Tag Archives: Easter

When Good Friday Eclipses Easter

Regular readers to this page know that I have a condition known as degenerative disc disease.  This is sometimes called disc and joint disease or DJD.  It was precipitated by a genetically inherited “bad back” on my mom’s side of the family (her brothers have both suffered similar fates) and a traumatic injury to my back when I was four years-old.  The whole thing came to a head for the first time when I was 23 years-old and I had my first spinal fusion at the L5-S1 level.  Fun.  Thirteen years later I had another spinal fusion at L4-L5 (the adjacent level).

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This pic is tired, I know.  I’ve used it before but it shows the current state of my spine in case you didn’t know.

I had really hoped that I would be able to avoid another fusion (or at least the symptomatic back pain and debilitating sciatica for at least 5-10 years at the next level.  So far, I think I’m doing well in that regard.  I got more serious about my health than I ever have before.  Hell, I started eating vegetables and lots of them.  I took up running before realizing that it required one to run.  The thing I’m proudest of, however, is that I got serious about getting jacked.  I haven’t had the kind of success I had hope but I’ve done OK.  You see, it’s important for me that I build up ever single muscle in my body in order to safeguard my spine.  It’s not really a vanity thing – not really.  Still who wouldn’t love being almost 40 and looking like one of the Jersey Shore crew on summer vacation?  I won’t lie, that’s a cool prospect considering I looked far from that from the time I was about 15 until recently.  But I stepped it up and looked into things I had never done before, all the while remembering the lessons learned from surgeries and physical therapy.  In other words, I’ve been doing all of this safely.  Currently I’m doing a program called Body Beast designed to bulk up.  I figure the more muscle the better.

About a year ago I was at my standard weight, hovering around 200.  I have a medium sized frame so that’s not impressive.  But when I got serious-serious I dropped down to 173 with Insanity.  I felt great knowing that I could complete something most men (including many athletic men) attempt and give up because it’s hard.  I took heat for it, good natured I believed.  Then I decided it was time to build up.  I’m going back toward 200 but this time hard-core, solid muscle because I need it.  I’m up around 187 after two months and again, I feel great.  I’m enjoying seeing results (even if I’m the only one who sees them).

So why is God screwing with me?

Just when it seems I’m doing something good for myself, for my health, sacrificing time away from sleep or from my wife and kids to get in that workout I need to do I start to notice twinges of pain here and there.

About a year ago I began to experience what I knew was Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS.  It’s not painful just uncomfortable.  Fortunately it only hit me at night so my job and family life wasn’t affected.  I looked it up and it seemed to be a common side-effect of spinal fusions at L4-S1.  Then in the past few months (following around the time of my dad’s death) the symptoms morphed into painful leg cramps that strike in the middle of the night.

Time to see the surgeon.

I went for a visit to a man I trust with my life.  Hey, I’ve never let anyone cut me before nor even put his hands inside my body.  That’s how much I trust this guy.  He’s Mayo Clinic trained.

I love his response after looking at my X-rays.  “I can’t know what’s in the box until I open the box.  But before I cut you let’s run some tests.”

I had a nerve conduction study first.  This showed no nerve damage.  Praised be God.

Then it was time for the Myelogram CT.

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Me after my Myelogram.  See, it’s not that bad.  I’m smiling.

This past Thursday (Holy Thursday) I went to an imaging center and had a dye injected into my spinal column so images could be taken.  The procedure is painful in itself.  The after effects aren’t pleasant either.  I went home and went on bed rest for 48 hours.  My dear sister, an RN, came to town for an Easter visit and was put to work as my caretaker.  This consisted in lying on the couch watching 85 episodes or the 1980’s-90’s crime documentary Unsolved Mysteries while drifting in and out of sleep.

On Good Friday I had an opportunity to unite real physical pain with the crucifixion of Our Lord.  I was truly thankful.

Then came Holy Saturday.  And… unfortunately it still felt like Good Friday.  Throughout the day I tried to make myself believe that the pain was dissipating and I could do things like mow the lawn.  I had been told that by 48 hours I’d be golden.  On Saturday night my wife, kids, and I got dolled up and headed to the Easter vigil – a tradition for us.  Unfortunately I made it into the first of seven readings before the splitting headache got the best of me and we had to leave.  A consult with the surgeon’s office on a Saturday night uncovered that my puncture wound from the Myelogram hadn’t healed and I was leaking spinal fluid into my body, thus causing a spinal headache.  He called in an awesome script and after more rest I felt better.

Here’s the thing.  For the Christian the pain of loss and agony of death on Good Friday makes sense because of the promise of resurrection and joy of a new life and a glorious body on Easter Sunday.  Tomorrow I’m going in to have something called a blood patch performed.  They’ll take blood from my arm and inject it into the puncture wound to clot and stop the leaking of fluid.

I think I can take it that my Easter is coming a bit later?  That’s OK because I know myself and I know I deserve a bit of a longer Good Friday.

I’m writing all of this because I’ve received comments over the years from people who’s been faced with spinal problems and have apparently been helped by reading about someone else’s experience.  I’m also writing to ask prayers.  Pray the procedure goes well.  It’s not a big deal.  But also pray I can get back to my Body Beast.  LOL.  I’ve only got five more weeks until I look like Charles Atlas (in my mind) and I am pumped about that.  Of course, since it’s just me who’ll notice the difference I suppose I can convince myself I look that good now.  Yeah… that’s it!  It’s an Easter miracle!

Happy Easter to all of you reading this!  In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Easter lasts for seven weeks so enjoy every minute of it.  Remember the Lord is risen indeed.  This isn’t a spiritual resurrection.  He conquered death, destroyed that bastard.  He is all-powerful and lives and reigns forever and ever for you and me.

Amen.

Alleluia!

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Jealousy vs. Admiration

First my dear friends, Happy Easter to all of you!

This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Baby Girl models her Easter dress.  She may wear this to the theater tonight.

Baby Girl models her Easter dress. She may wear this to the theater tonight.

I hope all of you had a beautiful day.  For my family, we celebrated with what has become a custom here.  Now, our family is relatively young.  By that I mean the four of us — my wife, kids, and me.  No, we’ve started to develop our own “family” traditions over the past almost-seven years of our marriage.  These include struggling our way through Holy Week, trying to find confessions for Mommy and Daddy to get to that don’t involve three hour lines; planning to dye eggs; breaking the garbage disposal when Baby Girl “shells” five dozen eggs and shoves the shells down the wrong drain.  All kidding aside, we have one tradition that is no different than any other family’s Easter morning tradition.  We checked out our baskets!  They were filled with all good things.  My wife, the most thoughtful human alive (many of my readers who know her will verify this though she would be embarrassed at me writing it) had planned everything out perfectly.  It’s taken Daddy several years and my gift-giving skills are somewhat lacking.  I always have the best of intentions but never seem to know exactly what to get the person in question.  But my wife has rubbed off on me.  Even in my state of recovery where I am not at 100% of my full strength I was able to join in and assist in the filling of those baskets.  We do things a bit differently.  Sure we do the whole candy thing.  Mrs. H. knows me so well.  No jelly beans for Harvey.  Not a huge fan.  Chocolate (the darker the better) for me!  For her, I have this little tradition of my own.  I remember on one of our first dates we stood on line at a checkout in a supermarket and she spotted a Chunky bar.  She mentioned how it was her favorite candy bar.  Well, anytime since then that there’s a gift involving candy, guess what Harvey’s go-to candy for his wife is?

The kittens (and me in the reflection) on Easter morning just after mass.

The kittens (and me in the reflection) on Easter morning just after mass.

But we like to fill the baskets with small gifts.  I checked with my wife the other day while her mom and I were out shopping.  I wanted to know, in all honesty because I HATE gift-giving inequality, what our limit was.  Having found out it wasn’t a huge limit I stopped in at a religious articles store downtown and picked out a new biography of Pope John Paul the Great.  It looked interesting and I know she lies biographies.  Plus, he’s being canonized next week so it might be good spiritual reading.  I hope she likes it.  For Baby Girl I picked out a small chocolate bunny that came with faux fur rabbit ears.  She wore them all day!  For Sonny Boy Mommy had purchased one of those styrofoam airplane gliders.  He had fun with it all day.  Daddy’s basket contained an enormous bag of my favorite coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts) and a few other goodies.  I should note that at this point it seemed that we had stuck to the limit and played it evenly.  I was very happy with that.  Oh I would lavish my wife with the best of everything if I wasn’t a Catholic school teacher and she didn’t love giving more than receiving, thus making it hard to be in a gift exchange with her.  Jewelry, flowers, you name it.  If I had the money, she’d be one lucky woman.  I LOVE to give gifts.

Marybeth and me at the white elephant.  She's an awesome gal and VERY Texan.

Marybeth and me at the white elephant. She’s an awesome gal and VERY Texan.

Oddly, when we went to dig in to our candy, my wife pointed out that there was one more present in Daddy’s basket.  It was a giant cardboard egg, decorated very fancifully.  I rolled my eyes a bit, smiled at my wife, and said “What is this?” I opened it as she was saying: “Don’t worry, Daddy, it’s really for Baby Girl but you’ll see why you’re opening it.”  So I opened it and discovered two tickets.  There’s a road production of Beauty and the Beast playing in Dallas this week.  Looks like Daddy’s got a date with the cutest little girl in town!  When I talk about how thoughtful my wife is I need to point out that she knows well my love of musical theater.  I was seven when my big sister Nurse M. (trying to avoid real names but she is an RN) took her baby brother to see his first Broadway show.  I was captivated.  Some people like the movies, others read books for fun.  Growing up a stone’s throw from Mid-town Manhattan, I took to the theater as often as I could growing up.  There’s just something magical about sitting in a dark theater with live actors on a stage.  You feel so intimate with them.  You know that each performance is new and fresh.  And of course, as a lover of live music and a musician myself, I have great appreciation for the sound.  There’s nothing like that sound wafting from the pit.  I could go on…  No, this Tuesday, thanks to Mommy, Daddy and Baby Girl are going to experience what I hope will become a most memorable moment in her life.

The rest of the day revolved around the tradition I mentioned earlier.  This tradition is one for the larger family, at least the larger family down here.  My family in New Jersey has a lot of tradition and maybe one day we’ll be able to participate in some of those.  But we are blessed to be where we are and being surrounded by such wonderful people as Wilma and Mary (Wilma’s sister-in-law) and Mary’s husband Sam, Lisa, Pat, Kris, and the rest I have always felt at home here as well.  So Easter here, we have dinner at my wife’s brother and sister-in-law’s house.  We had a riotous laugh.  My wife’s sister always organizes a “white elephant” sort of gag-gift  game.  All of the adults have to go out to the front lawn and find as many plastic eggs as we can.  Some of the eggs have a dollar bill in them.  Some have coupons.  But most have slips of paper with a number.  That’s when the real fun begins.

Ed. note: I began writing this on Easter Sunday night.  I stepped away for a bit, fell asleep, and am finally getting back to it two days later.

OK, so those eggs?  Long story short, Kris called out a number (in sequence) and the person with that number got to choose a new prize or take from someone else.  The thing is the prizes were all from the dollar store (or from Kris’ recent trip to New York).  Guess who wound up with an NYC subway map (like I don’t know that system like the back of my hand), a wooden back-scratcher, and a package of mouse traps.  Lucky, lucky me.  But we all had a good time.  My wife’s aunts Marybeth and Santa Mae were sitting next to me on the couch and we could not stop laughing at each other and the awful things we kept ending up with.  Santa traded me some coupons to Arby’s that she “won”.  In the end it was all just good fun.  Thanks, Kris!

Danny may have a new phone but I've got a dad who posed for this picture.

Danny may have a new phone but I’ve got a dad who posed for this picture.

So what’s up with jealousy and admiration.  I’ve mentioned lately my friendship with a man named Dan.  Over the past three weeks, through our voracious emails to each other — which, though they could fill a book that would instantly become a bestseller will remain completely private — we have recognized (and some people including my blogging sister Bridget will shake her head and say “That’s gay) that we are not merely friends.  We are brothers.  We first met in a very strange place called a college seminary.  I’ve mentioned that we lost touch for a while but got back together.  I wanted to say first that I wholeheartedly admire this man.  He’s told me it’s mutual.  I won’t go into details but he’s a great husband and father, a magnificent provider, and had he become a priest he would have made an excellent confessor.

And he just got a new phone.  And I hate him for it.  HAHAHA!

All kidding aside, being the wannabe technophile that I am I am the only loser on the block still using a 4S.  Those of you who do not use smart phones or still have a pain old 4 should not comment on this post (again, kidding).  No, he’s using a new Galaxy S5.  Oooh…  What really “hurts” is that I just found out that my septuagenarian mother recently upgraded her iPhone to the 5S!  Seriously?  What the hell?  Loser Harvey, left behind again…

No, in all seriousness, my wife has helped me to see over the years the true value of not wasting money.  I don’t need a new phone.  This one works just fine, albeit a bit slow since the new operating system came along.  In all truth it would be an absolute waste of money to drop (even with my upgrade discount) $200 on a new iPhone; especially when I’m not even sure if I want the new iPhone or what Dan has.  And no, it wouldn’t be just because he has it but because I’ve been hearing great things about it.  There are people in my life who seem to run out and buy the newest tech-y thing the second it comes out.  I would be one of them if I had the cash.  Ha.  Reality check, though…  I don’t think Dan is one of those types.  I do however remember visiting him a long time ago.  Let’s go all the way back to… 2001!  Ancient!  I remember him playing with his then-new phone.  He was all excited.  It was something like a Palm Pilot or a Treo or something now considered beyond obsolete.  It wasn’t quite the brick phone of the 1980’s but it was a close rival.  I’ll never forget him looking through the instructions and saying to his wife “Oh my God, honey, I can use this as a remote for the TV!”  She rolled her eyes and he took thirty minutes trying to find the right code to enter.

Here’s the kicker.  When he texted the other night to tell me about the new phone he remarked: “This thing is so cool!  I can control the TV with it!”

Some things never change.  Love you, buddy.

PS: Please keep praying for me.  My

intentions are my continued recovery and a bunch of special intentions.  Thanks!

Holy Saturday and Prayer, Prayer, Prayer

My friends, please pray for me.  Please pray very hard.  The recovery is going better every day.  I have been blessed with so many wonderful people surrounding me.  In particular I have been blessed in the form of a friend with whom I have recently become even closer (thanks to pages and pages of email correspondence).  He is a remarkable man and I have promised my prayers for him as well so please join me in praying not only in thanksgiving but also for his intentions.

Today is Holy Saturday.  This is a day of waiting.  This is a day of reflection.  It’s always reminded me of the day after a funeral.  We just buried someone and now it’s time to try to begin the process of picking up the pieces and getting back to some semblance of normal.  If you’ve ever lost someone close to you than you know what that day is like.  If not, chances are that you will experience it in your lifetime.  There’s no rush to get there.  It’s not a contest to see who can grieve more.  I was talking with Wilma during the week and we both said the exact same thing.  I mentioned why I love Holy Week and the Easter Triduum in particular…  “To me,” I said as she joined in, “It feels as if you’ve just lost your best friend!”  Yesterday we commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Tomorrow we will celebrate His resurrection.  This day in between has to exist because without it, things would move so quickly we wouldn’t have time to process His death.  No, today is the day we simply wait.  We wait and in that time of waiting, we could do no better than to keep watch and pray.  Remember, He promised us He would rise again?  It would have seemed like a magic trick if He had simple died and then jumped off the cross!  He had to be in the tomb those three days (as Jonah had to be in the belly of the whale).  It shows us that His death was real.  And as we know, there can be no resurrection without death.

So pray today.  Pray very hard today.  If you’re stumped, pray the Psalms and then read through the Passion in the Gospels.  Then, stop and remember that we have a God who loves us so much that “He sent His only begotten Son so that all who believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  (Jn. 3:16).

God bless you and don’t forget to pray for me.  Very special intention…

Focus on Prayer – Plea for Prayers

Recovery is still going strong.

I’m feeling better by the day.

It might be in Italian or Spanish, but I bet he'd pray for me...

It might be in Italian or Spanish, but I bet he’d pray for me…

So what I need right now is a whole mess of prayers.  You see, I’ve been working on an online Master’s Degree in School Administration for the past two years.  I’m in my final quarter.  This is my second Master’s, by the way.  The first one was taken the old fashioned way — in a classroom with a notepad, pen, and exams.  Also, back then we had semesters.  The program I’m in now uses a quarter system.   Every ten weeks I’ve been taking two classes and earning six credits.  Well now I’m in my final quarter, taking three classes.  I’m at the end of week 2 and I’m finding myself more confused about the lessons than I’ve ever been.  Truth be told, I have a perfect 4.0 average.  By the grace of God, I should add, I have a perfect 4.0 average.  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE pray that the remaining weeks prove stressless and the work proceeds quickly and that I keep that average.  I greatly appreciate it and even more so if you would spread the word and get others to pray as well.  I know it seems trivial.  But to me, this is so important.

Speaking of prayer, I managed to work in an extra fifteen minutes of prayer tonight!  Now that seems trivial.  But I was realizing tonight that I’ve been blessed with tons of free time thanks to my surgical recovery.  This is time that I should have been using to draw nearer to Our Blessed Lord during this holy season of Lent.   This is time that I have NOT been using wisely.  True, I’ve been recovering thanks to the extra prayers of everyone else.  But I’ve squandered a good portion of this time.  Lately, especially, I’ve felt the need to ask the intercession of my patron St. Rita and another favorite of mine, St. Joseph.

So tonight, after mass, I slipped into the Eucharistic chapel at the parish and prayed my St. Rita novena.  I prayed for so many things.  I prayed for the intention I asked all of you to pray for above.  I prayed for my wife and children, for peace in the homes of my loved ones, for my friend Dan and his family .  He requested some prayers but I would have done it anyway because he’s a good guy.

I’ve been thinking of the fact that it’s Holy Week.  I’ll try to write more about this later in the work.  As a lifelong Catholic, I am intimately familiar with the liturgies of Holy Week.  Especially during the Triduum — the three day, ongoing liturgy from Holy Thursday to the Solemn Easter Vigil on Saturday night.  It draws me in.  I always truly feel like I am present at the death of a friend who has given up His life for me.  Perhaps it’s because I am.  The raw emotion of entering a church on Good Friday to a bare altar and an open, empty tabernacle is something words cannot describe.  Stick with me, friends.  I promise I’ll try to capture it for you later in the week.

For now, though, please pray for me; not only for the schoolwork but for several very special intentions.  Dan knows what I’m talking about but to everyone else, they shall remain “special intentions”.  I love you all.

Happy Easter!

This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! – Ps. 118:24

Happy Easter to one and all! Christ is risen! Alleluia! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

The “rabbit of Easter”, as David Sedaris famously quipped, visited our home last night and left a bounty for the little (and not so little) ones among us. I hope your day was a wonderful as ours was.

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Keeping Watch with the Vigil that Wasn’t

Ever since I can remember, I have celebrated the joy of Easter in my Catholic tradition by participating in the Easter Vigil.  Tonight was one of the rare exceptions where that did not happen.  Let me explain in bullet points.

  • My wife and I planned to take our kids to the Vigil.
  • The Vigil is usually upwards of 2 hours and does not begin until after 8PM.
  • My wife came down with a sinus infection and was unable to go.
  • I decided to go since she insisted she was fine.
  • I made that decision literally at the last possible moment.
  • I arrived at the church at precisely 8:30 (start time).
  • I could not find parking.
  • I attempted to park on the “grass” where I saw everyone else parking.
  • I immediately realized that the grass was actually mud.
  • I (and four other cars) spent the next ten minutes spinning our wheels.
  • I miraculously got “un-stuck” and took off.
  • I found a space two blocks away and walked over to the church to discover that it was a Spanish Vigil.
  • I know very little Spanish.
  • I headed home.

Christ is risen!  Alleluia!

Outtakes from the Trip

Since I know I’m not getting FP’d* anytime soon I thought I’d go a bit more personal and share some unused shots from my recent trip.

* Freshly Pressed — apparently an honor bestowed by the gods of WordPress that for some reason, despite producing printed gold, eludes me.  I’d give my right arm to be FP’d since it drives up traffic and that’s what we’re all here for.  That and the free coffee.