The Meming of Life: on secular parenting and other natural wonders

pwned by the little sister

ERIN (11): What in the world is that?

DELANEY (7): What?

ERIN: Uh, the huge fancy book in your lap, hello.

DELANEY: Oh. It’s the bible.

ERIN: Why do you have the bible?

DELANEY: I’m reading it. It’s interesting.

ERIN: Yeah right, you’re reading the bible.

DELANEY: I’m not done yet. I just started today.

ERIN: Okay, then tell me what happpens first.

sisters44983DELANEY: God makes light, then he splits apart the light and dark, then he splits apart the water from the land.

ERIN: I’m so sure. Lemme see that. (Flip flip flip. Flip. Flip.)

(Long pause.)

ERIN: Whatever. (Tosses bible back to beaming little sister. Fade to black.)

Of planets and pronouns

A breathtaking shot of the transit of Venus in 2004, found here
venustransit221

I’ve spent a lot of virtual ink taking to task the College of St. Catherine (a Catholic college for women on whose faculty I spent many years) for the hypocrisy that eventually made me pull up stakes and go solo. But I don’t often enough mention the positive things St. Kate’s gave me.

St. Kate’s is where my interest in critical thinking turned from hobby to academic specialization to lifelong enthusiasm. It inspired the satirical novel that launched my little writing career. And it made me a genuine feminist.

Which is good, because now I find myself raising two girls, doing what I can to keep limiting assumptions from calcifying around them.

That takes some doing. Kids gather assumptions about the world by the bucket, taking tiny samples, believing most of what they hear or see, spinning huge generalizations, and moving on. You can bemoan or huzzah this all you want, but it’s both a fact and inevitable. I touched on this in Parenting Beyond Belief:

Children have the daunting task of changing from helpless newborns into fully functioning adults in just over six thousand days. Think of that. A certain degree of gullibility necessarily follows. Children are believing machines, and for good reason: when we are children, the tendency to believe it when we are told that fire is dangerous, two and two are four, cliffs are not to be dangled from, and so on, helps us, in the words of Richard Dawkins, “to pack, with extraordinary rapidity, our skulls full of the wisdom of our parents and our ancestors” in order to accomplish the unthinkably complex feat of becoming adults. The immensity of the task requires children to be “suckers” for whatever it is adults tell them. It is our job as parents to be certain not to abuse this period of relative intellectual dependency and trust. (p. 181)

Kids soak up unintended messages as reliably as the intended ones, and they don’t always announce it when they’ve begun to form a pearl around the grain of a new assumption. Once in a while I become aware that something’s been ingested that I didn’t know about. Like gender roles.

My favorite of these surfaced in the pediatrician’s office with Erin (now 11, then 8), waiting to see Dr. Melissa Vincent, her doctor since birth.

“I like Dr. Vincent,” Erin said.

“Me too.”

Long pause.

“But I was wondering something,” she continued. ” Can boys be doctors, too?”

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Erin’s desire for a career in or near medicine had a lot to do with the example of Dr. Vincent. Currently at the top of her list is cellular biologist, followed by family practice GP in a small but not too small town.

Her sister Delaney (7) wants to be a scientist but isn’t sure what kind. (I tell her the clock’s ticking. “You don’t wanna be one of those pathetic third graders still wandering through the curriculum trying to ‘find herself.'”)

One of Laney’s common openers is, “Do The Scientists know how/what/why…” I think this disembodied image of The Scientists is pretty close to my own early image of science. I decided to try to individualize it more for her as we engaged the questions:

“How did The Scientists figure out what’s in the middle of the Earth if nobody’s even been there?”

“I’ll bet it started with somebody wondering about it, then maybe asking about it, just like you do. Then he thought about the problem, and how you can learn about something you can’t see.”

(Dammit! Did you catch that? Shitshitshit.)

I had her close her eyes. “How can you learn about my face if you can’t see it?”

“I have no idea.”

“Sure you do.”

“I could peek,” she giggled.

“Cheaters rarely prosper. So you think maybe the scientist peeked at the earth’s core?”

“Dad, jeez. Oh wait, I have an idea!” She extended her hands and began exploring my face. “Pokey,” she said when she got to the beard. “You’re a porcupine!” said the blind man to the elephant.

(Or blind woman! Shitshitshit.)

Yesterday she asked if The Scientists have found any planets like Earth yet. Last summer I told her about the search and described the extremely cool inductive method used to find gas giants (Jupiter-plus sizes) by measuring tiny eccentric wobbles in their home stars — a method that has turned up 344 extrasolar planets in ten years.

Number of known planets outside our solar system 15 years ago: 0

At the time, Laney had signaled her agreement that this constituted one of the most paradigmatically significant discoveries in human history by declaring it “so awesome to think about” — but was sorry the method couldn’t locate smaller, rockier bits like Earth.

Now she was checking to see if we’re closer to finding fellow Earths. Thanks to a NOVA podcast I heard a few months ago, I knew we were.

I simplified it into a graspable narrative. “One of the scientists got a great idea. If a planet crosses in front of its star, that star would dim a tiny bit…you know, like a fly passing in front of a light bulb.”

She started to tremble with excitement, doing this weird hand-flapping thing that is endemic to our family. “Yeah? And??” Flap-flap-flap.

“But she realized we needed a much stronger telescope, one that…”

“SHE?” Laney interrupted. “The one who figured it out was a girl??” Flap-flap-flap!

“Uh…I think so, yeah!”

Now the fact is, there wasn’t any one person — there rarely is — and I have no idea whether those involved had knishes or putzes. But I knew she wouldn’t have blinked if I said “he,” which means I’d uncovered a potentially limiting assumption — hopefully before the pearl could form.

I went on to tell her about the Kepler telescope, launched earlier this month (to almost universal public disinterest) for the primary purpose of finding other Earths. She dubbed it “so awesome.” And maybe the Kepler, connected in Delaney’s mind to a woman of science, will become a useful grain of sand as she continues to form her own possibilities.
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NOVA podcast “Finding Other Earths” (4:44)

Bringing in the sheaths

condom430909On March 17, while on the way to Africa, Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI) said that HIV/AIDS was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”

The first two clauses are sensible. The third was a dumb and ignorant thing to say. It contradicts very solid empirical evidence to the contrary. Worse yet, it is dangerously ignorant—and certain to cost lives, precisely because Mr. Ratzinger’s word—especially when spoken under his pseudonym—is held to be unquestionable. (Which is why I refer to him by his human name.)

The problem is not that he said it. I’m a fierce advocate of the inalienable human right to say dumb and ignorant things. I like to claim that right myself once in a while, thank you very much. The best way to find out whether an idea of mine is dumb and ignorant is to let it get past my lips. My fellow humans aren’t shy about setting me straight. And that’s good.

The problem with Mr. Ratzinger’s statement is that no matter how self-evidently dumb, millions will not only refuse to set him straight, but try their best to prevent others from doing so.

waroncontra509This wasn’t the first time a member of the highest Catholic ranks has made a disastrously ignorant remark about condoms in Africa. In 2007, the Archbishop of Mozambique claimed that many condoms were intentionally infected with the AIDS virus by European manufacturers.

Forward two years and up one rank—now it’s the Pope.

For the most part, the reactions were predictable—outrage from non-Catholics and a closing of ranks among Catholics — including the claim that you simply may not criticize the Pope.

In response to an editorial cartoon in the Times of London related to Mr. Ratzinger’s comments, Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy O’Connor sounded the predictable note of outrage: “No newspaper should show such disrespect to a person who is held in high esteem by a large proportion of Christians in the world. To pillory the Pope in this way is totally unacceptable.”

So because he is held in high esteem by large numbers, his statements must be respected by the rest of us. I think not—in fact, I seem to recall a whole fallacy devoted to that idea.

The same hollow claim of immunity is captured in this editorial headline in a major Tanzanian daily: Politicians have no moral authority to question Pope’s stand on condoms. (Cue derisive laughter.)

Papal spokesman Federico Lombardi noted that Mr. Ratzinger was merely continuing the line taken by his predecessors, as if this is relevant. In 1990, Karol Józef Wojtyła (aka Pope John Paul II) unhelpfully opined that using condoms is a sin in any circumstance.

Before we even assess the sense or the consequences of that, enjoy a good snort at the idea that a statement is more legitimate only because someone else—anyone else—said it. (Secularists do this, too. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard some form of “Yuh huh, Richard Dawkins says so” offered in full defense of a position.)

The most encouraging part of this whole fece-fling is the voice of Catholic dissent. There are good folks living inside the belly of the beast who have the cojones to ignore repeated orders to switch off their frontal lobes until the Captain says it’s OK to use them again—those with the willingness to think about and openly criticize the statements of a religious leader on merit, regardless of the shape of his hat.

Jon O’Brien of Catholics for Choice said, “It took the church hierarchy 359 years to stop continuing the line taken by their predecessors on Galileo. We hope that this error does not take so long to change.”

The health ministry of Spain (81% Catholic) said, “Condoms have been demonstrated to be a necessary element in prevention policies and an efficient barrier against the virus.” The statement was issued in the course of announcing a shipment of 1 million condoms to Africa—on the same day as the Pope’s remarks.

Now that’s cojones from the country that invented the very word.

mcelvaineBut the Academy Award for Outstanding Scrotal Fortitude has to go to Robert McElvaine, professor of Arts & Letters at Millsap College and self-identified Catholic, who wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog titled “Impeach the Pope” :

Benedict XVI opens a visit to Africa by telling the people of a continent decimated by AIDS that the distribution of condoms “increases the problem” of the spread of AIDS. I am a Catholic and the idea that such a man is God’s spokesperson on earth is absurd to me.

There are, of course, no provisions in the hierarchical institution set up, not by Jesus but by men who hijacked his name and in many cases perverted his teachings, for impeaching a pope and removing him from office. But there ought to be.

It didn’t take long for the holy knives of umbrage to come out for McElvaine. Edward Peters, author of Excommunication and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, said that A canonical penal process should be undertaken against Robert McElvaine” for criticizing the Pope’s statement. And he’s not talking out of his hat—he points to the elements of canon law that support this position.

If there’s a clearer indictment of religion at its most ignorant and counterproductive than that sentence and the article in which it appears, I haven’t seen it.

Many Catholics can and do think for themselves. Many, many more, though, will take Mr. Ratzinger’s opinion as gospel. Think of all the good the Vatican could do with its influence—and of the murderous damage it so often chooses to do instead.
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(For a glimpse of what a Catholic hornet’s nest looks like when whacked with a dissenting thought, read the comments on the McElvaine piece.)

Words

words439898Before I became a writer, I was a reader. Never fewer than three books going at once. Bought blank journals with hand-stitched bindings and filled them with notes and quotes to set this or that sentence in amber so I could safely set it on the shelf and forget it.

Them days is gone.

Becca went looking for me this morning and found me in the recliner in my second floor study, facing a huge window with a southeastern exposure, blasted in the light and heat of that fantastic rising yellow star, you know the one. My favorite morning place. The cup of coffee at my side didn’t surprise her. The book in my lap did.

“Omigosh, you’re reading.”

For the last two years, I’ve spent my whole waking day with words. Between my freelance work, books and book proposals, speeches, columns, and this blog, I write about 3,000 words a day.

The variety is delicious right now. On a typical day, I write about parenting, public education, nonviolent peacekeeping, and transforming everyday work into service. I’ve never had such an engaging professional life.

But in the process, I’ve apparently killed the reader in me. When I close the laptop at 5, the last thing I want to see is another damned parade of those 26 letters and 10 punctuation marks, no matter how new and clever their arrangements. As a result of my daily eight-hour word bath, I have (aside from actual research or books I’ve blurbed) finished maybe three books in two years. Maybe.

The Meming of Life is now averaging 45,000 visits a month, and I do my best to earn that. But recently, when I open my panel to see what’s on deck topic-wise, I find drafts that are gonna require a lot of, you know…words… before they are ready for prime time. The last four “best practices” for nonreligious parenting. Kids and alcohol. The music I want for my funeral. A courageous woman who recently went through much the same galling B.S. I did at the College of St. Catherine. The fantastic Genographic Project at National Geographic. A post titled “Vegehumilitarianism,” whatever the hell that was supposed to be about. And 23 more. Sometimes I’m just plain out of words for the day, and I close the panel again. Sometimes not.

I’ll get to them all eventually. In between times, while you’re waiting, here are some things for y’all to do:

  • If you’ve read Raising Freethinkers, be a love and write us a review on Amazon.com
    or Barnes & Noble
  • Register for a PBB seminar in New York (March 28), Portland, Oregon (April 18),
    Seattle (April 19), or Indianapolis (May 30)
  • Friend me on Facebook
  • Become a fan of Parenting Beyond Belief on Facebook (NEW!)
  • Join the PBB Discussion Forum
  • Read a book for me and tell me what it’s about — in mime, if you don’t mind
  • Glass houses

    glasshouse4993I’ve had several parents ask how best to deal with arrogance — especially in pre-teens, it seems — toward religious folks, especially extended family. “How do I keep my 13-year-old from sneering at other people for their beliefs when I frankly think they’re pretty darn sneerable myself?” That sort of thing.

    It’s become such a common question that I included a story of mine in Raising Freethinkers–presumptuously inserting it into Jan’s otherwise excellent chapter titled “Secular Family, Religious World.” (Editorship has its privileges.)

    In addition to clarifying the two different levels of respect about which I’ve blogged before — that ideas themselves have to earn respect, but people are inherently deserving of it — the best way to approach this is (if you’ll excuse the phrase) by inviting him who is without sin to cast the first stone.

    I watch the odd bit of televangelism now and then. My son Connor (then 11) caught a few minutes of one program in which some outrageous thing was being foisted on a nodding throng. My boy reacted not to the idea itself, but by sneering at the people: “I just don’t understand how those stupid people can believe stupid things that make no sense!”

    “Hmm, yeah.” I thought for a minute, then said, “Hey Con, could you go get me a Coke from the basement?”

    “What?”

    “A Coke. From the basement.”

    “I…but…” he stammered. “Why?”

    “I’m thirsty. Please.”

    “But…I can’t go into the basement by myself.”

    “Oh? Why not?”

    “I…I just can’t!”

    “Oh,” I said gently. “And…does that make sense?”

    I quickly admitted to several irrational quirks of my own, like my completely over-the-top aversion to dead things (unless grilled), and my steadfast belief that M&Ms melt in your mouth but not in your hands, despite constant evidence to the contrary. There are surely many more quirks and irrationalities I carry around, but being me, it’s hard to see them. Just ask Becca what they are — then cancel your appointments for the day.

    Connor and I then went after the idea in question as we always do, but he was able to do so from a less self-exalted and slightly more empathetic perch — one fallible human thinking hard and well about the errors to which we are all prone, not some glowing eminence smirking at the foibles of creatures in the mud beneath his feet.

    We all have irrational beliefs and fears. Jumping at shadows and seeing faces in tortillas is a direct consequence of our deepest wiring — and all the new software in the world will never completely fix that mess. It’s a good and great thing to try, to pull yourself as far up out of the muck as you can, but it’s delusional to ever think you’ve completely escaped it, or to sneer too thoroughly at those silly fools you imagine you’ve left behind.

    Now before I get a dozen furious emails, let me be absolutely clear. Reasoned critique is a great thing, and I encourage my kids to go after any and all ideas on their merits. But eye-rolling arrogance toward those who support a given idea is not reasoned critique — and religious discourse is filled with examples of people on all sides who allow dismissive arrogance to cloud their judgment. Start with arrogance, saying, “I can’t believe how stupid they are to believe xyz” and you have one foot on Ray Comfort’s banana peel. Start instead with a little humility, saying, “I may be wrong about this, but…” and you have a much better chance of actually getting things right.

    We all live in glass houses, no matter how thoroughly we think we’ve attended to our own rationality. And that’s not entirely bad. It can keep us humble and, as a bonus, increases our chances of thinking well.

    Closer and closer to No Big Deal

    I start the parenting seminar with a slide intended to help us all relax about the place of secularism in the United States.

    Most freethought blogs and periodicals give the impression that aggressive, fundamentalist evangelical Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds, threatening to capsize the frail craft of secular humanism any day now.

    I suppose this keeps us manning the barricades instead of scratching ourselves and reaching for the remote. But the way I see myself in the culture affects the way I parent, so I need to know what’s really going on. If my worldview is being pushed to the margins, I might be forced to strike a dukes-up posture and teach my kids to do the same.

    But if it isn’t true, I need to know that as well. It would allow me to be less fearful, more open, and more relaxed — and to encourage the same in my kids.

    My opening slide shows the percentage of religious identification in the U.S. as determined by the gorgeously detailed American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). ARIS has taken the pulse of American religious identity three times: in 1990, in 2001, and in 2008, these latest results released just days ago.

    The data in ARIS and other polls show a clear trend toward a much healthier pluralism in the U.S. Among the fascinating data: From 1990 to 2008…

  • Christian identification has shown a steady decline, from 89 to 75 percent of the US — including drops in 46 states;
  • Evangelicals make up an ever-growing percentage of the water in the hold of the Protestant ship (if you get my metaphor);
  • Nonreligious identification has increased from 8 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008, including growth in all 50 states;
  • Non-Christian religions have grown from 3 to 9 percent, including growth in 44 states;
  • The percentage of Americans who claim Jewish identity is stable, even as those who call themselves “religiously Jewish” has declined by 13 percent — meaning more are (like the congregation I addressed this past weekend) nontheistic but “culturally Jewish”;
  • The percentage of respondents who, when asked about their religious identity, say “none of your damn business,” has increased in 49 states.
  • I don’t wanna take over the culture — it’s too much work. But I do want to live in a country where the self-identified nonreligious have a place at the cultural table and religious disbelief is No Big Deal.

    And according to our best data, we’re well on our way.

    Conservatively project ARIS forward to 2024 — the year my youngest graduates from college — and the US should be about two-thirds Christian and one-third something else. That’s a much healthier mix than the 90-10 split of 1990. And if we follow European trends, it’ll go a helluva lot faster than that. A Harris poll in 2006 put theistic belief in Germany, the United Kingdom, and France at 41, 35, and 27 percent respectively.

    All of which means our kids are likely to be living in a culture that’s ever so much more balanced and diverse than we did. Fancy that.

    (Click here for an almost unbearably cool interactive map at USAToday. Be sure to click on alllll the tabs: “View by change” and “View by year,” as well as all of the worldviews. Now tell me that’s not fun.)

    Best Practices 5: Encourage religious literacy

    s22001hortly after the release of Parenting Beyond Belief, I mentioned on the PBB Discussion Forum that I think religious literacy is an important thing for our kids (and ourselves) to have. Many agreed, as did most of the contributors to the book, but I received an email from one parent who asked,

    Why should I fill my kids’ heads with all that mumbo-jumbo?

    Here are my four reasons that religious literacy (knowledge of religion, as opposed to belief in it) is crucial:

    1. To understand the world. A huge percentage of the news includes a religious component. Add the fact that 90 percent of our fellow humans express themselves through religion and it becomes clear that ignorance of religion cuts our children off from understanding what is happening in the world around them—and why.

    2. To be empowered. In the U.S. presidential election of 2004, candidate Howard Dean identified Job as his favorite book of the New Testament. That Job is actually in the Old Testament was a trivial thing to most of us, but to a huge whack of the religious electorate, Dean had revealed a forehead-smacking level of ignorance about the central narrative of their lives. For those people, Dean was instantly discounted, irrelevant. Because we want our kids’ voices heard in the many issues with a religious component, it’s important for them to have knowledge of that component.

    3. To make an informed decision. I really, truly, genuinely want my kids to make up their own minds about religion, and I trust them to do so. Any nonreligious parent who boasts of a willingness to allow their kids to make their own choices but never exposes them to religion or religious ideas is being dishonest. For kids to make a truly informed judgment about it, they must have access to it.

    4. To avoid the “teen epiphany.” Here’s the big one. Struggles with identity, confidence, and countless other issues are a given part of the teen years. Sometimes these struggles generate a genuine personal crisis, at which point religious peers often pose a single question: “Don’t you know about Jesus?” If your child says, “No,” the peer will come back incredulously with, “YOU don’t know JESUS? Omigosh, Jesus is The Answer!” Boom, we have an emotional hijacking. And such hijackings don’t end up in moderate Methodism. This is the moment when nonreligious teens fly all the way across the spectrum to evangelical fundamentalism.

    A little knowledge about religion allows the teen to say, “Yeah, I know about Jesus”—and to know that reliable answers to personal problems are better found elsewhere.

    So should you take your kids to a mainstream, bible-believing church? Hardly. They shouldn’t get to age 18 without seeing the inside of a church, or you risk creating forbidden fruit. Take them once in a while just to see what it’s all about and to see that there’s no magical land of unicorns and faeries behind those doors. But know that churchgoing generally has squat to do with religious literacy.

    rlprothero
    In his (fabulous) book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn’t, Stephen Prothero points out that faithfully churchgoing Americans are incredibly ignorant of even the most basic tenets of their own belief systems, not to mention others. Europeans, on the other hand, are religiously knowledgeable and rarely darken the door of a church.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so. Most European countries have mandated religious education and decidedly secular populations. Unless they attend a UU or Ethical Society, U.S. kids have almost no religious education. Faith is most easily sustained in ignorance. Learning about religion leads to thinking about religion—and you know what happens then.

    Mainstream churchgoing also exposes kids to a single religious perspective. That’s not literacy—in fact, it usually amounts to indoctrination.

    So how do you get religiously literate kids?

    1. Talk, talk, talk. All literacy begins with oral language. Toss tidbits of religious knowledge into your everyday conversations. If you drive by a mosque and your four-year-old points out the pretty gold dome, take the opportunity: “Isn’t that pretty? It’s a kind of church called a mosque. People who go there pray five times every day, and they all face a city far away when they do it.” No need to get into the Five Pillars of Islam. A few months later, you see a woman on the street wearing a hijab and connect it to previous knowledge: “Remember the mosque, the church with that gold dome? That’s what some people wear who go to that church.”

    As kids mature, include more complex information—good, bad, and ugly. No discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr. is complete without noting that he was a Baptist minister, and that his religion was important to him. You can’t grasp 9/11 without understanding Islamic afterlife beliefs. And the founding of our country is reframed by noting that the majority of the founders were religious skeptics of one stripe or another. Talk about the religious components of events in the news, from the stem cell debate to global warming to terrorism to nonviolence advocacy.

    2. Read myths of many traditions. Myths make terrific bedtime stories. Start with creation myths from around the world, then move into the many rich mythic traditions—Greek, Roman, Norse, Hopi, Inuit, Zulu, Indian, and more. And don’t forget the Judeo-Christian stories. Placing them side by side with other traditions removes the pedestal and underlines what they have in common.

    3. Attend church on occasion with trusted relatives. Keeping kids entirely separated from the experience of church can make them think something magical happens there. If your children are invited by friends, say yes—and go along. The conversations afterward can be some of the most productive in your entire religious education plan.

    4. Movies. One of the most effective and enjoyable ways to expose your kids to religious ideas is through movies. For the youngest, this might include Prince of Egypt, Little Buddha, Kirikou and the Sorceress, and Fiddler on the Roof. By middle school it’s Jason and the Argonauts, Gandhi, Bruce Almighty, and Kundun. High schoolers can see and enjoy Seven Years in Tibet, Romero, Schindler’s List, Jesus Camp, Dogma, and Inherit the Wind. This list alone touches eight different religious systems (seven more than they’ll get in a mainstream Sunday School) and both the positive and negative influences of religion in history (one more than you get in Sunday School).

    Special gem: Don’t forget Jesus Christ Superstar, a subversive and thought-provoking retelling of the last days of Christ. There are no miracles; the story ends with the crucifixion, not the resurrection; and Judas is the hero, urging Jesus not to forget about the poor as the ministry becomes a personality cult.

    Isn’t this enough?

    An homage to the unconditional love of reality. One of the wittiest and best-done bits I’ve seen in ages and ages. (Caution: Rated R for language. Deep breath, you’ll be okay.)

    A personal aside

    Just back from a very nice seminar in Colorado for Free Thoughts, Free Kids of Colorado Springs. In two weeks I’m off again to New Haven and Westport, Connecticut for four events in two days, then Brooklyn on the 28th, Portland and Seattle three weeks later, and Minneapolis a week after that.

    The events themselves are energizing and worthwhile, but the travel is beginning to wear on me a tad, especially being away from the family. Not to mention the irony of being an absent father so I can teach about parenting. I’ve promised Becca and the kids I’m taking July off and have already turned down three event requests for that month. I might also bail on June and August.

    And possibly 2010. (Heh.)

    Anyway.

    This time I left on the afternoon of my b-day, and when I unpacked in Denver, I found an envelope down inside the suitcase. On the outside was written

    To: 46 year old Daddy
    From: Delaney

    Inside, my first grader had folded up a piece of paper into eighths. On the outside was written

    I love you!

    I unfolded once to reveal a smiley face, and again to reveal a heart with a peace sign in it. Inside, the paper said

    laneymarta2309

    I am so proud!
    You are making alot of progeress!
    Since you are doing thise,
    I packed some money so you can buy a suvaner.

    xoxoxoxo
    love you,
    Delaney

    P.S. Happy birthday!

    A dollar and 35 cents fell out of the envelope.

    Anybody wonder why I hate to leave home?