January 30, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 106 (Laptop pillow, old yogurt, royal icing and more)

ONE: Some warning labels are just too funny. As I pulled a new laptop out of the box I was momentarily stumped -- and amused -- by these two warnings:

The first one looks like maybe the person is using the laptop as a pillow and is upset because it's not comfortable. The second one looks like the laptop is falling on top of a crawling baby. Then I figured out that these were suffocation warnings for the plastic wrapper that was around the laptop.

TWO: I've never worked in a grocery store, so I don't know how stores keep up with product expiration dates. But I was rather stunned last week when I was in a major grocery retail store and saw two packs of yogurt that expired on December 29, 2014! I grabbed them off the shelf and handed them to the first employee I could find.

THREE: My poor eight-year-old daughter was sick over the weekend and threw up a couple of times. We kept a bucket near her, and my two-year-old must have been jealous because at one point she grabbed the bucket (thankfully it was clean), leaned her head into it and playfully simulated the sounds of vomiting for our amusement.

FOUR: Like many kids, my little one is a picky eater. She saw me bringing a bowl of salad over to the dinner table and said, "I don't want any yummy salad."

FIVE: Someone I know, but rarely see, came up to me right before Mass on Sunday and asked if I have a twin brother in town. I said, "No, but I have an older brother who lives in another state." The guy said he made eye contact with someone in a restaurant the day before who looked exactly like me. It was not I because I wasn't in a restaurant that day.

SIX: The lookalike conversation reminded of what my late grandmother used to say back when I lived in South Florida more than 20-years ago. She always thought I looked just like Rick Sanchez who was a Miami news anchor at the time and then years later went on to make the rounds at some of the cable news channels. Sorry, but I don't see the resemblance.

Image credit: ricksanchez.me

SEVEN: It has not yet been built, but we have a Frozen (for those of you without kids, that's a movie) edible gingerbread house in our kitchen. I don't know anything about confections, but I thought it was funny that the label said the cookies and the regular icing were made in the Canada, but the "royal" icing was from the United States. Are the differences between the regular and royal icing so significant that they had to be made in separate countries?

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.



January 23, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 105 (Cheap piece, pea butter, dumb definition and more)

ONE: I don't know too much about guns, and I had never heard of this store until I walked right past it last weekend. But I think if I needed to buy a gun, for safety and quality purposes I'd look for one that costs more than dirt.

TWO: When a business sends you an email and uses your first name, I guess it's supposed to make you feel that the business truly cares about you. But sometimes the mail merge feature goes awry. Here's part of an email I received:

THREE: Now I know who put the "pea" in peanut butter.

Yes, this is a peanut butter substitute made from peas. I'm glad I'm not allergic to peanuts because I couldn't imagine smearing mashed peas and jelly on bread and thinking it might possibly taste good. I don't think the "Sneaky Chef" is fooling anyone.

FOUR: Whoever created this little cartoon nailed it. This is exactly what it's like when an introvert goes to a party.

Image credit: Fun Substance via Facebook

FIVE: When I was a kid I always hated it when I would look up a word in the dictionary only to find that instead of an actual definition, the book just listed another form of the very same word. That was never helpful. I had a flashback to my childhood this week when the same thing happened with a word on the Words with Friends game. Yes, I already know what doze means, but why couldn't they list the actual definition?

SIX: Once a month I volunteer at the county jail to lead or assist with communion services. The group I was assigned to last Sunday was very inspiring. A couple of the guys enthusiastically volunteered to read the Mass readings because it was their last day before being released. Please consider praying for those behind bars and their families.

SEVEN: I received quite an attitude adjustment from St. Martha. In fact, the writing was on the wall, sort of. You can read all about in my latest post for Austin Catholic New Media.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.


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January 21, 2015

Martha on the Wall [ACNM]

Some of us are Marthas, and some of us are Marys. For me, the writing -- or at least the picture -- was on the wall. I had never given too much thought into Luke's story about Martha welcoming Jesus and associates into her home, getting right to work serving them and eventually learning to do so without complaint. This point became quite clear to me in Martha's own room.

At the end of 2014, I concluded a three-year term on the pastoral council at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Pflugerville, Texas. During the the last two years, I served as chairman of the council. Seeking nomination for an elected position is not normally something that's part of my modus operandi as an introvert. But sometimes God puts us in unexpected situations, as we've seen over and over in the Bible.

During the last meeting of my first year on the pastoral council back in October 2012, the group needed to appoint someone to serve as interim chairman in order to plan the first meeting of the following year because both the chairman and vice chair were leaving the council.

Someone said, "How about you, Adam?" The immediate answer that popped into my head was, no way. But I knew that the right thing to do was to say yes. And how hard could it be? All I would need to do was prepare the agenda and lead the first meeting only up until the part early on where the council would formally select a new chairman for the year.

With more than enough work and family responsibilities competing for my time, I fully expected the council to select a chairman who would be able to focus the position. Clearly that wasn't I. Or maybe it was. At the first meeting of the new year, the team quickly elected me chairman for 2013.

I was not thrilled, but I accepted the role and tried to serve the parish well, although I was never fully comfortable in doing so. At the end of 2013 I had one more year left on my term. I informed the pastor that I was looking forward to serving my final year but was not interested in being chairman again. So at the first meeting of the new year I planned to ask the council to select someone else to lead.

Our first meeting in January 2014 was cancelled due to an ice storm. So we held the meeting a few days later during our annual pastoral council overnight retreat at Cedarbrake Retreat Center.

When it was time to elect officers for the new year, I informed the group of my decision and asked them to select a new chairman. Pardon the cliché, but the other members immediately twisted my arm and forced me to be chairman again. I reluctantly accepted the role. But admittedly, I spent the rest of the meeting silently stewing because I didn't want to do it again.

At the end of the evening, I returned to my room at the retreat center. Each room in the building was named after a saint. I happened to be in the St. Martha room. I sat down on the bed, still peeved over not being able to step aside as chairman. Then I looked up and noticed this framed image of St. Martha on the wall.

That's when I began to reflect more deeply on Luke's story of Martha and Mary. Martha served but with some great anxiety until Jesus set her straight. Then she learned to serve with a better attitude. Clearly I needed an attitude adjustment too. And there was Martha on my wall setting me straight.

[To read the rest of this story, please click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]


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January 16, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 104 (W for daddy, cheese humor, crazy carrot and more)

ONE: I'm always amused when when people talk about the major awards shows on TV because I know nothing about them. All the social media chatter about the Golden Globes the other night and the Oscar nominations yesterday was over my head because I don't watch much TV and rarely see movies. You may be surprised at how many popular TV shows and movies I've never even heard of. I delved into this back in 2012 and 2013.

TWO: After far more ice storms last winter than we usually get in this part of Texas, the first ice storm this winter came and went with minimal impact. It was a struggle just to find a few icicles to photograph.

THREE: I'm proud of my two-year-old daughter's sharp knowledge of the alphabet. But occasionally she makes the most adorable mistakes. We were in the car headed to Mass on Sunday, and she was pointing out some letters on road signs. I asked her what letter she saw, and she said, "I saw a W -- for daddy!"

FOUR: I declined my daughter's fashion advice when I was getting ready for Mass. She decided to pick out a pair of shoes for me and came out of the closet with these.

FIVE: My little one didn't understand the joke, but when I saw her running in circles around the kitchen while carrying a piece of cheese, I said, "Hey, don't run with cheese. But at least it's not sharp cheddar."

SIX: When I was in school I was always good at reading and writing but hated math. I still do. So you can imagine my shock when my older daughter, who's in the third grade, showed me her grammar homework. How dare they try to incorporate math into a grammar lesson!

SEVEN: We regularly buy baby carrots because they are a healthy and convenient snack. But something must have gone horribly wrong at the carrot factory. Look what I pulled out of the bag.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

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January 9, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 103 (Bad blood, dirty water, hot air and more)

ONE: I've been flummoxing phlebotomists for many years. On those rare occasions when I need blood drawn, they always have a really hard time with my veins. The other day the phlebotomist tried twice in one arm then gave up and called in a backup. Fortunately, the second phlebotomist moved to my other arm and drew blood on the first try. And he gave me me this lovely pink bandage. Luckily I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt.

The worst blood draw I ever had was a few years back when I had three pokes in one arm, two in the other arm. Then, finally, they successfully drew blood from my wrist!

TWO: My eight-year-old daughter received a scavenger hunt kit for Christmas with search items for both adults and children. One of the adult cards said to find a romance novel. Does this count?

THREE: That same daughter rattled off a great line when I was talking to her about needing to clean her room. She said, "I never clean. I only organize!"

FOUR: I forgot to include this in Quick Takes over the holidays, but right before Christmas we received a piece of mail completely torn in a half inside a special bag from the post office.

How exciting that my envelope was in the special damaged mail unit. It sounds like a bad Law & Order spinoff.

FIVE: And here's another old Quick Take I couldn't fit in last week. While we were in Florida for Christmas, this sign at the children's splash pool in my brother's neighborhood reminded me of the famous line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Water, water everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink.

Water, water everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.

SIX: A funny thing happened to me in the confession booth last Saturday. As I was on my way out, the priest stopped me and said, "Will you please go into the sacristy and ask the sacristan to turn on the air conditioning? It's getting hot." I hope it wasn't my sins that raised the temperature.

SEVEN: My latest post for Austin Catholic New Media is one of my favorites. Please check it out and find out what you can learn from a 101-year-old man in Nigeria.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

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January 7, 2015

A Centenarian's Lesson: Don't Wait for Tomorrow [ACNM]

Raise your hand if you are a procrastinator. (If you raise your hand later, I'll understand.) Of all the things we sometimes put off during the course of our lives, there is one thing far more important than anything else that we should never wait to do: follow Christ.

Never was this point made more clearly than in a homily I heard one year ago this month. Deacon Emmanuel Nwokocha from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Pflugerville, Texas had just retuned from a three-week trip to Nigeria to attend the funeral and burial of his 101-year-old father.

Deacon Emmanuel Nwokocha [Photo: Pat McCord]

In his homily, Deacon Emmanuel explained how he spent some time alone with his father as he was lying in state. He reflected on the accomplishments and failures of his father and wondered if he still had plans for his future before he died.

During the last few years of his life, the deacon's father did something remarkable. He reached out to people he had offended and asked for their forgiveness. At the same time, he contacted those who had offended him and offered his forgiveness.

While it was sad to hear the deacon discuss the loss of his dad, I felt an overwhelming sense of grace while listening to the homily, knowing that the man was truly at peace when he passed away.

Then came the part of the homily that really stuck with me:

It dawned on me that it was over for my dad. All his plans for tomorrow will never materialize, that he is now standing before God to account for his deeds, good or bad.....I wondered how many of those who came for my father's burial have plans for tomorrow, how many plan to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ tomorrow, how many have plans to make peace with their neighbor tomorrow, how many have plans to forgive someone tomorrow, and so forth, forgetting that tomorrow is not guaranteed. So in eulogizing my Dad, I reminded the audience that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a thing for tomorrow, it is a here and now event and anyone procrastinating about it needs to make that decision today because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I noted that it is no longer enough to say I am a Christian in words alone, but that it is necessary to reflect the presence of God in our daily lives.

I have a feeling that through divine intervention the deacon's father reached a point where he felt like had done all he needed to do, or at least all he could do. In the homily he said that one night his father gathered his family by his side, gave them a blessing and told them that if he was not there in the morning not to worry. He passed away that night.

[To read the rest of this post, please jump over to Austin Catholic New Media.]


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January 2, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 103 (Sick, sick and more sick)

PROLOGUE: Here are seven random takes from my family's Christmas week vacation in sunny Flurida. (No, that isn't a typo.)

ONE: All four of us had the flu during our Florida vacation.


Tamiflu helped move things along, but it was still a rough trip. Yes, we all had flu shots a couple of months ago. By the way, the liquid Tamiflu prescribed to my kids was absolutely the worst tasting medicine in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. You can just imagine how fun it was trying to force it down our kids' throats while they were already miserable.

TWO: I received my flu diagnosis at a random urgent care facility on Christmas Eve morning in Florida. I feared the flu test a little bit because others have described it has the nurse shoving a stick so far up your nose that it stabs your brain. Luckily mine didn't hurt at all. The nurse left me alone with the little test card to wait the required 15 minutes. I stared at it anxiously like it was a pregnancy test. Eventually, the results became clear.

Two lines means either pregnancy or the flu!

THREE: With enough drugs we still managed to haul ourselves to Mass on Christmas morning. It would have been really sad to miss it. If you happen to have attended the 10 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Apostles Church in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, we were the four people with dazed looks on our faces sitting in the back pew away from everyone else.

Image credit: www.olqa.cc

FOUR: During our trip, my two-year-old daughter got to meet Sabu for the first time. Sabu is an African Grey parrot who's been in our family since 1986 and currently lives with my brother. At first, my daughter thought he was a chicken. Sabu is probably about 50 years old. I suspect that despite his poor eating habits, he will outlive all of us. Here's a picture of Sabu eating a big piece of steak at Christmas dinner.

FIVE: Given our level of sickness, we spent lengthy amounts of time over the Christmas break sitting around doing nothing but trying to keep the kids entertained. The Christmas music channel was on my brother's TV for so long that we even started seeing the same typos over and over. I'm sure you're familiar with the old holiday favorite, "Santa Claus is Coing to Town."

SIX: We received a little love note from the TSA in one of our suitcases. I hope the guard had fun digging through our unmentionables.

SEVEN: One of the small joys of airline travel is getting to laugh at ugly luggage while waiting at the baggage claim. Of course, the uglier your suitcase is, the easier it is to find. Following our return flight, I didn't see anything particularly ugly. But I did appreciate this "NOT YOUR BAG!" luggage tag. I had to rush to snap a picture as the suitcase whizzed by me.

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.


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January 1, 2015

Happy New (Saint) Year

My randomly generated patron saint for the new year is.... St. Radegunde. You can get one too. Just head over to Conversion Diary's Saint's Name Generator.

Image credit: saints.sqpn.com


As was the case in the previous two years (2014: St. Cajetan; 2013: St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi) my new saint is one I wasn't previously familiar with. St. Radegunde is the patron saint of:

  • Difficult marriages
  • Drowning
  • Fever
  • Leprosy
  • Loss of parents
  • Potters
  • Scabies
  • Scabs
  • Ulcers
  • Weavers

Doesn't sound like a happy year ahead, does it? Maybe I'll take up weaving and pottery! Or perhaps other people dealing with these situations need some extra prayers in 2015. So that's what I'll ask St. Radegunde to do.


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