Jealousy vs. Admiration

First my dear friends, Happy Easter to all of you!

This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Baby Girl models her Easter dress.  She may wear this to the theater tonight.

Baby Girl models her Easter dress. She may wear this to the theater tonight.

I hope all of you had a beautiful day.  For my family, we celebrated with what has become a custom here.  Now, our family is relatively young.  By that I mean the four of us — my wife, kids, and me.  No, we’ve started to develop our own “family” traditions over the past almost-seven years of our marriage.  These include struggling our way through Holy Week, trying to find confessions for Mommy and Daddy to get to that don’t involve three hour lines; planning to dye eggs; breaking the garbage disposal when Baby Girl “shells” five dozen eggs and shoves the shells down the wrong drain.  All kidding aside, we have one tradition that is no different than any other family’s Easter morning tradition.  We checked out our baskets!  They were filled with all good things.  My wife, the most thoughtful human alive (many of my readers who know her will verify this though she would be embarrassed at me writing it) had planned everything out perfectly.  It’s taken Daddy several years and my gift-giving skills are somewhat lacking.  I always have the best of intentions but never seem to know exactly what to get the person in question.  But my wife has rubbed off on me.  Even in my state of recovery where I am not at 100% of my full strength I was able to join in and assist in the filling of those baskets.  We do things a bit differently.  Sure we do the whole candy thing.  Mrs. H. knows me so well.  No jelly beans for Harvey.  Not a huge fan.  Chocolate (the darker the better) for me!  For her, I have this little tradition of my own.  I remember on one of our first dates we stood on line at a checkout in a supermarket and she spotted a Chunky bar.  She mentioned how it was her favorite candy bar.  Well, anytime since then that there’s a gift involving candy, guess what Harvey’s go-to candy for his wife is?

The kittens (and me in the reflection) on Easter morning just after mass.

The kittens (and me in the reflection) on Easter morning just after mass.

But we like to fill the baskets with small gifts.  I checked with my wife the other day while her mom and I were out shopping.  I wanted to know, in all honesty because I HATE gift-giving inequality, what our limit was.  Having found out it wasn’t a huge limit I stopped in at a religious articles store downtown and picked out a new biography of Pope John Paul the Great.  It looked interesting and I know she lies biographies.  Plus, he’s being canonized next week so it might be good spiritual reading.  I hope she likes it.  For Baby Girl I picked out a small chocolate bunny that came with faux fur rabbit ears.  She wore them all day!  For Sonny Boy Mommy had purchased one of those styrofoam airplane gliders.  He had fun with it all day.  Daddy’s basket contained an enormous bag of my favorite coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts) and a few other goodies.  I should note that at this point it seemed that we had stuck to the limit and played it evenly.  I was very happy with that.  Oh I would lavish my wife with the best of everything if I wasn’t a Catholic school teacher and she didn’t love giving more than receiving, thus making it hard to be in a gift exchange with her.  Jewelry, flowers, you name it.  If I had the money, she’d be one lucky woman.  I LOVE to give gifts.

Marybeth and me at the white elephant.  She's an awesome gal and VERY Texan.

Marybeth and me at the white elephant. She’s an awesome gal and VERY Texan.

Oddly, when we went to dig in to our candy, my wife pointed out that there was one more present in Daddy’s basket.  It was a giant cardboard egg, decorated very fancifully.  I rolled my eyes a bit, smiled at my wife, and said “What is this?” I opened it as she was saying: “Don’t worry, Daddy, it’s really for Baby Girl but you’ll see why you’re opening it.”  So I opened it and discovered two tickets.  There’s a road production of Beauty and the Beast playing in Dallas this week.  Looks like Daddy’s got a date with the cutest little girl in town!  When I talk about how thoughtful my wife is I need to point out that she knows well my love of musical theater.  I was seven when my big sister Nurse M. (trying to avoid real names but she is an RN) took her baby brother to see his first Broadway show.  I was captivated.  Some people like the movies, others read books for fun.  Growing up a stone’s throw from Mid-town Manhattan, I took to the theater as often as I could growing up.  There’s just something magical about sitting in a dark theater with live actors on a stage.  You feel so intimate with them.  You know that each performance is new and fresh.  And of course, as a lover of live music and a musician myself, I have great appreciation for the sound.  There’s nothing like that sound wafting from the pit.  I could go on…  No, this Tuesday, thanks to Mommy, Daddy and Baby Girl are going to experience what I hope will become a most memorable moment in her life.

The rest of the day revolved around the tradition I mentioned earlier.  This tradition is one for the larger family, at least the larger family down here.  My family in New Jersey has a lot of tradition and maybe one day we’ll be able to participate in some of those.  But we are blessed to be where we are and being surrounded by such wonderful people as Wilma and Mary (Wilma’s sister-in-law) and Mary’s husband Sam, Lisa, Pat, Kris, and the rest I have always felt at home here as well.  So Easter here, we have dinner at my wife’s brother and sister-in-law’s house.  We had a riotous laugh.  My wife’s sister always organizes a “white elephant” sort of gag-gift  game.  All of the adults have to go out to the front lawn and find as many plastic eggs as we can.  Some of the eggs have a dollar bill in them.  Some have coupons.  But most have slips of paper with a number.  That’s when the real fun begins.

Ed. note: I began writing this on Easter Sunday night.  I stepped away for a bit, fell asleep, and am finally getting back to it two days later.

OK, so those eggs?  Long story short, Kris called out a number (in sequence) and the person with that number got to choose a new prize or take from someone else.  The thing is the prizes were all from the dollar store (or from Kris’ recent trip to New York).  Guess who wound up with an NYC subway map (like I don’t know that system like the back of my hand), a wooden back-scratcher, and a package of mouse traps.  Lucky, lucky me.  But we all had a good time.  My wife’s aunts Marybeth and Santa Mae were sitting next to me on the couch and we could not stop laughing at each other and the awful things we kept ending up with.  Santa traded me some coupons to Arby’s that she “won”.  In the end it was all just good fun.  Thanks, Kris!

Danny may have a new phone but I've got a dad who posed for this picture.

Danny may have a new phone but I’ve got a dad who posed for this picture.

So what’s up with jealousy and admiration.  I’ve mentioned lately my friendship with a man named Dan.  Over the past three weeks, through our voracious emails to each other — which, though they could fill a book that would instantly become a bestseller will remain completely private — we have recognized (and some people including my blogging sister Bridget will shake her head and say “That’s gay) that we are not merely friends.  We are brothers.  We first met in a very strange place called a college seminary.  I’ve mentioned that we lost touch for a while but got back together.  I wanted to say first that I wholeheartedly admire this man.  He’s told me it’s mutual.  I won’t go into details but he’s a great husband and father, a magnificent provider, and had he become a priest he would have made an excellent confessor.

And he just got a new phone.  And I hate him for it.  HAHAHA!

All kidding aside, being the wannabe technophile that I am I am the only loser on the block still using a 4S.  Those of you who do not use smart phones or still have a pain old 4 should not comment on this post (again, kidding).  No, he’s using a new Galaxy S5.  Oooh…  What really “hurts” is that I just found out that my septuagenarian mother recently upgraded her iPhone to the 5S!  Seriously?  What the hell?  Loser Harvey, left behind again…

No, in all seriousness, my wife has helped me to see over the years the true value of not wasting money.  I don’t need a new phone.  This one works just fine, albeit a bit slow since the new operating system came along.  In all truth it would be an absolute waste of money to drop (even with my upgrade discount) $200 on a new iPhone; especially when I’m not even sure if I want the new iPhone or what Dan has.  And no, it wouldn’t be just because he has it but because I’ve been hearing great things about it.  There are people in my life who seem to run out and buy the newest tech-y thing the second it comes out.  I would be one of them if I had the cash.  Ha.  Reality check, though…  I don’t think Dan is one of those types.  I do however remember visiting him a long time ago.  Let’s go all the way back to… 2001!  Ancient!  I remember him playing with his then-new phone.  He was all excited.  It was something like a Palm Pilot or a Treo or something now considered beyond obsolete.  It wasn’t quite the brick phone of the 1980′s but it was a close rival.  I’ll never forget him looking through the instructions and saying to his wife “Oh my God, honey, I can use this as a remote for the TV!”  She rolled her eyes and he took thirty minutes trying to find the right code to enter.

Here’s the kicker.  When he texted the other night to tell me about the new phone he remarked: “This thing is so cool!  I can control the TV with it!”

Some things never change.  Love you, buddy.

PS: Please keep praying for me.  My

intentions are my continued recovery and a bunch of special intentions.  Thanks!

Holy Saturday and Prayer, Prayer, Prayer

My friends, please pray for me.  Please pray very hard.  The recovery is going better every day.  I have been blessed with so many wonderful people surrounding me.  In particular I have been blessed in the form of a friend with whom I have recently become even closer (thanks to pages and pages of email correspondence).  He is a remarkable man and I have promised my prayers for him as well so please join me in praying not only in thanksgiving but also for his intentions.

Today is Holy Saturday.  This is a day of waiting.  This is a day of reflection.  It’s always reminded me of the day after a funeral.  We just buried someone and now it’s time to try to begin the process of picking up the pieces and getting back to some semblance of normal.  If you’ve ever lost someone close to you than you know what that day is like.  If not, chances are that you will experience it in your lifetime.  There’s no rush to get there.  It’s not a contest to see who can grieve more.  I was talking with Wilma during the week and we both said the exact same thing.  I mentioned why I love Holy Week and the Easter Triduum in particular…  “To me,” I said as she joined in, “It feels as if you’ve just lost your best friend!”  Yesterday we commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Tomorrow we will celebrate His resurrection.  This day in between has to exist because without it, things would move so quickly we wouldn’t have time to process His death.  No, today is the day we simply wait.  We wait and in that time of waiting, we could do no better than to keep watch and pray.  Remember, He promised us He would rise again?  It would have seemed like a magic trick if He had simple died and then jumped off the cross!  He had to be in the tomb those three days (as Jonah had to be in the belly of the whale).  It shows us that His death was real.  And as we know, there can be no resurrection without death.

So pray today.  Pray very hard today.  If you’re stumped, pray the Psalms and then read through the Passion in the Gospels.  Then, stop and remember that we have a God who loves us so much that “He sent His only begotten Son so that all who believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  (Jn. 3:16).

God bless you and don’t forget to pray for me.  Very special intention…

This Looks Great! Prayers, Recover, Confession, and Gratitude

My spine complete with new hardware!

My spine complete with new hardware!

So, friends, today was the big six week check-up following my second spinal fusion.  How’d it go, you ask?  It was beautiful!  I had been asking prayers (even posting to Facebook an urgent request as Wilma was parking the car at the doctor’s office).  First I saw my friend Maria, the nurse.  She is so sweet.  She looked me over — including my abdominal scar, a bit personal, but I guess it’s her job — and determined with a smile that everything looked beautiful.  Then the big guy himself entered the room.  That’s right, Wayne Newton himself, right there in my doctor’s office!  Wait, sorry…  No, my surgeon came in and also examined my scars.  He too found them “beautiful”.  I was starting to get creeped that not one but two people had just complimented a five inch long red line running from my belly button downward.  No matter, I was now given my next set of instructions to follow before the next check-up which is in eight weeks.

  • I can start ditching the walker as I feel comfortable.  Not sure I’m there yet but it’s coming.
  • I am to ween myself off the back brace.  This happens by breaking the day into two eight hour segments and removing the brace for increasing amounts of time during those segments each week.  In other words, let’s look at the day as running from 8AM-4PM and then from 4PM-Midnight.  So each day during the first week I will remove the brace from 2-4PM and 10PM-12AM.  Also, I am allowed to sleep without the brace now and I can go swimming if I want!  Well, it’s not quite that warm here in Texas yet but we can dream, can’t we?
  • I am to continue taking my painkillers as needed.  Even picked up another script for Percocet.  By the way, I have reached the point with my insurance that I am no longer paying for anything.  Wilma picked up my hydrocodone a few days ago and it was literally a no-charge affair.  Could life get any better?
Saw this in the doctor's office.  Perhaps it's a "sign".  LOL.

Saw this in the doctor’s office. Perhaps it’s a “sign”. LOL.

Yes, I stopped by the St. Jude’s Chapel in downtown Dallas with Wilma afterward to give thanks to God.  There is and still be post-op pain for some time but it is nothing compared to pre-op and it’s getting better.  I walked in, sat in the front pew.  The church was basically empty.  As I sat with my head held up and my eyes fixed on the tabernacle I was temporarily caught off-guard by an old priest who walked right in front of me.  Let me tell you that I had been meaning to get to confession for a while.  I try to go at least once a month.  But I hadn’t been since the morning of the surgery.  It’s Holy Week.  That means that if you want confession you either have to have the super secret codeword from the Vatican or wait on a line for 8 hours.  In those situations you wind up wracking up more sins just from the anger that builds up at the people who are taking up all the time with the priests.  Well, this man stopped, looked down at me, and said “Did you want to go to confession?”  I was taken aback.  Not quite sure how to respond I said: “Um, I wasn’t planning on it right now but could I have a minute to examine my conscience?”  Well you see,” he said, “I was on my way out but we could it right here quickly if you’d like.”  I looked around.  There wasn’t anyone else in the church.  “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”

I truly felt like Jesus Himself had approached me in this holiest of weeks to personally beckon me to come to Him for the forgiveness He so longs to give each of us.  And it was beautiful.

Oh, and I can drive again!

Prayers. Again? Sensing a Pattern?

A few days ago I posted a story about a novena that my friend Annie and I are starting a novena for the canonization of Venerable Fulton Sheen.  I am sad to say that I quickly forgot and my novena obligation and will be restarting tomorrow.

But…  In that post I put a link the website that posts that and many other novenas online.  I was pleasantly surprised today to find a comment from someone associated with that site.  He thanked me for sharing the post and then he shared with the link for the novena in honor of the impending canonizations for Popes John XXIII and John Paul the Great.  If you’re interested, this is the first time in the history of the Church that two popes will be canonized together.  Also, that novena, starting nine days prior to their actual canonization; which would be this Friday, Good Friday.

Here’s the link.

Now here’s the rest of the story (apologies to Paul Harvey).  I need a lot of prayers for myself right now.  I’m now too proud to beg so please pour them out for me.  Whenever you get a second and you think of it, just drop a Hail Mary or something.  I have my six week check-up today (Wednesday) and it’s a turning point, I hope.  They might let me drive again.  Then again, they might take the X-ray and tell me that the fusion is no good.  God’s Will.  Also, I have many special intentions (one in particular) for which your kindness in prayer would be most appreciated.  I’ve been very blessed to spend lots of time lately emailing with an old friend and as kind as he’s been reading through pages of my ramblings, a small part of me is afraid that I’m taking up too much of his time and he’s just too kind to tell me.  The thing is he really is one of the kindest human beings on the planet so I’d never know either way.  I hope he’s reading this right now and laughing because he knows I’m kidding and our friendship is pretty solid.

So, pray, pray for me, pray hard, and — be kind to yourselves — pray for you as well.  I always am.

Focus on Prayer – Plea for Prayers

Recovery is still going strong.

I’m feeling better by the day.

It might be in Italian or Spanish, but I bet he'd pray for me...

It might be in Italian or Spanish, but I bet he’d pray for me…

So what I need right now is a whole mess of prayers.  You see, I’ve been working on an online Master’s Degree in School Administration for the past two years.  I’m in my final quarter.  This is my second Master’s, by the way.  The first one was taken the old fashioned way — in a classroom with a notepad, pen, and exams.  Also, back then we had semesters.  The program I’m in now uses a quarter system.   Every ten weeks I’ve been taking two classes and earning six credits.  Well now I’m in my final quarter, taking three classes.  I’m at the end of week 2 and I’m finding myself more confused about the lessons than I’ve ever been.  Truth be told, I have a perfect 4.0 average.  By the grace of God, I should add, I have a perfect 4.0 average.  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE pray that the remaining weeks prove stressless and the work proceeds quickly and that I keep that average.  I greatly appreciate it and even more so if you would spread the word and get others to pray as well.  I know it seems trivial.  But to me, this is so important.

Speaking of prayer, I managed to work in an extra fifteen minutes of prayer tonight!  Now that seems trivial.  But I was realizing tonight that I’ve been blessed with tons of free time thanks to my surgical recovery.  This is time that I should have been using to draw nearer to Our Blessed Lord during this holy season of Lent.   This is time that I have NOT been using wisely.  True, I’ve been recovering thanks to the extra prayers of everyone else.  But I’ve squandered a good portion of this time.  Lately, especially, I’ve felt the need to ask the intercession of my patron St. Rita and another favorite of mine, St. Joseph.

So tonight, after mass, I slipped into the Eucharistic chapel at the parish and prayed my St. Rita novena.  I prayed for so many things.  I prayed for the intention I asked all of you to pray for above.  I prayed for my wife and children, for peace in the homes of my loved ones, for my friend Dan and his family .  He requested some prayers but I would have done it anyway because he’s a good guy.

I’ve been thinking of the fact that it’s Holy Week.  I’ll try to write more about this later in the work.  As a lifelong Catholic, I am intimately familiar with the liturgies of Holy Week.  Especially during the Triduum — the three day, ongoing liturgy from Holy Thursday to the Solemn Easter Vigil on Saturday night.  It draws me in.  I always truly feel like I am present at the death of a friend who has given up His life for me.  Perhaps it’s because I am.  The raw emotion of entering a church on Good Friday to a bare altar and an open, empty tabernacle is something words cannot describe.  Stick with me, friends.  I promise I’ll try to capture it for you later in the week.

For now, though, please pray for me; not only for the schoolwork but for several very special intentions.  Dan knows what I’m talking about but to everyone else, they shall remain “special intentions”.  I love you all.

A Recovery Boost From My Students

Continuing the theme of updating you on my recovery I wanted to share a beautiful story about my morning.

I was meant to be on the big screen...

I was meant to be on the big screen…

Two days ago, the dean of students at the school where I teach (when I’m not on disability) tweeted me.  We tweet each other.  The kids think it’s hysterical.  These two “old guys” use Twitter.  Anyway he’s been so kind to check in on me, to see how I’m doing.  He uses technology in his classroom almost as much as I do.  Because he’s also a dean, he only teaches one class, a US History class.  But, because he teachers juniors (as do I) we have a great number of students in common.

This morning I woke up, got showered and dressed, and moved my laptop to the kitchen counter.  I made sure I had a nice backdrop behind me.  Why’d I do all this?  Well, within minutes my laptop “rang”.  It was my friend, the dean, FaceTime’ing me from his class.  And like that I was on the big SmartBoard projector in his classroom and he had turned his iPad around so I could see the class.  For the next twenty minutes I caught up with my kids.  I fielded questions about my recovery and how the past month has been.  Told them how I had missed them and listened as they told me pretty much the same thing.  It was so much fun.

So was my Terrier.

So was my Terrier.

And then, as if on cue, Buddy the Dog walked into the kitchen and hopped up on my lap.  You know what happened next.  I don’t think the dean ever got to finish teaching his class — a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement.  But I know about 25 people and one Jack Russell Terrier who really didn’t care.

And that, my friends, is how recovery is done.

Keep praying.  Pray for me, yes, but pray for the good men like my dean who set that up and for my students who miss me.  Pray for Buddy the Dog who, I am sure, had no idea he briefly became a Twitter sensation.  And pray for more good days like this.

Your Daily Sheen

Continuing on the theme of my “recovery blog” I will say that I woke up in almost no pain this morning.  Let me repeat that.  I woke up in almost NO pain this morning!  That’s big news!

This is news that is so big it deserves a prayer of thanksgiving.  I have prayed my prayers today, been to mass, gave thanks.  My friend Annie and I communicated via email today regarding some novenas.  She keeps me in the loop about upcoming “universal” novenas.  For instance, there is a novena that close to 100,000 people worldwide have signed up to pray in unison in preparation for the upcoming canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII.

The man himself, +Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The man himself, +Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

In keeping up with the positive theme of this blog I want to point out that this is one of the truly good and beautiful uses of the Internet.  This is a way to bring people together in prayer.  As Annie noted “Where two or three are gather in my Name…  Can we be gathered online?”  I sure think so.  But we can definitely be gathered in spirit.

After learning of the papal novena mentioned above, I asked if there was one we could pray for the canonization of one of my favorites, Venerable Fulton Sheen.  I love that man.  On the off chance that any of you want to join in, Annie and I just started praying it tonight.  I’m including the first day’s reflection and the link below.  Perhaps you can offer it for my complete recovery.  As for me, I have my own, personal intention to pray for but I am also and always praying for each of you.

God bless!

How God will judge my life I know not, but I trust he will see me with mercy and compassion. I am only certain there will be three surprises in Heaven. First of all, I will see some people whom I never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom I expect who will not be there. And – even relying on God’s mercy – the biggest surprise of all may be that I will be there. When the record of any human life is set down, there are three pairs of eyes who see it in a different light. 1. As I see it. 2. As others see it. 3. As God sees it. –Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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