When “Both” Means “Neither”

When I was in elementary school, two of my very favorite events were scheduled for the same Saturday: A Cub Scout campout and a YMCA basketball team end-of-year party at Pizza Hut.

“Camping or Pizza Hut” is a tough choice indeed.

As my father is generous and fun-loving, he asked if I wanted to try to do both. 

Of course I did! Hooray!

So, on the fateful Saturday, we drove to the camp in the morning, set up the tent, hung out through the early afternoon, and then drove 90 minutes back into town for the party.  After I had collected my plastic trophy, we booked it back to our campsite.  By that time, though, most folks had headed to bed.

It was an exhausting day and it turned out that we were out of sync with both events.  We missed out on the camaraderie of the camping trip and we were definitely a little stinky for the party.

The lesson was not lost on us – that in choosing both we actually got to do neither – and has become a helpful conceptual hook in considering similarly tough choices.

When this sort of over-extension creeps into the schedule, we know that it is time to pick just one.

(Hey! This reminds me of a fun and formidable little book by Fr. Michael Rossmann, SJ – The Freedom of Missing Out!)

Living Here

Since 2006, I have had twelve different homes in six different countries.  I (and now we) move a lot.

Toward the end of our time at each place (when I give myself the space to be quiet) an unbidden sense surfaces:

It is wonderful that I have had the chance to live here.

Certainly, leaving a place and then adjusting to a new one is not easy.  It involves a great deal of loss.  I sense, though, that it is all preparation, for when I have no more days, to be able to say with serenity:

It is wonderful that I have had the chance to live here.

Story Selection

When I was staying home with our infant son, he and I spent the Chicago winter by listening to a lot of audiobooks. Among them was Walter Issacson’s biography on Steve Jobs

The audiobook clocks in at just over 25 hours. That is about three workdays of audio.

That is to say, almost everything of his life is left out.  Even under this constraint, Isaacson weaves a masterful, productive whole.

We make choices, too, about which stories of our lives to rehearse to ourselves and to present to others.  This choice matters a great deal for who we become. 

Our lives, no matter how messy in the moment, can become a productive whole.


Rare is media that can entrance and teach both adults and children. 

For books, the master is Mo Willems. For television, a show called Bluey sets the curve. I do not remember who turned us onto the program, but our family owes them big.

Though ostensibly for children, I am certain that this show, in its 7-minute episodes, makes me a better human being.

I fear to over explain it.  It is best to just to experience the genius. So, go beg someone’s Disney+ password and treat yourself tonight.  Especially brilliant episodes are: “Omelette”, “Dance Mode”, and “Hammerbarn”. 

The people who produce the show are masters – in illustrating the depth of the interior lives of children, in shepherding parents toward courageous light-heartedness, and helping us all see how wonderful it is to live on the earth and attend to simple things.

The Other Two

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the daily emails I read went from two to three (when I signed up for The Daily Difference, a source of reliable and easily understandable knowledge on climate change.)

A few people asked me about the other two.  Here they are!

The Daily Meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation: Most of the meditations are adapted from the writings of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM.  They translate the depth and challenge of the Christian tradition in a way that is consistently inviting.

Seth Godin’s daily blog: Godin riffs on marketing, empathy, being a human today, and the endurance needed to make a difference.

Most days, I marvel that they give all of this away for free.


Our sons wanted to practice some German songs that they were learning at school, so I found them on YouTube, set the playback speed at one click under full-speed (75%), and we all sang along.

It was (and is) great fun.

One time, though, when queueing up the songs, I forgot to set the speed at 75%, and the songs began at full speed.  Both of them immediately protested. 

Whoa! Why is everything going so fast! Turn it back to how it was!

“Normal,” it turns out, is way too accelerated.

And in our lives, too, it may be that we are going way too fast, but have only ever considered it to be normal.

What would a test run at 75% look like this week?

This, Too, Shall Pass

The strain of caring for a young person through a trying stage.

A disorienting heartache.

The pain of having let someone down.

This, too, shall pass.

And yet, do I truly want to wish it quickly away? If I do, I very well may miss the meaning of the experience. I may short-circuit the work it wants to achieve in me.

So, yes… this, too, shall pass… but before it does, I promise to be present with it.

And No One Was Thinking About Being a Monster

I hope that you, some day, run into The Monsters’ Monster, a witty, subtle tale about the power of gratitude.

Let’s all, like the Monster, say “dank you” a bit more.

ps – Happy Thanksgiving, all.

pps- And Katie and I are grateful to Fr. James Martin for this post about The Examen Book.  Thank you, Jim!

As Broken and as Whole

I read (and then re-read and re-read) the following this week.

“The neurosis of our age is the fear of being all that we are. And in the fear of being all that we are, we pretend that we are less than we are. And in pretending that we are less than we are, we are anxious. And we are anxious because we are afraid that someone might pull the curtain back and we might be discovered and we might have to stand up and be what we are. We might have to stand up and in an open-faced, vulnerable way, acknowledge… just how broken and how whole… how fleeting and eternal, how human and divine we are.” -Jim Finley quoting Rollo May in Christian Meditation: Entering the Mind of Christ (around 5:24:00 in the audio version)


The point Finley was making is that in meditation practice, we are able to (very slowly and patiently) accept the totality of all that we are, and so live differently.

But I think we also need relationships for this level of acceptance. We need people who are able to see the broken, the fleeting, the human – and who love us anyway – and who help us hold it all gently. And we need people who can, at the same time, mirror back the wholeness, the eternal, the divine in us.

This is a profound gift to receive and to offer. Let’s try to do it more often.