Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

St. Nicholas Day, 2018
December 6, 2018

 

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O good St. Nicholas, 

You who are the joy of children,

Put in my heart the spirit of childhood, 

Of which the gospel speaks, 

And teach me to sow happiness around me. 

You whose feast prepares us for Christmas, 

Open my faith to the mystery of God made man.

O good bishop and shepherd, 

Help me to find my place in the Church,

And inspire it to be faithful to the gospel.

O good Saint Nicholas,

Patron of children, sailors, and the helpless, 

Watch over those who pray to Jesus, 

Your Lord and theirs, 

As well as over those who humble themselves before you. 

Bring us all in reverence to the Holy Child of Bethlehem, 

In Whom true joy and peace are found. Amen.

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-A Prayer to St. Nicholas.

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Happy St. Nicholas day, everyone!

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-Isaac““

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Ralph Breaks the Internet Movie Review (Spoilers)
November 25, 2018

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I just came back a couple of hours ago from seeing Ralph Breaks the Internet, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s 2012 film, Wreck-It Ralph (one of my favourite movies of all time); and, boy, what a ride it was! I was super excited to finally get to see this movie, which I’ve been waiting to watch since it was first announced over two years ago. I went and saw it this afternoon, shortly after Mass, with Papa, Mommy, and Levi (Papa drove, which he also did when we all went to see The Crimes of Grindelwald last week); we had prepared the night before by watching the original film, which I have on Blu-Ray (it was actually the only movie I brought with me when we went to stay at Grandma and Papa’s), and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to see the two movies back-to-back.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet, and I highly recommend going to see it (especially since it hasn’t quite made back its budget, although I expect it will in the coming weeks). It’s a sequel that’s not scared to do something different, while retaining its grounding in the original movie’s world and characters, and its animation is stellar (it’s incredible how much animation has progressed in just the six years that have past since the first film). I know that I’ll probably come up with better observations after I’ve let the movie stew in my brain for a few days; but, for now, here are my initial thoughts.

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SPOILERS FROM HERE ON.

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As I mentioned earlier this year, one of my biggest concerns for Ralph Breaks the Internet was that it would put too much narrative focus on characters from other Disney properties. Fortunately—despite trailers showcasing the Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes, and Star Wars stormtroopers—I think my fears were mostly unfounded, as these personages are mostly limited to fun cameos, gags, and Easter eggs; the film even features some memorable new characters (such as Taraji Henson’s Yesss, Bill Hader’s J. P. Spamley, and Gal Gadot’s Shank), but the story keeps Ralph and Vanellope’s relationship front and center, perhaps even more so than in the previous movie. Friendship is really the primary theme of Ralph Breaks the Internet, although it’s explored in a way that I think most “buddy movies” often don’t really attempt to. The movie shows Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship as being both fun and caring, while not shying away from depicting its more painful moments.

The film starts out as a relatively simple quest: The controls of Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, are broken, and she and Ralph have to set out to find a replacement part online before her citizens are left permanently gameless. By the time this initial conflict is resolved, however, a deeper one has emerged, in which Ralph must learn the difference between a healthy friendship, and unhealthy attachment—the former is altruistic, while the latter is, ultimately, egocentric. One scene that I think really illustrates this takes place after Ralph rescues Vanellope from her crash (that he inadvertently caused) in Slaughter Race: While Vanellope is still mostly unconscious, Ralph worries she might have died, and begs her to wake up, saying, “Come on, don’t leave me, kid!” (This line in particular kind of struck a chord with me, since my deepest phobia is kind of a specific fear of death—it’s not really thanatophobia, since I don’t really think I’m especially scared of being dead, or even necessarily dying—it’s the anxiety of everyone I know dying, and being left all by myself). I think the fact that this is literally one of the first things that come to Ralph’s mind shows that his focus in his friendship with Vanellope (at this point in the movie) is still too heavily focused on what she means to him, and what she adds to his life and self-esteem; he values her a lot for her companionship, but not enough as a person with her own needs, likes, and ambitions (and I don’t think that this is really out of character for him; since she’s the first real friend he’s ever actually had, it makes some sense to me that, over the years, he’s invested an unhealthy amount of his self-esteem in her opinion of him and how much time they spend together). I think that even recognizing that there’s a difference between a truly equal bond and more self-centered attachment is an important step for fostering healthy friendships, and seeing Ralph and Vanellope’s story unfold made me assess how I value my own relationships. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13, genuine love isn’t jealous or possessive, and this lesson is really at the crux of Ralph’s primary character development throughout the film.

Despite its title, Ralph Breaks the Internet is only about the Internet as much as the original Wreck-It Ralph was about video games; I think that the filmmakers did a good job making the Internet the setting for the story, while still ensuring that the story itself is less about the online world it takes place in, and more about the relationships between its characters. Even a brief scene where Ralph reads hurtful Internet comments about himself is played less as a serious critique on our use of digital media, and more in the context of Ralph’s self-esteem and character development.

Unlike its predecessor, the original Wreck-It Ralph, the movie doesn’t really have a villain; or rather (in a narrative move more commonly associated with Disney Animation’s sister studio, Pixar), Ralph is simultaneously both the protagonist and the villain, in the sense that most of the conflicts in the story are ultimately caused by him (which was somewhat similar to Ralph’s role in the first movie—what with him nearly getting his own game unplugged, and accidentally bringing in a Cy-Bug into Sugar Rush—albeit to a lesser degree, since King Candy had his own share in instigating conflicts). In the end, Ralph defeats his personal demons (literally), and Vanellope learns that she and Ralph can still be best friends even if their paths in life don’t always align (and whether or not they live in the same area). The film’s ending is bittersweet, although I think it is very well-executed. When the credits roll, both Ralph and Vanellope have grown as people, their friendship has grown stronger, and the story closes on a positive and hopeful note.

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Ralph Breaks the Internet is beautifully animated, with the scale and detail that’s put into its world being particularly noteworthy in my opinion; although I was actually a little more impressed with how far Disney Animation has come in the lighting department (especially having just seen the first Wreck-It Ralph), which I feel brought a certain vibrancy and energy to the whole movie. Though it definitely has its share of emotional moments (Vanellope throwing away the “You’re My Hero” heart she made for Ralph was a particularly heartbreaking one), the movie is also very comedic at times; I thought that a lot of the gags involving Ralph and Vanellope getting into trouble or just hanging out were really funny and cute, Vanellope’s song was pretty great (although her steering wheel song was really funny, too, haha), and I also liked the subplot with Fix-It Felix and Calhoun adopting the others racers from Sugar Rush. The only main criticism I have is that I thought that the “boss battle” against Ralph’s zombielike clones (and their subsequent King-Kongesque “ultimate form”) as a way of facing his insecurities was pretty goofy; but hey, it’s a cartoon that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it was definitely a unique way of showing Ralph’s inner conflict. I also feel that, although most of the Internet is painted in relatively broad strokes, a few of the more specific references to particular memes and such will probably make Ralph Breaks the Internet feel a lot more dated than its predecessor as the years go by. In contrast to Ralph Breaks the Internet, the original Wreck-It Ralph mostly eschewed “current” media and openly embraced nostalgia; by pulling more heavily from the zeitgeist of video game culture of the ’80s and ’90s, Wreck-It Ralph had an obvious advantage in knowing what references were worth making—if audiences understood nods to thirty-year-old games, then those games were obviously memorable. In the decades to come, we’ll probably have a better idea of what was really defining and memorable about the time period we’re currently living in, but I sincerely doubt that my generation will remember specific memes to the same extent and with the same fondness as Gen Xers remember, say, Pac-Man or The Oregon Trail; which makes me think that Wreck-It Ralph will probably age a little better than Ralph Breaks the Internet in the long run.

I also found it kind of interesting that Vanellope fulfilling her dreams by moving to a different game is seen as personal growth on her part, while in the first Wreck-It Ralph, “game-jumping” is primarily seen as negative (when Ralph abandons his game in search of a medal, he’s seen as irresponsible and selfish). I was sad that Vanellope moved away from Litwak’s Arcade, although I’m glad that she’s still staying in contact with Ralph (both through communicating online, and with Ralph apparently visiting every week or so); I also felt like her leaving raised a few unanswered questions—such as, with her gone, who will be the new President of Sugar Rush? Do the other racers even have a president anymore, or is it implied that they don’t really need anyone to keep them in line, since they’ve become better people under the tutelage of Felix and Calhoun? I’m a little disappointed that no one really talked about her being a president at all, but I guess that might’ve possibly confused audiences a bit with her interactions with the princesses.

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On the whole, I really enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet; it was great getting to see some of my favourite characters again, and I think it was worth the wait. Although the movie ends on a pretty complete note, I’m hoping that Disney will eventually come up with another amazing story for these characters, and they’ll create a third installment for the franchise; even if, judging by the gap between the first movie and its sequel, it’s some years from now.

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Today’s Question: What are some of your favourite movies that have come out this year?

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Today’s Joke: Here’s a joke that a Franciscan nun told me at church today: Why didn’t Noah do a whole lot of fishing while he was in the Ark?

He only had two worms.

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-Isaac““

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PS: Remember that NASA’s InSight lander will be arriving on Mars tomorrow, at around 8:00 PM / 20:00 UTC (which, for those of you like me in the Pacific Timezone, is at noon)!

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My Relatives Who Fought in World War I
November 21, 2018

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As most people reading this probably already know, last week—at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (November 11th, at 11:00)—was the centennial anniversary of the Armistice of Compiègne, which ended World War I. To commemorate this, I’m going to try to briefly tell the stories of two of my relatives who fought in the Great War, one from each side of my family: My great-great grandfather, Charles Boardman, and my great-great-great uncle, Benjamin Hugh Brandon .
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Charles Wilfred Boardman was born on April 21st, 1895, in British Columbia to Charles William Boardman and Mary Emily Woodhouse (who went by Emily). A printer and cartoonist by trade, at the age of twenty-two he enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, which saw action in Belgium and France. After the war, back in Canada, he married Madge Agnes Clark (Wyatt Earp’s first cousin twice removed, but that’s a story for another time) in 1920. Three years later, he immigrated to the United States, hoping to land a job as a cartoonist for Walt Disney. However, as he was making his way south, he was offered a job at The Oregonian, and so ended up staying to work for the newspaper in Portland, Oregon, where he remained for the rest of his life. Shortly after arriving in Portland, his wife gave birth to Margaret Merle, the first of four daughters, who was followed by Dorothy Jane in 1925, Charlene Agnes in 1927, and Billie Anne (my maternal grandmother’s mother) in 1934.
Obviously, I never met Charles Boardman, although I’ve seen a photograph of him (which I unfortunately don’t currently have access to), as well as a couple of the cartoons he drew of his grandchildren; I’ve heard mostly positive things about him, other than an unproven (although apparently plausible enough to be passed on to multiple generations) family conspiracy that he fathered a son with a neighbour lady (he always wanted a son; hence my great-grandmother was named Billie). It’s kind of a weird thought that, since Charles Boardman’s original reason for leaving Canada was to become a cartoonist for Disney, had Walt Disney not founded his company in 1923, I (and many of my immediate ancestors) most likely wouldn’t exist.
Weird, slightly tangential genealogy fact: Charles Boardman had a brother, Albert, who (for reasons I’ve never found out) apparently had some kind of beef with his father, and changed his last name to Bowman (not a super original change in my opinion, but I guess maybe he wanted to keep his initials or something). I don’t currently know anything about his branch of the family, and I guess he didn’t have a whole lot of contact with his brother after the fallout with their father, but assumably I have Bowman cousins somewhere.
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Benjamin Hugh Brandon, also known as Hugh Ben, was born on August 30th, 1887, in Estill Springs, Tennessee to John Logan Brandon and Sarah Elizabeth Blackwood. During World War I, he fought at the Battle of the Argonne Forest, where he was the lone survivor of a German gas attack. He took his survival as a sign from God, and so dedicated his life to serving Him. At the time, he only had a 5th grade education; so, after he returned home, he finished high school in his late twenties, and went on to get his Masters of Divinity degree at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. He married Carrie Priscilla Watson in 1919, with whom he had three children. His sister, Minnie Brandon, unfortunately died in the influenza (“Spanish flu”) pandemic of 1918, but he went on to live to the age of 88. A pastor, he officiated at the wedding of my paternal grandparents, and even lived long enough to baptized my uncle. Hugh Ben passed away on September 23rd, 1975, in Pulaski, Tennessee, and he’s buried at the Franklin Memorial Gardens in Winchester, Tennessee.
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That’s all for now; to all who are reading this, Happy Thanksgiving Eve!
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-Isaac““
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Today’s Question: What are some of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions? Every year, my family gets together, eats a turkey dinner, and watches A Muppet Christmas Carol (Like probably many Americans, Thanksgiving kind of marks the “official” start of Christmas season for us).
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Today’s Joke: Every single morning I get hit by the same bike; it’s a vicious cycle.
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Oddly Specific Heresies
November 5, 2018

Happy belated All Saints’ Day, everyone, and welcome to my first post on oddly specific Christian heresies! Today, we’ll be looking at three different groups: The Melchisedechians, Valentinianists, and Stercoranists.
One caveat before we begin: Unfortunately, many of the works of people whose teachings were deemed heretical didn’t survive into modern times, whether because they were lost when their ideas failed to catch on, were deliberately destroyed during periods of the Church’s more biblioclastic history, or for some other reason; as a result, most of what we know about many of these groups come from theologians who were either refuting their beliefs, or just mentioning them in passing—which can be frustrating for people like me, who are not only interested in what people believe or what rituals they practice, but for what reasons they do. I point this out mainly to highlight the fact that, while I’ve tried to present the ideas below fairly, there are times where it’s likely we’re not getting the full picture of what these people believed, just because of a lack of information and context.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
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#1: The Melchisedechians: Melchizedek as God
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Possibly one of the most mysterious characters mentioned in the Old Testament, Melchizedek was the king of Salem (which the historian Flavius Josephus, among other people, identify as the city that would later be known as Jerusalem), and priest of God Most High. He appears pretty abruptly in the book of Genesis, blesses Abraham (then still known as Abram), and then disappears. In the Christian tradition, he’s seen as a type (foreshadowing) of Jesus, a belief which St. Paul expounds on in Hebrews 7.
Given what little we know about him (for example, unlike many Old Testament figures, we aren’t given any specifics as to his genealogy), it makes sense that there have been a variety of beliefs—as well as a good deal of speculation—throughout the centuries as to who exactly Melchizedek was. For example, in Hazalic literature he’s identified as a very elderly Shem (as in Shem, the son of Noah), and in other traditions he’s seen as an angel (sometimes even St. Michael the Archangel)—which brings us to the Melchisedechians (or Melchizedekites).
Despite the lengthy name, there were most likely at least two groups of believers who were called Melchisedechians: One, which is mentioned by the 5th century theologian Mark the Hermit, went beyond seeing Melchizedek as a figure who foreshadowed the Messiah, and instead believed that Melchizedek was actually a pre-Jesus incarnation of the Son of God (in other words, Melchizedek didn’t just prefigure Jesus, he was Jesus); while the second was a Monarchian group founded by Theodotus the Banker, which taught that Melchizedek was a mediator between God and angels, and was even more important than Jesus (the mediator between God and humanity). Timotheus, Presbyter of Constantinople, also mentions Melchisedechians in a book of his from around the year 600; they apparently refused to to touch people (which, as a pretty extreme haphaphobe, I can respect), and would only take food from someone if it was put on the ground first (ew). Although the theory of Melchizedek literally being God has been floated over the years (apparently even in modern times), it doesn’t seem that Melchisedechian beliefs officially survived to the second millennium in one organized group or another.
Fun fact: Melchizedek was also equated with God (this time specifically with the Holy Spirit) in an anonymous work during the fourth century, which Evangelus sent to St. Jerome to ask his opinion on (St. Jerome thought the theory was absurd, and expressed his belief that Melchizedek was a real human being; possibly Shem, son of Noah).
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#2: Valentinianism: Mary as a Surrogate Mother
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A lot can be said about Valentinianism, one of the first Gnostic groups, as well as Gnosticism in general. Some of Gnosticism’s ideas are so unique that, if they didn’t call themselves Christians, they might be recognized as a distinct religion in their own right (the line between a very different denomination of a religion and an entirely separate faith can already be kind of fuzzy anyway, just like there’s currently no really objective criteria to say when a dialect becomes a language, but I guess it mostly comes down to what people call themselves)—but, to simplify, Gnostics believe that the material universe was created and controlled by an antagonistic lesser deity, the Demiurge, who was subordinate to a remote Supreme Being (who Jesus was an emissary of); and that esoteric knowledge (Gnosis) of this Supreme Being was necessary for salvation. Oh, and all matter is evil, and (in most versions) the Demiurge’s mom is the lowest emanation of God, whose name is Sophia. Anyway, that should give you enough context for the oddly specific Valentinianist teaching I’ll be discussing, which I like to call, “The Surrogate Mother Heresy”. Valentinus, the 2nd-century founder of Valentinianism, taught that, while Mary did indeed give birth to Jesus, He passed through her “like water through a straw”; in other words, the Holy Spirit placed Jesus in Mary’s womb, but He didn’t actually take any genetic material from her—so, Jesus wasn’t really Mary’s child, per se.
To me, this seems like one of the weirder claims to make, but maybe it was easier to believe back before we really understood how conception works. I guess the reason Valentinus made the distinction to begin with is because he believed all matter to be evil, and Jesus couldn’t be evil, but there was still that whole incarnation business, so…. Well, I guess you have to come up with something.
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And now, my personal favourite…
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#3: Stercoranism: Holy Poop
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First, a little background. Catholics—as well as the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, members of the Nestorian Church, and adherents of a few other churches—have always taught the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The bread and wine changing into the Body and Blood of Christ during the celebration of the Eucharist was a core belief of the early Church, although the exact nature of this change has been a matter of debate for a long time.
One such debate occurred during the reign of the Carolingian king Charles the Bald, between St. Paschasius Radbertus (abbot of Corbie, a Benedictine abbey in Picardy) and Ratramnus (also of Corbie Abbey). St. Paschasius taught the traditional doctrine that there was a change of substance in the elements into the Body of Christ, although our sacramental theology at the time hadn’t quite developed to the same level as it would be during the life of St. Thomas Aquinas (who was instrumental in really elucidating the doctrine of Transubstantiation), which led him to leaving some ambiguities in distinguishing between the sacramental and carnal modes of the real presence. Ratramnus, by contrast, believed that Christ’s sacramental Body was not equivalent to His historical Body—an idea that was later expanded on by Berengar of Tours, who taught that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist was only spiritual. Theologians took sides (including Pope Sylvester II, who wrote a work defending St. Paschasius’ interpretation), and the period came to be known as the Carolingian Eucharistic Controversy. During this time, Berengar’s followers, the Berengarians, would often accuse their opponents (those who ascribed to St. Paschasius’ theology)—more for its shock value than as a serious argument—of believing in “Stercoranism”.
Stercoranism (from the Latin, stercus, “dung, excrement”) is the belief that the real presence of the Eucharist remains during the entire digestive process, eventually (you guessed it) being excreted out like ordinary food; assumably providing years of paranoia fodder for the obsessively overscrupulous such as myself. Although this idea apparently wasn’t much of an issue for early theologians, such as Origen of Alexandria, it evidently was disturbing enough for St. Paschasius for him to specifically repudiate it. Berengar’s teachings were eventually officially condemned by multiple councils, but he was reconciled with the church during the last eight years of his life.
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Well, that’s all for today; I hope that you enjoyed my first adventure into blogging about my theology obsession. Thanks for joining me, and good luck to my fellow Americans in voting for good candidates and policies.
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Today’s Question: What movies are you looking forward to this coming month? I’m really excited to see the new Fantastic Beasts sequel (The Crimes of Grindelwald), and I’m especially anticipating getting to watch Ralph Breaks the Internet (which i’ve been waiting to see for over two years now).
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Today’s Joke: I keep having a recurring dream where I’m writing The Lord of the Rings; I’m Tolkien in my sleep.
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-Isaac““
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St. Thérèse of Lisieux
October 1, 2018

 

O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity.

Amen.

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-St. Thérèse

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Grandma Billie Stories
September 30, 2018

Every year since Grandma Billie died, I’ve tried to include a story about her in one of my blog posts, ideally around the anniversary of her death. She’s been gone for three years as of last July, and it’s now nearly October, but I guess it’s better late than never to post a couple of stories. Unfortunately, I apparently don’t really possess the same narrative skill that my great-grandmother had; whenever I tell a story that she’s told me, mine always end much more quickly (and I’m pretty sure that it’s not just because I talk faster, haha). Be that as it may, here are a couple of Grandma Billie stories; the first one is sad, and the second is more heartwarming, so I figure that they’ll sort of balance each other out.
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I’m given to understand that this first story takes place in 1948, around the time after the infamous flooding of the city of Vanport (fifty years ago, as of last May). For some context, Vanport (a portmanteau of “Vancouver” and “Portland”)—also known as Kaiserville, after the Kaiser Shipyards—was built north of Portland in the early 1940s for wartime housing, and was the largest public housing project in the country at the time. It was home to a substantial Black population (who represented about forty percent of all its inhabitants, around the city’s peak), and was known for housing WWII veterans and transient labourers. At the time the Columbia River broke through a section of the dikes holding it back from the city, Vanport was home to over eighteen thousand residents (two of whom later moved to our street and became my Grandma’s neighbours, but that’s another story), who only had about half an hour to escape the incoming water. Fifteen people died, and the survivors were left homeless. Among the people who escaped Vanport, over a thousand Black families were only able to obtain housing in North Portland, where Grandma Billie grew up.
Grandma Billie was around thirteen at the time, and one day she walked home with a group of Black children; they were apparently nice kids, but unfortunately she got in trouble with her mom afterwards. From the way the story was told to me, it was clear that this wasn’t because the kids were strangers or known troublemakers or anything, it was purely a “Black and White people don’t hang out” segregationist thing.

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Slight tangent that’s unrelated to racism: Grandma Billie’s mother, Madge Agnes, used to call her children when they were playing outside by trilling; this was way before cell phones of any kind, obviously, and Portland was apparently a much quieter place then, because she could still be heard from blocks away. I mention this, because I don’t really know whether or not she started doing it herself, or if she learned it from her mother—I haven’t met another family that does it—and Grandma Billie also trilled to call her children, a practice that Grandma continued, and even Mommy trilled for Levi and I when we she wanted us to come in from playing outside (or just get our attention, or even find someone in a crowded place). It’s one of those things that you grow up without really thinking is that remarkable, and then realize how weird it actually kind of is when you realize that no one else does it. It’s sort of a loud, “Braaaah!” trilling sound; it’s become almost a minor rite of passage when a girl in the family learns how to trill. I haven’t tried in a while, but the last time I did I think I still hadn’t quite figured out to do it.
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The second story takes place earlier than the first one, during World War II. Again, just for some historical context: During our involvement in the war, every American received a series of ration books from the government; the books would have stamps in them for certain items—particularly food, such as canned goods, coffee, and butter—as well as (perhaps less famously) other commodities, such as gasoline, nylon, and even bicycles. Grandma Billie once showed me the ration book she had as a kid, and I think we still have it around somewhere, although I unfortunately haven’t seen it in some time.
Anyways, back to the story. The house Grandma Billie and her sisters grew up in (the same one that she later lived in by herself for many years) was across the street from a childless couple that became like family to her, whose names were Harry Richard Miessenger—who she called “Uncle Harry”—and Rose Miessenger—who she called “Aunt Rose” (later, after Harry died, she became “Grandma Rose” to Grandma Billie’s children). As a side note, I recently looked them up, and was able to find Mr. Miessenger’s registration information with the Selective Service—he was in the Fourth Registration, the “Old Man’s Draft” for World War II, which was meant to collect information regarding the country’s manpower and skills for military support.
During the war, Grandma Billie really wanted a pair of clogs, but sadly she had to get school shoes with her stamps. However, Mr. Miessenger didn’t need a new pair of shoes, and surprised her with a new pair of clogs that he had bought using his own stamps. The gesture must have made a big impression on her, and she remembered it throughout her life.
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Well, those are all of the stories for now; I have others, but I want to try to save them for other blog posts. I hope that everyone reading this had an enjoyable weekend, and that they have a good October.
Growing up, I was actually never a fan of October; I didn’t like going into public places, because they often had Halloween decorations up, and I always found them creepy. Did I mention that I still don’t like Halloween? I still don’t like Halloween. Anyways, I guess to put an encouraging spin on the month, Mommy came up with the idea of putting an emphasis on celebrating saints’ feast days that fell in October. Probably as a result of this, I know a lot more of October saints than other months; St. Thérèse (who’s one of my favourites) is tomorrow, St. Francis of Assisi (another one of my favourites) is on this coming Thursday, followed by St. Faustina Kowalska on Friday, Our Lady of the Rosary on the 7th, St. Teresa of Ávila on the 15th (Dr. Kibert’s birthday), St. Luke on the 18th, St. Isaac Jogues on the 19th, and St. John Paul the Great on the 22nd. Quite a month for saints!
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Today’s Question: What are some interesting stories that your grandparents (or other older relatives or friends) have told you?
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Today’s Joke: My friend’s bakery burned down last night. Now his business is toast.
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-Isaac““
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Prayer to St. Michael
September 29, 2018

 

Saint Michael the Archangel,

Defend us in battle,

Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;

And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,

By the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits

Who wander through the world

For the ruin of souls. Amen.

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Happy Michaelmas, everyone!

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-Isaac““

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Two Years On…
September 18, 2018

Isaac’s Log—Stardate: 2018.261
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It’s now been over two years since I banged my head on a cupboard, and this whole post-concussive syndrome misadventure started for me. I feel like I’m simultaneously both more hopeful and more discouraged about my situation this year; now that we’re back in the area, I’ve been able to see Dr. Thom more regularly, which has helped some—and, overall, I definitely am doing much better (at least pain-wise) than last year. I’m at the point where I don’t have to be in bed more than half the day, and I’ve been able to do a lot more things; helping out around the house, going on walks with Tami, and so on. I suppose my main difficulty is that I usually have a hard time gauging how I’m feeling; if I do too many even kind of strenuous things in one day, then I’ll hurt my head and have to have a few “down days” afterwards. Admittedly, my best days are when I do very little of anything; no lifting, no studying, no reading, no piano playing, and no working on projects with my brother—basically just lying down most of the day and watching movies or TV shows. For the first few months after my head injury, all of my days were like that, except that I had to lie down pretty much the entire day, and I couldn’t really get anything for myself (at least now, even on really rough days, I’m able to just get up if I need to drink water or use the bathroom). For me, the main problem with doing pretty much nothing is, of course, how mind-numbingly dull it is (if I knew for certain that a few months of doing nothing would help me recover all of the way, I’d probably be less difficult about it, but I’m still a little worried about my symptoms being permanent; in which case, if pain’s just going to be part of my life now anyway, I’d rather be spending my time trying to do things, and not feel like I’m just losing more of my limited time on Earth). It’s particularly frustrating because I’m at an age now where I would ordinarily be able to finally do lots of fun things on my own; before I hit my head, I was volunteering, learning to drive, and even working a (part-part-time) job every month; and I really miss being able to do things like that—in a lot of ways, I feel like my life has been put on hold, and just at a time when I was getting concrete ideas of what I really wanted to do with it (on the bright side, at least I’ve been able to learn that I’m not a person that can feel content just sitting around all day, and I won’t have to find that out about myself after I retire). Although I’ve been told that I don’t really need to, I feel like I want there to be some kind of positive takeaway from this whole experience, even if it’s something relatively small, something that would almost make it feel like the past couple of years have been worth it somehow, but right now it’s kind of hard to think of anything; I honestly can’t see how suffering has made me better as a person, or made me feel substantially and consistently closer to God or something like that, but maybe something positive will result from the whole thing that will be more apparent in time. While I think it’d be accurate to say that I’m still mostly happy most of the time (I guess because that’s just the way I am, even if this blog post doesn’t make me sound like it), overall I’m definitely not totally content with my current circumstances; the ironic and mildly frustrating thing is that, in years to come, I’ll probably almost romanticize this time period in my head. Future me will probably think things like, “Oh, remember that time, back when I had no responsibilities, and I could just lie around all day?”
While, right now, my thoughts are more on the lines of, “Ugh, all I can do most of the time is just lie around all day!”
To be fair, all things considered, things could be a lot worse, and my situation really isn’t all that bad. I’m basically living at Grandma and Papa’s house now, so I get to see the majority of the people that I care the most about every day, and most of the people that I interact with have been very supportive (Tami and Grandma in particular have been a great help, especially when Mommy and Daddy are at school; Grandma usually makes smoothies for my brother and I every morning, and Tami often makes us lunch; while I’m really grateful, and try to help out where I can, I have admitted to Tami before that it does make me feel a little awkward at times, mainly because I feel like I’m old enough that I should be able to make my own meals—but she said it was okay, because she felt similarly when she wasn’t able to make meals for herself a couple of years ago, and she didn’t mind making food for us—I just don’t want to be a grown man that’s incapable of handling himself when it comes to simple stuff like eating and cleaning, or just really entitled and expecting everyone else to do things for him all the time).
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Now that we’re back in the area, I’ve been able to take piano lessons again with Kristin (we recently picked out which songs I’ll be playing for the winter recital; I didn’t get to go to the spring one this year, since I was living at the coast at the time), attend our old parish in town (which recently was assigned a new priest, Fr. Greg, who seems nice and is a really good homilist) with Mommy and Levi, and usually visit the library at least once a week. With this year’s very-smoky Oregonian summer almost over (the smoke has literally cleared, haha), the weather has finally started to consistently cool off, and my brother and I have been able to get outside more and get some fresh air. It looks like Levi’s spinal chord has re-tethered, so I guess he’ll probably have to have the surgery again, and he frequently feels down. I often try be helpful and cheer him up, but I’m not usually very successful (well, at least at cheering him up); I’m apparently not really the best caregiver, and don’t keep as cool a head as I’d like to when faced with stressful situations, but I hope that I’m improving.
A lot has happened since I last blogged; the Tevebaughs went to Texas and Oklahoma for about a week, Uncle Andrew and Deedra came out to visit us from Florida last month, Papa Jeff and Ramona moved to the coast, Mommy and Daddy bought a new car (to replace our old Subaru Outback, which had its timing belt break), and I even had a haircut for the first time in over a year (Duhn duhn duhn! But seriously, it was just a trim; it’s still pretty long). And that’s just in my life and the lives of some of the people I know; that’s not even mentioning the wildfires we’ve had (the worst of which was probably the Carr Fire down near Redding, where I used to live not far from just less than four years ago), hurricane Florence hitting the east coast, or the substantially worse typhoon Ompong/Mangkhut that’s devastated the Philippines and southeastern China (and will be hitting part of Vietnam soon). In other news, the church had probably its biggest abuse scandal in the United States in sixteen years (which I’m sure everyone reading this already knows about; the only kind of optimistic thing I can say about it is that most of the cases reported were from before 2002, which might mean that the reforms put in place then have been at least partially effective—although I suppose it might be a little too premature to conclude that, since we’re just now finding out about stuff that happened decades ago; either way, I really hope that all those responsible—whether they were directly perpetrators of the sacrilegious abuse, or complicit in it—are brought to justice), and we lost one of the more head-on-his-shoulders Republicans when Senator John McCain died (while I of course didn’t agree with him on everything, I really respect him for his integrity in his beliefs, his sacrifices at the “Hanoi Hilton”, and his call for American unity; I know that the GOP won’t be the same without their maverick, and it’s really weird to think that the same party who nominated a POW veteran just a decade ago helped a draft-dodger who has very little real respect for those who have served get elected to the presidency).
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On a completely different subject: Lately, maybe a little in contrast to my more ordinary autistic habit of happily watching the same movies and shows over and over again, my brother and I have been watching a lot of new-to-us things. We’ve watched a lot of Phineas and Ferb with Katie (one of her favourite shows), sometimes with Sandy, and—for the past month or so—Tami has introduced a lot of Studio Ghibli films to us. Up until this point, my only exposure to their films was when I saw the American English dub of The Secret World of Arrietty back in 2015 (the year I read all of Mary Norton’s Borrowers books), disregarding a few glimpses I’d seen of Spirited Away as a kid. We watched Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke first, both of which Tami owned, and since then I’ve been checking out lots of different Studio Ghibli movies from the library—first Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and My Neighbor Totoro, then Castle in the Sky, and then When Marnie Was There and The Secret World of Arrietty (so that I could see it again, especially since I haven’t seen the non-dubbed version yet). My favourite so far (other than Arrietty, at least) is Kiki’s Delivery Service; with Castle in the Sky probably in second place; although the only ones I wasn’t very impressed with are Princess Mononoke (which my brother actually really liked, and inspired a really interesting blog post that he wrote), Nausicaä, and Totoro. In the future, I may post brief reviews for at least some of the movies. One that I haven’t seen yet is Howl’s Moving Castle, which we’ll watch once Tami finishes reading the book to us, and I’m really curious to see Miyazaki’s interpretation of it.

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We also recently watched all nine episodes of Netflix’s new series, The Dragon Prince (well, technically Mommy still hasn’t seen the last three episodes, so I’m hoping to rewatch those with her), created by Aaron Ehasz (who previously worked as head writer for Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Justin Richmond. I’m generally not a huge fan of the more serial (as opposed to episodic) storytelling structure that the show uses—which, to be fair, is a pretty popular narrative choice right now, and not just in TV shows—but I am still really glad that they didn’t end it (kind-of-not-really spoiler?) on a total cliffhanger, and the world-building the series explores seems really interesting, so I hope that they get renewed for another season. It was also pretty fun to have Jack DeSena—who voiced Sokka on Avatar—playing one of the main characters.
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Besides movie reviews, I also have a few other ideas floating around in my head for blog posts, which will probably be more interesting than just updates on what’s been happening in my life. I’m particularly hoping to get to delve into my theology obsession a bit (one post in particular that I have in mind is about weirdly specific heresies), which should be fun, provided I have the energy. Until then, I hope that everyone reading this is doing well, and remember that we’re now less than a hundred days away from Christmas!
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Today’s Question: Have you ever made (or opened) a time capsule? I kind of set a digital one for myself over five years ago on my computer’s calendar, which went off on August 7th. Unfortunately, I hadn’t written anything super riveting for it; all I did was include the time and date that I made the event. So, at Levi’s encouragement, I made another one a couple of months ago; it will go off in 2025 (specifically, on the day that I turn 10,000 days old), and I put a little more effort into it, which will hopefully be more meaningful to 27-year-old me than my message from 15-year-old me was.
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Today’s Joke: Two jokes today, actually, to make up for having not blogged in so long.
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#1: Geology rocks, but geography’s where it’s at.
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#2: I tried to attend a seminar for kleptomaniacs… All of the seats were already taken.

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-Isaac““
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The Assumption of Mary
August 15, 2018

Assumption of Mary (Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1670)

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Father in Heaven,

All creation rightly gives you praise,

For all life and all holiness come from you.

In the plan of your wisdom

She who bore the Christ in her womb

Was raised body and soul in glory to be with Him in heaven.

May we follow her example in reflecting your holiness,

And join in her hymn of endless love and praise.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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Food Boxes, the Fourth of July, and a Trip to the Movies
July 10, 2018

Isaac’s Log—Stardate: 2018.191.
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Happy belated Fourth of July!
Here’s everything that’s been going on in my life since I last blogged.
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Recently, Mommy took Levi to see Dr. Thom. We were supposed to have been approved for OHP (Oregon’s medicaid program) by then, but apparently something didn’t process through right or something, and it seemed like they weren’t going to be able to see the doctor. Fortunately, while the receptionist was on the phone with the OHP people, someone ushered Mommy and Levi in, so Levi was able to get care anyway. It sounded like Dr. Thom was very helpful, and was able to get into contact with a specialist, Dr. Shih (whom Levi had seen before), to try to get Levi an appointment—which is now officially scheduled for a couple of weeks from now.
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Last week, Mommy and Daddy had a weeklong break from school; so Mommy chose to stay at Grandma’s house with Levi and I, so she could be there with us on the Fourth, while Daddy decided to go back to the house at the coast to study. On the 1st, Mommy attended a play based on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with Grandma and Stephie, the tickets for which Clay had bought for all three of them for Mother’s Day. They sounded like they really enjoyed it, and that the actors did a good job in their roles.
That following Tuesday (St. Thomas’ day, a week ago today), Mommy took me to our old parish in town, so that we could help volunteer with the food boxes that the St. Vincent de Paul Society hosts there. It had been well over a year since I had been—I think I’d only been able to go once or twice since my head injury—and it was really great to get to help out and see everyone again. I had a lot of fun—although I unfortunately overworked myself by accident, and ended up very shaky without realizing it (fortunately, I didn’t have too many down days afterwards)—and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go again next week.
The next day, Wednesday, was the Fourth of the July. Mommy went with the Tevebaughs in the morning to see the parade in town, and it sounded like they all had a good time—although a lot of people came into town to celebrate, so it was crowded and loud (I was on the fence about going, but I’m glad that I wasn’t really able, since I generally avoid noise and big crowds when possible). In the evening, Sandy and Papa surprised us by cooking a Fourth of July barbecue, and we set off fireworks Sandy had bought (which she also shared with some neighbour kids who came over). I had been hoping to go see the big fireworks in town, which we had been able to for the past three years, but unfortunately Levi wasn’t feeling well enough; so, instead, we watched fireworks on the big TV in the living room. All in all, it was a fun day for me, and Levi felt a little better the next day.
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Our country’s now 242 years old; I’m looking forward to 2026, when it’ll turn 250. Plus, at that point, we’ll have to have a different president than Donald Trump—even assuming he wins reelection in 2020 (unless the 22nd Amendment gets repealed sometime between then and now for some reason, which would be really terrible, but I really doubt that that will happen). Having him as our nation’s leader is one thing that seemed to dampen people’s enthusiasm for the celebrations a little, more so than last year, which to me is totally understandable; but the Fourth isn’t about Donald Trump, it’s about Americans as a people. Personally, I think it’s probably better not to totally leave patriotism to the far-right, or to let the president define what kind of country we are (despite the legislative and cultural power he has); I think we should instead foster an inclusive alternative, a patriotism that unites rather than divides—and celebrates not just who we are, but who we hope to be. Maybe if we can get people really hopeful for our nation’s future again by 2020, we’ll have forged a sort of nationwide cooperative optimism that will help us elect an administration that’s both more unifying and more competent than our current one (or at least doesn’t run the country like a game show); I certainly at least hope we don’t elect a president that would somehow make me miss Trump, that would really suck.
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Slight tangent: I know it sounds kind of silly, but I’m actually kind of excited about the 2020s, largely because it’ll be a decade with a really easily agreed upon abbreviation—we’ll be referring to the Twenties, and we won’t mean the 1920s anymore (which will admittedly be a little weird). Throughout most of my life, there hasn’t really been a universally-accepted abbreviated term for the current decade (excluding the 1990s, of course; although back then I couldn’t ever really speak anyway, so it’s not like I ever had the opportunity to say “The Nineties” during the decade). I’ve seen some people refer to 2000-2009 as “The Aughts”, although I’ve never actually heard anyone call them that in real life (I’m guessing it’s a regional thing or something), and I think most people simply call the first decade of the new millennium “The Two Thousands”; which, while it gets the general idea across now, might be confusing for people in future decades (after all, it’s a term that could technically refer to the entire 21st century). I’m not sure what people will call the current decade in the future; quite possibly just the “Twenty Tens”, even though that feels kind of awkward to me. Personally, I’ve tried to refer to the 2013-2019 period we’re in as the “Twentyteens”, which seems a little more catchy to me, but it doesn’t really seem to have caught on that much. I think it’d be kind of funny if 1920s fashion had a revival in the 2020s—bowler and cloche hats, that sort of thing; you never know, it could happen. And who knows what sort of technological developments will take place, and the kinds of problems we’ll be able to solve with them? It’s a brand new decade, a lot of things could happen.
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Alright, sorry about that digression from our regularly scheduled programming. Back to “What I did last week”.
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Last Friday, on St. Maria Goretti’s day, Mommy drove me to my piano lesson at Kristin’s studio. I hadn’t been able to have a lesson since February, so I was both really excited and a little concerned about being rusty; fortunately, the lesson went really well, and I had a lot of fun. It was really great getting to see Kristin again; and the homework she gave me includes a bunch of improvising with chords in different keys, which I’m hoping will be much easier for my head than having to read a lot of music—plus, it’s really fun!
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We unfortunately didn’t get to go to Mass the next day; we weren’t able to go on the Saturday before either, since Levi wasn’t feeling well, but Mommy said that she’ll take us tomorrow morning, which I’m glad about—even missing just one week feels like a long time to me without the Eucharist. On a positive note, Papa and Grandma were able to get a couple of new couches for free, and they’re the kind that double as recliners. The negative side is that they’re too uncomfortable for Levi to sleep on; but Grandma helped get him a mattress to use, which he says is even more comfortable than the old couch.
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Last Sunday afternoon, we were able to go to matinee showing of the new Incredibles movie (which, oddly enough, is actually called Incredibles 2, instead of The Incredibles 2) with Papa. We had been planning to go for a long time (it was our Father’s Day present for Papa), and I’m glad that we were all feeling well enough to go, and that Papa didn’t have to work that day (a woman at his work was forced to work thirty days in a row; I’m really hoping that my bill idea gets through next year, so it’s no longer legal for companies to do that to their employees in Oregon). We had a fun time at the movie; in my opinion, it was funnier than the first film, and the action scenes were very well done. My one real gripe with it is that my brother and I had to close my eyes a lot during the fight scenes with the Screenslaver; to be fair, there was a warning for people with epilepsy about the flashing lights, but I think even most of us without epilepsy would appreciate it more without the overdone hypnosis screens—and I think that Pixar could easily have accomplished the same effect without so many flashes. But, on the whole, I really liked the movie; it was fun getting to see new superheroes, and I enjoyed Michael Giacchino’s score (he even wrote theme songs for Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone). After the movie, we all went out to eat at one of our favourite Chinese restaurants, and I was so hungry that I ate almost everything on my plate.
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Yesterday, Tami, Grandma, Papa, Mommy, Levi, and I all watched the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Tami introduced the series to my brother and I on I think June 23rd, and we watched all three seasons in less than three weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed the series; it has a great balance of humour and drama, is very well animated, a detailed but cohesive plot, and excellent character development. I’m really glad that Tami shared the show with us (she has all three seasons on DVD), and I’m excited about rewatching it. We’re actually planning on rewatching the whole first season, since Mommy didn’t start watching it with us until toward the beginning of the second one. Pretty much all of the characters are likable, but I think my favourite in the series is Katara; although I also really like Sokka, and Iroh is awesome.
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Tomorrow is the feast of St. Benedict; who has a special place in our family, since he was the patron of Ora et Labora Academy, which is what we used to call our school when she homeschooled us. When I graduated, I didn’t think that I’d actually miss school; but, six years on, I don’t think I fully appreciated the predictability and structure it gave to my life—especially earlier on, before my brother and I were basically unschooling. I’m really grateful that my mother worked so hard to teach us, that she’s always been there for my brother and I throughout all of our various issues, and that she was able to instill a love of learning in us that I still have to this day (I know that sounds super cheesy, but it’s true). I don’t know how well I would have fared in a more “traditional” school environment; guessing from the extremely short period I attended a public school, and my experience doing college work online a few months prior to my head injury, my guess is that I wouldn’t find learning new things as intrinsically rewarding as I do now. And I think having the one-on-one interaction really helped me; Mommy is pretty much always great at explaining things to an autistic mind, and I was always able to learn both in books and projects at home where I was comfortable, as well as from day-to-day life in my interactions outside of the house. Judging from the—often quite lacking—special needs resources available in rural public schools—especially during the 2000s (see, there I go again, haha), when I would’ve been in elementary school—I honestly kind of doubt that I’d even be verbal most of the time, had I had to attend classes in actual classrooms. Plus, I never had to deal with real peer pressure, and any bullying I’ve experienced was pretty negligible—on the whole, homeschooling is a pretty great deal, at least when it’s done well.
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Next week, the Tevebaughs will be leaving to visit family in Texas and Oklahoma, my friend Zack will turn twenty-three, and my cousin Wyatt will turn three. Now that we’re already partway through July, it’s almost been two whole years since I had my concussion; however, I’m feeling substantially more hopeful than last year (yesterday, I even stacked a whole wagon’s worth of wood all on my own), and I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas in July with my family.
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Today’s Question: If you could bend any element from Avatar, which would you choose, and why? I think I’d be a Waterbender, since I’d want to have a chance at having healing power.
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Today’s Joke: Singing in the shower is all fun and games, until you get shampoo in your mouth; then it just becomes a soap opera.
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-Isaac““

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