Be the Change #33 – Social Media Break

Posted by on Aug 26th, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

I’ve decided to take a break from technology for the next few weeks.  So this blog will be suspended until some time in September or October.  There are several reasons for this decision:

  1. 1. Most important, my husband is starting to complain that I spend more time with my phone than I do with him.
  2. 2. I am so busy both at home and at work that I’m falling behind on things that I really ought to do, and a tech break might help me catch up on some other things.
  3. I feel like my attention span is getting shorter, and that really bothers me.  I’m getting too used to the quick hits of information that you get on the internet, and losing my ability to read deeply, which I used to love to do.
  4. I have started suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. I used to smirk at the right-wingers who got themselves into a lather over Obama (and yet….you still have your guns, don’t you?).  I’m getting the same way about Trump, though, and it’s not healthy.  Being on the internet just feeds it because I can’t get away from all the horrible stuff he does, and I can’t ignore it.  I feel like I need to get a grip.
  5. My BRAND NEW computer is running about as slow and freezing about as often as a 90-year-old nun, so I’m just angry at all technology and I’m going to try to ignore it for a while.

I’ll be back. I’m just need to take a break for a while and start feeling like a human being again, instead of a deranged cyborg.


Be the Change #32 – On Charlottesville

Posted by on Aug 20th, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

The violence and hatred exhibited in Charlottesville last weekend were shocking and heartbreaking to most Americans.  Anyone who hasn’t been in a cave or a coma knew that our country was dividing along ever more partisan and angry lines, but the brawls and the tragic death of Heather Heyer still left us wondering what’s happened to us and how much worse it can get.

Many of us were further dismayed by President Trump’s insistence that “many sides” were to blame.  I wasn’t there, so I don’t have an opinion on who “started it,” who was armed and who wasn’t, or whose “fault” it was.

But I have an opinion on who was right and who was wrong.

The people carrying the Nazi and Confederate flags, and shouting neo-Nazi slogans were wrong.  Flat-out, end-of-story wrong.  Because their whole reason for being in Charlottesville in the first place was wrong.

You can’t agree with slaveholding, racial superiority, or any form of racial or ethnic discrimination and claim to support American values.  The monuments that the Unite the Right groups were defending honor and glorify men who took up arms for the purpose of continuing to hold other human beings as property.  That was wrong.  Granted, they were men of their time, but we know better now and we shouldn’t honor their cause.

Don’t ask me if monuments to Washington or Jefferson are coming down next because, after all, those men were also slaveholders.  Washington held the Continental Army together and therefore gave us our country.  He willingly left office after two terms when he could have been king, and therefore gave us the notion of peaceful succession.  Jefferson gave us the very idea of our country in the Declaration of Independence, and our cross-continental reach with the Louisiana purchase.  We honor Washington and Jefferson for those contributions, in spite of their status as slaveholders.

A monument to confederate rebels is different.  It explicitly honors those men for something they did that was reprehensible:  rebelling against our country for the purpose of continuing to hold other human beings as property.  The monuments show them in their military uniforms, often with weapons or on horses ready to go into battle.  The monuments honor them because of their fight to keep other human beings in bondage.  That’s the difference between a Confederate monument and the Jefferson Memorial.  That’s why the Confederate monuments should come down.

In the months to come, there are likely to be more protests, and more counter-protests.  There may be more violence, probably on both sides.  But to say both sides are equally wrong, just because both sides throw punches, is to miss the main point.  One side is fighting evil ideologies of the dark past.  The other is fighting on the side of evil.

NOTE:  This post is an expansion on a Comment that I posted on my friend Debbie’s Facebook page.  Debbie is to the right of me politically, and the comments on her post ran the political gamut.  I was heartened by the fact that Debbie’s original post, and all the comments, were well-thought-out and respectful.  There was disagreement, but it was civil.  There was no throwing around of terms like “racist” or “libtard.”  That’s the kind of dialog that we desperately need.

Be The Change #31 – Change your diet (week 4)

Posted by on Aug 6th, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I’m just finishing week four of my experiment with eating less meat.  I estimate that I cut my meat consumption at least in half over the course of the 4 weeks.  I have to confess that it’s getting harder, though.  My meals are starting to feel repetitive.  I’ve asked my daughter and son-in-law for a vegetarian cookbook for my birthday later this month.  They’ve both been vegetarians for years, so I have confidence that they’ll select something good for me that will help me to keep this going.  I also think it will get easier when fall comes.  Al and I love soup and risotto, and we have many vegetarian recipes for both that we enjoy.

I confess ahead of time that I am taking a business trip in September and a 2-week vacation in Canada in October, and will probably eat a little more meat than usual on both of those trips. 

This will be my last blog post on the topic of flexitarian diet.  Overall, it was easier than I thought it would be, and I think it is healthier both for me and for the planet, so I will continue it. 

Here are this week’s menus.  As before, I am happy to provide recipes for starred items upon request.  Vegetarian Experiment Week Four

Be the change #30 – Change your diet (week 2)

Posted by on Jul 23rd, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Week two of eating mostly vegetarian.  Still not finding it hard at all.  I don’t miss the extra meat, and Al has been fine supplementing his meals with a little more meat as he feels the need.   Note that I haven’t given up my most-beloved indulgences:  a glass of wine with dinner almost every night, and dessert after dinner.  Our desserts aren’t usually fancy:  a dish of frozen yogurt, an ice-cream sandwich, a little dark chocolate.  I like to bake, though, and I will bake us something indulgent every week or two.  Last week I made tarte tatin for bunco and there was a little left over.  The week before I made a cherry pie.  Here are the past week’s menus:  Vegetarian Experiment Week Two.  As always, I am glad to provide recipes for starred dishes.

Be the Change #29 – Change your diet (week one)

Posted by on Jul 16th, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I found a quick calculator that helped me to estimate my household’s carbon footprint.  Ours is about 12 tons per year.  Want to know yours?  Check out this LINK

Twelve tons seemed like a lot to me.  It takes about 63 trees to offset that much.  In the fall, we have so many leaves to rake that it FEELS like we have 63 trees on our little suburban lot.  But we don’t.  So, I researched the top ways to reduce your footprint…

1.       Cut down on air travel.  One round-trip flight between New York and San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2-3 tons of CO2 per person. 

2.       Walk or ride public transportation as much as you can.   Even if you drive a small car, and only drive 500 miles per month, your car is spewing about 1.7 tons of CO2 annually. 

3.       Eat a vegetarian diet.   

4.       Have fewer children.

Too late for that last one!

I admit I love to travel and will not be reducing my carbon footprint that way any time soon.  I already drive a fuel-efficient car and take public transportation to work.  But, I’m really worried about climate change and, in the spirit of my ‘be the change’ theme, rather than complaining about Trump pulling out of the Paris accord, I decided to try eating less meat.

My daughter and son-in-law have been vegetarians for years, so I know first-hand how do-able it is.  And I’ve never been someone who has to eat at lot of meat at every meal.  But, I do enjoy meat, so I just didn’t think I could go vegetarian, much less vegan.  I decided to try reducing my meat consumption by about 70%.  I’ve been on this flexitarian diet for a week now, and I’m not finding it hard at all.  And I lost a pound!  But, better yet, I’m reducing our carbon footprint by almost a ton per year.  I’d encourage almost anyone to try this.  I’ll publish my menus weekly for the next several weeks, and can provide recipes for starred items on request. 

Here’s a link to this week’s menus:

Vegetarian Experiment Week One







Did Augustine Invent Sex?

Posted by on Jul 6th, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Well, an article in the June 19 issue of The New Yorker says he did.

I highly recommend the article as very interesting reading about Saint Augustine’s early life and how his thinking on the topic of sexuality evolved and became the foundation of the Christian position on sex.  In a nutshell, the author relates Augustine’s first adolescent experience with an involuntary erection to his later thinking on the topic of Original Sin.  Because we are unable to control our lust, we are fundamentally flawed and in need of salvation.

I have a few quibbles with the piece.  First, the description of Augustine’s education fails to mention a key figure: his patron Romanianus (renamed Urbanus in The Saint’s Mistress because some of my early readers found the name Romanianus confusing).

Second, their son’s budding adolescent sexuality was far from the only point of contention between Augustine’s parents, Monica and Patricius.

Third, the author states that Augustine “didn’t even bother to mention” the name of his mistress in the Confessions, implying that she was of little importance to him.  In fact, Augustine describes in the Confessions how very deeply he loved the mistress that I named Leona in The Saint’s Mistress.  He describes his anguish in being torn from her.  They were lovers for 14 years, and she was the mother of his only child.  I think it is indisputable that he loved her.  I interpret his reticence to name her as a way of protecting her privacy.

Fourth, as I portray in my book, Augustine contemplated chastity long before his conversion to Christianity.  In the period of the late Roman empire,  several cults arose that required chastity in their adherents, probably in reaction to the self-indulgence and debauchery of the era.  The Manichean elect, for example, were to be chaste.

Overall, though, I really liked this article.  It described Augustine’s thought process on the topic of sexuality in a way that was clear, correct and entertaining.  I liked how the author delved into the future saint’s past to help explain his keen interest in the topic.  Saint Augustine certainly knew lust and failed again and again at self-mastery, just as we all do.  He was brilliant.  And now he is holy.  But, he was deeply, fully passionately human during his life – a saint any of us can identify with.


Be the Change #28 – Protect Water Resources

Posted by on Jul 3rd, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Al and I got a rain barrel this week.  For $85, we got the barrel, the spigot, instructions and a very informative lecture – not just on how to use the rain barrel, but about the threats to safe drinking water in Pennsylvania and what we all can do to protect our water resources.

The most important thing we learned is why our rain barrel is important.  We thought it was just a way of saving money during summer dry spells when we have a lawn and garden to water.  We hope it will be that, but it has the even more vital function of reducing the load on our sewer systems.

Water that runs off your roof into a downspout can contribute to storm sewer overload.  Storm sewer overload results in storm water being diverted into a Combined Sewer System, leading to Combined Sewer Overflow:  the discharge into our groundwater, rivers and streams of storm runoff mixed with untreated sewage.  Yuck!

Our rain barrel will allow us to collect rain water that otherwise would have gone into storm sewers, and then use it to water our yard during dry spells.  Rather than contributing to sewer overload, the collected rainwater will seep through the ground and return to our water supply filtered by soil and roots, as nature intended.  Now I feel virtuous as well as thrifty!

We learned many other ways to help protect our water resources. Most of them are pretty easy, and Al and I will be putting them into practice in the coming months.  Here are a few:

  1. Recycle used motor oil and anti-freeze, and other hazardous waste (here is information about hazardous waste recycling in Allegheny County: ZEROWASTE). NEVER dump it in a storm sewer, or you could be drinking it next time you’re thirsty!  If auto fluids leak onto your driveway, absorb them with kitty litter, rather than hosing them onto the street, where they will run into the nearest storm sewer.
  2. Always clean up after your dog. Do you want to drink dog poop that ran off into a storm sewer?  Neither do I.
  3. Limit your use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Water frequently (from your rain barrel!) or use mulch instead of herbicides as much as possible.  Use natural, non-toxic products.  Corn gluten meal is one natural weed killer.
  4. Use green cleaning supplies. Make your own, or use products such as Meyers or Seventh Generation.
  5. Limit your use of plastics as much as you can. I know it’s hard, but I feel newly committed after learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Read about it HERE.

More information is available from the Pennsylvania Resources Council.  I strongly encourage you to check out their intranet site.

Be the Change #27 – Be Like Dorothy

Posted by on Jun 25th, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

When she was in her 20s, Dorothy Day would have seemed like a long-shot for sainthood.  She lived a bohemian lifestyle including multiple lovers, an abortion and a child born outside of marriage – and this was in the 1920s, when society didn’t exactly shrug at that as we do today.  She was, at various times, either an Anarchist or a Socialist.

But…raised in a non-church-going family, Dorothy had had an interest in religion as a child, and her spirituality was re-awakened with the birth of her own child.  And her sense of social injustice had been kindled by her encounters with the poor and working class during her years as a pacifist, Socialist and suffragette.

As she approached 30, Dorothy became very attracted to Catholicism and received baptism in 1927.  Never one to do anything by half measures, she took very seriously Christ’s injunction to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for the sick and the stranger.

With Peter Maurin, she co-founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933.  The Catholic Worker advocated for the poor and the working class.  Day and Maurin argued against both big business and big government, and tried to present an alternative economic vision that in many ways harkened back to early-19th century America: small farms, small businesses, widespread property ownership, and a reliance on the individual, the family and the community.

Day and Maurin advocated for the lower classes in their deeds as well as their words.   They embraced “holy poverty” in their own lives.  They refused to accept advertising in The Catholic Worker and the newspaper’s staff was unpaid.  Most of the proceeds from the Worker (which had a peak circulation of 190,000 in 1938) funded Hospitality Houses in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which provided food and clothing to the poor of the community.  They also founded Catholic Worker farms, where the sick and homeless could recover and the idle could find useful work.

The Worker’s extreme pacifism was unpopular during World War Two, and the newspaper’s circulation declined significantly.  Peter Maurin died in 1949.  But the Catholic Worker movement lived on.  Over 200 Catholic Worker communities still operate today, in cities and on farms.  Dorothy Day continued her life of writing, activism and holy poverty until her death in 1980.  She was first proposed for sainthood in 1983.  In March 2000, Pope John Paul II approved the case to go forward, which allows her the title “Servant of God”.  The formal application for sainthood was received by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2012 and is still pending.

What I admire most about Dorothy Day is her total fidelity to Christ’s words in Matthew 25:40: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

What I find most intriguing about her is her opposition to both big business and big government, her ultimate rejection of Socialism as well as her rejection of rampant crony capitalism.  Did Dorothy and Peter imagine some middle way that could be unifying for our Divided States of America in the 21st century?  I plan to do some more reading on this topic, and I will report on it in future blog posts.

Be the Change #26 – Be Like Ricky, Taliesin and Micah

Posted by on Jun 18th, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

The man pictured at left is Ricky John Best.  Remember him if you ever think America has completely lost its way. 

On May 26, three men were stabbed on a Portland light-rail train when they tried to defend two young women from anti-Muslim harassment.  These men were heroes, every bit as much as our police, firefighters and soldiers, every bit as much as the passengers on Flight 93 on 9/11/01.  They were the kind of ordinary, decent guys who represent the best in America.  They deserve to be remembered.

Ricky John Best died in the train car.  The 53-year-old father of 4 was a Portland city employee and a 23-year Army veteran.  His son Erik said, “He died fighting the good fight, protecting the innocent.  Honestly, that’s what he probably wanted.”

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, died at a Portland hospital shortly after the attack.  A recent college graduate, he worked for the consulting firm Cadmus Group.  His last words were, “Tell everyone on this train I love them.”

Micah David-Cole Fletcher survived the attack.  Fletcher is a student at Portland State University and won a poetry contest in high school with a poem about Islamophobia. A friend said of him, “If there’s a march or protest happening, he’s the one calling me to see where I’m at…He’s just against injustice, that’s his personality.”

Another hero is Rachel Macy, who stayed with Namkai-Meche as he bled, praying for him and assuring him that he wasn’t alone. 

As for the attacker, he doesn’t deserve to have his name mentioned, nor to have his vile rant quoted.  He represents thoroughly anti-American values, is unworthy of the sacrifices of our heroes throughout our 241-year history, and deserves a lifetime in prison.

Ricky, Teliesin and Micah represent an America where the weak and innocent are protected, where religious and racial minorities are welcomed and respected, and where common decency is the norm.

They represent the America that crowdfunded $1 million for their families within just a few days of the attack.  They represent the America where hundreds gathered in a candlelight vigil to honor them near the Hollywood Transit Station where the attacks took place. They represent the Bilal Mosque in Beaverton, Oregon, which has also set up a fund for the victims’ families.

Rachel Macy reported that all 3 men tried to position themselves between the attacker and the two girls he was yelling at.  These were regular guys.  Only one of them was a trained soldier.  Any of us can do exactly what they did.    Here’s a link to a cartoon that describes in a simple visual what to do to defend our values of tolerance, respect and kindness towards all, just like Rick, Teliesin and Micah: FIGHT ISLAMOPHOBIA


Be the Change #25 – Be Like LeRoy

Posted by on Jun 10th, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Two years ago next Saturday, white supremacist Dylann Roof was welcomed into a Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and shot dead 9 people, including the church’s senior pastor, State Senator Clementa Pinckney.

The tragedy set off a remarkable chain of events.

First, the relatives of the victims expressed forgiveness towards Roof only days later, at the hearing to set his bond. Read their anguished, redemptive statements HERE.  Their Christian forgiveness takes my breath away, humbles me.  I don’t know if I could do the same.

Second, at long last, the Confederate flag, which Roof had taken as his symbol, was removed from the South Carolina State House grounds, and moved to a museum, where it belongs.

At a white supremacist rally to protest the flag removal, a third remarkable thing happened, and that’s the story I want to tell here.

LeRoy Smith was the director of the South Caroline Department of Public Safety, and he was working the rally that day to support his subordinates.  It was a hot day, and Smith noticed an older white man who appeared to be overcome by the heat.

The white man was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika.

Leroy Smith is African-American.  He had every reason to hate white supremacists. The rally had turned nasty, with catcalls between protesters and counter-protesters, some jostling, even some bottle-throwing.  So, Smith had his hands full, and had every excuse to ignore the white man’s distress.  But that’s not what he did.

Smith gently took the man’s arm, and slowly walked up him the steps and into the air-conditioned State House, murmuring reassurance and encouragement.

Photos of the two men went viral on the media.  When asked why he thinks the photos were so impactful, Smith responded, “Love.  I think that’s the greatest thing in the world-  love.  And that’s why so many people were moved by it.”  (Read the full New York Times report of the incident HERE)

If a black man can show compassion for a white supremacist, then surely we can love each other in spite of our political differences.  I call that radical love.  I challenge you this week to go out of your way to show radical love to someone who has hurt you, or someone whose political views are abhorrent to you.

Copyright 2014 Kathryn Bashaar | Design by | Adapted from PureType