Thursday, July 16, 2009

The First Fifty Years

Today was Mike's 50th birthday. One might expect a grand and glorious celebration. Not so much around here today. Actually, he just got back from a vacation in South Africa and decided to wait for Erin to return home from her most recent summer adventure on Saturday before having a "real"birthday celebration. However, we did not want this momentous day to pass with no acknowledgement, so we decided to have a period of reminiscence while we shared a gourmet dinner - taco salad,

We could have talked about all of Mike's accomplishments during the half century that he has been alive, or memories of his siblings, past birthdays, favorite toys, how nerdy we all looked in the 70's, living through the technological advance from 8-track to cassette tapes, the invention of the blow dryer, or TV before there was MTV. The possible topics were endless, and some of them even interesting. However, we focused on TV game shows.

How many of these do you remember?
  • Match Game
  • What's My Line
  • The Newlywed Game
  • Concentration
  • Password
  • The Dating Game
  • High Rollers
  • Hollywood Squares
  • Treasure Hunt
  • Let's Make A Deal
  • I've Got A Secret
  • Truth Or Consequences
  • the 10,000 Pyramid
  • Family Feud
  • Joker's Wild
  • The Gong Show

And if you remember the shows, do you remember who hosted them? Gene Rayburn, Chuck Woolery, Bill Cullem, Monty Hall, Allen Luden, Art Fleming, Peter Marshall, Ray Coombs, Kevin Eubanks, Wink Martindale -

Or, how about

  • Who was the center square on Hollywood Squares?
  • When you had to "shop" on the set with your winnings from Wheel of Fortune
  • When people were ecstatic to win an avocado green refrigerator
  • Jeopardy before Alex Trebek
  • Wheel of Fortune before Pat Sajak
  • Allen Luden's wife

It was a fun trip down memory lane. I'm not sure that current TV will spark such a conversation thirty or forty years from now. Most of what is on television now is not worth remembering tomorrow, forget nearly a half century from now. I may be wrong. Perhaps on Mike's hundredth birthday we will all be sitting around reminiscing about the 2009 American Idol upset and still wondering if Adam Lambert finished in second place because he was gay.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Date Night After Divorce

Lots of things change after divorce. Though life in the grand scheme is better, some things take a little adjustment, especially when one of you is paying alimony and the other is not getting much because, well, you are dating. Such circumstances send one's creativity, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and frugality into overdrive. I have to admit there is a bit of a thrill to the whole thing.

So here it is Friday night. We are the only ones home and have the entire evening to ourselves. All the light bulbs have been changed; we have single-handedly caused the extinction of dust bunnies around here; the refrigerator is free of all scientific experimentation; the dog is tired of playing fetch; and we have used all the words in the magnetic poetry on the fridge. What can we do with a goodly amount of time and little money? I have a solution. No! It is not what you think! That is free. We are willing to spend a few dollars.

Movies are the stereotypical dating adventure. I suppose this is because at some point they were relatively inexpensive. This definitely is not the case these days. Movie tickets are $7 to $10 and drinks and popcorn triple that cost. It all hardly seems worth spending over $30 to me to go see a movie.

So here it is - a great movie date night under $5. Have you seen the Red Box DVD rentals? They are all over the place from discount stores to McDonald's restaurants. One night movie rentals are a dollar! That sure beats $15 - $20 in theater tickets. We found 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke also for $1 and our favorite popcorn, Popcorn Indiana gourmet kettlecorn, for $2.50. There you have it - $4.50 total.

Okay, there are a few stipulations. You need a TV, preferably a big screen to help simulate the movie theater experience. Hopefully at least one of you got the TV in the divorce settlement. One of us did. A comfy place to sit is also an advantage. Again, hopefully someone ended up with a couch. If not, a stack of pillows, a bean bag chair, or old comforters piled high will work in a pinch. Fortunately, we have a comfortable couch; however, enjoying a movie from any of the above accommodations would add to the experience. How is up to you.

The $4.50 date night also has some definite advantages;
  • No crying babies brought by those who could afford the movie but not a babysitter. (In our case there is the occasional barking dog but somehow that seems easier to tolerate than a crying baby.)
  • The freedom to hit pause if you drink too much of the Diet Coke.
  • The ability to hit rewind if you fall asleep or for other reasons miss part of the movie.
  • You can watch the movie in your pajamas, or anything else, or nothing, if you choose.
  • You are spared the embarrassment of all the teenagers behind you saying, "Look at those old people making out! I didn't think people still did that at their age!

See, the $4.50 date night is a great deal!

Oh. I guess there is one other necessity for this to work - a date. Sorry. You are on your own here. I can't help you with this other than to say that the perfect person most often walks into our lives when we least expect it and most need it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

A little time travel . . . back to Italy tomorrow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And So It Was God's Time

In many ways, living with God is like living with a toddler - you never know what God will do or say or or if you will be prepared to deal with the next unpredictable move.

It was after dinner on our first evening in Assisi before we ventured out by foot into the piazza. The night was cool and clear. As we wound our way among the eight hundred year old buildings, up the stone steps into the town center only yards away from Francis' family home, I was awe struck. At that moment, I was rendered speechless. I stood and stared for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds. We walked the cobblestone paths as did Francis and I was taken back in time only to be jolted back to 2009 by the smell of cappuccino wafting from the bakeries whose windows were piled high with confections.

That night, as I took my first steps through Assisi, I was teetering between a past, the present, and a future. I spent the whole evening on one hand not knowing where I was and on the other feeling like I was at home. Weber must have sensed my weird state of being because that night before we went to bed he took me in his arms and asked, "Now that you are here, are you sure that you don't want to be a nun?" I managed to say, "I don't know." We went to bed with those being the last words we shared that night.

The next morning we got up and had what passed for breakfast in the convent - wafers, which are best described as the Italian version of graham crackers, and cappuccino. We then walked to the Basilica of St. Francis. The Basilica was breath taking on many levels. I will share more about that in a later post.

The six of us travelling together then went to the Portinucula and afterwards shared a fantastic Italian lunch. Because Weber and I arrived a day later than the rest of the group, we missed seeing Santa Chiara, the Church of St. Clare, with them on the previous day. They suggested that we do that during our free time that afternoon.

Santa Chiara is just off the piazza. In a small side chapel, it houses the "original" San Damiano cross, the cross that spoke to the young Francis and told him to "go and rebuild my church." This cross had previously hung in the San Damiano friary. After Francis' death, St. Clare and the sisters moved it to Santa Chiara, where it hangs today.

We walked into this chapel joining twenty to thirty tourists and several nuns who were praying the rosary. We sat down in an empty pew. I looked up at the San Damiano cross and again was filled with awe. I was looking at the very cross that had transformed the young Francis from a partying soldier to a fool for God. God, through his very cross, spoke to Francis, thus changing his life and the lives of many others forever. Realizing this, I knew what I had to do.

With tears streaming down my face, I looked up at this beautifully painted piece of wood and said, "OK. You spoke to Francis and told him what to do. I need you to do that for me. I need to know if you are truly calling me to test my vocation as a nun in the first order?" I'm not sure how long I sat there with tears rolling down my face with no words being spoken - not by me, or Weber, or the cross. I disappeared into the blur of my thoughts and my tear-filled eyes.

Some time later I looked up (I have no idea how long it was) to see a Franciscan friar walking toward us. He looked at Weber and said, 'Deutsche?". To which Weber responded, "No, English." The friar smiled and started to walk on. He abruptly stopped, came back to our pew and first blessed Weber by making the sign of the cross on his forehead and then he did the same to me. He then pulled from somewhere (I guess habits have pockets) a small piece of paper wrapped in cellophane and handed it to Weber saying that it was a gift for us. The friar then turned and left the chapel as gracefully as he had come in As we watched him leave, we realized that with this friar's arrival, the chapel had completely emptied The thirty or so people that were there when we walked in had all left. For that brief moment, it was just me, Weber, the friar, and God in that chapel.

We sat together in silence for a few more minutes before leaving the chapel as Vespers was about to begin. Once outside, Weber turned to me and asked, "What just happened in there? Why were you crying?" I told him of the question that I had posed to God via the cross. We then looked at what we had been given by the friar.

In the cellophane was a small rose colored card of handmade paper. Attached to the front is a dried flower and an antique colored gold heart charm. Inside, on cream colored paper, is a poem entitled, "Per La Via del Cuore", For The Way of the Heart.

We spent several evenings working to translate the rest of the poem. Our Italian vocabulary was OK, but lacking any real knowledge of Italian grammar made this task difficult. Though there is more to it than this, essentially the message we were given is that where your heart is, there too you will find God. I spoke to God through the San Damiano cross and in His time, he spoke to me through the friar. My question was answered.

First and foremost, my heart belongs to God; however, God brought Weber and me together and thus what we share is of God and for God - though not conducive to convent living!

These moments in Santa Chiara forever changed me, my relationship with Weber, and my faith in God.

"Santa Chiara"