Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I grew up in the Chicago area where Saint Patrick is venerated as the patron saint of binge drinking and political parades, so imagine my surprise when I found out that he was actually an incredibly courageous and holy man…

Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick

If you think that Saint Patrick was all about wearing “Kiss Me I’m Irish!” buttons and eating corned beef and cabbage, I encourage you to read the real story behind the holiday.  Here is a short article to get you started.  Here is a longer, more detailed article if you are interested.

Here is a lovely video of his “Breastplate” prayer set to music:

Here is the text of the prayer:

The Deer’s Cry or The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

I am back in my office

I am back in my office today after spending several days in Madison taking care of my daughter who was very sick with the flu.  She is much better now.  Thanks to everyone who sent get-well wishes.

I am trying to get caught up with phone calls and emails.  I know I owe lead packets to a few people too.  I am working my way through the list!

Learning How To Grieve

It is coming up on one year since my father passed away so I’m thinking of him a lot lately.   His death hit me very hard and it took me several months to get back on course and now I feel like I just want to get through this without getting caught up in it again.

He had a pulmonary embolism on March 17, 2008 while he was sitting at the breakfast table.  I called 911 and they came and did the whole thing with the paddles and they were able to revive him but he never regained consciousness and he died in the hospital on March 22, 2008.

He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and had really declined terribly in the months before his death.  I couldn’t prevent him from pulling his hearing aids out and destroying them so it became very difficult to communicate with him.  He had become incontinent and extremely argumentative.  He was increasingly disoriented and frightened and agitated.  I felt that could barely take care of him and I was starting to think that perhaps he would be better off in a nursing home.

But when I think of him now I remember the happy years when he first came to live with us.  He was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s then and his impairment was barely noticeable.  He enjoyed everything around him and delighted in every little detail of daily life.  He spent his days reading the newspaper at the dining room table right outside my office so I could keep an eye on him while I worked.  I had bought him a collection of big band CDs and he listened to them over and over (driving my children crazy.)  He enjoyed the pets and he loved sitting out on the porch.  After dinner he liked to watch TV, especially America’s Funniest Home Videos, I guess because he didn’t need to follow any plot.  While he was here the Cubs and Bears both had some good seasons and I loved watching the games with him.  I cannot tell you what a joy it was to share those years with him.

So now it has been a year without him and I am back on track with my life…  But every mention of St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of his death and how bad things had gotten right before he died.   I am trying to find a way to stay focused on the good times and to grieve without feeling overwhelmed by grief.

Meghan O’Rourke is blogging very movingly at Slate.com about her experience with grief following the death of her mother.   Reading her posts makes me cry but then I feel much better.

Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Blog has also been very helpful to me recently.  There is a lot of very practical, down to eath advice about what it actually means to be happy and how to maximize your own experience of happiness.

One of the (many) things that amazed and delighted my dad was the transformation that occurred when I took my dog in to be clipped in the spring.  Here are “before and after” pictures that I took of the two of them.  My dad loved these pictures…

dadandpat

dadandpat2

What Me Worry? Sad to Say, Mad Mag Goes Quarterly!

Mad Magazine has announced it will no longer publish monthly issues but instead will publish quarterly.

To be honest, I no longer read it but my 17 year old son does and my father did until he passed away.  My father had Alzheimers, and often toward the end he found a lot of the features very confusing, but he still enjoyed it and greeted each new issue with delight.

I have to admit that during my childhood, Mad Magazine was probably the greatest single formative influence in my life.  I was never much of a TV watcher and although I read many other comic books (Superman, Batman, Archie, etc) they were just something to pass the time.  I felt that Mad Magazine was somehow a window to a greater reality.  In time I discovered National Lampoon Magazine and science fiction pulp novels and then, I guess inevitably, I “grew up” and started reading “literature” and turned into the voracious reader I am now.  But, for what seemed then to be many long years of childhood, Mad Magazine was the staple of my intellectual diet.

Mad Magazine was also special to me because it was something shared between my little brother and I.  Older sisters and younger brothers are not always able to find common ground but Mad Magazine cemented our relationship.  We bought them and read them together.  Being very young, we often did not understand many of the cultural references and we spent many happy hours together trying to puzzle them out.

Mad Magazine was also a big part of our summer vacations.  My dad worked for the government and got 5 weeks of vacation every year and each summer he took them all at once so that our family could take epic road trips around the country.  My parents called them camping trips, but although we did have a camper and stayed in campgrounds, the purpose of these trips was really just to cover as much ground and see as many “educational” sites as possible.  This involved driving at least 500 miles every day and then jumping out of the car to visit and photograph every monument, museum, parade, battleground, rodeo, waterfall, diorama, zoo, scenic vista, stuffed buffalo, log cabin, changing of the guard, ghost town, canyon, old church, re-enactment, tee-pee, silver mine, geyser, civil war cannon, glacier, covered bridge, historic cemetery and tourist trap in the U.S. and Canada.  Needless to say, every summer my brother and I went numb after about 3 days of this, so we spent the rest of the 5 week trip curled up in the back seat re-reading our Mad Magazine collection.  To this day I cannot think of the Liberty Bell or Mount Rushmore except to remember seeing them with a well worn copy of Mad Magazine in my hand.

Another thing we did on these trips was “visit relatives.”  Most of these were little old ladies, so we were just expected to sit quietly for a few hours which wasn’t too bad.  What we were really worried about was meeting the relatives who had “nice kids our age.”    Most of our local cousins were dorky religious goody-goodies so we were really dreading these visits.  Imagine our delight when we discovered that our Arizona and Virginia cousins were actually even naughtier than we were and had vast collections of Mad Magazine paperbacks to share!  Aahh, so many happy memories!

So anyway, as I think back, many of the important events and relationships of my childhood involved Mad Magazine.  I know it influenced me deeply, even though, when I look at myself now, I seem to have become the kind of “dorky religious goody-goody” that would have appalled the 10 year old me.  I don’t know what to make of this radical transformation.

I guess that is part of why it makes me so sad to see Mad Magazine in decline.  I suppose I regard it as a fragile link back to the naughty little girl I used to be.

When Twitter is a Disappointment…

One of my favorite things to do when I want to relax is poke around in Twitter looking for interesting Tweets and then reading the blogs of the people who made them.  There are so many talented, witty, unusual, generous and delightful people in Twitter-land!

I especially look for people who:

  • Have an unusual point of view
  • Have something interesting to teach
  • Have an uplifting or inspirational message
  • Might be a potential business associate
  • Have something important in common with me
  • Have a wild or wicked sense of humor

But it is so disappointing to read a great Tweet and then go to the Tweeter’s Twitter page only to find that they have no website listed in their profile!  A dead end!

What is even worse (in my opinion) is when they have a page in their profile, but it turns out to be nothing but a sales page!  BOOO!  HISSSSSS!

There should be a rule that if you are on Twitter and you post great Tweets that you should be REQUIRED to have a blog so your readers can get to know you! 🙂

Come on people! It takes 5 minutes (and zero money) to set up a blog!  You don’t have to post to it if you don’t want to…  Just put up an “about me” page, if that’s all you can manage for now.  Or I guess you could even put your Facebook or Myspace link in your Twitter profile…  Just something friendly so your fellow Twitterers can get to know you better.  (Anything but a sales page.)

If none of this made any sense to you, you need to join Twitter!  It is fun and easy and opens up a whole new world full of fascinating people!  Go to Twitter now and sign up for an account.

Post-holiday Blahs? Check This Out!

After the Christmas holiday is over we settle into a long winter of hard work…

This year’s blahs seems worse than usual to me, I guess because of the harsh winter, the economic crisis and the ominous changes in the direction of American society.  I am also mourning the recent passing of one of my heroes, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things journal.

So I have been looking around for something to cheer me up and point me in a better direction and I found something wonderful…

The Happiness Project!

rubinI stumbled across Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful website over the weekend and it is just taking all the self discipline I can muster not to throw away my to-do list and drop everything else and just completely devote myself to reading every word and following every link!  Happiness is addictive!

I want to urge everyone to go check it out but I have to warn you that you might want to clear your calendar first…  Once you get started you can’t tear yourself away!  So much great, practical advice!  I especially love the list of Wednesday Tips in the left sidebar.

Now I feel like I’ve gotten an enthusiasm transfusion and I am ready to take on the Winter of 2009!

It’s not just about Pay Per Click…

There is a very cool new piece of marketing software available.  It allows you to quickly and easily spy on your competion’s advertising. But I think this software has kind of an unfortunate name: PPCWebSpy…  The problem is that many people who don’t do much PPC think that the software has nothing to offer to them.

But actually, almost any marketer can benefit from this software. If you run any kind of advertising you can benefit from being able to read your competitors’ ads.  If you build websites or blogs or use social networking you can benefit from viewing your competitors’ keywords.

PPCWebSpy is useful to anyone who is trying to sell anything anywhere!  And it is FREE!

If you want to get started with something, no matter what it is, your first step should always be to look at what successful people are already doing.

PPCWebSpy makes it easy to watch what successful marketers are doing.  It is easy to install because it is just a Firefox addon.  It is easy to use because it just adds a little button to the adwords ads (sponsored links) you see when you do a Google search.  Simply click on the little buttons and you can see the keywords and detailed info about cost and clicks, etc.  Then click on a keyword to see the ad.

There have been a number of “spy on your competition” type programs available for several years, but the rest of them are very pricey and complicated.  I’ve never seen anything this!

I always keep it turned on because I learn something new from it all the time.   It contains no spyware and when you are not working with it,  it it is completely unobtrusive.

Here is a screenshot showing the green buttons in the adwords ads, the sortable table of keyword data, and a sample of one of the actual adwords ads being run.

ppcwebspy

I give PPCWebSpy a very enthusiastic “2 Thumbs Up!”

This is amazing software, free today only…

I’ve been pretty sick with some kind of cold/flu bug since the weekend but today I’m feeling a little better.  I just checked this blog and noticed that the free software of the day is something really amazing today!

If you never noticed it before, you can find the free software giveawayof the day over in the right sidebar, about halfway down.  There is always a description and link to a place where you can download a different piece of software free for 24 hours only.  This is not junky “free software.”  It is usually very worthwhile stuff that regularly sells for $20 – $50.

However, today the software is really something special so I wanted to call your attention to it.

Today only you can get Edraw Max 4.3, a $95 software package completely free…

Edraw Max is a versatile graphics software, with features that make it perfect not only for professional-looking flowcharts, org charts, network diagrams and business charts, but also building plans, mind maps, workflows, fashion designs, UML diagrams, electrical engineering diagrams, directional maps, program structures, database diagrams… and that’s just the beginning!

With more than 4600 built-in vector symbols, drawing couldn’t be easier! Create a wide variety of business charts and presentations based on templates and examples while working in an intuitive and familiar office-style environment.

Installing it is a breeze and there is great online documentation.

So grab it quick before it’s gone…