Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes, The Hodgepodge Edition

1. October has been a crazy month. We've had almost no time to sit down and relax--but we don't mind because it's all been good. Larry has been involved in two plays--one children's production called Still Life with Iris, and a one-act radio-style version of The Thirty-nine Steps for school. The performances of Iris were last weekend, and next weekend he'll be performing in 39 Steps both at school and for a one-act play competition three counties away. Some days he's literally had to go straight from one rehearsal to the next while wolfing down a Big Mac in the car. But he loves it; do you know what he said the other night? "Acting is the most fun thing to do, EVER. Except for skiing."

2. After Saturday's performance, Larry took the girl who played the lead to their school's Homecoming dance. They had missed about half of the dance; after the show they quickly changed into their nice clothes, and I snapped a quick photo of the two of them before I whisked them off to their school. I was very proud of Larry for remembering to open the car door for her. The next day I asked him if he pulled the chair out for her once they got there, and he replied, "Mom, we didn't sit down." I think they had a good time.

3. A couple of weeks ago our parish introduced the Gloria and Holy, Holy, Holy from the new translation, and do you know what? I LOVE them. The music our pastor and music director chose for them is fabulous. I'm looking forward to Advent, when it goes into full swing.

4. I know I promised to share with you some things I've been doing with my third grade Religious Education class, so here's a brief summary of some of the things we've done so far. We're using the Christ Our Life series from Loyola Press, and this year I've been trying to use the textbook more as a resource and guide, rather than having the kids take turns reading it word-for-word during class. Most days this has worked out great, and it gives me time to use other resources and plan other activities (although this past week I felt like I was rushing through the material, and wished we had taken the time to read more of the text). The kids particularly enjoy acting out the Bible stories as we read them. In the coming weeks I hope to share more details with you, including some photos; as well as some NEAT things I'm learning about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the new Montessori preschool where I work.

5. I was surprised in the week or so that followed the death of Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon at how much I really grieved for him and his family. I can only imagine the anguish his wife Susie must be going through right now. Seeing the photos of his brothers and fellow drivers carrying his casket, and parts of the heartbreaking letter Susie Wheldon wrote to her husband in the days following his death, as well as the fond memories and photos that his friends have shared have touched me more than I thought they would. I almost feel as though I've lost a friend, even though he wasn't someone I really thought much about except when he was racing. (Click here for the thoughts I shared the night after he was killed.) I changed my Facebook and Twitter avatars to a photo of Dan, and for a few days last week I wore the Dan Wheldon hat that Larry got at a race in Richmond a few years back (which, ironically, was signed by two other drivers--Will Power and Graham Rahal--but not by Dan). Little things have made me think of him; like the orange, yellow, and white flowers I bought because they reminded me of the colors he--and his car--were sporting the day he won the 2011 Indianapolis 500, or the young man I saw last weekend who looked a little bit like him.

Some say that people will quit watching Indy Car Racing because of the horrible crash that killed Dan (which had been struggling already, and was only just starting to make a comeback) but not me. Next year the cars will be safer; they've got a brand-new model they've been testing (Dan Wheldon spent quite a lot of time driving them and was very excited about them), and rumor has it that they're going to name the new car after him.

6. My next few blog posts--hopefully I can pound out a couple this week--will be for my other blog, Cooking Nick's Books. For that one I've made beef stew, jalapeno burgers, and shrimp kebobs, and have not had a chance to share them yet. I even picked up a copy of Nicholas Sparks' new book, The Best of Me, but I haven't had a chance to read much of it. I hear it's getting good reviews, and it's number one on several different bestseller lists. And I can't wait to see what we'll be cooking!

7. We're blessed to have my parents are for the weekend. Curly and Moe had a day off from school today, and they took a trip to Washington's Birthplace National Monument. Tomorrow my brother and his wife will be here to celebrate Bro's fortieth birthday, and on Sunday we're having Moe's eleventh birthday party. My house isn't very clean; I'm sure the mostly fifth-grade boys who are here won't care, or even notice. I'll try and make sure it gets a good scrubbing before Christmas...hopefully.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to check out Jen's Conversion Diary blog for more Quick Takes!

Oh, and I almost forgot: There is just over a week left of this fall's 40 Days for Life campaign! I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to think about planning a trip to Richmond to pray at the Planned Parenthood clinic there. My friend J. and I were talking the other day about it, and we're hoping to go one afternoon next week. Click here to find a 40 Days for Life campaign near you!

Have fun trick-or-treating--if you do that sort of thing; we do--and don't forget to go to Mass on Tuesday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

How I Became a Racing Fan, and Why I'm So Sad

(The first photo I ever took of Dan Wheldon, in Richmond, 2005)

Joe has been a fan of open-wheel racing all his life. Me? I never paid any attention to any of it. Every Sunday during the warmer months, Joe spent many hours watching Formula One, Indy, and Kart races. Even though I really wasn't interested and didn't watch them with him, it wasn't long before I could distinguish between a Formula One and an Indy Car race just by the sounds the cars made.

Then the Indy Racing League came to Richmond. You have no idea how excited this made Joe. He went to the race there every June with a friend who is even more of a die-hard racing fan than Joe. One year Joe decided that Larry was old enough to go with them to the track to see the qualifying, meet the drivers, and maybe watch one of the minor races that are usually held the day before the main event. They had so much fun that the next year, Joe wanted to bring all of us to the festivities. Reluctantly I went along, and it wasn't nearly as awful as I thought it would be; in fact, it was kind of fun. The race was the next evening, and Joe and his friend went together as usual; I stayed home with the kids, having no desire to watch it on television.

Fast-forward to the following year, Memorial Day Weekend 2005. I decided to watch the Indy 500 with Joe, since the previous summer I had seen some of the drivers and their cars, and was somewhat familiar with who most of them were. That was the first auto race I watched from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was exciting to see Danica Patrick come so close to be the first woman to win that race, and equally exciting to see Dan Wheldon finish first, since I remembered seeing him in Richmond the previous summer. After that, I watched every race for the rest of the season. When it was time to go to Richmond for the qualifying and (my favorite part) the autograph session, I was actually looking forward to it. Imagine my delight when, after the qualifying runs, we were lining up to enter the building where the drivers were signing autographs, I looked over and saw Dan Wheldon standing quietly to one side, with a set of headphones and a mic, and a cameraman nearby. He looked like he was waiting to be interviewed or something. I quickly snapped his photo, and went inside only slightly disappointed that we wouldn't be getting his autograph that day.

(At first I wasn't going to post this photo, because it's such a goofy picture. There's a little story behind it: It was June 23, 2006, the day after Dan Wheldon's 28th birthday. At the autograph session in Richmond, when it was our turn to greet Dan, I wished him good luck, held up my little pocket digital camera and asked, "Did you have a nice birthday, Dan?" "Yes," he replied, "It was very nice, thank you." I made the mistake of snapping the photo while he was still speaking and I think I caught him just as he was forming the word "Thank." It's not the best picture of Dan, but it makes me laugh.)

When Joe went to the race the next night I decided to watch it on TV this time around. Mostly I was trying to spot Joe in the crowd, but I found myself paying attention to the race and was actually interested in what was happening on the track. The race winner that night was Helio Castroneves; he's known (besides winning three Indy 500's AND Dancing With the Stars) for climbing the track fence every time he wins a race. As I watched him climb that fence in Richmond, and saw how much crazy-fun everyone there was having, I decided right then and there that I was darn well going to the race with Joe next time, come hell or high water.

(Getting this picture of Helio in '08 was the highlight of our racing weekend that year, at least for me!)

The rest is history. We went to every race in Richmond after that, watched a lot of qualifying and practice sessions, and collected many autographs from many more drivers, including some from Dan Wheldon. Moe's first red hat is graced with his signature, as well as a flag with the Indy Racing League's logo that we have hanging in our rec room. When the race in Richmond was dropped from the schedule, we sought out others attend; a couple of years ago we took a trip with friends--the one Joe used to go to the Richmond races with and his family--to the Finger Lakes region of New York for the Watkins Glen race. (The series dropped that one from their schedule, too, unfortunately). We've been to the race at Mid-Ohio in 2010, as well as this year's Baltimore Grand Prix. We're hoping--someday--to take a trip to Indianapolis for the Indy 500.

(Dan Wheldon on a qualifying run at Mid-Ohio, 2010)

Last night we cranked up the DVR to enjoy the last race of the season (and in Vegas! What a fun place to go for a race!), which we had recorded earlier in the day. We speculated about who would win the championship, and remarked how great it would be to see Danica Patrick win once more before racing full time in NASCAR next year. We were pulling for Dan Wheldon, too, who was starting from the back of the field; and for his friend Tony Kanaan, who had pole position and hadn't won a race in a while.

(Here's Dan and Tony signing stuff for the boys in 2009. We took Curly's picture with Tony; that was the highlight of his weekend.)

After that horrible crash that halted the race and left everyone in shock, we watched with increasing dread as little by little, it became clear that Dan Wheldon was hurt very, very badly. As we heard accounts of the accident from other drivers and saw team owners, crew members, and drivers alike praying, pacing, and even crying as they waited for news about Dan, we began to fear the worst. Part of me wanted to run and turn on the computer for a real-time update, but then there was the part of me that wanted to believe that all this hadn't already happened hours before, and that I still had time to hope and pray that Dan would be OK. If we pretended that this wasn't prerecorded and was in fact happening at that very moment, then there was still hope. If Dan was dead, I didn't want to know that yet. I could still pray, please, Dear God, let him be all right.

When the horrific news that Dan had been killed finally reached our ears, I cried. I cried again this morning when I saw a photo on TV of Dan with his wife and two little boys. I mean, really little. They will never remember their Dad.

I wondered aloud today why I keep watching this sport where a person straps himself into a rocket ship on wheels and drives around and around at unprecedented speeds. Sooner or later, what happened in Vegas is bound to take place, and someone is going to die. We've seen plenty of crashes, and even a few injuries, (and one driver, Paul Dana, died a few years back when he crashed during a practice session) but never one as grisly as that one yesterday. It's hard to fathom that a young, energetic guy, with two Indy 500 wins under his belt, a lovely family and his entire life ahead of him, can one minute be smiling and joking with reporters, gushing about how excited he is about this race; and in a second he's gone.

Dan was the first driver I was really excited about. (Joe once teased that I had a "thing" for him. Not true.) I'll keep watching races, that much is certain, but it won't be the same without Dan.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Random Nuttiness Regarding Birthdays and Persons of Interest

I don't like to reveal too many details about myself and my family on my public site, so I apologize for the vagueness in this post.

I was thinking about something this morning.

I have a strange knack for remembering the birthdays of famous (and even not-so-famous) people. They're not hard to remember, actually, because often times they correspond to birthdays of people I know, or important dates in history (I'll always remember that Harry Connick, Jr.'s birthday is September 11) and such like. For instance, if someone in my family was born the same day as Sandra Bullock (which is true), then I'll easily remember her birthday. I have another family member born the same day as Wynona Ryder; another shares a birth date with Julia Roberts. There is even one celebrity whose date of birth is the same as the date of my parents' wedding. I get a kick out of things like that for some reason.

Yesterday I ran across this video of Lino Rulli, the host of the Catholic Guy Show on Sirius/XM's The Catholic Channel. (By the way, have you read his memoir, Sinner, yet? You should.) I noticed that Lino's hair is turning gray, and fast. Which, by the way, is quite becoming on Lino; the gray around his temples (not to mention the hairline that is starting to recede) gives the boyishly handsome radio host a dignified, mature look. Now, Lino is only a few days older than a certain younger relative of mine who is about to turn forty. This relative's hair isn't turning gray yet, but it's only a matter of time until it does, and then I'll REALLY feel old.

And then last night we were catching up on our new favorite TV show, Person of Interest, starring Jim Caviezel. You know, the one who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ a few years back. Anyway, I noticed that Jim's hair is the same color as Lino's. Great, I thought; someone else who is younger than me with graying hair. (I should talk. Every time I look in the mirror I'm reminded that it's time to make another appointment to have my hair colored.)

This morning I realized something else. I was born (and I'll admit I'm a little reluctant to even share this much about myself) sometime around Christmas of 1967, give or take. Mid to late December-ish. Jim Caviezel was born on the 26th of September, 1968, roughly nine months later. So, theoretically, Caviezel could have been conceived the day I was born. Which has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but the thought makes me smile.

And by the way, I don't know of any celebrities who were born the exact same day as I was; but Cuba Gooding, Jr. is the one--as far as I know--who is the closest in age as me. Another bit of useless trivia you didn't need to know.

I'm thinking of changing the title of my blog to "Ramblings of a Catholic Fruitcake," or something along those lines.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Get Thee To the Church: Our Lady of Victory, State College, Pennsylvania

I've been here once before, the last time we made a pilgrimage to Joe's alma mater for a football game. Actually, it was Joe and his buddies who went to the game; I stayed behind at our friends' house where we were staying to entertain two-year-old Larry, and baby Curly. Moe wasn't even a gleam in our eyes yet. When we arrived at church on Sunday, it was crowded, and the priest invited families with young children to visit the "children's chapel" upstairs, a glassed-in balcony of sorts where there were comfortable seats, a changing table, and an unobstructed view of the goings-on in the church. Well, this would have been fabulous were it not for the families who let their kids use it as a playroom. One family in particular had two boys who clearly were old enough to know how to sit still in church, and they were crawling around on the floor playing with toy trucks, making loud truck noises. Every so often the unhappy-looking mother handed them MORE trucks. I didn't hear any of the Mass, and left church that day frustrated and annoyed.

That was twelve years ago.

It was much better this time around!

A very unusual sanctuary, but I didn't find it unattractive. I wonder if it's supposed to represent a grotto, like at Lourdes or someplace like that? (See all those organ pipes? We went to the folk Mass, so we didn't get to hear them. They played the guitar instead.)

I wasn't one hundred per cent certain that this was the tabernacle at first, to be honest, until one of the eucharistic ministers opened it up after communion. I've never seen one that looks like a golden egg.

I *think* this is their baptismal font. They've got it in an alcove in the back of the church.

I finally found the Stations of the Cross along one wall in the same area as the baptismal font.

Mass was crowded this day, too, and we ended up sitting in the front row. At this Mass, they were already singing the new translations of the Gloria and the Holy, Holy, Holy. I heard later that some parishes were already doing this, since the new translation begins in Advent when we don't sing the Gloria. I asked one of our priests about this the other day, and he said he hoped we would start using the new Gloria soon; otherwise we'll all show up on Christmas Day and be hit with something we've never seen or heard before.

(By the way, what's your take on the new translation? Personally, I love it, but at the same time I find myself feeling a little sad every time we say "and also with you," or some other phrase we won't get to say anymore. In Religious Ed, we're working with the kids to teach them the new translation, and I'm hoping to start sharing more here about the things I'm doing with my CCD class; maybe even starting this week--stay tuned for that!)

On any given weekend, Mass is the most important thing we do. Of course, it's also fun to visit other holy sites, like the Cathedral of Saint JoePa;

...or wait in an hour-long line at the Creamery Chapel;

...and, of course, to stop by the Shrine of the Nittany Lion.

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