No big deal.

I was pleased by my preliminary findings, but more pre-testing was in order before calling in my skeptical children.  It was possible, for example, that I was seeing such dramatic differences in how far the paper scrap would travel because I was not consistent in how I aimed the hair dryer.

I did some experimenting with holding the dryer at different angles, un-masked, chasing that scrap of unused toilet paper around the bathroom.  Then I put the bandanna over again.  Not nearly as much air-power, again with the burning smell, and then: Experiment over.  Hair-dryer shorted out.

Yikes.

No amount of hoping I’d tripped a breaker bore fruit. After a quarter-century of faithful service, my hair dryer is no more.

Conclusions:

(1) I should not be left unsupervised with valuable machinery.

(2) An ordinary bandanna provides enough airflow resistance that it can wreck a hair dryer.

(3) If you’re contagious and you want to share space with me, yes, I would much rather you covered your mouth and nose with one of those masks that “does nothing” because it sure seems to me like having your germs go not-very-far is better than having your germs fly closer to me.

(4) I can’t afford to resume this experiment on my kids’ hair dryer, because I have three teenage daughters who will mutiny if I wreck their machine, as they do style their hair in quarantine. Therefore,

(5) I’d be grateful if other people would take up the cause and run experiments to see if my preliminary findings are reproducible.

Thanks!

Me with bandana over my face.

Photo: The guilty parties (me and that bandanna), posing in my makeshift office in the garage.  I love having my family at home all day, and I’m grateful my husband and I can both work from home, no matter how crazy the set-up is. Not everyone is so lucky.  Pretty sure those on the front lines keeping our infrastructure together wish you’d do whatever you can to reduce the odds you make them sick when you run your essential errands, even if it isn’t perfect and 100% foolproof.

Smart Rosary Helps Users Overcome Distraction, Excuses, Family Harmony

ConspiracyPress – COLUMBUS – When Kaden Zimmer received the Vatican-promoted “Smart Rosary” from his confirmation sponsor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, he wrote a polite thank you note and promised to use it every evening when his parents lead a family Rosary.  “I figured it would announce the mysteries and help you keep from slipping into the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles Creed by accident.  I had no idea what we were in for.”

Heather Zimmer, Kaden’s mother adds, “Father Scott, our parish priest, is always trying to reach out to young people.  So Kade’s uncle was excited to get a coupon code for a parish discount on this new product that was supposed to help liven up our prayer life.  We all downloaded the app for our phones. Little did we know.”

The family was enjoying the meditations on world peace and concern for the poor.  “Basically it was just like being in religion class,” Kade says.  “I’m pretty good at writing short-essay answers for that.  I figured I was set.”

Then one evening Kade begged out of the evening family Rosary.  As Joel Zimmer, Kaden’s father recounts, “It was a Thursday night, and Kade had been at practice until seven, and he told us, ‘I’ve got all this homework to do, and also we had the school Mass today, and Father always leads a Rosary while the choir is practicing.'”

“That’s when my phone began buzzing,” Heather recounts.

“Giant PANTS ON FIRE icon lit up,” Joel says, shaking his head sadly.

“We were horrified.  Needless to say, Kaden was grounded,” his mother says. “We told him that behavior was unacceptable, and he’d be marching straight to confession Saturday afternoon.”

Mr. and Mrs. Zimmer report that while they were disappointed in their son, they were pleased that the Smart Rosary’s honesty-detector had prevented spiritual disaster.  The family privately shared with close friends how the accountability functions were bringing about renewal in their spiritual life.  “We were excited.  We encouraged other families to purchase the Smart Rosary and download the app.”

Then came what the couple now refers to as their spiritual u-turn.

“We’d all gathered in the living room,” Joel says, “and I remember Heather had such a peaceful, prayerful expression on her face.  But we began to pray, and the Smart Rosary kept re-starting us at the Second Joyful Mystery.”

“We thought it was a glitch,” Kaden explains.  “I told my parents to restart their phones.  But when they did . . . it updated.”

“We were just launching into the second ‘Hail Mary’ when the notifications started,” Heather recounts.

Mr. Zimmer shows screen shots of the messages the Smart Rosary app began displaying:

RESTART PRAYER: Stop making grocery list.

RESTART PRAYER: Quit replaying final three minutes of yesterday’s game.

“It was a little too smart for them,” Kaden says, recounting the feeling of victory he experienced at his parents’ comeuppance.  “I asked them, ‘Do I need to ground you, too?’ And that’s when my phone buzzed.  CONFESSION ALERT: Violation of 4th Commandment.

With no way to go back to the older version of the app, the Zimmer family quickly uninstalled the Smart Rosary features, and turned off Alexa and Siri just to be safe.  Unfortunately the damage was already done: Father Scott at Our Lady of Good Counsel had already been copied on the notifications.

An exhausted Father Scott describes how the scheduling feature of the Smart Rosary quickly overwhelmed parish life.  “In the early versions, there was just an option for the Legion of Mary to get their weekly meeting announcements sent out.  Perfect.  With the second update, we were able to share parish prayer requests, and with the third update, Smart Rosary would make suggestions on, say, remembering to pray for Joyce Hirschel’s cancer surgery during the Sorrowful Mysteries.  It was great.”

Unfortunately, the CONFESSION ALERT feature was designed to coordinate with the pastor’s schedule.  “Next thing I know, my calendar’s showing six hours of Confession on Saturday afternoon.  Six hours!”

Father Scott admits he fibbed to parish staff. “I told them I’d just go ahead and make myself available in the confessional, and use the downtime for prayer and Bible reading.”  What he failed to mention: “It’s possible I took breaks between prayer sessions to check a few headlines on my phone. Next thing I know, the bishop’s calling, because Smart Rosary is blowing up his phone with notifications.”

By Sunday morning, Our Lady of Good Counsel parish had officially banned Smart Rosary. “Sure, it’s fine if the Vatican wants to promote this thing,” Heather Zimmer says.  “But from now on, we’re using those cheap plastic rosaries you get from the table by the brochure rack.”

Electronic Rosary bracelet and phone with app

Photo courtesy of clicktopray.org, where you can learn about the real product, which cannot read souls and will not examine your family’s conscience for you.

Vatican Clergy Abuse Summit Bingo

From the makers of that evergreen classic Bishop Press Release Bingo comes the game we’ve all been waiting for, Vatican Clergy Abuse Summit Bingo!

Unlike regular Bingo, with Vatican Bingo what doesn’t get said counts too!  Put your chips on the grey boxes at the start of the game, and you get to keep them there until someone starts talking.  Don’t worry, when the Vatican’s playing, you can be sure your chips won’t be extradited any time soon.

And lest you worry: The Vatican shut down the USCCB’s process last fall to replace it with this?  Fear not.  The USCCB wasn’t planning to talk either.

10 Best Alternatives to the Easter Bunny

J-P Mauro at Aleteia writes “Let’s stop with the Easter Bunny.”  Around here we treat the Easter Bunny the same way we treat Santa Claus, for exactly the reasons Mauro explains.  But what if that solution wasn’t enough for your family?  What if you really truly needed to ditch the Easter Bunny?  For example, say you had a weird disease that caused you not to love rabbits?

Luckily as an Easter People, we can rise above!  Here are the top ten alternatives to the Easter Bunny, loved by Christians around the world:

1. The Easter Beagle Take the ringing of the bells at the Gloria and multiply it by 10,000.  That’s the sound of Easter Beagles joyously proclaiming the Resurrection.  You won’t, of course, want to give your children real beagles for Easter, unless you want the Good News proclaimed every time the doorbell rings, the neighbor’s cat walks by, or a stray leaf blows through your yard.  PETA’s job would be a lot easier if we switched to the Easter Beagle.

2. The Easter Lion  And it symbolizes the Lion of Judah and no children have ever come back alive to report that the Easter Lion at the mall is actually just same lion whose day job is sleeping all afternoon at the zoo.  Ideal for families on the Paleo diet, because instead of bringing baskets of sugary candy, the Easter Lion brings home hunks of raw meat for the young cubs.

3. The Easter Chicken Perfect for people who always felt the Easter Bunny was appropriating avian culture.

4. The Easter Platypus If you want to solve the egg problem without giving up on the cute furry mammal thing.  Always good for a quick laugh when you are really straining for material in your comedy routine.

5. The Easter Polar Bear What can we say about the polar bear?  It’s adorable from a distance?  It’s an endangered species? It’s a deadly predator?  Sounds exactly like the way the media describes Christians!  You won’t find a more accurate symbol of Easter for the new millenium.

6. The Easter Cardinal These bright red birds with their cheerful disposition and playful habits symbolize everything a Christian is looking for in an Easter mascot: A bad pun on something to do with the Church, and also it’s the only bird at the feeder you know how to identify.  Caveats: Leaves sunflower seed shells everywhere, and may be objectionable to certain sports fans.

7. The Easter Ferret  Where some people see a creepy, dodgy predator, others see a loveable pet.  Ferrets are a perfect symbol of the Resurrection, because just when you think you’ve lost your little darling for good, he finally turns up again.  This is the perfect Easter mascot for those whose vision of the Heavenly Banquet comes with a soundtrack from WOW’s Top Hits of 1999.

8. The Easter Retriever  This winsome, loveable pal doesn’t hide your eggs, he finds them — over, and over, and over again.  You’ll have no trouble enjoying all eight weeks of the Easter season, though admittedly those plastic eggs are gonna be a little slobber-worn by the time Pentecost rolls around.

9. The Easter Dolphin Imagine you were the kind of Catholic who habitually prays for the repose of the soul of Douglas Adams. If that’s you, the dolphin symbolizes hope for a better world, the great questions of human existence, and the number 42.  An Easter Dolphin magnet on the back of your car adds depth and meaning to that faded Christian Fish you almost peeled off and then didn’t.

10. The Easter Groundhog  If the Easter Groundhog comes out and sees its shadow on Good Friday, that’s 36 more hours before you can legit break out the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

File:Puck Easter 1907 - L.M. Glackens. LCCN2011647186.tif

Illustration courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.

 

Which Saint Should You Put Your Shoes Out For?

File:Paul Seignac Christmas Morning.jpg

I received nothing from St. Nicholas and find his obvious indifference to me to be much more unsettling than finding a rock in my shoe.

-Fr. Steve Gunrow

The difficulty here is that Fr. Gunrow put his shoes out for the wrong saint.  You can avoid this problem by carefully matching the needs of your soul to the saint who can best help you.   Here’s a quick guide to which vigils you should set out your shoes in order to receive what you need in the morning:

St. Zita . . . Your lost keys.

St. Therese . . . Roses.

St. Juan Diego . . . Roses; painted tilma.  Both if you’re extra good.

St. Michael . . . Swords.

St. Vincent de Paul . . . Canned goods to donate to the local food pantry.

St. Catherine Labouré . . . Miraculous medals.

St. Catherine of Alexandria . . . Wheels.

St. Catherine of Siena . . . Fraternal correction; extreme penitence.

St. Dominic . . . Rosaries; improved homilies.  Both if you’re extra bad.

St. Stephen . . . Rocks.

St. Lawrence . . . Steaks for your feast day BBQ.

St. Philip Neri . . . Joke books; small dogs; counter-reform.

St. Genevieve . . . List of all the conquering armies who are not in your living room this morning.

St. Paul . . . Thorns; shipwrecks; writing instruments.

St. Peter . . . Keys; fish; perpetual documentation of your chief failures in life.

St. Augustine . . . Book-length explanation of what your roommate did with those “borrowed” items.

St. Jerome . . . New Bible; scathing critique of your sorry attempts at theology.

St. Anthony . . . Maps; organizational tips; parking spaces.

 

Obviously this is the abbreviated version.  To add your suggestions to the list . . . the combox is here.

 

Artwork: Paul Seignac via Wikimedia, Public Domain.

The Advent Wars Escalate

We’ve reached a new low on the Battle for Advent: My house now sports an Ordinary Time Tree.

Christmas Lights on a fir tree, up close
Maternal Penance in Mixed Media, Detail

I told the children they ought to crown it for the feast of Christ the King, but they were too busy ignoring admonitions about liturgically-correct decorating schemes while they quick tied up all the cut limbs with red plaid bows.  In memory of the souls in purgatory, I’m sure.

***

Early last week my trusty Surface Pro (reliability rating: 7th Circle of IT Hell) spontaneously quit working, forever and ever amen, while I was using it.  I assume it was pre-punishment for my caving on the tree.  So I spent the week sharing one PC with a man who was home “on vacation” working all day at the one PC.

And that’s the story about how I became a Black Friday shopper.

Surreal part: No lines, no crowds, no traffic.  I gather that the “we’re closed on Thanksgiving (until 5pm)!” thing is causing all the crazy people to get their manic shopping needs taken care of on the vigil, leaving the daylight hours to those of us who don’t love the contact-sport side of holiday shopping.

Disturbing part: I purchased a laptop named after a deadly sin.

It was on sale, so it’s okay, right?

More disturbing part: It was not the right deadly sin.

If you told me I was blogging from a machine called wrath I’d consider it truth in advertising.  Sloth and gluttony come to mind as obvious runners-up. Were it a school chrome book, now the go-to way to avoid the hassle and expense of textbooks even though students don’t learn as well online, we could call it avarice.

But envy?  Nah.  It’s shiny, but not that shiny.  Envy is why we have the ordinary time tree.

 

Funniest Parish Rumor Ever

This morning after Bible study one of the ladies asks me, “What are your degrees in?”

It’s a good question, and one I occasionally have to clarify.   I studied economics and I have a degree in economics are two different things; in my case the former is true but not the latter.  Every now and then an author blurb goes to print without my clearing it, and I cringe at the odd inaccuracies.

So I answered, “I have a BA in international studies, with a not-quite-a-minor in economics.  My master’s degree is in business administration, with the bulk of my coursework in accounting with a little bit of finance.”  Again, I don’t have an accounting degree, though I did graduate with enough upper-level courses to work professionally in accounting.  But I’m not a CPA, which people ask me whenever they hear I studied accounting.

“Oh,” the lady at Bible study says.  “So do you have a PhD in theology?”

Pardon me?  “No.”

“Oh.  Someone said you had a PhD in theology.”

No.  No no no.  “Nope.  Business.  Master’s degree in business, no PhD in anything.”

“Sometimes Father Whippersnapper seems to defer to you during Bible study.”

“That’s because he has a graduate degree in theology, which I do not, but I am more experienced with arguments among non-academics bickering on the internet.”

***

As parish grapevine experiences go, it was more amusing than horrifying, so it worked out.

–> I got to share a little bit of mine and my husband’s conversion stories (answer to the follow-up question of “How come you seem to know so much?”), and I conceded I do write a bit of Catholic non-fiction

More better: I got a few minutes of living vicariously through one of the other Bible study ladies, who overheard the conversation and shared with me about her experience in internal audit and fraud detection, which is one of the coolest things accountants get to do and I’d be totally looking into that if I were looking for an accounting job.

It was a good day.  And to my credit, I read just far enough into Love and Responsibility to know, as any good Junior Moral Theologian who happens to be married should know, the answers to these sex questions over at the Aggie Catholic blog,* which topics I alluded to in the rough cut of my most recent NCRegister post, now up: “What Do Priests Know About Marriage?”  My very smart editor removed the explicit references (which the Aggie post answers succinctly, so you’re set if you have those questions) to keep it PG rated.

*I do not write for the Aggie Catholic blog.  I have been to Texas three times, though, so it’s practically the same, for parish rumor-mill purposes.

File:Young Nun at Prayer by Sergei Gribkov 1852.jpg

Artwork: Young Nun at Prayer by Sergei Gribkov.  I’m not a nun either, in case anyone is asking.

PS: Parents, this is a grown-up blog.  I teach children in regular life, but on the internet I cover adult topics.

Packing Medium

Three kids and I depart tomorrow today for the big trip.  I am not a person who packs light.  I was pretty pleased that two girls and I were able to get more or less all our stuff, carry-on excepted, into one (large) suitcase.  My big packing question is: Would I be annoyed that I had to buy this in France?

For some things I prefer not to pack our own.  Most of our toiletries we’ll purchase on arrival, because I do not need some child’s shampoo saturating everything we own.  That’ll be fine on the return trip, but I am hoping to not see the inside of a French laundromat for a good week or so.  They can bring home the dregs of a bottle of shampoo for a souvenir.

What is killing us on luggage is that the boy is going to camp.  He wanted to see Alps.  After doing all the investigating — and I was this close to taking up learning German — the best option for giving him Maximum Alpine Experience was to send to him to a week of summer camp down in Chamonix.  Everything about that choice is good except the packing list.  The camp people want the kids to bring clothes and spare clothes and more clothes for every day.  Of course they do — who wants to be liable for a dozen freezing-naked underpacked children?

Also, I would be mildly irritated to have to buy a fresh set of camping gear in Europe, and I’m very not interested in having a gear crisis the day camp begins.  Unfortunately, my imagination does not look at a tiny-font packing list and accurately gauge how many cubic feet that will all turn into.  Thus we have a mountain of luggage despite my extremely uncharacteristic efforts to go semi-minimalist otherwise.

Large suitcase with rabbit pillow pet on top.

Two hippos and a rabbit have wormed their way onto the passenger list.

Weirdest thing about this trip: I am having a hard time believing it is real.  That’s odd because I don’t just know lots of people who travel all the time, but also I’ve done this before.  I’ve lived in France twice.  I’m not going someplace exotic to me.  I think it’s that I’ve been so firmly planted in the stay-at-home life for the past two decades, and also that doing this was so completely impossible until so recently; until it actually happens, I don’t think my brain can be fully persuaded that it can happen.

Last night we had a mini bon voyage party, which involved getting bitten by all the mosquitos and then coming home from the river to find my friend surprising me with an icon of St. Raphael.  She didn’t have time to get it blessed on her local orthodox altar, so she proposed that I might want to get it blessed in France.  That would be a serious stretch outside my comfort zone, giving me a double-hit on areas of maximal shyness, but friends do that to you.

Orthodox icon of St. Raphael, who looks like he's surfing on the back of a giant fish.

St. Raphael is the ignored angel in my life (Gabriel and Michael get all the attention, and Gabriel would tell you he’s the overlooked tag-along in that pair), but here’s what my friend pointed out: St. Raphael is the patron of both wayfarers and of healing.

Apt enough, and then if you add in the part about how I need to cram all that luggage into our otherwise right-sized too-small rental car, there’s this: He’s particularly the patron of I Can’t Believe This Is Happening To Me, and also of people launching into big adventures with a terrifying stack of baggage.  At least for once he’s being invoked for good crises and not bad ones.

Blog News You’d Hate To Miss

As Lent winds up, I’d like to let you know about some changes coming to the blog.

Those of you who’ve been reading me since the very beginning know that I’ve gone through a series of transitions as a writer.  I started out as an anonymous homeschool-blogger, just trying to share my experiences and get some practice writing for an audience.  Over the years I’ve been a contributor to other Catholic blogs, magazines, and books, as well as spearheading some projects of my own.

Variety and change are the name of the game.

With that in mind, and having had a week to reflect after the refreshing and fruitful retreat I took last weekend, now seems like the perfect day to share the changes you may see here.  What to look for in the future:

More Hands-On Experience.  Maybe it’s the coloring book rubbing off on me, maybe it’s all the art I post, but something’s having an effect.  From here on out, this is going to be primarily a craft blog.  I envision the bulk of the projects involving hot glue and day-glo pom poms.

Pom-Pom photo by Mvolz (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.  This is roughly what we’re going for, only with colors that are a little more searing.  These, glued to things.  Everything.

More Pop Culture.  Reader, you know how important evangelization is to me.  And every writer (myself excepted) seems to feel that the secret to evangelization is immersing oneself in the interests of the persons being evangelized.  I’m ready to take that advice.  For religious purposes, therefore, from now on when I’m not crafting, I’ll be keeping you updated on celebrity news, the NFL, and How The Gamecocks are Doing This Season.

We’ll continue talking about the weather, too, but that’s not a big change.

Less Depressing Arguing Stuff.   It took a lot of memes to get this through my head, but listen guys: Opinions on weighty matters are out of here like last year.  Giving a reason for your hope?  Some reasons are more equal than others, you know.  We’re going to focus on inspiring quotes from Anonymous. Where possible, I’ll provide an attribution to St. Francis of Assisi.  He probably said something like that anyway.

Same Great Sacred Art, Updated.  You already know I’m not much of a traditionalist — if it’s true, beautiful, good, and approved by the Church, I can work with it, new or old.  With that in mind, I’ll be sharing a lot more music videos.  Trap Masses, primarily.

As for Caravaggio?  Of course I’d never let that go.  But from now on, it’ll be all the great works of antiquity forward, but re-interpreted in the style of “Family Circus.”

You’re gonna love it.

Look for these great new blog experiences as often as once a year!