I’m a happy sucker for canned foods. I completely agree with the person–I think it was some generic Portland indie rocker–who said that opening a can of food is a little bit like opening a present. Some of my most contented moments in life happen while cracking open a can of herring in tomato sauce or baked beans. My love for canned food is also prompted by the fact that I will do just about anything to avoid cooking. I thank the gods on a regular basis for having been born in a time in which I don’t have to cook, or sew my own clothing, or churn my own butter… People tell me that gratitude is important, and so here’s something I’m grateful for–my laziness.

Another connoisseur who clearly appreciates the modern genius that is canned food–and its many uses–is the principal of W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama, Priscella Holley. She has sent a letter to the parents of her students requesting that the kids bring in cans of food so that they can be used as weapons. The way this will work is that there will be a stash of cans in the classroom, and if an intruder enters the school, the kids can throw the cans at him. The principal expressed the hope that this would distract the intruder or even knock him out.

Predictably, the biggest criticism of this idea has come from the people with a gun fetish, who wish everyone in the school would be armed. To each their own kinks, I suppose. I, for one, think there’s nothing more heartwarming than a photo of a middle school class surrounded by machine-gun-wielding teachers, Third World Somalia-style.

In any case, for the first time in my life I have a reason to visit Alabama–free canned veggies! But am I woman enough to accept the challenge? Would I be brave to enough to stroll into W.F. Burns on a surprise visit, knowing that there will be a herd of middle schoolers waiting to hurl cans at me? Should be easy enough to grab a few of the projectiles and retreat quickly, or so one would think. But middle school kids are frightening creatures. I know, I remember them. They might point their fingers and make fun of me, and send me screaming and crying for the door without being able to complete my mission. Hmmmm.

I wonder if the kids at W.F. Burns like herring?

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The world has fallen in love with Pope Francis, and I can’t say that I can blame it. He’s kind of a cool Pope. He doesn’t want the Church to focus too much on condemning abortion and gay marriage. He wants to talk about the poor and the oppressed. He believes in climate change. He sounds downright progressive.

But once in a while I hear something from him that reminds me why I have a problem with–not him, so much, but the Church that he represents. Such as when he says, in support of large families:

“Every family is a cell of society…but large families are richer and more vital cells.”

Are they? This is why I–and a lot of other people living in our times–feel such a disconnect with the traditional Catholic Church. When it comes to human lives, the Church still values quantity over quality. Does more automatically equal richer and more vital? What about a family which has fewer kids but puts more time and care into raising them? A family which gives them more–and I don’t mean strictly in the material sense, but also in the emotional and intellectual sense? I suspect the Pope sees large families as a bulwark against modern materialism and selfishness. And yet I’ve known childless people who lead very unselfish lives. On the other hand, I remember the abusive town drunk from my childhood days, with his miserable wife and his seven kids, most of them illiterate. That was a rich and vital cell of society? Give me a break.

For so many of us, the rules of “procreate!” and “more!” no longer satisfy. For the same reasons, we are less interested in following the rules of traditional marriage and more interested in the meaning of our relationship with our partner. The content matters more than the framework.

But hey, Francis is still quite the charming guy. And I love the way he confuses and irritates the laissez-faire capitalist Christian conservatives here in America. I will always give him brownie points for that.

Ah, the scent of children’s tears and crushed dreams is in the air–must be time to go back to school.

I remember how much I dreaded this time of year when I was little. I knew I could look forward to spending my days getting mocked by my old Communist teacher, who hated my family for not being Communist, and attacked by my Catholic schoolmates, who hated my family for not being Catholic. After long, blissful months of drawing, reading and flying off on imaginary adventures, I had to slouch back into the building where everything I was and liked would get stomped on as “weird” and “stupid”.

Later on, my school experiences in places other than my mind-stifling Polish hometown were much better, so much so that I would look forward to September. Positive teachers and welcoming classrooms made all the difference. So this year, I’m wishing all the kids going back to school a place which expands their imagination and desire for knowledge rather than squashing it. A place which is considerate of students with different religious and political beliefs. And may the butterflies they feel be ones of excitement, not of anxiety and fear. School should not be a scary destination.

When I was little, I mimicked a saying I overheard from my Dad about a tiger biting off somebody’s balls.  The tiger-and-balls sentence happens to rhyme in Polish, which made it hilarious to both my Dad and me (we were at about the same maturity level).  When I repeated it to my Grandpa, I expected hysterical laughter.  Instead, he was aghast, and proceeded to express his strong views about the dangers of hippie childrearing.

Maybe I’m just getting too old for this, or maybe things have really gotten worse, because I’ve been aghast myself at some recent examples of foul language being directed at kids.  First, there was the video of a swearing toddler in Omaha, Nebraska.  In the video, a child still in diapers is both getting cursed at and encouraged to repeat cursewords and obscene phrases by the “adults” in his life.  Then, Madonna got in hot water for using the n-word to refer to her son on Instagram (she claims this was a “term of endearment”).

Now, we’re definitely in apples and oranges territory here.  Madonna’s use of the n-word obviously carries different racial connotations than the same word being used by the black family in the Nebraska video.  On the other hand, the toddler in the video is younger and more vulnerable than Madonna’s teenage son.  But I still come away from both situations with one thought–can we try to restrain our use of swearing and coarse language (not to mention racial slurs!) around our kids?  Regardless of whether we’re a regular working family or a wealthy celebrity, let’s try to set a good example for our children, and raise them to be polite and classy people.

God help me–I’ve turned into my grandfather, and I’m okay with that.