Happy Birthday, Mom, Pick Up the New Car, and the Joke’s On Me

01/25/2015

Mom’s birthday was Friday.  I spent most of the afternoon with Mom and Dad, helping with a bunch of ‘odds and ends’ stuff. Putting away Christmas decorations. Going through a bunch of paperwork. Talking about stuff. About illness. About life.

Things settled down a little later in the afternoon and I was able to get a little work done while Dad sorted through mail (he had only come home from the hospital about 24 hours earlier) and Mom kept boxing up Christmas decorations (it may take her another week to get it all done; no joke) and fielding phone calls from all the birthday well-wishers. She was one popular gal!

Kathy’s work mate, Julie, lives near Mom and Dad. She drove Kathy to the house after work and we sent her home with a piece of Portillo’s chocolate cake. After singing to Mom, of course! After we sang and Mom blew out a candle, Julie surprised us by singing Sto Lat, the Polish version of Happy Birthday.

Martha, our youngest, joined us for dinner. We left around 10.

Saturday, we picked up the new car. I need a separate post about the car buying experience. We used TrueCar.com to get a buying certificate for the car, but that was only the starting point for assuring the lowest price. ‘Twas a very interesting experience. Suffice it to say, Momma’s happy with her nice new wheels. That means everybody’s happy!

Stopped at the grocery store afterward, spent a ton of money and of course forgot a handful of items. Made a bunch of phone calls to notify all interested parties of the new vehicle, then Kathy and I did what we do best.

Took off on one of our famous “just get in the car and drive” junkets. We had no idea where we were headed. Ended up along the Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Milwaukee, meandered into the downtown district, taking in the sights, finding some cool new neighborhoods, just enjoying each other’s company and discovering a bunch of cool things about the new car.

Got home to an empty house. Thought the kids were going to be there, but they made last minute plans. We thought we were making dinner for a crowd. Not the case. Which was fine.

And today… the joke’s on me. Kathy gets the new car. I get a new alternator.

Just… not today. Got my car to the mechanic. He says “don’t drive it anywhere!”

So I managed to limp back to the garage, but he’ll be picking it up to do the work when he can schedule it.

In the meantime, my early appointment tomorrow morning gets cancelled. Kathy gets an unexpected ride to work. And I have to arrange for an alternate set of wheels until the job gets done.

It will be a delicate operation. My 2003 Nissan Altima has 282,000 miles on it. But it still runs well, is still fun to drive, still looks like new (yeah; looks can be deceiving!), and I really don’t want another car payment.

Day began just fine. Martha and I were the Lectors for 7 AM Mass. Then out to Cracker Barrel for breakfast with Martha, Stephen, and Kathy. Had some laughs. Talked some business. Enjoyed being together. Then the inevitable bad news with my car. I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty diagnosis.

These are First World problems. Not life altering. Not life threatening. Just pains in the tail. We have more important issues confronting us. Like keeping Dad at home, getting him stronger, giving Mom a little breathing room.

But it was fun to write about. Thanks for “listening” to my meandering thoughts.

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Would You Die For What You Believe In?

01/16/2015

Would you die for what you believed?

Could you?

I’ve told you before that I listen to at least a portion of the Mass on EWTN almost every day (TV when I can and radio when I’m on the road). Today, I listened on the radio as I drove to my next appointment.

Today is a feast day for the Franciscans, honoring five early followers of Saint Francis who martyred themselves instead of renouncing their faith.  Father Leonard Mary celebrated Mass today. He used his homily to give a brief history of the martyrs and how they were tempted by their captors before being killed. Father Leonard then mentioned something called White Martyrdom. White Martyrdom is not a physical death, he explained, but a dying to oneself.

The comparison was clear. How can we martyr ourselves in our everyday lives?

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Later this morning, sitting in Panera before my next personal training session, I overheard a gentleman telling his companion how Catholics had … oh… let’s call it, “a damaging way” of looking at sin, and how sharing that perspective with others is harmful to the way other people live their lives.

What?!?

I couldn’t get my headphones shoved into my ears fast enough. I needed music. Loud music. I didn’t want to listen to what this man was saying, kind and soft-spoken though he was. Despite his demeanor, his opinion — at least on this matter — didn’t strike me as kind and gentle, but rather reckless and damaging. I wasn’t angry, but I was upset at what I perceived as some egregious misconceptions.

I was trading text messages with my son, Stephen, at the time that I happened to overhear this conversation. I fired off a text message to him, expressing my exasperation over what I heard.

After I sent it, I decided that my words were so clever, I had to post them to Facebook.

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I’m a member of a small, Christian Facebook group whose purpose is to “uplift and encourage (others) through the Gospel of Christ” (that’s a paraphrase of the mission statement). Today, the founder of the group, Mariane, continued and concluded a series of reflections on moving “from darkness to light:”

“I wish that we were all full of light and love and good works always. But no, we’re still sinners, imperfect, we’re still influenced by our flesh, the world and the voice of Satan…

“… there is the aspect of free will. We need to say YES to Jesus and God’s will and say no to the devil and our flesh every day. We need to die in our flesh every day (1 Cor 15:31).”

I read Mariane’s words just after my “clever” text to Stephen. Before I almost posted my “clever” words to my Facebook page.

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I briefly thought about speaking up. But what would I have said? Would my “clever” words to the gentleman have been constructive? Or provocative? Would I have properly seized the moment, as Saint Paul preached, and attempted to “walk into the light?” Or would my response, in that awkward, uncomfortable moment, have demonstrated to the world that I have not — yet again — died to the flesh?

Shoving the earbuds against my skull proved to be the more prudent, if only merely accidental, course of action.

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Father Leonard is right. White Martyrdom is possible. Any day. Every day.

Consider how challenging it is to die to the flesh at any given moment.

Then contemplate the lives — and deaths — of those who make the ultimate Earthly sacrifice.


“A Psalm of Life”

01/19/2013

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act, — act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”


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