Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good Times - Holiday Edition

This Christmas turned out to be a lot of fun, despite the seasonal stress that led up to it, due to working in retail HELL. I still didn't get into the Christmas mood like I usually do, but managed to enjoy the holiday none the less.

Christmas Eve started out with a short morning shift at work (8am-noon). I actually enjoy working Christmas Eve. That is when the company has its annual "pig out" where all the associates bring food and cookies, and gather in the break room for a small party. There was a lot of hugging and laughs among the associates, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and congratulating ourselves for surviving yet another holiday season.

Much to my surprise, one of my dear friends and co-workers gifted me with several presents. One was a chili set, with all the spices and beans to make a pot of chili (which I LOVE this time of year), as well as one "special" gift. It was a set of playing cards with R-rated (not X-rated) men on them! I laughed SO hard when I opened them!! I was showing them off the rest of my shift, and asking people to play me in a game of "five card STUD".

After, I went to Jason's to see his first Christmas tree in his new home (and I'm kicking myself for not taking my camera with me). He put up a BEAUTIFUL tree this year, and I'm amazed at all the work he has put into his home. It gets better looking each time I visit. We had a nice chat over tea before our friend Nick joined us for some holiday cheer. We went out to an early dinner at a local BBQ restaurant/bar in the city, and had a wonderful time.. just the three of us.

Because of dinner with Nick and Jason, I was about an hour and a half late to Dad's side for dinner (which was fine with me). I got there just as they were serving dinner!! I passed on the food, since I was still full, but sat down with everyone to gab. I enjoyed watching the kids open their presents, and shoot the shit with my cousin Jennifer... my favorite cousin on Dad's side.. she's awesome!!

I went to Christmas day Mass, which was beautiful as always. It's so nice to start off my holiday with such on such an uplifting note. Another co-worker, who attends this Mass, surprised me with yet another gift.. this time, chocolate (as half naked men would not be as appropriate at Church!). It was a very nice gesture, and a pleasant surprise.. though my thighs will not be a grateful.

Joey and Katie, along with Uncle Vinny stopped over that morning to open presents with us. Santa was very generous to all of us, especially to me... Uncle Vinny surprised me with not one, but TWO of the heavy brass pillar candle holders I have been wanting from Design Tuscano, but could never afford for myself. I was so thrilled to get the two of them that I ran down to my sitting room to take them out of the boxes and put them out on display. In the mean time, Dad was busy playing with the new digital camera I bought him.. Kodak of course! (We have stock in the company.. lol)

Aunt Karen joined us for the evening, as Uncle Vinny and Uncle Tony brought her over from hospice to be with us. We didn't know what to expect with her being here in her deteriorated condition, but she did very well, all things considering. She cried every time she saw someone, or when she opened her presents (she gets very emotional now). She slept through much of dinner, but was wide awake for dessert, and had her fair share of cookies and chocolate fudge. We were so happy to see her eating, and told her to "live it up!". By the end of the night, we were able to hear and understand her very easily, which was a remarkable improvement from earlier in the evening when we could not hear her, even with an ear right up to her face. She did suffer from some delusions, but managed to snap back to reality quickly enough... unlike the rest of us who seem to be in a world of our own most times.

I'm very thankful for having spent my Christmas with my family and close friends, and loved having them all with me. They helped me to remember the real meaning of Christmas and forget about the nastiness of the world.. if only for a short while.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In Memoriam



Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek passed away today at the age of 76. She passed away from complications of leukemia at her home in Bel Air. She is best known for her roles on Star Trek as Nurse Chapel on the Original Series, the voice of the computer (on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager), as well as Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI a Nazi??

I was at a bar tonight, of all places, and as usual, someone brought up religion. The usual "Benedict Bashing" began, and being me, I had to speak up. I get so frustrated when people are so passionate about rumors they know so little about, or who don't know the WHOLE story behind headlines such as "Pope a Nazi".

Because of tonight's experience, I felt it pertinent to past an excerpt from the New York Times regarding this subject. It does a much better job than I could to express the truth of the matter, and has the sources to prove it.

April 23, 2005

New Pope Defied Nazis As Teen During WWII

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 2:03 p.m. ET

TRAUNSTEIN, Germany (AP) -- Blinds drawn, windows closed, Joseph Ratzinger huddled with his father and older brother around a radio and listened to Allied radio broadcasts, volume on low.

It was a small and risky act of defiance in this conservative Bavarian village deep inside Adolf Hitler's Germany. But the father wanted his sons to know the truth about the Nazis and World War II, says Georg Ratzinger, who like his brother drew strength from the Catholic Church.

''It was strictly forbidden. Anyone who was caught would be sent to the concentration camps, so we did it secretively,'' Georg Ratzinger told The Associated Press. ''The German news was not true and he wanted to hear from the foreign services what was really happening.''

The clandestine sessions were just one of the passive acts of resistance, evasions and escapes by the future Pope Benedict XVI, whose choices then -- enrolling in the Hitler Youth as required and the Army when drafted as he approached age 18 -- allowed him to survive.

People who knew the Ratzingers said they were never willingly part of the Nazi machine.

Frieda Jochner, 79, who grew up in their old neighborhood and speaks with a thick, warm Bavarian accent, remembered the ''Ratzinger boys'' as pious and serious -- Georg as the ''Bavarian one'' -- a friendly joker -- and the studious Joseph as the more shy of the two.

She said Joseph Ratzinger was so involved in his studies at the Catholic seminary that even if he had wanted to be active in the Hitler Youth, he never would have had the time.

''He was very industrious,'' she said, taking a break decorating the Ratzingers' childhood home with wreaths, pine boughs and ribbons.

Renate Augerer, 75, remembered the brothers from the town's school, where they were both known as being serious, scholarly, pious and kind -- two Catholic priests in the making.

''He was very certainly not for Hitler,'' Augerer said of Joseph Ratzinger. ''Absolutely not. They couldn't do anything about it. ... You can't forget the times.''

Max Fiedler, 77, said he also was compelled to join the Hitler Youth when the Nazis took over the Catholic youth group he was in and merged it into their organization.

''It was automatic,'' said Fiedler, who had joined Augerer at a reception in the small Traunstein town hall following a Mass in Ratzinger's honor last week.

Some 80 to 90 percent of Germans joined the Hitler Youth and refusing to sign up could mean being sent to a youth ''reeducation camp,'' akin to a concentration camp, said Volker Dahm, director of Nazi-era research for Munich's Institute for Contemporary History.

''You could try to avoid it but it was very, very difficult,'' Dahm said. ''It was a bit easier to avoid it if you lived in a big city where you could hide yourself in the crowd, but in the countryside it was nearly impossible because everyone knew you.''

Pope John Paul II had covertly resisted the Nazis in occupied Poland, helping form an underground theater and enrolling in a clandestine seminary run by the archbishop of Krakow.

In Germany, opportunities for outright defiance were limited -- and dangerous. Those who did resist met horrible fates, such as two famous student leaders in Munich, Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were caught distributing anti-Nazi leaflets in 1942 and executed by guillotine.

Pope Benedict, 78, has not tried to hide his enrollment in the Hitler Youth at age 14, addressing his brief membership in his autobiography, ''Salt of the Earth.''

''We weren't in it to start with, but with the beginning of the obligatory Hitler Youth in 1941 my brother was enrolled as was required,'' he recalled. ''I was too young but later was enrolled into it from the seminary.''

Benedict implies it was the school that did the enrolling, but he doesn't make it clear.

He said he tried to avoid Hitler Youth meetings, creating a dilemma. He needed proof of attendance to get a tuition discount, which his father -- a retired policeman -- badly needed. So he finessed it, according to his book.

''Thank God, there was a math teacher who understood. He was himself a Nazi party member, but an honest man who told me, 'Just go so we have it,''' he recalled. ''But when he saw that I simply didn't want to, he said: 'I understand, I'll take care of it.' And so I was free of it.''

With so little active resistance to the Nazis, small gestures of defiance were telling, said Johannes Tuchel, director of the German Resistance Memorial in Berlin.

''The color of resistance is not black and white, it's a scale of gray,'' Tuchel said. ''It was not a single decision, not a single choice -- you don't just say one day 'I resist.'

''Every day you had to decide if you were going to go with the Nazi system or step aside. To resist is a long-term decision,'' he added.

The Ratzingers moved to Traunstein in 1937. The father was anti-Nazi and had to move from the town of Tittmoning to Auschau in 1932 after clashing with local Nazi party supporters.

In Traunstein, resistance came largely from communists, though there were never many in the town of about 12,000 and most were arrested and shipped to the Dachau concentration camp in the early 1930s. Though most were later released, they lived in fear of being returned to the camps, according to Traunstein historian Friedbert Muehldorfer.

Being sent to a concentration camp for not joining the Hitler Youth would have been an ''extreme'' punishment, but ''it was very difficult for youth who didn't join, and they could be ostracized,'' Muehldorfer said. ''It doesn't mean they were enthusiastic about the Nazis.''

The Nazis enjoyed general support in Traunstein, though it was tempered by the conservative Roman Catholicism typical of Bavaria. People were disgruntled with the Nazis' anti-church attitudes and practices such as removing crosses from school classrooms, Muehldorfer said.

The town had only a few Jewish families, largely driven out before the war began in 1939.

In 1943, at age 16, Joseph Ratzinger was called up along with his entire seminary class to work as a helper for anti-aircraft batteries, which defended a BMW plant and later an aircraft factory at Oberpfaffenhofen, where the first German jet fighters were produced.

In 1944, he was forced into the country's compulsory civil service and sent to dig anti-tank ditches on the Austrian-Hungarian border.

He recounts his work group being awakened in the middle of the night and pressured to join the Waffen SS, the combat units of the Nazi Party's elite guard. ''An SS officer had each one come forward and tried, by parading each one in front of the group, to force 'volunteer' enlistments,'' he wrote in another autobiographical book, ''Memoirs 1927-1977.''

Some signed up in ''this criminal group. I had the luck to be able to say that I had the intent to become a Catholic priest. We were sent away with scorn and insults.''

He was drafted into the Army in December 1944 and stationed near Traunstein. With the German army collapsing and the end of the war just days away, he deserted in April or May of 1945 -- he said he can't remember the exact date. He knew he could be killed by SS fanatics, who continued to shoot or hang soldiers found out of uniform up until the end of the war.

Sneaking home by a roundabout way, he was stopped by two soldiers as he emerged from under a train overpass. ''For a moment, the situation was extremely critical for me,'' he remembered. But the soldiers ''were ones who, thank God, had had enough of war'' and let him go, treating him as wounded because he had his arm in a sling.

Tuchel, the director of the German Resistance Memorial in Berlin, said that even in wartime Germany young men like Ratzinger could find quiet ways to defy authority.

''There is always a choice. You have to go into the Hitler Youth, but then it is your decision if you are going to be an active member,'' Tuchel said. ''You have to go into the labor service, but it's your decision if you're very active. ... You had no choice to go into the army, but it is your decision how long you stay.''

Because Benedict acknowledged his past and because of the circumstances of his involvement, most people, including Jewish groups in Germany and Israel, have been understanding.

''He was a very young person when this happened, it was hardly a matter of choice, and what counts is what he's done in the last 30 years in Jewish-Catholic dialogue,'' said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee's Berlin office.

At the right time, she suggested, the pope may share more of his past.

''We do have someone who has memories of the time, who certainly participated ... on the side of people who were perpetrating mass crimes. So I think the appropriate thing is that at the appropriate moment he is reflective about this personal biography -- it will mean a lot in the Jewish world.''

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem doesn't see a need for further investigation of Ratzinger's Hitler Youth membership, said spokeswoman Estee Yaari.

Ephraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, said there two ways of dealing with the issue.

''One way is delving into the subject and emphasizing it. The other is by doing positive things to improve Jewish-Christian relations and German-Jewish relations without necessarily emphasizing his own personal experiences or his past,'' Zuroff said. ''My impression is that he's chosen the latter path.''

^------

David Rising reported from Munich and Matt Surman reported from Traunstein.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Company Christmas Party

With all the work I have been doing, working on essays for the end of the semester, as well as the usual seasonal depression, the company Christmas party was a much needed distraction. I had such a great time with all my friends and co-workers. It was great to be able to get dressed up and have a nice meal together.. as well as the types of laughs only we could have when together as a group!!!




Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Shopping Guidelines

It amazes me how many people get overwhelmed during the holidays.. especially in the stores and malls. If you are smart about it, you can avoid a lot of frustration, and possibly getting smacked by a store clerk that you might tick off.

Holiday Shopping Guidelines:

1. Stuff sells out. Is is not the the fault of the guy behind the counter. Accept it and try another store.

2. Saturdays are not the best time to go shopping.

3. You're not the only one shopping for the holidays. The stores will be crowded. Expect it.

4. Don't call stores and ask if they have something in stock. Shop for yourself! Chances are, the store employee is too busy to check anyway, and will simply tell you it's out of stock.

5. They don't have any more in the backroom. Stop asking!

6. Lines will be long. Throwing a temper tantrum will not speed it up.

7. Stores have rules. If there is a limitation to a sale or purchase, deal with it and move on. Causing a scene only makes you look stupid.

8. Order your greeting cards ahead of time!

9. "What do you recommend?" is a foolish question to ask. Know what you want before you enter the store. Do your own research, and then you will know exactly what you are buying.

10. Save your receipts!! Many stores will no longer give refunds without a receipt due to fraud. Save the slip and you won't have a problem.

11. The day after a major holiday is retail Hell. Expect massive crowds, massive lines, and things to sell out quickly. Shop at your own risk.

12. Christmas falls on the same date each year. Don't wait until the last minute to go shopping, and then act surprised when EVERYTHING is sold out.

13. Be kind whenever possible to the sales people. You are not their first customer of the day, and probably will not be their last. Contrary to the old saying... you are NOT always right.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Holidays Have Begun!


I have not posted anything this week due to illness. As much as I enjoy the colder weather, it takes my body a while to adjust to the change. I had a bout of bad coughing and bad headaches.. not a fun combo to have.

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun. As has been our new tradition since Grandma passed away, we get together with my sister in law's family for dinner. We are very fortunate that both sides are so close, not only in terms of friendship, but also in distance.... they live three quarters of a mile from us. Katie's Mom, Brenda, loves to entertain and cook. She is North Tonawanda's very own Martha Stewart! As seen from the picture, her dinner table is quite impressive (I apologize for the poor quality, it is a cell phone pic).

She made homemade mushroom soup, ham, turkey, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, sweet potatoes, a relish dish, stuffing, gravy, corn and a vegetable casserole! For dessert, she made pecan pie, google-berry pie (made of various types of berries), pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, and jell-o.... there's always room for Jell-o! Everything was AMAZING!!! I believe we ate better than they did at the White House!!

After dinner we all watched comedian Jeff Dunham's latest Christmas DVD before sitting down to a game of "Apples to Apples" and then "Outburst". We played teams, men versus the women. The men won... thanks largely to my help and extensive knowledge of useless trivia (and the few history questions asked).

We shared some laughs and stories over coffee, tea, WINE, and great food. I look forward to this gathering every thanksgiving... which eclipses the impending gloom and doom of the Black Friday which is to follow. After a fun filled evening, I decided to enjoy the cold night air and make the three quarter mile walk home... which I'm guessing burned off the shrimp I had as an appetizer. :-P

I hope everyone out there in cyber-land enjoyed their Holiday just as much!! My sincere thanks to reading, and I look forward to many more posts to come!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What a weekend.

We had been cleaning all week in preparation for out of town guests who were to arrive this past Saturday to celebrate my Aunt Karen's birthday. The plan was to have the 25 out of towners come to our house for lunch, and then go to the hospice center for pizza and cake.

Saturday morning, at around 3:30am, my mother was taken to the hospital with chest pains, and trouble breathing. We thought she was having a heart attack (not even two weeks after my father had his). Come to find out, it was not a heart attack, thank God.. but as of yet, we are still unsure what it was. The doctors think it might be a liver problem since her liver enzymes were rather high. She still has to go for more tests. They did however keep her for 24 hours.. she missed the company, and that left yours truly in charge!

I had to get out to the air port and pick up Uncle Vinny, and then go nuts cleaning, organizing, and preparing food for the guests to arrive. It was almost comical at times. We kept calling people we knew in the area to seek help, but no one was home. We couldn't even figure out how to make a pot of coffee (we are both tea drinkers). I knew I had to pour water in, I didn't know the water was already in the machine and had to boil first. Needless to say the first pot was ice cold.

I muddled through, and we all ended up having a good time. I felt so bad my mom had to miss it. Some of these relatives never make it out to Buffalo, and never will again, and she had to miss the whole thing. She almost missed Katie's baby shower on Sunday, but showed up unexpectedly just before the presents were opened to a round of applause.

It was a very LONG weekend, and I'm still feeling the fatigue from it all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Christianity VS Homosexuality??

It would not be much of a stretch to suggest that Homosexuality and aspects of Christianity are at odds with one another. The extent to which they conflict depends largely upon the denomination you are speaking of, and the interpretation that denomination (or individual for that matter) has of Scripture.

I have a number of Catholic blogs that I enjoy reading from various people around the world, written by both clerics and laity. Today, I found an interesting post by Father Longenecker over at Standing on My Head. Father is actually a convert to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism, and I enjoy reading his blog and seeing what he is doing in his own parish and community. Today's post was titled, "Women's Ordination and Homosexuality", which immediately caught my attention. In the post, Father included a link to an article he wrote on this subject previously, showing how ordinations of women and gay rights seemed to be linked within the Church.

I have long since ceased to think that it is my mission in life to make all people comfortable with homosexuality and the idea of loving committed gay couples. I can't even get all gay people I know to go along with this idea. I do however have feelings, and as a gay person who's Catholic faith means a great deal to himself, articles like this stir up many emotions.

Father Longenecker makes a number of points, some I agree with, others I do not. First, Father mentions an article which he quotes Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal bishop, who's consecration has caused much uproar within the Anglican Communion. In this article, Bishop Robinson is said to have had "secret" seminars with gay Catholic clergy in which he "encouraged their open dissent from the teaching of the Church and their overt disobedience to their vowed celibacy". The article concludes with Bishop Robinson's comment that "It's too dangerous for you to come out as gay to your superiors, but I believe that if you work for the ordination of women in your church, you will go a long way toward opening the door for the acceptance of gay priests."

These sentiments of Bishop Robinson bothered me. I do admire the man and the struggles he has gone through, but I cannot admire his tactic here. While it is wonderful for him to reach out to his Catholic counterparts, I disagree with his urging Catholic Clergy to be outright disobedient, and break the vow of celibacy that each priest took before God and his Church. Would the Bishop advise a gay man who entered into a heterosexual marriage that it is o.k. for him to have sex with men while still remaining married to his wife, and keep the whole thing quiet?

Similarly, I disagree with Bishop Robinson's notion that priests should push the agenda of female ordinations, in the hope that acceptance of homosexuality will soon follow. Here lies my deepest issue with people who bring political agenda into the Church (women's ordination is often more political that social). To allow women to be ordained within the Church would destroy the liturgical tradition and identity of the Church which has already suffered so greatly within the past forty years. While social teachings within the Church may change over time to reflect new ideas and understandings of the world around us, the liturgical practices and customs of the Church do not need to be stylized to suit the environment and times in which they are practiced. The Divine Liturgy of the Church is itself a living tradition and connection with our past brothers and sisters in faith throughout the centuries. It is designed to remind us of where we come from, and where we are going as a people of God. The Liturgy is supposed to lift our minds and hearts to Heaven, not water down its worship to a pop culture phenomena.

As Bishop Robinson and Father Longenecker would suggest, women's ordination and homosexuality are connected. I would argue this is not the case. These are two separate issues, which need to be dealt with accordingly. I personally am pro-gay marriage, but anti-women's ordinations. Gay marriage is a matter of accepting the human person in the state he or she is born in as a child of God. Women's ordination is a matter of liturgical, historical, hierarchical and traditional identity. I do not feel we have to completely alter the liturgy or make up of the Church in order to accept homosexuals as children of God.

Father Longenecker would seem to make the argument that interpretation of Scripture and Catholic tradition cannot, or should not be altered to change its view on homosexuality. Inspired by the author John McNeil in his book "The Church and the Homosexual", I think the Church needs to take a long hard look at where the ideas and teachings towards homosexuality come from, and why they evolved the way that they did. Much has changed in the fields of science, sociology and especially psychology since the time the Bible was written. In light of these changes, new understanding of the workings of the world around us, and even our own psyche, it would be helpful for the Church to re-evaluate its stance on homosexuality. After all, who among us would want to be treated by a doctor when we were seriously ill who knew only as much about medicine as people did in the first century? The Church was gradually able to accept the idea that the world was not the center of the universe and that the body was not divided up into humors which regulated our health. Perhaps one day, it too will realize that gay men and women are born gay, and as such as entitled to full acceptance as children of God, and their love just as valid as any other. (See also John Boswell's Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe)

I have always agreed that what the world comes to understand in years, the Church comes to understand in decades, and rightly so. The Church, like any religion, has the task of guiding its followers to a closer union with God, and to advise them in the best way possible. To change their stances regarding major topics on a whim would be devastating to the faithful. Change can be good, but drastic change can be frightening. I have often told people that if I were Pope, I would not come right out with an encyclical granting full acceptance to gays and lesbians. I would be helping in alienating more than I would be welcoming. Things have to be done in baby steps. Otherwise, we would end up like Bishop Robinson and the rest of the Anglican Communion, feuding with each other, and on the verge of collapse or major schism.

There are certainly no easy answers, and people are passionate on both sides of the issues. I cannot, as Bishop Robinson suggests, condone outright defiance and turning one's back on one's vows, nor can I agree with Father Longenecker that the issue of women's ordination is directly linked with issues concerning homosexuality. All I can do is continue to be myself and offer my petitions and praises before the Lord as I have done, every day, and most especially at Holy Mass. As an exhausted Pope John XXIII prayed one night, "It's your Church Lord, you deal with it!"

The article about Bishop Robinson can be found HERE.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time flies....

It's been a very busy week, and things don't seem as if they will slow down any time soon.

Dad came home from the hospital last Thursday, and is doing just fine. There was no damage to his heart at all.. thank God! He needs to stay focused on a diet, and exercise more. Other than that.. he seems to be in good spirits, and back to driving us all crazy. In fact, he plans on going hunting soon.

Last week Anne's daughter in law passed away from Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). She had the disease for just over five months, and was 51 years old. I went to call hours last week before school to give my condolences to the family. I know Anne's children and grandchildren quite well, and had gotten to know Mary and her family well over the years. I felt so bad for Mary's husband Tim, and their two High School aged children. I could see the immense pain in Tim's eyes. I want to just wrap the whole family up in some kind of blanket that will make them all feel better, but no such device exists. Death is part of life, but that simple fact does not make it any easier when it we lose someone we love so much.

This week we have a LOT of family coming in from out of town to celebrate my Aunt Karen's birthday, which is Saturday. They will be coming to our house for lunch, then we will be going to the hospice center to surprise her. It will be nice to see everyone, but it is a lot of work to get the house ready in the mean time. We will be having over 20 people to feed, so I have to get busy baking. I'm making cookies and two different cakes for dessert, and Mom is ordering subs from Wegman's for the actual lunch, along with some side dishes we will be making.

I'm trying to get on the substitute list for a local school district. A good friend of mine is a Social Studies teacher there, and I had the opportunity to visit the school and her class last month. I really liked the school as well as that age level of kids. She will be going away for a week in December for a conference, and needs a substitute. The district doesn't have many, so she has encouraged me to put in an application. She'd be so happy if I could sub for her while she was gone since I also am certified in Social Studies, as well as having a good relationship with her to go over lessons in advanced to get the most done possible while she is gone. It would be great experience for me, and maybe even get my foot in the door for this district. Unfortunately, the district's webpage is not all that user friendly, and looks like I will have to call people and go back and forth with paper work to even apply for the position. Nothing like good old fashioned running around! Oh, how internet has spoiled us!!

I have also been working some more hours lately at Walmart. Good for the wallet, bad for my nerves. I'm beyond tired of working retail, especially with the approaching holiday season. It's so much crap to work through for so little money. Even the stigma of telling people I work for Walmart or retail in general when asked what I do for a living. I'm eager to be working in the field I have been schooled for, and more than ready to leave retail far behind. The week of Thanksgiving I am working over 30 hours... that's going to be rough. Thanksgiving week is the week from HELL.

Good God.. give me strength.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Elect, Obama!


It is with great pleasure that I congratulate, through the use of this humble blog, our President elect, Barack Obama. I feel so honored to have cast my vote in his favor in this historical election.

Scary morning

This morning I was woken up by my mother telling me my Dad was being taken by ambulance to the hospital because he was having a heart attack. He was woken up by a pain in his arm, which he thought was caused by sleeping on it wrong. He got up and put a pot of coffee on, but soon realized this was no ordinary pain.

The pain in his arm grew, and traveled up to his jaw. He woke my mother up and told her the problems. She said she was calling an ambulance, and he didn't say a word.. so she called. They were here in no time, and took him to Millard Fillmore Gate Circle Hospital where medical staff were waiting outside for his arrival.

I don't recall the name of type of heart attack he had, but it was rather serious. Had he not arrived at the hospital when he did, he might have died. Thankfully, he didn't put it off and was taken there quickly. The doctors put in three stents, and he seems to be doing much better now. He will be kept for 48 hours for observations.

He was in good spirits and humor when I left him around noon. Ever since I have been sending e-mails and fielding phone calls from family and friends.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anything Can Happen On Halloween

He didn't just do "Rocky Horror"... he did other corny movies too! This one is one of my favorites.. it wouldn't be Halloween without watching at least SOME of "The Worst Witch".

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (Part 3)

Good memories from my youth.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Patch

I decided to make my yearly trek to the local pumpkin patch located a few minutes from my house. Yes, even at the age of 26 I still look forward to picking out a pumpkin and carving a jack-o-lantern. It's part of my seasonal traditions, and I love it!

My parents came along to get some gourds for the front porch. Every year we go to a local pumpkin farm which also has animals out that you can visit and pet. They had a baby calf, pheasants, chickens and rabbits. There was one white rabbit who was roaming around free, but he wanted nothing to do with me. Each time I would reach out to pet him, he'd hop away. The rabbits in the cages were much more friendly.

My mother was looking at the bales of hay for sale when I told her to look up into the rafters above her head. There were about four HUGE roosters sitting right above her. Keep in mind, my mother is horrified of my parakeet... so she high-tailed it out of there to get away from the giant birds who were now squawking at her. They didn't bother me one bit. Little Tiki has a lot more attitude then they did.

There was also an old golden retriever named Molly in a pen out back. It's always hard for me to see "outside dogs", and especially golden retrievers... since that's what the late-great Toby was. They are such a social breed, and Molly didn't seem very happy to be behind a fence. I spent a lot of time with her, and she would just quietly sit there, learning up against the fence, enjoying any attention she could get. Her calm personality and white face reminded me so much of Toby. I almost started to cry. I miss him so much!! I want to smuggle Molly out of there and take her home with us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Snowfall

Yesterday was the first snowfall of the year. Yes, that's right... Buffalo got it's first snowfall this year on October 21st. Just two weeks ago we had temps up in the 80s, and now snow. It's no surprise so many at work (including myself) have been sick lately. It's a wonder we don't shatter from the extreme temperature change!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Middle School

As part of a group project I am working on in one of my grad classes, I had to do some observations in a middle or high school. One of my group members is an 8th grade social studies teacher here in a local Buffalo suburb. I met up with her today and observed some of her classes, and even got to work a bit with her students.

It felt so good to be back in a school again. I hadn't done any observations or student teaching in a middle school, only in high school. Having enjoyed working with freshmen, I had a hunch I would enjoy middle school. I LOVED it in Jennifer's class. The kids do pose their own unique challenge at that age, but it is one I feel more adapt to work with than juniors or seniors.

As I sat in the teacher's chair while my friend Jen was teaching, I kept brainstorming what I could do with children of this age group (11-12), and how I would explain the concepts to them in my own style. My mind was spinning with ideas, activities and jokes to use in class to keep the flow going.

I could definitely see myself teaching in middle school, and depending on the staff and administration I have to work with... loving every minute of it.

I want a job!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

History of Halloween


I feel the need every year about this time to post something about the history of Halloween. Like most traditions and customs in the United States, people have forgotten the origins and meaning behind "our" annual observances.

The holiday has some roots in Celtic Ireland, with October 31st being the observance of Samhain, the Celtic New Year. It was also believed that on this day, the veil between the living and the dead was removed, and that spirits of the dead wandered the Earth bringing mischief to the living. It was customary for people to dress as "evil spirits" so that the ghosts of the dead would confuse them as one of their own, and leave them in peace. Also, they would hallow out and carve faces in turnips, and use these as lanterns to frighten off the spirits of the dead (pumpkins replacing turnips in the New World).

With the rise of Christianity in Ireland, Catholic customs and observances merged with existing practices. The Liturgical calendar of Church feast days and observances was re-arranged to include the feast of All Saints Day on November 1st, and the feast of All Souls (a time to pray for and remember the dead) to November 2nd.

The superstitions of evil spirits or mischievous ghosts still teased the imagination of early Christians, so these customs of jack-o-lanterns and dressing up on October 31st remained in tact. Because the night before a Holy Day included a Vigil Mass, October 31st was called All Hallows Eve (Hallows being an old English name for Saints), just as we have Christmas "Eve" in present day. Eventually, the name was shortened to "Hallow'een".

In England, in an attempt for Catholics to escape from the persecution of the crown, a members of an underground Catholic rebel group led by Guy Fawkes decided to blow up Parliament and put a Catholic back on the throne of England (known as the Gun Powder Plot). Guy Fawkes and his plan were discovered, and he was later sentenced to death. In November, to celebrate yet another Protestant victory over Catholics, English Protestants would bang on doors of Catholics demanding beer and cakes. Should the Catholic refuse to oblige, a prank or "trick" would be unleashed on the victim. In the New World, this custom of "trick or treating" was kept alive by Catholics as a way to remember the persecution they under went in their homeland.

In the United States (which I have been referring to as the "New World"), all these various traditions and customs blended as new immigrant groups began to settle here. The Irish custom of jack-o-lanters and dressing up (and also the French concept of the masquerade) merged with the Trick or Treating of Guy Fawkes day. The Catholic observance of All Saints and its remembrance of the dead on All Souls Day also merged into the modern catch-all holiday of Halloween.

The symbolism of ghosts, skulls and skeletons is significant because they are meant to remind us of our own mortality, and that life is transitory. This concept, as intensified by All Souls Day goes back to medieval times when people were obsessed with death and the need to prepare one's soul for Heaven. I find this aspect of the Halloween holiday to be exceptionally important and relevant in modern times since we now live in a society in which the here and now is all that matters. Our own comfort and material possessions are highest on our list, while we tend to forget the people and accomplishments that went before us. Halloween helps us to remember that all good things must end, and that "dust you are, and to dust you shall return". A sober reminder, and humbling thought.

Lastly, Halloween is a great time to look our fears in the face and laugh. Psychologically, it's good for use to face our fears once in a while.. especially in the controlled environment that Halloween presents us with. Dressing up as scary creatures or going to Haunted Houses for a good scream is a great way to at least temporally face our fears.

Sadly, Halloween is hotly contested by more radical or fundamental Christian groups who see it as an evil Pagan holiday. "They" tend to have very limited knowledge of the real practices of the actual Pagan holiday which Hallow'een replaced, which has no reference whatsoever to Satanic practices (Satan being a Judeo-Christian concept, not found in many Celtic or Pagan faiths). Furthermore, many Evangelical Christians do not see Catholics as fellow Christians, and turn their noses up at the remembrances of All Saints and All Souls Days. Sadly, Halloween is yet another example of the Puritanical resurgence of seeing more evil in the world than good.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This & That

Finally, we are getting that fall weather I look forward to all year round! It lasts such a short time in this region it seems. The temps are in the 50s, creeping down to the 40s at night. Perfect! There is also that welcomed autumn "smell". The cool crispness of the air mixed with the scent of fireplaces and bonfires.

I went for a long walk today, much longer than I had anticipated, and ended up walking down Old Falls Blvd. It is a beautiful street with many old homes on it. There were so many beautiful houses, more reminiscent of an old village rather than something you would expect to see in North Tonawanda. So much character in those older homes, with their frequently used front porches and quaint picket fences. I dreamt of living in them as I walked by... and pondered if I'll ever have the means to own one.

Aunt Karen was transferred to the hospital this week. The disease is accelerating again, and now she is unable to swallow anything. They had to put a feeding tube in her. It's so hard to see her now, she is a shadow of the woman she used to be. I look at her laying there, her face so rigid from the constant tension in her muscles, and her words barely audible. I try so hard to find a glimmer of the vibrant, out going and warm woman I knew all my life. Even her eyes seem so foreign to me... the excitement of life is gone, with fear and pain remaining.

I was able to reminisce with her for a while, with my mother "translating" what she says since it's very difficult to make out what she says these days. I got a few smiles out of her while I was there, but much of the time she is delusional and hallucinating various object and events. She'll be 52 years old in November... it's just not fair.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Toy Fad


Hasbro has introduced a new toy into the market called Mighty Muggs. They are available at most every toy store out there. My buddy Mike told me about them, and got one for his birthday. I have no idea what you are supposed to do with them, but they are kinda neat looking... or as he called them, "adorable!". I saw them at work today, and my co-workers in the toy department said they are very popular.

I am always amazed to see what new toys are introduced and how popular they become. They range from very simple and basic toys like Beanie Babies (remember those??) to high tech gadgets like Firbees (those still scare me).

I have to admit, I almost bought the Indiana Jones Mugg just because he is wearing my signature hat. I had it in my hand, but decided why spend money on another toy, just to have it sit on my desk? I can only imagine all the comments I would get since Indiana has a whip too. Har Har.

Now, if Hasbro made a Mighty Mugg of Chef Duff from Ace of Cakes... now THAT I would buy! =-P

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Memoriam

I just found out today that my former teacher, Sister Dorothy FSSJ passed away on August 9th at the age of 87. I was planning on going to visit her and another of my former teachers at the Mother House over the summer, but never made the trip out to Hamburg. Needless to say I regret it now.

Sr. Dorothy was a wonderful teacher, and we stayed in touch over the years. I last visited her two years ago, and at the time she was doing well. She loved to exercise, and would go for long walks every morning, work out on the trampoline, and would even go swimming in the ocean when she would return to her hometown for a vacation.

Sister was a wonderful teacher, and I feel so privileged to have been taught by nuns while in grade school. It is very rare that sisters teach in schools any more, much less be of the caliber of the sisters of old. It was from these good women that I first got my desire to become a teacher, and saw something in them that I wanted to emulate.

It's because of my relationship with these sisters that I can't stand the mean nun jokes and stories that are so quick to be told when the word "nun" is mentioned. I don't deny that there were some nasty women who became nuns, but you can't judge an entire group of people because of a select few (in comparison to the whole communities of sisters). It is important to keep in mind that when many of these women were getting bachelor's in Education in the 1930s and 40s, the teaching style of the time was centered on corporal punishment and intimidation as the best way to teach, instill respect and keep control of a classroom (I once saw a picture of Sr. Dorothy in a classroom with her students in 1943. She had 40 kids in her class!!). We now know better, but all teachers at one point were trained in these now obsolete methods. Ask someone who went to public school in the 30s and 40s if a teacher ever hit them. Unfortunately, the nuns still bare the stigma of the ruler.

Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her.
Requiescat in Pace.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Welcome Fall!!!

Happy first day of Autumn everyone!! This is my favorite season of the year, and unfortunately, here in Buffalo, the shortest season of the year.

The temps have slowly begun to drop below the 70 degree mark... when it stays in the 50's, I shall be thrilled!! Pretty soon the leaves will be changing and the beauty of the season will start.

I'm tempted to put out my Halloween decorations just to get into the spirit of the season.

Anyone up for a hayride and apple cider? :-D

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will teach for food!

Last week I received my teacher certification in the mail. It's a great feeling to know I am New York State certified, but I have no job to show for it. With each passing day I feel more and more out of the loop.

People keep asking if I'm subbing, but to be honest, I'm not eager. Substitutes, unless they are long term subs, aren't teachers... they are fill ins, or "babysitters" as I have heard them called. I'm not exactly thrilled about getting a phone call at 6am telling me I will be working out in some district, teaching anything from Phys Ed. to Science, and everything in between... and we all remember how substitutes get treated by students.

I can't sit in limbo forever, despite the fact I am working towards my masters. I have to get out there and get experience. I have decided that next year I will leave Walmart and the health insurance it provides, and if I don't have a teaching position, will indeed to the substitute gig. I miss being in a school and classroom, and am eager to return to it. I want to be doing my "big boy job"!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Favorite Hymn

I stumbled across this clip from one of my favorite movies. It is by far my favorite hymn, "O Sanctissima".. and being sung by my name sake (nickname that is), Bing Crosby.

Ahh... those were the days!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Anne!

Saturday I met up with Anne and her large family to celebrate together her 80th Birthday. All her children and the majority of grandchild (and great-grandchildren) came in for the festivities. They all went out to dinner together, then I met them back at the house for cake and drinks.

Anne has such a wonderful family, and I have gotten to know and love all the people that make up that beautiful family tree. I am so honored to be included in events like these. I have often commented about my own family connections that by and large (in my case) seems to be a bunch of strangers who happen to be related. As for Anne.. she is someone whom I chose to be close to, and it has been a continual gift ever since.

Anne's actual Birthday was yesterday, and I couldn't let the day pass without another celebration. At the age of 80, there really isn't anything I could buy her, and there is little she needs. I decided to take her and her husband Vince out to dinner, then have them back here at the house for coffee and cake. We went out to the Grape Vine restaurant, and had a ball chatting over a nice meal. I enjoyed having them here at the house with my parents as we swapped stories over homemade pumpkin cheesecake with coffee and tea.

Some people give me funny looks when I tell them my closest and dearest friend is 80 years old, but they don't know Anne. She has friends that span the generations, and from the time we met, we just clicked, and our friendship has grown tremendously over the years. I often think of her as my soul-mate.. not in the sense of a spousal relationship, but in terms of another human being who understands me on an emotional and spiritual level that no one else has. I have known her for 11 years, and yet I can't remember life without her there. She has always been there for me, in the best and worst of times.. and I truly hope she can say the same about me. There is nothing I wouldn't do for her.

I have encountered few people with the genuine love, compassion and sincerity that Anne possesses. It was my honor to celebrate the anniversary of her birth, and I wish her many more years to come!

Monday, September 8, 2008

DONATE!

As I have mentioned here before, a friend of mine is participating in a bike marathon to help raise money for Aids research. The marathon is known as "Breaking the Cycle". Jim has pledged to raise at least $3,500 to help in the effort to cure this horrible disease which has claimed the lives of so many people, crossing racial, ethnic, national and sexual borders.

His deadline is quickly approaching as the marathon is at the end of this month. I implore any and all of you out there in cyberland to make a donation to this very worthy cause. Simply click on the "donate" link below and make your donation. Ten dollars... twenty dollars... it all adds up. Please be as generous as you can, and help Jim break the cycle of aids!!

Thank you!

DONATE HERE!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Classic Leading Man Test

Your result for The Classic Leading Man Test...

Cary Grant


You are the epitome of charm and style, the smooth operator who steals the show with your sophisticated wit, quiet confidence and flirty sense of humor. You are able to catch any woman you want just by flashing that disarming smile, even if you're flashing it at a kindly aunt or engaging child at the time. When you walk into a room, women are instantly intrigued and even the men are impressed, but you're too nice a guy to steal anyone else's girl...unless the guy deserves it. You're stylish, yes, but you can also be a little bit nutty. However, you're primarily seen as dashing, suave and romantic. Your co-stars include Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, stylish women with a sense of fun.


Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the
Classic Dames Test.

Take The Classic Leading Man Test at HelloQuizzy

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September

I'm so happy that September is finally here. This means that the final days of summer are coming to an end, and Fall is just around the corner. For those of you not from around here, fall in WNY usually means two weeks of awesome cool-crisp weather before the snow comes.

Already signs of the impending change in seasons are being seen. The stores have their Halloween decorations and accessories out on display, which no longer seems to far away to be overly rushing the season. I would argue against buying candy with the intent of saving it for Trick-or-Treaters, I doubt any of us have that kind of will power.

I for one am looking forward to swapping the dreaded shorts for a jacket, and the straw hat for the felt ones. Being able to walk outdoors and not melt into a puddle of sweat is a great feeling!

Even tonight, as I settle down to do some reading for class, I am reminded of the gradual season change as it gets darker sooner, and the lamps get switched on earlier. Even as I struck a match to light a candle in my sitting room, the smell of the match reminded me of the excitement of fall.

I have always believed that one of the many charms of living in the Buffalo area is our seasons. By the time I have grown tired of one, it is time for another to begin.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Work stories

This has been an interesting week at Wally World. First, one of our people greeters, who is in her mid to late 70's, got seriously hurt on the job... again. You wouldn't think it, but being a people greeter is a high risk profession. The store was very short staffed, and a new guy who didn't know what he was doing was sent to go bring carts into the store. He used the electronic cart machine.... the incorrect way. He lost control of the long line of shopping carts, which rammed into the 70-some-year old Gerrie. She was sent to the hospital with a broken foot.

That same day, a customer returned one of those plastic kiddie pools... one which of course they had used the entire summer... but Wally World takes anything back. Anywhoo... what makes this instance so different is what was on the pool that was accepted back for return. It had.. well... poop on it. Yes.. that's right... poop! I have no idea who authorized its return.. but there it was... poop and all. The worst part of the story was when one of the managers was asked to help throw it down the trash compacter... he had no idea what the pool had on it, and as he lifted it into the machine..... yup, you guessed it.... all over him!!! I would have quit.

It's an interesting place to work, and you can't make shit (excuse the pun) like this up!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to school

The Fall Semester started yesterday, and I attended my first class. I had decided to take a course dealing with Special Ed, but accidentally registered for the wrong course. Once I got there, and we began going over the syllabus, I realized the mistake. The course description didn't really lead me to believe I had made an error, but once we started talking, I was positive I was in the wrong class... which was confirmed by the professor. She gave me a new course number to go check out, but it happens to be offered during the time I already have a class. I had to drop the class, and won't be replacing it.

So, it seems I will only be going to school part time this semester, taking only two grad courses instead of the original plan of three. I'm not really upset about it. Some of my classmates took the whole summer off, as well as this Fall semester in order to focus more on getting a job (which none of them did), and recover from the grueling year of teacher boot camp. I have five years to complete the masters, so I'm not going to drive myself crazy trying to get it all done at once.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Future Nephew Update

Joe and Katie went to the doctor's yesterday and found out they will be having a baby boy come January. It's name will be Collin James.

I am more excited over this baby than I thought I would be. I guess it will be the closest thing I will have to having a child of my own.. and I intend to spoil it rotten. I want to be the cool uncle. I find that when I am mowing the lawn, I imagine having an Easter egg hunt for the little tyke.. like something out of Steel Magnolias. I know I'm a dork, but things like that keep popping into my head.... like taking him to the zoo!

Yes, I will be the cool Uncle... you know, the one who gives the awesome Christmas gifts. :-P

Friday, August 15, 2008

Help Support Aids Research!!

A friend of mine from the area is looking for people to sponsor his participation in a bike marathon known as Breaking the Cycle. He will be bike riding over 250 miles in three days, across three states to help raise money for Aids research to help find a cure.

This disease attacks people of all races, colors, backgrounds and sexual orientations. I urge you all to click on the link above and donate what you can. As you will see on the website, I made a small donation myself.. so I'm "putting my money where my mouth is". No gift is too small as every bit helps!

My thanks for your help and support!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tis Love Tis Love... right?

My sister Kristy, and her boy friend of about three months are talking about getting married. They have already started shopping for engagement rings, looking for reception halls, and have decided upon the date of 9-10-11. Is it just me, or does anyone else think this is a little hasty?? Kristy turns 20 in a few days, and Sean (her boyfriend) will be headed BACK to Iraq for 6 to 8 months in the near future. Something about this seems very rushed to me. But then again, what would I know about relationships??

Speaking of my lack of relationships (like that seg-way?) I have met someone online whom I really like. We met on a site called "The Fedora Lounge" where people from across the globe meet and discuss and share their vintage style in clothing, cars, household items, etc. He's a great guy, wonderful personality, shares some of the same interests and hopes and fears that I do, is very kind, and wears a hat (a real hat). What more could I ask for?? Oh yea.. that he lived in the area.. that's what I could ask for. lol He lives in New Mexico, not exactly right around the corner from Buffalo. It's that age old story of boy meets boy, boy likes boy, boy can't date boy because he lives in New Mexico. I think they made a movie about it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Interesting....

My Dad has been approved for Social Security Disability after having his shoulder permanently messed up. We were so scared he wouldn't get it, and would end up losing his job. Thankfully, the paper work went through, and he was approved. As Martha would say, it's a good thing!

Last night there was some unexpected clatter outside our house. We heard pounding, and saw a police officer trying to smash the window on the front door of our neighbor's house. It seems she hadn't been heard from in a few days, and no one could get a hold of her. She had not been feeling well, and lived alone. Come to find out, what they feared the most was true. She had passed away a few days ago... thankfully in her sleep. It was awkward to see them remove her from the house. Her family had just come back from Vegas that night, and probably found out once they got off the plane that she had passed.

I'm always afraid that's how I will go.. alone.. and someone will have to find me after a few days. Morbid, I know.. but that's how my mind works.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Time

Part of me has been looking at completing my masters work as a way of delaying the inevitable. Moving away. With each new day though, I feel further and further behind.. still working retail, and not working my "big boy job"... still living under my parent's roof.

While I'm not excited about the idea of moving to a new location and having to get to know the area and meeting all new people, maybe it will be the best thing for me. I do love the area of WNY, and there are plenty of neigborhoods I have dreamed of living in. What has always kept me here is my family and friends, whom I couldn't bare to leave. Most of those ties have been cut by time however. My grandparents were my biggest anchor, and they are all gone. My dearest friend Anne is pushing 80, and suffers from numerous health problems... my last real anchor here... the last on the list of people I absolutely won't leave behind.

As for the rest of my family, it is sad to say, they are becoming more and more irrelevant to me with each passing day. I see my parents more as authoritative landlords instead of people I want to sit and spend time with... especially my father who's need to control is ever present. Having them at the other end of a phone might be all I need. I still stand firm in the idea that "family is a bunch of strangers who happen to be related."

I'm eager to start my life.. MY life.. on my own terms, and maybe that means a fresh start in a new location. Who knows, maybe I will leave UB and do my masters somewhere else and get the move out of the way earlier. Things have to change. I'm tired of standing still.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"What type of men are you attracted to??"


Michael Buble
Singer


















Mark Brunetz
Clean House - Interior Design













Matt Iseman
Clean House - Go to Guy
Comedian

















John Slattery
Mad Men

















Chef Duff Goldman
Ace of Cakes
















Does this help??? I like all kinds. :-P

Yea.. well...

Not much new to report. I have been rather busy with school and work. School ends next week, and I have about two weeks off before starting the fall semester, and continue to plug along at my masters work. I'm looking forward to the down time before starting back to a full course load.

I went out for ice cream with Nick and Jason last week and we had a great time. A group of us were supposed to get together tonight, but our plans fizzled out. Tomorrow, I have dinner plans with Anne and Vince. I'm trying to do as much socializing as I can before school gets going full force. Who knows when I'll have the time again once I get back into the swing of things.

Other than that, nothing new. I'm boring. :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hidden treasure in Buffalo


I met Bob out for lunch on the East Side in Buffalo. *flashes gang sign* It was the BEST sub sandwich I have had in a LONG time. It's always nice to spend time with the great and wonderful Bobby as well.

Since we were on the East Side, I wanted to stop in a local hat maker's shop.. one of the few places left in the country that still makes custom hats. Bob went along with me.. I was driving, so he had no choice. Ha Ha. What I thought would be a quick visit turned into an hour stay as Gary White (owner and master hatter) showed me around his store and described all the details of making hats. Being a huge hat freak.. I was mesmerized. It was a step back into time, into a true master's workshop.

Gary was so friendly, personable, and I loved his stories. He's been in the business for thirty years now, and hat making is his passion. He's made hats for movies like Indiana Jones and won Tony awards as part of the costume crew for Broadway plays like Thoroughly Modern Milly and Guys and Dolls, to name a few.

Yes, I did place an order for a hat, which should be ready in early October. It was SO cool to be designing my own hat.. style, size, brim length, color etc. It was so much fun, and Gary was so nice to work with. As informal as our conversations were, he kept calling me "Sir", and treated me like I was his favorite client. He has a wonderful work ethic, and is an overall charming man.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Memoriam


Today, actress Estelle Getty, best known for her role as "Sophia" on The Golden Girls died at the age of 84. According to family, she died of complication of dementia, which she has been suffering from for many years.

Ms. Getty also played the role of a Jewish mother, struggling with her son's homosexuality in Harvey Firestein's play, Torch Song Trilogy. The movie form, which did not star Getty in the role, is one of my favorite films of all time. I wish I would have had the chance to see Ms. Getty play the powerful role. Ms. Getty was a strong and outspoken supporter of gay rights, and did much to raise money for AIDS treatment and awareness.

I grew up watching The Golden Girls, and when I catch it on television, it brings back such wonderful memories. I can recite the lines verbatim, and yet I never tire of watching the show. I admired Sophia's outspokenness and strength of character. She feared no one, and had a simple down to earth wisdom, which reminded me so much of my own Grandmothers. We all know someone in our lives who is like Sophia... feisty and crass, yet filled with charm and whit.

Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Leaving Buffalo?

As I register for grad classes for the Fall semester, it seems very unlikely that I will have a teaching job by September. Actually, in terms of getting the masters done, this could be a good thing. I'll be able to make a big dent in the courses I still need to take to finish my degree. I am scared however.

With each passing day, I am becoming more and more aware of the good possibility that I will have to leave the state to find employment. That scares the hell out of me. I love the Buffalo area, and have so many family and friends here. I do not like the notion of having to up and move by myself to a place I know nothing about.

My grandparents on both sides had to leave their families and move to Buffalo where the jobs were. It was hard on them, but they at least had each other. They came to a new place TOGETHER to start a new life. Some family also came with them which lessened the homesickness somewhat. It would be easier if I had a spouse, and was considering moving with him, but to have to go by myself... that's scary.

Hopefully things will change, and I'll be one of the lucky few who can find a job. I have my degree to focus on, but the job is always on the back of my mind... nagging me... scaring me... reminding me that without it, the degree is for nothing.

Things need to change in Buffalo before it becomes a ghost town.

Da Baby

Joe and Katie had some sonograms done of the baby. We still don't know the gender, but we know for sure who the father is! The baby is shown to have a big nose, and suck it's thumb. That's Joe's kid alright!!! :-P

The new arrival is due the end of January, 2009.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family Reunion Pics

Mark and Laura's dog - "Leo" a puppy that is already the size of a bear cub!
Danielle's soccer playing dog "Vienna Sausage"
Aunt Ann and me
The Italian Maffia is alive and well!
Trying to get everyone to stand still for the picture












Aunt Ann and Uncle Dom at the game
















Jennifer's husband Joe, playing for the "Depends" team. Jennifer also lends him to me as my honorary husband when I am in town. :-P













The "Pampers" team






Doing what Italians do best... EATING!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Update

I haven't posted in a while as I had been busy preparing to attend the 47th annual family reunion in Wilkes Barre Pa this weekend.

I had a great time seeing all my family again, some of whom I haven't seen in about four years. The last time I attended the reunion, my Grams was alive, and I've found it difficult to go back in her absence... it being her side of the family, held at the home she grew up in.

It took my long enough to learn all my cousins names, and during my four year hiatus, they went out a reproduced! So many babies!!! It's so funny to think of my cousins, whom it feel like yesterday I played hide and seek with, as parents. I got to meet some new spouses as well, and it's wonderful to watch the family continue to grow.

We resurrected the tradition of playing a baseball game. Instead of the New York relatives (NYC) vs the Pennsylvania relatives (anyone NOT in NYC), we did the "older" vs "younger". Each team had a name, and a uniform shirt. 35 and under were the "Pampers". We had navy blue shirts with Pampers printed on the back, and the family seal on the front. The 36 and up crowd was "Depends", wearing a similar shirt in gray... like their hair.

Initially I wasn't going to play, sucking at sports and still nursing a bad back, but did manage to go up to bat. I swung three times, first two being fowl balls, and the second being a good hit, but caught by one of the Depends. I was just thrilled I hit the damn thing!

The Pampers won the game 12 to 6. The Depends team had to buy us champagne, but they insisted on checking our id's before we could have a drink.

Yesterday I celebrated my 26th Birthday. Anne and Vince took me out for ice cream, and then I had dinner with Bobbie and Jason at Mother's restaurant. The food was GREAT!! I had such a good time spending the day with my closest friends. We ended by having a drink at one of my local hangouts. I enjoyed the day from start to finish.. despite the fact it was one step closer to the grave, as Bob would say.

Monday, June 30, 2008

WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I did it!! I PASSED my Content Specialist Test!!!! That means I'm OFFICIALLY New York State certified to teach!!!

I was so worried I failed.. I thought I did awful on it. I was so relieved and excited when I got the e-mail today. WOO HOO!!!!!!

*Does happy dance*

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Leave my Pope alone! :)

Vatican paper says pope does not wear Prada

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The devil may wear Prada — but the pope does not. According to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the bright red loafers that Pope Benedict XVI wears are not designed by the Milanese fashion house, as has long been rumored.

"Obviously the attribution was false," the Vatican newspaper said in its Thursday's editions.

"Such rumors are inconsistent with the simple and somber man who, on the day of his election to the papacy, showed to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and to the whole world the sleeves of a modest black sweater," it said.

Still, Benedict's fashion sense has often drawn media attention.

Three years ago around Christmas, he showed up for his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square wearing a fur-trimmed stocking cap that could have passed for a Santa Claus hat. The hat, as it turned out, is a "camauro," which dates back to the Middle Ages and figures in many papal portraits.

On a separate occasion, Benedict sported a sumptuous red velvet cape trimmed in ermine — another piece of traditional papal attire that had long been abandoned.

L'Osservatore Romano said the pope's interest in clothes has nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with liturgy — what symbolism traditional garments can bring to the Christian liturgy.

"The pope, therefore, does not wear Prada, but Christ," L'Osservatore said.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What a pain in the.... back.

My lower back went out again, starting Sunday night. I can only guess I pulled some muscles while doing stomach crunches or working out on the elliptical. I felt it was coming for about a week, and finally, it hit.

I tried to work through it Monday, when I went in for a 5 hour shift. I had to use a shopping cart to help me get around, and they pulled a cashier from the front end to help me get things for customers without me having to bend over. Getting in and out of the car is a real problem when this happens to my back, and when I got home from work, my back got so bad that when I got out of the car, I dropped my shopping bag. After a few minutes, I managed to get my cell phone from the holder and call my Dad. He had to help me walk to my room, since I couldn't do it under my own power.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and got out of bed to use the bathroom. I experienced such pain that I collapsed to the floor... yelling out in pain. My sister heard me and sent Dad down to try to help. I had to stay on the floor for about a half hour, and couldn't move without experiencing extreme pain. Dad kept wanting to call an ambulance, but I refused. I managed to be able to get to the bathroom, but again, under extreme pain. I have been using my hiking stick to help me get around better, and take some of the pressure off my back. Gravity seems to be the enemy.

Once my doctor's office opened, he gave me a prescription for a muscle relaxer. It didn't really start to help until the evening.

I'm still quite stiff, but I've been able to go upstairs for food, and can walk without the hiking stick. I still can't stand for long periods of time, and can't move too much or too fast at once. I still have to lay down most of the time, but the pain is no where near as strong as it was yesterday... thank God.

I doubt I will be going into work tomorrow morning. I need all the rest I can get, not to mention the pills make me very drowsy. Hopefully I'll be back to "normal" Friday.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Requiem for a Parish


After 9am Mass at my parish of St. Anthony's, I made the drive back home to North Tonawanda to attend yet another Mass. This time, I was not going to fulfill my Sunday obligation, which I prefer to do at St. Anthony's where I can attend the more ancient Liturgical form of the Mass, but in order to say good bye to the parish I grew up in.

As I had mentioned earlier in this blog, the Church where I went to school, made most of the sacraments, and grew up within is now closing. Today was the final Mass before locking the doors.

I arrived two minutes before the Mass began, and walked into a standing room only. There were so many cars that people were parking all up and down Payne Avenue. I spotted my friend Anne in the congregation, and snagged the seat in her pew which she was saving for me. This was to be the second Mass for both of us today, though as we agreed, we are probably still going to Hell none the less.

It was a very sad day for many of us, and by the time the Mass was over, most people had tears streaming down their faces. So much in that building brought back memories of my youth. Even the smell of the incense that was being used (yes, there are multiple scents and types), reminded me of happy moments of days gone by.

At the end of the Mass, the pastor removed the altar stone from the altar, so as to deconsecrate the altar. He processed with it down the isle to the front doors of the Church where we all followed in procession. Once outside, we all gathered around as Father offered one more final blessing upon those gathered, and with eyes filled with tears, closed and locked the doors to St. Joseph's one last time.

About 600 of us gathered for a bbq in the back, where multiple tents had been assembled. There were people there I hadn't seen in years, and the event became a sort of reunion for me, as well as a parting. We all sat around talking, laughing, and sharing our memories of living within the parish community all these years as well as what was going on in our lives currently.

There was a sister there whom I recognized from the Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph, who staffed the parish school until 1990. I went up to her, and as it turned out, my memory was right. It was Sr. Conrad whom I had met when my mom took me to register for Kindergarten at St. Joe's back in 1986 (I think). She was then principal at St. Joe's, but later transferred to another school. It was nice to talk with her, and the other sisters who were there from the Mother house in Hamburg. I found out that my first grade teacher, Sr. Dorothy is not doing well physically, so I am trying to find a day when I can go up to the Mother house to see her in the near future.

I had so much fun laughing and remeniscing with everyone there. Some of my first students from when I began teaching Religious Ed back in the 90's were there. I started out teaching Kindergarten, and then moved to third grade where I had to pleasure to teach some of the same students again. One of the boys whom I taught my first year is now a Junior in High School!! After talking with his mother, we both agreed that we felt old!

It was a wonderful celebration, but in our hearts, it was also a type of funeral. After 61 years, that parish community is no more. I over heard one woman, who was there for the dedication of the parish back in 1947 say: "You imagine that these houses of God will serve as our spiritual home until the end of time. You never imagine they will close." It's so true.

Catholic Churches are not the only denomination that have had to scale down their parishes, merge, and close doors. People of real faith are becoming an endangered species. There are some who would argue that religion is becoming irrelevant in our society, but I feel we need it now most of all. People need to learn that THEY as the individual are not the beginning and end in this life. Just look around and see how well we've done as a people without faith in something greater than ourselves.. without trusting in God.

Though it is just brick and mortar, it was my spiritual home for so long... and nourished the beginning of my journey of faith which continues on. Though it is hard to see it close, the faith I have gained from my years there, and the love I felt from so many wonderful friends, teachers and clergy will carry with me in my heart always... and I hope, I can touch other people's lives and hearts by following the examples of charity and love that I was so fortunate to have in my life from such an early age.

In Memoriam: St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church - North Tonawanda - 1947-2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Moments in Time

It's rather quiet now. All that can be heard is the soft hum of the ceiling fan, the trickle of water from my fountain, the rustling of the leaves in the wind, the tapping of the rain on the plants outside my window and the slight rumble of thunder in the distance. Many sounds, but all speaking in a whisper.

You can smell the rain in the air. That magical scent of nature that drifts along the night breeze, telling you of the changes mother natures has planned. The flash of lightning that shines through the window, a reminder of the meagerness of man.

Faces from behind glass frames peer out with smiles on their faces, void of all fears. Faces of by gone times, old friends and loved ones long gone. The candle flickers as the light reflects off the glass frame, reminiscent of the life that burned so brightly from the hearts and souls of those whom are remembered.

It's so quiet here. It's just me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I am who I am.

I went for a walk with an old friend of mine this evening, whom I haven't really had the chance to hang out with in a long time. As we were talking, and comparing and contrasting likes and dislikes, it dawned on me that I really don't conform to most people's likes and dislikes who are around my age group. Generally I couldn't care less about what other people think of me, but I've noticed that some people really can judge you about stupid things like the kind of car you drive and the type of music you listen to.

As my friend and I were talking, and the topic of me driving a car "that looks like it belonged to my Grandma", I started to wonder how many people judge me just based on my material possessions. Is it a fair? How many potential friends have I lost? I know, I have lost potential boyfriends because of my taste.

My family always referred to me as an old soul, but I'm just me. I gravitate towards people and things that strike a chord in me. I don't know where the pull comes from or why, all I know is that I know happy and comfortable when I feel it.

I feel like I should make a list of all these oddities and simply hand it to new people I meet, such as potential boyfriends. I always try to go with the flow of the people I'm with, but often times respecting a persons individuality is not a two way street.

The ME List:

1. I'm hard core Catholic. My faith has always meant a lot to me, and I take it seriously. I don't push it on people, and I don't expect you to follow my belief system. I do however go to Mass every Sunday morning and pray and meditate in private. You follow whatever beliefs or non-beliefs you want, but leave mine alone... my spirituality need not involve you. The priest and the altar boy jokes are definitely not welcomed. Ever.

2. I'm dry and sarcastic. I generally say what is on my mind, though I make a conscious effort not to be too offensive. I'm not going to always sugar coat life. If you're getting on my nerves, or if I'm in a bad mood.. believe me, you'll know it. When I'm in a good mood, you'll know it. When I'm quiet, leave me alone.

3. I don't like to drink. Booze and I don't mix well.. I don't even like the taste. Yes, I love wine, but my idea of a good time has nothing to do with going out and getting wasted. Wine is great, and I love to drink it with friends, but going to "the club" isn't among my top 10 list of things to do. I'd rather sit and chat in a coffee house than sit in a bar.

4. I hate sports. If you like them.. enjoy them! That's what they are there for. Watch them, play them, knock yourself out. It's a great thing to follow if you like it. I personally don't, so please don't expect me to sit there and watch a game with you and get all excited about it. It's not going to happen.

5. I like big cars. I drive a Buick. If I'm the one making the car payments, and I'm the one spending the most time in it, then I'm getting what I want. I'm not a speed demon, I have no desire to race, or have my car look "hot". I like comfortable cars with leather seats, wood trim interior, a smooth ride, and the power when I put my foot down on the gas. I like a car that has some style, like the cars of the 30's and 40's. I like the touring car, not the race car. Your car/truck/SUV is wonderful... but I don't want it... please don't try to convince me that I do.

6. Hats are a good thing. People, especially men, look great in them. Baseball caps however are not the only style hat in the world. Baseball caps might look great on you, and I probably would agree they look good on me, but I'm not wearing one often. I'm not a walking advertisement for a brand name or a sports team. I don't like sports so I'm not going to wear a cap that evolved from the sport it gets its name from. Newsboy caps and fedoras work just fine for me. I didn't start wearing them because Justin Timberlake did, I wear them because I like them, and always have.

7. I don't care about clothing brands as long as the clothes look good, good quality and are affordable. I don't need designer jeans or show off the brand across my chest for the world to see. I prefer to dress up more, not dress down. I'd wear a shirt and tie everyday if appropriate, though I am most often found in jeans and a button down shirt. Preppy is fine with me.

8. I like the "finer" things in life, not that I MUST have them. I appreciate them however, and enjoy them when I can. I'd be just as comfortable at a black tie event as I would be at a cook out.

9. If there was one genre of music I had to chose as my favorite, it would be Big Band. I like music that has a beat, I could dance to (if I danced), has a fun rhythm, and makes you think about the happier side of life. I can appreciate most all music, and listen to many forms, though they would mostly fall under the category of "easy listening" and "pop".