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Thanksgiving Memories Then and Now: Padre Steve’s Humorous Look at Our National Day

 

It is better to give than to receive so it is time to give thanks for all the blessings that I have received since last Thanksgiving, but before I do I have to philosophize just a bit.

You see while I am thankful for much I generally find that Thanksgiving Day leaves much to be desired. Not that I am adverse to giving thanks or being extremely grateful but I am really more of a Christmas kind of guy. I’m also not a big fan of getting up early to watch parades on TV, or for that matter especially in person.  I’d rather watch the man made disasters of when the big balloons that got away on the news or on You Tube.

I think it would be more fun since we are becoming a police state if we mounted surveillance cameras and Hellfire missiles on the floats. Could you see the surprise in the faces of terrorists and even law abiding citizens when they realized that Snoopy, Garfield and the Cat in the Hat were targeting them. If we have to live in a police state I think it should it might as well be fun.

Enough about parades, after all who cares about parades anyway when you can watch what are historically some of the worst professional football games of the season.  Today the 4-6 Detroit Lions will find yet another way to lose on Thanksgiving as they play the 9-1 Houston Texans as they play in the Sacrificial Lamb Bowl. The 5-5 Dallas Cowboys play the revived 4-6 Washington Redskins in the Mediocrity Bowl. In a third game on prime-time the 7-3 New England Patriots will play the 4-6 New York Jets in the I Hate You and Everything that You Stand For Bowl.  I have no idea how we ended up with those teams year after year on Thanksgiving but I guess for Cowboys fans, Jets fans and all 964 Lions fans it works well, not that there is anything wrong with that.

While the professional football players ready themselves for combat the professional bargain hunters are preparing for their own form of mortal combat where no prisoners are taken and the weak to do not survive. Yes it is “Black Friday Eve” and though many will sacrifice by camping outside of stores in abominable weather, deceiving potential rivals to get a better place in line and if need be resorting to violence to make their Christmas wishes come true.  As for me I will avoid big retailers like the plague and do almost all of my shopping online where I feel safe in my virtual world.  The sad thing in this is that so many employees of the big stores are already at work preparing for the Black Friday deals and sales that they will not be with their families, friends or other loved ones today. But who cares about them? If we can get a big HDTV made by slave laborers in China at big savings  isn’t it worth it?

I like the times to get together and spent time with family and friends, though due to my military career it has been years since we have spent Thanksgiving with family.  There is something about a 3000 mile buffer zone that comes with being in the military that makes it hard to get to and from the West Coast. My brother will be hosting this at his home this year with his family, my mom and his in-laws. He’s a better man than me. Of course as many can attest even in the most loving and functional families holiday get-togethers were not always the most enjoyable occasions.  It is the stuff that movies are made of when after the mandatory grace was said and tempers flared and people stormed outside while the children found new ways to get under their parents skin. I was especially good at the latter.

Stephen Colbert says it this way: “Thanksgiving is a magical time of year when families across the country join together to raise America’s obesity statistics. Personally, I love Thanksgiving traditions: watching football, making pumpkin pie, and saying the magic phrase that sends your aunt storming out of the dining room to sit in her car.”

But food is the centerpiece of any true Thanksgiving celebration is the Thanksgiving Dinner and the source of many pleasant memories as well as those we would like to forget but due to the trauma cannot. Most of these dishes were prepared by certain elderly relatives including my Granny who could tell you the history of any dish that appeared on the table, to include who gave it to here how many weeks prior to the event.

There was the ever present green bean salad frequently bathed in something that might have been mayonnaise or possibly Cool Whip.  Now the fact that it was spruced up a bit with Chernobyl Onions, boiled potatoes, slimy mushrooms or other additives that remain a mystery to this day didn’t make it any better, just more challenging to wonder who came up with the idea.

Another positively scary dish was the puke green Jell-O salad which I think was made of Jell-O, mayonnaise and would have canned pineapple or dry cat food thrown in just to make sure that there was something real in this unearthly concoction.  Of course one cannot forget the times that the Turkey didn’t turn out quite right being underdone or charred beyond belief.  The stuffing stuck to everything like a chunky primordial slime or mashed potatoes resembled Potato soup or were so chewy and dry that you had to add more of the 40 weight Pennzoil gravy just to get them down.  My late mother in law had a delicacy that we called Brown and Burn rolls and my late paternal Grandmother “Granny” who I have previously mentioned had something white, which might have been meat in white gravy but has never been identified despite the best efforts FBI forensics investigators.

Of course in many household the children serve a purpose akin to that of a Persian Emperor’s official food taster.  I can remember as a kid being forced to eat something from almost every dish on the table just to make sure that Aunt Betty Lou Who or Grammy Sue Who (the names have been changed to protect their memories) would not be offended if no one ate what they prepared.

Now not everything was bad as most of the time no matter how badly everything else turned out the pie was good, well at least in most cases.  My favorite pie at Thanksgiving was one that a trio of my Great Aunts made. Now these aunts were really great, when we went to their house on 18th Street in Huntington West Virginia for Thanksgiving or any other occasion they laid out a wonderful spread, but the most delightful dish was their Graham Cracker Pie. This is a pie, well that was a dumb statement, of course it was pie, but this pie had a home-made graham cracker and cinnamon crust, was filled with vanilla pudding, the good stuff, not instant and a meringue top which was encrusted with the graham cracker cinnamon mix.  Thankfully Judy had Aunt Viva, the last of the trio write down the recipe before she passed away and she has made it on occasion keeping this one family delicacy alive.  In addition to the Graham Cracker Pie there was Banana Crème and Chocolate Crème, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato, Apple, Cherry as well as other pies that would make an occasional appearance.

Not Thanksgiving Day but close enough: Dinner with General Sabah in Ramadi

As I noted we have been away from family most of our married life and we have frequently spent Thanksgiving with friends, many times single people that we hosted other times people that would host us and those were always enjoyable. I have also spent a good number of Thanksgivings deployed and those have been special, especially 2007 when I was in Iraq and after a mission to the Syrian border when I helped to serve the troops at the dining facility.  Those times make you very thankful and not in a joking sense about all the blessings that we have in the United States.

As most readers know I am just a tad irreverent at times and nowhere was this more in evidence than Thanksgiving 1991 when we hosted a number of our single friends from work or church since none of us were very well off, I was still in seminary and money was not a great commodity. Judy asked me since I was going into ministry if I would pray for the food. That was not a good way to phrase the question because at times, well most of the time tend to find the dark humor in anything and this time was no exception. I think the prayer went something like this. I’m sure that it was longer than this because there are times when I get on a roll and can’t shut up, but this captures the spirit of that “prayer for the food.”

Dear Lord we ask you to be with the soul of this turkey and all of his or her relatives this Thanksgiving. Relieve them of their pain and comfort the survivors in Jesus name. Amen.

As I prayed I noticed Judy glaring daggers at me as our guests looked on in dismay.  To this day she always keeps a foot ready to kick me just in case I try something like this again. Likewise she is always careful in how she phrases what she wants me to pray for lest I become too literal in my prayer.

This year I have much to be thankful for, my wonderful wife Judy, friends, family and my little dog Molly who over the course of the past year has helped me become a functional part of human society again. Then there is Minnie, our new addition, a 10 month old Papillon puppy who is always happy to drink my beer or coffee should I leave it in her range.

The Giants won the World Series, the Orioles and A’s surprised everyone by rocking the playoffs the 49ers are doing well and UCLA defeated USC.

As  sit here with Molly at my feet and Minnie on Judy’s lap on this quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Have a blessed day! Happy Thanksgiving friends.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Another Wild “Wild Card” Weekend

Marshon Lynch runs for a spectacular touchdown with Matt Hasselbeck following

Well what can we say; it was another wild “Wild Card” weekend that defied predictions and expectations.  As my regular readers know I am not a big football fan being it is not the one true religion of the Church of Baseball, however since it is mildly interesting I do occasionally watch it just so I can converse with those that are faithful followers of that heretical sect. Despite the fact that I don’t follow it religiously I do know a lot about the sport just as I would as a Priest study other denominations.

This weekend was a wild one with a shocker, an upset, a blowout and a hard fought battle decided by crappy field goal kicking.

The Shocker: Seahawks 41 Saints 36: I like chaos in footfall and tend to cheer for the underdogs just to see chaos happen.  I was not disappointed.  Yesterday as I continued to recuperate from the crud that has been kicking my ass I laid on the couch and watched the Seattle Seahawks beat down the heavily favored Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. I think that this was the big story of the weekend. The Seahawks who won the NFC West with a losing record were double digit underdogs at home to the reigning NFL Champs. Never before have I seen a team so disrespected and with good reason even get into the playoffs. However, I wanted them to win and was overjoyed with the hurt that they put on the Saints. The score was 41-36 but it did not seem that close despite heroic performance by Saints Quarterback Drew Brees.  The Seahawks were 10 point underdogs at home facing the defending Super Bowl Champions and they pulled the biggest post season upset that we have seen for some time. Final score Seahawks 41 Saints 36.  I love an upset.  The lowly Seahawks who have nothing to prove will travel to Chicago to play Da-Bears in the Divisional match up.

Nick Folk and the Jets celebrate after his game winning field goal against the Colts

The Upset: Jets 17 Colts 16: The Colts were favored but Rex Ryan and crew finally defeated his personal nemesis Payton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts in the closing seconds of Sunday’s game. The Colts have always dominated the Jets or had Manning steal the game in the closing minutes causing Ryan to remark that this game was “personal.” Once again it looked like Manning was following the same script and that Ryan and his Jets would go down to defeat but it was not so.  With the score 14-13 Jets Manning took the Colts into Field goal range to set up a 50 yard field goal by the future hall of fame kicker Adam Vinatieri to put the Colts up 16-14. With only 53 seconds left it was up to Mark Sanchez and crew to get the job done and Ryan trusted Sanchez and crew to get the team into position to win. Antonio Cromartie returned the kickoff 47 yards and Sanchez took the Jets to the Colt 18 in five plays to set up the winning field goal. The remarkable thing about the play to set up the field goal was that Ryan and his offensive coordinator listened to Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards for a pass play instead of a safe run which they favored. Sanchez connected with Edwards to set up Folk and win the game. It was a stunning blow to the Colts who expected to win at home.  Ryan who had talked about the game being personal was gracious in victory “We’ve been in some close ones this year, but to come out and pull this game out against a great football team, against a great quarterback, it was a Herculean effort…I mean really, I’m just thankful for the men I coach. Thankful for the two backs we got, that pounded it in there. Thankful for that coaching staff. Thankful for Nick Folk, and I’m thankful that I finally got to beat Peyton Manning.” The Jets now travel to Foxborough to play their Eastern Conference rival and nemesis the New England Patriots.

Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a 30-10 win over the Chiefs

The Blowout: Ravens 30 Chiefs 10: The Ravens went on the road as a wild card to face the AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs.  The Ravens were favored but the Chiefs did keep the game close through the first half but in the second half the Ravens’ defense strangled the Chiefs’ offense allowing only 25 yards in the final two quarters. The Ravens controlled the ball on offense for 41 minutes and 44 seconds with Joe Flacco throwing for 248 yards with 2 touchdown passes.  The Ravens’ defense held the Chiefs’ to just 8 first downs and forced 5 turnovers.  The Chiefs were simply overmatched, outgunned and outplayed.  The Ravens will now head to Pittsburgh to continue their rivalry in the AFC Divisional playoff.  For the Chiefs it was their 7th consecutive playoff lose dating to 1994.

The end of Michael Vick’s magical season

The Battle: Packers 21 Eagles 16: Michael Vick’s magical season came to an end on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers. In a game marked by tough play the Packers led 21-10 with 8:50 left in the game and Vick engineered a 13 play 4 minute 48 second 75 yard drive to make the score 21-16. The Eagles failed on a two point attempt abut managed to get the ball back with 1:45 left in the game on their 34. Vick brought them back to get the ball down the field to the Packer 27 when with 33 seconds left he threw an interception in the end zone which ended the Eagles’ season.  Aaron Rodgers ran the Packer offense well and the Pack finally produced a running game.  Vick did not have a bad game throwing for 292 yards and a touchdown while running for 33 and a second touchdown. The game was decided by two missed field goals as Pro Bowl Philadelphia kicker David Akers missed from 41 and 34 yards.  The Packers move on to Atlanta to play the Falcons in the Georgia Dome where Atlanta has dominated this season.

Once again the Wild Card round did not disappoint and it will be interesting to see what surprises take place in the Divisional Playoff games this week.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Blowout, a Trouncing, a Massacre and an Upset the NFL Divisional Playoffs and Picks for Next Week

Well the Divisional Playoffs are behind us, I went 3 for 4 in my picks only missing the Chargers and Jets.  This patently is rather good for a member of the Church of Baseball who has no dog in the NFL fight. The only really interesting thing to me as only the Chargers and Jets game was competitive.

So let’s go through the results and look to next week.

Saints Defense Swarming (Getty Images)

In game one the Cardinals travelled to New Orleans to meet the Saints. The Saints were the clear favorite in the game despite the play of the Cardinals against the Packers last week.  I figured that the Saints would win but gave the Cardinals a chance at stealing one from the Saints.  In my heart I wanted the Cardinals to take it because I like Kurt Warner.  The game was dominated by the Saints who took advantage of Cardinals turnovers to win convincingly 45-14.  The Saints used aggressive defense to shut down the Cardinals and their offense led by the passing of Drew Brees and stellar performance of Reggie Bush put on a show against the porous Cardinal defense which in two playoff games gave up a record 90 points.  Warner was crushed by a tackle in the 2nd quarter which could factor into his decision to continue playing or retire.  The Saints take home field advantage into the NFC Championship game against Brett Farve and the Vikings this week.

Peyton Manning Leads the Colts over the Ravens (Getty Images)

In the evening game the Colts shut down the Baltimore offense and though did not have a spectacular game offensively producing only 275 yards but got the job done effectively.  Payton Manning was the offense for the Colts who rushed for only 46 yards.  The Ravens gave up 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions one of the fumbles coming on a potentially game changing interception by Ed Reed who was stripped of the ball deep in Colts territory after a 38 yard interception return.  The Ravens go home and Indianapolis breaks the “bye week jinx” to advance to the AFC Championship game which will be played in Indy against the scrappy New York Jets.

Brett Farve Tipping His Hat (AP Photo)

On Sunday Brett Farve and his Vikings faced off against the Cowboys in the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome’s final NFL game.  Farve who had never beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs was spectacular leading the Vikings to a 34-3 massacre of the Cowboys making the pokes look like they didn’t belong on the same field.  Farve threw for 234 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 134.4 quarterback rating while the Cowboys managed as a team a mere 248 yards. Tony “the over-rated” Romo went back to traditional post season form going 22 of 35 for a mere 198 yards and an interception for a 66.1 quarterback rating.  He also fumbled twice and was sacked 6 times.  Cowboys fans considered a late touchdown pass by Farve at the end of the game to be not “classy” but ever since the departure of Saint Tom Landry there has been little to call classy about the Cowboys including the new Cowboys Stadium which puts the T in tacky with the scoreboard larger than Eritrea.  Despite this being a massacre which I normally would have changed channels rather than continue to watch I kept watching taking a perverse pleasure in the Cowboy’s collapse.

Rex Ryan is Making Believers (Getty Images)

The final game of the weekend featured the hot San Diego chargers against the surprising New York Jets. This was the only game that was not a blowout and certainly the only upset.  The Jets won 17-14 in the best game of the weekend.  Perhaps only Rex Ryan and the Jets believed that they could go on the road to San Diego and win this one and win they did. The Jets opportunistic and aggressive defense shut down the vaunted San Diego offense and Philip Rivers allowing only 14 points and keeping Rivers to just on passing TD with an interception.  The league leading Jets running game ground up the Chargers defense and Mark Sanchez did what was needed to win the game.  The Jets love their coach and he loves his team.  Every week that goes by one gets the feeling that Cinderella might get to go to the ball this year and her name is the “Jets.”

Next week in the AFC Championship I pick the Jets to upset the Colts in Indy and the Vikings to upset the Saints down in the Bayou.  The numbers say that the home teams which have better records and home field advantage should win but there is an sense of magic in the air as Brett Farve looks to further detract from his detractors and the Jets befuddle all of us.  I should be a great football weekend.

Peace,

Steve+

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One Pitch, Game or Season too Many

In 1973 Willie Mays signed with the New York Mets after being released by the San Francisco Giants at the end of the 1972 season.   It was  a mistake and was his worst season in the majors.  He showed his age, he had lost his speed.  His arm was shot and hs hitting was a shadow of what it once was. He committed errors that never would have happened early in his career.  He was unable to play on a daily basis.  He wanted to do well.  However the inability to be in the lineup on a consistant basis, lack of outfield speed, weak arm and poor hitting hurt his team.  As a Giants fan I love Willie Mays.  I believe that he is quite possibly the best player who ever lived.  It hurt to see him finish his career in that fashion.

Other players have done this as well.  They go for that last season that last chance for glory and leave not at the top of their game, but at the bottom.  They end up tarnishing their final year and a career that should have ended in triumph ends in a whimper.  A recent example is NFL great Brett Farve.  His debacle with the New York Jets after retiring from the Packers has pushed his greatness to the side.  The continuing confusion of whether he will try to return for one more year has made many former supports stop caring.  Roger Clemens in the way that he played his last couple of years, sitting out half a season to make a dramatic entrance and then not performing well in his last season left a sour taste in the mouth of many in and out of baseball.

This is not confined to sports figures it occurs in almost every career vocation.  For many this desire to stay just one more year, one more tour one more chance at glory the attempt ends in personal humiliation. They realize later that they should have gotten out at the top of their game.  When I was a young Medical Service Corps officer we had about 250 Colonels in our branch.  We only had one billet for a Brigadier General.  That was usually 3-4 year term for whoever was the Chief of the Medical Service Corps.  Additionally there were only a few actually billets for Colonel’s to command actual units.   Some of these officers would have sld their soul’s to get the star.  I’m sure that at least a few did. But with only one General Officer billet that came open every 3-4 years the chances were pretty slim for anyone to get the job. Yet we would have men well past their prime holding on, going from staff assignment to staff assignment until they hit the statutory retirement point.  Many were miserable and felt that they should have been the annointed one. Unfortunately both in attitude and for the fact that by holding on indefinitely they kept others from getting promoted they hurt the Corps.  This is not uncommon in botht he military and the civilian world, even in churches.  It often harms those that hold on, those that work for them and the institution when younger men and women with fresh ideas can’t get promoted.  Since I left the Medical Service Corps as a  fairly junior Captain to go to seminary I never had a dog in this fight, but it was intersting to observe the effect on individuals and the institution.

There are times in life as well where we go through different seasons.  Adjusting to the changes of those seasons is just as important, be they family, spiritual or vocational.  Knowing when the season is changing and having people help us through are key. Likewise for those who have a religions faith, my Christian faith is a moderate Anglo-Catholic Episcopal spirituality with a membership in the Church of Baseball.  After all the Deity does speak to me through baseball.

It takes a bit of self-awareness to know when you shouldn’t go on.  Mike Mussina retired at the end of the 2008 season.  He went won 20 games for the first time in career had a 3.37 ERA and won his 7th Golden Glove of his career.  He could have probably played for another year or two.  However, he decided to go out on top.  He left at the end of his 17th and best season.

In daily life we have the same situation.  A pitcher needs to know when to tell his manager that he can’t pitch.  Likewise the manager and pitching coach have to be able to tell when their pitchers are losing their edge. My department head knows what I have been through in my life and what I have been dealing with both personally and physically.  He trusts me to tell him when I am having trouble.  He knows how to get the best out of me without wiping me out to do it.

Sometimes people not only stay too long, but in staying to long end up hurting their team, political party, business organization or religious organization.   We have all probably known people like this.  They finish badly and seldom does someone gently come alongside and say, “Friend, you had a great run, it’s time for you to step aside and let others carry out the mission.”

I for one know that I desire to go out on top when it is time for me to leave the military.  I will be retirement eligible in about 2 ½ years.  I want my tour where I am to be the best of my career regardless of whether I retire or get promoted and remain in service.  I want people to remember me in the best possible way. If I know that I cannot do the job anymore it is incumbent on me to be honest enough with myself to admit it and go home before people say: “Yah, he was a good chaplain back in the day, but he’s lost something…he’s not the same.”   I trust that the Deity Herself will assist me in this; Lord knows that this miscreant Priest needs all the help that he can get.

Peace,

Steve+

Post Script: I saw the Tides win again tonight and bring their record to 28 and 13, the best in AAA baseball.  They won on a Justin Turner hit a walk off single to drive in Oscar Salazar with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th to defeat the Rochester Red Wings.  Kam Mikalio got the win for the Tides and Bobby Keppel took the loss for the Wings.  It was a ugly game, perhaps the ugliest I have see this year.  Each team committed three errors for a total of six errors in the game.  Wings third baseman Matt Macri dropped a routine pop foul by Oscar Salazar who then singled and scored the winning run.  Wings starting pitcher Philip Humber hit three Tides batters.  Tides Manager Gary Allenson and Designated Hitter Robby Hammock was tossed in the bottom of the 8th and Wings Shortstop Trevor Plouffe was tossed in the top of the 10th.

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