May 30, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 74 [Gor(e)y dream, marine bird, pickle splatter and more]

--- 1 ---

Alright, who can help me interpret this dream I had the other night? I was in my childhood home, and Al Gore drove up in a Jeep. He was there to give me a ride to some sort of formal event. But I was seriously delaying him because I was having trouble with my tie and collar. That's about all I remember.

 

--- 2 ---

If you go to school to study marine animal husbandry, one of the first things they probably teach you is how to identify a marine animal. If not, they should. My family went to the Austin Aquarium on Saturday and didn't have a good time. The place was really strange. I looked on the website and couldn't help but laugh at one of the staff bio photos:

Nothing personal against the guy, but I hope that as the director of marine husbandry, he's aware that a macaw is NOT A MARINE ANIMAL!

 

--- 3 ---

You know what really creeped me out at the aquarium? The "green" hand-washing stations with re-usable towels. I'm sorry, but after I wash my hands I refuse to dry them on the same wet towel that 100 other people have already used. The place had hand-washing stations because they encouraged visitors to stick their hands in the tanks and pet the fish. No thanks, we just looked instead.

 

--- 4 ---

The pickles were mysteriously missing from our Memorial Day meal. But if it was any consolation (it wasn't!), our garage smelled awfully pickley for the rest of the day. I heroically tried to carry in too many rain-soaked Target bags from the garage. And, of course, the only bag that had anything glass inside was the one that slipped out of my hands and left a crime scene-style mess of broken glass and pickle juice all over the floor.

 

--- 5 ---

I'm both Catholic and a baseball fan, and occasionally my brain gets these two important things mixed up. As I was very quickly skimming my Twitter timeline on my phone, I thought I read a tweet from Major League Baseball (MLB) that said, "Yoenis Cespedes listens attentively to the Word of God and truly prays, always asks The Lord: what is your will for me?"

I thought to myself, wow, I never knew that MLB was so religious. I did a double take and realized that my eyes blended two tweets together. My apologies to the pope.

 

--- 6 ---

Call me old fashioned, but miss the good old days when Major League Baseball teams had one uniform design for home games and one for road games. As I watched the internet feed of the Braves game on Memorial Day, I frowned when I saw the commemorative uniforms. Do baseball teams really care about those who died serving our country, or do they just want to sell more caps and jerseys to fans? A little of both, I suspect.

 

--- 7 ---

It's funny how a (reputable) business can sign you up for an email list in a moment's notice, but it takes forever to unsubscribe you. I realized recently that after filling a prescription, Walgreens started sending me junk sales email. So when I clicked on the unsubscribe link, the site said that it may take up to ten days for me to be removed from their list. I guess that's like how some utility companies can take days to activate your electric service after you sign up. But if you don't pay the bill, they can turn off your power in a matter of seconds.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

 

 

May 24, 2014

The Bug of Damocles

Nobody has ever accused The Three Stooges of being an educational program, unless you're studying the art of slapstick comedy. But as I saw a bug in my office the other day I remembered something I learned from the Stooges when I was a kid. (Stay with me. This'll make sense in a moment.)

I was minding my own business being a good employee when something caught my attention. There was a bug running around inside the fluorescent light casing in the ceiling.

Maybe that would be no big deal to you. But to me this was a big problem. How was I supposed to concentrate on my work knowing that this bug was up there? If I looked away for a little while would the bug sneak out and get me? And where were all the bug's friends and relatives? Everyone knows that if you see one bug, there are a few zillion more hiding in the walls.

As I spent all day with one eye on my work and one eye on the bug, I felt like the sword of Damocles was hanging over my head. Do you know how I first learned about the sword of Damocles? From The Three Stooges, of course. Take it away, Moe:

 

 

The Sword of Damocles [Courtesy: Wikipedia]

 

Read more ...

May 23, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 73 (Donut deception, table duty, gouging gator and more)


--- 1 ---

If you want to make food look more appealing, just sprinkle some powdered sugar on top. Or at least something that looks like powdered sugar. Take a look at this delicious donut:

The funny thing is, it's not a donut at all. It's a potato bagel from Costco. Maybe covering it in so much flour is a subliminal attempt to get you to buy it because it looks sugary. Whenever we pull one of these out the bag in our fridge, we grab a paper towel and dust off all the flour.

 

--- 2 ---

You'd think a hard-core introvert would like to sit alone in a restaurant. But that's not my idea of a comfortable situation unless the alternative is worse. After some extensive playtime at the park, my family and a friend and her kids stopped at Chick-fil-A for dinner. I volunteered to hang out alone at the table to guard our stuff while everyone else braved the playscape in the restaurant. If you've ever been inside the play area at a fast food place then you know I made the right choice.

 

--- 3 ---

My older daughter has just a few more days of second grade before summer vacation. Whenever we talk about it, she always asks, "Daddy, do you have to work during the summer?" I wish I didn't.

 

--- 4 ---

With all the media coverage lately about self-driving cars, I'd like to issue a challenge to Google or whomever else is thinking about manufacturing these things. Please hurry up so self-driving cars are mainstream before my kids are old enough to experience the perils of driving.

 

 

--- 5 ---

I don't know how I got on the junk mail list for a silly catalog full of overpriced outdoor furnishings, but check out the most ridiculous item:

Does anyone really need a $295 alligator drink table?

 

--- 6 ---

Can you figure out what's happening in this picture of my family? To me it looks like one daughter is standing on the other daughter's head.

 

--- 7 ---

Several years after Pope (now Saint) John Paul II's death, I'm still learning amazing things about him. At Mass last weekend, the deacon told the story of an American bishop who visited the pope when the pope's health was rapidly declining not too long before his death. The bishop was sad that this would likely be the last time he'd get to visit the pontiff. So the bishop said to him, "I'm so sorry that this is the last time I'll get to see you." The pope paused for a few seconds and said to the bishop, "Why? I didn't even know you were sick."

Well played, JPII!


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

Read more ...

May 16, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 72 (Precinct hijinks, porcelain purchase, shoe cheese and more)

--- 1 ---

Everyone knows that an airport security checkpoint is not the place to crack jokes. But what about the voting booth? The local school district had a bond election the other day, and as the precinct manager was checking me in she looked at my ID and said, "Oh, you look just like one of your neighbors who voted earlier." So I joked, "I swear I'm not trying to vote twice." I guess she didn't get it, because she said, "No, sir, the computer would not let you do that!"

 

--- 2 ---

Everything's bigger in Texas, including the state pride of quiz writers. My daughter's second grade class had a multiple choice quiz about various Texas trivia (state bird, state flower, state song, etc.). Check out the last question. Pretty smart of my kid to pick all of them.

 

--- 3 ---

When I see something this hilarious on the side of the road, I just have to pull over and snap a picture. I saw this on the same day that my wife and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Thankfully, porcelain is not the traditional tenth anniversary gift.

Seeing them right next to each other reminded me of the Love Toilet from Saturday Night Live:

Courtesy: screen.yahoo.com

 

--- 4 ---

I was surprised when my seven-year-old daughter tried brie cheese and said she liked it. When I was a kid, I thought it tasted terrible, In fact, my brother and I used to call it "shoe cheese" because it tasted like old shoes. Then I grew up and appreciated it.

 

--- 5 ---

I finished reading Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler last Sunday. I need more room than a quick take to tell you what I thought of it. You can read my review over here. And if you want to buy the book, it's available on Amazon.

 

--- 6 ---

As soon as I finished the book, I handed it over to my wife to read it. As an unplanned Mother's Day gift, the kids and I were so well behaved all day that she was able to read the whole thing in one day.

 

--- 7 ---

In my quick takes last week about my daughter's First Communion, I left out something really special. After Mass, my daughter's favorite deacon presented her with a Rosary and gave her a special blessing. He's the same deacon who told the amazing story back in January about the death of his 101-year-old father.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

Read more ...

May 11, 2014

Something Other Than a Dull Review

The first thing you may do after reading Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler (Ignatius Press, 2014) is think of several people you know who should read it. Like Oprah and cars, I want to say, "Everybody gets a book!"

Great comments and reviews of SOTG started popping up all over social media just as soon as the book was officially released on April 29. Since I pre-ordered on Amazon back in January, I figured I'd be among the first "regular people" to read it and write my own review. Not so fast.

On May 1, Amazon emailed me and said I owed an additional $1.10 because some of the rewards points that I used back in January were no longer valid. So I coughed up the additional dough, and the book arrived a few days behind schedule (last Sunday, thanks to Amazon's new Sunday delivery policy). So now I'm ready to write.

Special Sunday delivery

 

I was very interested in reading this book for numerous reasons.

1) I'm also a Catholic convert. I didn't come from the atheist realm as Jen did, but I definitely realized when I entered the church in 2005 that God had been tapping me on the shoulder for a long time. Conversion stories are very inspiring. Cradle Catholics were born into their faith. But adult converts actually know what they are getting into. And it was fascinating to follow Jen's spiritual journey in the book.

2) I'm a regular reader of the Conversion Diary blog and participate in the 7 Quick Takes linkup every Friday. In fact, if I didn't have a self-imposed deadline to write a 7QT post every week then I'd probably hardly ever write anything on my blog.

3) I'm also an introvert. However, I jokingly shake my head whenever Jen says in the book or on her blog that she's introvert. If she is, then she is (or was) the most party-throwing, gala-attending, globe-trotting, celebrity elbow-rubbing introvert I've ever heard of. If you compare our levels of introversion, I'm like a contemplative monk who's taken a vow of silence and lives in a hermitage on top of a mountain, and she's, well, Oprah. Or maybe she's just better at hiding or coping with her introversion than I am.

Many of the Fulwiler fans who read this book and posted about it online only needed a day or two to read it. It's definitely a page turner that you can whip through rather quickly. Although in my case it still took me almost a week while trying to balance reading time with working all day, spending time with the family in the evenings and also watching Braves games on the internet. I had to do some serious multitasking. As you can see in the photo, I'm watching the Braves and reading SOTG simultaneously. You can't see it in the picture, but the baby was also in the bathtub at the same time!

The Braves lost, but the book is a winner

 

It was a pleasure to read the book and get the "full story" behind the author's conversion. Sure, I know the basics from reading the blog and watching Minor Revisions (which I refuse to call a reality show because I don't watch reality shows). But now that I've read SOTG, I feel like I know the rest of the story. As I was reading, I found myself rooting for her along the way and sometimes thinking, Hello, don't you realize that God is talking to you? Why aren't you listening?

Living in the Austin area, I appreciated the local references in the book, although I can't say I'm one to yearn for the hustle and bustle of downtown, desire the party scene or hang out with jazz legends in trendy restaurants. Jen may have chilled out with Clifford Antone at Guero's, but with my luck I'm probably more likely to run into the guy from Leave it to Beaver at a fast food place. And maybe "The Beav" would be the one taking my order.

What I like most about the book are Jen's wit, self-deprecating humor, brutal honesty and determination to seek the truth. Any story, no matter how serious, can and should be told with at least some humor. She accomplished this expertly. I don't use silly emoticons or text message acronyms, but I really did LOL at what I thought was the funniest line in the book. I won't disclose it for those who haven't read it yet. All I'll say is it has to do with a curious atheist, a toilet and God. Oh, and it's on page 88.

It's the truth-seeking determination that ultimately led Jen to God. And thank God that she was persistent. Or maybe I should say thank God that God was persistent. I think many people in that situation would be susceptible to giving up or trying hard to ignore God's calling. But by always asking questions, she finally found and believed the answers.

God truly works in mysterious ways. He talks to each and every one one of us. We just don't always realize it. And when we do realize it, we don't always listen. God reached out to Jen through a Christian summer camp (with an overzealous counselor), a creek expedition, a cemetery, old photographs, pregnancy and perhaps most strongly, through her and her husband's success-seeking professional desires. God humbled them; God humbles me; God humbles us all.

My own conversion story is quite different. I wasn't seeking the truth or constantly asking questions. My conversion story can be summed up by a simple phrase that special guest star Ricardo Montalban used over and over in an episode of Dora the Explorer: "Falta algo - Something's missing." (Incidentally, that was Montalban's greatest role since playing Vincent Ludwig in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, but don't watch it with the kids.)

I knew all my life that something was missing, but I didn't know what. Now when I look back I recognize that the void was brutally obvious. God called me for several years at a Christian summer camp (but nobody forced me to proclaim anything), a Catholic high school, a Methodist college, through my wife and in so many other ways in daily life. And like Jen, I learned through my faith that it's okay to accept help.

A big turning point was when I reluctantly agreed to live in the Ronald McDonald house after our first born was rushed to a trauma center for emergency surgery when she was one day old. When the NICU nurse said she called in a referral to the Ronald McDonald House, I said, "Why? We live only 30 miles away." Thank God that I gave in an accepted the help. But that's a story for another time.

Something Other Than God will surely appeal to a wide audience. It's not a book that will be hidden away on the shelves of a religious bookstore. It's a spiritual journey everyone should read, even if you have differing views.

I don't know who will go to Heaven (that's way above my pay grade). But if Jen walks through the pearly gates, God won't say, "I've been calling you ever since you were baptized. What took you so long?" Nope. God will say, "I knew you were listening. Welcome home!"

 

Read more ...

May 9, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 71 ("I do", paschal prestidigitation, holy body snatchers and more)

--- 1 ---

I almost left my wife at the altar, sort of. Wednesday was our tenth anniversary, so on a whim she asked one of the priests at our parish if he would renew our vows at daily Mass at 6 p.m. That was fine with me, except that I totally needed traffic (and God) to be on my side in order to get from work to the church by 6. I left a little earlier than usual and arrived at 5:46 p.m. And for the record, we both said I do.

 

--- 2 ---

On Saturday night my older daughter received her First Communion. She was so excited that as soon as it was over she was already looking forward to going to Mass again as soon as possible. She got her chance to receive again at the Mass where we renewed our vows. Pretty special.

 

--- 3 ---

Since some of my daughter's friends were planning on attending a party at our house after her First Communion, I joked that we should play kids games like pin the tail on the donkey. My wife and daughter came up with a more relevant version: pin the Host on the hands:

As an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, I can relate to how it's not always easy to hit your target since not everyone holds their hands in exactly the right way. Once in a while I get a person who actually tries to grab the Host out of my fingers. I (silently) refer to them as the body snatchers!

 

--- 4 ---

What's more appropriate for a First Communion celebration than a cake that looks like the Bible? Check it out:

--- 5 ---

Priests say the darndest things. At daily Mass one day at a parish near my workplace, right after the prayers of the faithful, the priest said, "I am aware that the paschal candle is not lit. I'm not going to climb up there right now and light it. So just pretend it's lit." This was the same priest who had people rolling in the pews with laughter last year with a funny comment about a nun.

 

--- 6 ---

I am now reading Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler. I'm not just mentioning it here because I could win a couple of prizes for doing so. But I would not be opposed to winning a banana suit. I once dressed up as a pumpkin (very briefly), so it wouldn't be totally out of character. Oh, and did I mention that you can buy your own copy of SOTG on Amazon?

--- 7 ---

My 18-month old has taken to a life of crime. We went to the (locally) famous Monument Cafe last weekend and browsed in the adjacent market while waiting for our table. The little one picked up a couple of little bags of garden seeds and was shaking them like a toy. About 20 minutes later as we walked over the restaurant when our table was ready, I realized that she was still carrying the seeds. Uh oh. I walked back to the market with the seeds and confessed, much to the amusement of the clerk.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

 

Read more ...

May 6, 2014

Gnome sweet gnome

My daughter's second grade class is probably not the best test audience for my jokes. But sometimes I try anyway. She's been working on an assignment to create a three dimensional "home for a gnome."

So she developed a scene with a gnome in his natural habitat: the top of a small white box that my lunch came in at a recent conference. She drew a nice picture inside the box and added some trees, the sun and a "water crystal" at the top. I guess it's good to keep your gnome hydrated.

Check out the picture, and then I'll tell you how I got involved.

 

My daughter asked me for ideas on what she should name the gnome. I offered a few suggestions that perhaps would make the class laugh:

1) Gnome de Plume (A pseudonym for a literary gnome)

2) Gnomestradamus (A gnome who tells the fututre)

3) Gnome Chomsky (A linguistically gifted gnome)

4) Gnome Peterson (Every time he walks into a bar, people yell, "Gnome!")

Alas, my daughter respectfully declined my suggestions and named the gnome Gregory. But all it not lost; Gregory's nickname could be G-gnome.

 

Read more ...

May 2, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 70 (Super religious edition)

Tomorrow my seven-year-old daughter gets to do something amazing that I didn't get to do until I was 33. She's going to receive her first communion. I told her to pay close attention because receiving Christ's Body and Blood for the first time is something she will cherish forever.

What a powerful moment that was during 11:30 a.m. Mass last Sunday when the priest abruptly stopped at 12 noon for the bells to ring for three minutes in honor of the newly canonized saints, John XXIII and John Paul II. Normally Mass doesn't stop for anything, so it was quite a remarkable occurrence.

This is the time of year when I get to hear my favorite Easter hymn, O Sons and Daughters. Unfortunately many of the versions on You Tube have such an overpowering organ that it's hard to hear and appreciate the lyrics. But then I found this one. Bless this guy's heart for recording himself and posting it online.


"Faith is the opposite of worry." That comment in a presentation from Relevant Radio's Drew Mariani really stood out to me at a Divine Mercy conference last Saturday. I worry all the time. But you wouldn't know it because I'm an introvert and I hide it well! Spending less time worrying and more time praying sounds like a much better path.

When you are trying to concentrate and listen, there's no worse place to be than a church cry room. I always joke that cry rooms need their own cry rooms so that the loudest and most chaotic kids have an even more secluded place to go while the rest of us try to have at least some standard of quietness and decorum in the main cry room. Apparently, the church that hosted the conference had the same idea. Check out the sign from the cry room wall. They don't want "seriously unhappy children" in the cry room.

I got a real kick out of the toilet paper that was in the cry room's bathroom. Is "Roses" brand supposed to make your you-know-what smell better?

My 18-month-old is starting a new fashion trend. Remember way back when people started wearing their baseball caps backwards because they saw Ken Griffey, Jr. do it that way? Well, toddlers all over town will start wearing their sunglasses upside down after they see this.


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.






Read more ...