Tag Archives: over the hedge

In a Different Bed

About 19 years ago I took up my first post-residency Chaplain position at Cabell-Huntington Hospital in Huntington West Virginia. It was interesting because Huntington was where my parents were born, and where at that time my two Grandmothers as well as a number of uncles, aunts and cousins still lived.

My grandmother Christine, who I knew as Ma Maw was delighted and bought us a mattress to put in our platform bed which we had purchased at Ikea in Germany back in late 1984.

Through the years and the moves the bed and the mattress served us well. However both we’re worn out and that coupled with the fact that we have both adjusted to sleeping alone in queen sized beds we needed space. The answer was a King size. We purchased a new bed at a local furniture store an new mattress at our local Navy exchange.

Yesterday I took the hammer of Thor to the old bed and hauled the remains to the landfill, keeping one of the slats as a memento. Today the new bed and mattress arrived and we have been working hard around the house and the bedroom.

Our girls, Molly and Minnie are happy. Both love the new bid and very comfortable bed. The only problem is that we are all trying to figure out our respective space. Molly, our 12 q/2 year old Dachshund-Papillon mix and dowager Queen is taking the longest to adjust. She has gone blind since last fall and trying to figure out her new limits. Minnie, well she being a very young Papillon is quite happy to be able to fly up onto the bed and fly off as she needs.

Tonight I strategized with my friend Randy over at Gordon Biersch regarding the next steps to doing some household renovations now that I am home. Thankfully Randy knows how to do just about everything my fertile imagination and our circumstances require. It is good to have friends that “know stuff.” In that sense Randy is kind of like “The Tree that Knows Stuff” in the Over the Hedge comic strip while I am like R J Raccoon.

So tomorrow will be another work day. So far this week I have made three runs to the landfill and 5 to the local thrift shop. My Ford Escape is already pre-loaded with things for the landfill and the thirst store. Hopefully by Saturday everything is ready to receive what the movers will bring up from North Carolina as part of my move back.

By the way I do know that a lot of very serious things are going on around the world. I rue logged on on my articles about the coming Egyptian Civil War as well as an article from Morgan Guyton regarding the systematic disenfranchisement of blacks and college students in that state with its new Voter laws.

Anyway. I am pooped. More tomorrow, hopefully of greater substance.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Christmas Traditions, Funny Dogs and it’s Good to Have Friends that Can Set Up Technical Stuff

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“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’ ~Dave Barry, “Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide”

Judy and I typically celebrate a very low key Christmas. We attend a worship service of some type and display a tree often decorated with hand-made ornaments that Judy produces in the weeks before Christmas. We now fix dinner at home and our favorite part of the day: letting the dogs unwrap their presents.

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The last part of the tradition has taken strong hold with our Papillon-Dachshund mix Molly. Molly savors everything and while our previous Dachshunds went along with the presents game, Molly tears into her presents unwrapping them with great zeal. Our nearly one year old Papillon puppy Minnie figured out what to do with her presents quickly as well and ripped them open with great aplomb. So I expect that this little tradition will continue for quite some time.

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Molly is now 11 and going on 12 years old. This year she went from having great eyesight to being mostly blind. It happened very quickly, within the past few months. She is adjusting much faster than I thought that she would or for that matter faster than I would. At first I was really worried wondering if she would adjust and what it would mean to her and us, but she not only adjusted but is doing quite well.

She is still happy, playful and energetic.  She makes adjustments in the house feeling her way up and down the 2 steps leading to our living room and making note of where the walls and doors are. She is re-learning our back yard and compensating for the blindness by being more careful, listening carefully and sensing where things are, especially Minnie.  Molly has taken to chasing Minnie in a game of cat and mouse, with Minnie dancing around while Molly tracks her. Sometimes it is funny because Molly will simply wait until Minnie gives her location, usually behind me on the beanbag away.

When she is prowling Molly now kind of reminds me of a Shark. Of course we all know that sharks have terrible eyesight and rely on other senses such as sound and smell to find, track and kill their prey. Molly is now our Red Land Shark.

Last night after coming home from dinner with our friends we were preparing to watch the 3D version of Men in Black 3 on the television-entertainment system that I won last week. Since I have few  technical ability our friend Randy came over to set it up the other day. Randy is like “The Tree that Knows Stuff” in the comic strip Over the Hedge while I am more like RJ the Raccoon.

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To use a different movie character illustration, when it comes to technical things I am like Donald Sutherland’s character “Oddball” in the movie Kelly’s Heroes.  There is a scene in the movie when asked by Telly Savalas’ character “Big Joe” about why he is not up fixing his tank with his crew Oddball replied: “I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.”  That was pretty much me when I started opening boxes and reading directions. Thankfully Randy, our Tree that Knows Stuff was able to come over and help.

I think the whole aversion to putting things like this together, comes from watching my dad’s valiant efforts to help us build the gifts that advertised “some assembly required” and “batteries not included” at Christmas. But I digress….

Like I was saying…while we were getting ready to watch the movie Judy noticed Minnie with a flour tortilla on our couch. Now we wondered if it was something that she had hidden there and just pulled out. However she was back in the kitchen and came back with another tortilla. We then realized what was going on. For the first time the two had worked together for a common goal.  As we looked into the dinning room we saw that Molly was going in and out the the kitchen. The two dogs had found that I had forgotten to unpack a bag of groceries.  In the bag they discovered a family size pack of flour tortillas, which Molly, yes Molly the blind, but not helpless had gotten into. It was the first time that the two dogs had worked together on a theft, and I hate to say I was proud of them. We were laughing so hard. Of course we had to put a stop to their revelry but it was fun while it lasted. Molly had a tortilla rolled up in her mouth and appeared to be trying to act like it wasn’t there.

Molly is not the first dog that we have had to assume that we were too incompetent to notice her thievery, our Wire Hair Dachshund Frieda was much worse.

Anyway, we are preparing our Christmas dinner and will enjoy a quiet night with our girls.

Peace and Merry Christmas to All,

Padre Steve+

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Molly and the End of Padre Steve’s Strategic Pop-Tart Reserve

Pop-Tarts and Twinkies are two foods that one needs to survive the apocalypse. Both are durable foods, nearly impervious to decay, the half life of both is rumored to be classified at the highest levels of government.  This has to be true because RJ the Raccoon in the comic strip Over the Hedge maintains the Strategic Twinkie Reserve for such emergencies.

In light of this I used to keep Pop-Tarts in my car. They would be my breakfast on the way to work or sugar to meld with caffeine on long trips. I also wanted them in in the car to be prepared in case some great calamity would occur, Zombies, hurricanes, earthquakes, an invasion of 100 foot long Iranian backed terrorist Cockroaches or the Cubs winning the World Series and forcing Jesus to move up his plans for the Second Coming. I am one to prepare for such emergencies.

The great thing about Pop-Tarts is that unlike most foods Pop-Tarts do not go bad. The weather can be hot and dry, warm and humid or cold as blazes and they will survive. This is true even if you only eat one of the two Pop-Tarts in the packet, and leave the packet open in the car. Even if you do this the other will remain edible for weeks, months, maybe years. They may dry out a bit, but they will survive. This makes them ideal to keep in the car because unlike a candy bar they will not melt.

Pop-Tarts, like Twinkies contain an inordinate amount of sugar. If you need a kick that only a sugar rush or amphetamines can supply Pop-Tarts are one of the most indestructible sources available.

Back before my little Papillon-Dachshund mix Molly came down to live with me I would only see her when I visited Virginia Beach or Judy brought her to see me. On one of these trips home to Virginia I left one opened and and one unopened package of Pop-Tarts in the storage area under the front passenger seat of my Honda CR-V. I had left them there and forgotten about them because there really was no need to do anything with them. They were there for emergencies, like my flash light and warning triangle and they were indestructible. This was my Mobile Strategic Pop-Tart Reserve or MSPTR.

However, on that Saturday morning I needed to go to the local Farm Fresh grocery store for a few breakfast items. Since it was a cool winter morning I asked Molly if she wanted to go with me. Molly loves rides and didn’t need to be asked twice. She bounded to the car, which at the time was my old 2001 Honda CR-V. Molly jumped into the car and took her place in the passenger seat.

I left her in the car as I went in to the store. As is her habit she barked at me, quite offended that she was not going with me. I was in the store for about 10 minutes and when I came back to the car I saw a very hyper dog and empty Pop-Tart wrappers all over the front seat and floorboard. Molly had discovered the MSPTR. The really interesting thing was that she did not simply rip open the unopened package. She had neatly opened it along the seam, like you or I would do, as if she had thumbs.

At this point there was nothing that I could do but laugh. Yelling at her would not do anything because the Pop-Tarts were gone and I had left them in easy reach. The dog is not stupid and she took the target of opportunity. However, she did not count of the sugar rush. For the next hour it was like she was on speed. She darted around the house running around in circles, grabbing toys and bouncing off furniture until she finally ran out of gas. When she ran out of gas she crashed hard.

Judy and I could not help but laugh as we talked about it and the event had long lasting implications. I discovered the one vulnerability of the MSTPR. It was not Molly proof.

That was the end of the mobile Strategic Pop-Tart Reserve. After that I switched to fresh fruit which could not be left in the car without the danger of melting down, forcing me to eat it and throw away the remains or take it into work or the house.

Perhaps one day I will start another MSPTR in my Ford Escape, but since Molly now lives with me and rides with me more often I will have to do a better job of securing the MSPTR than I did in the past. To put in in military terms I will need to increase my force protection level if I want to do this. Molly is not to be trusted around food. This morning I left my bowl of cereal next to the bean bag and turned my back to get my coffee and when I turned around Molly was happily eating my cereal. I looked at her and said “what do you think you are doing?” She backed off and I finished the cereal. When I was done I put the bowl down for her to finish the residue. Some people would find that part gross but when you have had dogs as long as us there are some things that you just get used to. Evidently I need to increase my force protection level at home as well.

The scary thing is that our new Papillon puppy Minnie is a very smart little dog and I’m sure that when I am back in Virginia that she will begin to ride with me as well. Minnie likes to try to steal sips of my beer and my coffee, sometimes with me looking right at her. She will also attempt to go behind my back in order to steal food from behind. Since she is not ever 8 pounds and very light of step she can make a stealthy approach. So I know that nothing will be safe from her.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, papillons

Mr Mold Man: A Blast of Spores from the Past, the Mad Doctor Dundi at Work

I love the comic strip Over the Hedge. I have a remarkable affinity for RJ Raccoon, the brilliant yet twisted genius of the strip. I think that it is because he embodies so much of what makes me…well…makes me me.

This week RJ has been confronting his old refrigerator nemesis Mr Mold Guy.  RJ’s experience has caused me to do some soul searching and refrigerator emptying here at the Island Hermitage.

I don’t know about you but I am a fan of food and I like to buy food and sometimes I forget that I have bought food. Thus there are times when I am rooting about the fridge that I find some delicacy that I either forgot that I bought or pushed that I had buried under something else. I find that the back of the vegetable crisper is a haven for such lost food and that it becomes a rather transformative space where food loses its innocence and becomes evil incarnate.

Tonight I was making a grilled chicken pita sandwich and getting ready to fill it with lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pepperocini peppers, kalameta olives and kosher dill pickles when I came across a big red onion that I had forgotten. I love red onions, but this fellow had been in the fridge a bit too long. I really don’t know how long because I can’t remember when I bought it.  However it had to be a very long time because I know that it takes a really, really long time for Mr Onion Man to transform himself into Mr Mold Man.  Onions are not like tomatoes or strawberries which can make rapid transformations from their natural state to spore producers known as Mr Mold Man.

Now be assured that I have found items that are designed by scientists to be mold resistant in my fridge that have stood the test of time and then some. I can say that I have never been able to get Cheez-its to mold, or Twinkies. However given adequate time and the right environment even most of these chemically engineered gastronomical delights can fall victim to the dreaded transformation into Mr Mold Man. In fact at times I have even encouraged them to do so leaving them out in order to see just how they would be transformed.

When I was in junior high school I picked up the nickname “The Mad Doctor Dundi” because of what I would do to the cafeteria food left over from all of my friends serving trays. Lets’ just say that the food at Stockton Junior High School back in the early 1970s was not very good and there were always things left on our trays.

The menu always had elements of the most important food groups: Mystery Meat, Greasy Gravy, boiled Corn or Green Beans fresh from a No. 10 can and of course desert, my favorite the ever popular “orange pudding” which I believe was simply corn starch, sugar and orange food dye blended into a delightful gelatinous goo perfect for mixing other leftovers in.

My experiments continued into college where in my junior year at California State University Northridge I lived at the private dorm called the Northridge Campus Residence. My room-mate Gary and I were the odd couple. He was rather fastidious in his upkeep of the apartment while I was a bit more of a slob than I am now. Post Iraq I don’t do as well with clutter but I cannot be called a model of neatness but then as Gary can attest to I was really really messy.

We lived on the apartment side of the residence and had a kitchenette. This meant that we could supplement the rations provided by the dorm cafeteria which was far better than junior high school but still institutional food slopped on a tray. In fact it was very similar to the cafeteria in the movie Animal House but I digress….

Anyway as I was saying we had a kitchenette. We didn’t keep a lot of food but there was a time that I bought some White Bread, I even think it might have been Wonder Bread. Back then to keep the bread out of the way I would keep it on top of the fridge. This was one of those forlorn food items that got forgotten. Several weeks after I bought it I noticed that it had a small mold colony growing on it.

I probably should have throw it away, but that would have been a crime against science. As a historian and theologian I revere science, and I needed to conduct an experiment. The experiment was twofold. First was to see what would happen to Mr Wonder Bread and secondly and perhaps the more important part of the experiment, to see how long it would take for Gary to notice or take action. So I left it there and I can’t remember just how long it took but the mild mannered loaf of highly enriched and preserved Wonder Bread began a new life as Mr Mold Man.

Day after day I would check on Mr Mold Man and watch in fascination as he transformed inside that hermetically sealed plastic bag. I think that Gary had forgotten that the bread was there so Mr Wonder Bread continued his transformation into Mr Mold Man eventually becoming a completely green gelatinous mass inside the bag. One day, I think it was a Saturday Gary was cleaning and noticed my experiment. I cannot remember what he said but I do remember the complete disgust as he lifted the evil being’s remains off of the fridge and dropped it unceremoniously in the trash receptacle.

Here’s to food and and here’s to science!

Peace

Padre Steve+

AKA “The Mad Doctor Dundi”

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I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues: Valentine’s Day Away from Those that We Love

Judy’s Hearts

I have lost count of the number of Valentine’s days as well as other special occasions that I have been away from my love over the course of my military career. This is not uncommon for any of us that serve away from our loved ones, I know plenty of folks alone or with other friends this Valentine’s Day when their loved ones are away.

Before the military…1981

This year I am again away but at least the gift I ordered for Judy got there on time. She made the best of the night spending the past few weeks making some dark chocolate candy filled hearts for a lot of people. She made I think she said about 85 including a dozen or so that she had me give to people down here. She gave them away today and it is amazing . It is amazing how many people don’t feel loved on a day set aside for love.  I was reading my current favorite comic strip Over the Hedge by Michael Fry and as usual Vern the Turtle was being tormented by RJ the Raccoon when he found out that he is loved just a little bit.

See all of Michael’s Over the Hedge adventures here http://www.gocomics.com/overthehedge/ or his blog at http://overthehedgeblog.wordpress.com/

It reminded me that there are a lot of people that Valentine’s day only makes feel more isolated and uncared for and I love the way that Judy can make someone’s day by making something nice for them.

Back when we were married in June 1983 and I was reporting to active duty as a young Army officer elton John released the song I Guess that’s Why they call it the Blues. The music video had the setting of a young man going off to join the British Royal Army and missing his girl.  I was at Fort Knox Kentucky at a school on my way to Germany when I saw the video for the first time.  It struck a chord then and still does over 28 years later.

So for all those that are away from the one they love tonight I present Elton John singing I Guess that’s why They call it the Blues. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6KYAVn8ons

Don’t wish it away

Don’t look at it like it’s forever

Between you and me I could honestly say

That things can only get better

And while I’m away 

Dust out the demons inside

And it won’t be long before you and me run

To the place in our hearts where we hide

And I guess that’s why they call it the blues

Time on my hands could be time spent with you

Laughing like children, living like lovers

Rolling like thunder under the covers

And I guess that’s why they call it the blues

Just stare into space

Picture my face in your hands

Live for each second without hesitation

And never forget I’m your man

Wait on me girl

Cry in the night if it helps

But more than ever I simply love you

More than I love life itself

Peace

Padre Steve+

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No I will Not Grow Up: Some thoughts on my 51st Birthday

“It takes a long time to grow young.” Pablo Picasso

“I want to thank you for making this day necessary” Yogi Berra

Today is yet another anniversary of being forcibly evicted from my mother’s womb where I had taken a three week extension on my nine month lease. Ever since that time I have not acted my age….well maybe that’s not quite correct.  I think it is better said that I am aware of my age and pretend to act my age when the occasion requires that I do but deep inside I am still an incorrigible adolescent.  My brother who is six years my junior was 40 years old by the time that he turned eight.  He was always the serious one and when Judy and I took him on a toilet paper raid during my junior year in college he was scandalized.  Now that we adults he is still the serious one, I only get serious when I write about a serious subject or I’m in trouble.

Now when I was young in body as well as spirit I always was amazed and saddened to see people grow old. I don’t mean growing old in body because no one can get around that, but I mean growing old in spirit and losing their youth and joy in life.  It was sad for me to see people who really were not that old dressing and acting like they were older than their years. It made me want to never grow up, I didn’t want to be that way and as the people that know me can attest I am yet to grow up.  I still find the humor and irony in so many things and have to keep my humor in check sometimes in things like Board of Directors meetings and stuff like that; I do have a sense of decorum as misplaced as it often is.

I remember my paternal grandmother, “Granny” who when I was 5 years old and she was not much older than I am now was talking about how it wouldn’t be long until she was dead and gone. When she was 85 I pissed her off to ask if she was moving when she said it one too many times.  I think I got a call from my mom and dad about that one because Granny really got pissed.  I had an algebra teacher in junior high school named Mr. Nichley.  He looked really old then and dressed it and acted it. That was in 1974.  He just died a couple years back and was in his mid 80s, which meant that he was just in his 40s back then, he was a man too old before his time.  I saw so many people who lived their lives in that way that I rebelled against the thought of it.

Since I was born back in 1960 I can say that I was part of the 60s and that my views on life do not always square with my rather serious friends.  I really think that a lot of our political and ideological divisions in this country are because far too many people take everything too seriously. I know that we have a lot of serious issues that need serious answers but we have lost any sense of humor, levity and irony to face them well. Sometimes when I am around a lot of overly serious people I hear James Earl Jones telling Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams “Out! Back to the sixties! Back! There’s no place for you here in the future! Get back while you still can!”

We’ll I can’t go back to the 60’s but I can stay young.  I have resumed collecting baseball cards, still occasionally build model ships, tanks and aircraft, and try to stay active and I hope I can get on our hospital’s baseball team, if not this year maybe next. I do not own a suit. I have a few sports jackets (why they call them that I’ll never know because I have yet to see anyone playing baseball or football in one) and a few pairs of nice pants to go with my clerical shirts but only wear them when the occasion absolutely demands. For years Judy has tried and failed to get me to dress more upscale but I’d rather wear my wide array of baseball jerseys, fleeces and warm up jackets.  I try not to wear long pants after baseball season begins and until after the final game of the World Series unless absolutely necessary.  I always dreamed of being in the military as a kid and I am still in the military coming up on 29 years of total service despite being about as serious as Hawkeye Pierce and studious as Von Molkte the Elder. As Will Rogers said “Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.”

Tommy Lasorda said “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer” well I have gotten to keep my uniform on a lot longer than most of the people that I have served with and still enjoy staying in the game. Life is good even when its not.

For me learning is part of staying young, I think that when we stop learning we start dying. This means that I will probably take up another advanced academic degree, not so much to increase my job opportunities after the Navy but because it keeps me young and engaged. The other part of remaining you is to know, love and believe in what you are doing in life.  In fact Will Rogers said that such was the secret of success. I think that so many people lose their joy because they have forgotten that little truth and that is another reason why we are in such a mess.

I try to stay fit and my doctors tell me that my blood pressure, cholesterol and other important measurements of health are those of people a lot younger than me.  My blood pressure is consistently about 105 over 70, not bad at all.

Finally I really believe that part of staying young is to live life to the fullest because we don’t know when we will breathe our last breath. Life is too short not to live it fully and at the tender age of 51 I want to get every bit out of life that I can in all aspects of life to include my faith as Francis of Assisi said “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”  After all who can stand to be around gloomy, judgmental and overly serious Christians or for that matter those kinds of people in any religion?  In my chosen vocation of being a Priest and Navy Chaplain I decided to be true to who I am long ago. I won’t be something that I am not. When I was on the USS Hue City one of my sailors, Tommy Byrne nicknamed me “the Anti-Chaps” simply because I did not fit the mold of what most people expected, I think it was when I bought him and some of our shipmates a couple of pitchers of beer at a bar when on liberty.

Life is to be lived and Abe Lincoln said it so well put it “the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

I am grateful for my life and am blessed that neither Judy nor my little dog Molly look or act their ages either. I have many friends and today have been so blessed to hear from so many of them through the medium of Facebook.

I want to thank you all of my friends for being a part of my life. May you and your live long and prosper.

Peace and Blessings

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, purely humorous

Thanksgiving 2010: Thanks for the Memories and Things to be Thankful for this Year

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 not a big fan of getting up early to watch parades I’d rather watch the big balloons that got away on the news or on You Tube.

Let’s Get Snoopy to keep watch on potential terrorists, he has the binoculars so why not?

I think it would be more fun since we are becoming a police state if we mounted surveillance cameras and Hellfire missiles on them and used Snoopy, Garfield and others to spy on our citizens and blast any potential terrorists. If we have to have a police state I think it should it might as well be fun.  Who cares about parades anyway when you can watch what are historically some of the worst professional football games of the season as we watch the Detroit Lions find yet another way to lose on Thanksgiving and the Dallas Cowboys play a sacrificial lamb just for the fun of it. Now it may be different this year because the Lions are winning some games and playing well for them, while the Cowboys after a horrible start to the season seem to have turned things around.  I have no idea how we ended up with those teams year after year on Thanksgiving but I guess for Cowboys and all 964 Lions fans it works well, not that there is anything wrong with that.

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 makes it hard to get to and from the West Coast.   Of course as many can attest family get-togethers were not always the most enjoyable occasions when after the mandatory grace was said and tempers flared certain elderly relatives rather tormented gastronomical delicacies appeared on the table to cause one to wonder how they ever lived so long.

But food is the centerpiece of any true Thanksgiving celebration is the Thanksgiving Dinner. Of course I have many less than fond memories associated with of the rather insidious entrees prepared by the aforementioned elderly relatives which color my views of Thanksgiving to the current day.

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 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[i] 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.

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. The first is that I have had my faith return after almost two years where I felt abandoned by God and was for all practical purposes an agnostic following my return from Iraq and struggle with PTSD, depression and anxiety after my deployment. Faith has returned, different but much better than what I had been through. Believe me a crisis in faith bordering on despair is not a good place to be and I don’t want to go there again. In addition to the return of faith I am thankful for my family, especially Judy and our little dog Molly. The year was tough because my father died in June after a seven year bout with Alzheimer’s disease, but while in California I was able to spend good time with my brother and his family as well as my mother. I am sincerely thankful for my friends all over the world and my colleagues at work.  I’m thankful for all those that stood by me in my struggles over the past several years, good friends and colleagues are hard to come by but I have been blessed to have them. I’m thankful that I was selected for promotion to Commander which means that I continue to have the opportunity to serve the people that I love in the Sea Services.  Likewise I am thankful that I was selected to be Command Chaplain at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune and for the wonderful staff that I am honored to serve alongside as we care for the Marines and Sailors wounded in body, soul or spirit in the current war. I am also grateful for my friends at Gordon Biersch Virginia Beach, the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish, St. James Episcopal Church, my old friends in the Charismatic Episcopal Church and my new friends Bishop Diana Dale and the clergy of the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church.

I am also incredibly thankful for the fact that the San Francisco Giants win their first World Series since they moved to the West Coast in 1958. Go Giants!

Today we will meet a friend at a restaurant as Judy sprained her ankle, big toe on the opposite foot and wrist in a fall at church last weekend and is still not 100%.  That’s too bad because she is unable to make pie this year. Perhaps I will watch a football game but more likely we will enjoy some movies or Boston Legal episodes as we recover from our dinner out.

I do pray that you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving full of life, love, family and friendship, and remember to pray for those in harm’s way and if possible do something for one of the least, the lost and the lonely today.

Oh, and by the way be careful of that addictive 40 weight Pennzoil gravy; it has a tendency to turn the bloodstream to sludge.

Peace and Happy Thanksgiving!

Padre Steve+


[i] The names have been changed to protect their memory

 

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