Weekly Reads: Living Without Sin

And Parrotheads!!!

Hi there Readers! It’s halfway thru the month of July and it’s a BILLION FUCKING DEGREES OUTSIDE! Stay hydrated my Friends, it’s hotter than Hell out there.

What does “sin” mean to you? If you grew up Christian the word may bring up painful memories, as it does for Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land: A Memoir and A Thousand Years: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown. She shared in the New York Times, just after last Christmas, her discovery that her own children hadn’t even learned the concept. And that was okay.

We were standing in line for meat pies at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. The indoor arena south of San Francisco had been transformed into Victorian London; actors wearing top hats and crinolines roamed about wishing fairgoers “Happy Christmas.” As we contemplated the menu — haggis or shepherd’s pie? — a noisy band of temperance advocates marched by hoisting signs that stated, “Gin is Sin!”

As my 9-year-old daughter watched them pass, her forehead knitted, and then she looked up at me with solemn hazel eyes.

“Mama, what is sin?” she asked.

The merriment of the fair receded and I stared at her, my brain spinning with the magnitude of her question. By failing to teach my child the meaning of the word sin, had I somehow failed to give her a moral foundation?

Of course she hadn’t…

As we stood in line a few weeks ago at the Dickens Fair, I realized that my kids already knew what sin was, without ever having been exposed to the onerous religious weight of the word. Despite being unchurched, they are empathetic, loving and kind. And even more: They are fearless.

I gazed into Davia’s upturned face and felt a rush of love and happiness. I had raised her without sin. Here was a kid who’d recently joked that the Christmas standard “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” should be changed to “I’m Dreaming of a Diverse Christmas.”

She did have a moral code — one she followed not from obligation, but from her own desire to make the world a better place. A group of carolers strolled by, and she turned to watch them with a delighted smile, her question already forgotten. I leaned down and put my arms around her, watching the world from her perspective.

An explanation of sin could wait.

In intersting legal news, Reason reports on the outcome of a recent battle in the Nebraska Supreme Court that bodes well for separation of Church and the Cornhusker State. In question was a stipulation in the divorce agreement between Patrick and Elizabeth Gomez that required their children be enrolled and participate in the Catholic religion, and whether that required the Elizabeth to take the children to Sunday Mass or give up that share of her custodial time. The answer was thankfully no.

No, says the Nebraska Supreme Court in today’s unanimous Gomez v. Gomez opinion (written by Justice Jonathan Papik), relying at least in part on the impropriety of secular courts’ “deciding what a person must do to be a faithful Catholic”

Madeline ffitch’s latest novel Stay and Fight provides a contemporary feminist spin on the traditional Pioneer Novel.

Even better than being alone in a glen with God, perhaps, is being alone in one without him. In “Stay and Fight,” Madeline ffitch’s debut novel, Helen, an urbane hipster know-it-all from Seattle, follows a boyfriend to Appalachian Ohio. Fleeing a metropolitan ennui identifiable to any millennial, she uses a hefty inheritance from a rich relative to buy 20 acres of raw hillside, settling into the city slicker’s fantasy of getting away from it all. When her tree-feller boyfriend nearly kills his boss in an accident and flees in shame, Helen realizes her resulting isolation is what she wanted all along. “No one was watching me all day but God,” she says, “and I didn’t believe in God.”

Speaking of books, Childhood 101 has a list of alphabet books that teach a a lot more than the ABC’s. 

Parenting science question… are preschool kids smarter than they appear?

In preparation for what I knew would be a scorcher of a 4th of July parade in Northside, I delved into the easy and fun world of PVC sprinklers and came up with a simple project to help folks cool off. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg, check out how much fun can be had! (CN: Pintertest Black Hole)


Finally, there are a few Cincinnati traditions that have eluded me despite my 50 years of residence in the city Longfellow coined Queen of the West. I’ve never danced the Chicken Dance in Fountain Square during the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the US. I’ve never eaten goetta.

But I get to cross one of those off my bucket list on Thursday, because on the 18th I get to head down to the river to see Jimmy Buffet perform in front of the fans who were named  Parrotheads by the Coral Reefer Band back in 1984. And while this will be my first (and likely last) chance to be a Parrothead myself, my love of the 72 year old singer songwriter goes all the way back to the 70’s, when his “Gulf and Western” mashup of rock, country and Caribbean stylings was getting getting spins at the radio station my Dad worked at, WUBE.

Like a lot of landlocked. Midwesterners, the tropical escapism was a window onto a world of sunshine and sand, sailboats and rum soaked adventures, a brief vacation from stuffy sweltering summers and frostbit winters. While known beast for his jukebox hits, Margaritaville or Cheeseburger in Paradise, Jimmy is a criminally underrated songwriter, right up there with Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris and John Prine in my personal pantheon. He’s also a staunch Democrat and took some flak from the right for his potshots at the Cheeto Tinted Tyrant last year.

On the other hand he’s also in Jeffery Epstein’s little black book of contacts, so if it turns out he’s a shitheel pedophile or enabler feel free found that  to tear me a new one, cuz I just found that out like this minute, after typing all that gushing stuff above.

Anyways, nobody loves their job more than Jimmy, here’s a sample… Enjoy.



Louis Doench

Lou Doench is a 52 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at

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