Thursday, June 30, 2016
June 30, 2016 - "Abstract (Picking a Tie)"
This weekend will mark the beginning of my serving as a Lector for Mass at my parish. Since I'll be reading at the earliest Mass of the day, I have to wear a long-sleeve dress shirt, because the old ladies who sit in the front rows would probably freak out if a guy with a bunch of tattoos covering his arms were to suddenly show up by the altar!
So I'm trying to decide which tie to wear... or if I'm even going to wear a tie.
In the meantime some of my ties are posing for my camera.
* * *
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
June 29, 2016 - "National Camera Day and the Solemnity of St. Peter & St. Paul"
Today is both "National Camera Day" AND "The Solemnity of St. Peter & St. Paul"...
So while trying to figure out how to celebrate both in one photograph I finally came up with the idea to take a photo of my brother Peter's camera while listening to Paul Hewson (aka "Bono") sing the U2 song "40", the lyrics of which are based on "Psalm 40".
I don't know... in my mind it all made sense, anyway!
* * *
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
June 28, 2016 - "A Gift From A Stranger"
This morning I met with the Pastor of my parish to talk about all that I've been experiencing this last week or so... seeking his spiritual guidance on the issues at hand. It was a wonderful conversation... and I left there feeling so much better. (Thank you Fr. Shawn!)
When I left the church my daughter and I went to a local bagel hot spot for lunch. We were sitting there eating our lunches and sipping on coffee... talking about nothing in particular - just college and stuff like that... absolutely nothing that had anything to do with religion or any sort of spiritual matter.
There was an older woman sitting at the table that was closest to ours. She was sitting alone, eating her lunch while reading a book. All of a sudden she was calling over to me: "Excuse me mister...", so I turned toward her and she asked in a very heavy Hispanic accent "Catholic?". I said "Yes, I am." She got up from her chair and came over and stood next to me... reaching out to hand me something.
What she handed me is the subject of today's photo: A little book of prayers with a Holy Card tucked between the pages. She opened it to show point out the Holy Card... and said "You need this"... then started talking, but I couldn't understand what she was saying other than at one point when she said "Keep. No put in garbage". I thanked her and we both smiled and she went back to her table and picked up her book and continued with her lunch.
I suddenly felt very good inside.
I reached inside my bag to pull out the Bible that I always have with me, so I could tuck these gifts between its pages for safe-keeping... and then I felt that I needed to do something. I went into another pocket of my bag where I keep things for if/when the time comes that I come across someone who really needs them. I quickly found what I was looking for - a Green Scapular and the little booklet that explains what it is, does and how to use it in faith.
I stood up and went over to her table and handed her the Scapular. She looked up at me with a big smile and it seemed as if her eyes were tearing up just a little. She stood up and we gave each other a big hug and said "God Bless You!" in each other's ear... then she went over and hugged my daughter as well. My daughter and I made our way out as the woman returned to her seat, holding the Scapular and smiling.
When I got back home I took out the little book she had given me, and opened it up. The Holy Card had a Prayer for Peace on the back... and the book opened to the page that had both the "Suscipe" and "Anima Christi" prayers on it... which are two very important prayers to me, the "Anima Christi" being the prayer I say every time I receive Holy Communion.
She was right... I most certainly needed this!
* * *
Monday, June 27, 2016
June 27, 2016 - "Wishing for Snow"
Everything feels "sticky".
It looks like it's going to rain, but so far it hasn't.
(I really wish it would snow)
* * *
Sunday, June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016 - "The Last Watch"
Hidden within this little red pouch is "The Last Watch"...
... or, to put it another way "His Last Watch"...
... or, to just come out and say it: The last watch my brother ever wore... the one he was wearing when he...
... I guess I can't really bring myself to just come out and say it.
This watch has remained in the bag the hospital put all of his jewelry in that night... and it hasn't come out of that bag until very, very recently.
Because watches meant so much to him... because he had so many of them and made it a point to choose a different one to wear each day... I felt this strong need to find out what watch it was that he chose that day - and whether or not it's the watch I've seen him wearing in my mind, even though I never knew or saw which watch it had been.
Well... I was sent a photo of it, and it's exactly the watch I've been seeing in my mind... even though it's one I've never seen before - on or off of his wrist.
Then I felt a very strong "need" to see it in person and to be able to hold it, even if only for a moment. Yesterday my amazingly wonderful sister-in-law handed me the pouch with the watch inside... and told me that I could hold on to it and then give it back to her when I see her next. I couldn't even bring myself to look inside the pouch until today, after Mass, while I was in the Adoration Chapel serving my Holy Hour.
I sat at the very back of the chapel... slowly reached into the pouch, felt the coldness of the stainless steel band... slowly removed it from the pouch while my eyes remained closed. Then, after a few moments, I looked down at my hands... and broke down inside. I sat and held it for quite a long time... staring at it... "feeling" it.
As I looked at it I realized that, of all of the watches he owned that I have ever seen - and I've seen 99% of them - this particular watch was second in quality to only one other... and that particular watch was in need of a battery at that time, so he could not have chosen that one that day. So - essentially - that meant that the watch he chose to wear that day happened to be the very best of all of the watches he owned that were actually running and usable at the time... and THAT made me smile, because it's very "him".
But then I noticed something else... the second-hand was not moving... the watch had stopped running. At some point since that night almost 15 months ago, the battery had died. Noticing that made me feel sad for a moment... made my heart sink a bit... but then a thought came to my mind: His time with the watch was done. He did not need its second-hand to be ticking anymore... yet just the knowledge that a new battery could be put into it at any point and bring it back to a "new" life, made me smile.
For now, however, it will remain stopped. It might be many years before it needs to tick again. The watch has been slipped back into the protection of that little pouch... and is ready to go back to my sister-in-law to treasure.
People often ask me what my obsession is with watches. Most people make the assumption that my interest in them was a result of losing my brother, just because everyone knew that he collected them and made it a point to wear a different one every day. The truth is that I already had my own collection of watches before he passed... I had just stopped wearing them, because I had become one of those people who became too attached to their iPhone and finding out the time was just one press of a button away. Losing my brother did spark the return of my obsession with them, however. I own far more watches than he did. In fact, I now own the very watch case that housed his collection - but my collection spills over into two other cases as well. Every day I make it a point to wear a different watch... and every day whatever watch I choose to wear that day is chosen for a reason - and that reason never has to do with "which one is going to go best with my shirt" or anything like that. Each watch I own has a meaning and a story behind it. Each one has an association attached to it.
Recently I gave my daughter a watch as a graduation present... and the following is what I wrote to explain to her my obsession with watches...
"It all comes down to "time". Somehow my collecting watches makes me feel as if I'm collecting "time". It makes me feel as if I have some sort of control over something that, deep down inside, I know I do not have any control over at all. Every day I choose which watch to wear based on my mood and, very often, what the meaning of that particular watch is for me. It becomes a symbol to me... a reminder of just how short our time on this earth really is. I see the second-hand ticking away, and I realize that time IS passing... and I do not know when that second hand will stop. Time is passing. Life is passing.
One very important thing I've learned over the last year or so is that every second of every day is a gift from God. Every second is meaningful. We do not know how many seconds we have left... so we need to be grateful for each and every second we are given. Time flies by so fast. Too fast. We need to live each second of our lives to the fullest.
So I guess the answer to the question about my obsession with watches is that, as grim as it may sound, my watches remind me that my time here is limited... that I do not know when my time might run out... and that I need to make the most of it while I can."
On the face of the watch I gave her, I put a little Post-It note as a reminder. It said "Make Every Second Count!".
* * *
Saturday, June 25, 2016
June 25, 2016 - "Graduation/Birthday Party"
Today we held our daughter's combination "High School Graduation" and "18th Birthday" party.
* * *
Friday, June 24, 2016
Note: This photo was taken on June 23, 2016 - but the post is being written after the fact.
June 23, 2016 - "Reading"
My son and I are sitting out on the porch reading. I'm reading Scripture... He's reading some something about wizards or robots or whatever. It's nice to just be able to sit quietly together.
Today also happens to be my daughter's 18th birthday. Her party is this coming Saturday, but tonight we'll be celebrating with some ice cream cake.
* * *
Note: This photo was taken on June 22, 2016 - but the post is being written several days after the fact.
June 22, 2016 - "St. Michael"
Today I keep praying to St. Michael the Archangel...
Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur;
tuque, Princeps Militiae Caelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute, in infernum detrude.
* * *
Note: This photo was taken on June 20, 2016 - but the post is being written several days after the fact.
June 20, 2016 - "Fear Not, For I Am With You"
Isaiah 41:10 - "Fear not, for I am with you; Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
* * *
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Friday, June 17, 2016
June 17, 2016 - "L-O-V-E"
Just a simple shot for today. No artsy macro of an object. No image related to my faith. Just this simple snapshot of one of the sun catchers that hangs in our kitchen. This particular one was a find during a trip to Philadelphia several years ago... and serves as a daily visual reminder of the most important of all things in life: "Love".
* * *
Thursday, June 16, 2016
June 16, 2016 - "Abstract (Up)"
Last night my very dear friend Lenny and I went out for a nice dinner of Pho and some short rib dumplings.
After dinner we went for pints of Guinness and some amazing Aberlour A'Bunadh Single Malt Whisky.
As always - the food was good, the drinks were good, and the company and conversations were wonderful!
Today, however, I'm extremely bored and lethargic... and it's getting pretty hot in our house even with the air conditioner on high. I'm not really feeling up for doing much photography today - so this photo'll have to do.
* * *
TBT - "The Frame Shop Stereo"
It was the mid-90s, and I was working with my brother Peter at a frame shop and art gallery down in Greenwich, CT. The framing work rooms were down in the basement. No windows... no natural light... just a cave-like atmosphere where we'd spend 8 hours or more each day.
We had an old stereo... but it sucked. The turntable didn't work. The tape deck would occasionally start eating your cassette. The radio was only able to get a few stations... and the speakers were horrible and crackled a lot. There wasn't a CD player at all.
So Peter came up with this idea... we'd each chip in some money and buy a new stereo. It needed to have a CD player... a tape deck that wouldn't eat tapes... and a radio that could at least get the Howard Stern show each morning. So, that's what we did. Peter found a stereo in a catalog... made sure we were all OK with that choice... then we all split the cost and he ordered the thing.
The new stereo was wonderful! The tuner actually got a lot of stations nice and clear. The tape deck worked beautifully... and not only did it play CDs, it was a 3-CD changer. The speakers sounded great - but we actually ended up splicing in four other speakers, so there were six of them spread across the room. The sound was a beautiful thing!
We played everything from Aerosmith to Zappa - and everything in between. The most heavily-played albums were definitely James Brown... but we'd listen to everything. One minute we'd be listening to Depeche Mode... the next minute it was a comedy CD by The Jerky Boys. That might be followed by some Miles Davis, which would somehow lead to Sublime or Bob Marley or something.
I remember many nights during the holiday season, staying late to catch up on orders - as the sound of Maceo Parker's sax absolutely filled the room.
The deal we had was that if/when any of us stopped working there, they'd forfeit their claim to the stereo... and whoever was the last one there could either take it with them or leave it. Peter was the last one there... and, because I never saw the stereo again, I always assumed he had just left it there when he moved on.
That was the case until a few weeks ago. I was helping my sister-in-law go through things in the garage and there, hidden away on a shelf at the back of the garage, was the stereo. I was shocked... and sooooo many happy memories came flooding through my mind. The next thing I know the stereo is in the back of my car and coming home with me.
The tape deck eats tapes now... the CD changer doesn't change CDs so well... but the tuner still gets a nice clear signal and the speakers still sound great. So now the stereo sits in my son's room. He doesn't use CDs or cassettes anyway - so just having the FM tuner is enough for him... and I think we can set it up to hook his iPod up to it too.
It's just one more "blast from the past", a happy memory of what once was. A happy memory that will ALWAYS be in my mind and in my heart!
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I have to go blast some Maceo!
* * *
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
June 15, 2016 - "Abstract (The Orange and Blue)"
Spending the day trying to get some stuff cleaned up and organized. The orange and blue strands of the tassel from my daughter's high school graduation cap caught my eye.
Focus - Snap - Capture
* * *
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
June 14, 2016 - "Anniversary (I Love You More!)"
Though we've been a couple much longer, today marks seventeen years of marriage for Holly and me.
Every single time she says the words "I love you" to me, I respond with "I love you more!". So, for Christmas last year, we got this set of coffee mugs. The one from her to me says "I love you" and the one from me to her says "I love you more".
Happy Anniversary to my beautiful wife Holly!
I love you more!
* * *
Monday, June 13, 2016
June 13, 2016 - "Abstract (Colorful Smiles)"
It has been a very long, very tough, very bad day today. I needed "something" to make me smile... and then I saw the light shining on the rolls of brightly-colored wrapping paper we used for my niece's birthday presents this past weekend. They brought a smile and, even though it only lasted a second or two, a smile is always a good thing!
* * *
Sunday, June 12, 2016
June 12, 2016
You should've been there today... but you weren't.
You should've been there... recording a video of your daughter opening her birthday presents and blowing out the candles... calling out her name... calling out "Liliana", to try to get her to look towards the camera.
More than once I thought I heard you...
More than once I turned around expecting to see you standing there...
... but I could only see you in my mind. You were wearing shorts and a red t-shirt with an American flag on the front. You had a bracelet on - something with a lot of beads on it. You were wearing this watch.
But you couldn't have been, could you? Because it was on my wrist today, instead of yours.
We were supposed to be standing next to one another - you, Kenny and me. We were supposed to be making fun of how fat we've each gotten - comparing each other's spare tires as we pushed them out to make them as large as possible.
We were supposed to mumble wise-ass remarks to each other about... well... I can't really say what/who they would've been about without getting myself into trouble.
We would've talked about how things were going for you at the shop.
You would've asked me how I was feeling... and I would've lied and said that everything was good and I was feeling great.
You would've asked me if I was going to church... and I would've lied and said that I was, because I would've been too ashamed of having lapsed - and wouldn't want to disappoint you.
At some point we would've ended up talking about figs as we stood staring at one of the trees. We'd talk a bit about how the figs used to be at Grandma and Grandpa's house... and then somehow the conversation would've switched to "shit" and "death" - just like it always does... I mean, just like it always "did"... I mean, just like it "should".
All of that should've happened today... but it didn't.
Instead we pretended that things were OK... when they're really not.
We made it look as if we were happy... when we're really still hurting.
We did our best to make Liliana's special day, well, "special"... and yet I couldn't help but look at her with an extreme pain in my heart, knowing that at some point the day will come when she no longer remembers your face... your voice... your laugh... your hugs... you...
... and I fear that day... because it is like losing you all over again.
Why weren't you there today, dammit!?!
Why did things have to be this way!?!
Why was it you!?!
(why wasn't it me?)
And now, because things have happened the way they have happened, today's conversations were different from what they would've been.
There were no fat jokes... and no mumbled remarks.
The shop has been closed for over a year... and still sits empty.
Most days I feel like I want to curl up in the corner and cry... and my Parkinson's symptoms are getting worse.
I am going to church VERY regularly... in fact, I'm there multiple times a week now and am about to become a lector.
Two of the fig trees are gone... and the third seems to be struggling without you.
"Shit" is still a topic of conversation around the table... but "death", well... not so much.
Your wife has discovered that she is 1,000 times stronger than she thought she was... she just doesn't really accept that fact yet.
Your two older daughters have become beautiful young women... and I think this past year has forced them to change in ways you probably wouldn't have every thought possible.
And then there's Liliana... a beautiful and radiant blessing who has brought smiles where we thought there could never be smiles again.
Toward the end of the day she and I were in the front yard happily picking clover flowers and making little bouquets. She stopped for a moment and looked up toward the sky with the biggest smile on her face... and somehow I knew that she was looking at you.
You should've been there today...
... and you were.
* * *
June 12, 2016 - "Four Years Old"
Today we celebrated my niece Liliana's fourth birthday!
I swear, I could be having the worst day/week/month/year of my life... and all it takes is one smile from Liliana to make life wonderful again!
I love you, Liliana!
* * *
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016
June 10, 2016 - "Abstract (Snack Time)"
I do believe it's "snack time".
That's it. Nothing more to see here. You can go about your business now.
* * *
Thursday, June 9, 2016
June 09, 2016 - "The Graduate (She Did It!)"
Words cannot describe how incredibly happy and proud I am today...
Words also cannot describe how quickly time flies by...
So - since words cannot describe any of that - I'll just let the expression on my daughter's face say it all!
* * *
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
June 08, 2016 - "Abstract (Separating Myself)"
I feel like I'm taking everything that I am and everything that I ever was and pouring it all into a giant colander and giving it a good long rinse.
What is no longer needed separates and falls away... down the drain.
All that remains is the true foundation of "who I am" and what makes me "me".
Rinsed, cleansed and thoroughly separated, I can gather myself in preparation for everything that I ever will be.
* * *
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." - Matthew 3:11-12
* * *
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
June 07, 2016 - "Morning Prayers"
Last night was a very tough night. It was just one of those low, deep-depression kind of nights. It was extremely hard to get through.
This morning when I woke up and walked over to my prayer altar, this is what I found. The sunlight coming through the partially open door to the bathroom was shining a rainbow beam of light directly on the Rosary my brother Peter gave to me when he stood as my Confirmation Sponsor. I took it as a sign from above that, 1) I needed to pray, and 2) everything was going to be OK.
* * *
Monday, June 6, 2016
June 06, 2016 - "Abstract (New Blank Emptiness)"
I need "new".
I need "blank".
I need "empty".
I need a new start.
I need a blank canvas.
I need to empty out the bin of deleted files from my mind... my heart... my soul.
I would give almost anything for my wife and kids and I to be able to go...
leave this house...
leave this town...
give my wife a shorter commute...
give my son a better school experience than what he has been having to deal with...
give our family the opportunity to gather ourselves together...
to, well... I don't even know.
That's just it...
I don't even know what I'm trying to say...
... other than the fact that there's an overwhelming need for a new, blank, emptiness.
* * *
Sunday, June 5, 2016
June 05, 2016 - "Abstract (Wonderful Day)"
Today was a good day.
Actually, no - today was a wonderful day!
We joined my sister-in-law Angel and my beautiful niece Liliana for Mass at St. Matthew's.
We followed that with attending the Knights of Columbus Community Breakfast in the church hall - thanks to our wonderful friend Anthony, who is a member of the KoC. The guest speaker was Fr. Reggie Norman of Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton. Fr. Reggie is an amazing and truly inspirational speaker... and the talk he gave today, which was on the subject of "family", definitely did not disappoint! He is such a gifted speaker that I wish every parish in the Diocese of Bridgeport should invite him to come and speak. He truly is an inspiration!
Breakfast was followed by coffee and conversation at my sister-in-law's house... before we had to head down to Stamford for the rest of the day.
We stopped to visit my dad - which was very nice because he was quite happy and talkative today - and just looked and seemed so much better than when we had visited him last weekend. I had been worried about him all week, because he just seemed so "down" - emotionally and physically - last Saturday. Today though he lit up when he saw us come in and we sat and talked for a while and he seemed much more "himself" than he has been. He gave small gifts to each of the kids - a single-decade Rosary bracelet to Caitlynn... and a St. Benedict medal to Brandon.
Then it was off to Caitlynn's final performance with the Connecticut Ballet Center. It was very nice - but kind of felt strange, knowing that it's her very last dance performance before she goes off to college to major in dance. It was bittersweet... because it marked the end of something we've known for so many years now - but also the beginning of the next step.
We ended our time in Stamford with dinner at "Tomato Tomäto" - which has amazing Pizza Margherita and a Gorgonzola Garlic Bread that is so good I could have eaten the entire order myself!
Now we're back home in Danbury. Time to wind down and relax with some wine before heading off to bed and ending another gift of a day.
Life truly IS good!
* * *
P.S. - In case you're wondering - today's photo is of the wooden foot pedals of the church organ at St. Matthew's.
* * *
Saturday, June 4, 2016
June 04, 2016 - "Abstract (Bored)"
Sitting here half-watching "JAWS" for at least the fifth or sixth time this week... sipping some wine... feelin' fine... but not really feeling up for doing much photography today, so this photo'll have to do.
Yep. I'm bored.
* * *
Friday, June 3, 2016
June 03, 2016 - "Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus"
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the "Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus".
I have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus - as well as to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which the Church celebrates tomorrow. So it just made sense that today's photo be something related to The Sacred Heart.
This is a very old statue of The Sacred Heart of Jesus which found me at the Elephant's Trunk Flea Market in New Milford a couple of weeks ago. It stands about two-feet tall... and has a bit of damage and some old touch-up attempts done to it, but I find it to be perfect just as it is - so I'm not going to restore it or anything.
And so - with all of that out of the way - I'll simply say:
"O SACRUM COR IESU, MISERERE NOBIS"
("O Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us")
* * *
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
June 01, 2016 - "Tremors and Shakes"
The tremors and shakes.
Before I started treatment for my Parkinson's the tremor was mainly in my right hand. Then it started to happen in my tongue, affecting my speech to the point where some people would accuse me of having been drinking even when I hadn't had a drop to drink. Then it became a slight tremor in my head... and a bit in my legs when I was trying to stand still.
With treatment it all went away. Once in a while it would come back a little in my hand... and we'd adjust the dosage of my meds, which would do the trick. Eventually those meds had been adjusted to the max... and I had to switch to a low dose of stronger meds. That did the trick for quite a while... until now, that is.
The tremor is back - and now it's in both hands... my head... my legs... and sometimes my tongue. My movement has slowed. My balance and coordination has been off. I'm sluggish again. It's hard to hold the camera... so most of my shots are either at extremely fast shutter speeds - or I have the camera braced against something or even on a tripod with a cable release. I can only use smaller, lightweight cameras... so I sold my professional D-SLR and all of its gear and such... and brought it all down to one pro-quality compact camera that still lets me set things manually, rather than automatic.
That's where today's photo comes in to the equation. This is the result of me holding the camera without bracing it... with the shutter speed set to half-a-second. This is a photo of the tremor... even with auto-focus and image-stabilization turned on (meaning that the camera actually compensated for some of the movement - so the actual movement was much more than what the picture shows).
I end up being so self-conscious of it all that I exhaust myself trying to focus on calming the tremors in an effort to hide how much I'm really shaking. Why? Because it sorta sucks when you find someone staring at you because you're shaking... and it sucks even more when someone you don't know actually approaches you and asks if you have Parkinson's. Why? Because that means it's becoming noticeable again... that means that either it is progressing or the meds just aren't working anymore. Then you can't help but think the thought that one day meds just aren't going to be able to stop the shaking... in fact, quite the opposite - the Carbidopa-Levodopa is likely to bring on Dyskinesia. I've already experienced that once... the uncontrollable writhing of my entire body. It happened during a meds adjustment - and lasted a few weeks. I cannot imagine what it will be like when it becomes a constant.
So after today's visit to my neurologist/specialist, my meds have been completely doubled. Hopefully the change will help...
* * *