Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's the Pirate's Birthday!

Ahoy, me hearties! Welcome to our Cyber Party for the Doug-meister! He's turning 40 tomorrow, April 26, and will be partying solo, unless we get this one rolling. So grab a mug and pull up a chair. The kettle's on and we have Earl Grey tea, Doug's all-time favorite. Or a bottle of rum for the pirates in our midst. Either one should go well with the yummy chocolate chocolate chip cookies that the girls baked for y'all!

As his previous post indicated, he is somewhere in PA/NJ, fulfilling his obligation to God and his family. We're happy that he does have that contract but terribly miss having him within a 5-mile radius, and available for lunch dates.

Doug, the Coastie. He's mighty proud of his country, his alma mater, and that big ol' Coast Guard ring his little girls love to borrow. Because he's not a coastie anymore, his inner genius was allowed to blossom. Or as he described himself in his Amazon wishlist: Mensan, algorist, gamester (go, chess, bridge).

Doug, the married guy. He's George and I'm Gracie. He's the funny guy and I indulge him. Just look at that picture! And at our wedding too! But at least he didn't do this at our reception ...

This one's at Beki's and we were 9 months married. That's when he decided to show his true dancing feet. White man can reggae, mon!

Doug, the Papa. Ahhh, he's the softie. The one with the pusong mamon (heart made of sponge cake). The one who refused to put down his sleeping baby because she might wake up. His baby is now 5 going on 15 years old.

Then another baby was born, and Doug is now the Papa of two princesses! How could his heart bear this? But he has managed, or should I say that they've managed him? If the older one can make pronouncements and give instructions like a true-blue Princess Number 1, the younger one can quiver her lips and toss her curls like a true-blue Princess "Me-Too"!

Doug, the honorary Pinoy, can look resplendent in any-color Barong Tagalog, and out-brag any expat with his Doug-style Tagalog. And be understood! His favorite phrase: hindi mabebenta! (literally, "can't be sold" referring to his fluency in the language and how the natives cannot run rings around him.) Happily, the girls seem to have his genes and are adding words to his repertoire.

Doug, the experienced traveler, emphasis on experienced, with carrying baby bags, pushing strollers, entertaining antsy kids on a 24-hour flight. All for a dip in the pool, a massage and hot-oil treatment with his haircut, an unparalleled view ....

That's our Doug. We love you!

Friday, April 20, 2007


Little girls dream of big parties to welcome their Papa, even if it's not yet his big 4-0 birthday. Any homecoming is reason enough to bake a cake, right? It had to be chocolate, because that's Papa's favorite. That merited the extra sprinkling of oh-so-yummy sugar!

Four days of waiting, errr... planning a welcome home party meant many days of doing party hats (a special pirate hat for Papa), threading beads for necklaces and bracelets to fill the "treasure chest" (with appropriate scribblings to identify it as such), scouting for seashells (Thanks, Anda!) to bring some realism to the display, and printing out a Treasure Map for Papa to peruse.

The result? Happy girls.

It's great to have you home, Papa!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Slaying Dragons

Well, here I am in Philly New Jersey, slaying dragons; or, depending on your view, tilting at windmills. This being the second contract with my current client, TUSC, they feel happy enough to throw me into the fire, again.

This involves me becoming a geographical bachelor, again. As my dear family escorted me to the airport, Elena Marie asked "Papa, why do you have so many contracts [implied: 'away from home'] this year? Why?"

Oof! Of course, it's in my job description: provide and protect; and part of that providing can be fufilled by getting contracts, but not necessarily. So, in a way, it's good that I have a new contract, so, ya know, we can eat and have a roof over our heads. Idleness is a curse, and a man must work "by the sweat of his brow". But is it the highest good to be away from my family all week, every week? If I were to die tonight, would I regret my decision?

No, but no. Or, put another way, the current temporal good (me having a contract to support the family, albeit far from home), currently carries more immediacy than the eternal good: Diane and the girls in heaven. It doesn't necessarily mean that the temporal good cannot assist in the eternal, but it surely hurts like a hammer to the thumb for us all to live through this temporal good.

Elena Marie, having her 5 years of experience to benefit her, was able to handle the parting at the airport well enough, even laughing at my silliness. But poor Isabel, the separation for 5 days was too much to bear, and she couldn't think to acknowledge our parting, but she mended a bit when she saw her ate hold her hand to the van's glass, and I "joined" my hand to hers through the glass. Isabel smiled and did the same with me before I schlumphed off to the gate, which warmed my forlorn heart quite a bit.

So, here it is, Wednesday night of week one away from home, again. And here I am packing, bemusedly, because I can't wait to get home to my ladies, but already this visit home is broken up by an Amway conference, immediately followed by me turning around, again, to leave for work in distant lands.

Lord God, have mercy on us. You all, pray for us; we pray for you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Being a Martyr isn't all that bad

I took the "What Kind of Church Father Are You" quiz, and it turns out that I am the following:

You’re St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

I didn't see the resemblance, but perhaps the quiz is slanted toward rendering a charitable verdict?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I'm "officially" old ...

... but so what?

This post ought to cause a few chuckles, as my readership, with one or two exceptions, has the advantage of years over me. But, I digress, as always.

And digression is one of the privileges of age.

I'm not old because I'm 40 (other people take decade birthdays as something momentous; I take each day as something momentous and something beautiful).
I'm not old because I eat less than what I ate as a teen.
I'm not old because I mention things not in contemporary context (because, well, I've always done that).

No, I'm old because I was shocked to learn that this year is the "Star Trek" franchise's 40th anniversary. I'm as old as "Star Trek" is, and more than half of those actors are dead!

I'm also old because at this last weekend's Amway conference I was warned that traffic would be bad Friday night because Meatloaf was giving a concert in Hershey park.

"Wow!" I shouted. And the receptionist responded, "Yeah, can you believe it?"

"Yes, but his performance in Fight Club as Bob was spot on." I answered.

The receiptionist replied with a quizzical smile. Of course, she's too young to have seen Fight Club.

... and that's when I paused to think: "How come there are no more new really hard rockers? Did taking chances in the rock genre fade away in the early 80s?"

I'm old.

But, then again, so what? I'm still "me". I still run up the stairs into the office and squeal, "They are giving away dunkin' donuts downstairs!" and do the bouncy-bouncy when happy (I usually get the "forgot to take your meds this morning?" with that one).

So, it makes not one whit of difference to me. Life goes on, and I'm going on with it.

Leaving Pennsylvania ...

... the title has less of a ring to it than Leaving Las Vegas, but the events that I experienced were very different than those that occurred in the movie; thank goodness!

So, I went to an Amway conference (actually, it's Quixtar now, but it'll always be Amway to me) this weekend in Pennsylvania ... do you know how I knew I was in Pennsylvania? The "technology corridor" (meaning "highway with tech companies decorating the side of the road") gave way to a two-lane Route 15 with a vista of fields and an occasional silo or farmhouse.

Do you also know how I knew I was in Pennsylvania? People seemed to be more comfortable speaking in Nordic tongues and towns names had more "p"'s, "h"'s, and "r"'s than any other letters ... including vowels. Also, I was the shortest, darkest, person present in any setting -- my roman/phoenician roots stood out in this Commonwealth. In a way, I felt returned to my New England roots: a Freihofer's bread truck passed me on the highway, and I muttered to myself: "With a name like Friehofer's [pause], it has to be good!" I also kept my eye out for a "Cumberland Farms" (gas station/convenience store) when I passed by a road of the same name.

I went to the Amway conference (they wrap up early these days: we finished around 1 am) and then went to an Art Deco all-nite diner that served their eggs, runny, the bacon, crispy, and their attitude, sunny. How could these servers and cooks and Maitre-D's be ribbing each other and the (many) customers at 1:45 am? I raised my hand like a school boy: "Excuse me, ma'am, may I please have some orange juice?" "Oh, sure, sonny; I'm sorry I forgot that!" Me: "I'm surprised you can function at all; I'm not!" She laughed and returned with my orange juice, "freshly squeezed!" she crowed.

Those of you who are lucky enough to have these places to frequent (we have one or two real ones in the DC area, and they have round-the-block lines that make going to them a real chore) know that orange juice comes in two species: "OMG! This is manna from heaven orange perfection!" and the "OMG! This alien blood has acid burnt its way through the table, through the floor and through 15 feet of foundation!" I got the latter with this cup.

Ah, well! Perfect eggs (with rye toast -- is there any other kind?), perfect bacon, perfect french toast, perfect coffee (a strong americano); so, I fed the orange juice to my car battery and batted 1000. Total bill: $10. The Maitre-D, a stocky bespeckled man who told me what to order, asked how the food was: "Better than perfect" I responded, because I couldn't have imagined this outcome when I made my entrance earlier that "morning".

Later that morning, after checking out of the hotel, I went to Mass at St. Catherine's in Harrisonburg. It took me 15 minutes to park, so I entered Mass late. On Palm Sunday. Big mistake. The overflow chairs were, uh, overflowed, and I spent the Mass in the vestibule, craning for a look over the shoulders of my too-tall blond brothers and sisters. Either this is the only Catholic church giving Mass for many miles (possible), or the fair-weather Catholics showed up to grab a blessed palm and stay for the entire Mass (possible). Priests during these high-visibility (*cough* high-holy) days tend to be peevish -- understandable: after the 800th phone call on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday to the tune of "Father, exactly when during the Mass do I need to come in to receive ashes?", I would be more than a little hot under the collar -- but this priest, and old, kindly man, seemed to be pleased to see everybody and offered his hand in friendship first as distracted or uncaring people passed him heading to the exits. I shook his hand and thanked him for the Mass, as always; and his eyes twinkled a return greeting. As I walked out in the rain to the car, two teenaged children of a family raced past me into a house. I turned to the parents and exclaimed: "You live right here? How wonderful! You can walk to Mass every day!" They smiled as they told me they were visiting friends, but, having lived myself two blocks from a church, I felt that was the neatest thing.

So, now I'm back home for a couple of days, and then possibly off again to Philadelphia on an extended contract, so I spent some "quantity" time with my ladies -- we played through the Yamabe-Go Seigen game (Elena Marie lifted the go bowl, spilling a few black stones over the board, but otherwise, there were no mishaps as the girls "helpfully" filled in dame with extra stones -- Elena Marie loves being a helper, and Isabel loves doing what her ate does). And I entertained them with new-found pirate stories (for instance, did you know that the Royal Navy issued a bottle of rum every day to all able-bodied sailors from 1651 to 1970? That gives more meaning to the "yo-ho-ho" shanty!).

Tomorrow: taxes and contracts. Aye, me hearties!