A young boy with autism spent more than 700 hours to build the world’s largest Titanic replica out of LEGOs.
Brynjar Karl Bigisson, now 15, of Reykjavik, Iceland, built the massive project when he was 10. It took 11 months to complete.
The ship, built from 56,000 LEGO blocks, made its American debut on Monday and will be anchored at Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge.
“The world calls him LEGO BOY and that’s just fine with Brynjar Karl Birgisson, after all he had spent a good part of his young life surrounded by thousands of LEGO bricks – the building blocks of his monumental tribute to the 2,208 men, women and children who sailed on Titanic,” attraction owner Mary Kellogg-Joslyn said.
Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program was today named the highest quality state-funded pre-kindergarten program in America. This is the 12th year in a row the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds has received this distinction.
The title was bestowed upon Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program by the National Institute for Early Education Research in its 2017 State of Preschool Yearbook. The State of Preschool Yearbook is an annual report measuring the quality of state-funded early childhood education programs across the country. In this year’s report, NIEER’s 15th edition, Alabama was one of only three states, along with Michigan and Rhode Island, to meet or exceed all ten of the benchmarks NIEER measures to determine program quality.
In its report, NIEER also featured Alabama as one of six states to watch. NIEER profiled the state’s sustained commitment and incremental approach to giving more families an opportunity to voluntarily enroll their four-year-olds without lowering the pre-k program’s quality standards.
Advocates from the Alabama School Readiness Alliance welcomed today’s announcement.
“NIEER’s endorsement of the state’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is another sign that the investments state leaders have made in early childhood education will have a strong return,” said Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. “However, being number one in the nation for quality should be only half of the state’s goal. State leaders should also strive to also be number one in access for four-year-olds.”
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s absence from the Republican debate stage ahead of the June 5 primaries is occurring the same time national polls suggest a widening enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The Alabama GOP governor hopefuls, individually, are pointing to their own candidacies to suggest that the disenchantment, reflected in poll after poll, isn’t trickling into their race.
But Ivey’s lack of interest in attending the debates isn’t helping to drum up Republican enthusiasm, according to the political pundits. The governor will, once again, be a debate no-show during the 7 p.m. Reckon by AL.com GOP gubernatorial debate tonight at the Lyric Fine Arts Theatre in Birmingham.
In fact, most of political observers believe the governor’s race, overall, is lacking in much intrigue just months after the international spotlight shined on Alabama during the special U.S. Senate race which saw Democrat Doug Jones defeat Republican Roy Moore.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
How to respond to someone struggling with gender identity
Growing Confusion on Gender Identity
I read an article recently about a gay man who met a woman at a brunch in Los Angeles. The woman had transitioned to becoming a “man” through hormone therapy (testosterone injections giving her facial hair, more muscle mass, etc), and this transgender “man” then began dating the gay man, thereby becoming a gay trans “man.”
They soon got “married” in a same sex “marriage” ceremony. The gay trans “man” (who is actually a woman) has stopped taking testosterone injections and is now pregnant with child.
I use quotation marks above not to be in any way disrespectful or dismissive of a person but to show how these words have, with the present gender dysphoria, become meaningless.
Calling a biological male or female by their opposite noun or pronoun does not acknowledge their identity but further confuses it, assisting in cutting off that person’s connection to their own bodily reality. Saying a man is a woman or a woman is a man ignores the most basic truth of their very being; a truth inscribed even in the genetic markers that identify them in their trillions of somatic cells as male or female.
This mismatching of names creates a misconception of human sexuality and identity. In the words of the gay man in the above story, one reaches the sundered conclusion that “body parts matter a lot less than we think they do.”
However, in light of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, an extensive reflection on our anthropology rooted in Genesis, we were meant from the beginning to be in harmony with our bodies. We are, in fact, our bodies. Our parts are part of the whole, and the human spirit suffuses all of the parts.
Our healing, in this revealed light, lies in a reconciliation with our bodily reality, not a license to reconfigure it.
It seems, however, that reconfiguring and redefining the inherent meaning of things lies behind the more militant LGBTQIA+ agenda. Law professor and homosexual activist Paula Ettelbrick once said:
Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality and family; and, in the process, transforming the very fabric of society. We must keep our eyes on the goals of providing true alternatives to marriage and of radically reordering society’s view of reality.
In this article, I want to address not so much this philosophical and epistemological attack on the nature of the person, the family, and indeed reality itself, but to offer a kind of posture when it comes to addressing the actual people caught in this maelstrom.
We see an increase in encounters with people struggling with their sexual identity in our families, friendships, neighborhoods, parishes, schools, and universities. The gender ideologies at present offer dozens of varieties of expression and encourage exploration. These attempts to redefine our sexuality have created a crisis of conscience for many regarding dialogue with their family members or friends who are seeking to “transition,” desire to be called by a new pronoun or name, or perhaps “marry” a person of the same sex.
So how should a “heteronormative” person (that is, one who subscribes to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation) respond to the person before them who subscribes to such a non-traditional or non-binary agenda?
How to Respond to Someone with an LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM Ascribed Identity
(or any human suffering from the consequences of original sin in general)
1. PRAY quietly to the Holy Spirit the WHOLE time you are in conversation with the other person, for healing and wholeness in yourself (first and foremost) and for healing and wholeness in the other person.
2. LOVE them. They image God on earth. You’re called to communion with them as a fellow image of God. So look at them, in the eyes, where the life of their spirit bubbles up and over, spilling into yours.
3. ENTER into their experience. Listen more than you talk.
4. ASK them what they want more than anything else in the world. Chances are you want the same thing. Then, when common ground is set…
5. SHARE a bit of your own sense of your identity; where have you come from, where are you going? Share your crooked path, the imperfect family history. The faces and the places that formed you. Your own longing to be known, to be loved, to be seen, to have a relationship and a place to find and to give yourself. Share your understanding of the theology of the body, the plan of God for making us male and female, called to love and life through sexual complementarity.
6. EXPLAIN that you care for them and that in that light, you are honored to have shared time talking together and would love to talk some more. Don’t feel like you need to fix something, tidy something up, bring closure or sign a contractual agreement. You just shared some human time together. What did you learn by receiving the gift of this other person? Maybe it was messy, heated, maybe you were misunderstood. That’s ok too. What did you learn from that experience?
If the conversation continues (and pray it does), talk about your personal experience of the way you came to know your identity – by contact with the world through the reality of your body, through the mystery of other people in your family, and through the other people and things around you.
Coming Back to Our Senses
All of our senses are doorways to the world, and we learn the world and how it works and what it means through the portals of our senses.
We learn that in the hearing, seeing, tasting, and touching through our sense organs, there is often a gift or pleasure connected with the function. Generally speaking, the ears are for listening, the eyes for looking, the tongue for tasting and the genitals for generating new life.
Happiness and peace flow from our being attentive to and obedient to the nature of these things. Sometimes wounds come through these places.
But closing them off or going against the nature of a thing would bring discontent. It would be both dysfunctional and dysphoric.
A rightly ordered and happy heart, mind, and body come from receiving the reality with which we are born and living out its mystery in the light of God’s plan for its nature.
Feelings can be confusing, and even the clearest of them is still a feeling which needs the collaboration of the informed and inspired mind and heart.
At the end of the day, we are not defined by our feelings, attractions, or impulses but they can be a powerful fuel to assist us in self-discovery and the discovery of God.
Pope Francis wrote in his exhortation on the Joy of Love:
Desires, feelings, emotions, what the ancients called ‘the passions’, all have an important place… They are awakened whenever ‘another’ becomes present and part of a person’s life.
It is characteristic of all living beings to reach out to other things, and this tendency always has basic affective signs: pleasure or pain, joy or sadness, tenderness or fear. They ground the most elementary psychological activity.
Human beings live on this earth, and all that they do and seek is fraught with passion.”
(Pope Francis, The Joy of Love, 143)
Man is invited through these feelings, attractions, and passions to “reconcile himself to his natural greatness,” in the words of St. John Paul II. He goes further:
But precisely when he so deeply enters into the order of nature, when he immerses himself, as it were, in the vehement processes of nature, he cannot forget that he is a person. Instinct alone will not solve anything in him, for everything appeals to his “interiority,” to reason and responsibility.
What appeals to him in a particular way is this love that stands at the cradle of the coming to be of human kind. Responsibility for love… is bound most closely with responsibility for procreation.
Therefore, by no means can love be separated from parenthood, the readiness for which constitutes a necessary condition of love.”
(St. John Paul II, Love and Responsibility)
Perhaps in the opening story, with all of the twists and turns the path took for the two, there is this spark “at the cradle of the coming to be of human kind. Responsibility for love.”
For all of the obfuscation, their bodies returned to a primordial truth – life comes to be when man meets woman.
Only in this return, this coming back to our senses, will the gift and sign of our sexuality make sense.
Bill Donaghy teaches at Immaculata University and is curriculum specialist for the Theology of the Body Institute, which seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union.