Grillin' w/ the OFM Caps Again!

With everything going on, I'm taking a short break to visit my friends in Chicago, the Capuchin Franciscans of the St. Joseph Province. It's a chance to speak with the postulants, meet other men who are discerning a vocation, and also have a retreat of sorts...allowing me to focus on where my life is headed.

I had a wonderful time at the last BBQ, and I felt a great connection with the friars as well as the Order. So much of my life is reflected in the life of St. Francis, so much of the charism is in tune with my desires, maybe this is where God is calling me.

Only one other fear exists: can I handle it?

I follow the journey of a Capuchin postulant as he chronicles his time. After his first week, he must choose where to dedicate his ministry for that year: a school for under-privileged kids, a drug rehab center for men, an elderly care center for people with special needs, and several other outreach programs focused on the impoverished. I can imagine it being a tough choice.

But do I have the personal strength of will to handle that sort of ministry? Sure, the work these people do is amazing and wonderful, but am I ready to go from the idea of helping the needy to actually doing it? What if I can't handle the kids...especially when they all speak Spanish?! How do I relate to a man who's overcoming an alcohol addiction? What if I don't feel that love that St. Francis spoke so much about, but revulsion and disgust? Am I a bad person? Would it mean I don't have what it takes for a religious vocation?

Perhaps I can find a way to participate in those types of ministries now, and find out what my heart is telling me.
For this weekend, I'll just focus on eating, having a good time with the brothers, and listening for Someone to speak to me.

No Quiero Taco Bell

Tonight was a personal victory for me as I ordered dinner at a local Mexican grill named Tacos Del Ganadero. The food is excellent, the prices are fair, but my only issue: they mostly speak Spanish....

...and I don't.

I remember when I wanted to be the "Great Brown Hope" for the local diocese. With only one other Hispanic priest in a city where 20% of the population is Latino, I thought I could bring my culture as well as my calling to the diocese and help at a local parish. I only had to learn Spanish so I could fulfill that role.

Unfortunately, I never learned Spanish as a child. Mom grew up in a city where other languages were frowned upon or made fun of during school. Rather than put us through the same "torture," none of my generation was taught Spanish in the household.

"Mexican Americans, go to school to take Spanish, and get a B." -Cheech Marin

When I'm put in a position where I have to speak Spanish, I do it softly and meekly. I feel embarrassed that I don't know it like I should. Perhaps that's the thing that gets me: people assume I should speak Spanish because of my color. What if I spoke Gaelic? or Bosnian? Or maybe I spoke some dialect of Swahili?

Regardless, people of all races, including mine, would still ask: "How come you don't speak Spanish? It would be a benefit if you can speak two languages." So I do my best to learn and not feel so sheepish when I use it.

I stopped into my favorite Taco Shop (I actually got a burrito) determined not to speak any English. I walked up to the counter ordered "un burrito de asada. Con todo, por favor." The girl taking the orders thought nothing of the order, however I felt confident about my understanding of the language. She asked me a question, and I didn't understand what she said. I caught one word: bebidas.

I stood there for a quick second, then responded: Oh, quiero una horchata tambien.

"Para aqui or llevar?" she asked. I know the answer to this one!

"Para llevar," I said, pointing towards the door. She smiled and handed the order to the cook. I was home free!

Granted, I simply got food. It's not like I translated a large text into Spanish. But little victories like those make me feel good about speaking another language. There is no doubt: if I follow any kind of priestly vocation, I will have to learn Spanish. Until I sit in a classroom again, I'll do my best to learn in the real world.

As I walked out of the Taco Shop, another Mexican held the door for me. I thanked him, in Spanish, still feeling pretty good about myself. I think the guy saw the smile on my face, and said something funny to me, but because I couldn't understand, I have no clue what he said.

The best I could do was smile a little wider and let out a chuckle.

So much more to learn. =)

Blessed Are the Meek?

Now that there's less than a week at my old apartment, my patience is wearing thin. I feel anger, disgust, and since I bottle up my emotions...I want to grab a baseball bat and "release" on the windshield of the junky truck parked in my driveway. It might not be the Christian thing to do, but damn it would make me feel better.

Since I moved back in with my mom, I've had a constant battle with the downstairs neighbors over the one and only driveway to the house. We live in the upstairs unit, but we're the only one with a vehicle. I moved out and moved back, but I've always had a vehicle and I lived there for a good 13 years.

My driveway...right? Wrong.

Every weekend I'm blocked in by visitors who park in my driveway. I try to let it go by, after all it's only a parking spot. Sometimes when I get home, there's a vehicle parked in the driveway and I have to park on the street. I rationalize it (somehow) and let it blow by.

This week when I'm trying to move things from mom's apartment back to my old apartment, it's like a picnic going on in my driveway. I know we don't talk much, but even a language barrier doesn't hide the obvious fact that we're moving out, and since the driveway is the only access to the apartment, that's where I need to park.

Rational thought would suggest sitting down and talking about it like adults. I think I'm nervous to talk to them, since I'm Mexican and I don't speak Spanish that well. I won't be there but another 5 it worth getting all worked up about?

Small confrontations like these demonstrate a flaw in my social skills. For the longest time, I would rather ignore a problem than actually face it. Rather then give someone bad news, I'd simply avoid them. It's easier than dealing with a problem.

Being a salesman has taught me how to handle a lot of those moments. I know that being yelled at isn't the end of the world. I know there are times when there's no just sit and take it. Those things, however unpleasant, are a part of life.

But for whatever reason, I don't have the balls to walk up to these people and ask "Donde vivas? Porque I'm gonna go to your house and park in your driveway." I don't know if I'm doing the right thing, or simply hoping I'm doing the right thing so there doesn't have to be a confrontation.

I'm still at the laundromat...I can only hope the downstairs neighbors have gone inside by the time I get back.


Music and Discernment: Coming Out of the Dark

Sometimes we get busy and forget what's most important in our lives. That certainly explains these past two weeks. Between working 70 hours a week, moving things from one apartment to the next, and getting enough sleep so I don't have another breakthrough seizure, I run out of hours during the day. Sometimes I forget to pray. Some Sundays I sleep until 11:30. Sometimes I simply forget why I'm working so hard.

Quite honestly, the "I'm sooo busy," line is an excuse. Were I the perfect Catholic, I'd never forget my priorities. In fact, I'd go so far as to call myself a bad discerning Catholic. Eight months ago, that label would have eaten me alive.

Thankfully, the Lord accepts us as we are; with all our virtues, our vices, our dreams, and our doubts. I don't think we're given carte blanche to go nuts, but I think it's a wonderful reminder of what love truly is: acceptance without condition. That love is so simple yet far too complex for me to put into words. Thankfully, someone else found the words and gave me this week's song.

I attended the Sunday evening Mass at my church last night. I woke up late on Sunday, and rather than chastise myself for the lapse, I took it as an opportunity to attend one of the other Masses. The Sunday evening Mass is a little "less traditional" than my usual 9:30 AM, but it's good to step outside of the norm every now and then.

After the Father's homily, the musicians started playing, and the Cantor began to sing a song by Gloria Estefan entitled: Coming Out of the Dark. Originally a song about her struggle after a near fatal accident on her tour bus, I learned the song is often performed by church choirs because of it's message.

I recognized the song when I heard it, thinking "Oh how neat, a cover of Gloria E." But listening to the words that were being sung, I could hear that message of love. Regardless of how long the road is, regardless of how bumpy the trip gets, someone is there to help you get through it all. I'm far from being charismatic with my faith, but if there were a song I could sing that would proclaim my testimony, this would be the song.

Once again, it was like hearing the song for the first time. I hadn't paid attention to the message until last a mass I shouldn't have attended because I overslept.

Perhaps it doesn't classify as a miracle, but perhaps these divine ironies are what give me that nudge in the right direction. Whether God actually spoke or I interpreted His message through the words of another, I felt something wonderful. I've tried to describe it so many times, but the only way I can describe that feeling is love.

Once again, you can find this song on the music player at the bottom of this blog.

Why be afraid if I'm not alone
Life is never easy the rest is unknown
Up to know for me it's been hands against stone
Spent each and every moment searching
For what to believe

Coming out of the dark
I finally see the light now
And it's shining on me
Coming out of the dark
I know the love that saved me
You're sharing with me

Starting again is part of the plan
And I'll be so much stronger holding your hand
Step by step I'll make it through I know I can
It may not make it easier but I've felt you
Near all the way

Coming out of the dark
I finally see the light now
And it's shining on me
Coming out of the dark
I know the love that saved me
You're sharing with me

Forever, forever I stand on the rock of your love
Forever and ever I'll stand on the rock of your love
Love is all it takes, no matter what we face

Sayonara Everquest

We're taught from an early age that the internet is something scary and evil. We read stories of children who are preyed upon, innocent consumers who lose their life savings, and hopeful lovebirds that find disaster after meeting from the internet. The people who exist online are portrayed as the most decrepit, sinister, and Godless scum on the planet.

Because of that stigma, I rarely discuss my online experience. It was a huge part of my life, yet rather than face personal assumptions, I chose to omit it. Having reflected on my life and where my desires lead me, I realize something happened to my mindset when all I thought I was doing was playing a video game.

For those of you who've never had the chance, Everquest in a Massively Multi-Player Online game, and was one of the first of it's kind. Rather than just playing a single-person game with a start and finish, an MMO is based solely online, and how the game is played is determined by your interaction with others who are also playing. Your personality, your words, and your actions determine how others perceive your character...eventually creating a setting in which your character exists.

Since Everquest is an RPG (Role Playing Game), much of the focus was around killing monsters, leveling up, an gaining better gear. Since harder monsters require more teamwork, you are compelled to interact with other players. Dragons, giants, and demons are all amongst the many creatures that exist in this online world.

However, that is not the true focus of such an online community.

As in any large collection of people, sub-groups are established for people to have a sense of "team" or "family." In Everquest, these groups are called guilds, and differ in their focus. Some guilds exist only to befriend other players. Some guilds exist to conquer the hardest monsters and be rewarded with the best loot. Others try to find a happy medium between progression and camaraderie.

This is perhaps where I became drawn to a religious community.

For many years, I was a part of an Everquest guild known as The First Seal. Like any other team, I was honored to be a part of the guild. They were farther progressed than I'd ever seen, and others online knew the guild to be respectable and honorable. In an online setting where you're bombarded by news of people stealing money and info, the concept of "honorable" on the internet was almost unheard of.

As I started, I learned the ropes. This is what time they meet to start a raid. This is their strategy for winning. This is how we portray ourselves to other players online. To the outsider, it almost seems comical to go to such lengths for a video game. But what many people fail to understand is that it is not just a video game: there were 50+ different personalities interacting together. There had to be rules, there had to be structure, and there had to be some kind of leadership. Rather than lead with an iron fist, the leadership of The First Seal resembled a Constitutional Monarchy, with officers having almost as much power as the leader. In retrospect, it's fascinating to think that people conceived these ideas to better play a video game.

After spending years in this guild, I look back and smile at how Franciscan my character appears. When logging on, my goal was to make others smile and laugh. I wanted people to be energized to see me. When divvying up our winnings, I always passed to someone who could better benefit. I went out of my way to lend an ear, to offer advice, and to speak well on topics not just in game, but with people and their personal lives. One cannot exist in such a state and not become close to people, even if it is only through the internet.

Part of me feels that The First Seal was my introductory course on what it means to belong to a community.

Lately I don't play Everquest. I don't have the time needed to play, and when I look into my heart, I don't have the desire to continue playing. I greatly miss the interaction between other people, but I stay in contact with many people outside of the game.

The one great thing I miss about that game is it's anonymity and how it brought out the true me. Online, you can be anyone you want. A married man can be a flirt, an older woman can pretend she's young again, anyone can be whomever they wish when they hide behind a monitor and keyboard.

Who was I when I was hiding? I like to think I was someone who could be counted on. I like to think people will remember me playing, and speak well of me and how I portrayed myself. I hope people remember me and smile and possibly share a laugh.

But rather than having some vain idea of how I wish to be remembered, I hope that those people I've affected will remember who I was, and be inspired to do something for someone it online or in real life. I want them to remember that even when we're all just playing a game, there are good people on this earth.

For those of you who still don't understand how 4 years of my life could have been so involved in a game, no words can explain it. For those of you who knew or remember, join me as I take one last look at "home."

Don Vito

Instead of taking lunch today, I spend the hour at my desk as a finance company rep tried to make me smile in order to earn his business. A young guy from another lender, promising to help impaired credit customers, spoke about his company. I felt out of place, being perceived as a person with power. It's not something I'm used to.

Immediately afterwards, a rep from a warranty company stopped by, complimented me, then asked to sit and speak with me regarding service contracts for the cars we sell. He spoke like the iconoclastic salesman: telling stories, using "business jargon," and doing his best to build rapport so he could get a sale. I found the whole thing quite entertaining.

While the guy talked about the other 84 dealers he worked with, I thought about the beginning of The Godfather, and how people lined up to ask Don Vito Corleone for a favor "on this, the day of my daughter's wedding." I sat behind the large, wooden desk...listening to each of them silently. They asked for my advice, they asked for money, they asked for patronage.

I wondered if they'd kiss my hand, were I to stand and extend it.

Power. If they could find a way to bottle that taste, no one would ever drink beer again. Truly, it is the opiate of the masses.

As I sit, considering the power I have at my new job, I'm reminded of the life of St. Francis, eagerly trying to establish his simple rule while Pope Innocent III and Emperor Otto of Brunswick feuded over control of Europe. Both men were perfect examples of how power can cloud the mind. Yet despite his new-found powers, St. Francis of Assisi never let it go to his head.


Francis understood that the true purpose of power was not to serve oneself, but to serve others. He realized that John the Simple, Giles, Bernard, and his other followers were not underlings, but his brothers. It was up to him to look after their physical and spiritual well-being, even to the detriment of his own.

I don't have the capability nor the grace to do anything as great as Francis did, however I am aware of power and it's warm caress...drawing me to surround myself with it more and more. While my position in the car business will do little to help the Catholic Church, perhaps just being aware of that power is a step in the right direction. Perhaps my awareness is proof of my "growth," and that I can't fall in love with material things like I used to.

Maybe I've finally realized that money, power, and things will never make me truly happy.

Too bad St. Francis didn't write more about living a celibate life. That part of my life is getting complicated.

Music and Spirituality: Love Song

When I was 15 years old, my mother decided to move us from our little town of Davenport, Iowa to Grand Rapids, Michigan: a bustling metropolis full of Amway products and Gerald R. Ford memorabilia. Being the angsty teenager that I was, I wholeheartedly disapproved of the idea.

Living as a poor Mexican kid surrounded by rich white kids, it was hard to find a place in the menegere of cliches that exist in a middle school setting. I'd hung out with the geeks, but I wasn't smart enough to understand their humor. I tried to play football with the jocks, but not everyone can be Rudy Ruddiger. Appealing to my roots, I tried to kick it with the black and Latino kids, again to no avail. I felt like Meg: an outsider just trying to find someone who would have lunch with me.

When my mother gave me the news about leaving for Michigan, I'd finally found my place amoungst the "normal" kids. We were a hodge-podge of nerds, musicians, atheletes, and pseudo-hippies. We wore ripped jeans and long hair. We listened to Motley Crue and Skid Row. We were all in the Catholic church group, no one drank or smoke. We were Rebels Without a Vice...and I'd even found my own Natalie Wood.

Her name was Alison, and she would bring out the worst in me.

I don't mean to insinuate that she was in anyway bad. Alison was a pretty, blue-eyed, blonde haired girl who should have said "No!" when I asked her out. She was way out of my league. She was intelligent, and she was more outgoing than me (Yes, yes...there was a time when I was rediculously shy). To this day, I don't know what she saw in me, but I know that I changed as a person because of her.

Rather than learning "what couples do," I went with what my gut told me. Yes, you can imagine what's at the heart of a 15 year old boy who just found his first girlfriend. When we were together, all I wanted to do is make out. We didn't talk much, our interests were only superficial.
By May of that year, we'd broken up. She said it was because I was going to move; I think it was because she realized I was just a horny teenager. I tell the story as an emotionally detracted person, but I spent years trying to get her out of my head. Perhaps I did have true feelings for her, I just didn't know how to show them.

Having a broken heart is a lot like listening to God's calling: you think every song was written just for you. I listened to a lot of sad love songs, and one of them still stands out in my mind: Love Song by Tesla.

Sitting here, writing this, and recalling the memories ares still some of the hardest things in my life to deal with. Whenever I think about that relationship, I stop to cringe and bang my head against the wall, thinking: "WHY? WHY? WHY were you such and IDIOT!!??" We can pawn some mistakes off to being young, but sometimes we screw up so bad, we spend the rest of our lives trying to forgive ourselves.

She's probably forgotten all about me or anything we ever did...but it hangs on my conscience like dead weight. It explains why I see women the way I do. It explains why I have trouble with intimacy. It explains why it's hard for me to be assertive with women. Worst of all: these are things I must come to terms with if I'm ever going to be "good enough" for the priesthood. When I think of people laughing at my desire to follow a religious vocation, I imagine her leading the jeering squad.

This song by Tesla is a constant reminder of a great mistake, a tragic event, and a new chapter of my life that began in June of coming of age. I don't know how life would have turned out had I not left Iowa, nor am I unhappy with how life has turned out so far. There are just things in our life we wish we could do over; second chances we'll never get. The song commemorates a time of my life I can never have back, and reminds me what it's like to live with a broken heart. It was also the first song I ever learned to play on the guitar.

So you think that it's over
Think your love has finally reached the end
Anytime you call, night or day
I'll be right there for you
When you need a friend

It's gonna take a little time
Time will sure mend a broken heart
Don't you even worry, pretty darlin'
I know you'll find love again

Love is all around you
Love is knockin' outside your door
Waiting for you, is this love made just for two
Keep an open mind cause you'll find love again, I know

Love will find a way
Darlin' love is going to find a way
Love will find a way
Love will find it's way back back to you

I know

song added to the playlist

How Others Feel When I Lose Control

This morning at work, I was in the process of selling 2 cars. It's always a nice bonus to show up to work with customers already on the lot. The day looked so optimistic.

One moment I remember walking on the lot, prepared to greet another customer. The next, I remember sitting on the couch inside the dealership...surrounded by co-workers, friends, and a paramedic.

I'd had a seizure while at work.

I sat there, with everyone looking at me with a sense of concern (and maybe some sympathy...I hate when people feel sad for me), feeling the bruises and pains during the aftermath. I was told that while walking across the lot, I took a step and went down to the pavement like a toppled tree.

Epilepsy is an interesting condition. Not only are there the physical symptoms, but you have to be able to let loose of pride. You have to be able to handle an embarrassing moment, and accept the reality that life will always be this way.

For those times that I like to talk big or I get too full of myself, the siezures are a snap back to my reality.

I was called by Bossman, Uncle, and some friends to offer a kind word. "Don't worry about anything," I was told from Uncle. I think he was implying not to worry about my job. That sets my mind at ease. They easily could have cut their losses and hired a new salesguy without an abnormality.

Regardless of the amount of money I can make at this job, the sense of acceptance and family, something I never expected, outweighs the monetary benefit of my new job. Perhaps that's the lesson I'm supposed to learn here. If they can accept me for who I am, maybe I can better accept myself.

My body is still sore. I'm going back to bed.

Cafeteria Catholicism: Why I Hate Armchair Theologians

It's been a long time since I've gone off on a rant about theological absurdity. Most of the time, I sit and let it eat away at me until I want to bash my head against the wall. No matter how much credit I give to Catholics, there's always someone out there that I have to apologize for.

I think Lewis Black said it best: "There has to be a time when we can come together and just agree on what the f*** reality is."

A perfect example comes from a blog I read about four days ago. My head was full of NyQuil and phlegm, so I couldn't tell if I was reading someone's opinion or if I was dreaming about a comedy show. I had to wait a few days before my head could clear up.

When I felt well enough to write a response, the blog was lost, and the blogger's profile no longer available. Since I cannot link, let me paraphrase the initial post:

The blogger talked about a new priest to his parish, and how he was doing something that he himself didn't feel was proper.

During the Nicene Creed, this poster's new priest was reciting it as: By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became human. I'm sure many of you have heard this at church sometime. The poster expressed concern about it's use, and how it may be a deviation from the original creed.

For what it's worth, I understood his argument and I know how he feels. When we become used to something at church, change is uncomfortable. Change is something different, and we need to be aware that different doesn't become out of hand. That's human nature.

When my priest started having us introduce ourselves to each other before Mass, it took me a long time to get used to. I never did this as a kid or at any other church. Is this OK? Do I need to call Rome and get clearance for this? Even now, I still think it's a little weird, but the purpose is obvious and it does bring the parish closer together.

So my response to the post was going to be simple and informative. Since the Creed is translated from Latin, and the word homo is gender-inclusive , there was no real need to worry. I was going to add how the nos homines is no longer used ("For us men and for our salvation, He came down from Heaven"), and that the proper beginning to the Nicene Creed is "I believe..." not "We believe." The Nicene Creed

Again, I had no problem with the blogger. It was a good piece, and felt I was doing my Catholic duty by giving him some information and letting him make an educated decision.

But before I could add my nugget of info, someone else responded that made me want to put a fist through the screen of my notebook. The link is still unavailable, so I'll do my best to paraphrase this narrow-minded response as best I can:

"That priest is obviously wrong, and you should say something to him. There are too many priests who want to change the Mass, when in actuality they are straying from the One True Church. I pray you have the strength to stand up to this new priest. I will keep him in my intentions as well."

This is what I got out of it:

"Beware of liberal priests. You should fight his evil by standing up to his heretical dialogue. Most priests have no clue what they are doing. They want to change Catholicism. It's up to us to make sure they never do anything wrong. Call your bishop and tell him how this faux-priest is leading you and your parish astray. I will pray 437 Novenas in hopes that God gives wisdom to this fallen priest and shows him the true way."

Don't say "You're over-dramatizing that remark." I can show you sites and blogs where insolent Catholics trash, degrade, and condemn priests because they offer something a plaster saint can't: original thought. But instead of letting priests think for themselves, these self-appointed guardians of the Church monitor the tiniest variances.

It's like watching my buddy when the Detroit Lions play football. When someone drops a pass or when the quarter-back makes a bad throw, he screams at the TV like a screeching baboon. "Why did you throw to that guy? The other receiver was wide open! That's not how you win football games!"

There's a growing contingent of "young armchair theologians" who think a couple of college classes and four years of Latin gives them enough education to debate a man who's dedicated 10 years of his life to becoming a priest. These people disgust me to no end. I give them the same advice I give my buddy, spilling potato chips in front of the TV: Get off your ass and do their job for a day! If reading a few books and watching every weekend makes you an expert, then you lead everyone next Sunday! Try to make everyone in the parish happy. Try to teach those that don't want to learn. Try to reach out to those that won't open up.

A good priest doesn't give up on people because they don't understand the purpose of Adoration. A good priest will not count the number of masses someone has missed, but how many they have attended. A good priest doesn't sit back and tell people how shitty a job they are doing at being a Catholic Christian. Most importantly, a good priest doesn't think he's a better human being than those he preaches to.

If your priest adds 2 letters to the Profession of Faith, he's not changing 1700 years of established dogma. It's no big yank.

Now if he starts reciting the instructions to the "Holy Hand Grenade" during Mass, then you might wanna call the Bishop. Until then, sit back and let the priest do his job. If he's doing it wrong, his boss will let him know.

P.S. Let me know if you moved your blog, D.

Back In Action

It feels good to be slingin' whips again.

I'm still getting over my cold, but today I sold my third vehicle. In two days of work, I've made $600 and have tons of working leads. We're so busy that Bossman worries about running out of cars.

Everyone here is laid back, even the customers. Bossman's dad comes around often as well...even he is laid back. Last week he had his shirt off and was vacuuming out the cars. There's an Uncle who claims to just look after things...but I've quickly learned he has some serious pull around here. I don't know if he's a silent partner or the muscle of the business. Either way, his influence is present.

Part of me has that sense of fulfillment. I've found a job where I can continue to learn, where my boss praises and encourages my growth, and where I don't feel like I'm committing a mortal sin every time I sell a car.

If this is all a test, this is gonna be tougher than any final exam.

Slangin' Whips!

It's good to be the king again.

I went into work coughing, hacking, and sweating from my cold. By the end of the day I made $475. That's real money.

Were I still at my old job, I would still be settling for $400 a week.

(break. Slept for 6 hours.)

It's 2 A.M. I feel better. Hopefully I won't have such a rotten day at work. My mind races when I'm sick. For the past hour, I keep thinking about selling cars over and over. Selling cars is always a good thing, but right now I just want to sleep.

The possibilities are endless at this new job. Bossman is excited. I'm excited. I made $475 in one day...and today was a total fluke. I have two customers coming back tomorrow. Bossman and I can make a lot of money together.

No matter how awesome the job is, that calling is still there. Despite the money and the pipe dreams, it hasn't faded into obscurity. This may be the greatest opportunity I've ever had in my life, yet I can see myself being bored...just like the last job. Regardless of the money, I'm still seeking something more.

I'm sure the Chopper would call me crazy.

OK, back to bed.

Discernment and Music: The Rain Song

I'm sick and I feel like someone just dropped a load of bricks on my back. My throat is on fire, and I cough up junk all the time. Summer colds are not fun.

I tried to write a blog this morning, only to fall asleep at my desk. I lumbered the 2 feet from my desk to my bed, and woke up around 3 P.M. NyQuil is amazing stuff.

When I'm sick, I find it almost impossible to get to sleep. If the sore throat doesn't keep me awake, the drainage makes me feel like I might drown. On top of that, my mind races when I close my eyes. Last night, I thought I was dealing poker for about 2 hours before I fell asleep.

Sometimes you need to just be at peace. Inspiration is wonderful, fulfillment is amazing, but there are times in your life when you just need

I want to go on with a beautiful story about Led Zeppelin, being at peace, and finding solace in music, but I'm already getting sleepy again, and I start my new job tomorrow. This is what I'm going to do, and I challenge you all to do the same:

I have a playlist at the bottom of my blog so you can hear all the songs I write about. If the day is dreary because of rain, it's an excellent time to play this song. Otherwise, wait until you're ready for bed. Start the song, close your eyes, and just try to be at peace with yourself.

Relax and Enjoy.

If I feel better tomorrow, I'll tell you about my first day.


To Catch A Poker Thief: Outting a Cheating Dealer

When I walked into the poker room after work, I expected to be given a table, deal out cards, and make my money...the standard operating procedure. What actually happened was an under-cover surveillance to catch someone skimming money off of the poker table. Unfortunately, the suspect was someone I enjoyed working with.

After only dealing an hour at my table, I was given a break. Soon after, the owner of the poker room pulled me aside.

"I need you to do me a favor, Vito," he asked of me. "Are you up to playing some poker tonight?"

I sadly informed him that I had very little money, and I was working to make some extra money on the side, not to blow it all playing poker. (FYI: I have absolutely no problem playing poker, as long as I have the money and the time to play.)

He reached in his wallet, pulled out a $100 dollar bill and handed it to me. "Go get some chips. I need you to watch a dealer. I think he's stealing from the rake."

In most charitable gaming establishments, the dealers are volunteers who can be paid a minimal sum for their time. They are not screened, there is little oversight, and there are no cameras to record what is happening. Because of this, dealers are hired on their word.

I bought my chips and sat down at the table. The usual response I get is: "You're playing this time? You didn't have to deal?" I really wasn't playing, but watching the dealer, the chips, and what was happening.

It took 5 minutes to figure out the strategy of the dealer to pocket chips off the table:

The dealer flipped out the cards, and play started as usual. Eventually, a player would put a red chip in play, but only "call" the initial bet of $2. Rather than give change out of the pot, the dealer reached in the rake, gave five green chips to the player, then set the red chip just next to the rake tray. After the stack reached $25 (5 chips), he would deal out the cards as usual. After the the cards were dealt, he'd point to the person "under the gun," then lean back. To the casual viewer, it looked like he was stiff and just needed to stretch. In reality, the move allowed his hand to slide over the stack, palm it, then let his arm drop to his side, depositing the chips into a side pocket in his shorts.

When I first saw it, I couldn't even believe it...the move was flawless.

He stopped dealing before the poker room closed at midnight, giving him time to go to another table and play. Presumably, he took the money, put it on the table, and tried to make even more money. At the end of the night he cashed in all the chips, pocketing $200ish dollars that should have gone to the charity.

I was sick. I didn't know what to think. I'd known this guy ever since I started dealing, and he was a great guy. I played poker at his house. He's let me borrow money on occasion. To catch him doing something so wrong was a violation of that friendship I had for him.

I told my boss at the end of the night who had the same feelings. He didn't even want to deal with the situation, but he knew that the thief had to go right away, lest the players find out and spread word about how "Westgate's dealers steal" or other rumors that would hurt business.

This morning, as I spent my second to last day at the old dealership, I got a call:

"Hey Vito, there's been schedule. Is there any way possible for you to come in sooner than Seven?"

I could tell they'd fired that dealer. Will he still come to the room and play? Will I never see him again? I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole incident. Either way, he'll leave ahead, since my boss will probably not press charges.

On a side note, I not only paid my boss back, but I made $96 for myself on top of my standard money for working. =)

All About Meme

I was tagged by the young Irishman Danny Donellan of The Prodigal Son. It's the first time I've been tagged for a meme. I feel at one with the blogosphere.

"The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog."

I believe habits change, so I'll stick to the facts:

  1. I hate seeing fingerprints on a computer monitor. I cringe when people touch the screen to point out something. I don't consider myself to be obsessive-compulsive, but staring at fingerprints drives me insane. I will stop everything to wipe the monitor clean.
  2. When I was 15, I developed Epilepsy. There's no history of it in my family, nor is there a dramatic trauma to explain it. One morning, I was playing Super Mario Bros. 3, and I remember waking up after having it. I take 600mg of Dilantin a day, and my condition is controlled.
  3. I play Everquest. Well, I used to before my life got so busy. (I'll pause while you laugh to yourself.) I enjoyed the game for years, although I remember years ago when I played all night, then went to work without any sleep. I met some wonderful people through the game, and I cherish their friendship as much as any other.
  4. I sing to whatever music I hear, since I know songs from about every genre.
  5. I am a bad singer. If someone complains, I'll sing worse on purpose.
  6. I have two tattoos: one on either arm. On the left is an eagle holding a snake, reminiscent of the Mexican flag. On the right, I have an Old English "V" in a weak attempt to be thuggish.
  7. I have a piercing not on my face. No, I won't say where it is. No, I don't wear a ring/stud anymore, but the hole is still there.
  8. I'm still writing a screenplay about the discernment of man, going from a professional sinner and becoming a priest. I've not worked on it in months. Perhaps when this journey is finally done, I'll continue working on it.

I tag the following 8 people:

  1. My Life and Times
  2. Not Much Southern Comfort
  3. Thoughts On A Journey...
  4. Kicking and Screaming
  5. Holy Famoley
  6. Exultet
  7. Adoro te Devote
  8. Ironic Catholic

My Patrons: Joey the Kid on the Bike

After leaving work this evening, I still felt overwhelmed by everything that was happening in my life. When I wake up this morning, I need to throw as many boxes into this pick-up truck as possible. By 9AM I need to meet my mom at her job to drive her to a doctor's appointment. After that, I need to drive to the new dealership to meet with Bossman. We need to discuss a few implementations and ideas. After that, I drive to the apartment, unload the boxes, move everything onto the new rug, and start cleaning the kitchen.

I haven't opened that fridge since May, and I think the ex-girlfriend left some things in there when she left. The odor should be phenomenal.

All these things were on my mind as I exited the rear door of the current dealership. As I walked to the truck, I didn't even notice the 12 year old ride by, happily listening to his iPod. As I opened the door and prepared to leave for the day, I hear a voice.

"Excuse me, sir."

I'd been so deep in thought, I hadn't realized the kid in the bike turned around and drove back to me.

"Do you go to St. Mary's?" he asks me.

"Yes I do," I said with a smile.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked.

"Unfortunately I don't," I responded, apologetically. He looked familiar, but I couldn't place his face to any name.

"Do you remember me sitting down last week?"

Instantly I remembered seeing him, and my heart skipped a beat. I remembered walking to the podium to do the First Reading, and seeing this boy silently sitting off to the side. He wore the same alb and cincture I remember wearing 17 years ago.

We talked for several minutes, and I felt wonderful about the accidental meeting. His name was Joey, and his family attends St. Mary's, despite living so far from the church. He said he'd just become an altar boy a few months ago, and that his dad pointed out how I'd been an altar server for Father Host years ago. It was kind of awkward, he looked at me like I was a minor celebrity, but yet I felt at peace.

He looked at me with the innocent eyes of a if he already knew what my heart desired.

As I drove home, I realized I'd been given another friendly "bump." With everything happening in my life, Somebody decided to remind me of what's important, and for that I am eternally grateful.

While he may not know it, Joey was a reminder that my discernment wasn't just about me. It was a reminder that while I find it hard to combine my "regular" life with my "spiritual" life, others don't see the difference. I'm just Vito.

My patrons not only give me strength and moral support, but they help me stay on track, reminding me what is important in life.

Thanks for stopping by, Joey. Next time we'll put some air in your tires.

My Life, The TV Sitcom

I've felt like Jack Tripper for the past week and a half. While working at my current job, my future boss has me running across the street for credit applications and to help with customers. I'm eager to get things going at the new place, but I have to work at this job until the 17th. I'm still working at the poker room on the weekends which takes up a lot of my time. They're finally installing the carpeting in the apartment, so when i DO get home, I am packing and moving things.

If I trip over a couch or get hit in the head by a door, I'll give up everything to start working on The New Three's Company.

Mr. Roper isn't around, but instead of pretending to be gay, I pretend to be a seasoned sales manager as I introduce myself to new banks and credit unions. I spoke with Credit Acceptance the other day, and I spent 10 minutes making chit-chat with a guy that was as much a salesman as he was a banker.

I need the 17th to get here before the whole thing comes apart. I spend my lunch at the new dealership. I want the place to be ready when I start next week, but that involves my time to set things up. I'd love to start and just leave this job, but I need a truck to move, and I need steady income for 2 more weeks to handle expenses. (When I move, I will only get paid when I sell a car...something common in my industry.)

One thing I've started, something recommended to me by my Spiritual Director, is that change is a great time to start or reaffirm a new schedule. I've slacked on praying everyday; sometimes I'm just too tired or I get in at three o'clock in the morning. It's an excuse, but a lovely excuse that I can use.

I want to start up my prayer life again, whether I just kneel and speak to God, or I get a daily prayer book. I'm open to any ideas.

Until the 17th, I'll continue to juggle mi vida loca, in hopes that I can have some sense of normalcy. Perhaps this experience is a way for me to really search for God when I most need him.
Perhaps this weekend's Discernment and Music song will be "Come and Knock On Our Door."

Discernment and Music: Butterfly Kisses

Like most other people, when I started out on this journey I thought "celibacy" and "no sex" were synonymous. Even to this day, I'm asked "Why would you want to give up sex? I don't know if I could handle that."

I've learned that living a celibate life means much more than not getting any action.

It's been said that a child never really knows how much a parent loves until they have children of their own. If this is true, I will never know the love my mother had, and how it affected both our lives. I'll never know what it's like to play catch with my son, or watch my daughter as she tries to catch a frog. Parenting is our chance to make up for the mistakes we've made and teach those things to the next generation. Celibacy means I will never experience that kind of love.

At heart, I'll admit I'm not fond of kids. They're greedy, fickle, liars, unreasonable, and they don't pay attention: kind of like me. I grew up an only child, so I wasn't as exposed to kids as other families. Most times I played by myself, letting my imagination be my best friend rather than anyone else. As I grew, I never developed that "I love kids!" attitude that most people have. I never babysat, I never mentored, and I'm bad at discipline.

I had one chance to be a father...and I failed.

When my ex-girlfriend and I were together, she had a 15 year old daughter. I identified with her a lot. We never met our birth-fathers, we'd never had a steady father-figure in our lives, and both of us were seeking that father-daughter love that we'd seen in other families.

I can still hear her call me "daddy," and it rips my heart out to think about it.

Unfortunately because of how we lived, it was all doomed to fail. But she didn't know that. She shouldn't have to be a part of the break. What trauma must it be for a child to finally meet someone who wants to be a father, but it eventually fails? Perhaps this is the deep, dark area of my heart that I won't let go. A guilt I refuse to offer up to God. Perhaps my failing of one child is a demonstration of what's to come.

Even now, I remember that time with joy and happiness. I remembered the words: "After all that I've done wrong, I must've done something right." This week's song sings of that joy and happiness: Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle.

The song serves as a reminder of what I've already given up, and what I will never have. Until this point, I'd only thought about the conflict with my ex. My heart aches for the daughter. I feel like part of me is missing now that she's gone. I feel a sense of emptiness for a child I didn't father, but openly called "my daughter," not "step-daughter."

Whether the song is a way to remind me of good things or a condemnation of my attempt to be a father-figure, I'm not sure. Either way, it's something I must deal with while I continue walking this life.

There's two things I know for sure
She was sent here from Heaven
And she's daddy's little girl
As I drop to my knees by her bead
She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes
And I thank God for all of the joy in my life
But most of all...

For butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
Walk beside the pony, daddy, its my first ride
I know the cake looks funny, daddy, but I sure tried
With all that I've done, i must have done something right
To deserve a hug every morning, and butterfly kisses at night

Sweet 16 today
She's looking like her mama a little more everyday
One part woman, the other part girl
To perfume and makeup from ribbons and curls
Trying her wings out in a great big world
But I remember

Butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
You know how much I love you, daddy, but if you don't mind
I'm only gonna kiss you on the cheek this time
With all that I've done wrong, I must have done something right
To deserve her love every morning, and butterfly kisses at night

All the precious time
Like the wind the years go by
Precious butterfly
Spread your wings and fly

She'll change her name today
She'll make a promise and I'll give her away
Standing in the bride-room just staring at her
She asks me what I'm thinking and I say I'm not sure
I just feel like I'm losing my baby girl
She leaned over

Gave me butterfly kisses, with her mama there
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
Walk me down the aisle, daddy, it's just about time
Does my wedding gown look pretty, daddy?
Daddy, don't don't cry.
Oh, with all that I've done wrong, I must have done something right
To deserve her love every morning and butterfly kisses
I couldn't ask God for more, this is what love is
I know I got to let her go, but I'll always remember
Every hug in the morning
And butterfly kisses

(I finally got the tears under control. God bless to all of you parents out there.)

My Busy Week: Worries and Encouragement

Blogging after dark is the new standard these days, since my days are continuously busy. Just today I met with Bossman for a few minutes, stopped at my current (soon to be leaving) dealership, ran by the other apartment to drop off some furniture and schedule a time to replace the carpet, planned a lunch for Thursday, ate lunch with my Spiritual Director, and booked lunches and meetings for the next three weeks.

I just got home an hour ago. Finally had some time to sit down and blab about everything happening.

I realized my situation is merely an introduction to how my life will be for the next year: changes, goodbyes, "lasts," (a great blog from a future seminarian), worries, heartaches, surprises, and joy. Today has been a day of worry, but for things I'm already used to dealing with - unworthiness and how others see me.

I'm still scared about this opportunity because I don't know everything Bossman needs me to know. I'm walking into this job under-skilled, under-experienced, and under-qualified. When I told the other salesmen about my new position, the underlying tone I got was: "What makes you think you can do that job?" As excited as I was yesterday, I have this sense of trepidation about taking this new responsibility on. What if I suck at it? What if Bossman tells me "I had to hire brother-in-law because he need job. Sorry." What if I'm stuck without a job, and I have no way to pay off debt?

I took a moment today to really examine my feelings about this. I imagine myself not taking the position of a car sales manager, but a parish priest. The thought excites me; I'm invigorated by the idea of helping others in the community. I feel at peace with that kind of vocation.

But what happens if I were told today: "We'd like you to help our parish as a live-in acolyte." I'd be scared out of my mind! What if they wanted me to help Spanish-speaking parishioners? My Spanish is terrible! What if they want me to help with liturgical music? I just picked up my guitar for the first time in years, and I sound like a dying cat when I sing. How would I deal with the other parishioners that feel jealous or envious of my role in the parish? What if I was asked to lead meetings, prayer groups, or youth ministry? I'm terrified of small children!

Strength. Wisdom. Courage.

In times of struggle or doubt, these are the things I ask of God. In times of joy and content, these are the the things I give thanks for. Strength to handle any change that happens in my life. Wisdom to discern any issues or troubles. Courage to do what is right, even if it is uncomfortable. These three gifts from God have helped me overcome my worst fears and doubts.

I know that for the rest of my life, I will be put in positions where I am under-qualified, under-educated, or under-experienced. I know there will always be someone better than me no matter what I do. I must accept that.

What I must also accept is the faith and encouragement I get from those around me, including God. People believe that I can do this job. They're excited for me. They want to know when I can get them hired in. Whether I do good or I fall flat on my face, they cheer me on.

There are people that cheer me on as I continue to discern God's plan. "You'd make an excellent priest/Franciscan/Capuchin." I like hearing that. It fills me with joy. But I have a bad habit of looking for people to tell me I'm wrong. I worry about people telling me not to be a priest, or people who think it's just a weird joke. I feel defensive when I talk about my vocation; I don't want to hear someone tell me I'm not good enough.

So perhaps all of this is happening as some kind of learning experience: an opportunity from God to stop worrying about what other's think. Maybe He just wants me to just "be me." Maybe when I can achieve that level of self-awareness, God will reveal the next part of His plan for me.

I'm glad I wrote all this out. I feel better already. =)

Strength. Wisdom. Courage.

(Sorry for any grammatical errors. It's late, I'm tired, and I have another busy day tomorrow. Peace -V)