Chapter 5

I know I’m a few days late with this, but like I always say better late than never.  I should also have chapter 6 out this week as well and I’m planning of creating a combined document of the first 8 chapters when I get there.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful advent.

fmf-chapter 5

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Life’s little annoyances

My car has developed a personality as of late, despite the fact that popular science has shown that inanimate objects are incapable of developing personalities, my car has developed one.  I blame it one the fact that it’s been hanging around with a bunch of other cars in local parking lots after dark.  Nothing good ever comes of hanging out in parking lots after dark.

Parking Lot, Clarendon and Stuart Streets

It used to be such a sweet car.  It always listened to what I told it to do.  It accelerated when I hit the gas and slowed down when I hit the brakes.  When I was cold, it provided heat, when I was hot it filled the passenger compartment with icy cold air.  Even when I left it alone in parking lots and locked it to keep it safe, I was greeted with friendly honk of the horn.  It was as it the car was saying “So long Danny, see you in a bit. I’m just going to rest here for a while.”

Oh I’m still greeted with a honk of the horn when I lock it, but the horn has changed tones.  It sounds more defiant.  Now, instead of the “So long Danny” sound, I hear a “get out of here, leave me alone to hang out with my friends” attitude filled beep.  This has been going on for weeks now and I’m not sure I like the change in my car’s tone.

There is another part of my cars attitude shift that has developed, the car has randomly started flashing the brake lights and emitting a warning tone so loud it would end up on the decibel scale somewhere between a running washing machine running filled with rocks and a jet air plane taking off.  The first time this light and sound show happened I nearly spit coffee all over the windshield.  I was driving down a dark country road early one morning and to see a flashing brake light and a jet engine toned beeping that early was a little concerning.  I gently applied the brakes to ensure they were working and then the light went off.

False alarm I thought to myself, no need to panic just keep driving.  Then 10 minutes later another beep loud enough to wake the dead and the flashing brake light.  The brakes were once again verified and as I applied them I swore I heard the engine laugh a bit.  Was my car simply playing around with me?

Well this has now been happening for weeks now and each time it happens my blood pressure rises and I get madder and madder at this phantom problem. In other words, my car is winning.  If it’s goal is to annoy me, it is doing a fantastic job of it.

The beeping is driving me nuts!!

The beeping is driving me nuts!!

I’ve been complaining of this to my wife pretty incessantly since it started, yet she has never heard it.  That is until yesterday.  We were out running a few errands, when my car messed up, it forgot that I wasn’t the only one in the car when it launched into it’s screaming light show.  The first beep caused my blood pressure to rise, the second nearly blew out my ear drum and the third forced me to emit a loud blast of frustration.  To which my lovely bride turned to me and said “Is that the noise that’s been causing you such problems?  That’s nothing.”

“Nothing,” I muttered back “Did you hear how loud that thing is and it does it all the time.”

“Simple fix,” she said. “Next time you hear it say Father Son and Holy Spirit and then offer a quick prayer for someone.”

“Wait, what?” I said in protest. “You did hear that right?  That loud, annoying, random beeping. I’m not just hearing things am I?”

“Just pray the next time you hear it.”

The simplicity of her statement struck me. Take this horribly annoying thing my car was doing to drive me batty and turn it into a positive.  My wife’s idea was put to the test moments later.  Beep Beep Beep…prayer.  Five minutes later beep…beep…beep…prayer.

For the rest of the journey I took my wife’s advice and every time that silly brake light came on, I said a simple prayer. By the end of the day’s journey I was no longer annoyed by the noise, but rather enjoyed hearing the ear piercing scream fill the car.  I had become like Pavlov’s dogs only I prayed rather than salivated when I heard a beep.  Take that car, bested by a human.  Who says German engineering is superior to American ingenuity?

In fact I’m going to start looking for other little annoyances in my life as opportunities to pray.  Stub my toe, say a prayer, dog won’t come home when called, pray. Stuck in traffic, pray.  Take all those little moments in life where there exists an opportunity to move further away from God and turn it around and use them as moments to grow in your faith.

Thanks to my wife, I’m no longer angry at my car for developing a personality. Instead I’m rather thankful, although I’m still banning it from hanging out with other cars after dark.  Nothing good happens in parking lots after dark after all and we’re still going to have a talk about the tone of it’s horn.

IMG_1246

Always keep praying.

Slip Sliding Away

Dawn

Let it be known that I do not sleep with my laptop or any other electronics with me.  As a writer, I am fully aware that I am running the risk of losing the next great blog piece or some other novel idea by not keeping my tools of the trade at the ready. In fact, had I had a computer next to me this morning, you would be reading a completely different piece than the drivel I am currently writing.

This morning I had the perfect blog piece, it made so much sense, was full of so much wit it would have no doubt been one of my best ever.  I lay there writing the intro, the body and the conclusion in my head and yes I will even admit I did emit an audible laugh in my sleep, my friend the piece was that good.

The sun was still well below the horizon when my feet hit the floor.  I set about the day, making a note that when I have a moment I should write down this most excellent blog post. Well, I have to admit the day, like my dreamy blog post, got away from me.

I didn’t intend for this to happen.  I meant to write the post on my lunch break, but instead spent it catching up on social media and the latest news.  I meant to write when I got home from work, but it was time for supper, time to watch my dog aimlessly lick some random spot in the carpet.  Then it was time to help my daughter with her homework, nighttime snack, make sure her teeth get brushed and the  other various chores and routines that make life worth living.

I now sit in front of a nearly blank computer display trying desperately to remember what the genius of a blog post was all about.  I think it had something to do with railroad tracks and Saint Joseph, nope that isn’t it maybe it was….nope that’s not it.  Oh forget it too be honest I’m now more intrigued why my dog is fixated on that spot in the carpet than I am on remembering my blog post.

It’s not only blog posts that get away from us as we go about our daily lives.  I often find all to often it too easy to forgo prayer. I mean I intend to spend time with God, I’ll do it just as soon as I finish this report, or once teeth are brushed or once this episode of “insert show title here” is over with.  How easy it is to keep sliding communion with God down our to do list, but don’t let it slip too far down on your list.

Prioritize your time to include time in prayer.  God desires a relationship with you, isn’t it time you desired the same?

Spinning My Wheels

I hate to admit it but my outdoor cycling season is quickly coming to a end.  I’m going to hold out as long as I can, but the reality that unless I become a giant fan of riding in the dark part of my next six months of my cycling life are going to be spent spinning indoors.

In preparation to make this transition a little easier on myself, I’ve been doing a few rides on my rollers recently.  Truth be told I’m really trying to psyche myself up for the indoor trainer season by trying to trick my brain in to thinking that indoor training really isn’t all that bad.

Rollers

Rollers (Photo credit: rutt)

So the other night I headed to the garage, pumped up the bike tires, dusted off the rollers and climbed aboard.  My dog, who had eagerly followed me into the garage, was spending her time hunting mice.

Under the cold fluorescent lights of my dingy garage I was trying desperately to stay on the rollers and not go flying off the side.  If you’ve never ridden rollers before consider yourself lucky they are very similar to riding your bike on an ice rink.  One swift move and bam on the floor you go.  Trust me on this one, they take a while to get use too and I’m not too sure I’ve mastered them yet.

While I was struggling with my balance, my lovely dog spent the time contently hunting mice in the corner of the garage and when she tired of that she came and laid next to rollers.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind, but we had given her table scraps recently which gave her as some would say “the gas”.  Every so often, while trying to maintain focus, the smell of my lovely dogs digestion system would fill my nostrils and cause me to become distracted.  This in turn forced me to nearly crash off the rollers.

This went on for what seemed to be an eternity, which in reality was about 15 minutes, and as the seconds ticked by I began to question my own sanity and motivations.  Why on earth would I leave the comfort of my favorite easy chair to spend time in the saddle balancing precariously on rollers while my dog does her best skunk impersonation.  I may need to have my head examined.

the little stinker.

the little stinker.

I guess I do it because I trust that it will make me a better rider in the future.  That the time spent spinning my wheels indoors will prepare me to climb a hill faster, ride further, or will simply help me look cooler on the bike (yeah right, hard to look cool while wearing spandex, but yet I manage).

 

My time spinning my wheels makes me think of all those times in my spiritual life where I have felt like I am simply spinning my wheels and not really growing in my faith.  You know those moments where prayer feels a little flat, like your simply going through the motions.  It is during these spiritual doldrums that it is all too easy to lose focus and slip off the track you are supposed to be on.  I have learned that these doldrums serve a purpose.  These prayers,  just like riding the rollers, prepare you for the next phase of your journey.  There is no such thing as a wasted prayer.  We need to trust in God’s plan for us and continue to do what He places before us, even if it does feel like we are simply spinning our wheels.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my dog just ate a large bowl of leftover chili and I have another roller session planned.  This could prove interesting.

 

The Doors

Like many home in America, mine has a front door.  It’s not a super high efficient state of the art front door mind you, no mine came from much humbler beginnings.

One night, many moons ago I was over at a neighbor’s house conversing about the latest and greatest in hand tools or whatever else typical males talk about when the topic shifted to the dusty door laying on the ground.

“What are you going to do with that?” I asked pointing at the door.

“Burn it.” my neighbor replied.

“Mind if I buy it from you? I need a new front door.”

“You can have it, I was just going to burn it a bonfire.”

I ran across the street grabbed my SUV and loaded up the door and headed home proud as a peacock.  My wife, however, wasn’t so thrilled with my recent find and to her credit the door was ugly.  It was a dark brown masterpiece straight out of 1970, but I saw the beauty contained within, my wife not so much.

Broken Doors Apart

A few weeks later and after buying a couple of new tools (all men know new tools are required to hang doors) I had a new front door.  Oh sure the door hangs slightly askew and is isn’t perfect, but it opens, closes, and keeps the weather out so I guess it meets the qualifications needed for a door.

I’ve walked through that door more times than I can remember over the years and each time I cross the threshold, nothing inside me changes.  What I mean to say is that I am who I am whether I am inside my house hanging with my family watching a movie or whether I’m outside in the world chasing down my destiny I don’t change who I am.  I am a husband, father, all around good guy who has a wonderful smile and smells pretty nice and no matter where I am.

There is another door in my life, this door is better constructed than the one on my house (the person who hung it must have known what they were doing unlike me), but just like the door on the front of my house. I’m the same person whether I’m inside or outside.

This door is the front door to my church and no matter if I’m sitting inside the sanctuary at mass or sitting in the parking lot I’m Catholic.  I’m not Catholic for just one hour a week when I’m at mass, no sir I’m Catholic 24/7.

We need to realize that we are all Catholic not just when we are at mass, but also when we are out in the “real world” and we need to do a better job of taking our Faith out into world with us.  We need not celebrate our Faith for a mere 60 minutes a week, but rather celebrate it 24/7.

Pope Francis met with media

Pope Francis recently tweeted “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!”  Follow the Holy Father’s advice take your Faith through the doors when you leave, spread the Gospel, live your Faith, the results could be no less than revolutionary.

Wrestling with the Choice

“What sport are you going to choose?” my friend said to me as the smell of his unwashed gym shirt filled my nose.

“I dunno. What about you?” I said running my fingers through my gel filled hair, trying and failing miserably at looking cool for the ladies in my gym class.

“I’m doing gymnastics,” my friend said.

English: gymnastics class, Sports in Israel עב...

“Dude. You’re doing gymnastics.  That’s the girl sport.  All the guys are wrestling.”

“I know, but I want to do gymnastics.  You should do it with me, it’ll be fun.”

“No way, I’m doing wrestling,” I walked over to the boys side of the gym and took my spot in line with the rest of the sweaty stinky boys.

I was in seventh grade when the class was faced with the decision to either do wrestling or gymnastics.  The gym teacher had told us that it used to be that all the boys did wrestling and the girls did gymnastics, but due to some lawsuit he had to offer both sports to both genders.

Out of the entire class my friend was the only boy who decided to do gymnastics, the rest of us “men” as we liked to think of ourselves were going to wrestle.  It was a two week lesson in wrestling and I learned very quickly that I stink at wrestling.

It might have been my tendency to be more of a lover than a fighter that made me a bad wrestler.  It might have also been the fact that I was very very doughy in seventh grade.  I was a 98 pound weakling trapped in a 130 pound body.  Whatever the reason was, I was a terrible wrestler.

Wrestling Regionals

The one bright spot in my wrestling career was that I maintained a perfect record.  I never won a match.  Even the boy who was extremely small for his age and was on growth hormones for it beat me.

During one of my matches as my opponent’s sweaty armpit rested mere inches from my nose and sweat from his forehead dripped on to my face, I watched my friend, the one who had chosen gymnastics running and dancing with all the girls in the class.  “I should have picked gymnastics” I thought to myself sweat continuing to drip onto my face.  The referee counted to three and my perfect loss record remained intact.

I walked over to the rear of the line, my opponent’s sweat still dripping off my face.  My gymnastics friend on the other hand was busy flirting and talking to all the girls in the class.  It didn’t matter to him that all the boys were going to ridicule him for picking gymnastics, he saw the glory in the decision.  Two weeks alone with all the girls in the class.  He saw what no other boy in the class did and was reaping the benefits of that decision.

It’s been years since I last wrestled, but many times I will think of that two week period in my life.  When I reflect upon that time I often think had I had the courage to stand up to the other boys in the class and choose gymnastics it could have been me flirting and hanging out with all the girls.

There have been many times in my life where I have simply gone with the crowd to avoid the ridicule and name calling that comes with going against the flow.  But yet there are times in our lives when God calls us to stand apart from the crowd.  He’s asked me many times wrestling or gymnastics and too many times I’ve picked wrestling.  Each time I’ve picked wrestling I ended up covered in stinky nasty sin, but those time I’ve picked gymnastics I’ve ended up surrounded by dancing choirs of angels.  It takes courage to choose gymnastics, but then again it also takes courage to follow God’s will in your life.

In everyones life the questions the same, wrestling or gymnastics, the answer is up to you.

I’m Getting a Divorce

I’ve been giving my life a whole lot thought recently and I come to the conclusion that I need a divorce.  There really isn’t any other option in my life right now, I’ve looked at the issue from all sides and have decided a divorce is the only way out for me.

Now I know what you all are thinking. Isn’t divorce against your religion, you are Catholic after all.  Yes, you are correct in assuming divorce is against my religion. I strongly believe that what God has joined no man can put asunder (asunder is one of my favorite words by the way).

So why then would I be seeking a divorce if it goes against one of my fundamental beliefs. Well to be honest I’m not talking about divorcing my wife, I love her more now than when I married her 10 years ago. No, I am talking about getting a divorce from my stuff.

I have way too much stuff in my house and it gets in the way.  It gets in the way of my walking upstairs, of getting into closets and it prevents me from parking two cars in my garage.  I need a divorce from my stuff.

Wether we like it or not we all have a relationship with the stuff we have.  Just like our relationships with our spouses and our family our relationship with stuff takes time and energy.  How many times have you walked by some particular item in your house and felt guilty that you haven’t used it in a while?  All of our stuff in our homes requires attention, maintenance and thought.  Just like all of our other relationships.

Here is a prime example of what I am talking about.  I was just out in my garage and counted up how many hammers I own.  Now keep in mind, I  am not in a profession that requires me to use a hammer every day.  I own a staggering seven hammers.  Now what in the world would I ever need seven hammers for.  Last time I checked I only have two hands so even if I became Danny Hammerhands I would still have 5 hammers  on my wall.  Heck, I could even use a different hammer every day of the week if I wanted to.

So what’s the big deal, you own seven hammers who cares.  The problem is that each one of these hammers has a cost of ownership associated with it.  A cost that is measured in time and space. It took me a lot of time to find the perfect spot for each hammer on the wall.  I had to go the hardware store to find the mounting hardware for the pegboard then find a spot and then hang in on the wall.  Quite a bit of time when into this seemingly insignificant act of organization.

What if the time I had devoted my time hammering out prayers to God rather than  organizing my hammers or what if my wife and I had taken a walk. Would these relationships be better than they already are?  I don’t know the answer, but I can assume I would be happier as I would prefer to spend time with God and my wife rather than a collection of hammers.

The stuff that we surround our lives with can serve as a barrier to who God wants us to be, so for the sake of your marriage and relationship with God please consider getting a divorce (from your stuff, not your spouse).

PS If anyone is in need of a hammer let me know I seem to have plenty.