Category Archives: Prayer

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.

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Why I Am Blessed to Teach: Three Vignettes from My Montessori Experience

Not long ago I took a job as a teacher.

That being said, I have been a teacher for well over a decade.  But, wishing to expand my portfolio and branch out, I accepted a position in a new school.  Now I can say that I have the following variety of teaching and/or administrative experience: large school, small school, co-ed, single-sex, diocesan, private-independent, mid-sized, teacher, vice principal, secondary, and elementary.  Why not toss Montessori into the mix?  It couldn’t hurt to learn a new way to teach and beside, my own children attend a Montessori school.  This could be both beneficial to my resume and fun!

That entire last paragraph could be rewritten thus:

But, having temporarily walked away from the insanity of working in “industrial” schools I had accepted my new life delivering blood samples and lab mice for a courier company.  One Sunday night the director of the school where my children are students texted to say: “Look, dude, I’m desperate.  Your daughter’s teacher quit.  I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t the girl’s fault.  Since it’s nearing the end of the year we’re scraping the barrel, pal.  Can you handle a dozen 1st-3rd grader’s?”  Also, she texted right after I had consumed a few gin and tonics so there’s that.

There is a line in Scripture that says “You have put into my heart a greater joy than they have from an abundance of corn and new wine.” (Ps.4)  I don’t know who “they” are but I do believe Our Blessed Lord has infused me with a great love for teaching and for the children (and sometimes adults) I get to teach.  It’s twisted, really.  I don’t know many other people who get excited about working with children and teenagers and yet I can’t help myself.  And you know it must be real when it’s a greater love even than wine or an abundance of corn for that matter.  By the way, the New American Bible translation from 1970 sucks.

And since it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t share some of the scenes of this life with you; here now a brief sketch of this past Friday morning and my interactions with three particular students.

Student X, boy, 7 years-old

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Sure looks like a “Thunderclaw”, doesn’t he?

The morning was off to a smashing start.  One of the families had brought rabbits to school.  As in, they brought actual bunnies.  And the bunnies were to remain at school.  “We’re donating them!” the mom said lovingly.  “It’s a great way for the kids to learn about stuff and it’s very Montessori.”  Perhaps I don’t know enough about this Montessori method.  And “stuff?”  Yes, it’s a fabulous way for them to learn about reproduction.  Come to think of it, my son’s getting to be about that age.  This might be more straightforward then having “the talk” with him.  I’m getting rabbits for the house.  Anyway, one young man rushed me on my way in the door.  “Hey look!  It’s Thunderclaw!” he shouted as he tossed a black dwarf rabbit in my face.  “Ack!” I shouted in return as Thunderclaw almost took a mug full of black coffee to the face.  It’s a good thing I have the patience of a saint – St. Augustine, pre-conversion.

A little while later I found myself sitting at a table that was about two feet off the ground across from Student X.  We had just covered a lesson on honeybees.  X was diligently tracing a hexagon over and over onto a sheet of paper.  He had already composed five sentences about these insects (in cursive) and was now illustrating the hive.  Burning the heck out of a yellow colored pencil he put the pencil down momentarily in order to suck his thumb.  The teacher in me stepped aside and the dad moved in.  “Son, you don’t want to do that,” I said gently yet firmly.  “Um, yeah I do,” came his reply without glancing up.  He was still admiring his honeycomb.  “No, no you don’t.  Do you know what will happen?” I asked.  “Yeah, um, it calms me down.”  I had to fight with everything I had to stop from saying “So will a Xanax” but I managed instead “First, you answered a question I had not asked.  I asked what is likely to happen in the future.  You responded with what is happening now.”  Crickets.  “But I like it,” came X’s reply in the cutest high pitched voice.  “You’ll need braces, son.  It’ll mess your teeth up.”

I thought I had won the argument based on my stellar logic.  Unfortunately I was arguing with a kid.  “I’m already getting braces.  My dad told me so.”  Well, you can’t beat that reasoning, I suppose.  “Plus, um, plus…  Uh… Oh yeah, my orthodontist told me I was a very lucky boy and I would have to get headgear!”  “Sounds like your orthodontist is the lucky one,” I shot back.  I smiled at X and marveled at his certainty and confidence.  He, of course, picked up his pencil in the other hand because apparently he’s ambidextrous and continued his masterpiece.

Student Y, boy, 8 years-old

A short while later I had just stepped out of a tiny bathroom where I had gone to scroll through Instagram and generally catch my breath when Student Y ran up to me.  Where he came from I could not say.  The kid’s a ninja.  He’s about the size of a capuchin monkey and just about as wiry.  And I love this kid.  That’s why I almost didn’t mind when he practically pulled my 200 lb. frame down to the floor by trying to climb up my leg to tell me something.  “HEY!  Can I read to you?”  This is one of the most rewarding aspects of working with little children.  He’s just learned to read in the past year and is still inching toward a milestone they call the “reading explosion” or something like that.  I may have made that term up but the point is he’s teetering on the brink between sounding out some words and racing through a paragraph.  And he’s excited.  And he wants me to be the object of his new-found skill.

We sit on the reading carpet (invented by a Nazi, for no adult ever said “Yay! Let’s get down on the floor for this!”) and he proceeds to a thin, purple-covered book.  It’s a leveled reader.  It is not his level.  His is red.  The purples are for a different stage, like two stages above him.  But, I admire his pluck.  Go for it, kiddo.  The stories in these books all follow a phonetic theme.  Unfortunately that means they sometimes give the characters names that have never been used by real people.  This was the story of a terrier named Sollie.  Y struggles with this.  “Solo was a timid puppy.”  “No, son, not Solo, Sollie,” I correct him.  “Sally was a timid puppy,” he tries again.  “No, son, not Sally, Sollie.”  “Sully was a tim-”  “Oh for God’s sake.  Sully was the Miracle on the Hudson pilot and, you know what?  Yeah, let’s just go with Sully.”

He continues.  I come to learn that Sully was indeed a timid puppy.  His owner Shiela had to carry him around.  He wanted to be brave like his dad.  He liked to eat meat.  Except, Y read that as /mat/.  “Y,” I said gently yet firmly, “in English, when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking.”  Crickets.  “OK,” he said, “/meet/”.  Good.  This happened a few more times.  The theme here was vowel clusters.  Then Y came to this sentence.  “They went to the pier.”  He read this as /pyre/.  “Y,” I said, “that’s /peer/.”  “But did the first vowel not go walking that day?” he asked most sincerely.  “Damn English,” I thought to myself.

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When two vowels go walking, a terrier eats a toddler.

Finally Y reached the climax of the story.  “When Sollie ran down to the beach, a toddler held out her hand with some cookie pieces.  Sollie ate them.”  First, Y read that as “cookie /pi-cees/” and I did not correct him.  Second, I noticed that Y was looking most confused.  “Why would he eat them?  He must be a mean dog.”  “What are you talking about,” I asked.  It turns out Y thought Sully ate the toddler, that rat bastard.  I clarified the story for my young friend.  And then I laughed at the thought of a terrier eating a toddler who would obviously be three times his size.

Student Z, boy, 6 years-old

I have saved the best for last.  Student Z is a young man who has only recently joined our class.  He had previously been in the “younger division”.  He was starting to outgrow that classroom so I agreed (happily) to let him come over to my class.  I’m friends with his parents and he’s such an awesome kid.  When I’m at their house he’s bouncing off the walls, full of energy, typical little boy.  In school, he is studious, reserved, almost shy.  I can tell he is eager to please and to do a good job.  Z is on the cusp of getting the hang of reading.  And hats off to anyone who has ever taught another person to read.  It is NOT easy.  Sidenote: In complete seriousness, the lady who runs this school is truly gifted.  I watched her sit down with a child last week and, in the most loving and gentle way, teach that child, encourage that child, and celebrate that child’s accomplishment.  It is a gift.

Thunderclaw?!  Who named that bunny?  Crazy Horse?

I extricate myself from the reading carpet and head to a ledge that reminds me of a bar only without alcohol.  Z follows in tow holding onto one of the manipulatives we use in Montessori.  It is a wooden tray containing flash cards with three and four letter words.  Other than the wooden tray I’m not sure how this differs from other schools.  Our goal is to pull six cards and sound them out.  Then Z will write those words in his notebook.  “Z,” I say, “Let’s toss in a few four letter words!”  Then I laugh at what that sounded like to my own ears.  He was game.

First word: “puh… ahh… puh.  POP!”  He smiles broadly.  He got it.  “Great job, Z!  And that was super fast!  Let’s do another one.”

Next word: “luh… ahh… tuh.  LOT!”  Another huge smile.  “Yay!  Amazing!  Ready for the next one?”  He nods excitedly.

Third word: “juh… ahh… muh.”  Only this time I must stop him.  “Sorry, Z,” I say holding my hand up.  “Not every A sounds alike.”  He looks puzzled.  “Let’s try it again.”  I hold the card up.  “juh… ahh…”  “Nope,” I say.  “Um,” he asks, “How does this A sound?”  “I’m glad you asked, Z.”

“Juh…aeyh… muh.  Say it with me.”

And in that moment I realized I was teaching him New Jersey English.

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You gotta’ problem wid dat?  I’ll see you on Bloomfield Ave.

When his mom and dad start wondering why he’s suddenly started speaking like Joe Piscopo (or me for that matter) they need only look at my upbringing.  Garden State’s finest spreadin’ the Jerz.

Proud to be spreading my heritage in this sleepy Texas town, I turned from the bar with no booze, put the cards away, and clocked out for the day.

My work here is done.

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.

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A Prayer for Writers

Today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers/authors.  My prayer today is that every word I commit to print may glorify God.  Since I know that many of you, my readers, are also writers I pray the same for you.  And when we encounter others who weaponize their words, may God give us the grace to forgive.

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Amazing head of hair, too.

Keep the Prayers Coming

I really enjoyed our online novena last week.  It was nice to know that I was being prayed for and to pray for others, not just my own intentions.  It was also especially gratifying to spread devotion to St. Rita.

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St. Cajetan (Gaetano) the Theatine, patron of the unemployed and job-seekers.

Things started to move on the job front, if only slightly.  You have to understand that I’ve never been in this position.  I resigned from my job and I am 100% positive this was the right decision.  I know God is asking me to trust Him right now.  I know He will lead me somewhere better.  Tonight I had a meeting with the principal of a phenomenal school.  We spoke openly and honestly and it certainly looks like there might be a job for me there.  Next school year.

So that leaves me with next month…

It will be interesting for sure.  I will probably have to take non-teaching work in the meantime which is not something I was looking for.  So for the sake of humor I will now walk through a few possible scenarios.

 

TSA

Everyone’s favorite government agency is ALWAYS hiring.  Lucky for me I have a MAJOR airport five miles from my house.  The up side?  I love airports.  The down side?  I hate putting my hands on other guys’ legs.  True, I could have some fun with the X-ray machines imagining things that aren’t really there and then calling them in.  Also, I understand that people in these kinds of jobs are generally not altogether there.  With a pinch of ingenuity and a pulse I could be a real standout.  Unfortunately I don’t look good in blue.

RETAIL

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Actual Nordstrom where I worked years ago.  Or not.  They all look alike.

When I was in college I worked in a Nordstrom department store.  My customer service skills are top notch.  It also helped that I worked for the only retail outlet on the planet where they say the customer is always right and then actually mean it.  I remember one time I took a return.  It was a $1000 leather jacket that had not been purchased in a Nordstrom.  We know this because we had never sold that jacket.  Furthermore it was 20 years old, frayed, and had a dead rat in the breast pocket.  Apparently Mr. Nordstrom believed it was better to have a satisfied customer in the store with cash in his hand than to upset the delicate flower.  I remembered those words as the customer was quickly exiting the store with a thousands bucks in hand laughing at the security camera.

FAST FOOD

This could work.  I like to eat fast food.  By that logic, though, I should work in a liquor store.  Let’s come back to this one…

TELEVISION

You know I used to work as a writer and producer in this exciting medium.  If I was any good I’d have been the breakout star of 2005.  Still, there are several large media outlets in my neck of the woods.  Unfortunately not only can I not get the Texas drawl down but I can’t seem to shake my Jersey accent.  I’d be a bigger fish out of water than that large fish a friend of mine caught.  Wow that was a really bad literary device.

PUBLIC SAFETY

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See… I couldn’t get this huge if I tried.

I’d consider the FBI if I weren’t too old.  I’d consider a police force but my back injuries would probably rule me out.  I’d consider the fire department.  Let’s think about this one.  1) Every fireman I know is ridiculously huge – like GI Joe proportions only taller.  Yes Grady, even you.  There isn’t enough protein in the world to make this frame that size.  2) Having lived through a multiple-fatal house fire as a child the psychological trauma of running into a burning building would make it impossible for me to do my job.  3) I can only imagine the first time an alarm rings and I have to shimmy down the pole.  I would think of a TV segment I produced for a news program in New York.  It was about a new workout called “the stripper workout”.  Seriously.  The mental image of our aging anchor dancing around a pole would make me incontinent with laughter and I would fall through the hole in the floor breaking multiple bones.  Thus I would be rendered incapable of fighting fires that day.

So there you have it.  Looks like I’ll have to get creative.  I’m open to suggestions so let’s hear ’em.  Or you could just continue to pray for me.  Otherwise I’m going to get real familiar with Wendy Williams and Kelly Ripa.  That’s a fate worse than death.

Impossible: Day 9

Well friends, we are there!  We have reached the ninth day of our novena.

The prayers, as always, are found here.

I don’t know how this one will end – for me or for you.  Know that I have been praying for your intentions as well as my own and that I am grateful for all of your prayers for me.

I will share that many years ago I prayed this exact novena for a special cause.  On the ninth day in the evening I stood face to face with the woman I would marry.  And yes, I knew at that moment that my prayer had been heard and answered favorably.

St. Rita, advocate of impossible causes, pray for us!

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Impossible: Day 8

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What will it be?

There is a point when driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, well past the mosaic tiled state line divider that always amused me as a boy, where the bright fluorescent lights mounted to the ceiling give way to the grayish light gently streaming into view in the distance.  It is exactly and not proverbially the light at the end of the tunnel.  Even though the tunnel lights are somehow reassuring – bright, constant, warm – in contrast to the uncertainty of the “natural” light ahead, there is a real sense that the light ahead is just that – natural.  Whether it be bright sunshine densely packing a deep blue sky powered by high pressure or faltering light struggling to find the room to breathe in a sky choked cold with winter’s thin and biting air; that light is still natural.  Natural is always preferable to artifice.  As I reflect on the sentences preceding this one I am struck by how forced and formulaic they are.  My apologies.

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St. Rita, pierced with a thorn, pray for us!

The novena we’ve been praying, found here, is drawing to a close.  The thing is that the light at the end of the tunnel is scary.  I’m confident it will be natural but what will it look like?  I have a vision in my mind of what I want it to look like but God painted that sky and it might be nothing like what I’m looking for.  It might even be darkness dotted by even more man-made lights.  And that can be pretty too.  Many times I emerged from the Tunnel at night to be surrounded by high rise buildings lit up like Christmas trees.  There’s a real beauty in that.

The point is that ultimately I’m still going to drive forward.  We shall see what awaits us.  Until the end, though, know that I am praying your light will be as impossibly marvelous as mine will be.