December 31, 2007

The year is really winding down now. A perfect time, I think, for a poem, dontcha think? Thanks to “Ms. Caroline” at The Starlite Cafe, here’s a lovely one which reflects the days heralding the changing of the calendar. I hope you enjoy it.

As now the year is ending
The harvest gathered in
The roots put in the cellar
The apples in the bin.

The corn is drying quickly
In the crib for us to feed
And save the very best of it
For next years planting seed.

The canning jars are scalded
And the larder standing full.
The cane has yielded sugar
And the Taffys’ there to pull.

Neat stockings on the mantle
To be filled on Christmas Eve
With presents underneath the tree
For the children to receive.

The year is ending grandly
As we remember why we’re here
And give thanks to the Father
For another blessed year………

Nice, huh? Thanks, Ms. Caroline.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:12 | Comments Off on Year’s End Poem
December 30, 2007

I’m writing this post on a cold early Arizona morning just before Christmas. The lights on the tree the only illumination in the room, a hot cup of cocoa to fortify the sleepless bones sitting beside me, Christmas music playing softly in the next room, and the rabbits are happily working their way through the red leaf lettuce and Italian parsley breakfast they’ve been given.

And I’m thinking: life feels very good indeed right now.

I’m not sure – actually, I doubt very much – I could have written these words on the same date last year. Spritually, I had bottomed out from several years of decreasing church attendence resulting from my own past experiences with the Episcopal Church and a growing weariness over the whole goings-on in the church I had once felt such a strong calling to the priesthood in. The whole implosion of that calling had come so fast five years before that, that I had never really come to terms with it; that seemed at the root of just a lot of dissatisfaction I felt about everything. Outside the spiritual realm, my workplace office was closing and I wasn’t sure how I’d like working from home on a permanent basis, we were awash in credit card debt, my golf game was a mess, and life in Goodboys Nation was unsettled due to some, shall we say, unpleasantness, left over from a malcontent who had departed shortly after the 2006 weekend event had ended.

In short, I wasn’t feeling good about a lot of things in my heart and my spirit.

So what has changed, you might ask? Well, in some cases a lot, in others not so much. But if there’s one thing 2007 will be known for, it will be that I began to find myself again, if you will, amidst a bittersweet year filled with some new experiences (mostly good) and a repeat of some not-so-pleasant things. Since it feels right to close the year on a pleasant note, let’s start with those events that comprise the “bitter”.

More than anything else, we’ll remember this year as the one in which we lost our long-time (and Tracey’s much-cherished) rabbit, Marble. Because he was the only rabbit who ever had the full run of the house, and because his personality matched his size (at 16 lbs. he was truly a “big bull bun”), not having him around this Christmas makes the house feel (and sound) emptier than in years past. While he always kept pretty much to his area in our bedroom, you never knew when he was going to pop out and spread his cheer around in search of some loving and a handout from the refrigerator.

Two months after losing Marble, we lost another rabbit, The Big Nipper, suddenly. One moment he was full of life munching on some treats, the next moment he was not. I guess we should all be so lucky in our own passings. We kinda think TBN was a lot older than what the pet store had let on, and I don’t think prior coming into our home he had had a very good life, but it’s a comfort to know he enjoyed some sense of security and a lot of love over the last 10 months of his life in our care. Their passings makes it three years in a row we have lost at least one pet, which just shows you the transition still going on between generations of family pets. Farewell old friends, you are missed.

Of course, with the passings of old friends come new ones, and it has been a joy to welcome into our home Cosmo (short for Cosmopolitan), who has taken up The Big Nipper’s old place of residence and has begun making it his own. He’s a character, for sure.

I suppose you can also say that our credit card debt remains a sore point in the Richard household, but given that for the first time in our lives Tracey and I are committed to eliminating it and are on track to pay it all off by the 3rd quarter of 2008 (God willing!), it doesn’t feel as much like a strangehold on us as it has the past few years. I mean, at some point you just get sick of it and have to grow up and face the results of your actions. So in that regard, if it doesn’t feel good, I can at least say it feels better than it has.

On to the good things about this year. First of all, I’ve come to enjoy the experience of working from home far more than I thought I would. If there’s any negative to it, it’s that you end up working a heck of a lot more hours doing so than you would if you commuted to an office every day. But that simply requires some discipline and the good sense to know when to close up shop and call it a day. I know one thing – if at all possible, I hope never to have to work out of an office full-time ever again!

On the Goodboys Nation front, this year’s golf weekend was one of, if not the, best events we’ve ever had. And this was simply a result of several long-time Goodboys recognizing the importance of wanting to keep things going, even if it meant the departure of one of our long-time companions and changing the way things were done. While it’s sad to have seen one of my once-close friendships cool considerably as a result, as you get older you just begin to realize that everything – times, places, relationships – has its moment in time, and then everyone moves on. Hopefully that doesn’t happen a lot, but sometimes you just have to choose between what’s important to you and what’s not.

One of my favorite memories of this year was during my visit back to Massachusetts in July for the Goodboys event. Here in AZ, we were in the middle of a stretch of incredibly hot weather (over 110), and, needing some time by myself to work on my golf game, was pleasantly surprised to have a chance to do so on an unseasonably cool afternoon when gray clouds hung low and spat rain off and on. Delighted at the change of weather, I felt inspired to work hard and make some necessary changes to my iron and short game I had been putting off for years. And boy, did that work pay off! My partner Killer and I won this year’s event, but more importantly, the chance to play better with a reunited bunch of Goodboys friends made everything that much more enjoyable.

2007 was also a year of the past becoming present, at least when it came to my circle of friends. For this was the year that my brother Mark and I were reunited with our former Top Priority bandmates Jerry “Keys” Palma and Ken “The Cat” McDougal more than 30 years after we had all gone our separate ways. To be able to know their friendship once again is a gift, and a highlight of the year. As it turned out, the Top Priority reunion became a gift that kept on giving, as it was a direct result of my posting about that at this website that I heard from another old friend from a few years before even that, Bob Noftle, and I look forward to seeing him when I’m back in Massachusetts between the holidays. How could anyone have expected such a turn of events all in one year?

More than anything else, however, this year has been a turning point for me spiritually. I suppose it all started back in March with a bonafide “religious experience” at which I was given the gift of finally understanding what my calling actually was during those 8+ years while I was pursuing the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The experience left me with a sense of being able to start over, and it was shortly thereafter I committed myself to finding a church I could feel comfortable attending once again. After trying out several, I think I’ve – at least for now – settled on a Roman Catholic church only minutes away from our house. Once more, attending church has become enjoyable again, and the effect on the non-spiritual aspects of my life has been noticeable. For 2008, my hope is that I might get back into rebuilding my daily prayer life, but for now, after all I’ve been through, the little steps I’ve been taking are encouragement enough.

So there you have it, The Great White Shank’s year in review. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put this crazy year behind me, even if it means looking ahead to the uncertainty a new year always brings with it. Since 2008 is a presidential election year, I’m sure the political landscape will take precedent over most things, but it will also be a watershed year for the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, both of which I have little doubt will split along philosophical and theological lines over the issue of homosexuality. How it all will end up is still anyone’s guess, but it won’t be pretty. While I’ll be watching (and commenting) with interest, I also plan on avoiding it like the plague.

While these kinds of things may seem momentous in their own right, I think it’s more important to keep things in perspective and focus on truly important things in life – you know, like being grateful for having a roof over one’s head, gainful employment, food on the table, the love of family and friends, and the health and well-being of same.

May all who frequent this outpost in the blogsphere on occasion find such blessings for you and those you hold most near and dear in your hearts in the coming year!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:58 | Comments Off on A Year Winds Down
December 29, 2007

I recently received an e-mail from a long-time friend going back to my years in Kentucky (name withheld by request), who, concerned about this post and my seeming “drift” towards the Roman Catholic faith, writes the following:

Read your post the other day and have to say I’m disappointed and concerned by your seemingly chosen path (?) regarding the Faith. Lord knows (and I believe He DOES know) you and I have fought our own battles and have had our own quarrels with [the Episcopal Church] on a variety of fronts over time. But I also know you to be a lover of the Anglican tradition (as you know I am) [and a] long-time defender of the MANY VOICES our tradition has always tried to embrace (even if those voices might seem to us a little extreme at times).

It seems strange for me to be speaking on behalf of the very same institution we have shared so many frustrations with, but all I can say is: think carefully about what you are doing. It saddens me to think you no longer believe there is a place for you in [The Episcopal Church] after all these years. All I can say is be patient and wait to see how events play out in the next year (years?) – you’ll see there IS and WILL CONTINUE TO BE a place for you at the table!

There is a time and a place for everything and I can only hope you will come to see that this is not the time for doing anything rash…”

When you receive letters like this it’s hard to know exactly how to respond. After all, our religious faith and our own personal relationships with God touch upon so many aspects of our lives – especially when you’ve been raised in a particular tradition since birth as I have. In my case, the lines between church tradition, family traditions, and life experiences shared with loved ones and cherished friends over the years become blurred and tied up in emotional knots. In the end, I’m not sure how much (or even if) one’s walk with God should even be dependent on these kinds of things, but I can certainly understand why they do. It’s all part of the ties that bind us together over time, and anyone who knows me knows I don’t take those kinds of ties lightly.

It nevertheless remains that one’s religious faith and desire and motivations for intimacy with God is not just a matter of the soul, but of the heart as well. Over time, I’ve come to view my relationship with the Episcopal Church as a marriage of sorts: you have good times and not-so-good times, and when the latter come, it’s just one of those things where things get messy and, as easy as it would be to point fingers at one another, the fact is, no one’s solely to blame. Hence the term “irreconcilable differences”.

How many times have you had a discussion with someone about church and you’ve heard it said, “I didn’t leave the church, the church left me”? Certainly there’s a part of me that feels that way, and issues and criticisms I have with the EC would certainly appear to bear that out: without question, the EC of today is a far different church thsn the one I grew up in. (I would even argue it’s a different church than the one I sought ordination to the priesthood in!) But that, I think, is the case with just about everything these days: the world is a far different place than the one we grew up in. How, therefore, could one expect any institution (religious or not) to not change as well?

But there is also, I think (just as in a marriage), a case to be made by the EC whereby it says to those of us who have either left or are so disenchanted with it that they are considering leaving, “I didn’t leave you, you left me”. And in that case, I concede it may have a point there. But, just as institutions change with the times, isn’t it also true that people, their values, and the things they hold dear also change as well?

This, after all, is what makes life so interesting and something to cherish – after all, if we and the world around us remained constant and immune to the changing tides and times, life would end up being a rather drab affair after a while, don’t you think? And as much as we’d all like things to remain the same, nothing does; times change, people change, those we love and hold dear come and go, and in the end we’re left contemplating our own mortalities and wondering where the time went.

What’s the point in all this, you ask? Simply to assure my dear friend and others of a like mind that, if indeed there is a drift “towards the Tiber”, it’s not the result of some knee-jerk reaction or any one particular thing involving the Episcopal Church. After all, since my religious awakening thirteen years ago, I’ve always considered myself an Anglo-Catholic or “high church” Episcopalian more than anything else. This identity has been nurtured and reinforced through numerous monastic retreats, tons of reading from Roman Catholic writers (Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Benedict Groeschel, etc.) and various Doctors of the Church (St. John of the Cross and others), and a comfort with praying to Mary and the Saints. Were I an Anglican back in the 19th century, I would have firmly placed myself with the tractarians of the Oxford Movement and wouldn’t have been surprised when its unofficial leader, John Henry Newman, defected to the Roman Catholic faith.

The bottom line in all of this, I guess, is that in the end all one can do is follow one’s heart. There was a time when I was being called to live out my faith in a particular way, and I followed that calling to the best of my ability and to the bitter end. Now the calling I feel is a far different one: this time it’s not a shout I hear, but a whisper. It’s not to be a priest or a “somebody” or “something” in my church, but simply to be a small child of God. Perhaps it’s God’s merciful way of allowing me a new start in my walk with Him – one without baggage, history, or memory. Perhaps it’s the freedom I now feel simply to be able to attend church without feeling guilt, remorse, or resentment. Perhaps it’s the desire to experience the theological and sacramental kinship I have always felt with the RC faith in a more intimate way. Perhaps it’s all of these.

But if this is something I or anyone else undertake, this is no tragedy or even something to apologize for. After all (especially when it comes to Episcopalians and Roman Catholics), we all worship the same God in more or less the same way. And my view has always been that anything that draws someone closer to God and brings them a sense of peace in doing so cannot be anything but of the Holy Spirit. Whether the EC has failed me, or I it, the feeling is that I am no longer adrift but once again listening to my heart and doing what I feel is best for my soul. Where this ultimately leads is anyone’s guess, but to my dear friends and loved ones I ask only for your prayers, your support, and your understanding in this continuing walk of the spirit.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by at 01:40 | Comments Off on Loosening The Ties That Bind
December 28, 2007

Jaime Diaz of Gof Digest has this fascinating article about Tiger Woods. The whole thing is defintely worth a read, but this part really caught my attention, retelling how Tiger dealt with the anniversary of his father’s death last year and how it changed his approach to his game preparation, setting the stage for his incredible end of 2007 run:

Though Tiger takes pride in hiding “tells” from everyone — competitors and family — even he couldn’t completely hide his emotions. After playing the Wachovia Championship pro-am in May with close friend Michael Jordan, who has said his father’s death in 1993 led to his first retirement from basketball, Woods told The Charlotte Observer’s Ron Green Jr. that he spent the wee hours of the following morning staring at the hotel-room clock as he marked to the minute the one-year anniversary of Earl’s death. “It was a tough time,” he said, later adding: “I just wish I could talk to him, hear his voice and ask him for advice on certain things. Basically he was my best friend.”

Though Woods won the tournament, his struggle down the stretch is what prompted Rory Sabbatini to call Woods “more beatable than ever” and add, “I like the new Tiger.” After indifferent golf at the Players and the Memorial, Woods produced often-brilliant ballstriking at the U.S. Open, but he came up lacking again. Another closing 72 — on Father’s Day, and the day before his wife, Elin, gave birth after a difficult pregnancy — was only good enough for second.

After the British Open, where Woods tied for 12th at Carnoustie in a week in which his mood was particularly dark, it appeared the year that had begun with so much promise would be a washout in the category that matters most: the majors.

…Woods seemed to reach resolution in the two weeks after Carnoustie. In that period he spoke with several friends, with an emphasis on listening. “Tiger absorbs and applies better than anyone I’ve ever met,” says his agent, Mark Steinberg. By the time Woods arrived at Firestone for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, something was different. After an eight-stroke victory, he offered a cryptic explanation: “Yeah, I got more organized.”

Completing the healing was the circle of life. When he won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, it was his 13th major victory in 44 professional starts. But most important to Woods was the fact that his wife and 2-month-old daughter — dressed in victory red — were waiting for him on the 72nd green.

“It’s a feeling I’ve never had before,” he says. “It used to be my mom and dad. The British Open last year was different, but this one was certainly so special and so right to have Elin and Sam there.” It gave further resonance to the generational echo in his daughter’s name: Sam was Earl’s code name for Tiger when he wanted to get his son’s attention without alerting a crowd.

“I’ll tell you 100 percent what happened,” says Williams. “Tiger came back from Carnoustie, and instead of spending hours on the practice field, he just tried to picture how he wanted to swing the club. He used what Hank was telling him to do — which he had been having quite a bit of difficulty putting into practice — and went about getting swing thoughts organized and the right mental picture. He came to Firestone having done little actual practice, but from that point on, he had a mental image of himself that he was able to relate to the movement of his body.

“And each week he played, he got a little bit better right up to the Tour Championship. His rhythm and balance with every club were exceptional, and never changed. In the 10 years I’ve been with him, it was the best stretch I’ve ever seen Tiger play.”

Read the whole thing. It just makes you appreciate even more the dedication and mental toughness that Tiger brings not only to his game and to his sport, but to his life. That he has the most raw talent out there is undeniable, but what makes him a champion above any other are those other qualities he exhibits above and beyond any other contemporary in the game. How can you not appreciate it when that once-in-an era kind of combination comes along?

A tip of The Great White Shank’s hat to you, Tiger. You can play in my foursome any time.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:46 | Comments (5)
December 27, 2007

An interesting story here (Hat tip: Free Republic) – it would appear Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as England’s dominant religious group, judged by the latest figures published by London’s Sunday Telegraph:

[Last Saturday night], leading figures gave warning that the Church of England could become a minority faith and that the findings should act as a wake-up call.

The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches, to be published in the new year, shows the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans ­worshipping.

The rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa, who have packed the pews of Catholic parishes that had previously been dwindling.

Those who have been frequenting this space have undoubtedly seen that, when it comes to religion, my view is that people want substance, direction, a sense of community, and a positive message of hope based upon the historical teachings and traditions of Christianity. Unfortunately, this message has become increasingly obscured in the mainline Protestant churches – particularly those western churches in the Anglican Communion – through years of incessant conflict over the issue of homosexuality. As a result, I’m sure there are many others like me who, tired of the whole homosexuality debate and those progessive activists who have hijacked their denominations for the sole purpose of imposing their beliefs rooted in their sexuality and their own life choices, have begun to explore other Christian alternatives and found the grass to be far greener there.

As the Sunday Telegraph article indicates, the jury is still out on whether this trend is a temporary one or not, but anyone who has cherished the beautiful traditions of Anglicanism can only shake their heads in wonder and a sense of sadness at the sorry state of the Anglican tradition, not only as practiced in the UK, but in the US and Canada as well, and wonder where it will all end. Regardless what happens with the Roman Catholics in England, the Church of England better wake up and start standing from something other than the “feel good” religion of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion if it expects to survive into the 22nd century.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:37 | Comments Off on Can’t Blame Them
December 26, 2007


…Just because the week between Christmas and New Year’s calls for some down time.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:16 | Comments Off on A Break In The Action
December 25, 2007


“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins. Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us’.

And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife; and knew her not till she had brought forth a son: and he called his name Jesus.” — Matthew 1:18-25

A blessed and joyous Christmas to all from the Goodboys and everyone at Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:46 | Comments Off on A Blessed Christmas To All
December 24, 2007

The following story, and others like it, can be found at the Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries website. A tip of the hat to them for a wonderful website with a lot of interesting stories and sermons.


“A vast multitude was imprisoned in every place,” wrote an eyewitness. “The prisons — prepared for murderers and robbers — were filled with bishops, priests, and deacons … so there was no longer room for those condemned of crimes.” — Eusebius, Church History, VIII, 6, 9.

You’d hardly expect to find old St. Nick in jail. But St. Nicholas is more than a children’s Christmas legend. He was flesh and blood, a prisoner for Christ, bishop of the Mediterranean city of Myra.

What do we know about the real St. Nicholas? He was born, ancient biographers tell us, to wealthy parents in the city of Patara about 270 A.D. He was still young when his mother and father died and left him a fortune.

As a teen-ager, Nicholas’ humility was already evident. He had heard about a family destitute and starving. The father had no money for food, much less the dowry needed to marry off his three daughters. He was ready to send his oldest girl into the streets to earn a living as a prostitute.

Under the cover of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold coins through the window of their humble dwelling. In the morning the father discovered the gold. How he rejoiced: his family was saved, his daughter’s honor preserved, and a dowry for her marriage secured. Some time after, Nicholas secretly provided a dowry for the second daughter. Still later for the third.

But on the third occasion, the girls’ father stood watching. As soon as the bag of gold thudded on the floor, he chased after the lad till he caught him. Nicholas was mortified to be discovered in this act of charity. He made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family. Then Nicholas forsook his wealth to answer a call to the ministry.

At the nearby city of Myra a bishop supervised all the churches of the region. When the bishop died, the bishops and ministers from other cities and villages — Nicholas among them — gathered to choose a successor.

Nicholas was in the habit of rising very early and going to the church to pray. This morning an aged minister awaited him in the sanctuary. “Who are you, my son?” he asked.

“Nicholas the sinner,” the young minister replied. “And I am your servant.”

“Come with me,” the old priest directed. Nicholas followed him to a room where the bishops had assembled. The elderly minister addressed the gathering. “I had a vision that the first one to enter the church in the morning should be the new bishop of Myra. Here is that man: Nicholas.”

Indeed they did choose him as bishop. Nicholas was destined to lead his congregation through the worst tribulation in history.

In A.D. 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a brutal persecution of all Christians. Those suspected of following the Lord were ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods. Nicholas and thousands of others refused.

Ministers, bishops, and lay people were dragged to prison. Savage tortures were unleashed on Christians all over the empire. Believers were fed to wild animals. Some were forced to fight gladiators for their lives while bloodthirsty crowds screamed for their death. Women suffered dehumanizing torment. Saints were beaten senseless, others set aflame while still alive.

Yet persecution couldn’t stamp out Christianity. Rather it spread. Third Century leader Tertullian observed, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Those who survived Diocletian’s torture chambers were called “saints” or “confessors” by the people, because they didn’t forsake their confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Nicholas was one of these.

Finally, after years of imprisonment, the iron doors swung open and Bishop Nicholas walked out, freed by decree of the new Emperor Constantine. As he entered his city once more, his people flocked about him. “Nicholas! Confessor!” they shouted. “Saint Nicholas has come home.”

The bishop was beaten but not broken. He served Christ’s people in Myra for another thirty years. Through the prayers of this tried and tested soldier of faith, many found salvation and healing. Nicholas participated in the famous Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. He died on December 6, about 343, a living legend, beloved by his whole city.

St. Nick of yuletide fame still carries faint reminders of this ancient man of God. The color of his outfit recollects the red of bishop’s robes. “Making a list, checking it twice,” probably recalls the old saint’s lectures to children about good behavior. Gifts secretly brought on Christmas eve bring to mind his humble generosity to the three daughters.

Yet if he were alive today, this saint would humbly deflect attention from himself. No fur-trimmed hat and coat, no reindeer and sleigh or North Pole workshop. As he did in life centuries ago, Bishop Nicholas would point people to his Master.

“I am Nicholas, a sinner,” the old saint would say. “Nicholas, servant of Christ Jesus.”

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:39 | Comments Off on The Real St. Nicholas
December 23, 2007

Today was one of those days that makes you truly appreciate the magic of Christmas and all the joys and surprises that, unlike any other time of the year, this season brings. First, it was returning calls to various Goodboy friends that had called during the week wanting to nail down plans to get together while I’m back home in Massachusetts between Christmas and New Years. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from my former Top Priority bandmate, Jerry “Keys” Palma, who just wanted to send along some Christmas greetings and discuss some Christmas CDs he’s been listening to: in particular, Brian Wilson’s “What I Really Want For Christmas”, and the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Christmas Album (one of my personal faves, BTW!).

Jerry’s call really got me into the Christmas spirit to reach out to a couple of other friends, and soon I was talking to Jay “Crusher” Spielberg, a Goodboy friend whom I hadn’t talked to for a couple of years. We spoke for quite a while, and I’m hoping he’ll be able to join the Goodboys when we gather together for a little holiday cheer next week.

Then it was on to church and a lovely Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church. The priest gave a straight to the point, no-nonsense homily about St. Joseph and his often overlooked, but critical role in whole Christmas story. He probably talked for no more than 7 minutes or so, but there was more message and biblical teaching in that homily than I’ve heard in many 15-minute, weak-kneed blatherings of various Episcopal priests over the years. The church was laid out in all its Christmas splendor, and only the most hard-hearted person could have left church not feeling the warm glow of the season and the true meaning behind it. It certainly gave me a lift, I’ll tell you that.

So here’s to the magic of Christmas – the joy of family and friends, the feeling of being loved and wanting to give that love in return, and, underscoring it all, the incredible story of God’s overwhelming love for humankind that the Word would be made Flesh and dwell among us, if only to save us from ourselves. ‘Tis a wonderful season!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:20 | Comments Off on The Magic of Christmas
December 22, 2007

tiny tim I know I’ve never thought about it, all the many times I’ve seen “A Christmas Carol” on TV….

(Er, hold that thought for a second. As far as I’m concerned, Alistair Sim’s version (it was actually called “Scrooge”) will ALWAYS be the absolute all-time best, but George C. Scott’s version wasn’t bad at all, and neither was this one starring Henry Winkler.)

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah…did you ever stop to think what, exactly, was Tiny Tim suffering from? Here’s what we know from the evidence we have: Bob Cratchit’s youngest son walks round on a crutch and is kind of a weak, sickly sort of gurkin. His brothers and sisters all seem to be OK. The ghosts of Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come tell Ebeneezer the prospects for T-squared’s survival are not so great, and that, if left untreated he ain’t gonna be around by the next Ho-Ho-Ho. After Scrooge’s Christmas morning visitations and revelation, he begins to take better care of Bob and his family, and by the end of the movie, The Timster is all better, jumping around and as spry a young leopard.

So what was Tiny Tim’s suffering from? I’d never stopped to think about it, but, as it turns out, some researchers have. With a tip of the hat to NRO’s Corner Blog, here’s an interesting link to this Live Science article:

Online detectives have been debating this question for years, using clues taken from the book to form possible diagnoses.

Internist Dr. Daniel J. Glunk, president-elect of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, has examined all of these theories and determined that many seem to have merit in identifying Tiny Tim’s ailment.

…One theory floating around the Web is that Tiny Tim suffered from renal tubular acidosis (RTA), a kidney disease that makes blood too acidic. According to Glunk, RTA occurs when the kidneys fail to excrete acids into the urine, cause the acid to build up in the blood. The result can be growth retardation, kidney stones, bone disease and progressive renal failure—symptoms that seem to match some of Tiny Tim’s.

“Tiny Tim is small, has malformed limbs and periods of weakness,” Glunk said. “These all can be the result of RTA. Plus the fact that Tiny Tim’s condition is fatal if left untreated, but reversible if proper medicine is used, helps to guide medical sleuths to RTA.”

While 19th century doctors wouldn’t have been able to test for the disease or even put a name on it, they did know the symptoms and how to treat them, Glunk said. Frequent doses of alkaline substances would have been given to such patients, which would neutralize the acid in the blood.

I’m no doctor, and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn last night, but this sounds like a possible answer. Of course, you can never get the medical or scientific communities to agree on anything, let alone something as important as this, so there’s this possible diagnosis as well:

…Other Internet sleuths have suggested that Tiny Tim suffered vitamin D deficiency, commonly called rickets.

Rickets was a widespread problem in cities with heavy smog that blocked sunlight, a major source of vitamin D.

Without vitamin D, the body can’t absorb calcium and has difficulty building and maintaining strong bones. Some signs of rickets include soft bones, muscular weakness, osteoporosis, and joint pain.

“Knowing London’s environmental conditions at that time and knowing Tiny Tim used a crutch, it’s reasonable to consider this disease, despite the fact that vitamin D wasn’t discovered until the early 20th century,” Glunk said. “At the time, they could have unknowingly treated this condition through better foods that Scrooge helped to buy.”

I’m not sure I buy this particular diagnosis, because if some dietary deficiency was causing Tiny Tim’s health issues, wouldn’t the rest of his family also exhibit similar symptoms? After all, it wasn’t as if his sisters and brothers – especially that snarky “master Peter” – could sneak around the corner to a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts; they had to eat what the rest of the family ate, right?

So put me down as favoring the renal tubular acidosis theory, and that Scrooge and his money had enough connections in London so that Tiny Tim could now afford a decent doctor’s care and receive the proper treatment, thus setting him right after a time.

Of course, if London had Hillary Clinton’s universal health care, nothing like this ever would have been allowed to happen, right?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:20 | Comments Off on A Christmas Mystery Solved?


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