Thursday, December 31, 2015

365 Project - Day 365 - "New Year's Eve (One Last Time)"


December 31, 2015 - "New Year's Eve (One Last Time)"

I know this is far from being the most "exciting" or "artistic" photo I've taken this year... but it is what it is.

Tonight is New Year's Eve and I'm sitting on the couch with a nice plate of Chicken Piccata with Linguini - watching "JAWS" one last time to wrap up the year...

... and tomorrow morning I'll probably be sitting on the same couch drinking a Mimosa watching "JAWS" to kick off 2016.

Champagne and "JAWS" - what better way to end one year and begin the next?

Goodbye 2015!

Happy New Year!

*   *   *


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

365 Project - Day 364 - "Abstract (Champagne)"


December 30, 2015 - "Abstract (Champagne)"

I have four bottles of Champagne chilling in preparation for New Year's Eve... to bid farewell to 2015 and welcome the clean-slate of 2016.

I don't know... thinking back to how 2015 has been for me and for my family, I'm thinking maybe I should get a few more bottles.

We'll see.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

365 Project - Day 363 - "Winter (Confused)"


December 29, 2015 - "Winter (Confused)"

Nature appears to be very confused this year. Here it is December 29th in New England, and this is the first bit of "winter" we've seen around these parts. Just the other day it was almost 70-degrees... and now it's in the 30s. The grass has been turning from the browns of autumn to the greens of spring... trees have begun to bud... some flowers are already blooming - and we're only just now seeing ice and snow for the first time this "winter".

Yes... Nature is confused. VERY confused!

*   *   *

Monday, December 28, 2015

365 Project - Day 362 - "Abstract (Holy Water)"


December 28, 2015 - "Abstract (Holy Water)"

I swung by my church today so I could fill my decanter of Holy Water, which we use in the Holy Water Font next to our front door... and will also need for the Epiphany House Blessing on January 6th.

Today's photo is of the lights of our Christmas Tree as seen through the cut glass of the freshly-filled Holy Water decanter.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Sunday, December 27, 2015

365 Project - Day 361 - "The Amber Glass"


December 27, 2015 - "The Amber Glass"

People often talk about having a "Happy Place"... a memory they think of when times are bad and everything in life seems to be going wrong.

My "Happy Place" has been the same for years. Actually, now that I realize just how old I am, I realize that it has actually been the same for decades.

My "Happy Place" is standing on the screened-in porch behind my Grandparent's house on a Sunday, with my Dad standing beside me. I reach out and knock on the door... and through the amber glass panels I see a shadow approaching to answer. The door opens, and there stands my Grandmother, smiling. The aroma of her Sunday Gravy pours out the doorway as she gives me a hug and a kiss... and we turn to go inside.

That's it. That's my "Happy Place"... Staring through those amber glass panels, seeing my Grandmother approaching... and knowing that the highlight of my week was about to begin.

Staring through those amber glass panels... or, more accurately - THIS amber glass panel. For today's photo is an abstract shot looking through a piece of the very glass that was once framed by the kitchen door of my Grandparent's house. When the workmen replaced them with clear glass in preparation for the house's sale, I rescued the panels from the trash... wrapped them in a pillowcase and have kept them in a drawer for the last 18 years.

Late last year I sat with my brother Peter talking about these very panels. We talked about framing them and turning them into sun-catchers so we could each have a little reminder of our Grandparents. A little reminder of much happier days.

The plan was for me to come down to Peter's frame shop with the glass and for us to work on them together to have them ready in time for Christmas. Well... due to the busy-ness of everyday life, it never happened. Christmas came and went... January, February and March passed... and on April 1st we lost Peter.

I decided not to let this Christmas pass without completing the project though. I used Peter's glass cutter to cut the panels to fit some pre-made frames... and attached chains to them to allow them to be hung in front of a window. I gave them as Christmas gifts to my brothers Kenny and Xavier... and also made a special one for my Dad to have in his room at the nursing home.

I made one for myself as well... and that is the one in today's photo. It hangs in front of my kitchen window... where I can see the sunlight shining through it each and every day...

... and each and every time I see it I am instantly taken to my "Happy Place"... and it truly is a wonderful place to be!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *


Saturday, December 26, 2015

365 Project - Day 360 - "Abstract (Snowflakes)"


December 26, 2015 - "Abstract (Snowflakes)"

It's the day after Christmas. I live in New England and while today was noticeably colder than yesterday, these glittery ornaments are pretty much the closest I've come to seeing a snowflake this December!

Still... "snow" or "no snow", today was a wonderful day spent with family...

... and life is good!

*    *    *

Friday, December 25, 2015

365 Project - Day 359 - "The True Meaning of Christmas"


December 25, 2015 - "The True Meaning of Christmas"

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

Years ago I saw a sign in someone's yard which - in very large letters - said: "On December 25, 0000 Jesus was born so he could die for YOUR sins. Keep Christ in Christmas".

I looked at the sign and laughed hysterically. For someone to actually believe that the date of Jesus' birth was "December 25, 0000" was just too funny to me - especially the year "0000" part. Yes, there are many reasons why the Church declared "December 25th" to be the date of the birth of Jesus - but I'm not going to get into that.

I happen to be Catholic, and for the last few years I've been trying to convince my fellow Christians that it's far more important to put the "Christ" back in "Christian" than it is to worry about keeping "Christ" in "Christmas". I still do believe that... as it pains me to see so many people who proclaim themselves to be "Christian" to be so publicly living a life that is very un-"Christ-like".

That being said, last night as I sat in Church staring at both the Nativity set out by the altar and the large Crucifix behind it I suddenly came to the realization that the two are inseparable, and there really IS something to the whole thought that we should "Keep Christ in Christmas". I couldn't quite pin "why" I was having those thoughts... it just sort of, well, "happened". Then, following the Gospel reading, Fr. Shawn began his sermon. During that sermon he happened to mention both the wooden manger upon which the newborn Jesus lay... and the wooden cross upon which Jesus died.

The story of the Nativity is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke... yet I don't think the true story of what we now call "Christmas" can be told completely without the Gospel According to John.

We all know the line by now... John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." That verse of the Bible is everywhere. You can even order checks that have it written on them.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke may tell us the story of "how" the birth of Jesus occurred... but the Gospel of John takes us a step further and tells us the reason "why" the birth of Jesus occurred.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Lets take that down a bit...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son"... that we might "have eternal life".

Lets rephrase things a bit...

"God loved us so much that He gave to us His only Son so that, through Him, we might be saved and have eternal life."

To paraphrase it even more: "Jesus was born out of God's love for us all".

To cut THAT down yet again: "Jesus' birth = God's love".

So what is the TRUE meaning of Christmas?

That's simple... "Love".

Why?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Whether it happened specifically on "December 25th" or whether it was some other day in the calendar is not what is important. What IS important is that Jesus was born out of God's love for us... that we might have a Savior.

That is the meaning of Christmas. From the "wood of the manger" to the "wood of the cross", Jesus' entire life was a gift of love... and today we celebrate that love.

So as I place my hand with those of those whom I love the most - my wife, my daughter and my son - I take a moment to celebrate the most beautiful gift we have ever been given... the gift of love.

I offer the gift of love to all of you... and wish you a very Merry Christmas.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *



Thursday, December 24, 2015

365 Project - Day 358 - "Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord"


December 24, 2015 - "Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord"

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great free. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

 - Luke 2:1-14

*   *   *

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

365 Project - Day 357 - "Christmas Eve Eve"


December 23, 2015 - "Christmas Eve Eve"

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

I guess that makes tonight "Christmas Eve Eve".

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

365 Project - Day 356 - "Abstract (Wood Panel)"


December 22, 2015 - "Abstract (Wood Panel)"

Aaaaaaand the kitchen renovation continues.

Today I'm painting cabinets and cutting wood panels and touching up odds-and-ends and trying to get this whole "Phase One" thing finished before Christmas Eve.

Almost there... the end IS in sight!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Monday, December 21, 2015

365 Project - Day 355 - "Abstract (Bow)"


December 21, 2015 - "Abstract (Bow)"

One more day closer to Christmas!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Sunday, December 20, 2015

365 Project - Day 354 - "Fourth Sunday of Advent"


December 20, 2015 - "Fourth Sunday of Advent"

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent... and the beginning of the Week of Love.

This year has been a tough one for my entire family... and yet looking back at the days, weeks and months that have passed I've come to the realization that this entire year has been a "Year of Love" for us all.

Yes, there have been many days of sorrow. There have been many obstacles and tests to face. There have been extreme lows. There have been days full of doubt and a deep sense of not understanding "why?".

Yet there has also been a sense of togetherness... a deep sense of family... and a tremendous amount of love shared. Our family has come together in ways that I, for one, never thought possible. Relationships and bonds have been strengthened - and, at least for me, "faith" has been renewed.

I wake each morning and I immediately give thanks for the blessing that is this new day. I give thanks for my family, my friends and my faith. I give thanks for all of the blessings I've been given... and all of the lessons I've learned thus far in my journey...

... but most of all I give thanks for "love". For the love that my family shares for one another. For the love we have been shown by so many this year. For the ability to spread that love... to share it with others and to do our best to shed a little light in a world which at times feels so dark.

May YOUR life be a life filled with love!

Amen.

*   *   *

Saturday, December 19, 2015

365 Project - Day 353 - "Abstract (Paint Tray Ridges)"


December 19, 2015 - "Abstract (Paint Tray Ridges)"

Another day of painting.

Tomorrow I'll be doing the same.

Then it'll be time to install shelves and cabinets - and prep the ceiling.

"Phase One" of our kitchen renovation will finally be complete...

... just in time to host Christmas Eve.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *


Friday, December 18, 2015

365 Project - Day 352 - "Abstract (Paint Tray Bumps)"


December 18, 2015 - "Abstract (Paint Tray Bumps)"

Today I'm painting as the kitchen renovations continues.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Thursday, December 17, 2015

365 Project - Day 351 - "Abstract (Old Cabinet Doors)"


December 17, 2015 - "Abstract (Old Cabinet Doors)"

The kitchen renovation continues.

Phase One is almost complete.

The underpants have all been collected.

Now we can skip over Phase Two and go directly to Phase Three: "Profit"

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

365 Project - Day 350 - "Abstract (Selling Weirdness)"


December 16, 2015 - "Abstract (Selling Weirdness)"

For the last three or four months I've been selling a TON of things online. It has become a full-time job for me... and most days I'm putting six-to-eight hours of time into stuff related to my online selling. It has been a good thing...

BUT...

Selling online you tend to run across a lot of strangeness.

Yesterday I had someone message me to ask why an item which is listed as requiring "AA" batteries  does not have a battery charger and rechargeable battery listed amongst the included items.

Today I had someone message me saying "Expedited Shipping will cost me almost as much as the item itself! What if I don't want to have to pay for Expedited Shipping?". This was for an item which offers four different shipping methods.

I've had people message me to ask whether "X" and "Y" are included with the item... even though the listing's description clearly states that it does, in fact, include both "X" and "Y". Then they'll message to ask if it also includes "Z"... even though the listing's description clearly states that it does NOT include "Z".

I've had people message me asking if I would offer a combined shipping rate if they were to buy more than one of a particular item. They wanted to buy four of the item in question. The problem is that I only had ONE listed. They couldn't understand why I wasn't willing to sell them three more than what was listed.

I've had people purchase an item... pay the required instant payment... and less than one minute after the payment has been processed they've put in a request to cancel the purchase.

I've had people message me to ask why their bid of $25.00 has been declined... on an item that is listed at $895.00.

There is a person who keeps sending offers for a particular item... each time offering $5.00 less than the previous time - and then messaging to ask why I'm not reducing the amount of my counter-offers each time.

And I've had someone message me at 2AM in their time-zone... and then message me again at 2:01AM asking why I haven't responded... then again at 2:02AM asking if I plan on responding... then at 2:03AM asking if I'm just ignoring their messages... then at 2:04AM asking "why?" I'm ignoring them... then at 2:05AM saying "I guess you don't REALLY want my business!".

Yep... lots and lots of weirdness with selling online... but hey, I'm actually averaging more money doing this than I was when I was working full-time... so...

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

365 Project - Day 349 - "Abstract (Exposed)"


December 15, 2015 - "Abstract (Exposed)"

The front wall of my kitchen... stripped of its wallboard, insulation and wiring... Fully exposing the thin metal outer skin of our house.

Exposed...

... completely.

Sometimes it's good to be completely exposed and vulnerable.

Sometimes allowing yourself to be so is exactly what is needed to make everything better.

And once everything seems to be heading in the right direction, you can begin the process of re-building.

This is part of the great journey we call "life"...

... and life is good.

*   *   *

Monday, December 14, 2015

365 Project - Day 348 - "What do you do? (Prayers to St. Joseph)"


December 14, 2015 - "What do you do? (Prayers to St. Joseph)"

What do you do...

... when someone you love more than life itself feels as if you do not love them?

What do you do...

... when they scream that they hate you?

What do you do...

... when they scream that you are a horrible father?

What do you do...

... when they tell you that you're ruining their life?

What do you do...

... when they say that they feel that they are not worth fighting for?

What do you do...

... when they tell you that they feel that they don't deserve to live...

... and you find yourself feeling the same way about yourself?

What do you do...

... when all you want is to hold them close to your heart and wrap them in your coat - like you did when they were newborn - holding them tightly... protecting them from all that seems to be against them in life?

What do you do?

What do you do?

You stand with your coat open and your arms outstretched...

You stand with your heart fully exposed...

... and you pray that they will come back to you... when they are ready.

*   *   *





Sunday, December 13, 2015

365 Project - Day 347 - "Gaudete Sunday"


December 13, 2015 - "Gaudete Sunday"

Today is Gaudete Sunday. The word "Gaudete" is Latin for "Rejoice". This, the Third Sunday of Advent, is the start of the week of Joy.

Today is also Bambinelli Day at our church... the day when parishioners bring the baby Jesus figurines from their home Nativities to be blessed in a special ceremony held after Mass. We brought ours... which is the subject of today's photo.

My mind is taken back to another day upon which I stood before the very same altar I stood before today. It was the Easter Vigil Mass and my brother Peter stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders and presented me to be Confirmed... and spoke the name that I had chosen for myself: "Joseph". As he spoke my new name I was anointed with oil and the blessings of the Holy Spirit were bestowed upon me.

"Joseph".

Why had I chosen this name?

It was an agonizing decision to make... as the names of many Saints raced through my mind in the days leading up to that moment... yet "Joseph" was the name that kept returning.

"Joseph".

Why had I chosen this name?

The reason was actually a simple one. I chose St. Joseph - the Patron Saint of Fathers - in hopes that he would bestow upon me the blessing of being a better father. I chose St. Joseph in hopes that his guidance and intercession would lead me to being the best father I could possibly be... the father my children deserved.

I - the newly anointed Joseph - turned to face the parishioners... filled with confidence...

... and then there was today.

Today I sat amongst the same parishioners... utterly defeated.

For today - the day of Joy - was not a day of Joy for me at all.

For today I was given one of the greatest tests I've ever been given... and I allowed myself to fail.

And so tonight, as I stand before the Advent Wreath to light the Rose Candle - the Candle of Joy - I will do so with my eyes fixed on the little figurine of St. Joseph in our Creche - kneeling humbly beside his son... and I will pray for his guidance and intercession in hopes that I will not fail again.

*   *   *






Saturday, December 12, 2015

365 Project - Day 346 - "Abstract (Pallets)"


December 12, 2015 - "Abstract (Pallets)"

I've got a list of things to do that is a mile long...

... or at least it seems that way.

Trying to get it all nice and neat and stacked and organized and manageable...

... but then I get distracted by a pint of Guinness.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Friday, December 11, 2015

365 Project - Day 345 - "Abstract (Stove)"


December 11, 2015 - "Abstract (Stove)"

Cooking up some Pasta e Fagioli for dinner tonight... and I'm mesmerized by the soft blue flame of our new stove.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Thursday, December 10, 2015

365 Project - Day 344 - "Anisette Cookies"


December 10, 2015 - "Anisette Cookies"

The half-finished kitchen is filled with the wonderful aroma of Anisette as I bake the first of what will probably be three or four batches of Italian Anisette Cookies this month.

I have to bake them while my wife Holly is at work, because she's not Italian enough to like the smell or flavor of Anisette... but that's OK... I'll forgive her that, since I'm in heaven right now!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

365 Project - Day 343 - "Last Night I Cried"


December 09, 2015 - "Last Night I Cried"

Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation... and so the kids and I went to Mass in the evening.

As we were preparing to leave the house I realized that it was a bit colder outside than I had thought it was going to be... so I reached into the coat cabinet in the kitchen and blindly felt around for a jacket. I felt my Mets hoodie on a hanger... right at the spot where it always is. Normally I would grab that and go... but last night something different happened. For some reason I let go of the hoodie and moved my hand far to the right and grabbed the coat that was there. I pulled it out and put it on without even looking to see which coat it was. It wasn't until I was wearing it that I realized it was my brother's blue fleece L.L. Bean jacket, which he ALWAYS wore. In fact, looking at my computer monitor as I type these words I am staring at a wallpaper image which features a photo of him wearing that very jacket... but I digress. As I became aware of what I was wearing I became aware of just how warm of a coat it is, even when worn un-zipped. I made my way to the car... and we were off to church.

Mass felt "different" last night. I cannot explain why - I can only say that it was "different"... and "different" is NOT a bad thing. I know it was nighttime, and the world was dark - yet to me my vision seemed brighter than usual... and when I closed my eyes to pray the brightness remained.

I received the Eucharist... and knelt to pray again... and my eyes began to tear, which seems to be a regular thing for me now, upon receiving Communion... yet again, it was "different". The tears themselves were somehow "different".

They were somehow soothing...

They were comforting...

... and for the first time in many months I did not feel alone inside.

*   *   *



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

365 Project - Day 342 - "Abstract (Glass Patterns)"


December 08, 2015 - "Abstract (Glass Patterns)"

Freshly-installed "stained glass" on the kitchen windows... letting in the light, but not my neighbor's eyes...

... now I don't have to wear clothes when I cook bacon. I probably should, and all... I just no longer "need" to.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Monday, December 7, 2015

365 Project - Day 341 - "Wrapping Presents"


December 07, 2015 - "Wrapping Presents"

I've got "A Motown Christmas" playing while I wrap Christmas presents. Yep... It's a good day!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Sunday, December 6, 2015

365 Project - Day 340 - "Christmas Blessings"


December 06, 2015 - "Christmas Blessings"

We send and receive a lot of Christmas Cards each year... but this one... this one really stands out for me this year. This is the card from the Pastor at our church - Father Shawn. I've re-read it dozens of times... and today, the Second Sunday of Advent, I'm reading it again.

My faith has grown much, much stronger and deeper this year... and Father Shawn has been a very instrumental part of that. For that I am eternally grateful!

"The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!"

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Saturday, December 5, 2015

365 Project - Day 339 - "Abstract (Bowls)"


December 05, 2015 - "Abstract (Glass)"

Another crazy day today.

Another "one shot" kind of day.

Another day closer to finishing this damn kitchen renovation!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Friday, December 4, 2015

365 Project - Day 338 - "Abstract (Glass)"


December 04, 2015 - "Abstract (Glass)"

Another long day of kitchen renovations... and once again I'm completely exhausted and sore. So today is a "one shot" sort-of-day. One shot... of red and green glass votive candle holders we have on our kitchen table.

That's it. Nothing more.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Thursday, December 3, 2015

365 Project - Day 337 - "Kitchen Renovation"


December 03, 2015 - "Kitchen Renovation"

We've had to make about a hundred trips to Home Depot, but little-by-little our kitchen renovation is happening. We hope to have "Phase 1" completed before Christmas... and "Phase 2" completed as soon as possible after that.

I am, however, very exhausted. Time to grab a Yuengling and relax for a bit before heading for bed.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

365 Project - Day 336 - "Abstract (Plates)"


December 02, 2015 - "Abstract (Plates)"

Such a crazy day today, I almost forgot to take my "365 Project" photo for the day. It wasn't until almost 11PM that I realized... grabbed the camera... took a few shots of some plates sitting in the dish-drying rack... and called it a night.

Such a crazy day today...

... but I woke up this morning, so no matter what it has been a good one!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

365 Project - Day 335 - "Abstract (One Shot)"


December 01, 2015 - "Abstract (One Shot)"

A very busy day...

Just one shot taken...

Posted straight from the camera...

(it's time for a beer)

*   *   *

Monday, November 30, 2015

365 Project - Day 334 - "Abstract (Calla Lily)"


November 30, 2015 - "Abstract (Calla Lily)"

Spiraling toward the within...

... the Calla Lilies look lovely today.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Sunday, November 29, 2015

365 Project - Day 333 - "First Sunday of Advent"


November 29, 2015 - "First Sunday of Advent"

Today is the First Sunday of Advent... and the 12-noon Mass at our church was held for my brother Peter.

As I lit a blue candle to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray for my brother's family... tears began to fall.

As I lit a red candle to ask St. Joseph to pray for for my brother's family... tears began to fall.

As I repeated the words "To you, O Lord, I lift my soul"... tears began to fall.

As my children and I presented the Holy Gifts to Father Shawn... tears began to fall.

As I bowed towards the Tabernacle, at the spot where Peter stood as my Sponsor during my Confirmation... tears began to fall.

As I approached Father Shawn to receive Holy Communion, tears began to fall.

As I knelt, staring at the very spot where Peter stood as the Best Man and Witness for my Catholic Marriage... tears began to fall.

As I prayed, and prayed and prayed some more... tears began to fall.

As I sat staring at Peter's watch on my wrist as guests talked at our gathering table... tears began to fall.

As I cut the special-order Red and Blue Italian Rum Cake... tears began to fall.

As I lit the first Purple Candle on our Advent Wreath... tears began to fall.

As I offered the prayer to mark the week of "Hope"... tears began to fall.

As I gazed upon the glowing light... tears began to fall.

Not the kind of tears that roll down your cheeks and leave a salty taste on your lips. Yes... there were plenty of those as I broke down during Mass, desperately trying to hide it from my family. No... the tears I'm talking about here are the tears within. The tears I'm talking about are falling from my heart. The tears I'm talking about have been flowing for eight months now. The tears I'm talking about will never stop flowing.

Once again I stand before the Advent Wreath, absorbing the glow of the Candle of Hope... offering the prayer "To you, O Lord, I lift my soul"... as tears begin to fall.

*   *   *

Saturday, November 28, 2015

365 Project - Day 332 - "Abstract (Memorial Preparations)"


November 28, 2015 - "Abstract (Memorial Preparations)"

Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent... and the 12-noon Mass at our church is being held for the Intentions of my brother Peter.

Following the Mass we're having a bit of a gathering for family and friends who have become family.

Peter loved the combination of the colors "red" and "blue". He'd always point out how when you put certain shades of red next to certain shades of blue, your eyes would be tricked and it would look like the colors were moving.

So it's time to break out the red and blue for Peter. Red and blue napkins. Red and blue paper plates. Red and blue plastic cups. Red and blue icing on the Rum Cake. All of this red and blue being set up today in preparation for tomorrow... while James Brown's "Funky Christmas" album plays loudly in the background.

I miss you Bro!

*   *   *

Friday, November 27, 2015

365 Project - Day 331 - "Blue Christmas (Cards)"


November 27, 2015 - "Blue Christmas (Cards)"

The Christmas Cards have all been addressed, stamped and mailed.

This year I'm starting a new tradition which I'm sure my family and friends will enjoy and look forward to year-after-year. One of the 40+ cards I've mailed contains 2-ounces of very fine gold glitter powder to symbolize the gold which one of the Magi presented to baby Jesus. It's just a little something to remind you of the reason for the season, and all.

If YOU happen to be the one who gets the glitter, well... I hope you have a Dyson or something.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Thursday, November 26, 2015

365 Project - Day 330 - "Thankful"


November 26, 2015 - "Thankful"

It has truly been a tough year for our family. It is with heavy hearts that we begin the holiday season... yet we gather today to give thanks for the blessings we have been given in life.

The truth is, however, that for me today is no different from any other day. I do not always say it aloud... I do not always post it on my Facebook page - but each and every day I wake up and give thanks for the gift of a new day and all of the blessings I've been given in life.

The list of things I am thankful for is a long one... and I will not even begin to attempt to list it all...

But this year...

This year in particular...

I am thankful for having been blessed to have had Peter as my brother... my hero... my friend. I am thankful for all of the lessons he has taught me in life... and continues to teach me almost eight months after he passed away. I am thankful for the family bonds that have been strengthened and the renewed sense of faith I've experienced during those eight months. I'm thankful for my family - for having a wife who is also my best friend... for my children, who I love with all of my heart... for my brothers and the families of my brothers... for my parents and my in-laws... for the friends who have truly become family to me...

I give thanks for all of these blessings - not just on the day we call "Thanksgiving" - but every single day that I am given.

With much love - I give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

(lifeisgood!)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

365 Project - Day 329 - "Abstract (First Frost)"


November 25, 2015 - "Abstract (First Frost)"

It might not be the "official" first frost of the season... but this morning's frost was the first I have seen...

... A delicate reminder that the earth is falling into slumber and winter is just within sight.

(lifeisgood!)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

365 Project - Day 328 - "Help Me To See"


November 24, 2015 - "Help Me To See"

I cannot see clearly...

... Help me to see.

Everything seems blurry...

... Help me to see.

Nothing seems to be working...

... Help me to see.

I do not know the way...

... Help me to see.

I'm worried I might stumble...

... Help me to see.

(helpmetosee)

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Monday, November 23, 2015

365 Project - Day 327 - "Frustration"


November 23, 2015 - "Frustration"

It's frustrating when you're doing everything you can possibly think of to do, and it just isn't working.

It's frustrating when you seem to have been taking major steps forward, and are suddenly pulled backwards in a very big way.

It's frustrating when you just don't know where to go next... or what else to do to try to make things better.

It's frustrating.

*    *   *

Sunday, November 22, 2015

365 Project - Day 326 - "A Gift From My Father - A Gift From My Dad"


November 22, 2015 - "A Gift From My Father - A Gift From My Dad"

Yesterday my son and I went to visit my dad. When we arrived, he was in the Chapel for Mass... something he does every single day.

As soon as he saw us walk by his face lit up and he snuck in a wave towards us as we - not wanting to be a disruption - continued to the back of the Chapel to wait as Mass came to a close.

When Mass had ended he slowly exited the Chapel and wheeled his way toward us saying that he had just been thinking about us and that he knew he'd be seeing us sometime soon and was so happy that we were there. We went up to his room and sat and talked and talked and talked - just the three of us.

We talked about many things. We talked about life, and the way things once were. He told me his regrets and apologies... and I tried to reassure him that he had no reason to apologize... no reason to regret. That I "knew"... That I "understood"... That I "know".

We talked about happy memories... of Sundays spent taking long drives from Stamford to Cornwall... of Sunday afternoons spent at my Grandparent's house... of camping trips... of special days spent together.

We talked about family. We talked, of course, about my brother Peter as we gazed at his photo hanging on the wall beside my father's bed. We talked about our daily thoughts... and our daily prayers.

The visit was only a couple of minutes shy of an hour. Eventually the staff came in to serve lunch and we decided to not disturb his lunch and head out to have our own.

Just before we left he wheeled himself over to his dresser, saying that he had something for me. He returned with this small wooden Crucifix, and placed it in my hands as he told me that he prays for me and for my brothers and for all of his daughters-in-law and grandchildren every single day. He had tears in his eyes as he told me that he loved me... and my eyes had tears in them as well.

As we hugged goodbye he hugged me tighter than I ever remember him hugging me... and much, much tighter than I thought he would be able to, considering his health. He did not want to let go. I did not want to either.

We made our way downstairs as he turned and made his way back to his room.

My son and I then went to lunch together... just the two of us... to the same place where my Dad and I have sat together over a pizza countless times.

Every parent wants their children to have a better life than they did themselves. Every parent has a time where they feel that they did not do a good enough job... that they somehow failed at the task. My childhood was indeed a rocky one... and yet I find myself feeling incredibly grateful for the road I've journeyed. The obstacles faced and the lessons learned during all of those years have brought me to this point in my life. They've brought me to "now". They've brought me to today - The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - when I shall sit with my own son... before our Father... with tears in my eyes as I pray that the hugs I give my son will always be the tightest hugs I am able to offer.

*   *   *

Saturday, November 21, 2015

365 Project - Day 325 - "Angela Mia"


November 21, 2015 - "Angela Mia"

Recipe:

Take one aged Italian-American and add one birthday, holiday, holy day or just about any other day for that matter. Slowly mix in said Italian-American's family members and season with friends to taste. Serve in abundance within a single room, hall, house or back yard. That's how Italian Rum Cake is made.

Well... sort of. I mean, if you happen to live in the Tri-State area and follow that particular recipe an Italian Rum Cake is guaranteed to appear. Some crazy uncle is bound to arrive with one. If not a crazy uncle, than it's probably a very short aunt who likes to squeeze cheeks.

And if you follow that recipe and you happen to live in Southwestern Connecticut - there's a very good chance that said "crazy uncle"/"cheek squeezer" probably got the cake from Angela Mia... and the box is saturated with rum that is pooling up in the corners.

So I guess this time I've become the crazy uncle... as I'm here at Angela Mia's ordering an Italian Rum Cake for a post-Memorial Mass gathering next weekend.

After all... you can NOT have an Italian gathering without a Rum Cake. It'd be a sin!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *


Friday, November 20, 2015

365 Project - Day 324 - "Abstract (White)"


November 20, 2015 - "Abstract (White)"

It really bugs me when I see the same actor/actress in television commercials for different products. I mean, why is the "Glad Bag Lady" talking about how comfortable she is with her husband's dumb ideas while she's laying on a Serta iComfort mattress that has no sheets on it after having eaten a bunch of bottomless fries at Red Robin? Who does that sort of thing? It's just not believable!

This has abso-freakin'-lutely NOTHING to do with today's photo, by-the-way. That's just a photo of a stack of plastic hangers. 

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Thursday, November 19, 2015

365 Project - Day 323 - "The Comfort of Grandma's Lamp"


November 19, 2015 - "The Comfort of Grandma's Lamp"

Standing for a moment... absorbing the comforting glow of my Grandmother's lamp... and the feeling that she is still with me.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

365 Project - Day 322 - "The Un-Cushioning (Playing the Game)"


November 18, 2015 - "The Un-Cushioning (Playing the Game)"

It's time.

It's time for you to step up to the plate.

It's time for you to ready yourself for the challenges that life pitches to you.

It's time for you to learn which of those pitches you need to swing at... and which of those pitches you need to let continue past you.

It's time for you to gather the strength to push through the swing... to hit the obstacles and tests you're faced with head-on, and send them soaring.

It's time for you to know when to walk and when to run.

It's time for you to be willing to dive... sliding... reaching for what you know you can achieve.

It's time.

One of the most powerful realizations I've had this year is the realization that you will NEVER know when your last chance to swing might be. You will never know just how many innings you will be blessed with playing. You never know if you're going to be hit by a pitch... or if you're going to be pulled from the game that is life. You never know.

But I do know that I am here for you right now... during THIS game.

I am your batting coach, helping you learn how and when to swing...

I am your first base coach, warning you when another pitch is heading towards you so you can stay safe...

I am your third base coach, guiding you home...

... and I am in the stands, watching you play the game... proudly cheering you on.

But someday I will not be at the plate or the base with you. Someday you'll look in the stands and won't be able to see that I'm there watching you. That day may be tomorrow. That day may come 20,000 tomorrows from now. But come it will... and you'll have to swing and walk and run without me guiding you.

And so it's time.

It's time for the un-cushioning to begin.

It's time for the protective wrapping to start to come off.

It's time for all of the little soft bits that we've surround you with to protect you from life's bumps to be removed... bit by bit.

It's time for you to step away from being a "child" and step toward becoming a "man"...

... and it's time for me to let you start swinging at more of life's pitches on your own.

It's time, son.

It's time.

*   *   *


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

365 Project - Day 321 - "Go and do likewise"


November 17, 2015 - "Go and do likewise."

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

 - Luke 10:25-37

*   *   *

The Story of the Ten Fish


The Story of the Ten Fish:

"Ten fish are in a tank. Two drown... Four swim away... and Three die. How many are left?"


Let's ignore the part about two fish "drowning"- and just focus on the fact that a total of three fish died... and four fish swam away (somehow).


The three that died were actually the fish that were "left". One was a left-wing fish from a middle-class family which was struggling to make ends meet... one was from a low-income family with no political affiliation because they had far more important things to deal with in life than "politics"... and the third was a homeless veteran fish that none of the other fish even noticed was there.

They all died because the four "right" fish ate 99% of the food... shat all over the tank... blamed the shit-filled nature of the tank on other fish... then swam away to their larger, much nicer tanks in the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard.

BUT that's only 7 fish... and supposedly there were 10 in total, correct? So what about those other three fish?

Those three fish are from foreign tanks. They are border-crossers and refugees who came to this tank because - even though this whole tank is most certainly full of shit - the shit in THIS tank doesn't even begin to compare to the shit that was in the tanks they left behind. Knowing this, however, the four "right" fish will stop at nothing to get those three fish out of the tank and back into their own tanks. They're currently working on a plan to make the removal of those three fish as profitable as possible. This is happening despite the fact that those four fish claim to follow the teachings of a much larger fish who directly told them to care for all other fish - without exceptions.

But none of this matters. Why? Because someone accidentally left the tank's heater on. The four "right" fish refuse to believe that it's on... even though there's a bright power light glowing right in front of their eyes and much, MUCH smarter fish from some of the top schools (Get it? Top "schools"! As in "a school of fish"! Get it? I crack myself up sometimes!) have tried over and over again to show them the measurements that prove without a doubt that the temperature of the tank is in fact rising. Yet the four "right" fish, being goldfish with very small brains and an instinct to consume as much as possible until they outgrow their own tanks, are not interested in anything but their own two-second-long moments of awareness and the endless quest to be "on top". 

The irony is that - in the end - "on top" is exactly where they'll be floating.

(End of rant. Now I need coffee!)

*   *   *

Monday, November 16, 2015

365 Project - Day 320 - "Abstract (Cups)"


November 16, 2015 - "Abstract (Cups)"

I'm seeing blue and white today.

I don't know why.

It's an abstract sort of day today.

I don't know why.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.

I don't know why.

Perhaps she'll die.

*   *   *


Sunday, November 15, 2015

365 Project - Day 319 - "Abstract (Curtain)"


November 15, 2015 - "Abstract (Curtain)"

Looking at the abstract path that is "life"...

... and realizing that the journey has only just begun.

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *

Saturday, November 14, 2015

365 Project - Day 318 - "I knew that you were still here with us all along."


November 14, 2015 - "I knew that you were still here with us all along."

Today I felt your presence and I knew without a doubt that you were here...

... the confirmation was given, yet it wasn't something I "needed" per se.

Why?

Because I knew that you were still here with us all along.

I know that you are here.

I know that you will ALWAYS be here.

I cannot see you in the same way I saw you before...

I cannot hear you in the same way I heard you before...

But I do see you.

I do hear you.

I do know that you are here.

But then again... I knew that you were still here with us all along.

How?

My heart told me so.

*   *   *

Friday, November 13, 2015

365 Project - Day 317 - "Abstract (Paint Tray)"


November 13, 2015 - "Abstract (Paint Tray)"

Spending the day doing lots and lots of cleaning... and a few home-repairs, including painting part of the ceiling.

Happy!-Happy!-Joy!-Joy!

(lifeisgood!)

*   *   *