Oleo

I’ve been itching to write more lately. Hey, it’s been a while. I figured with Christmas coming up I’ll have plenty of time! To ease the transition back into posting, here’s an old favorite of mine from 2011.
Enjoy!

Harvey Millican: Raising Your Kids Without Lowering Your IQ

Yes, Oleo…  I do a lot of crossword puzzles.  Those who engage in the sport know that there is a definite game to the whole thing.  Part of that game is knowing that there are a few handfuls of words that routinely appear in puzzles.  This is most likely due to the conglomeration of optimal letters (the right number of vowels, etc.).  Ewer (a decorative pitcher) is one.  Oleo (a mish-mash, an odd collection) is another.  I don’t usually give a run-down of the topics in my blog but I’ll make an exception because there are quite a few things I’ll be discussing.  I’m going to write about my day — always interesting, if I do say so.  I’m going to talk about some humanitarian efforts going on at the school (my job) — definitely uplifting this time.  Finally, I’m going to present another episode in the ongoing…

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Supermoon!

With the approach of another, more potent Supermoon I thought it appropriate to share this post from a few years back. Enjoy!

Harvey Millican: Raising Your Kids Without Lowering Your IQ

Last evening, my wife and I set out on a journey with our kids.  The purpose of our journey was to seek out a Mexican restaurant for a proper celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  Our conversation at one point went something like this:

wife: “Is there anything on the other side of the highway?”
me: “I see a Chili’s.”
wife: “That’s not Mexican!” (wild laughter)
me: “It has a giant chili pepper above the door.  Isn’t that supposed to be Mexican or something?”
wife: “Yeah, well there’s a Walmart right next to that.  I guarantee that’s more Mexican than the Chili’s.”

Ultimately we settled on a place nearby that turned to be great.  They handed out fake mustaches as we entered.  Not sure why.  But the kids had fun with them.

Could she look any more like an outlaw from the old west?

On our way home, my wife looked…

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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.