Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

The purpose of children

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I read this quote the other day and it’s stuck with me for a long time.  Something I think about daily.

Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t distain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment. Life’s Bounty is in its flow, later is too late.

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March 2, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Reflections

Lenten Prayers

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The time change this week means that I’ve snuck in a few fixed hour prayers before the boys wake up.  The week’s appointed prayer is one I want to keep praying this week:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who cares for us: Preserve me faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirt, one God, now and forever.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord.


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March 15, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Reflections

For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

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I heard this quote the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it as my two 1-year-olds do laps with their walkers for as long as we can bear it:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

G.K. ChestertonOrthodoxy

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November 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Laughter, Reflections

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life

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Recently I read The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, a memoir by Rod Dreher focused around his relationship with his sister, Ruthie, and their small town of Starhill, LA.

Ruthie is a home body who marries her high school sweetheart and builds a house on her parents property.  Rod is writer and wanderer who leaves their rural Louisiana town as soon as he can.  First, for boarding school and eventually to become a newspaper writer in NYC.  The book is a contrast between their personality and choices.

Their simmering conflict over leaving and staying comes to a head when she is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  Small town living is shown as its best: rallying around her in her treatments and around her family after she dies.  Rod and his wife look at the social fabric of their lives in the big city.  They decided that no one could care for them in a similar way if something terrible happened, nor do they have the depth of relationship to help others.  In the end they move back to be with the grieving family and to benefit from all that is in Starhill, LA.

Overall I liked the book, Dreher is an excellent writer and his portrayals of small town southern living were vivid.  I read it as I attended my grandfather’s funeral in small town Louisiana and it mirrored much of what I saw around me.  While I don’t read Dreher regularly I appreciate his communitarian spirit: conservatism focused on the good of small community in the modern world.  Sort of a non-Agrarian Wendell Berry.

While I appreciate his writing I’m left unsure about what to do in light of his diagnosis and his solution.  Small town living and staying put is what creates community.   It’s great that his job is portable enough to be done anywhere in America that has an internet connection but that isn’t true for me.  Also, if you are from a place and your family has been there generations, then you can re-graft yourself onto those deep roots and draw the sustenance from them.  But what if you’re not?  What if there isn’t a home to go back to?  What then is the secret to the good life in Dreher’s telling?

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November 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

Posted in General

Abe and Art

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I do about one artistic thing every 5 years.


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October 5, 2014 at 8:25 am

Posted in General

French Kids Eat Everything

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French-Food-Rules1This week I blazed through French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon.   She and her husband move their two young kids to rural Brittany and enroll them in the local elementary school and preschool.

The book is about the culture shock they encounter while their kids eat at French schools and with their French relatives when it comes to food.

Three course preschool lunches might sound ideal to me but to their young daughter not having a choice about what to eat and having no snacks was a shock.  As their year passes Le Billion gradually sees the wisdom of the French way and everyone adjusts.  In the process she encapsulates French food culture into 10 rules.

Overall I liked the wisdom of the book quite a bit.  These rules seem practical and healthful and are dosed out with a lot of charm and honesty about how this was not an easy process for a family with one girl who only ate white pasta with parmesan and a mother whose parenting shaped this eating.

I like that our kids would eat what I eat.  I love the idea that they only eat four times a day with no snacking (which is our current schedule).  I like the idea that I can gift my kids with the ability to enjoy amazing variety of food we’ve been gifted with.  I love the idea that my kids could be table company rather than table nuisances.

However I’m still smarting and discouraged from the last chapter where the family moves back to Vancouver.  There they encounter a culture of peers that are served junk food constantly.  When Le Billon serves up a homemade apple tart her daughters friends ask for Oreos.  When her daughter goes back to preschool she’s forced to wolf down her lunch in 10 minutes (literally), undermining their efforts to have the girls enjoy their food.  Rather than lunch and no snacks, the kids snack 3 times a day in addition to lunch.

Le Billon’s attempts to change the food and service at her daughters’ schools are unsuccessful as the teachers think they shouldn’t be teaching about food.  Nor can the family change the broader culture of the girl’s friends.

This reality struck a cord with me.  How much we are shaped by our culture and how hard it is to reshape culture?  For now I’m in charge of what the kids eat but when they are in school?  When they visit other houses?

Overall the French system of eating seems almost ideal.  But can you only live like this if you live in France?

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July 15, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Reviews

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

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coverI haven’t finished a book since February but I’ve finally finished The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray.  Murray is a conservative writer whose keen eye for the social realities of elite institutions and life reminds me a lot of David Brooks.  Even when I don’t agree with him I like the way he makes me think about the world I live in.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide is essentially a series of extended proverbs written by an unashamedly grumpy old white guy.  Over the years his missives went out to his workplace via an internal listserv and now they are collected into a brief book with four sections: workplace presentation; thinking and writing; how to live in your 20s; and what it means to be happy.

The workplace section is probably the most practical of the bunch and reenforces much of what I’ve seen and learned since I graduated from college.  His sage advice about the realities of cursing, dressing sloppily, sending poorly written office emails, sucking up, etc mirror my thoughts when I see these behaviors from students and (occasionally) colleagues.  I don’t say anything but it definitely shapes my opinion about whether or not they are professionals.  Murray is astute and honest enough to name these behaviors and say that these are real barriers to your success.

The writing and thinking section was brilliant, especially being unashamedly judgmental about sloppy writing.  As I’ve worked on a team preparing a report and a presentation over the last two weeks I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve implemented the rules so that the Committee will take us seriously.  I preach to my students constantly that they will be dismissed if they misuse fewer and less or use literally to mean figuratively.   Murray agrees and has lots of specific suggestions.

His last two sections on life advice also seem very wise to me.  Your 20s are a time to explore, form opinions and think about your career.  He tells it like it is with bracing advice like “get real jobs” and “confront your inner hothouse flower” (chortle).   Finally, his reflections on what makes the good life include advice about vocation, marriage and religion that isn’t heard very often in my circles.  Consider marrying in your 20s?  Take religion seriously?  This is good advice and it makes me thankful again for one of my favorite college professors whose mix of life advice and political science shaped who I am today.

The book is a perfect gift for an upperclassman or recent graduate who is either wandering or is dead set on a specific version of success.  I’m considering recommending it to my incoming graduate students as guide to the intangibles that our program won’t teach them as they focus on hard skills and policy thinking in their formal coursework.

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June 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Posted in On the Job, Reviews

The Fellas at 6 Months

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The Fellas at 6 Months

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June 14, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Posted in At the House

The Fellas

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I haven’t blogged much recently, alright in many many months.  Joyful reasons though 🙂  Who knows, perhaps  now that I’m on paternity leave I’ll start Daddy blogging.

The Fellas

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February 23, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Posted in At the House, UNC


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It’s almost October and the semester is officially in full swing.  Practically this means that I’m grading or prepping several nights a week in addition to the full work days of office hours, classes, and meetings.  This has the predictable effect of plummeting my personal reading.  In July I read a book a week, now I’m averaging about 1/3 or a 1/4 of that.

Reading fewer books worries me for a couple of reasons.  I’ve been reading, listening, and thinking more about how the internet shapes the brain.  I find that the longer I spend on the web fighting through my inbox, reading Feedly, and skimming the Times and ESPN for a break the more frantic and scattered I feel at the end of the day.  I long to be focused for long periods and to hear other people’s well crafted, well curated thoughts.

Another reason I’ve been wanting to read more books is that I’m interested in having more conversations with people worth conversing with.  We’ve yet to make fast friends here in PVD.  Lots of good people, lots of fun people, but few people we hang with regularly and fewer still whom we talk deep into the night with.  But I’m realizing I need and want those conversations.  Our year in SC Wendell Berry and I talked deep into the nights as I read through his fiction.  I’m wondering now who I should listen to.  Eugene Peterson?  Some classic writer?  Contemporary economists?  Probably not economists as they are more work related, though it would be good if I could carve out some space for learning at work, rather than just teaching.

Explicitly spiritual?  Implicitly so?  Keen observers of the human condition?  I miss this type of reading….

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September 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Reflections

My life verse about the internet

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As I talked with a dear friend tonight about the perils of the internet I was reminded of this quote that I used to keep taped to the top of my computer screen.

“Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is took weak and fuddled to shake off.”  C.S. Lewis

It’s strange to me that when I was in college the people whom the internet ate were almost entirely men who got sucked into computer games for semesters on end, emerging only for class and brief visits to the dining hall.   Perhaps they were online because they were bad at relationships… Perhaps their relationship skills were bad because of how much time they spent online.  Either way it was hard to watch.   I did that one semester too, and it was fun.  I can still taste the adrenaline of playing Half-Life or Team Fortress.   But I left, and I don’t have gaming systems because they are too sweet.

Today the internet eats women as much as it eats men.   The social aspect, the mirages of connection, that tell people they have friends even when the don’t.  It twiddles away good years that could be spent in conversation and love on Instagram posts and status updates.  All the while the internet provides a flow of a constant, unmonitored, and unedited social pressures into homes that were once havens from the pressures of the world.

This all makes me sad.  And it grieves me to see how it is eating young women now as well as young men.

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September 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Reflections

Pregnancy Photo Shoot

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Twas fun to head out to a big field and take some shots.  They’re coming …

IMG_9398 - Version 2











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September 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Pictures

Dust to dust

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Tonight, as Charity and I comb through a treasure chest of art prints, I emptied out an old frame we picked up several houses ago.

As I emptied it I wondered who these people are and what it is that brought them together. Who cared enough to have it framed and protect it many years? I wondered if any living soul knows who these nine people are and if there exists another picture of them in the world.

And as I picked it up it began to crumble into dust in my hands, early images fading away. What little knowledge of them in the living further disappearing…


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September 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Pictures, Reflections

Twins … They’re Coming

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Thanks all for commenting.  Blogging has been sporadic at best as you know but I anticipate that this spring will bring more action.

Due to fantastic parental leave policies I’ll be the stay-at-home dad for the twins in the spring.  Thus far parenting has mainly consisted of reading, attending “marvelous multiples” class, and purchasing …. so much purchasing … and they aren’t even here.  Tonight the double stroller arrived.  The minivan was a while ago, many weeks and many pounds ago.  Prayers welcomed for a mid-November arrival!


Zoom zoom.


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August 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Posted in At the House

Still reading? Leave a comment?

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Hi friends,

If you’re reading this you’ll have noted I’ve been a lot less consistent with the blog this last year and I’m curious who has kept reading it despite the disappearance of google reader, the light posting on my part and the ubiquity of Facebook.

Do me a favor and leave me a comment if you drop by.  Will help me know if folks still visit.



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August 13, 2013 at 10:14 am

Posted in General