Pizza and Prayer

Oh the things that transpire in my presence…

I’ll never fully understand it.  Is it a gift?  A curse?  I’ll enlighten you and let you make the call.  Keep in mind these things really all happen to me.  And I have no idea why.

You remember the broken toes and the boot, right?  Keep that mess in mind.

Friday afternoon I headed home from another exciting work week.  I had spent 40+ hours with the most amazing teenagers who allowed me graciously to feed off their natural energy.  Together we learned and had fun.

I was teetering on that strange precipice I find myself on from time to time – loving the job I’ve been given but never realizing the respect I think all grown men want to feel for their efforts, however meager, at supporting their families while staying true to your vocation.  Hey, it can be tough sometimes.  Then you start to feel awful at the realization of how enormous your pride is.  If no one ever recognizes me for being the best teacher in the history of teaching (or for just getting my ass out of bed at 5:45 every morning when not many years ago I didn’t know there was a second 5:45); then God sees all and knows all and hopefully I’m not letting him down too much.  He knows I’m a screw-up and he still chose me to do this job.  Glad His hand is straight because my lines are way crooked.  Listen, I got 125 of these kids to stop Snapchatting long enough to understand the basics of sacramental theology this week.

Still it is nice to get a pat on the back once in a while and when I walked in the door I got just that.  My kids, the most important people in my life, had planned out a “thank you surprise” for me.  A note by the front door in my son’s handwriting said “Daddy, we wanted to say thank you for all the work you do for us so we could have fun things like a trip to Disneyland this summer [past].  Follow the map on the back for your surprise.”

“How nice of them,” I thought.

The map, an incredibly well drawn floorplan of my house, had me go to my room and get changed.  This isn’t too hard these days since I’m already in shorts thanks to the boot.  Next step was to head to the kitchen for a surprise dinner.

Unfortunately, Mommy wasn’t quite ready with the surprise dinner.  That’s because she had only just ordered it.  But after a few minutes I was instructed to head to the porch.  Not sure why, I took the opportunity to light a smoke and take in the warmth of a Texas September evening.

And then it began.  “It” is the strange vortex that whirls into and out of my life depositing bits of crazy in its wake.  Occasionally bits of lies and falsehoods are trapped and then exposed as well.  A car pulled up and a young man of about 18 stepped up fumbling with a red oven bag.  I popped my head back inside.  “Honey, did you order pizza?” I asked.  She replied in the affirmative.  She even told me it had been paid for but that there was a bill by the door for his tip.

By the time I was fully back on the porch the pizza boy was standing in front of me.

“Looks like you’ve got a” – he paused while flipping a fistful of receipts upside down and rightside up again – “large cheese pie, a small, I mean a medium, wait looks like a 10 inch three-cheese blend and another 10 inch with mushrooms and onions.”  I was just about to correct him for his lack of an Oxford comma when he interjected “Oh, and an order of cheesy bread.”  Only in America could we possibly have come up with “cheesy bread” and not come up with a less descriptive name for it.

“Sounds good, buddy,” I said.  “Until two minutes ago I didn’t know I was having pizza so anything’s a bonus.”

I signed my receipt against the pillar supporting my porch roof, took the stack of pizzas, and handed him the paper trail.  I was turning to walk back inside when the dim bulb on my front walk blurted something out.

“Can I ask you something?” he asked.

I held my tongue from saying “Just did, dumbass.”

Can I pray for your foot?” he said pointing down at the boot.

“Oh… sure,” I said.  “That would be nice.”  I said this assuming he would return to his car and offer up a quick Hail Mary and be on his way.

Instead…

He dropped to both knees right in front of me.  Listen pal, I’ve got neighbors and this is an odd position for both of us.  But he began to pray.

Staring intently at my foot with both hands hovering over my boot he intoned: “Father, we pray that you would send your healing power to” – he looked up – “what’s your name?”

“Harvey.”  Hey, I didn’t know what else to do.

“- for Harvey.  We pray that you would bless him and heal his foot, especially all the ligaments and tendons and the muscles and bones.  Heal his ankle.  Heal his brokenness.”

I was too afraid to take a picture of Pizza Nut so I had Buddy, my Russell Terrier stand in.

This continued for another minute.  And then it got weird(er).

Clamping both of his pizza hands firmly on my boot, he began to pulse some kind of bizarre energy into my leg.  It was worse than that time I got drunk and watched Charo videos with my sister.  His voice took on a crazed tone.

“We command it in Jesus’ name!  Heal his ankle!  I command it in Jesus’ name!  Heal his ankle!”

I have no problem with his prayer at all.  I actually thought it was a very kind gesture.

What I did not have was the heart to tell him that it was just two broken toes and they’re getting better.  Not a ligament tear or tendon pull in sight and my ankles are great.  Also, I have the badass-est calves this side of the Pecos.

I didn’t even know what to say other than “Amen?”  He stood up and mumbled something about believing in the power of prayer because he’s a Christian.  Again I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that he’s a Christian because he recognizes the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.  We stared at each other momentarily before I headed into my house with a stack of pizza and a feeling that my leg had just been exorcised by a Papa John’s pizza boy and that I, may in fact, need to have my confirmation revalidated.

How does one even top that?

What an eventful evening…  The rest of the surprise, you ask?  The kids had a movie picked out for me.  But not even Disney in all its movie magic could top my pizza prayer.

The only thing that could’ve made it gloriously perfect would have been if the order were actually correct.

Of Broken Toes and Broken Dreams

“Ever have your spirit crushed, Mr. H.?” asked a student once.

OK, work with me.  It’s called a literary device.  Sure, no student ever said that but it’s possible that one could have.  More to the point I need to set up this next bit.

“Kid,” I said, “I’m a Mets fan.  Every year since 1986.”

See, wasn’t that cute?

In all honesty this past Thursday I had more than my spirit crushed in the form of a few small bones in the toes on my right foot.

At the Catholic high school where I teach I also assist in other ways.  One of those ways is to transform our very large gym (one of two, I might add) into a worship space for about 1200 people who gather once a month for mass.  I arrived early on the day in question.  It was just before 7AM.  I had really high hopes of starting a new workout that day too.  The thing is that my trainer clued me in to the secret of working out pre-breakfast.  Factor in a lengthy commute and my need to be there at an ungodly hour and the workout last out to a few extra minutes of sleep.

Boy am I excited about this workout, though.  After everything I’ve tried I’ve always felt that nothing has worked for me.  I have a vision in mind fueled by a desire for better heath vanity.  I now know that there are no easy fixes, that I should have done this when I was a teenager.  See, back then I had the time.  I had no social life thanks to a lack of friends or a personality, so I could have been pounding my societal aggression in the gym for hours on end.  Instead I was – come to think of it I really can’t account for my teenage years.  Must have blocked them.  I certainly wasn’t drinking, getting high, or dating like the cool kids.  But I squandered those years – years when I could have been setting myself up for success.  It’s hard, damn near impossible, to achieve the kind of success I want at my age.  The people I know who’ve done it can all maintain it.  That’s always easier to do when you reached it in the first place.  But when you’re married with kids and a job, not so easy to get started.

But this new program…  Having reached the conclusion that I need to be happy with whatever gains I see; I was really eager to jump into this.  I might only lose a few pounds, probably wouldn’t really put on any muscle but I’m OK with that because it’s better than nothing and if I achieve my potential I can’t be disappointed in what my potential actually was.

But it needs to start another day because I was tired that morning.

I walked into the gym to discover a group of kids even more eager than me already rolling out racks of chairs to set up on the gym floor.

“Kids, I love the energy!” I shouted as I put my coffee down.  You’ve got to praise them at every step.  It’s easy with these kids.  I love them like my own.  And like a proud dad I feel the urge to encourage them because they are so awesome.  And I mean that.  “But hang on a bit because we have to roll the floor mats out first.”

Then I proceeded to walk them over to the side of the bleachers where a giant machine on wheels resides.  “This baby here contains enough floor matting material to cover the whole gym so we don’t scuff up the floor with the chairs,” I said as I motioned for them to give me a hand wheeling it into place.  The thing weighs 1,000 pounds fully laden.

Did I mention they’re eager kids?

In their eagerness they pushed the rack really hard before I had a chance to get my foot out of the way.

Ever hear bones break?  It’s not a pleasant sound.

I looked down to see a hard graphite wheel rolling up onto my foot and then… staying there!

“Love you kids but get this thing OFF ME!!!” I shouted.

They pushed and after what seemed like an eternity it rolled off.  The other side.  Taking an additional pounding blow on another toe.

I tried to act tough.  Who complains about broken toes of all things.  I finished helping the kids and even taught a class before seeing the school nurse who instructed me to go home and elevate it.  It was in her office that I first removed my sock.  Oh God, it was so gross…

And because I knew I’d need to see a doctor, it turns out I do indeed have two broken toes and will be wearing a boot for the next month.

On the upside, I’ve been wanting to introduce a Bermuda-themed look into the school dress code for some time.  Think about it.  These kids already love me for my style.  It’s the most amazing thing.  Remember those teenage years I mentioned?  Yeah, they seem not to matter now because the teenagers of today look up to me.  Do you know how gratifying it is to have 500 teenage boys literally trying to copy everything you’re wearing?  I’m apparently a trendsetter.  Let’s see how they dig shorts with my tie and jacket…

But that workout will have to wait.

Just like another Mets World Series win.

I think God’s trying to tell me something.

Sleepless

It’s Saturday morning, just after midnight in fact.  I can’t sleep.

I’ve been trying to adjust to the new schedule.  I just returned to teaching after a summer on the road.  I’ve been up every morning before 6 and out the door before 7 not returning home until almost 5.  Traffic sucks these days.  Wait until the public school kids are back in session next week.

Today I came home to discover that my son had gone to his grandmother’s house and was going to have a sleepover.  Funny, he’s only gone for the evening but I miss him.

I’ve been on another diet challenge.  I had gained ten pounds over the summer.  On August 1st I weighed in at 196.  My goal is to hit 186.2 by the 22nd.  This morning I was below that by a few pounds.  I can’t see a difference; but then I never can.

My sweet daughter spent the evening playing on my iPad.  She’s too cute.  She’s also growing up too fast.  They both are.  And they’re all God gave me and I feel like it’s all going too fast.

Sometimes I have these moments where everything just gets a little hazy.

And then I can’t sleep.

And then I write.

Family Picture

You knew I couldn’t let that Love Your Gin Challenge go…

And I believe that now I have officially carried this too far.

Richard Strikes Again!

Last night I attempted something I have done a few times before.  Stick with me.  It has nothing to do with my infertility.

The toilet in our hallway bathroom had been “malfunctioning” over the past few months.  It was nothing major.  If you know anything about toilets and how they work; the flapper was closing too soon after the flush handle was released.  The tank was still filling but the bowl was not (at least not as much as it should be).  In fact, it was really more of an aesthetic thing.  As in: “My guests will think we’re uncivilized because the water in our toilet bowl isn’t as high as everyone else’s!”

OK, so I’ve changed toilet guts before.  I’m not what you’d call a Bob Vila.  I am what I would call “skilled enough”.  That means that from my dad I learned the basics.  I can change a light switch, fix a toilet, use a circular saw…  What I do best, though, is follow instructions.

Imagine my surprise last night when I got the new guts in place, turned on the water, and things went haywire.

It’s a messy job but it came with the mortgage…

Water was dripping at a steady stream from the bottom of the tank.  I tried my best to isolate the cause but it was a fool’s errand.  It was also late and I was tired.  I did what any of us would do.  I shut off the water, laid down some towels, and went to bed.

Went back to it this morning, fearful of having to call someone.  That would not only indicate my failure at a simple task but also earn me a strike against my man card.  I would never be able to tell anyone about this.  My trainer (remember him?) would laugh at me.  “You are weak and you can’t fix a toilet?  What kind of man are you?”  More on the trainer and my failures and successes on that front in an upcoming post.

So here’s what I did and this is also the point of the story…

I went into the bathroom and got down on my knees.  No, I wasn’t hungover.  Yes, I was praying.  I said a prayer.  I called upon my late brother Richard.  You might recall he died 8 months ago of pancreatic cancer.  Richard was the home repair guru.  He could do stuff like this with ease.  Surely he would help.  I was so worried that I had overtightened bolts and cracked the porcelain.  By the way, why do they cast toilets out of this delicate porcelain stuff anyway?  Wouldn’t a solid weld unibody design work better?  But I digress.

“Help me see what I’m missing here,” I asked him.

I sat back and noticed I was sitting on something.  Reaching behind me I pulled out a small package.  I want you to know that I REALLY follow instructions when I do a project.  Yet somehow I had missed this one and the corresponding piece.  It was an O ring.  Guess where it was supposed to be.  You got it, right over the opening where the water was leaking.

I disassembled a few things, slid the O ring in place, put it back together and the leak was gone.

Thanks, brother!  Now my guests won’t think we’re hillbillies.

The Infiltration OR Things Never to Put In One’s Eye

IMG_0713

I couldn’t find a picture of an eyeball in my files so here’s my son doing an impression of me without my glasses (from a few years ago).

I’ll start this ball rolling by stating that I am blind as a bat if bats didn’t use echolocation.  It all started when I was 10 years-old.  My eyes decided they didn’t like me anymore and that I needed to learn the meaning of myopia.  Here’s a hint.  Webster’s defines it as “humiliating slow death”.  When you’re a ten year-old boy and you suddenly can’t see the board at school and then you have to wear glasses…  Well, OK it wasn’t that bad.  I always had style so my glasses were pretty fashionable.  The real downside was that my condition meant my eyes would get worse for a long time before leveling off.  I’m that guy who can’t read the “E” at the top of the chart.

By the time I reached 25 I had grown less fearful of contact lenses and the associated touching of my eyeballs required to wear them.  And since then I’ve pretty much been a contacts guy, wearing my specs occasionally during the day and every single night.  I also have dry eyes.  Could it get any worse?  It just means that I cannot under any circumstances fall asleep or otherwise close my eyes for more than a minute with my contacts in place or they’ll adhere to my corneas.

Guess what happened two nights ago.

If you guessed that I fell asleep then you’re wrong and I’m just as baffled as you as to how I ended up with a corneal abrasion.  Trust me, I’ve done it before.  It’s no joke.  Painful as all get out and you have to use antibiotic drops for a week.

 “It’s really amazing how the eye functions.”

But something happened the other night because when I woke up yesterday morning I would have sworn I had pinkeye.  It was gross.  I decided to chance going to work.  You see, teachers really can’t miss the first few days.  It’s considered bad form or something.  I wasn’t too far off the mark either.  The left eye never turned red and the right eye, given some time, started to feel a little less like a knife was being shoved into it.

To be on the safe side and since it did still hurt a bit this morning, I called the doctor and went in after work.

It turns out that yours truly has not a corneal abrasion but a corneal infiltration.  When the doctor told me that I blanked out for a moment while envisioning a microscopic band of Goths with a  trebuchet advancing toward my eye.  It was funny so I laughed.  The doctor didn’t get it.

“How’d that happen?” I asked as he was writing out a script for the same antibiotic drops I already mentioned.  Apparently they’re multipurpose.

“Could be any number of things,” he responded.  “All I know is that something ‘got in there‘ that shouldn’t have been and this is how the eye reacts.  It’s really amazing how the eye functions,” he went on as if to justify his degree in optometry.

I could have cared less.  For in my mind I knew what it was that intruded in my ocular safe zone.

Have you ever had something really embarrassing happen to you that maybe you were the cause of but it was so funny you had to share it even though it meant you would bring ridicule upon yourself?  No?  OK, have you ever written a blog and needed a funny story?  Work with me people!

Last Thursday night our home’s plumbing system essentially exploded.  The ultimate cause, as we found out the next morning thanks to a $200 plumber visit, was a clogged sewer line.  But in the moment my wife and I had to deal with a lot of things happening all at once in our peaceful home.  Two toilets backed up simultaneously as well as a shower, the main AC unit, and the washer.  What a mess.  We got it cleaned up as best we could before sending the kids to Granny’s for the night, washing ourselves up, and settling into bed.

It’s that “washing ourselves up” part that plays a big role here.  You see, I stood at my sink, exhausted, disgusted from having just been in contact with raw sewage, and did I mention exhausted?  Yeah, I was tired as hell.  I took my contacts out after thoroughly washing my face and hands.  All was fine.  I placed the contact case on the counter (which I had bleached).  Took the right contact out, poured solution in.  Took the left contact.  As I attempted to place it in the case, I knocked the whole uncovered case off the sink.  The case hit the floor, the right contact hit the toilet.  It landed on the edge, not falling in.  OK, don’t even judge me.  I hate you right now.  You would have done the same.

Having run out of contacts, I knew I couldn’t afford to lose this pair.

Also I was tired as hell.  Haven’t you been paying attention?

I picked the contact up, washed it in solution in the palm of my hand, and placed it in the case.

All was right with the world.

And at that moment this afternoon in the doctor’s office when he said “something got in there…” I knew what that something was.

Oh dear Lord…  I think my eyeball came in contact with human shit.

I, of course, could never reveal this to the doctor – though I’m revealing it to the world right now.

“Wonder what it could’ve been, doc…” I said, trailing my voice off just enough to indicate that I might have actually known.

Look, I’m a dad. I’ve been puked on in the face. This, by comparison, is no big deal. 

I drove home a little sick to my stomach.  The past is done.  It cannot be undone.  I can never go back in time to a moment when my eyeball hadn’t touched minute traces of feces.

On my drive home, though, I thought of something.

At least I know the OCD germ-warriors in my life aren’t joking.  AND, I’ll have one hell of a story to tell.

The Olympics and Modern Education

Earlier this evening my daughter was watching the women’s gymnastics on the Olympics. 

A disxussion ensued about what goes into making it to the games. 

“So, Mommy,” she said to my wife. “You’re saying they don’t go to school because they’re practicing so much?”

“Well,” said my wife, sort of, but”-

“That settles it. I’m getting really good at gymnastics!” Said my daughter. 

I suppose that’s a mark of genius.