Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hey, St. Jude...

Hope Springs Eternal

Authors try to make connections…

A few things happened this past week. Valentine’s day – or as I would like to call it “Volunteer’s Day”, since volunteering shows love and concern and it is not limited to those in romantic relationships. (Who needs another friggin’ diamond, anyway?) President’s Day holiday, which means that George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s images were used to sell everything ubiquitous from cars to mattresses. Maryland had another non-snowstorm – ok, this is not a negative. If you know how Marylanders react to snow warnings, you would see how this non-snow event can be a positive in our lives. Yes, world, there is still toilet paper on the store shelves in Maryland, as of today. I started another class at church. Oh, and baseball spring training began. Pitchers and catchers reported over this past weekend. The rest of the prospects will come in to camp this week, with full squad workouts beginning this weekend coming.

These last two brought something to mind that I really didn’t consider before – Is it ok to pray for a winning season for the Orioles? Is it really wrong?

Some of my friends and relatives believe we shouldn’t bother God with such minor details. There are plenty of other crisis items to pray for in this world. They say we should be praying for world peace, or social justice, or dissolution of evil in the world. God doesn’t have time for trivialities like “Please let the O’s win more than 69 games this year.”

Well, who are we to judge what God wants to hear about? I mean, after all the prayers about failing politics and failing economies, He just might like to kick back and talk baseball for a bit. Who really knows?

Let’s see if the O’s really need divine intervention this year. The team changed general managers after the 2011 season. The players won only 69 games and lost 93 games out of the 162 played. It didn’t matter if they were home or on the road, the Orioles, by all standards, had another losing season. This last one was their 14th straight. This is not the formula to put even occasional fans in the Camden Yards seats. Only die-hards, still have season tickets, and even the number of die-hards is dwindling. There were a few other major league teams with worse records – and I thank Pittsburgh for being one of them.

From the fan front, last years games were sometimes painful to watch. Jeremy Guthrie would pitch his heart out, only to get zero run support. The bats would be healed only to have the bullpen serve up the game with walks-a-million. They couldn’t pull anything together. The only streak they had was the one each player took running from the locker to the showers after the game. It seemed to me that they lost the fun of baseball, and lost it early in the season. It became an attitude thing. They couldn’t lose the attitude.

There is no one person to blame. Usually, the team manager takes the hit when the team fails to perform. The O’s have changed managers in the past few years more often than some people change their socks. The lack of stability, I’m sure, has messed with everyone’s head. They are starting to really believe their own bad press.

As an armchair athlete, the only thing I can do to help the team is pray. Sounds dorky, I know. I watch them, I go to the yard, I support them with good vibes… but really, all I can do is pray that the team changes its team attitude. I pray they start to enjoy playing baseball. I pray the players stop thinking of Baltimore as a stop on the train to the line-ups in New York or Boston. I pray the management stops thinking of the O’s as a bad-boy rehab facility (please do NOT sign Manny!) I pray we all can just have fun playing and watching baseball.

It really was a fun game at one time. Then the money crept in… and the salaries, and the diva attitudes.

With this in mind, I let my occasional math-nerdness take over and do some calculations. Full squads start around February 24-25. The first spring training game is March 5. That’s about 9 days, correct? My prayer-nerdness says “Novena time!”

For those of you who don’t know what a novena is, it is an opportunity for 9 days to pray for a specific intention. Many Catholics pray novena prayers asking specific saints to run some interference with the Lord to have the intention granted (like when your dad said “no” to something you wanted to do, so you talked to your mom and she talked to your dad about it). Some saints in the church are the “go-to” for specific intentions, like St. Anthony to help you find what you lost. St. Jude Thaddeus, one of the original 12 Apostles, is the go-to guy for hopeless cases or desperate situations. Hmmmm – is the 2012 baseball season a desperate situation? Are the O’s in need of the Patron of Hopeless Cases to run some divine interference for them? Maybe…

Anyway, prayer can’t hurt. It can help you feel like you are doing something positive. Meditating, sending positive waves or vibes, does the same thing. We fans are not in control of the team’s performance. Only the players are. We just need to be able to cheer for the guys. So here goes – my prayers for the 2012 baseball season starting this weekend:

St. Jude,
Please allow the Orioles (or insert team of choice) play their best baseball during this 2012 season. Please allow good health to all players. Please allow the players to keep a positive attitude about their game. Please allow management to lead and not interfere.  Please remove the fear of success from the hearts of players, press, and fans alike. And please allow everyone just to have fun and be safe this season. For this, I pray, Amen.

No, I’m not asking for the World Series. I’m not asking for a winning season. See, the O’s have the talent. Their heads are just wearing the losing habit. Winning is a habit, and so is losing. The team has to get over the mental roadblocks to success. Talent-wise, they could go all the way. Now if they can only keep their heads in the game…

You will see more on the Orioles as the season progresses. You will also see writing about the Phillies and Nationals, two other teams near and dear to my heart. And, yes, I pray for a safe and healthy year for all players – and the fans.

It’s spring and there’s hope in our hearts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Super Bowl on the sidelines - sort of

Ahhhh! Super Bowl Sunday! Another made-in-America holiday! Is this a nice break from the winter doldrums or is it our chance to celebrate the coming of spring without the interference of a rodent? Two really interesting questions…

Now, before you think I scored some tickets to Indianapolis on February 5, I have to ‘fess up – I was an Occupier. Yep, I occupied a chair in my sister’s kitchen to watch the game. I was one of the 99% who could have cared less who won the game, since my Ravens were bounced – or “not reviewed” – out of the competition two weeks previous. Our goal for the evening was to watch the much-touted commercials that were rudely interrupted by a football game. We sat there – the two of us – one Ravens fan and one Eagles fan – rooting for the impossible – a good game. She was sort of rooting for the Patriots and I was sort of rooting for the Giants. I say “sort of” since neither of us really liked either team. That dislike progressed as we listened to the commentary through the game. Al Michaels, as always, was a stellar, classy commentator, but his partner in crime, Chris Collinsworth, showed his serious man-crush for all things Brady, Manning, and Rothlisberger. That attitude in reporting soured this fan’s viewing of the game.

But let’s talk about the commercials. Corporations spend millions to advertise during the Super Bowl. Costs actually vary as to which quarter your spot will air. First and second quarter ads cost more than 4th quarter ads. And why, pray tell? The “(*&*” game! Most past games have been blow outs. By the time the viewer gets to the first quarter, they have already seen about six hours of pregame hype, one hour of true pregame, a pregame show, and then the National Anthem and ceremonial coin toss. The viewer has already consumed a ton of food and in some cases, a “few” adult beverages. We’re talking viewer coma here, folks. Viewers are in party mode and the game is background noise by kickoff, especially if your team isn’t among the players. By the fourth quarter, the question is usually, “Is this game still on?” So ask a party-hearty viewer what were the commercials like or who won (or played) the game, and they will tell you the next day – after they hit YouTube to see what they missed. Can we understand why some people refer to this as Stupor Bowl Sunday?

This year’s commercials had the usual fare. Same old companies tried to best last year’s spots. Some succeeded – and very nicely. I enjoyed the M&M commercials. They ran subtle adult humor that is not over the top and offensive to kids. Doritos ran some new spots that had you wondering what they were thinking. I must admit, though, that I now have a good use for a motorized wheel chair and a Johnny-Jump-Up to stop a bully older brother. The Coke Bears were back with impressive spots, too. Sketchers ad with the jogging pug was a belly laugh at the end.  Budweiser’s history lessons were really enjoyable to watch. It’s nice to know the E-trade baby now has a sister. Can’t wait to see how she gets working into the investing scene! Beer commercials! Car commercials! Oh, and we can’t forget the annual salute to soft-porn, Go Daddy commercials!

I was eagerly anticipating the Ferris Buehller knock-off Honda commercial. I saw the full length on the internet just a few days before. Could not wait to see how it got cut up for prime time. Jerry Seinfeld’s Acura commercial was pretty funny, too. You would expect nothing less from Seinfeld. The best of the evening was Clint Eastwood’s “America’s Halftime” Chrysler commercial. It left me with a dropped jaw and bit of a tear from the eyes. Powerful, hopeful, encouraging – all the things our country’s citizens need at this time in our economic history. Perfect! It gave us all something to look forward to this year.

The half time show was pretty good, compared to recent ones. Madonna gave a great performance, along with some help from C-Lo and M.I.A. I managed to miss M.I.A.’s “salute” to the fans. Big whoop! She showed her “class” – or lack of it. Who will we see next year? Whose career will need a defibrillator that bad? Super Bowl halftime show is no place to try and bring any career back from the dead.

Oh, yeah, there was a game going on too (or as we liked to say “potty breaks”). It didn’t look to be much of a game in the beginning, the way the Patriots took off to a 17 -2 lead. By half time, things looked a bit more promising. During the second half, it actually turned into a nail biter – go figure! The Giants got ahead, then the Patriots came back, then the Giants had a typical Jersey sit-down in the end zone to take the lead back. Fans of both teams chewed their nails to the quick in the last minute wondering how this would end. And it ended for the Patriots with what I call “Raven’s Revenge” – the last play, with 2 seconds on the clock, and a pass that’s dropped in the end zone – the same way the Ravens lost to the Patriots 2 weeks before. Sorry Tommy, Eli beat you out – just!

Ahhhh, yes, the Super Bowl is over! Now we enter No-Fans-Land for the next few weeks until baseball spring training starts. March Madness is coming soon to a recliner and chip bag near you, too.

 At least the movies on cable are good now… Major League, A League of Their Own, The NaturalIt Happens Every Spring!

Yes, Clint, I am hopeful as baseball approaches. I have something to look forward to… Come on, Spring!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wanted - Knowledge about the unexplainable

An author must continue to learn – and not just about how to write a coherent sentence.

The theology class I just completed got me thinking….

As a youngster, I was always asking questions. I went to Catholic grammar schools and some of my questions came out of those religion classes. The questions about the existence of God were big ones. Little did I know then that the whole concept was always up for discussion. I took the theology course as part of my church volunteer work and was introduced to many writings on God, the Trinity and how it can apply to life today.

It seems like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and a whole host of others have been debating this issue for centuries. Now, you add into the mix physicists like Dr. Michio Kaku, and archeologist/scientist Erik Von Danikan and the debate rises to a whole new level of philosophy. Yes, science geeks, the debate rages on and it’s not just for Biblical scholars anymore. Looks like a marriage finally happened between science and the Bible somewhere along the line. Not always a blissful marriage either.

All I know is that after each class meeting I had such a headache! This “God” idea is not an easy concept to contemplate. I remember asking my mom about some abstract God information as a kid and she would always say to put that question aside on a list until you get to heaven. Keeping that in mind, over the years I’ve compiled quite an extensive list of questions. Some of them seem silly but they are real questions I’ve had in the past. Don’t you have some things you would like to ask God too? I mean, aside from the obvious “Why is there evil in the world?” and Why is there war?”

Here are some of my questions for when I hit the Pearly Gates:

  • The mosquito – what is the purpose???? I mean, come on, Lord! The state “bird” of Maryland and New Jersey?????  What were You thinking?

  • Why is it so easy to be selfish?

  • How can you tell the difference between self-serving and self-defensiveness?

  • Why does chocolate taste so good? Why does it need sugar and fat to make it better?

  • Why is the sky blue? It’s so pretty, so please don’t say that it is all perception of visual light lengths. Can we leave it as just plain pretty?

  • Why do the deer of the neighborhood seem to love my garden and leave my neighbors alone? Is it me? What am I planting that make them love me? Or is my yard the first decent “restaurant” on the block?

  • Which heathen animal keeps knocking my St. Francis statue over? No, I am not going to hurt it.

  • How did You come up with the ostrich? It defies physics. Was this a “it’s-5:58 pm-and-I–have-to-clean-up–this-place-for-the-Sabbath” creation of leftover spare body parts? And if You were going to give it a face only its mother could love, why did You also give it a 25-mile stink? Remember that trip we took to New Mexico? Oy, the smell!

  • Why did You allow us to invent pockets? It seems like someone is always needing them filled, wanting us to empty them, or picking them when we aren’t looking.

  • Do You really look like George Burns? (“Oh God” movies) Or is my visualization based on my prayer relationship with You?

  • Have You been talking to Erik Von Daniken directly or is he just guessing about that alien colonization thing? By the way, those Nazca Lines are great! My compliments to the artists.

  • Why do so many people expect someone – or some government agency – to take care of them? Is that why You allowed us to get kicked out of the Garden of Eden? So we could learn for ourselves?

  • Why do people refuse to learn – from anything? Why do they prefer stupidity, aspire to mediocrity and avoid courageous action?

  • If the big bang happened in the vacuum of space, is it still a big bang, or just a small fart? (Yes, I’m serious about this one. It’s a perception of sound thing.)

  • Is technology of all kinds really the Biblical Antichrist? George Orwell wasn’t just smoking funky stuff when he wrote 1984, was he?

  • With this concept of salvation, what am I being saved from, or am I being saved for something? How will I know the difference?

  • Are all these scientific discoveries really You revealing Yourself to us in a magnificent way at a time in space when human minds can comprehend the information?

  • With that thought, then, when will You help us cure cancer? Or does disease exist to make us appreciate our healthy times?

  • What’s the difference between being really lazy and just needing rest?

  • Oh, and just so I don’t sound like I’m nagging again, thank you for music! That’s among Your better gifts to humankind.

That’s just a sampling of what has been rattling around in my cranial cavity for years and years. Yes, you can all now agree with my thesis advisor – I think too much and overthink more. Some of my former students would remind me that I need a life.

How about you all? What questions might you have for God? Maybe you acknowledge the Higher Power by a different name. That’s cool, since we all have varying life experiences. Hey, I’m no preacher by any stretch of the imagination (my kids may disagree). This is a big world and there’s room for us all. And we all have the choice to believe or not. This could be a great contemporary discussion! And probably no one would win the debate.

Some people may point to the evil in the world and bad things that happen to them personally and say “Why believe in  a God? What’s the point?”

I prefer to look at it this way – Life without God is like trying to write with a broken pencil – no point to it! I need the hope that belief brings to me. At least, that's my opinion. What's yours?