Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welcome Home, Clifton Phifer Lee!

The evening of Monday, December 13, 2010 was quite calm. Tara and I finally got around to putting up our Christmas tree and decorations, followed by hot chocolate and some lame and cheesy Christmas music, courtesy of Pandora.

I got ready for bed and against better judgment, checked my email one last time. It was approaching midnight at this point; a bedtime I've been trying really hard -- with little success -- to avoid the past few weeks.

No new email. Good.

Against even stronger judgment, I then clicked on ESPN. Surely, nothing newsworthy could be transpiring at such an hour. What was the point? Must...not....click....(click!).

Since the end of the 2010 World Series -- whose teams shall not be named -- I'd been followng the destination saga of free agent mega-pitcher Cliff Lee, a nuclear left arm my beloved Phillies had acquired midway through the 2009 season and then traded off for a bag of Tastykakes (stale ones!) at season's end, believing a long-term contract extension was less likely than a Taylor Swift/Kanye West world tour. Conventional wisdom had Lee choosing the monopoly money offered by the New York Yankees or possibly returning to his 2010 team, the Texas Rangers, who had also ponied up a large sum of zeroes in hopes of luring back their postseason ace. This story had dragged on for more than a month and I was hopeful each day that he'd just stick it to the Yankees and stay put in Texas.

Except that last night's ESPN headline about Cliff Lee contained the words "Phils enter fray." A little flutter went through my stomach as I read about the Phils making a late charge to woo Lee back to the team that gave him his first taste of postseason baseball.

I explained this turn of events to Tara, who actually became somewhat intrigued and shortly thereafter, brought up the Phillies' website on her laptop. Her next words rang in my ears.

"They got him!"

"Huh?" came my confused response. There was no way my wife beat me to the knowledge of potentially the greatest free agent signing in Phillies history. With a simple click, I saw the words that, as a lifelong diehard Phillies fan, I had only fantasized about: "Phils emerge as winners in Cliff Lee sweepstakes"

What? How? NO!!!! YES????...followed by a pause to begin the wake-up-from-dream process. Moments later, all media outlets began pouring out the breaking news that Cliff Lee was returning to the Philadelphia Phillies to join a rotation that already features 2010 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. It turns out Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had waited quietly in the wings as the drama between Texas and New York panned out before once again acting as a stealth bomber and getting his man. When the dust had cleared, Lee was leaving between $30-50 million, and potentially two fewer contract years at the table to come back to the team he openly states he never wanted to leave. True, one can argue that no one making the money that professional athletes make could ever win an award in financial selflessness, but that's a discussion for another day.

My head was spinning. I called my friend Seth and broke the news to him. We made a series of freak out noises; something Tara found quite humorous. I was previously really tired, but suddenly found myself wide awake and unable to get to sleep for the next two hours. I was absolutely and utterly ecstatic! I had not been this insanely hopped up about a Phillies signing since slugger Jim Thome signed up for red pinstripes in November 2002; an acquisition that helped bring respectability and a winning atmosphere back to baseball in Philadelphia. Since that time, I had witnessed a Rookie of the Year, two MVPs, a Cy Young winner, a Perfect Game, a postseason no-hitter, four division titles, a National League pennant, and a World Championship! Baseball life had certainly been good in Philly for the past few years.

Yet, the signing of Cliff Lee has me even more excited about Phillies baseball than I have ever been before; even more so than the Thome signing, which, in late 2002, came at a time when I was simply hoping the team finished over .500. By joining the Phils' pitching rotation, Cliff Lee doesn't just make the team better going into next season. He has made them the hands down scariest team to face in all of baseball! Moreover, Lee also has a chance to help the team earn a significant place in Major League Baseball history. As it stands, the 2011 Phils rotation should stack up as the best in baseball, but should they each pitch up to their capabilities -- and dare I say the Phillies win the 2011 World Series -- this pitching rotation may be regarded as one of, if not THE best pitching foursomes of all time. And that's something this historically horrible franchise has never been able to boast at any time in its existence.

In the end, I got my wish; Cliff Lee did end up sticking it to the Yankees after all, just not to the benefit of the team I had anticipated. And as my buddy Seth said last night in response to Lee's decision to forego millions to return to Philly, "He will never have to buy a drink in this city again."

Here's to continuing the golden era of Phillies baseball in 2011! Can't tell you how much I love it when baseball dominates the airwaves in December! Welcome home, Clifton Phifer Lee!

Oh, and if you're wondering what that continual thumping sound is that's echoing through the Philly region, don't worry -- it's just Jayson Werth repeatedly banging his head against a wall.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Vote Just to Vote!"

"I don't care who you vote for...just vote!"

"If you don't vote, you don't care for this country!"

"Failure to vote equals the end of democracy!"

"Those who don't vote obviously don't know or care about the ISSUES!"

These are just a few of the things I've heard over the past few days as the 2010 mid-term elections have drawn near. On websites. On blogs. On Facebook posts. On the way to work.

So, today...November 2nd...Election Day...guess who I voted for?

No one!

Do I think voting is useless or dumb? Do I hate America? Am I just lazy?

NO to all of the above.

I chose not to vote today because I do not care what any of the candidates stand for. I am not a Republican or Democrat. Therefore, I do not blindly support either party's candidates just to do so. Why should I throw my lot in with one of them just to be able to say "Yup, I voted"? What point does that prove?

A rarely-acknowledged fact is that the decision to NOT vote is just as much an American right as being able to vote. There have been countries in which not voting is a crime and that if you didn't show up to vote for that particular dictator, you could be executed. So in essence, I am exercising my American right and casting my vote by abstaining.

I think one of the biggest reasons people get fired up by hearing that people choose not to vote in a given election is that it sounds as if non-voters are simply being apathetic. And you know what? In those cases, I'm right there with the people who get fired up! Choosing to be apathetically ignorant about an election -- while I guess, still an American right -- is pretty foolish and counter-productive. This is not the place where I am coming from. While I have voted in several past elections and will certainly do so in future ones, I am making a conscious choice today to vote by not voting, based on the evidence available to all of us. In other words, I am saying that I care about the issues so much so that I don't believe my support for any of the candidates will, in my opinion, produce any significant change for the better.

If you're one of the people who believes that democracy ends with our failure to vote, my advice would be to lay off the conspiracy theory websites, have a beer, and go to sleep before you hurt yourself. If handfuls of Americans choose not to vote for thoughtful, intentional reasons, the fabric of our society will not disintegrate and the constitution will not go up in flames. Let me put it this way: if you're having a wedding and you invite 200 guests and only 130 show up, do you cancel your wedding and decide to never get married again, or do you have the wedding with the 130 guests?

So relax, America. Despite the fact that a lot of people didn't vote today, Starbucks will still be there tomorrow morning.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An Excellent Wife Who Can Find?

I am absolutely in love with my wife Tara. We've been married for more than four years and she still causes me to continuously fall for her.

How is this possible? Don't all good things come to an end, or so they say? Isn't Al Bundy the poster child for every man exiting bachelorhood? Isn't marriage equated to "biting the dust"? Doesn't tying the knot demand that all the fun you'd been having come to an abrupt and screeching halt? Isn't hardened resentment for each other supposed to cultivate and permeate deep into the fabric of your joyless coexistence? Aren't you expected to lose attraction to your spouse? And let's be honest here -- isn't physical intimacy supposed to pretty much end once you get married?

In our marriage -- and I wish it was so for every marriage -- the clear and thundering answer to all of those questions is NO!

The other day, I was reading chapter 31 in the book of Proverbs, and I came upon a passage that really struck me and reminded me of my wife and her character:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

As I read these words from the Lord, I was overcome by how blessed I am to be married to this woman. Tara has taught me, in many ways, how to love and serve others by being a faithful example herself. She has loved me at times when I was more or less unlovable. She has pointed me to the Lord's grace when I didn't always want to face myself in the mirror. She is patient with me when I am impatient. She has laughed with me, cried with me, had fun with me, and suffered with me.

This might sound strange but one area that has really grown us over the past four years was in learning how to fight. What? Isn't the goal to not fight with each other? Well, in some respects, yes. But we're imperfect people, living in a very imperfect world. The reality is that before death do you part, you will fight. A lot. Yup.

When we first got married, I was quite irritable and argumentative. Not sure why, but I think I always just felt a foolish sense of entitlement; something I still struggle with from time to time. At a time when some women would have just shut down or fought back angrily, she fought FOR me. Over time, we learned the best ways to communicate with each other, and when we fight nowadays, there is usually a certain level of respect in our tone, no matter how angry we are with each other.

My advice to all couples: learn to fight constructively with each other.
To those couples who claim they never fight: You better start soon or you're in for an unexpected nuclear explosion!

With the passing of each year, I cannot deny that I have continued to buck our society's trend and become even more attracted to my wife; an absolutely beautiful woman on the inside and out. A couple of years ago, I was walking down the street with a married male former coworker. As we were talking, he suggested we make a turn down a path that was in the direction opposite to where we were going. I asked why, but then noticed two women, wearing more skin than clothing, headed down that way. I looked back at my coworker, shook my head, and in an attempt to be equally serious and humorous, I pointed to my wedding ring and said "No thanks, I'm good." He responded, "How long have you been married?" I said, "Two years." His next words saddened, but did not surprise me: "Wait 'til you've been married for fifteen."

While it's true that I have not yet been married for fifteen years, I can honestly say that as time continues to progress, I am not headed down that unfortunate path that my former coworker and so many others choose to follow. I don't say that arrogantly, but cautiously and as a warning to other men that marriage takes work, but is unbelievably worth it.

"An excellent wife who can find?"

I found her. And I'm keeping her. And cherishing her. And only her. Until my breath gives out.

And I can say with all certainty that "many women have done excellently, but you (Tara) surpass them all."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Stretch Run

It's September. You know what that means.

It means the Phillies are gearing up for another run at the playoffs!

This is, without a doubt, the most exciting time of the baseball season. In 2007, the Phils won the NL East Division on the last day of the season, and gave this thirsty city a taste of playoff baseball for the first time in fourteen years. Since then, not even a World Championship, followed by a National League pennant have satisfied this fanbase's desire to continue baseball domination.

The first five months of the 2010 season have been quite unique to say the least. Injuries and inconsistencies have made this year's team one of the most up and down I've ever seen. Despite the turmoil, we currently sit three games out of first; a deficit we've easily overcome in Septembers past. I'm not gonna lie though; a big part of me is hugely annoyed at the fact that we have to play catch-up at a time when we should easily be five or more games ahead of the second place team. However, the thrill-seeker in me is really psyched to duke it out with the Atlanta Braves over this final month. I'm looking forward to all the late nights of stomach-turning scoreboard watching as we come down the homestretch of the 2010 baseball season. If we had to go one-on-one with any team in the final month, I'm glad it's the Braves; a team I despise with all my heart, but one I also respect as a worthy adversary. In the end, if the Phillies emerge as the NL East champions for a fourth consecutive year, I believe we will have earned it more this year than ever before.

Let the games begin!...or continue...or something like that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

600 Whatevers

A week ago, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hit the 600th home run of his major league career. As a baseball lifer, with more passion for the game than most people I know, this should have been absolutely thrilling to me; a stand-still moment in time. I should have counted myself extremely blessed to live in the era in which A-Rod plays; to be able to witness only the seventh player to hit at least 600 home runs in his career; to look forward to telling my kids and grandkids that I witnessed this man's whole career.

Well, sadly, I guess "specimen" is a more appropriate description for A-Rod than "man" since he admitted in 2009 to using steroids -- and who knows what other kinds of performance-enhancing drugs -- earlier in his career. What I feel, when I think about A-Rod, as well as all the other guys who have climbed up the career home run charts, due in large part to PEDs, is absolutely cheated!

When I was 15 years old, back when home runs actually meant something, Hall of Famer Eddie Murray became just the fifteenth player in MLB history to hit at least 500 career home runs. I recall the summer of '96, counting down with each home run, hoping against all odds that the aging Murray would have enough in him to reach the legendary milestone that season. And reach it, he did...just barely I might add. Murray went on to retire with a grand total of 504 home runs and was appropriately elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2003. I never knew I'd look back on his career fourteen years later with more admiration than most of the seemingly much more talented players who came after him; players whose gaudy career numbers made Murray seem like a cheap utility player. Before Murray hit his 500th, the last player to do so was Mike Schmidt...nine years before. After Murray's 500th, a huge assortment of science-projects began topping 500 home runs with regularity. As each new season began, the question centered on who was closing in on 500 that year.

Soon thereafter, hitting 500 home runs became rather mundane. The club grew from fifteen members to twenty-five in short order. Clearly 500 homers -- an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame in years past -- was no longer good enough on its own. The attention soon turned to the new milestone of 600. Surely, that club would remain exclusive to only the most worthy of bashers, right?

Six year's after Eddie Murray's 500th, Barry Bonds -- a walking chemistry lab -- hit his 600th home run, and a few years later, his 700th, en route to breaking -- or should I say vomiting on -- the most hallowed record in all of professional sports: Hank Aaron's career home run record. After that, Sammy Sosa -- a man who pretended to forget how to speak English in order to avoid steroid use admission in court -- topped 600. The home run -- a once-difficult and well-respected feat of strength -- had officially been turned into an utter joke. I later realized just how far the love of home run milestones had fallen in the eyes of the public when Gary Sheffield hit his 500th home run in 2009 and I didn't even know about it. Turns out, the news was nothing more than a small blurb on ESPN. There was no grand build up to the moment, and no raucous after-party. I guess it figures; Sheffield had, not surprisingly, been long since under the suspicion of PED use as well.

There have been a few notable exceptions to the general home run malaise that has resulted from juiced up players hitting baseballs as though the outfield walls were only 20 feet away. Jim Thome, Ken Griffey Jr., and Frank Thomas -- three men who have never been linked to PEDs in their respective careers -- have hit major home run milestones in recent years, but, while celebrated, have sadly had their moments somewhat subdued most likely due to the culture created by players who chose to perform as machines rather than men.

The recent inclusion of Alex Rodriguez into the 600 home run club has sparked the debate on whether or not he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the end of his career. Some have said 600 homers is still 600 homers and that A-Rod belongs in the Hall. Others have said he is an admitted steroid user and should never have a chance at induction, regardless of how many baseballs he launches into orbit. No doubt, this is a debate that will trudge on for at least the next decade, though conventional wisdom says that A-Rod will never be a Hall of Famer. However, when it comes to voting players into the Hall of Fame, I don't believe we can simply judge all players the same way simply by the era in which they played. Some sportswriters have argued their rationale for voting for some of today's behemoths by stating that, since we don't know exactly who took what banned substance, one must either vote for the best players from "the steroid era" whether or not we know they used, or not vote for any of them at all. Why should some guys get blacklisted for being superstars of that era, while others, who may be just as guilty but never suspected of it, get a free pass into baseball's most exclusive club? A well-established sportswriter *cough* Buster Olney *cough* stated this as his rationale for why he has already voted for Mark McGwire and why he will vote for A-Rod when the time comes.

I fundamentally could not disagree more with this line of thinking. First off, we know from their own mouths that both A-Rod and McGwire have used PEDs. Admission equals guilt. Therefore, in this case, Olney can throw out the we-don't-know-who-did-what argument. In my opinion, neither A-Rod or McGwire should ever receive a single Hall of Fame vote. Secondly, the last time I checked, we still live in an innocent-until-proven-guilty society (at least on paper anyway). If a player has enough circumstantial evidence against him that proves to the voter that the player did not play clean, the voter should not vote for him. If a player has never been linked to any evidence of PED use, then no matter how big and buff he is (ie, Jim Thome & Frank Thomas), you vote for him. Does this mean that some players with false suspicisions against them will be held out of the Hall and that some steroid users with squeaky clean reputations will sometimes make the Hall? Perhaps. But hey, this isn't a perfect system, and baseball is not a game of perfection anyway. We've gotta work with the system we have. Olney's all-or-nothing approach to Hall of Fame voting is ridiculous. You don't see the police arresting everyone in a city because a few people fit the description of a bank robber; nor do you see the cops refusing to make a single arrest in order to be fair and consistent due to the fact that some people break the law and others don't. Additionally, anyone who thinks "the steroid era" in baseball is now over due to random drug testing is severely kidding themselves. As some writers have said in the past, "the chemists will always be a step ahead of the testers."

Congratulations on your 600th home run, Alex Rodriguez! Due to your foolish, cheating actions, however, your reward will be eternity in baseball purgatory.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quirks: "Seafood Aversion"

This blog entry marks the third in a series called "Quirks." I've often thought about how I have some strange and unique personality traits that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide while growing up. Now that I'm older, I'm realizing my quirks are just part of what make me, me. And who knows?...maybe others can relate to some of these. So, rather than hiding my quirks, as I've done in the past, I figured I'd go the complete opposite route and just bring them to light.

Today's quirk: "Seafood Aversion"

Some may say that an aversion falls more appropriately under personal taste, rather than a quirk -- and that may be true -- but let me explain just how deep my aversion to seafood runs.

When I tell people that I don't eat seafood, I am almost always met with the typical response of, "Yeah, I'm not much for seafood either; just fish, clams, and oysters." I then usually choose to re-emphasize my previous statement: "I don't eat ANY seafood." Often times, this is met with a retort of "Right, I hear you. But you like crab and shrimp, I'm sure?"

At this point, my brow is furrowed. "What part of 'I don't eat ANY seafood' are you failing to comprehend?!"




"Now you're getting it!"

I'm not sure why, but most people just can't handle the fact that someone who does in fact eat meat, like myself, doesn't also eat any kind of seafood. I don't choose to not eat seafood for any religious or ethical reasons. I just don't freaking like it.

So how did this come about? Truthfully, I'm not really sure. The weird reality is that I've eaten most kinds of seafood before, so contrary to popular belief, I do have a clear understanding of what seafood tastes like. I used to love fish, especially tuna, and I've tried lobster, and various other kinds of seafood. My parents also tell me that when I was a baby, I stuffed my face with shrimp.

So why the sudden repulsion?

I think somewhere along the lines, the smell of seafood just started to gross me out, and the taste followed right along with that sentiment. To this day, I still remember the last tuna fish sandwich that I ever ate. I think I was around 8 or 9. I stopped eating my sandwich half way through, put it down on the plate, and never wanted another one. Ever.

And as for the argument that I've "mentally decided" I don't like seafood and therefore my body won't let me, this has also been proven false. On more than one occasion, I have unintentionally put shrimp or a piece of fish in my mouth, only to spit it out in disgust upon tasting it.

So how deep does my seafood aversion run today? Let's see.
  • Well for starters, if seafood happens to be put on my plate, I usually cannot eat whatever else is on the plate, as the smell is just too much for me.

  • If seafood gets put on my plate and happens to touch what I was planning to eat, then forget it. That's right out! (Side note: to avoid being extremely rude at a friend's house last year, I mentally psyched myself up enough to pick through rice that had shrimp in it -- I somehow got through it while chugging massive amounts of iced tea in the process).

  • If my wife eats any kind of seafood, I ask her -- before she comes near me -- to wash her hands and the outside of her mouth with soap, gargle with mouthwash, and brush her teeth.

  • To me, the scariest part of the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, was not the plane crash or the thought of being separated from loved ones, but being forced to eat practically nothing but fish and crab for four years.

So is this sounding a little more like a quirk now? I thought so. Overall, my seafood aversion hasn't posed too much of a life nuisance, as I simply just avoid eating it. And thankfully, I have company in this area, as my mother is exactly the same way. In fact, if she and I were ever stranded on a deserted island as the sole survivors of a plane crash, we'd have a tough time deciding who gets to eat Wilson.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Last weekend, I performed at a gig to help raise money for my wife and I to adopt a baby. One of the songs I did was an original that I wrote called "Disneyland." I received some positive feedback on it, so I thought I'd share the inspiration behind the song's development.

For some time, I've been growing increasingly more and more convicted about how we in the United States go to sleep and wake up everyday in "Disneyland." Our worst day is still better than that of 97% of the rest of the world. By and large, we are spoiled beyond belief and live for the next meal, next fix, next high. We claim to be super busy but refuse to acknowledge the needs of anyone else. While millions of kids starve to death every day, we flip out if a restaurant screws up a food order that will only serve to grow our increasingly expanding bellies. We'll spend recklessly on many frivilous things, but if asked to share our excess with the poor and needy, we cry poverty.

As Christians -- of whom I am one -- we've completely turned our backs on Jesus' call to love our neighbors, love and pray for our enemies, and help the poor. Catch slogans are our religion, consumerism is our god, and political victories that further alienate others are our end.

I could not be more guilty of these crimes if I tried.

© 2010 Alan Atchison

Woke up this morning and hit the snooze,
had my choice of fifteen pairs of shoes.
The coffee's hot and the house is warm,
and my brand new car drives like a charm.

Just another day, when everything goes my way.
This is just how I'd like to stay; in Disneyland.

The bills just keep on piling up,
in debt so bad I want to just give up.
The baby's crying and the wife's a nag,
and the dog just puked in my duffel bag.

Just another day, when nothing goes my way.
But thank God I work and live and play in Disneyland.

I go to church every single week,
but I don't care to turn the other cheek.
Looking out for number one, to be sure,
so why should I give a damn about the poor?

Just another day when black and white turns gray,
now please just get out of my way...
Just another day I look into the mirror and I pray,
to Jesus of the USA; my Disneyland.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mr. Perfect

I've been a rabid baseball fan since the age of 12. That's 17 years and counting, if you're keeping track at home. My love for the Philadelphia Phillies, in particular, has continued to grow with each passing year. I've watched thousands of games and probably been to over a hundred games live. I've seen just about all there is to see in this game -- but one thing has always eluded me; one thing that I had pretty much lost any real hope of witnessing in my lifetime due to its unbelievably extreme rarity. I am talking, of course, about the illustrious Perfect Game.

On Saturday, May 29th, I arrived home at a little after 8pm. All day long, wherever I went, the talk had been about that night's game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, featuring our hometown Flyers. And rightfully so of course. I really had no intention of actually watching the Phillies game that night, other than perhaps checking the score once or twice. I'm not a hockey fan, but as a Philadelphian, I was really more interested in the outcome of the Flyers game than in what I figured was a rather routine, unimportant May baseball game.

My initial intention was to just have the TV tuned into the Stanley Cup game so that I could just keep track of the game while I took care of some other things at home. At one point, I flipped to the Phillies game for what I thought would only be a moment. I was quite surprised to see that the game had only been going on for a little over an hour and was already in the 6th inning. But the score was only 1-0 in the Phillies' favor and our new ace Roy Halladay was on the mound, so it wasn't a total shock. As I watched Halladay retire a Florida Marlins batter, I was confused when I heard broadcasters Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler make a huge deal about Halladay throwing a breaking pitch on a 3 ball, 2 strike count. I thought to myself, "Yeah, so?" The next Marlins batter came up, who I learned was 0 for 2 on a strike out and a pop up in his previous at bats. Wheeler then said something to the effect of "That's how it's been all night: get up, sit down...get up, sit down." At that point, I knew something was up. I grabbed my wife's laptop and went straight to ESPN.com. There, staring at me, was the headline: "Halladay perfect through six innings."

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was officially sent to the back burner and all other tasks to be done at home were put on hold.

I anchored into the couch along with my wife Tara, who surprisingly, was pretty captivated by what was unfolding before us. With each passing inning, I grew more anxious, nauseous, and fidgety. I called a few of my friends in case they were tuned into the Stanley Cup and not aware of what was going on. My buddies scolded me for addressing the Perfect Game by name before it had come to fruition; a silly superstition of which I refuse to adhere. I figure, if history is happening before your eyes, embrace it, enjoy it and talk about it! Oh well...

As Halladay continued to retire Marlin after Marlin, I reminisced on the few no-hitters I've witnessed in the past and how exciting they were to watch live, even if they weren't done by the Phillies. But nothing...and I mean nothing, can compare to the drama, excitement, and unbelievable tension of watching a Perfect Game.

When the bottom of the 9th inning arrived, I could no longer sit on the couch. I jumped up, paced, and crouched down on the floor at rotating intervals. Tara was getting a kick out of it and compared my behavior to how I was acting moments before the Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

First batter, Mike Lamb......a deep fly to center field that Shane Victorino caught at the wall. My dinner almost made a second appearance.

Second batter, (former Phillie) Wes Helms, who has had a knack for beating up his old team over the past few years......called strike 3 at the knees! Possible loss of bladder control.

Third batter, Ronny Paulino.....two strikes...and then...THE pitch...

A ground ball to third base...

Scooped up by Juan Castro...

A spin and throw to first base...

Ball securely in first baseman Ryan Howard's glove....

Out number 3.....and officially, OUT NUMBER 27!!!

PERFECT GAME!!!!!!!!!!

I screamed and fell to my knees with my hands on my face, while Tara yelled "WOW!!!"

The entire team mobbed Roy Halladay, who broke a smile for the first time all night. I couldn't believe what I was watching: just the 20th Perfect Game in the long, glorious history of Major League Baseball!

I never thought I'd see this...ever.

To be able to say I witnessed a Perfect Game is amazing enough. To be able to say I saw a Perfect Game by my team is something I'll never forget.

And to think, this guy almost didn't become a Phillie. What an unbelievable addition to this team of champions!

Roy Halladay: Mr. Perfect

Monday, April 5, 2010

Counter-Protesting the Westboro Baptist Church at Temple University

Throughout the years, Saturday Night Live has done a hilarious job of satirizing politicians and major celebrities who get publicly upset or experience brief public mishaps. Usually the SNL sketch involves the character excessively flipping out at a press conference or in some other extremely over-the-top way in order to lampoon that celebrity's brief real-life situation.

And then there's Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, KS, who in many ways, resembles an out-of-control SNL character, but sadly, is as true to life as it gets. Phelps and his "church" base their sole platform on the hatred of homosexuals. Not the disagreement of the homosexual lifestyle, per se, but the absolute abhorrence of the individuals themselves, as well as anyone who doesn't share in their disdain; people they've lovingly termed "fag enablers." Members of the WBC spend their time traveling the country picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers and disrupting various events in order to inform the masses that "God hates fags," "God hates the U.S.," "Thank God for 9/11," and plenty of other messages that are designed to pretty much let you know that you suck and they don't. They also like to publically celebrate news reports of mass human casualties. Simply put, the WBC are to genuine Christianity what the New York Mets are to winning a World Series; they vehemently tell you they're legit, but everyone knows they're nothing but a sick illusion.

Several weeks ago, the WBC announced on their website that they were planning to come to Temple University's campus in "Philthydelphia" on April 1st at 6:45pm to protest Temple's theater productions of Rent and The Laramie Project. My wife Tara, who is the director of a campus ministry group on Temple's campus called Crosswalk, met with several student leaders in an effort to come up with an appropriate, peaceful, and Christ-like counter-response to the WBC's impending arrival. On the evening of April 1st, Tara and I, along with several Crosswalk students, stood on Temple's campus alongside more than a thousand people in order to protest the WBC's messages of hatred. And that we did.

Except that the WBC never showed up.

We arrived well before 6:45pm and waited until close to 8:00pm, at which time the police began taking down the barricades that were designated specifically for WBC members. As we waited, I had the opportunity to have some good interactions with other Temple students and community members. Most of the protest signs people had made were pretty creative and humorous. As expected, however, there were naturally a few idiots here and there whose signs were completely inappropriate or did nothing but promote more hostility. By and large though, these were the exceptions, not the norm. Overall, the mood of the crowd was pretty jovial, but after some significant time had passed, we all started getting a little impatient. At one point, as the tension in the air hung thick, the crowd would let out a collective excited yell as each car would slowly pass by, in hopes that our most welcome guests had arrived. I was a little worried that if the WBC did show up, they'd be unintentionally treated to a rock star welcome.

While in the end, the WBC didn't show up -- it was April Fool's Day after all -- I believe that the mere mention of their possible arrival has done and will continue to do a lot of good for the relationship between Christians and members of the LGBT community on Temple's campus; a relationship that Christians, by and large, have failed miserably at over the years.

For a video recap, click here. [Warning: mature content]

Pictures of the event:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

This morning, on my commute into work, I arrived at the EL (ie, SEPTA Market-Frankford Line) station at Girard as a train was pulling onto the tracks above me. Given SEPTA's incompetence in keeping a basic train schedule, I raced up the stairs just in time to watch the doors close in front of me by a nanosecond. So I did what any regular Philadelphian would do; I did one of those quick half-turn spinny things in disgust, while grumbling something to myself. In mid-spin, I heard "Hey man..." and saw that a guy had pulled the door open for me at the last aforementioned nanosecond. I hopped on the train and thanked the guy for doing that. He was probably about my age, with a blue hooded sweatshirt and a Domino's Pizza hat, and was holding a cup of coffee. He gave me a friendly nod in response.

Before another second had passed, I heard "Come here!" and turned to see a police officer taking the guy who'd just held the door for me off the train. Caught in a mental rock in a hard place, I too jumped off the train just before the doors closed for good. The cop began chewing him out. The guy in the Domino's hat calmly responded, "The man needed to get on the train." I interrupted and said "Hey, I wasn't trying to start any trouble." The cop looked at me and said "Why'd you get off? You could have kept going." I replied that I couldn't just take off while another person was getting in trouble for doing something nice for me. The cop looked at the Domino's hat guy once more and said "Don't do that!" As the cop was walking away, my new commuter friend called out to him, "I hope someone holds an elevator for you sometime." He said it in a very gentle, friendly voice, though I'm sure the sarcasm was not lost on the parting officer as he retreated back into his little office in hopes of finding more pointless activities with which to spend his time.

I shook the man's hand and thanked him again for trying to help me out. Within a minute, another train showed up; by far, a new SEPTA record! We got on the train together -- I made sure he got on first -- and told him to have a great day. I started to think about where he was headed. Perhaps he was just going to work. Perhaps he was on his way to court. Maybe he was going to visit his kid. Whatever the situation was, in a town with a very me-first mentality, he conducted himself in a very selfless manner. I thought about something my friend Joe once said to me: if everyone kept an eye on the needs of others instead of themselves, no one would be lacking. A few stops later, the guy turned to me, smiled, and jokingly said "Later man...don't interfere with commerce!" as he exited the train.

I never thought that missing a morning train would somehow become an insightful occurrence, but if I may be metaphorical for a moment, the world would be a much better place if more people would be willing to "pry open doors" for others, even if it costs them a few extra seconds of their precious time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quirks: "Lepidopterophobia"

This blog entry marks the second in a new series called "Quirks." I've often thought about how I have some strange and unique personality traits that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide while growing up. Now that I'm older, I'm realizing my quirks are just part of what make me, me. And who knows?...maybe others can relate to some of these. So, rather than hiding my quirks, as I've done in the past, I figured I'd go the complete opposite route and just bring them to light.

Today's quirk: "Lepidopterophobia"

Ok, where do I begin with this one? Lepidopterophobia is a fear, disgust, and/or general dislike of butterflies and moths. The Latin word "Lepidoptera" literally means "scaly wing" and the species is comprised of various forms of large-winged insects. Lepidopterophobics, like me, are very uneasy around the presence and/or pictures of butterflies. For the most part, people develop phobias because of one or more previous experiences, so let's try to break down my situation a little bit.

I have disliked and been utterly grossed out by butterflies for most of my life. Let me be clear however: I have no fear of being hurt by them. I have never been attacked by them (I mean, what exactly does an attacking butterfly look like anyway?), nor have I had any kind of horrifying experiences associated with them (ie, watching someone get killed as a butterfly simultaneously flutters by). I can really only trace my negative butterfly experiences back to two separate events from my childhood; both of which seemed very normal and innocent at the time.

At the age of five, my kindergarten class was doing a butterfly project; one that most kindergarten classes probably do at some point. We had a big caterpiller in a tank full of sticks and leaves (as the late Mitch Hedberg would say, "to recreate what he's used to"). At the time, I felt that this caterpiller was pretty freaking ugly and I was quite happy when it finally disappeared into its chrysalis. I'm not sure how much time passed by -- to a five year old, a matter of weeks is an eternity -- as I waited and waited for the culmination of this promised butterfly to emerge from its pupal stage. I have to admit now, I was skeptical at the time that this little science project would actually come to fruition.

Finally the day arrived. I was across the room when I heard my classmates yelling excitedly around the tank. I looked over just in time to see this new winged creature emerge and flutter up to the top of the tank where it hung, suspended upside down. I remember thinking that if they opened the lid, that thing was going to get out and somehow the thought of that disturbed me.

At recess time, we all came outside to watch the great butterfly release. My teacher brought the butterfly outside in a tupperware food container, which for whatever reason, I found severely off-putting. When she opened the container, I had hoped to see it take off to the skies and out of sight, much like a bird, but it fluttered around unpredictably, which really freaked me out. Finally, it headed straight for the front door of the school. Maybe we had somehow domesticated the dumb bug. It came to a rest on the small set of steps that we had to climb to get back into the building, and well, it just planted itself there and wouldn't move. I kept looking at it, hoping it would just take off, but it laid there motionless. All throughout recess I was uneasy. I kept looking back at the steps and dreaded the call from my teacher that recess was over, for fear of having to step over the newly freed insect, lest it fly up at me in mid stride. Finally, right before we were summoned back inside, the butterfly took off. I recall feeling much relief after returning inside, yet somehow that previous feeling of uneasiness stuck with me.

Several months later, I was playing in my back yard, digging and doing whatever little boys do. I was grabbing sticks, rocks, and leaves when I came across a giant leaf in the middle of the yard that I thought would be perfect for whatever it was that I was building. As I came within an inch of picking up this giant leaf, I suddenly realized that it was not a leaf at all, but a gigantic dead butterfly. I jerked back in disgust and called out to my Dad, who came outside and exclaimed how beautiful it was. I did not share in his sentiment. He then moved it to the side of our back yard, where I slowly -- and somewhat morbidly -- watched it decompose day after day until it was simply no more. And at that point, my intense aversion to all things butterfly-related had officially set in.

Over the next few years, I came to a conscious realization that I really didn't like butterflies. Being in very close proximity to butterflies would -- and still does -- cause me to sweat, experience chills, and exhibit various other panic attack symptoms. So while I generally tried to avoid them, I would occasionally do the opposite and try to find ways to come face to face with my phobia for no particular reason. On various occasions, I would trap butterflies in nets and seal them off so that I could look at them up close and not have to worry about them touching me. One time I trapped a big monarch butterfly in a net, sealed it off, brought it into the house, looked at it for a while, and then forgot about it. My Mom found it dead in the net a couple days later and forbid me from doing that again. Another time, for a sixth grade art project, we were creating fake stained glass windows made from aluminum foil and colored plastic sheets. I did mine of two giant butterflies perched on a stick. When I was done, I got a lot of compliments on it, but I could barely look at it without feeling chills up my spine. Still at other times, I would collect small caterpillars -- for some reason, I didn't have any aversion to picking them up -- and put them in a plastic container to recreate the kindergarten butterfly project that had turned me off to those things in the first place. When the caterpillars would inevitably transform, I would get severely grossed out and pretty much toss the whole container outside. I did this a few times until I finally came to the realization that I was just being a glutton for torture.

As I reached my high school and college years, I realized that my phobia wasn't going away, so I just tried to ignore it. This worked out fine for the most part, but when you're outside with your friends and a butterfly grazes by your head and you involuntarily hit the deck as though it was a bullet, people have a tendency to notice. I would usually try to play it off as though I didn't realize it was just a butterfly, but that defense only worked the first time. So yeah, I got teased for it, which is always a great feeling during your most hormonally emo years.

I started dating my eventual wife Tara in the summer of 2004. One day, as we were taking a walk through a really nice public garden and trying to get to know each other better, I decided to let her in on my little phobia. As I recall, the sentence went something like this: "Tara, now that we're together, I figured I should tell you, I have this weird, irrational phobia of...." at that moment, I kid you not, a giant swallowtail butterfly made a b-line for my head. I swatted and flailed and when it didn't fly away, I bolted in the opposite direction. I ran about fifty feet and realized that it was still right behind me. So I cut and turned and bolted in the opposite direction, only to look back in horror and see it right behind me again. It's like the thing was attached to me by some invisible string. Three times I sprinted back and forth until, in exhaustion, I screamed "Why are you chasing me?!?!" At that point, it fluttered off and I looked at Tara, who was literally in stitches laughing on the ground. After a few minutes of catching my breath, I finished my sentence and let her know I have an irrational phobia of butterflies. The news was, of course, a complete surprise to her.

Well, why am I now able to come forward publically about this? How am I able to be vulnerable about this rather embarassing quirk of mine? It's quite simple really. I've come to understand that just about everyone has really weird quirks and insecurities that they're in fear of having discovered, and that some of these quirks are just as silly or even sillier than my Lepidopterophobia. And that if we're actually willing to talk about them, there's a lot of freedom in being willing to laugh at yourself a little bit and potentially even discover others who share in the same phobia. Believe it or not, while I've never met another person with a butterfly phobia, there is a website called I Hate Butterflies dedicated to individuals like me who share in the collective disgust toward all forms of Lepidopterans. Some individuals have shared on the website that they've reached the point where they can't even go outside for fear of seeing or encountering a butterfly. While I have personally never had any issues in simply going outside, I can certainly sympathize with what these individuals are feeling. The moral of the story when it comes to your own quirks: lighten up!

I still find it kind of odd that I kill centipedes and spiders in my home on a regular basis and don't really think much of it, but if a moth or butterfly of any kind gets in the house, it's my wife's duty. Overall, this phobia has little to no impact on my day to day life, so no one really has a clue unless I tell them. But if you invite me to join you at one of those hideous Butterfly Pavilions, I will most likely have a previous commitment that day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The End of the World As We Know It?

Yesterday, as most of the U.S. not living under a rock is probably aware, the House passed a major health care bill that will provide health insurance to about 95 percent of the country. For the first time in American history, we -- the wealthiest country in the world -- are pretty close to joining the rest of the world in providing universal health care to all of our legal citizens.

My immediate gut reaction?...It's about freaking time!!!

I must say, when I first heard about the passage of this bill, I actually felt impressed by a President of the United States for the first time in my nearly 30 years of life. Candidates eloquently talk an excellent game -- well at least most of them talk eloquently -- but if elected, they either deviate away from their campaign platform or ignore it altogether. So, while this new bill is barely in its infancy, I can honestly say, well done President Obama!

Of course, this landmark bill is not without its many detractors. Hey, it wouldn't be politics if Republicans and Democrats didn't hate everything the other side did. And no, I don't claim to know all the in's and out's of this new bill, so I'm sure there are some valid points against it. But what I'm hearing about most in opposition is a rise in taxes, higher costs for those who already have insurance, and more and more money-related hoopla.

While no one wants to spend more money, it seems to me like a small price to pay overall to ensure that the majority of this country's citizens get the coverage they so desparately need.

News flash: no matter what happens with taxes or premiums or whatever, nothing will change for those currently freaking out. People are still going to go see Avatar five times at $15 a ticket (because of course, you'd be dumb not to pay the extra $5 for the 3D experience); they are still going to buy their fancy cars and state-of-the-art electronic gadgets; they are still going to deck up their homes; they are still going to try to hoard every last penny they can; and most of all, they are still going to bitch incessantly about how little they have. In some way, shape, or form, I am certainly guilty of all these things. However, I am much less concerned about the cozy comfort of these people (myself included) than I am about the people I see hobbling around my surrounding neighborhood on one good leg because the other leg healed incorrectly after an injury that they couldn't afford to have treated; people whose teeth are falling out because they aren't able to simply get them cleaned; people who are dying from very treatable medical conditions because they have no insurance and cannot pay out of pocket for medication.

And some of us are complaining about having to fork over a few extra bucks? How the hell dare we?!

So is this the end of the world as we know it? It very well could be, but I can guarantee that it would have nothing to do with the passage of this new health care bill.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

WARNING: Eyeballs and Metal Objects Do Not Go Together

I've been told I have an eye for detail. Well, recently I took that to a whole new level.

This past Friday, I was walking down 36th Street toward my office building. It was some time in the afternoon, and I had just picked up lunch -- Taco Bell in fact -- and, to be quite honest, was pretty excited about the prospect of consuming it upon my return to work. A couple blocks away from my office, I felt something in my left eye. I blinked a few times to try to get it out. That didn't work, so I lightly tugged at my eyelashes, hoping to force out whatever was intruding. That didn't work either, but the pain wasn't that bad...more of a nuisance really. I went into my office and flushed my eye with warm water. Didn't go away. I flushed it again, same result. Oh well, I figured it would just clear up soon enough. Taco Bell time!!

By the time I'd finished lunch, my eye was in a miserable amount of pain and discomfort. I asked around my office to see if anyone had any eye drops, but the only thing available was contact lense solution. Good enough I guess. The moment liquid touched membrane however, I felt as though someone had jabbed a pin into my eye! Needless to say, the last couple of hours at work were pretty unbearable, as 99 percent of my job is done in front of a computer screen.

On the way home from work, my eye was so sensitive that I could barely keep it open. Any wind or light would instantly make it tear up. I couldn't read on the subway ride home either and could only stand with my eyes closed, trying not to look as though I was crying. Falling asleep that night took forever due to the stabbing pain I felt every time I closed my eyes. Finally, I fell asleep from exhaustion, only to wake up in the early morning with the same stabbing pain. As Saturday turned into Sunday, the pain lessened, and I had hoped that one more day would produce a full recovery. On Monday morning, I woke up and felt no pain. I blinked several times and announced to my wife Tara that I was healed. As I made my way over to the closet, the pain suddenly came shooting back into my eye. I briefly looked around my bedroom for miniature snipers, and finding none, I called the eye doctor.

I was a little on edge as to why my eye wasn't healing after three days, so Tara graciously agreed to come with me to the eye doctor. When I got there, I told the doctor that I was pretty sure I'd gotten out whatever was in there after numerous amounts of warm water flushing and eye drops over the weekend. Surely, I thought -- as did the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- "tis but a scratch!" The doctor put my head in front of this big weird eye-viewing gadget, took one look at my eye and said, "Oh yeah, there's something in there...looks like a metallic object of some kind, and it's starting to rust."

Now, I appreciate and respect the work that doctors do, and yes, I came to this person so that I could find out why my eye was in such pain, but allow me a moment of some friggin' honesty here! If I was able to pick the doctor's precise reaction upon first glancing into my eye, those exact words would most likely be at or near the very bottom of the list. In fact, I don't think they'd make the list. They would be banned from any possibility of making the list!!

Naturally, I followed up this most intriguing declaration by asking how this foreign object was to be removed from its happy little nesting place. "We just take it out." came the easy-as-pie reply. Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but I have learned that one doesn't just take things out of the eye as one might, for example, take something out of one's hair or perhaps out of the fridge. I asked, hoping against hope, if this removal procedure was to be accomplished through the aid of some sort of powerful eye drops. The reply rang hollow in my ears: "No, we have to go in and scrape it out."

I looked over at my wife and thanked her for being there. Yes boys, this is yet another classic example of why women are the tougher gender.

Three minutes later, the moment of truth arrived. The doctor numbed my eye, darkened the room, had me rest my chin and forehead on the aforementioned eye-viewing device, and went in with her little spear. Heart pounding through my chest. Breath coming in short little gasps. Why did I have to get Taco Bell that previous Friday?!

But you know what? I didn't feel a thing. And thankfully, due to the bright light shining directly into my left eye, I really didn't see a thing either. All I could do was stare at a specific point on the wall with my right eye until the doctor was done about a minute later. But what a long minute it was! I was then given antibiotic eye drops, told to go home and rest, and to come back the next morning to be evaluated.

When I went back in on Tuesday morning, my eye felt a heck of a lot better and I was ready for a quick check-in-check-out procedure.

If only life were that easy.

The doctor told me that a small "rust ring" had come to the surface of my eye -- something she had anticipated -- and said that she wanted to just go ahead and remove it. Lovely! Well, thankfully round two of eye vs. medical spear went just as smoothly as round one the previous day. Sitting in front of a computer for the rest of the day at work was a bit of a drag and caused my eye to feel a bit tense, but after going home and resting my eyes, I felt a lot better.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up with my eye feeling 100 percent better. I went in for my follow-up-to-the-follow-up appointment and was given a clean bill of health. I was told there was a tiny trace fragment left, but that it wouldn't cause any problems. Plus, people live with bullets and all sorts of fragments in their bodies, so why not a little rusty metal in the eye? Should be something fun to tell the grandkids.

I hope we've all learned the moral of this story: don't walk an extra two blocks to Taco Bell when there's a perfectly good food truck in front of your office!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quirks: "White Coat Syndrome"

This blog entry marks the first in a new series called "Quirks." I've often thought about how I have some strange and unique personality traits that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide while growing up. Now that I'm older, I'm realizing my quirks are just part of what make me, me. And who knows?...maybe others can relate to some of these. So, rather than hiding my quirks, as I've done in the past, I figured I'd go the complete opposite route and just bring them to light.

Today's quirk: "White Coat Syndrome"

White Coat Syndrome (WCS) is an unofficial technical term (if that makes sense), in which a person's physical characteristics are affected by his or her mind when in the presence of another human being. WCS is most commonly attributed to a person's rise in blood pressure when a doctor is around, hence the white coat reference.

A few years ago, my extended family was visiting for a summer barbeque. I was in the yard playing baseball for a couple of hours with my cousins. When we finally finished, I went inside, sweaty and out of breath, to find my grandmother taking her blood pressure and doing whatever other regimented health tests grandmothers do. After I asked her what she was specifically doing, she asked me if I wanted to take my blood pressure. Not one to have ever had any sort of chronic health issues, I happily said yes.

A normal blood pressure is 120/80. In all my years of going to the doctor and having my blood pressure taken, I'd never been told it was abnormal in any way. On this particular day, I put on my grandmother's BP monitor and felt it squeeze tightly around my arm. When it finally released, the numbers staring back at me said something around 160/97. Now keep in mind, I had JUST come back in from heavy athletic activity and was still out of breath. My grandmother repeated the numbers within earshot of my mother. Big mistake.

My mom freaked. If you know her, this is not surprising. She begged me to take it again. At that point, I began trying to get my breath under control and concentrate hard on getting the numbers down. As you can imagine, this had the exact opposite effect. The numbers came up high again. They had me rest for several minutes and take it again, but the whole time I was playing this mental game with myself to calm down, which just psyched me up even more. Ten minutes later, I took it again with the same result, and not surprisingly, my family began discussing how I was apparently suffering from hypertension at the age of 27. At this point, I was pretty fired up because I knew something wasn't accurate. It's kind of hard to keep the numbers down when several members of your family are starting at you with terrified looks on their faces.

About a month went by and I went to the dentist. At my dentist's office, they take your blood pressure before they clean your teeth. Yeah, I don't know why either. When I sat in the chair and suddenly remembered they were about to check my BP, my stomach tightened and my heart started thumping through my chest. Oh no, not again! It came up 155/97. My dentist raised an eyebrow and said "That's much higher than it was just a few months ago!" Yeah, no kidding! (At my previous appointment, my BP read 117/60 and I was told that if it was any lower, I'd be asleep!) She took it again and it came up the same. Her response was to eat more fruits and veggies. Thanks for the tip, doc!

At this point, I was starting to get seriously worried about my health. Hypertension is, after all, a silent killer. I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician so that I could get to the bottom of this. When my BP came up high again, I let loose my frustration to my doctor. I asked him how this could have happened so suddenly when I have had a perfect track record in this area. He asked me a bunch of questions regarding my lifestyle; I told him I didn't smoke, didn't do drugs, didn't drink soda, consumed very little alcohol, and that I was even exercising regularly. He looked at my records, agreed that my BP had always been low, and callously said "Yeah, I don't know. Maybe we could put you on medication." Well isn't that just the answer for everything? I told him about the situation with my family at the summer barbeque and how since then, I'd get butterflies in my stomach and an elevated heart beat whenever having my BP taken in front of anyone. I asked him if my state of mind can distort my true blood pressure and his response was a flat "yes." Isn't it nice when you're forced to diagnose yourself to your doctor?

A few days later, I went out and bought my own blood pressure monitor. I went home and took it by myself, and what do you know?....it was totally normal! I took it again, and normal again it was! Could there be something to this? Several months later, I had to take a routine physical as part of the process of adopting a baby. I took my BP the night before my physical -- 110/74 (totally normal) and brought my monitor to the doctor's office with me the next day. When it came up at 155/110, or something astronomical like that, in front of the doctor, I showed her the numbers from the night before. She said "Looks like you've got White Coat Syndrome" and assured me that I was healthy and that this situation was more common in patients than I probably realized. I said "Well, at least there's a name to go with it." I used my own monitor in front of the doctor and it came up high again, so at least I knew my monitor wasn't giving me false readings at home.

I left the doctor's office, went outside, sat on a bench by myself and took my BP once more. The numbers were below normal -- exactly where I thought they would be. The mind is a powerful thing and I'm learning that "mind over matter" is more than just a saying.

Hopefully one day this too shall pass. Until then, I nominate myself for president of the National WCS Organization. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Letter From Satan to Pat Robertson

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher.

The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamor, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake.

Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad.

Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.


Disclaimer: I am not the original author of this piece and do not, in any way, take credit for writing it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fishtown Fireworks!

Yesterday evening, I was working on something in my home office/man room when I was caught off guard by this weird noise. It sounded kind of like static...or the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor...or an abnormally loud gust of wind. I momentarily wrote it off. But it persisted and I started to grow curious. Then my dog started growling, so I figured I should check it out. I was about to call my next door neighbor to see if the sound was coming from his place, when I started hearing popping noises. As I looked down the hallway towards my bedroom, I saw flashes of light outside my window.

My stomach tightened.

A power line on fire?

No, that wasn't it (though a couple years ago on my block, I did see a power line burst into flames after an errant football throw).

From my bedroom window, I looked up and saw fireworks. Not some lame little firecracker stunt set off by a couple of kids. These were freaking good! Like the kind you see when you actually GO somewhere to see fireworks. And best part of all, I simply had to look out my bedroom window. It was as if they'd set the show up for me.

My dog was flipping out at this point, but I just stood there and enjoyed the show for the next three minutes or so until the fireworks stopped and the sound of police sirens filled the air. What a buzzkill!

What month is it again?

In the midst of the hoopla, my friend Bethany, who lives on my block, called me and said "Are you seeing this?!" I said "Yeah, I have the best view!" We tried to estimate where the fireworks were coming from. Our best guess was that they were coming from at least two blocks away. Bethany later told me that she "investibiked" to the source by following the plume of smoke and found out that they were being shot off from a local brewery, which shall remain nameless.

I wondered if this little show was going to make the news the next day. You see, in Fishtown, which is technically Kensington, the media references the neighborhood name based on the nature of the story. If it's a positive story, it's Fishtown. If it's negative, it's Kensington.

I can just see the headlines now:

"Kensington Ruffians Set Off Beautiful Fireworks Display in Fishtown"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Taste of India for Tara

Today was a very bittersweet day for me. This morning, I saw my wife Tara off to India, where she will spend the next two weeks serving with a team of people from New Life Church in Glenside, PA. The team, incidentally led by my father, will be serving in a number of capacities at Emmanuel Hospital Association in Robertsganj, helping to equip 300 school teachers in Kachhwa, and teaching lessons to some young local villagers.

First, as to the obvious question I've been repeatedly asked: Why didn't I go? Well, the timing just didn't work out. It was too hard to get away from my job at this time of the year. Simple as that. I visited India in 2005 and I'm looking forward to going back again at some point.

Some time ago, my Dad had asked Tara and I if we were interested in joining the 2010 India team. I knew pretty quickly I wouldn't be able to go. Tara was on the fence. Long story short, there were a number of situations and answers to prayer that made it pretty clear to her that she should go. Over the past month, she's loaded up on her vaccines and taken part in a lot of strategizing with the India team. Throw in the fact that she's trying to prepare for Crosswalk's spring semester at Temple U and that we're in the middle of plans to adopt a baby and it's been a really hectic time for my amazing wife. But the reality is that Tara had been dying to see India -- especially since she married into an Indian family -- and knew that once a baby came into the picture, getting a glimpse of my mother's home country would have to wait for a long time. So pretty soon, the decision became a no-brainer.

I'm excited and encouraged about the work that Tara will be doing for the next two weeks. In the midst of all the grunt work, she will also get to see the Taj Mahal, some local temples, and various other sites. It should be an amazing experience for her and despite the fact that I'm missing her like crazy already, I am beyond excited for what she's going to encounter and learn. You don't spend a few weeks in India and come home unchanged.

The hardest part for me now is just trying to feed myself properly so that everything I eat is not nuked or from a drive-thru window. I know that sounds really lame, but Tara and I established an agreement early on in our marriage: she cooks, I do all the dishes. It's a good system, hasn't failed us yet! Ok, well I guess it failed us this time. Thankfully, some of my neighbors are having me over a few times while Tara's gone. And my friend Daniel, who's moving from central PA to the Philly area, is staying with me until Tara gets back, so we'll be sure to get the bachelor pad thing going.

If you're the praying type, Tara and the rest of the India team could sure use it as they begin this trip. And if you're the cooking type, feel free to drop by...