Category Archives: Fitness

When Everything Goes Awry

Until recently this blog was all about my life as a dad in a Catholic household with a beautiful wife and two young kids (and an ill-tempered terrier).  As the need arises, and as my life wends on the path of inexorability, I also write about other things such as politics and the current crisis in the Church as they are places intersected by the life I lead.  In these instances it seems, rather, that God has steered the life I attempt to live into the paths of several oncoming trains that either inhabit that world (to my chagrin) or that I encountered (and that I disembarked) decades ago.

Confused?  Yeah, me too.  Stick with me.

Basically, tonight I just want to write about my life tonight.  It’s not glamorous but it’s mine and I kind of like it.  And to those of you who have started following because of the other recent topics I ask that you read this too and let me know if you like it.  And I thank you for your patronage.

Many of you know that I currently work full-time as a medical courier.  It’s what I’m doing at the moment.  After leaving the seminary I had a brief career as a television producer.  Then I entered the world of teaching and thought that would be my life.  I didn’t choose teaching, rather it chose me as they say.  After fighting it for a couple of years I gave up and realized that I 1) was good at it and 2) liked it.  A lot.  It was always about the kids.  They were wonderful and I was blessed to be part of their lives.  Then I moved into school administration.  Unfortunately right out of the gate I encountered a toxic work environment and, never having quit a job in my life, resigned that position.  God, in His providence, provided a job for me where I never had even a day-long gap in my employment.

I enjoy doing this but I know it’s not long-term.  And the devil (he’s real, you know) gets to me every now and then.  He’s constantly reminding me of my insecurities.  I look around and see all my friends successful, happy, and making lots of money.  Me?  Well one out of three ain’t bad.  See, the devil knows I want success and who couldn’t be happy being able to say he earns a good salary?  I have to keep reminding myself that I chose this career path by my actions and that God will again provide a path.  Right now I can’t decide if I should return to teaching, go after administration again, or try to make a go with a job in writing or marketing.  When I think about it I have a solid skillset.  I just haven’t had to look for work outside of a classroom in so long that I don’t know quite what I’m doing.  It’s humbling to admit that but I can do it.  I’d love to know that I could find something easily and walk into a job making at least what I was making as a teaching (which, believe it or not, wasn’t that bad).  Time will tell if I end up a mental case or land that job.  Prayers are always appreciated.

But here’s what happened in my current job tonight…

I typically work on-call from 4PM until midnight.  This makes it hard to spend time with the kids but I make every sacrifice I can.  It also makes it hard to visit much with my wife but I try.  It does afford me plenty of time to pray – the rosary and/or a series of Memorare’s and litany of the saints are a common theme in my car.  Actually the past few months have been quiet in this field.  Today, however, the DFW area was slammed with torrential rains.  When your job involves tendering and recovering sensitive medical parcels from a major airport, rain can spell disaster.  Lightning threats close the “ramp” which means nothing moves and you get stuck waiting in the cargo facility for hours.  Packages get left by the airline crews in puddles requiring repackaging and more dry ice which means extra travel and time.

Around 9PM tonight I got a call that a package needed to be recovered, opened, and photographed.  There was a question about how much dry ice was on hand.  This meant waiting for a termination letter to be faxed to the cargo office.  And that took over an hour.  To give you an idea how the weather affected everyone’s day, at one point in my night at cargo one of the workers slammed down his phone and shouted “Dammit, they lost that dog we were looking for!”  They ship animals, you know, and the animals take priority over just about anything else.  Then he added “It’s a service dog!”

Think about that.

They lost a service dog.

I immediately doubled over in laughter along with the other five people in the building.  Losing a service dog means that said service dog had to have been forcibly separated from his master who, presumably, needed his assistance to board the plane.  Also, service animals are allowed by law to fly in the cabin, not the hold.  Somebody screwed up big time.  And how did the passenger deplane?  Perhaps some other passenger lent him a therapy peacock to guide the way.

The other thing that really shot my night to hell was the realization that I would not be able to work out tonight.  As mentioned, most nights have been slow lately.  I’ve taken to scheduling my time at the gym around 9PM.  I work out with a buddy of mine.  Weightlifting has really become a passion of mine and I’m making incredibly progress.  I benched 190 the other night and not just a max rep but three sets of 6-8.  I’m impressed even if no one else is.  It’s become such a thing for me that I get pissed when my gym time gets scuttled.

As I was moping to myself about not lifting I glanced down at the scale where packages get weighed and got an idea.

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That’s right, there, right on the side of the scale were two 30 lb. weights used to calibrate the scale.  Didn’t take me long before I was using them as kettlebells.  A few sets completed and I jumped in whole hog.  By the time I was on the floor doing sets of push-ups the cargo manager instructed me to stop because it was late and I was making them feel “lazy” and “gross”.  OK, so not a complete workout but anything is better than nothing.  Good thing I didn’t bust out the jumprope.  And I guess that’s something I can be thankful for during this time of uncertainty; and that is that I’ve finally gotten myself in the kind of shape I’ve always wanted to be in.  It’s taken time but I’m pleased with my results.  And I’m happy to be enjoying good health right now.  So, praised be to God, right?

As I drove home from the airport at 11:30 thinking of all these things and wondering what the next step for me will be I remembered to say a few more prayers.  Can’t hurt, right?  And I ask each of you reading this to say one or two for me as well.  In the meantime I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing – being a dad in a Catholic household with a beautiful wife, two young kids, and an ill-tempered terrier.  And I will be loving it all.

*I’ve got a few more McCarrick/seminary stories left to post.  Stay tuned and as always…

Pray for the Church.

And please continue to read and to share my blog.  I don’t get paid to write but it is gratifying to know that people think enough of my work to recommend it to a friend.

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Inspired

Tonight I feel particularly inspired for several reasons.

For the past three weeks I have been inspired to visit Our Lord in Adoration more.  This is something that should require no prompting.  As a Catholic I certainly believe Him to be present in the Eucharist.  Our parish offers daily Adoration.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  That is, unless you’re me.  Yes, I have been working like a dog the past few months, putting in long and sometimes unusual hours between two jobs.  Outside of that I like to make my priorities my family, my health (in the form of working out), and rest.  It is foolish to cut God out of that equation.  I have been using the time in the car while running jobs for an increase in my prayer life.  A five hour drive to Houston, for instance, yields many rosaries prayed.

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It’s a Catholic thing…

But a few weeks ago I headed to church on a Monday night for some quiet time before the Sacrament.  I knew that a friend of mine would be there as well and was hoping for a chance to say hi.  We hadn’t properly caught up in a while.  We did get to exchange a greeting afterward.  It was what I saw while in the chapel that inspired me.  Here was a man, about my age, with young children, in the chapel, not there to see his friends but rather to lead his family in prayer.  Discipline.  That’s what it takes to be a leader like that.  I could end this by saying “he’s got it and I don’t.”  But I know I could have it too if I just committed to do what he’s doing.  It’s doesn’t just materialize.  It has to be acquired through practice.  It’s just like building a strong body.  I may have mentioned previously that this friend has that part down like nobody’s business.  It’s easy to see how he could transfer that discipline to other areas of his life.

I’ve been going every Monday for just a half-hour, bringing my copy of Sheen’s Life of Christ with me to read.  Next step: I want to start bringing my kids along too, though I’m sure they wouldn’t be nearly as quiet and reverent as his.  In time, perhaps, they will learn.  And he probably didn’t even know he was being used by God to inspire someone else to come to Him.

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Both of my friends crossed paths.  The one friend’s puppy assaulted me while I was doing an ab routine trying to get jacked like the other friend.

I also just returned from a trip to Colorado where I was inspired by another friend.  I got the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with him (we’ve known each other since college) and his teenage son.  The interaction between the two of them was so wonderful to see.  He’s a great dad and his son’s a good kid, too.  What I saw was a man filled with patience, humor, good cheer, and love for his wife and kids.  He works harder than I do yet still found the time to 1) hang out with me, 2) cart his kids around town, 3) act like a human ATM when they came at him asking for money, 4) mow his lawn, and 5) teach his son about caring for their new puppy.  On the dog front, the “puppy” is a 15 week-old St. Berdoodle.  Yep, you read that right.  The thing was one giant fluffy ball of energy.  She was only missing the brandy keg.  I thought of my own dad while watching these two (and the pup).  I returned home inspired to be more “present” to my kids and to do it with more of a smile.  I hope his kids appreciate how awesome their dad is.  And I bet he didn’t even know he was being used by God to inspire someone else to come to Him.

Finally I was inspired late last night.  While waiting at the airport in Denver for a flight that was delayed over four hours I encountered a man wearing a tank top.  I at once determined that no matter how big or defined my arms get, men should always have sleeves on their shirt.  There’s just something dignified about it.  I was inspired to good fashion.  Now I know that man definitely had no clue he was being used by God.

The Results are In

Well friends, I finished my Body for Life 12 week challenge!

Before and after pics?  Hell no!  You all know by now that I am far too insecure and emotionally fragile to subject myself to that kind of ridicule.

So here’s a description…  I started out at 197 lbs.  If you’ve never seen me, I’m 6’2″ tall with a medium frame.  After 12 weeks of eating right (6 meals a day, lots of protein, veggies, and good carbs), working out like a dog (strength training and cardio intervals), and one cheat day a week (that typically started Saturday night and lasted 36 hours) I finished at… 197 lbs.

Crazy, huh?

Well, I can say that this 197 is a whole lot different than that 197.  How do I know?  My waist, for starters.  That’s about three inches less than it was.  My entire upper body is a lot more defined than it ever was.  I can lift way more.  My arms are bigger – shoulders and chest too. Where I’m really impressed?  My legs have always been naturally muscular so I never worked them at all.  With this plan I had to work them equally.  To my surprise, even they’ve gotten bigger and more defined.

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I truly enjoyed lifting.

Where I’ve really noticed a difference is that I’m more confident in myself.  I had a conversation with a friend once and he insisted that every man should have been in at least one physical fight in his life in order to call himself a man.  About that…  I’ve never been in a fight.  And I’m too old to start that nonsense now.  I imagine myself walking into a bar and trying to start something just for fun.  I could kind of see the guy’s point.  I suppose there would be a confidence that would come from knowing that you had actually defended yourself and stood your ground.  But for me it just never happened that way.  But I think I can say that I could do it now if I had to.  Of course, there’s a certain confidence that comes from being 40 and seeing yourself transform like this and then knowing that just about everyone you’ve known your whole life transformed into… something different.  So maybe I didn’t look too great when I was a teenager or in my 20’s.  I might have had a few extra pounds.  A friend saw me recently and remarked: “Whoa man, you look great!  I remember when we met ten years ago.  I was a rail and you were flabby.”  He was drunk so he was most likely telling the truth.  He is also not a rail today.

Anyway, long story short: I am happy with my results.  I would recommend this program to anyone looking for a change.  Follow the link for the details.  You just have to be committed and want it.  As for me, I’m taking a few days off to recharge and rest and then I’m starting the next 12 weeks!

Thanks for following!

Closing the Goal

Today I entered Week 12 of the Body for Life Challenge.

This isn’t so significant in the sense that I’ve completed a few other fitness programs/challenges in the past few years with varying degrees of success.

First there was the Insanity Max:30 Challenge.  That one focused on cardio and the goal was weight loss.  I got super skinny but still looked fat.

Then there was the Body Beast Challenge.  That one focused on heavy weight lifting and bulking up.  I packed on muscled but still looked fat.

Then there was the La Leche del Sol Challenge where I had to use a mule to take daily shots of the illegal Mexican beauty secret of the stars.  That one focused on getting ripped but only for certain cameras in precise lighting.  I finished and looked like Austrian opera singer Maria Jeritza.

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Too bad ol’ Chuck isn’t still considered a fitness icon.  Sure he’s got a “V shape” but he’s also wearing a diaper.

I was beginning to think I couldn’t win except that I did have a sense of accomplishment at finishing all of these programs.  And for a guy in my condition – no will power, loves to shovel food into his mouth, works 23 hours a day, and missing all of the DNA receptors that promote muscle building, fat loss, and scalp hair – that’s saying something.

I have a friend who patiently tried to give me training advice.  Believe me, it’s a compliment to say what I’m about to say.  He’s super ripped.  He’s also super dedicated and on a level I doubt I will ever see.  He works out every day.  He runs long distances three times a week.  When he’s not doing that he does resistance training using only his bodyweight.  We’re talking muscle-ups and hand stand push-ups.  Even if I had the will power I don’t think I could be successful like that.  I’ve come to the point of forcing myself to believe that maybe I’m just not meant to be “jacked”.

But something in me keeps persisting that I could get there given the right program before I’m dead.  And believe me if my loved ones are standing over my rotting corpse in a casket and saying “Damn he looks good” I’ll be happy with that.

So tonight I reach the final week.

I texted my buddy to tell him how excited I am and to ask for some prayers this week that I don’t give up with the finish line in sight.  I think he knows where I’m coming from.  Even for a guy like him there’s got to be some sense of how hard this is to accomplish.  I mean, even the best probably still remember a time when they were starting out when the goal seemed impossible.  Granted, for him that time was probably in infancy.  Dude, it’s called “baby fat”.  Babies are supposed to have it.  And again, I kid because I admire his dedication and the results he’s achieved and maintained.

I like to have something solid to back it up so I tell him a little statistic.  “I got the tape out and did some measurements,” I say.  “I started with 14″ biceps and tonight I’m measuring 16″.”  I honestly don’t know if that’s supposed to be impressive.  I also do not want to boast or come across as bragging.

He replied that this was bigger than his arm.  Now I know I measured wrong.  That couldn’t possibly be the case.  So I got the tape out again.  OK, this time I measured my arm at just shy of 16″.  But not much.

Holy cow!  Could it be that I might have finally found the right program?  This one (Body for Life) has been amazing.  It’s just the right mix of cardio and weight training.  My only regret as I stare in the mirror and see my transformation is that I didn’t do more.  Now I keep thinking “If I had just done 30 minutes of cardio instead of 20 on those days…” or “I could have lifted heavier and pushed myself more…”  “I would like him to see my gains (and losses),” I think to myself, so I put on the tightest white tee shirt and head over to church where he’s doing a Holy Hour.  This oughtta’ be fun.

We catch up afterwards in the parking lot.  In a way that only one guy can say to another, he compliments me.  “Dude, your calves were already bigger than mine.  Now you gotta’ have bigger arms too?!”  Believe me, my friend, you are definitely the motivation.  Still not sure my arms are any bigger than his (and sort of still feel like they’re not much bigger than when I started) but there’s a whole lot more definition, that’s for sure, and not just my arms either.

I’m happy with this.  Happy where I am.  Do I want way more?  Yeah.  I’m never satisfied with my results and I’m always harsher on myself than anyone else ever would be.

Will I do another 12 weeks?  Well, either that or 12 weeks of something else.

I’ll just keep collecting challenge tee shirts every three months until I finally reach my goal.

Then I’ll finally be able to say that I did it.

Until then, keep the prayers coming.  I’ve still got a week to go.

And take it from me, La Leche del Sol is crap.

Closing In on the Goal

It’s raining.  It’s raining pretty hard.

I like the rain normally.  But…

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Sometimes when I train I wear a diaper as well.  If only Charles Atlas was still the standard of male jacked-ness.  I think I’d stand a chance.

The only thing about the rain I don’t like tonight is that it kept me from doing my cardio workout.  I lack a treadmill or elliptical machine so I either go for a run or do 25 minutes of jump rope in my driveway.  Driveway’s flooded and the streets are a mess.  Since I’m only four weeks out from recording my final results in the Body for Life Challenge that just means I’ll do the cardio first thing in the morning and then a lower body workout (leg day) in the afternoon.  If you read this, say a prayer for me please.  I’ve never been this close before to achieving a goal I really wanted this badly.  For eight weeks now I’ve put in the hardest physical work of my life.  I followed a really good diet to an almost-micro level.  I did every set, every rep, every major muscle group at the appointed time.  When it was cold in my garage and the steel plates were hard to grip, I gripped ’em.  When it warmed up and I put the garage door up to let in a breeze and I wound up giving my neighbors a show as I pumped iron without a shirt on, I, well wait, where was I?  Oh yeah, I swatted mosquitos trying to suck the blood out of my near-bulging veins.  When the idea of hitting the pavement to run 20 minute intense intervals sounded like a death march, I forced myself to go faster and faster hoping that this would actually start burning fat.

I’m 40 years-old and in phenomenal health for a man half my age (if I do say so myself).  But there’s something about being able to visualize those results…  You know what I’m saying.  My body fat percentage is dropping but not fast enough for me.  I’ve gained 7 pounds of muscle since I started and that’s great but not good enough for me.  I’m finally starting to see the kind of definition that would turn heads and that’s awesome but not good enough for me.  My former-one time-actually never in reality trainer who remains an acquaintance of mine despite the way I’ve abused him in print over the years told me yesterday that with this particular program the results from the last four weeks are expected to be as good as for the first eight weeks.  “You’ve no doubt gotten a lot stronger now and can force more out of yourself.  Lift heavier because you can!  Run faster, jump rope more intensely.  You can either quit now and be happy or you can double down and be really happy.”  It was cool to hear him say that he really believed I could do it.  But if that’s the case and I stick with it (as I fully intend to) I should be a chiseled man in a month.  As shallow as it sounds but for the reasons mentioned above, pray for this.  I’d like to be happy with my appearance once in my life.  And if not, well, they say it’s good to possess good health.  Yeah.  Great.  Whatever.  I want to be ripped.

Good night, folks.

Catching Up

The astute reader (and the other one too) will note that I have not posted in a long while.  So here’s an update.

When last we spoke I had taken a job through a friend of my wife delivering lab mice safely from the airport.  The job ramped up in the past week in terms of busyness despite the fact that the largest air carrier of animals (including lab mice) suspended all animal deliveries.  It seems they not only killed a few dogs but also sent one or two to the wrong locations.  When Fido lands in Tokyo instead of with his family in Rochester people tend to get upset.  In any event, I have been working from about noon until midnight and beyond the past week.

I started teaching again.  The small Montesorri school my children attend found themselves in need of a teacher.  For some reason they thought of me.  Desperation makes people do desperate things.  Every morning from 7:45-11:45 I drive my kids to school, enter the building, and then proceed to teach.  My daughter is now my student.  She rather enjoys this.  I get a kick out of it too.

I haven’t worked on my book in a while.  For some reason writing is hard for me these days.

I am four weeks from completing the Body for Life challenge.  I’ve seen some slight changes which is a good thing.  The jury is still out on whether I will achieve the chiseled look the program promises.  All in all, though, I have been fairly healthy and I can’t complain about that.

My former trainer ran into me and gave me a book.  “It reminds me of you,” he said.  The book is called Living with a Seal.  It’s about a multi-gazillionaire who wanted to get shredded as an answer to a mid-life crisis.  So far, it sounds like me except without the money.  My acquaintance assures me that the humorous way in which the author presents his training sessions reminds him of the stories I used to write about him and me.  Again, the difference is the money.  I was always positive that if I had the means to pay someone what it would take then I could reach my goals.  But cash does not replace motivation.  The funny thing is I’ve always been motivated.  I’ve just always lacked the means to figure out what needs to be done.  There’s a lot of “micro” stuff that someone in training has to pay attention to.  Eat this specific amount of this type of protein down to the gram.  Work out in this particular way (don’t deviate at all) at precisely 5AM after one cup of black coffee.  You get the picture.  The former trainer still looks great.  It was nice to see him again.

Amazon Prime has been offering some real doozies under their “classic TV” section.  On Saturday morning I watched three episodes of the 1988 incarnation of Family Feud with my kids.  I figured it was safe.  And who doesn’t like Ray Combs?  The first question he asked the contestants was “Name something people think they’re better at than they actually are.”  Like lightning one contestant hit the buzzer and yelled “sex!”  I’ve always tried to be honest with my kids.  My 8 year-old daughter turned to me and said “What’s sex?”  “I have an idea, kids…  Who wants to watch Mr. Ed!?”  “But what’s sex,” she said again?  “Sweetheart,” I replied, “Let’s watch a little more and see the other answers first.  And she never brought it up again.

So tomorrow morning, at the start of week 9 (out of 12), I will get up at 6, get my black coffee, not workout since I’ll have the best of intentions to do that in the afternoon, get back into bed, check the news, look over my checkbook, pet my sleeping Russell Terrier, get up, get dressed, get the kids to school, teach for four hours, drive medical deliveries around the metropolitan area, chat with my new friends at the airport, not pick up mice, squeeze in that workout between jobs, and get home far too late to eat dinner or kiss my wife and kids goodnight.  I didn’t want to be out of work but I wasn’t hoping to be chest-deep in it either.  It’s all good, though.  Easter is coming.

Riff

I’ve been wanting to write again for some time but couldn’t find the energy to get started.  It’s not that I couldn’t find the motivation, mind you.  Every day, countless things come into my life to inspire, challenge, and humor me.  I figured they might have a similar impact on you, too, my faithful readers.

So I went with the old tried and true Daily Post and its writing prompt.  Tonight it is the simple word “riff”.  Here goes…

First I want to ask your prayers for someone who is dying.  It could be anyone.  In my mind he is a very real young man with a family and he will open his eyes into eternal life very soon.  I’ve been thinking of my own mortality lately.  I’ve always been rather fatalistic.  Starting in childhood with the death of my twin sister at the age of 4.  In the past two years I’ve lost my oldest brother and my father.  I think about these pages and the banal things I’ve committed to cyber paper and I hope that my beloved son and daughter will be able to patch together a glimpse of their old man when I’m gone.  My wife already knows me well so I hope she’ll be able to smile when she reads my posts again and remembers the craziness that was our life together.  I love them so much and I’m glad God gave me a brief moment in this life to spend with them.  Pray.

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Pretty sure the car should be up there, not the driver.

Second I wanted to give thanks.  Every day there are numerous things for which we can thank God if we only look around us.  Last Thursday night my 13 year-old Honda died in the parking lot of a Walmart while I tried to start it after a brief shopping excursion.  I could have cursed life for the horror of being stranded in a Walmart parking lot.  Instead here’s what happened.  I called a friend of mine.  “Hey, my car died…” I said before being cut off.  “Where you at?  I’ll be right there,” he said with enthusiasm.  THAT’s a friend.  He gave up his evening to come pick me up, drive my wife to a meeting, take me and my kids to his house so he and I could work out together (motivating me to push harder in the process), lent me his clothes after I used his shower, and drove us home.  I may have looked silly in his duds but I was clean and dry and happy.  Two days later my mother-in-law’s neighbor – who’s legal name is actually Bubba – gleefully accompanied me to the parking lot, changed out the battery with me and then drove with me to an auto parts store to buy a new starter.  Imagine.  The battery and the starter both died together.  How serene.  If only it wasn’t in a Walmart parking lot.  The first friend’s wife (he was already out of town celebrating his brother’s 40th birthday) came with me to wait for the tow truck.  She has AAA and I don’t.  I told you.  I have a Honda.  The tow operator didn’t have a clue what he was doing.  He was in training so it took a painfully long time.  Within an hour of getting towed back to my mother-in-law’s house, Bubba called me to tell me he had worked on it, changed the starter, and it was fixed.  Wow.

Finally, I want to celebrate life.  I’m turning 40 myself pretty soon.  As my brother-in-law, a trauma nurse, once told me “Today’s a good day.  I got out of bed unassisted, didn’t need any help getting dressed.  I ate breakfast not through a tube…”  You get the point.  I haven’t even reached the age my dad was when I was born yet I feel like I’m getting old.  My best friend just turned 40 last week.  He’s an amazing guy.  I always tease him by asking him to give me the “22 day rundown of what it’s like being a year older”.  Truth is he could run circles around me in every way.  But I want to mark this milestone as another year God has given me to serve him, another year with my wife and kids, another year to write.  I think 40 will be fun.  Even if it’s not; it’s just a number.  I’m still going to live regardless of what my birth certificate says.  How’s that for irony.  One of these days I’ll be able to do something spectacular like travel the world or have someone throw me a huge party like all my friends have done.  I should mention here that another good friend did throw me a party recently.  True, he knows I abhor surprise parties.  I just can’t get past the deception that goes into planning them.  A lie’s a lie even if it’s for a good cause.  And I often think that someone would only do something nice like that for me out of pity but I’m still glad he did and I enjoyed myself.  Even if I did enjoy the steak he cooked a “second time”…  But even without those things life is beautiful because it simply is and it deserves to be celebrated.  And that man who’s dying?  His life is beautiful at this very moment because he is one step closer to God.

I suppose I went on a bit of a riff there…  Oh well.