Why I’m Pulling for the Saints in the Super Bowl

5 02 2010

New Orleans suffered one of the worst heartbreaking disasters that has ever occurred in the United States.  The city is today still attempting to recover from the unspeakable horrors caused by Hurricane Katrina nearly five years ago.  Many great people in the area have refused to let scenes like these kill their spirit or their optimism.

There are heroes like Norman Francis, an African American man born in 1931 in Lafayette, Louisiana.  His father was a barber who rode a bike to work every day because the family could not afford a car.  His mother was a homemaker.  They were poor, but Norman later said he never realized it. (Further proof that money is way overrated).  He shined shoes as a young boy.  His parents emphasized the importance of a good education and made certain that Norman attended and took it seriously.

As it turns out, they needn’t have worried.  Norman Francis did take school seriously, and he went on to attend Xavier University in New Orleans, where he worked in the library repairing damaged books.  Ironic, since he would go on to be a central figure in the repairing of the whole city.  In the 50s, he became the first African American accepted to the Loyola University Law School in New Orleans.

A couple of years later, he returned to Xavier University to begin his professional career, starting as Dean of Men.  He was instrumental in providing dorm rooms for “Freedom Riders” whose bus had been attacked in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement.  He quickly moved up the ranks at Xavier and became the university’s president in 1968.  He is still in that role today and is the longest tenured University President in the nation.  He has spent his life working to improve the lives of those around him and is the chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, whose primary responsibility is to help the region recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Katrina.

He has received commendations from Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and two United States Presidents, among others.  In 2006, he received this nation’s highest award for a civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  When receiving it, he said, “These are the sorts of things that happen in one’s lifetime that you never expect.  I accept it for all the people who made this possible, whose shoulders I’m standing on and who helped me be encouraged to work hard and to serve the career that I chose. They all are part of this award. It’s not for me alone.”

He has loved and worked for the people of a city that has seen so much sadness and despair for the last five years and now is bristling with excitement over their Super Bowl team.  Sports (though I love them) don’t matter much in the big scheme of things, but the Saints have an opportunity to bring  joy to a region that deserves it right now, and I hope that they do.

They can go from this:  to this:

Oh yeah, Norman Francis, a lifelong sports fan, was one of the initial members of the ownership group who brought the NFL to New Orleans, and one of the only minority ones as well.  He’s been waiting over 40 years for a Super Bowl Championship to come to the city he loves.  The Saints may be a five point underdog to the Colts, but this city has been an underdog since Katrina swept through in 2005, and they haven’t given up yet.  Go Saints.

Norman Francis:





Singular, Good – Plural, Bad

8 05 2008

Some would argue that it is a sin to do anything in excess. I don’t proclaim to know exactly where God stands on this particular issue, but it does seem clear to me that some things, while fine in moderation, become a very significant problem if overdone. All Most of us realize that eating this is a wonderful experience, while eating this could turn out very badly.

However, there are other excesses that seem to have been determined as “acceptable” by a certain percentage of our society. As much as I hate to be the party pooper, it’s time someone had the guts to write some guidelines in a blog that may be seen by as many as FIFTY, that’s right, FIFTY people. (I think that could be enough of a groundswell to literally change the world and bring some common sense to certain people.)

Everything in the following list should follow the rule: One is good, several are bad.

1. Wives. Recently, a polygamist ranch was in the news, and many children were removed from the group. Personally, I’m not sure what the sect members were thinking. I have found that having a good wife has been a great blessing in my life. She helps to keep me grounded and generally on track in my life. She has great ideas, beautiful eyes, and a sharp wit. That is all well and good. However, this does not mean a bunch of wives is even better. Huge mistake. First of all, I live in a home with no other males as it is. I have a female wife, a female daughter, and a female dog (insert your own biotch joke here). I can only imagine how little I would get to watch my beloved Cardinals if I had more than one wife wanting to watch reruns of Love Connection or discuss what Gwyneth named her baby. I also shake in my shoes when I think of what it would be like to have two (or, God forbid, three) arguments going on at once with more than one wife. One would scream, one would cry, and one would give the silent treatment (the worst!). Can’t we all just have one spouse at a time?

2. Video game systems for anyone over the age of 19. Spending hours getting arm cramps playing Space Invaders was bad enough when I was little. It worries me that so many adults (mostly guys) spend hours hunting down aliens or trying to evade the police after stealing a car. What’s scarier? One state of the art system is no longer enough. They need one for their sports games, one for their online war adventures, and one that comes with a better fake guitar. Will there be time for anyone to, oh, say, write a good novel or invent something to keep three wives happy at the same time? I worry about such things.

3. Parking/Speeding tickets. While having one of these shows that you’re not a sheep blindly following authority, having ten of these is a problem. This means you are either stupid, dangerous, a very slow learner, or all of the above. Just stop.

4. Cats. I admit it. I’m a cat person. A cat (notice no “s” on that word) can be a great and hilarious pet. However, the practice of having multiple cats, no matter how you try to defend it in a comment below, is bad…real bad. You’ll be thought of as just plain crazy, and I don’t want to hear how you figured out a good way to keep your house, landscaping, etc from stinking. Believe me, visitors can smell it. (Having exactly two cats is iffy. You might get away with this, but why take the chance?) Hey, I want all cats to have a good home as much as anyone else so let’s all get ONE, just ONE, all right?

5. Tattoos. I have none. I’m a wuss. However I acknowledge that a well-placed single tattoo CAN be attractive or tough-looking or whatever it is the person is striving for. However, when you’re talking multiple tattoos, you’re talking about giving off the wrong message to the rest of the world. No, you can’t justify it if you have “one” really big tattoo that covers like 10 square feet of your body.

6. Sports cars. Hey, if you’ve made a nice living for yourself, and you feel better about turning 50 when you have a shiny red sports car in the garage, more power to you. However, if you have one for each day of the week, get a life.

7. Baseballs/Footballs/Jerseys/other sports memorabilia displayed in your home. There is a direct correlation between the number of these items you have on the mantel and the awesomeness of your wife (or wives if you disregarded #1). The more of these “cool” items you have on display, the less likely it is you’ll get a really great wife. That woman out there you’re searching for is more likely to be impressed by a sense of humor and general kindness than a signed David Ortiz jersey hanging on your bedroom wall. (Exception: Brett Favre jerseys are considered “hot” by Wisconsin women.)

8. Playboy Magazines. If a girlfriend, parent, or coworker stumbles upon a single Playboy in your home or car, you’ve still got a shot at a plausible explanation. If they find a stash that would go for hundreds of dollars on ebay, you’ve got a problem. (This does not apply to Hustler…even one of those will kill your reputation.)

9. Squirt of perfume/cologne. One, I repeat one, let’s make this clear: One squirt of perfume or cologne can be very pleasant and sexy. Two, three, or fifteen squirts at a time makes you seem like a crazy old woman who really loves Avon or a creepy, desperate guy who hasn’t showered for a couple days.

10. Drunken college story. While one of these can be entertaining to friends and coworkers and makes you seem like a regular person, several of these stories just makes you seem a bit scary and unstable. They may still appear to be laughing at your tales, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear that it’s really frightened, pity laughter. You may have lots of these stories, but stick to just one publicly.

I leave you with this bit of wisdom from an old quotation: “I believe celibacy should be practiced in moderation.”





A Whole New Meaning to “Reach Out and Touch Someone”

14 04 2008

Many of you have probably heard the big news story from the past couple of days, that a significant number of high school girls are sending nude pictures of themselves, via cell phone, to high school boys (who are no doubt sharing the photos with an even more significant number of friends).

My Public Response:

This is an outrage. As a good citizen and parent, I want this to be stopped immediately. It is immoral, and something must be done!

My Private Response:

Where the hell were picture phones when I was in high school?! The most my hormone-injected self could hope for was a cute girl in a skirt on a really windy day. Wait, let me think deeper here. For every cute cheerleader/homecoming court member, there is a not-so-cute algebra club member (I know, I know, there COULD be a cute girl in an algebra club. Heck, my beautiful wife was on some academic debate thing-a-ma-jig. I would have killed for a photo “call” from her back then. I mean, except that she is quite a few years younger than I am, so forget I said that.) I probably wouldn’t have gotten many of the Buffy’s, Keri’s, and Beth’s of my school. I would have gotten the Helga’s and Gertrude’s. Can’t you just picture boys comparing phone pics the way my generation compared baseball cards?

Boy 1: “Dude, I got an Amy and a Christie today!”

Boy 2: “Oh gross, I only got a Martha.

Further proof that we are the strangest “animal” on the planet.

(and we thought THIS was hot back in the day)





“See Clerk for Receipt” Rage

26 01 2008

I’m not prone to road rage. I have to be the calming one when my wife and I are getting bad service at a restaurant. I can even handle it most of the time if someone in line in front of me at the grocery store is having trouble with their credit card. However, I am having great difficulty staying in a good mood when paying for gas.

Gas Station Companies: Please FIX your broken pumps that will not print out receipts.

Is this happening more frequently everywhere, or just in my area? I am aware that they want us to come inside, praying that we will have an unstoppable urge to also purchase a package of multi-colored drinking straws, but still… There has been an unusually high percentage of gas-tank filling episodes in which I find out at the end that I have to go inside to get the receipt. (My wife is maniacal about keeping track of budgets, receipts, etc. so leaving without it is not a good option). My job involves traveling around seeing kids so I’m usually in between appointments when I stop to get gas. Much of the time, I have just enough time to get there am running a bit late. It is very frustrating to see that message come up on the screen and to have to go inside. The situation gets more horrific when I find out that I have to get in line behind: 1. A guy wearing a wife-beater shirt who is buying cigarettes and 2. A grotesquely overweight person who is buying powdered donuts (and already eating them, thereby leaving a trail of white for me to avoid).

It is important to note that I do not take out my anger on the clerks since I know it’s not their fault. However, I thought this was going to change two days ago when I reached the boiling point. The scene: I am not in a huge hurry this time as my day is coming to an end. However, it is something like 2 degrees outside with a wind chill of 4 billion below 0. I fill my tank while waiting in my car (people from Wisconsin who wear shorts when it’s 2 can make fun of me now). I finish and wait for my receipt. (Picture my wife at home with an abacus and mechanical pencil just waiting for the day’s financial comings and goings in paper form). I am shivering. I can feel my lips freezing, cracking, and falling off. I can no longer feel my arms. Then it happens on the crappy little gas pump display screen: “See clerk for receipt.” (It doesn’t even say “Please” on the read out. Nor does it say, “I’m so sorry that our sign says pay-at-the-pump even though you really can’t.” Nor does it say, “We suck. Come inside.” It’s more of a mocking tone, letting me know that something precious that is rightfully mine is in the hands of the worker inside.)

Well, in this particular instance, I am ready to let the clerk have it. No more mister patient customer.

In retrospect, I’m thinking she (the clerk) saw my facial expression while I was standing at the pump (or possibly when I threw myself to the ground kicking and screaming…or when I stood back up and repeatedly gave the finger in the direction of the pump while yelling @($*W@. An older woman at an adjacent pump quickly began to pray aloud.) Anyway, the clerk was prepared, and I have to give her credit. She acted as follows: The second I walk in the door (even though another weirdo is in the process of buying cigarettes, batteries, tampons, and tuna fish), she immediately apologizes that the receipt did not print. She quickly gives me the dreaded “duplicate outdoor receipt” and with a bright smile proclaims, “I just wanted you to have to come in so I could see you.”

She was lucky I am male. Poof, my anger was magically gone. Duplicate receipt in hand, I headed home happy. I am thinking she would have had much more difficulty appeasing my wife (especially if she had been with me).





When Women and Men Collide in the Workplace

15 01 2008

(Disclaimer: This blog is not as serious as it sounds in the first couple of paragraphs; read on at your own risk).

Raging debate about women’s equality and their desire to work full time was a significant part of the early to mid 70s. I am (barely) old enough to remember this time, and it seemed, from a kid’s perspective, that people were in an uproar. For example, the television show, One Day at a Time, about a divorced mother of two who was struggling to balance family and career, was widely watched and considered controversial. I liked the show, as did my mom and dad, though my dad seemed uneasy about some of the subjects it tackled. It was representative of the time in which we were living.

I was probably about eight years old and, therefore, had very little say in the matter. Nonetheless, I did not understand what was so radical about these ideas. It seemed simple to me; women should be able to work the same kind of jobs as men (despite the fact that I had the greatest stay-at-home mom in the world).

I still recall mustering up all my kid wisdom and saying to one of my older sisters, “I believe men and women should be equal. Women can go to work if they want.” Her response was something like, “Yes, but women also still want men to take care of them.” This 1970-something statement served as my initiation into the conundrum that is the role of modern man. Ladies, this making sure we treat you as equals but still taking charge when you want us to is a tricky task. It is a lot like juggling with jars of sulfuric acid. Sure, we look like studs when we do it correctly, but when we mess up, we get severely burned. Balancing masculine/feminine duties is daunting. One can get a bit confused trying to talk about the big game with a guy at a store while holding the wife’s purse, a diaper bag and a pink sippy cup, but I digress.

Decades passed, and women are now all over the workplace. I want to say up front that I love and admire women, and it goes without saying that they are excellent workers and have made major contributions. This blog, however, is not so much about the serious debates, contributions, and rights of women as it is the daily life changes to the culture of the workplace since women became so integrated into it.

Some of these feminine changes at the office have been positive. For example, farting contests at work have been decreased dramatically. The workplace smells much better. I venture to guess there were no “Vanilla Nutmeg Forest” candles in offices in the 1950s.

Also, we don’t have to listen to as many “weekend conquest” stories from guys who are habitual liars. With women actually living and breathing at work, it becomes easily apparent which guys are NOT “lady killers.” This keeps the poor saps from even trying to lie anymore.

On the other hand, some changes to the office culture are a little more disturbing. Below are work scenarios and the most likely male and female responses to them.

Scenario 1: There is some sort of weird, low buzzing sound on one side of the office, possibly coming from a computer server or some sort of light. The buzzing is especially close to one particular cubicle.

Male Response: The guy thinks, “Hmm, that’s weird.” Then, he gets used to it in about 45 seconds and never really notices it again. Every once in awhile, a coworker delivers a memo and says, “what’s that buzzing?” The guy says, “What buzzing?”

Female Response: The woman gets very perturbed about the sound and complains about it to coworkers during most lunches and breaks. She asks that a subcommittee be formed to look into the sound, which is “like a freight train.” After nothing is done for a full month, she comes to the conclusion that her cubicle is the one closest to the buzzing because so-and-so colluded with the boss to place her there. She pictures so-and-so and the boss having a good laugh about it behind the closed door of the boss’ office. Henceforth, she no longer includes so-and-so when she forwards emails of various cute babies making cute faces.

Scenario 2: Someone in the office has a birthday.

Male Response: If a man accidentally becomes aware that it is a coworker’s birthday, his response will likely be concise. After slapping the birthday boy on the back, he will say, “45 years old, huh? Get a prescription for Viagra yet?” Then, they go about their day.

Female Response: Once someone (female) is appointed to run the birthday festivities, that person goes around the office asking everyone to chip in a few bucks to pay for the birthday worker’s lunch. Everyone is instructed to meet at Applebee’s (the birthday person’s favorite restaurant) at precisely 11:20 so as to beat the crowd and obtain a large table or booth with ease. Also, a few women huddle in a cubicle to work out who should drive and who should ride with whom. This is very complicated and delicate because Worker B is still angry at Worker F because Worker F did not order any candy bars when Worker B’s kid was selling them for a cheerleader fundraiser. This is especially troubling to Worker B because Worker B bought two tubs of “Extreme Mint Mountain” cookie dough when Worker F’s kid was having a soccer fundraiser. Charts are literally designed to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the riding-to-Applebee’s situation.

Scenario 3: Worker A discovers that his/her paramour used to date one of Worker A’s coworkers.

Male Response: There will likely be cursing and quite possibly a punch or two. Approximately 24 hours later, the two guys become friends and grab a beer at a nearby sports bar.

Female Response: After she severely scolds her boyfriend by phone for ever even thinking about that “fat skank” in a romantic way, she begins an all-out silent treatment against the “skanky” coworker who once went out with her boyfriend. The treatment lasts at least two months and is interrupted only by an occasional email, such as, “Trish, I would appreciate it if you would stop taking all the multi-colored post-its from the supply closet. I am stuck with the yellow ones, and they hurt my eyes. Thanks in advance, Caroline.” This goes on as long as the relationship with the boyfriend lasts. Once that ends, Trish and Caroline become fast allies and spend breaks talking about the various ways in which the boyfriend is inadequate.

Scenario 4: A client calls and tells off Worker A before proclaiming that he is taking his business elsewhere.

Male Response: He throws a paperweight across the room while stating that he is sorry the client “feels this way.” He then gives the “finger” to the phone receiver before hanging up. After a couple of audible “F” bombs, he regroups and decides to try harder with his remaining clients.

Female Response: She acts as though it does not bother her…for awhile. At the ten-minute mark, however, she breaks down in tears by the coffee maker. The other women in the office gather in the break room for support (no doubt after urgent “meet us by the coffee maker/something’s wrong with Trish” emails make the rounds). They remind Trish what a great worker she is. At some point, Trish sobs through her tissue something unrelated to work, such as, “I can’t believe I ate four Oreos last night. I’m supposed to be dieting!” There is agreement all around that Oreos are devilishly irresistible.

The workplace has certainly changed over the years. Despite some of the weirdness, the change was needed. After all, if women have to put up with discrimination and living in a society that has a need for battered women’s shelters, then we still have a long way to go. Plus, they have to wear pantyhose at least some of the time. I suppose guys having to put up with some strange female work culture is not that much of a hardship. You go, girl, and here’s $3 for the next birthday lunch.





Ties Suck (Not the Kind You Wear…Well, Those Do Too)

8 01 2008

I really enjoy working with kids sometimes. Today, after a session of chess with a young teen, we were discussing the strategy involved and how it exercises the brain. We talked about how some professional chess players have matches that last a very long time. The kid said, “I think they can last a week!” After I agreed, we talked about the matches sometimes ending in a “tie.” At this point, the kid said, “That would suck. Playing chess for a week and ending in a tie is like working out for a week and finding out you’re getting fatter instead of stronger.” I whole-heartedly agreed. Man, they keep you young.





How Well-Rounded Are You?

6 01 2008

Don’t misunderstand the title. This is not a ploy disguised as a blog to get women to post their measurements (if you feel you must, I guess I won’t stop you. No guy measurements, please, though my wife might enjoy). Instead, this is a survey. How many of the following 40 things have you done? I’d like to see the answers of others, and feel free to copy this survey.

Have you:

1. Been to a play: Yes, many. This is one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy professional plays, but I also enjoy seeing a high school play once or twice per year at my wife’s alma mater.

2. Bungee jumped or something similar: Only if climbing up on a garage roof is “something similar.” I’m more of mental thrill seeker than a physical one. Sports is probably the closest I ever got to “danger.”

3. Been a mentor/big brother/big sister: Sort of. I do this in my work, but I don’t think I ever did this on a volunteer basis. It’s an awesome thing, though.

4. Read at least one of the classics (War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, Beowulf, Crime and Punishment, etc): Yes. Off the top of my head: Beowulf, Wuthering Heights, Gulliver’s Travels, and Macbeth.

5. Stood up for someone publicly: Yes. I remember coming to the aid of a kid who was being bullied a couple of times.

6. Been on a major roller coaster: No thank you.

7. Been to a drive-in movie: Yes, quite a few times. This is one of the best things to do on a nice summer night. They are really dying out so if you have one near it, give it some business.

8. Done something at a drive-in movie other than watch the movie: Sadly, I don’t think so. I guess I like movies too much!

9. Done volunteer work: Yes, but I am ashamed to say that I haven’t really done that much. A few things for church and once delivered Thanksgiving meals to those in need.

10. Given at toast a wedding, a eulogy at a funeral, or some similar, meaningful speech: Yes on the toast, and I think a yes on the eulogy. It wasn’t officially the eulogy, but that’s basically what it was.

11. Been to a major sports playoff game: Yes. St. Louis Cardinals game 1 of NLCS against the Mets (in 2000, I believe.) My Cardinals lost that game and the series :( Also some time in the early 90s, I think, I was at the sweet sixteen regional in St. Louis. I believe the teams involved were Kansas, Indiana, California (Jason Kidd), and Louisville.

12. Thrown a costume or theme party: Yes, my wife and I had a blast hosting several couples for a murder mystery party that had a 50s theme. I recommend this!

13. Been on or near the set of a major motion picture: Nope. I missed my chance in the 80s. A good portion of A League of Their Own was filmed where I grew up. Tom Hanks, etc were there for quite awhile. I never got in on being an extra, though.

14. Taken a compliment well: I think so at some point. This is difficult though, isn’t it?

15. Planted a tree: Yes, about a year ago (a river birch).

16. Been stung by a jellyfish or something similar in/near the ocean: Yes. Jellyfish got me several times on vacation last year. There was a major explosion of them where we were!

17. Quit a crappy job: Yes. I’m not the type to do this without some big-time planning and another job lined up, but I did in the 90s when I just could not stand to set foot in the place anymore. I’ll just generally describe it as an advertising sort of place. The morale and environment sucked there. I stayed way too long (several years). At some point later on, I got myself into grad school to try to avoid this same type of situation again.

18. Been on a blind date: Yes. Mine wasn’t great (probably mostly due to my own shyness), but it wasn’t a nightmare or anything like that.

19. Done something kind and unexpected for a stranger: My wife and I left a greeting card saying something like, “Have a great day” on a parked car one time. Hopefully whoever it was got a smile out of it. (Nowadays, it probably just freaked them out and made them look over their shoulder for the next week.)

20. Had a major surgery: Yep, kidney transplant. I plan to blog about this at some point.

21. Taken a car/truck road trip that covered at least 6 states: Yes. As a child my family drove to the Grand Canyon, which covered at least 6 (may have been 7). My wife and I just missed last year (and will again this year) when we were in 5 states on our way to Hilton Head.

22. Been in 4 or more countries: Nope, just the U.S. for me.

23. Spent New Year’s Eve somewhere special: Well, it’s obviously “special” to be anywhere with someone you love on New Year’s Eve. However, to answer what I think is the spirit of this question, I don’t think I ever have.

24. Visited an ancient landmark: If the Grand Canyon counts. I think it does.

25. Been face to face with a celebrity by chance: Yes. In St. Louis in church, we realized were were a few feet away from Steve Garvey. (For those of you under 35 or not at all into sports, he was a very famous L.A. Dodger who was charismatic and appeared on tv shows, etc). He was friendly and nodded, etc on his way out. It was a few hours before a Cardinals/Dodgers game. Come to think of it, we were in a famous, very old church at the time so maybe this sort of applies to the previous question as well.

26. Given to charity in the past two years: I’m sure we don’t give like we should, but, yes to the Humane Society and to a children’s hospital. (Let’s just say it was NOT an amount that would get anything named after us.)

27. Helped a stray animal: Yes! We possibly saved a cute stray dog and ended up finding the grateful owner a day later. Actually, it was the relative of the owner; the owner was gone on vacation, and the little guy had accidentally gotten out. We found him running down a major street.

28. Dated someone you met online: Yes, once. It didn’t end up being THE relationship, but it wasn’t a bad experience overall.

29. Won money on a long shot: I’ve done the horse races a few times, but I don’t think I ever won on a big long shot.

30. Won your office/family/friends NCAA tournament pool: Yes! That was fun.

31. Won an award/medal (even if something “small”): I received recognition for a short story I wrote in college (it was accepted to a national conference), and I won “Best Sports Writing” award at my small college paper once!

32. Driven a foreign sports car: No. The closest to that for me is riding in (not driving) my brother-in-law’s classic Corvette.

33. Been in the front row for a concert: I think I was for Joan Jett when she played at my college.

34. Attended a symphony orchestra performance: Yes. I enjoy that even though it isn’t the type of music you’d generally find in my cd player.

35. Caught a criminal in the act and did something about it (reported it, smacked them in the head, etc): Other than traffic violations, I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything like this.

36. Sung solo on a stage: Nope. Just school plays as a kid, but I wasn’t solo (thank goodness!)

37. Witnessed something supernatural: I don’t think so. I have a brother who saw a UFO or something weird like it one time a long time ago.

38. Covered for someone (who deserved it) at work: Yes, a great co-worker (and a hard worker) who needed a little nap one time on a third shift job.

39. Overcome a major fear: Sure. See my last blog about the spider.

40. Mailed a surprise care package to a loved one: Yep, my wife has gotten a candy care package in the mail at work a time or two. She has returned the favor as well.

Anyone else care to post answers? I’m curious!

Regarding question 33:





Spoilers! Don’t Read if You Believe in Anything

28 12 2007

Over the Christmas holiday, the whole discussion about when one stopped believing in Santa Claus came up. It’s interesting that there is this big concept out there that one particular segment of society (kids) believes in, while most others do not. I decided to spend some time thinking about other beliefs that one portion of our society deems the truth, while others would scoff. (I’m staying away from the God’s existence debate in this blog, but you can count me as a believer on that one). Cher once asked in song, “Do you believe in life after love?” The Lovin’ Spoonful musically asked, “Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart?’ I simply ask, “What do you believe?” Let’s delve into the human mind, shall we?

Aliens Visiting Earth: There is a good-sized chunk of people out there who believe in the visitors-from-another-world-probing-people’s-butts thing. They subscribe to magazines with names like “Abduction Tales” (or is it Tails because of the probing?). They chat with others online about what is really going on in Area 51 and also in an empty wooded lot behind the super Wal-Mart near their home. These people did really well on science projects in school and always came up with something more in-depth than that dumb baking soda volcano that those of us who would have rather been pummeling someone in dodge ball resorted to. (p.s. These alien abduction people always sucked at dodge ball. They were the ones who just stood in a corner and didn’t even try to catch the ball that was careening toward their noggin.)
My Take: Hey, I like Coast to Coast with George Noory when I’m having insomnia as much as the next person, but I do not believe there is any being smart enough to travel the galaxy but dumb enough to think the best way to study us is to put something they ultimately want to keep in our rectums (or is it recti?).
When to invite these people to your party: When you might be playing Trivial Pursuit and you need someone who can answer science fiction questions.

Ghosts & Demons Among Us: These people study parapsychology in college, and, except for a few who actually find gainful employment in that field, end up working in a bookstore or library part time. They pore over photographs looking for weird white orbs in the background and listen to audio tapes recorded overnight in cemeteries hoping to catch whispered phrases such as, “I need a snorkel,” apparently uttered by someone who drowned 15 years ago. They constantly warn us of the evils of the Ouija board while secretly holding their own séances and asking if their great aunt Edna is in a happy place. They don’t date much but are prone to being attacked in their own bed by an “entity.” They have The Exorcist memorized and have probably watched Linda Blair spew the green soupy stuff in slow motion.
My Take: I certainly believe in an afterlife, but I can only keep my sanity if I refuse to believe that any spirits are wasting their afterlife time whispering into a tape recorder that someone stuck by a grave and then ran and hid behind a tree. If I’m ever a spirit in that situation, though, I plan to mess with the parapsychologists by saying things like, “It was Mr. Green with a machete in the laundry room.” (Despite my pessimism, I plan to stay away from Ouija boards just to be on the safe side.)
When to invite these people to your party: When it’s a Halloween party and you want someone to talk about “Shadow People” who are out to get you. As an aside, Shadow People would have a very unfair advantage in dodge ball.

I Deserve to Have it All Work Out. This one’s a little different. These are the people who believe that the stars will align for them one day, and, without having to do any planning or making any real sacrifices, they will find their soul mate, their perfect job, and will have the perfect house and car. These people usually drop out of college the first year. They are pretty sure they’ll win a car from Drew Carey on The Price Is Right (despite the fact that they are not actively trying to get on the show), and it will only be a matter of time before some publisher reads their blogs and begs them to turn them into a best-selling book. They know their soul mate is out there, and they are not the least bit alarmed that their past ten relationships have fallen apart within six months. Also, their retirement plans usually consist of winning the Power Ball lottery. Today’s politically correct atmosphere has really killed any gumption these people might have had at one point. They’ve had it pounded into their brain that everyone is extremely special and that everyone who plays a game is a “winner.” P.S. These people are very against dodge ball, as it is very difficult for this game to end in a tie.
My Take: It’s not going to “just happen” for you. Get a plan, and do the work.
When to invite these people to your party: Never.

The Government is Conducting Secret Projects to Screw with Me. These people have twelve months’ worth of water, canned sardines and ammunition hidden underground. They believe the government has been involved in conspiracies in the following areas: JFK assassination, 911, airplane exhaust comtrails (the white lines left in the sky), pink Teletubbies promoting homosexuality, cell phones causing brain damage, subliminal messages in pop songs and cartoons, battery packages being impossible to open, potato chip bags being only 1/3 full when you open them (due to that conspiracy known as “settling”), El Nino weather patterns, the New England Patriots’ winning streak, and dodge ball being banned in many schools.
My Take: I really don’t think the government is capable of many conspiracies more complicated than keeping that affair last summer with a 19-year-old Senate Page a secret.
When to invite these people to your party: When you’re almost out of sardines.

The Chicago Cubs Will Win the World Series in the Next Decade. I don’t know what else to say about these people other than, wow. When they chose to become a fan of the Cubs, they chose a lifetime of heartbreak. Resting your hopes and dreams on the psyche of Carlos “No Cy Young Awards Yet” Zambrano is a dicey proposition.
My Take: Long live the curse of the goat! (If the Cubs do win it soon, I may start to also believe in aliens, ghosts, etc.)
When to invite these people to your party: When you need someone to bring Chicago-style pizza to your place.





What if Your Church Was Like High School?

25 12 2007

Remember getting your high school yearbook? We received our church directory recently, and, while it was fun to thumb through, it did not have the same impact as the day yearbooks got passed out senior year. Now that we have the church directory, what do we do with it? I think it would be interesting to handle it in a similar fashion as a yearbook.

We could go around before and after church, asking others to sign it. Now that I think of it, I just don’t know if it would be the same. What would people write? “I’m so glad we’ve gotten to know each other. Stay Sweet! Stay Christian!” How about, “You always make me laugh during sermons! Man, that preacher is boooooring sometimes. Good luck in the afterlife. LYLAB” I don’t think us guys would get the kind of comments from fellow churchgoers that we used to get from male high school buddies. I just can’t see someone at church writing, “You’re OK except for being such a douche. Your friend, (insert name here),” or the ever popular, “Hey nutbag, how about I beat your face in? Sincerely, (name).”

Also, would there be the same pressure in getting certain signatures at church? In high school (at least for guys), there was a sort of unwritten competition regarding whom you could get to sign your yearbook. We all tried to get the really pretty girls, of course. It was sort of like you got 2 points for every cheerleader…3 points for a homecoming queen…4 points for signage from any girl who had “blossomed” early in the chest department, etc. Bonus points if they signed it “Love, (name)” or drew a heart, especially if done in pink or red or purple ink. Bonus points if it said, “I really want to get to know you better.” On the other hand, you would lose points if they wrote anything remotely like, “Thanks for writing that history paper for me” or worse yet, “You didn’t go to this school all four years, did you?” (especially if you had).

I’m thinking the bonus points in the church directory would come from signatures from the attractive, well-off, BMW-driving couples who go on ski weekends. Bonus points if they write, “We should get together some time.” Points would be lost if they simply signed their names, and illegibly at that. I wonder if a church directory filled with signatures, witty comments, social invitations, and even pink hearts could possibly do some good if, on judgment day, one was considered “borderline.” Is it feasible that St. Peter could browse the directory and be swayed by something like, “Matt, you seem like a really nice guy. It’s been great having you at our church. LYLAS” (meaning: Love Ya Like a Saint)? Could this make up for a certain number of episodes of having lust in one’s heart, for example? It’s all so confusing, but not nearly as confusing as being in high school. That could be punishment enough in the afterlife…sentenced to eternity in HHS (Hell High School) repeatedly taking classes like “Advanced Impossible Calculus” with a guy named Mr. Brimstoner. Plus, I don’t even want to think about the cafeteria food at HHS. I’m guessing everything would be overcooked.





The Life and Death of My Father, a WWII Veteran and a Great Dad

24 12 2007

There are relatively few of the noble people who fought the Nazis left in this world. This past year, my father died, and he was one of them. I am lucky that I have never been in the position to make the sacrifices he and so many others made. This is my first Christmas with no parents here on earth (my mother died a few years ago). I miss them both. I decided to post something I wrote the night before my father died along with a wedding picture of my parents.

August 30, 2007

A Man, My Father

As I contemplate the impending passing of my dad, many thoughts pass through my mind. He was a man who loved God, loved his wife, loved his children, and loved golf (not necessarily in that order).

Born on May 13, 1924, many of Dad’s formative years were spent during the great depression. Consequently, he was a man wise with money and willing to find many ways to make an income. He caddied, worked as a delivery man, owned restaurants with my mother, and eventually retired from Prudential, where he worked the insurance game.

He was also known to occasionally take money from the poor saps who made wagers against him on the golf course. Dad was not averse to following the ponies or checking on an over/under on a college basketball game. I took special pride in being the only 2nd grader at my elementary school who had a working knowledge of point spreads, pools, and daily doubles.

Despite this vice, as some would call it, my dad was a consummately moral man. He was serious about teaching right and wrong to his children, and he passed on the importance of being a good, God-fearing person. My rear end was going to be in church every Sunday; that was NOT something that was up for debate.

I admired my Dad more than he ever knew for his religious conviction. I remember when I was a child, and he could no longer kneel in church due to the growing severity of his arthritis. I always worried that people in the surrounding pews would mistakenly think Dad was just being lazy or lacked devotion. Now I am sure no one at that church ever thought that about him.

Dad was blessed with a keen wit. I will never forget, many years ago when Dad answered what was obviously a call from a telemarketer. The caller was trying to convince Dad that a “special deal” could be had if Dad could correctly answer a trivia question. The caller then asked Dad if he could name the “Bluegrass State.” Dad quickly answered “Utah.” After the surprised telemarketer hemmed and hawed a bit, he asked Dad if Dad wanted another guess. Dad dryly stated, “No, that wouldn’t be fair” and hung up.

One of the most incredible parts of Dad’s life was his service to the country he loved whole-heartedly during World War II. Dad saw friends demolished by bombs and even experienced a shell land in his foxhole. Luckily for us all, it was a dud. Dad was held prisoner of war by the Nazis and survived interrogation from a German commandant despite not telling him what he wanted to know. Tom Brokaw said of the men and women from this time, “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” I concede that I am a little biased, but I would tend to agree.

Nearly forgotten memories are returning to me like a flash flood: Dad working in his garden – Dad poring over a racing form at the local horse race track – Dad making his famous chili – Dad watching MASH or Barney Miller on TV and laughing that contagious laugh of his – Dad making the day of his grandchildren as they raced around the house while Dad called out the race-horse nicknames he had given each one of them (“Little Scratch” was one) – Dad giving me heck about the brown spot in the back yard where my wiffleball home plate and batter’s box were located – Dad requesting my assistance with resetting the clock on the VCR (I felt important back then as I was the only thing standing between my parents and a migraine-inducing digital clock blinking 12:00 for infinity).

Easily the most lasting memory I will have of this man will be a simple, yet magical one. He was a true father, and nothing was ever going to change that. He will be missed greatly, but I know that he has a nearing tee time on the most beautiful golf course he has ever seen, and he will be playing pain free for the first time in decades. Enjoy it, Dad.








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