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!

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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.


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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!

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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.


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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!


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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!

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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".


"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.


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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

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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".


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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!


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Monday, December 21, 2015

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

December 21, 2015 - "Abstract (Bow)"

One more day closer to Christmas!


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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!


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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.


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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.


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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"


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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...


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...


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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.


... 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.

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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.


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.


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.

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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.


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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.


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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!


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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.


*   *   *

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!


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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!"


*   *   *

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!


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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.


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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.


*   *   *

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!


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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)

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