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A Thought for Christmas Eve: It’s Not too Late…

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a quick thought from one of my favorite Christmas movies for Christmas Eve.

Those of you who know me personally, or follow my writings here know how much I struggle with faith, as well as how much Christmas means to me. It is the one time of year that I tend to believe again.

The thought is from the classic comedy Scrooged starring Bill Murray. I think that in the midst of all the turmoil and hate that it somehow may be the best that we might be able to do.

“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we… we… we smile a little easier, we… w-w-we… we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!”

Have the best Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate as you can.

Peace,

Padre Steve

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Celebrating 35 Years of Marriage to the Kindest, Sweetest, Prettiest Person I’ve Ever Met In My Life…

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Thirty-five years ago today I married the love of my life and despite many stupid and thoughtless actions we are still married and probably happier than we have ever been. We have been spending the weekend with dear friends and the combined 12 Papillon dogs we have. It has been very nice, relaxing and fun.

It has also been a time for me to recharge my batteries because when we return home tomorrow I will have much to do at work as well as at home as we start to repair and renovate our home after the flooding event we experienced. By then we should hopefully have the insurance settlement to allow us to do what we need after the initial contractor provided by the insurance company wanted thousands of dollars more than the estimate they provided to do what we asked. Today we will go to dinner and celebrate at a restaurant that I like in D.C., but I digress…

We got married just six days after I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Three of the men I was commissioned with were in the wedding and I am still in contact with a number of others. We had met almost five years before at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California. I fell in love with her that night.

Our marriage has been a long strange trip, not that there is anything wrong with that. Military life, separations due to deployments and war have been part of our life. Judy has had to endure more than I can imagine to stay with me all these years. She is simply the best. She is creative, talented, kind, resourceful, considerate, and amazingly patient. I have seen her go out of her way to be kind and giving to people just because that’s who she is.

Honestly I fell in love with her the day that we met. When I first asked her on a date a few months later I was so nervous that she thought I was going to ask her to marry me. I loved her and wanted to marry her but I could barely stammer out “would you like to go to a movie?” Thankfully she said yes, otherwise I would have never gotten to the whole marriage thing.

When I think of her I think of what Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, said to Andie McDowell in that movie:

I think you’re the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never seen anyone that’s nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you… something happened to me. I never told you but… I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could. I don’t deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.

I still do. So to the most amazing and talented woman in the world, I love you, even more than I did that night we first met.

So to all,of our friends, and to all thank you for being a part of our lives.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Americans are Not the Übermenschen: We Are the Wretched Refuse

billmurraystripes

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In the wake of President Trump’s remarks about “shithole” countries I have top put in my two cents. The fact is that most Americans, even the whiter than white, are descended from people who were the “wretched refuse” of their countries of origin. As Bill Murray said in the movie Stripes:

“The hell’s the matter with you?! Stupid! We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse.” 

I’m sorry Mr. President, your family and mine our no different, our ancestors escaped countries that they felt that they had no future. In my family that included members of the Scottish nobility who weren’t high enough on the nobility scale to inherit much and as such went to the colonies to use their name and money to their advantage; or others who fled poverty, famine, and religious persecution: Irish Catholics, French Huguenots, Welsh coal miners, indentured servant English farmers and herdsmen, just to name a few. At least to my knowledge none of my ancestors were dodging the draft or conscription to get here, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I digress…

I hate to be so blunt but anyone that thinks that the United States is some kind of white nationalist homeland is sadly mistaken. The most kind word to describe people who believe that bullshit is ignorant; the worst, deliberately deceitful and evil.

So when the American President makes comments about Haitians, Hispanics, and African immigrants as coming from “shithole countries” one has to remember how the Irish, Germans, Italians, Poles, Russians, Greeks, Jews, and Eastern European immigrants were viewed and treated when they came to this country. While were at it let’s not even talk about the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Indians, Arabs, various Latin Americans, or Mexicans; the latter who lost 40% of their country to an expanding and imperialistic United States after the War with Mexico.

The United States of America is not an ethnicity, it is not a race, it is an idea; a proposition that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Abraham Lincoln certainly understood this to the extent that he was willing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and push through the 13th Amendment and in his last public remarks voiced support for Negro Suffrage, something that infuriated John Wilkes Booth that it moved him to assassinate Lincoln.

That being said if we are really Americans. If we are truly part of that “wretched refuse” then we should never forget the words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address where he said:

“It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

The remarks of the President which he denied, but have not been denied by the White House and testified to by Democrat and Republican Senators who heard them are despicable, racist, and conduct unbecoming for an American President. In the military I have served alongside men and women from every country that the President has called shitholes, every single one of them has more integrity, honor, and courage than the President, some have given their lives in defense of this country while many of them still serve this country in harms way. Many came as immigrants or were the sons or daughters of immigrants: all of them volunteered to serve and none dodged the draft like the current occupant of the White House.

The fact is if you are an American, unless perhaps you are a direct descendent of one of the great American Indian Chiefs or Shamans, you, like me are part of the wretched refuse.

So with that I wish you a good day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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The Rest of the Story: the Silver Linings in an Otherwise Shitty Day

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday I wrote about what a shitty day that most of my Monday was. That was not the original article that I had planned, but it is better to put my original thoughts in this article because even a thoroughly shitty day can have a good ending.

When I left work on Monday I was so upset that in order to decompress before going home I stopped at Gordon Biersch for a beer or two. I needed a bit of time in a quiet place to regather myself to ensure that I did not take my bad mood home and inflict it on Judy. At Biersch, the bartender, a young man named Jordan asked how I was doing and I told him that my day had been shitty. Jordan is a really nice young man and we love him, and he asked what he could do. I told him that I needed a little bit of time alone, but later I told him how much I appreciated him asking. That makes a difference.

I also got a text from one of my subordinate chaplains reminding me how much that he and my staff care about me and appreciate me. That too was awesome. When I saw my Chief the next morning she asked if there was anyone’s “tires she could slash” to make it better. One has to appreciate folks like that. I have a great staff and they are protective of me, in large part because most of them saw how my predecessor was treated by a different command team. Thankfully, those people are gone and I don’t have to deal with the kind of things that he endured, but even so, the care that my staff has for me is amazing, and I do my best to provide an environment where they can succeed and have their accomplishments recognized. The fact of the matter is that no-matter what the end of my military career is much closer than it ever was, I think I will be retiring by 2020 or 2021 with somewhere between 39 and 40 years of service between the Army and Navy, unless through some really unusual circumstances I get promoted to Captain and hand out a couple of more years. I don’t think that will happen, but I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Later in the evening, my friend Vince who just retired from the Navy Chaplain Corps gave me a call to check on me which was also very much appreciated.

But the most special thing that happened Monday when I got home was that Judy and I went out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant in our area, Las Palmas. We had dinner at the bar and she was great in helping me talk through some of what I had been through and what I was feeling, but she did something totally unrelated to me which meant more than anything that evening. There was a man at the bar who I had met before. He is on partial disability and lives in a tent in a wooded area that hasn’t been plowed under for another shopping center or housing development, you could say that he is homeless. He is a pretty nice guy and when we got there he struck up a conversation and noted that it was his 64th birthday. He was having dinner and a couple of drinks. The cool thing is that restaurant management and staff treat him as well as people who have lots of money. That’s one of the reasons we go there, they are awesome people who make you feel at home.

Anyway, he struck up a conversation with Judy and they hit it off. She is amazing and she has such love, care, and compassion for people that it blows me way. She is a far better person than I will ever be. As we sat there she told me that we were going to buy his dinner, because we were going to help make the night special for him. She continued to talk with him and I was in tears. Not long afterward the manager and staff came up, put a sombrero on him and began to sing Happy Birthday, with a few twists peculiar to Las Palmas. It was really cool. When we were all about done he thought he was going to pay and I said that it was taken care of and for him to have a happy birthday. It was an honor to be able to do that.

But what blew me away was Judy. She is amazing and if there were more people in the world like her the world would be a far better place. I was reminded of the words of Bill Murray playing Phil the weatherman stuck in a time loop in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for Groundhog Day to his producer Rita, played by Andie McDowell. In one of those constantly repeating days she is asleep and he looks at her and says:

“I think you’re the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never seen anyone that’s nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you… something happened to me. I never told you but… I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could. I don’t deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.”

Honestly, I don’t deserve someone like Judy, and his words bring tears to my eyes when I see Judy. That made my day and made me realize that no matter how shitty things may be that I have the privilege of being married to the most wonderful woman in the world. She is amazing.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

P.S. I was able to get some of the things that I was upset about taken care of in Tuesday. Things are for the most part better now.

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Groundhog Day Predictions

groundhog-day-driving

“It’s the same thing your whole life: “Clean up your room. Stand up straight. Pick up your feet. Take it like a man. Be nice to your sister. Don’t mix beer and wine, ever.” Oh yeah: “Don’t drive on the railroad track.” 

Well, Punxsutawney Phil, the seer of weather seers made his predictions today. You guessed it, six more weeks of winter are on our way. Hopefully my next trip to Gettysburg will fall in between major winter storms like it did last year, apart from that I really don’t care, unless winter drags on into baseball season. A number of years ago I remember attending an opening day here in Norfolk where the temperature at game time was 38 degrees and winds were blowing in from center field at close to 40 knots. That was a cold ass opening day. I don’t want that again, but I digress…

However, Phil has expanded his predictions. Phil predicted another six years of political gridlock and insanity from the Tea Party and Religious conservatives, like that’s news, give me a break. Like that prediction takes some kind of gift….  Phil also predicted yet another decade or more of war in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. I have to admit, the rodent is a genius, he should be employed by a think tank and as a talking head on the various cable news networks. Likewise, the furry beast predicted that the NFL would have another five years of cheating, wife beating and other criminal activity in the NFL before Congress finally revokes the league’s non-profit status.

All that aside, I and probably you live Groundhog Day. I mean like the movie Groundhog Day. Hell, my wake up song on my iPhone is I Got You Babe just like the movie. Since I have been in the military over three decades I can say that every day is Groundhog Day, and every day I wake up on this side of the dirt is not a bad day. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a chance to replay a single day again and again until I exhausted all possibilities and got it right. It could be fun.

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Tonight I am again watching Groundhog Day and I can relate. If I was Bill Murray’s character, Phil Conners, I cannot say that I wouldn’t have done any of the things that he does in the movie. Presuming I wake up tomorrow, something that nothing none of us are guaranteed of doing, I will wake up to the words of I Got You Babe.

So until tomorrow, happy Groundhog Day and many more…

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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DNA Tests and Family Mysteries

e-pluribus-unum

“We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more lovable than the mutt.” Pvt John Winger (Bill Murray) Stripes 1981

A few weeks back I spit into a test tube and sent it in to see what it revealed about my DNA. I thought that it was pretty clear cut as people on both sides of the family have done a lot of research into the subject even publishing books. Pretty much I am a Mutt.

Now the DNA test revealed some things that I was pretty sure about. According to it about 70% of my DNA make-up comes from the British Isles. I have parts of the family from England, Scotland, Ireland and the Outlaw Josie Wales. That much was pretty sure. We have records of these relationships, some extending back to about 1060 in Scotland on my dad’s side of the family.

My mom had said for years that part of her grandmother’s family was Scandinavian though she did not know exactly where they came from. The DNA test said that about 20% of my DNA was Scandinavian. Now the trick is to find out where they originated and how they got to be part of me.

Finally I was thrown for a loop by the last 10% of the DNA. I expected something out of Western or Central Europe, French or German based on some family histories and speculation, as well as the outside possibility that one of my slave owning ancestors, and yes I had them could have brought some African DNA into the mix. I was prepared for any of those possibilities and none of them bothered me in the least. I thought that they might be fun to research.

However the final 10% of the DNA was Eastern European, which could be the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia or any of the Balkan States. That is a mystery because none of the records or accounts that I have seen indicate any Eastern European ancestry. However it is there and it is a mystery.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Could there be an anglicized misspelling of a name that we thought was English but is Eastern European, I do think there is a possibility of that. Likewise there is the possibility that a connection exists that we do not know about.

Of the next few days and weeks, we will be doing some digging into the family tree to figure out the gory details of this discovery.

What is interesting is that no matter how things work out or what we discover, the fact is that most Americans whose families have been in this land ever since we wiped out most of the Native Americans to take it are a blend, sometimes of races and ethnicities that we never could imagine. I for one think that is a strength and something that we should be happy about. Not the part about wiping out the Native Americans, that is pretty awful and shameful, but rather that most of us are a blend of God knows how many races, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Having seen the results of inbreeding, cultures that have stopped evolving and religions that would kill in the name of God I think it is pretty cool that somehow in spite of ourselves sometimes that we are E pluribus unam- Out of many, one. 

Have a great night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Merry Christmas Eve!

Scrooged (1988) 3

“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we… we… we smile a little easier, we… w-w-we… we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!” Frank Cross (Bill Murray) in Scrooged

This evening is Christmas Eve and I have noticed today, almost everywhere I have been that people have been just a bit nicer than usual. Well, I take that back, except for the old bat in the Gold Lexus that cut me off for a parking spot at the grocery store, but even so most people seem to be just a bit friendlier than most days of the year.

Today after getting a few things that we needed for Christmas day Judy and I went out and had a beer with some of our friends at Gordon Biersch. Tonight we will meet another Chaplain and his wife for dinner before settling in for the night.

It is nice to be with each other and to have all that we need and to enjoy our two dogs, Molly and Minnie. Tomorrow we will unwrap, or let the dogs unwrap their gifts. Molly knows exactly what to do. She unwraps her presents every year. This will be Minnie’s first Christmas so it will be interesting to see her do her gifts. Since she is a Papillon I expect that she will have no problem figuring this ritual out.

So blessings to you as you celebrate this Christmas, no matter how you do it. I believe that Christmas is for everyone, that the joy, fellowship and love can be shared by anyone of good will.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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