Miss Me?

So I’ve been away for a while.

Sue me.

I’ve got to stop inviting that upon myself, the lawsuits.

So how’ve you been?  Everything good?  Oh me?  Where’ve I been?  Funny you should ask…

It all started back around Easter when I heard from someone that a mutual “friend” thought that my writing was not very good, that in fact I was the only one who believed it to be decent in quality.  I had also heard around the same time that another friend believed I had used my brother’s death as a way to garner sympathy.

So, 1) I don’t need sympathy from anyone for anything.  To clarify what this person was saying… I posted a picture of my brother – the last picture from the last time I would see him alive.  I mentioned how I hadn’t known him all that well.  What I was trying to say was that I hadn’t actually known him that well and this was a source of sadness.  But I was thankful that God had given us this time in the final moments of his life to spend any time with him.  To be of any service to my brother as he lay dying was a blessing to me.

And 2) who cares if you don’t like my writing?  I like it.  My kids will like it when they eventually get around to reading it.  That’s all that matters.  So there.

IMG_1415

So here’s the deal…  I was captured by aliens and trapped on the pages of a coloring book.

Want to catch up?  Work’s good.  Still teaching.  Nothing new on that front.  Running?  It’s still hard as hell.  But I’m sticking with it.  I forget sometimes to celebrate the accomplishments.  I ran five miles the other night.  That’s a PR for me.  I also learned that this is runner-speak for “personal record”.  Hey, I’ve never run that far before in my life.  It was slow but I did it and I’m happy.  Trainer’s been busy so I haven’t had a chance to get a tune-up on my routine – you know, see what needs tweaking and the like.  Of course trainer’s still rockin’ the fitness world.  I’m still not sure how he finds time to teach and pose for covers of men’s fitness magazines while raising a family.  Perhaps we’ll get to catch up before my body catches up to my schemes and starts hiding fat in places I’ll never find.

I also noticed that my feet have grown.  Ain’t that a bitch?  But I looked it up and it’s apparently for real.  When people start running on a regular basis their feet can actually go up a size.  This would explain why my now-size 12 feet are stretching out my size 11 dress shoes.

Finally, my amazing son just had a birthday.  He turned 8.  I don’t know where the time went.  It’s like I blinked one day and a young man was standing before me sharing his ideas for what we should get Mommy for Mother’s Day.  I love him so much (and my little girl).  We had a party for him, a small affair.  In fact, it was even smaller after the Texas-tornado-season weather forced a few people to drop out.  He didn’t mind.  We went to play lunar mini-golf.  Yep, there’s a place in the mall that does glow in the dark miniature golf.  My mother-in-law found and booked the place.  We both determined that it was the kind of place that would be occupied by a different business the next time we were at this mall, like a Christmas-all-the-time shop or something.

While playing “golf” one of my son’s friends expressed a desire to use the bathroom.  Being the only man in the group of adults, I was given the task of taking him.  Being a fly-by-night operation, this place did not have it’s own facilities.  Out into the mall we headed, me and a kid I had just met, who’s name I wasn’t quite sure I had remembered.  To top it off, he wasn’t really listening to me and my pleas that he walk a bit faster and keep up with me as we headed down a mall corridor to a public bathroom.  Gee this is sounding like a Dateline special.

I walked into the men’s room and saw my little party guest head for a stall.  Being a dad I jumped in front to check the cleanliness of the stall.  Three stalls later I allowed him some privacy.  And then it happened.  I stood outside a bathroom stall while its occupant began making the most ghastly whining noises I’ve ever heard.  “You almost done in there, buddy?” I asked.  “NO!  My stomach hurts,” came the reply.  “And what time is it?” he bellowed.  “About 7:15, kid,” I replied.  He shouted back “It’s almost my bedtime.”  Fifteen minutes later I think he must have finished.  Either that or cholera is a quicker moving malady than I thought.

We walked back to the party where our little friend proceeded to lie on the floor.  What he was doing there I know not.  My wife did happen to reveal to me that his mom had mentioned that this was his first time going to a party by himself.  “Aha!'” I thought.  “Time for me to slip into best friend mode.”  And that’s something I’ve always done well.  I think it comes from my childhood.  Growing up without my twin I always felt a little out of place in the world.  I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have such wonderful people surround me through those times where I’ve felt more alone than others.  My sisters taught me great kindness.  Always.  My best friend Dan (I’ve mentioned him before) has been a kindred soul, a brother to me and ever since we met in college is always around with a bawdy joke or an encouraging word.  A thousand mile distance only means it’s usually by text.  And more recently trainer has been a good friend, albeit one who pushes me around (in a good way) when he has a spare minute between running mud marathons.  Why the tangent?  Because these people have given me example and reinforced what I always knew – that sometimes people just need a little bit of kindness.  So I sat down with our son’s guest and started with the questions.  “So, kiddo, got any brothers or sisters?…”  And like that, he opened up and after a few minutes, the dysentery was gone.  Our little friend was happy for a moment.  And all because some people in my life were kind to me and I could extend a little of that kindness to another.

Forgive me for my length.  I wanted to say thank you to my dear sister Maureen.  We spoke the other night and she asked why I’d stopped writing.  “[My daughter] and I both agreed it would be a shame for you to stop writing.  Trust me your words help all of us.  We laugh.  We cry.  We share.  It all helps.  I found myself needing to read your work today.”

Someone needed me.  And that’s reason enough to keep going.

Thanks, guys, for sticking with me.  Now tell your friends.

What I Didn’t Know I’d Been Looking For

Yesterday I had a conversation with my trainer. It began because I asked him if he could read my most recent post on running and give me his honest feedback. I wanted to know if he understood where I was coming from or if the whole thing sounded “whiney”. 

To my surprise and delight he obliged. I say that only because I’ve been a little distant with the guy at work the past few weeks. My apologies to him now. The reason is that I recognize he graciously agreed to take on the challenge that is me when I more or less forced myself into his training regimen. I’m always conscious of that fact and at times I feel the need to step back and give him his breathing room. I’m sure he doesn’t always want to have me pop into his classroom with endless questions about my abs. It kind of sucks because other then training we do have some things in common and I genuinely enjoy having a friend at work.

He read and then we sat down to discuss. 

“You’re not whining at all,” he said.  “I should have explained things more clearly to you and I totally understand you’re frustration and your sense of discouragement. It’s natural.”

This was a huge relief to me. Knowing that he got what I was saying was very important to me. There’s no sense in handing large portions of your day over to someone else’s direction and then not feeling like there’s trust. I’m glad we’re on the same page.

charo

Even Charo meeded a little encouragement.

He went on to break down some stats for me about running including some personal anecdotes that I needed to hear. I still believe the man is gifted and I still think that’s a wonderful thing both for him and for me. He shouldn’t shy away from that label but wear it proudly. But I also believe that, even though it might take me longer and I might have to train twice as hard I can eventually get there. I learned them from our conversation. And I thank him for taking the time. 

Before I left he added one crucial thing. 

It was nothing about diet or the right shoes or push ups. 

“You’re doing phenomenal,” he said looking up from his desk. “I mean that.”

I’ll overlook his improper adverbial construct. My trainer, a man who looks like a statue, told me I was doing great. It’s almost as if he said “I’m proud of you.” That was huge. I think all I’ve been looking for all along was some kind of recognition. I wanted someone to notice the hard work and dedication. The fact that it’s him who noticed means the world to me. 

Look, as a teacher I’m used to not being recognized. Just a few nights ago I was really frustrated. Found myself praying “God, this might make sense if I even once knew that I had helped just one teenager come to a better understanding of You. I could take the fact that I missed out on the high paying jobs my friends all have or the feeling that I’m not respected for what I do; but to go so long without so much as a pat on the back? That’s tough. It’s more than I can deal with. Why did You ask this of me?”  The frustration about my fitness progress was just a sub-symptom of that I think. 

Do I still wish the trainer ever had a free evening to kill a bottle of wine because I love hanging with him? Perhaps if I told him how phenomenal he is at drinking…

By the way, last night, after that conversation I went and ran three of my best miles in a long time and tonight I jumped into a killer crossfit workout. A little encouragement goes a long way. 

Prayers, Please

surgery

That’s Dad in the middle.

If you read this far, would you please, in your charity, stop and say a prayer for my dad?

He’s just had a pacemaker put in.  Not a big deal in itself.  However, he’s almost 80 and there was a complication.

Much love to all of you.

Thanks!

The Moon, The Passion, and You

moon effect

Luna

Remember that student of mine I wrote about a few months back; the one who “discovered” my blog?  Well, she’s under the weather right now.  Say a prayer for her (and for all my kids).  In the meantime, I thought I’d write a post she could really get a laugh out of because she emailed me that she now has a lot of time to catch up on my blog.

So today at work I began with a question.  It’s Monday of Holy Week.  Our focus is on the impending celebration of the Lord’s Passion.

“Kids, today I want to talk with about the moon.”

“The what, Mr. H.?” they replied (in unison).

“The moon.  The stupid yellow ball in the sky at night?  What are you missing?  In fact, I have two stories about the moon and the Paschal Mystery,” I said, holding up two stacks of paper.  “I’ll let you pick.”  They chose the one in my right hand.

I then went on to share an article with them about the New American translation of the Bible and how the translators used a very poor rendering in English for a passage in Luke’s Gospel.  The passage said something about how “darkness covered the land from noon until three because of an eclipse of the sun.”  Then I shared how this is actually impossible.

You see, Jesus was crucified around the Passover which always takes place around a full moon (being the mid-point of a lunar month).  Full moons simply do not contribute to solar eclipses.  New moons do.

It would be more appropriate to have translated the line (as most other English translations do) “darkness covered the land because the sun failed.

I could see the light bulbs slowly going on over their heads.

“So, Mr. H., what was the other moon story about?” they asked.

“OK, let’s read this selection from Mark’s account of the Passion together,” I said.

“Now a young man followed him [Jesus] wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.” – Mk. 14: 51-52

Long pause.

“Oooooh,” said one.  “Moon.  I get it.”

A Novice Runner Explains Himself

We ordered Chinese food for dinner this evening.

The menu that came stapled to the bag said “Make sure order correct.  When driver leave, no refund.”

Thank you for that.  Glad I made sure my order was correct.

And like the following story, something must have been lost in translation.

Earlier today I ran.  Nothing spectacular about that.  I’ve been running for a few months.  We have a friend in town who happens to be a runner.  Here’s the thing.  He’s a runner like my trainer is a runner.  The both of them routinely post a pace of 7:30-ish min./mi.  What that means, to the unfamiliar, is that their average running covers one mile ever 7 and a half minutes.  They’ve both “complained” in the past within my hearing that they wish they could go faster and they really have to train harder for that to happen.

My pace, you ask?  I started running for the first time ever about seven months ago.  My pace was non-existent.  I couldn’t run more than a minute (if that) without stopping for a walk.  That kind of nullifies any pace off the bat.  But by the time I ran my one and only 5K in early December, my pace was around 8:50-9:00 (at least for the first mile to mile and a half).  I was happy.  Then I took a month and a half off.  Now it’s like I’ve started from square one even though I’ve been back at it for a month.

I’ve been so frustrated because I’m impatient.  But it’s not just that.  I’m the kind of guy who likes data.  I like to have personal experience (my own or that of others) to go by.  I find it helps tremendously to know what other people before me have gone through so I have some kind of guide.  Plus, I like to know what to expect.

At the same time I feel like I haven’t been explaining myself very well.

In the past my trainer has almost angrily told me not to compare myself with him, that I need to take stock of the fact that I couldn’t run before and now I can and not to worry about it.  OK, I can see that.

Today, my friend seemed modestly shocked that I apologized to him after our run for making him demean himself by running at my pace.  Look, I ran my best today and we covered three miles but I was a wreck afterward and he was still pretty fresh, not a drop of sweat.  I could not breathe.  It cannot be easy to go that slowly when you’re normally much faster and I truly appreciated it.  Did I mention that this was his fourth 3-mile run in four days?

So here’s what I’m trying to say them.

I know every person is different.  I know I’ll find my own stride, no pun intended.  I get that I am not you and you are not me.  What I’m looking for is someone who’s done this before, anyone, to tell me a few things.  First, was it ever hard for you too?  Did you feel in your first few months of running like you just couldn’t do it?  Get discouraged like I do?  And when did the breakthrough occur?  How did you go from running 10 minute miles to 7 and a half?  How long did that take?  If I keep doing what I’m doing (three runs a week) and keep pushing myself can I hope to see a better time in three months?  Six?

But I don’t want to hear “You’ll get better when you get better.”

And I feel like even my magnificent trainer who’s done a lot to help me get started and tries his best to motivate me from time to time maybe doesn’t get my frustration with myself.  I’ve said it before, but I really believe he’s some kind of super-human.  I asked him one time about how he got into running.  I hoped he would share a similar story to mine.  I thought he’d say something about how it was hard for him and he struggled for over a year to get to a good pace.  What he said, however, was that it was really tough for him… The first time he ran, he ran three miles and it was hard.  But he stuck with it and did a half-marathon within four months.  Great.  The first time I ran I barely made it a quarter-mile and completed a 5K within four months at an embarrassing time.

I promise I’m not complaining.  Honestly, I’m happy that I can run.  I couldn’t do this before.  I am happy.  And I am noticing some physical results too.  Seems that my waist is getting a bit smaller.  That’s good news because I can see that inside a month and it motivates me to keep at it.  But I’d love to know that I’m not completely alone in this, that I’m not a runner to be pitied.  Then again maybe I need to find some runner-friends who are just normal guys like me.  Still, I want to know I’m going to succeed at this eventually and maybe to have a clue as to when that eventually will be.  If someone said to me “Honestly, you’re not going to do much better,” I’d be cool with that because I’d at least know that I hit my personal best.

I just don’t think I have yet…

Honoring St. Joseph

Happy feast day of St. Joseph!

One thing I have learned from this holiest of men?

Let’s look at the most inspired things Joseph uttered in the Gospel.

”                             “

Oh that’s right.  He doesn’t have any lines.

Keep your mouth shut and do your job.

Good advice for any husband.

Them’s Fightin’ Words

I’ve never been in a fight.  Not a fist fight anyway.  I know, this somehow makes me less of a man.  Believe me, I have an older brother who once told me those exact words.  Fun, right?  I’ve been in the verbal variety plenty of times.  Given my family’s background, that should be a given.  Let’s see…  Irish, Scottish, English, New York/New Jersey, large family.  Yes, the knock-down drag-out’s of my world have all been of the cerebral kind.  In fact, it’s one of the impeti for my sense of wit.  That and unimaginable tragedy.  These two factors tend to spur on development of a strange sense of quickness and dryness.  Unfortunately for me, this type of humor is a blessing and curse.  I’ve been able to make many people laugh uncontrollably in my lifetime.  I’ve also sometimes used humor to hurt people.  The key is in learning to control it.

By the way, I’m borrowing from the Daily Prompt for this stream.

Fight

That being said, I’ve always wanted, as the headline in The Onion once screamed, to land just one good, clean punch.  Seems like that would be a phenomenal rush.  Most men I know have at least had fights with their brothers or school pals growing up.  Not I.  My brothers were all older, the living ones, and I guess I’m just too practical to ever let impatience over any situation resolve itself in a  manner that could have left me, not bloodied, but with a single hair out of place.  Remember, I grew up in the Garden State.

This morning at work I had to fight.

I fought the urge to steal this cute little lady and take her home.

A coworker brought his dog with him today.  Boy that was fun, being able to pet the little gal.  Something about a dog that really tends to lower one’s blood pressure and bring a smile to one’s face.

Let’s get back to brawling.  As much fun as I think it would be to knock someone out I also imagine I’d embarrass myself tremendously.  My punches would probably not connect and I’d end up slamming my poorly formed fist into a wall.  That would suck.

Other men wouldn’t trust me to be on their side in a bar fight.  I would be outcast from social circles.  This would make me belligerent and likely lead to more fighting.  Perhaps I would then have enough practice and eventually get good at it.  Much scarring and bruising later I might finally be able to say “Yeah, I been in fights, tons of ’em.  You gotta’ problem with that?  Wanna’ dance, bitch?”

On the other hand, if you ever need to cut someone down to size in the kind of way that leaves more damaging mental scars than physical; I’m your guy.  Why I can make you believe the worst in yourself and you’ll laugh while I’m saying it.  It’s only when you’re at home that you’ll begin to ponder what I’ve said.  Then, you’ll feel even worse about your diminished mental state when you have to look up half the words I used.  But I’m also good at words with vague double meanings so you’ll doubt the whole thing ever happened.  Years from now when you’re in group at Hazelden, you’ll eventually learn that you must let go in order to find true peace.  Those kinds of scars will never fully heal.

And every one of my remaining hairs are still in place.

Go Jersey.