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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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A Valentine’s Day Reflection: “the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life”

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am one of the luckiest men that I know. If you need some God talk, also one of the most blessed people that I know. I do guess that I am blessed, but I just cringe at the way that to be blessed has for so many people become another part of the vocabulary of religious mumbo-jumbo that passes for faith now days. Most of the time that I see it the words “blessed” is used for the ungodly amounts of material stuff that clutters our lives. I actually have plenty of stuff, especially when it comes to the “3 B’s”: Books, Baseball, and Beer.

But while I do consider myself blessed, it’s not for those things; it is for one person who I have had the privilege of spending most of my life with, my wife Judy.

Since I am not a fan of Calvinism with its often absurd views of God’s Providence, I consider myself lucky to even know her, much less to have known her for almost 39 years and having spent 33 of those years married, without her either divorcing or murdering me in my sleep, either of which probably would have been ruled justified in the court system at any number of points in our marriage.

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I met her my first year at San Joaquin Delta College, in Stockton, California. We went to rival high schools and she was a year ahead of me. When I met her I feel in love. I think it took her longer to fall in love with me, but honestly, for me it was love at first sight and I’ve never looked back.

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Judy has stood by me through almost 36 years in the military and most of those were not easy. I did a quick count and we have spent over 13 years apart due to my work, and that doesn’t count all the times where we were together when I was in the reserves and working in civilian hospitals where the hours that I worked were so odd that I seldom saw her for 3 years, nor four years of seminary where I was a full time student and worked more than full time, nor when I was home working on yet another master’s degree, and let’s not even mention the time that I spend researching and writing my books.

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Then there has been my ongoing battle with the effects of PTSD and mild TBI. Thankfully I am doing a lot better, but from 2008 until 2014 I was pretty unbearable.

Likewise, I am an introvert who can become so focused on what I’m doing that I ignore her. I have done that all too often throughout our marriage. But, that being said, over the past couple of years since I came back from three years of a geographic bachelor tour while serving at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, we have reconnected. I think that part of that was caused when she was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer last year. She got through it, and so far remains cancer free, but it hit me hard because it brought me to the realization that I could lose her, and that I want the rest of our life together to be better than it ever was. She is my best friend, she knows me better than anyone, and I tell her things that I can tell no one else. I love coming home to her.

She is a remarkable woman. On Groundhog Day I watched, as is my custom, the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. It is one of my favorites. But when I watched it this time I was struck by something that Murray’s character tells her, because it pretty much sums up the way that I feel about Judy.

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.

She is all that, and more. I am so lucky to have her in my life and cannot imagine life without her. We never had kids, but we have each other, our dogs, and some really good friends.

In 1979, the year we started dating the group Dr. Hook released a single called Years from Now. When I first heard it back then on American Top Forty and bought the 45 at Tower Records in Stockton, I knew it summed up how I would always feel about her.

So please, have a great Valentine’s Day with whoever you love.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Groundhog Day in Iowa

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a short post to note that first that one it is Groundhog Day, and two that it is the Iowa Caucus. Personally, since I am already worn out by the 2016 election cycle that began in November of 2014. I am much more interested in what Punxsutawney Phil has to say than any of the pontificating pundits have to say about Ted Cruz’s narrow victory over Donald Trump, and the razor thin Democratic race in the Iowa Caucus between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In the next couple of days we will see the herd of also rans thin out.

Please don’t get me wrong, I have strong political beliefs and yes I already know who I will vote for in the West Virginia primary, should I not get disenfranchised again as happened when the state changed the rules on absentee voting without telling those of us in the military. But as a serving military officer I can neither publicly endorse a candidate nor write things that could be interpreted as trying to directly influence someone’s vote. It doesn’t mean that I cannot say what I believe; it is just that I have to be more circumspect in how I say things, but I am just tired of all the pundits on all the cable news channels and internet. I am worn out, but I digress…

The fact is that no-matter what happens today the political fratricide being stoked by the most extreme pundits of each political party regarding their own primary campaigns, and the positively extreme partisanship that exists between the two major parties is going to stop.

I was a Republican for 32 years, I worked for the Gerald Ford Campaign in 1976, and in 2008 after my tour in Iraq I left that party, thoroughly disgusted by the lies I had witnessed regarding that war. I became a Democrat, a proud one at that, but even so I could never imagine the train wreck the party that I was a part of for so long has become.

While I am very progressive in my views on social issues, including civil rights, economic policy, environmental issues, full equality for LGBTQ people, women’s issues and women’s rights, including reproductive rights and single payer healthcare. I guess this makes me somewhat a democratic socialist.

But like another great Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, I am also a realist concerning what is going on in the world, and that there are people and nations that would like to destroy this country. Sometimes they have legitimate gripes, and their anger toward the United States is well founded, but that being said, I have no illusions about the world, which means that sometimes you have to stand up to tyranny. Please know I am not defending the Bush Doctrine or other forms of aggression, but dealing with real enemies using the full range of our nation’s diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power to deter, defend, and hopefully defuse danger before we ever go to war. Sadly, we are already in a war that seams to be without end.

Admittedly, my views mean that some of my liberal and progressive friends and followers will disagree with me, just as my conservative friends. But the good thing is that I do not pick my friends based on their political, religious, or ideological beliefs. Maybe in the terribly divisive climate of our day that makes me odd, but I see people as people and friends are friends, more valuable than a vault full of gold pressed latinum. 

That being said I will not be silent when I see certain candidates espouse unbridled fascism and theocratic views, I will speak up, because those are not American values, and too many American soldiers have died fighting those kind of views for me to stay silent when American politicians, pundits, and politically motivated preachers embrace then.  I am a historian and when historical parallels exist, I cannot help but to point them out. Unfortunately there are many historical parallels being played out before our eyes, and as the ancient curse says “may you live in interesting times.”

All I know is that I have a hard time watching the incessant vitriol being aired on all the cable news channels, and frankly I refuse to get myself sucked into that. I have better things to do, like drinking beer and watching Star Trek episodes until Baseball season begins. By the time it ends the Presidential election will just be days away. I can live with that. Likewise, unless something really unusual and earth shattering happens that changes my mind like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman or Abe Lincoln entering the race from an alternate universe that I will support my party’s nominee, whoever that person is because I like both Hillary and Bernie and I don’t like the alternative. 

But back to Groundhog Day, it seems as much as things change the more that they stay the same. Technology may change, but people will always be the unchanging constant in this world. So when I get back home from having dinner and drinking beer with my wife and friends I just may have to watch the classic comedy Groundhog Day, after all, it seems that we have been stuck in this election cycle for ever, and that we will keep reliving the news cycle again, and again, and again.

I need a beer, and it’s only seven in the morning.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Groundhog Day Predictions

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“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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Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day: If Phil Simms Sees His Shadow Do We Get 6 More Weeks of Winter?

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Well it is Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day to boot, two great events that go great together. Unfortunately Phil Simms, victor of Super Bowl XXI and CBS NFL Commentator will not be helping to call the game since it is on Fox, but I digress… Had CBS had the game this year they could have had Simms out in the parking lot with the early tailgaters as the sun came up.

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Like the more famous Phil up in Punxsutawney, Simms has been able to keep a pretty good gig going for himself after his NFL career was over. Last night before I went to bed the significance of Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl being the same day astounded me.

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To my twisted mind it seemed like some sort of cosmic Karma. It would have been great if Punxsutawney Phil could have been at the new Met Life Stadium in east Rutherford New Jersey today.  Then the two events could have been even better orchestrated, a lot more money made by all, and as a bonus we could have watched Governor Chris Christie eat Phil during the game.

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Had the game been in New Orleans we might have been treated to Phil hiding out in Phil Robertson’s beard trying to avoid being eaten. On the other hand that would be kind of gross, but again, I digress…

I like watching the Super Bowl, I enjoy football, but it does not have the religious significance of baseball to me.  So tonight I will be watching it at my favorite hang out, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at Virginia Beach Town Center.

This is a good thing because it will get us out of the house for a few hours, and since Servepro can’t get out here until Tuesday to start dewatering my ground floor this is not a bad thing. The good thing is our upstairs has a nice living area, otherwise we would be in a hotel.

So for the next few days, maybe even weeks we will be living in a sort of water induced Groundhog Day as the house is dewatered, dried out, ripped up and reconstructed. But it could always be worse. Unfortunately the longer it takes for Servepro to get out here the worse the damage will be and the more that will need to be replaced or repaired. That is not their fault, because they, like so many other businesses like them are having lots of work to do after the big winter storm that his last week.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, damning us to 6 more weeks of winter hell. But can we hope that Phil Simms, wherever he may be today will not see his shadow and that somehow if he doesn’t that it will cancel out the other Phil’s prediction?

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The one drawback to the two events coinciding for me is that I will have to put off my annual observance of watching the movie Groundhog Day until tomorrow. As Ross Perot would have said to Larry King back in 1992: “That’s just sad Larry.”

Have a great day and enjoy the game!

Oh, as a P.S. Go Broncos!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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