Calgon, take me away!

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Up, up and away!

As each day and as year moves by, I am beginning to see the importance of giving my body the rest it needs to fulfill and complete my duties. One of the things I always say is that my job and role of servant “will not kill me!” If permissible, I find myself going to bed around 8:30 p.m. every night. I made it a habit of turning on the timer for the TV and it seems that as soon as I am in bed and my head hits the pillow…..I am on my way to sleepyland. It feels so good to wake up refreshed.

Another habit I’ve made is a To-Do list. If it’s not written down then I forget. It has nothing to do with age, pre-senior moments or tattle -tale signs of Alzheimer’s. I’m sure anyone who has any amount of responsibility can resonate with that. Even with a list, I still forget stuff. And life moves on!

Last night I watched the Republican debate. I was looking for a worthy candidate and I think I am going to keep my eye out on one particular candidate. I will say that Rick Perry threw it all away when he spoke about Social Security being a Ponzi scheme. I think of my poor mother who scrapes to help keep herself alive on her retirement and affording to have my dad in a nursing home where he gets excellent care. Every month it seems that she’s tangling with Medicaid. Rosie is 83 years old and doesn’t need this crap.

Perry also lost me when he spoke of his distrust in science! What a doof! And Huntsman practically bragging about how they execute people in Texas was shameful. Pro-life? Don’t think so! I recently read a quote that went something like this: I get my comedy from Fox and my politics from Comedy Central (Jon Stewart). Spin, spin, spin! And we wonder why the voters are dizzy? I hate politics, I love politics! Are Americans THAT asleep where we are not watching the keeper of the gate? We are in trouble!

 

A Real Day Off!

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The Crucifix at Nativity.

Keeping the stream of consciousness flowing can be difficult if you do not allow time for your mind to rest. I had hoped that I could make daily journal entries but so many times my day is filled with conversations and encounters that are not appropriate for me to print. That is, sometimes the intensity of my ministry will not permit me to share some of the day to day events. It would be very unprofessional and certainly un-Christlike!

Today was my scheduled day off. I find myself thinking of all the things I would like to do and today I accomplished very little. This is a good thing! I need to rest and restore my energy level. I’m not sure if my parish family realizes how difficult it is to oversee so many issues. Some of the issues that are brought to me border on silliness. BUT, I have to learn how to wade through some of the stories that cross my path. I feel that people want me to take their side when many times it’s very clear they need to make amends. In essence, I have no problem telling folks the truth and often times the truth is hard to bear.

But despite the “silliness” I really do love my job. There is so much I want to accomplish and I have great hopes and a reasonable vision of where I would love to move. Currently I am examining the Little Rock Scripture Studies Program. It’s awesome! I hope people will move towards it with zeal. I love teaching Scripture.

For fun today, I made a whipped cream with cream cheese frosting for a Red Velvet Cake. WOW! Was it ever good! As I sit back I am looking forward to watching the Republican debate tonight. So dear friends and followers, know that I pray for God’s people each day. And I ask you to pray for me.

Say What?

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Listen to me!

Chances are, if you were to ask a priest if they would prefer to do a wedding or a funeral, chances are the answer would be a funeral… hands down! It’s sad to admit that. It seems that too often with weddings, the sacredness of the Sacrament gets lost in the folly of all the incidentals such as, the flowers, the music, the dress, the music and a host of other things that have very little relevancy to the actual ceremony. And, unfortunately, the one’s who are getting married often do not have a clue as to what to do. For one thing, I will not work with the mother of the bride or groom or Aunt Hazel from Iowa. I work directly with the couple and ask them what they want. If they do not know, I will gently guide them to what is proper decorum. The beauty of the liturgy is often lost when we start introducing elements that are completely irrelevant to the ritual. I often blame the soap opera’s for portraying weddings that will undoubtedly end in some kind of love triangle or a weird divorce or some other dramatic scenario. In fairness, that’s why they are on TV; they are paid to offer that dramatic lift and to shock our sensations. AND, like idiots we eat that crap up!

My goodness! Life is tough enough with the real drama that goes on through marriage. The two most common reasons why marriages break-up is lack of communication and finances. That’s a fact. The real drama in the homes is how we pay the rent, buy clothes for the kids and keep the car in tune. That is the short list!

I bring this up because yesterday I performed a wedding for some good family friends. I felt really good about this union and my mood reflected that. I know this family very well. I know of their joys and I am certainly aware of their struggles too. But because they are a very good Christian family I have seen them move through all of their times with such dignity and grace. It is rare to be able to say this however I will not and cannot abandon hope for others.

I see part of my job as a priest to help people restore hope in their lives. I do this through the Word of God. The Bible is a life giving resource and a model for all on how we are to attain God’s kingdom. This is a lofty task. Let those who have ears….hear!

Lemonade Anyone?

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Squeeze me!

Okay, so yesterday I was not able to squeeze in the movie “The Help” but I did go on a little road trip to Streamwood and Schaumburg. In Streamwood, I stopped at the home of “CreeperBob”. That’s his eBay name and for his protection I will leave it just at that. I bought a new scooter from this man who is a paraplegic. It was pretty obvious as to why he wanted to sell this particular scooter. CB is a rather large man who’s body frame mammoths his former chair. The chair he has now is at best “well loved”. It’s a huge chair that has seen it’s day and many more to come. In other words to just say it was worn would be an understatement. It is coated with with dirt, dust, grease, food and possibly some other disgusting things. All the leather on the chair was worn and cracked and just plain ugly.

But that was not the part I wish to remember about this man. Yes, he was not the tidiest man as evidenced by his clothes which were coated with grime. And, Yes, he didn’t emanate a lovely odor about him.

The thing I will remember about CB is his indomitable spirit! He became a paraplegic back in 1997. He had become a taxi cab driver in Chicago to earn some extra income for his family. Not one to neglect the needs and care of his family, he put himself out on the streets. He had only been working the streets for a month and a half when he was robbed and then shot. He is now paralyzed from the waist down. For two months he was  in a hospital bed recuperating from a wound that severed his spinal chord. Then after that, several intensive weeks in rehab. Going home to a new house that was now outfitted for a handicapped person should have been a comfort to CB. But as he says, he was rolled into the house and looked out the window and viewed the ramp up to his door. Instead of bringing him comfort, he sat there and cried.

But the tears did not last. As he says, that next day he dried his tears and was up and around. He went into his garage and began sorting through it and arranged it in such a way where he could move around and be productive and feel useful. Today CB has a scrap business in Streamwood that is his livelihood along with an occasional sale on eBay to add extra income.

I guess this is another one of those lessons about not judging a book by it’s cover. I left feeling that I had made a friend and walked away just a tad bit more hope filled and inspired.

So what do you do when life gives lemons…………………………

Road Trip to IKEA!

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Caveat Emptor! (Buyer Beware!)

I never thought I could be excited about going to a Super Store but that is exactly how I feel! IKEA! I’ve passes this store numerous times, have heard stories about it, saw the commercials, got the catalogue…..woo-hoo! This morning it will be breakfast first with Jenny Chandler who is driving me up to Streamwood to help me pick up a new scooter. I bought it on eBay for $250, however, I have to pick it up. Since Jenny was the one who found it for me online, she also offered to drive me up there to get it.

When I looked at the map I noticed that Streamwood is near Schaumburg and in Schaumburg there is an IKEA! This was a no brainer. We are still outfitting our new school offices with shelving and IKEA is the wonder store for storage. To not make a stop there could be a grave sin. I already know what I’m looking for so this trip has a destination and a goal.

There is a major caveat to this journey. Jenny and I agreed that we would leave all extra cash at home and only get what we are going for! I’m told that IKEA is the “Candyland” of shopping! The trick is to be strong. Perhaps a rosary or two or the intercession of some other powerful saint who can help us to resist the temptation of “shopping till we drop!”

So for today on this day off….my goal is to be home by noon or 1:00p.m. so that I can still go and see the movie “The Help”. Then afterwards, of course, coming home and continue working on throwing stuff out. Speaking of throwing stuff out, one of my kitty-cats brought in an unidentifiable creature that I had to put in the garbage.

OOOOOPS!

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Touchdown!

Having survived the busy-ness of yesterday is now allowing me to pull back a bit today. I actually did more than I reported I was going to do. Like, I squeezed in a little sushi lunch at House of Kobe and went to PetSmart in Merrillville before heading out to the airport to pick up Rosie. After I came home, I prepared my TV room by moving the little sofa back in to the living room and LeeAnn Bonta got some big guys to move my sleep sofa down to my TV room. After living here two years I can honestly say my house is almost in order. I’m still unpacking and tossing from my move to Merrillville 10 years ago! What has cured me from holding on to the “junk” I’ve collected over the years has been watching the TV show “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”

This morning I frantically looked for the sports section from last Saturday to see if I could find the Times article with Ethan Bonta’s name in it. Apparently, I stuck my foot in my mouth when I saw him Sunday and told him I didn’t see his name in the paper from the last Andrean game. He looked at me as if I stabbed him in the heart because the Post-Tribune had a big picture of him running off the field and the Times said that he saved the game! How did I miss that? I later heard from his mother that he didn’t know if I was teasing him or not. Ouch! That made me feel bad! So, I clipped out the article and even got the Post-Tribune picture….had both articles laminated and put it on my office door. In essence, I am now going to build a little shrine to Ethan Bonta! Why?

Last year Ethan came into my office and noticed that I had two articles about Jake Dixon on my door. Jake was playing football at Portage High School and was an incredible player. When Ethan saw that he asked why there was nothing with him on my door. I wasn’t even aware that Ethan was playing well enough to get mentions. He was! Jake is a great guy. I went to high school with his dad and because of Jake’s accomplishments on the team I threw my support towards the public high school by taking an ad in their sports booklet. Jake has now graduated as is playing football for Fordham University in New York. So now the focus is on Ethan!

Ethan too, is a great kid. Actually, all the Bonta boys are great kids. So, to honor my former grad of Nativity….”It’s all about Ethan!”

What a pastor won’t do…..or will do…..to give justice to one of his own. I may have scored a touchdown on this one!

“Good Morning Scholars!”

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Nativity Scholars From Days of Old!

I have made it a habit of calling all my Nativity students “Scholars“. I suppose that in my mind they are on their way to becoming scholars once they leave us. For the past several years those students who go on to Andrean High School have been the top scorers in the entrance exams. Along with that the top scored student gets a $1000 scholarship. Portage High School loves our Nativity students too. They always rank in the top ten percent of their class (with a few exceptions). So, calling them scholars now seems like the right thing to do by putting them on the right track.

This year our school is enjoying a terrific increase in enrollment. What is surprising is that we only budgeted for 160 students and we have 184 students enrolled. Some of these kids are coming to us on the new state voucher program but it is still an increase. What I like to impress is that something good is happening here at Nativity.

This morning I will have my first all school mass and I will welcome our students and give them the encouragement they need to begin their school year. I have also made it a tradition to call my Kindergartners “skinny-gartners!” It always gives them a tickle! My second graders are the ones I have marked as my “special” class because when they are in the 8th Grade it will mark one full cycle of my tenure here at Nativity. I hope I am here to see that day.

This past weekend was extremely busy. I didn’t get a chance to post a blog in case you were looking for me. In this weekend I had a funeral for a lovely 93 year old woman, my regular mass schedule with confessions and I canned 13 quarts of peaches and 24 quarts of tomatoes. Needless to say I was one tired Padre last night and it felt good to crash and burn last night.

Today will be busy too. After mass, it will crunch time to get the bulletin sent, set up the homily for next weekend, set up for next weeks bulletin, go to Midway to pick up Rosie (it’s her birthday, Happy Birthday Mommy!), can two more half bushels of tomatoes and anything else that falls in my path! Have a Blessed Day!

Fruit of Thy Labor!

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Natural Goodness!

Over 10 years ago I earned how to can tomatoes. My mother showed me how easy it was to do. It’s just time consuming and a little messy. There is nothing that compares to having the satisfaction of packing away a piece of God’s creation. It’s a goodness you can savor until you run out. The last time I canned was two years ago. I canned 8 cases of tomato. Not just for me but for my mom. This year I planted at least three different kinds of tomatoes: Big Boy, Roma and cherry. Big Boys are great for sandwiches, Roma for sauces and cherry for salads. Yum!

But this year I’m trying something new……peaches! Last year was going to be the year but they went out of season real quick. But I have a half bushel and am going to give it a whirl. The procedure is just as easy as tomatoes but again, time consuming and messy. I love to eat peach pie or peach cobbler. Or just to spoon some on some ice cream.

A few years back I tried pickles and peppers. They were just …okay. I am so grateful to Michelle Plinovich and Donna Johnson for picking up the peaches all the way from Michigan.

Handicapable

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Keep On Rollin On!

I posted a shameless request for someone to donate a scooter for me last year. Through the generosity of a former parishioner I received one. Unfortunately it died on me and now have been told it is not repairable. So I reposted another request. To purchase a new one will cost me $2000.00 or a little less. I suppose I could purchase one with the help of my foot doctor and my insurance but I only asked the public because sometimes people have these items and are looking for a home to someone who might need one. Like me.

Although I don’t dwell on it, the fact that I have “charcot foot” is serious. I tire very easy because I am constantly focused on not falling down. I don’t think people know how often I fall. Last week I fell in the school and my head almost went through a plate glass window. I came out with a deep cut on my knee. It’s pretty deep and it really hurt! Ouch! It was advised to me over a year ago to use a cane when I walk and I had no problem developing a cane aversion. But even with a cane I loose my balance. It’s a strange feeling living with this disability. It’s even stranger to say that I have one. Sure, I enjoy the perk of having the special car sticker and I have even had people open doors for me and just last week someone gave me a seat on the “L” in Chicago. But I mourn the loss of not moving around as quickly as I would like. I am beginning to see the road ahead of me. What I mean by that is that I am not getting any younger and my foot will not get better. If I break it I run the risk of amputation in the future.

The whole thing about getting older is kind of creepy for me although in just 15 years I can retire. I just hope that I don’t completely fall apart before that. I would really like to travel.  A few nights ago I dreamt that I was walking along and my foot was dragging. It was a disturbing dream and yet it almost felt like a foreshadowing of things to come. I guess this is why I want to get a new scooter. I want to be able to preserve what I have and just be smart about it.

I suppose that I should talk to God about this whole thing. Whatever is thrown in my path I know I will survive. I will not give up. God will not disappoint me either. He’s the best boss I’ll ever have!

Up, Up and Away!

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Rosie in Florence, Italy!

I am up early today. Rosie is going to North Carolina to see my sister Susan. I’m glad she’s going to get away and even happier that my sister is offering this to her. Too bad Hurricane Irene is going to dampen the trip! (Pardon the pun) My mom is very dedicated to my dad who now resides in a nursing home. My mother (Rosie) takes it upon herself to worry. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. But I’ve noticed that her worries are subsiding into a peaceful resignation. This is good news for me. Why? Because I am the one who has been her sounding board. In a sense, I’ve taken this up as my ministry to her. After all, who can she talk to on a daily basis? I’m the one who calls her three times a day to make sure she is OK. I worry about her. That’s a turnaround! If she’s not home at nightfall, I panic. I panic even more if she does not answer her cell phone. In the past she has been out with her friend Ophelia or the cat has knocked the phone of the hook. I even have the phone number to her next door neighbor if mom does not answer her phone or if I get a busy signal. Rosie is turning 83 years old this week. I’m hoping she’s around for a while. I just don’t want her to suffer in her last days. She has become my best friend in my later years. We’re not supposed to be friends with our parents when we are young but that changes as we get older. Two years ago I took mom on a cruise to Europe. She loved it and never in her wildest dreams did she ever see herself on such a huge trip. The photo I inserted is with her in the center of the market in Florence Italy. Legend has it that if you rub the nose of the boar you will return. I don’t believe this that will be the case for her. In October I will return to Florence and I will rub the boar’s nose just for her. In a sense, she will have returned again vicariously through me!