The funny thing about religion…


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Yep…..I’m gonna go there.

It is often said that you should leave religion and politics out of general conversation and stick to safe topics like the weather and stuff like that.  Why is that?  Because people have different systems of views and beliefs?  Because we are afraid of offending someone?  Because it causes tension between people?  Who knows?  I personally enjoy talking about my faith and like to have conversations with anyone who is curious about it.  I love to hear what others have heard about my faith, and it gives me a perfect opportunity to set the record straight in a manner of speaking.

So lets start things off.  I’m a Roman Catholic.  I am a Cradle Catholic, meaning I have been a part of the faith since my infancy.  I went to a Catholic School from Kindergarten through 8th grade.  We had religious education every day for all those years, where we learned not only about our religion, but about other religions as well.  The thought behind this was that if we knew about what others believed, we could understand them better.  The first public school I attended was freshman year of high school.  I didn’t really know anyone who wasn’t Catholic at the time.  Religion wasn’t really discussed in the school and it really was a non-issue at the time.  We were all too preoccupied with the typical teenager lifestyle.  What were we doing Friday night, how do you think the football team is going to do this week, did you hear what Susie said to Brad after 5th period?  Stuff like that.  It wasn’t long after starting high school that I became involved in my Church’s youth group.  I hadn’t gone to the Catholic high school in the area by choice like the majority of my elementary school counterparts, but that’s another story for another day.  Ironically, all the kids that were participating in the youth group, at the same parish that  I attended grade school at, were mainly from my high school.  I quickly became friends with those there, and we saw each other at school and formed our own group, many of whom I am still in contact with to this day.  High school came and went as it always does.  I continued to attend weekly Mass with my family and there was never any major upsets or hullubaloo made about our beliefs.

Enter college.

There’s that old saying, “There’s a time and a place for everything in life.  And that place is called college.”

It all started in the fall of 2002.  After getting settled into my dorm room, meeting my roommate, and all sorts of new people from all walks of life, it was all quite overwhelming.  I spent hours meandering the campus just trying to figure out where everything was.  The involvement fair was the first week of school when all the clubs on campus came out and had a booth to try and attempt to garner new members.  As a doe-eyed 19 year old, I really didn’t know what to make of all of it.  I took a few brochures and went back to my dorm room.  The weeks went by and we all settled into a routine getting a handle on the college life.  In getting to know my new friends, the topic of religion came up.  When the conversation had turned my direction, and they found out that I was Catholic, they all became very interested in me.  (Red Flag #1.)

They invited me to attend their next Bible Study group later on that week.  “Oh! And make sure to bring your Bible!  You…..did bring a Bible to school with you, right?”  (Red Flag #2.)  When the day arrived, I showed up, Bible in tow and took an empty seat in the circle.  I was welcomed as a new member of the group and everyone made their introductions.  After the formalities had concluded the leader (also the person who invited me) asked everyone to turn to the particular verse that we were to discuss that evening.  After a few moments, I was called on….

“Would you please read the passage?”


I obliged and read a reading from Mark’s Gospel.  Once finished, I closed my Bible and sat it in my lap looking around the circle.  Everyone around me had looks of confusion, condescension, and disgust in my direction.  The group leader then spoke.

“Hmmmm….that’s not what mine says.  Does anyone else’s say that?”  The circle responded with a silent headshake.  (Red Flag #3.)

She then called on another member of the group to read the same passage.  Turning to me she said,

“Does everyone else’s say that?  Oh ok good.  (Turning back to me) I think your Bible is wrong.”

“How can it be wrong?”  I said.  “It’s the same passage, just a different translation.  The overall message is the same, it just has the wording changed around a little bit.”

“Is that a Catholic Bible?”

“Well….I suppose.  It was given to me when I was in school.  It’s the New American Translation”

“Oh…..oh my.  That’s not the translation that we use.  We use the King James Version here.  Your Bible is wrong.  You are wrong.  I’m afraid you’re going to hell.”

“Wait….what?  You can’t be serious.”

It was around this point in the evening that I discovered I had been set up.  I never figured out what the overall mission of that night was; whether to rain hellfire and brimstone upon me, convert me, or just be their general punching bag.  Regardless, after several more back and forth exchanges I had had about all I could stomach.  I left the room in a huff.  The next day, I could see that group that I had, for a brief time called my friends, pointing and leering at me with judgmental eyes from across the dining hall.  I chose to ignore them.  They never spoke to me again.

Over the next several months, I came to the realization that there were a lot of people in the world who hated Catholics.  I had no idea!  What was wrong with being Catholic?  Was I really going to hell?  Was my faith the wrong one?  I didn’t understand.  Different preachers would make appearances on the campus with gigantic billboard-like signs being carried by a parishioner listing all the categories of humans doomed to eternal damnation while the preacher screamed into a microphone at students as they walked by.  The signs usually consisted of the usual chastised groups.  Jews, Muslims, Satan worshippers, gays, lesbians, heavy metal music fans, gamblers, sex addicts, etc.  On every one of these signs also listed Catholics.  So one day, I decided to ask one of these church groups what was wrong with being Catholic.

“A Catholic eh?  Well let me tell you what your problem is.  You worship Mary!  You worship Saints!  You let a guy halfway across the world wearing a goofy hat and pajamas tell you what to do!”

I started to tell him that none of those were true (well except for the goofy hat/pajama wearing dude halfway across the world thing), but I was quickly cut off with further insults to my moral character followed by the preacher beginning to speak in tongues.  I quickly departed feeling shaken.  I didn’t understand.  This is why so many people have a problem with Catholics?  Hatred fueled misnomers?  Where do people get these ideas?  I found out many years later that some churches teach this to their parishioners.

“Well, I know that’s true about Catholics because that’s what my pastor told me, and he went to Seminary!”

“Was is a Catholic Seminary?”  I asked.


“Ok, then how do you know for a fact that’s what Catholics believe when you were taught this by a non-Catholic, yet you have a Catholic standing in front of you telling you what the facts are.”

No response…

Now I’m not going to sit here and say that one faith is better than the other, because I don’t think that’s right. Nor do I know that the Church is without fault/controversy etc. But I am a firm believer in that it doesn’t matter what your faith is, just that you HAVE faith. The ways in which you celebrate and practice it are in inconsequential. No one faith is better than another. Don’t judge someone by their religion. It just spreads hatred. Some of the nicest people I have met have been Muslim or Jewish.

Remember, we are all called to love.

Happy Easter


Thoughts and Prayers


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I have been noticing a trend lately in our society.  With the advent of social media, there has been a paradigm shift in the way we interact with each other.  What was originally designed to bring us closer together, has in a sense separated us more than we ever have been in modern times.  This separation has spread well beyond our interactions, but into our views, and our tolerance of differing opinions.

Take your pick of the topic.  Gun control, LGBT rights, politics, welfare, spanking children, Black Lives Matter, #metoo, etc, etc…..  I could go on and on.  My newsfeed seems to be consumed with one person posting their views on a subject, followed by a series of literal arguments between “friends” about how the other person is flat wrong and thus commences the trading of insults.  What ever happened to debating?  What ever happened to respecting others for having a difference in opinion?  Why has this country become so polarized?

Along with this social epidemic, our ability to display empathy has also gone out the window.  With the incessant arguing that accompanies every post regarding whatever happens to be in the news these days, some people actually still use social media to tell people about what’s going on in their lives.  The good, and the bad.  We’ve all seen the posts where someone has informed their friends of a trial or tribulation that they are facing at that time, and the forthcoming comment thread is full of people sending their “thoughts and prayers”.  Now, I am not discounting the power of prayer.  I myself stop and express myself through prayer for my friend in need.  But it seems that after seeing “thoughts and prayers” over and over again in the news feed that it takes away the sincerity of it all.  How easy is it for us to glance over our friend’s misfortune, make a comment and then continue on scrolling.  How easy is it for us to judge?  What happens when we as a society take it a step further?

Recently I encountered just that on Facebook.  A high school friend was expressing her frustration of the current political climate and healthcare as it related to her difficulty in obtaining social security disability insurance for a recent debilitating condition that has left her unable to continue to work.  Among the “thoughts and prayers”, someone began to chime in essentially telling her that she needed to pick herself up by her bootstraps and that the only people who get on disability are those who are too lazy to work, and just want to take advantage of the system.  This individual then told her to keep at it and she will find a way around it.  This, as you could guess sparked quite the argument between this person and really, everyone else, myself included.  It was this person’s mindset that there was always a way to adapt, improvise, and overcome what life threw at you and that there was no such thing as a handout, and those who have to depend on others are in that situation simply due to their failure to plan for all contingencies.  When others presented him with scenarios that one couldn’t possibly account for, he simply redirected, dodged, and avoided answering the questions showing his complete inability to show empathy for anyone else.  So myself being the smartass that I am decided to see how far I could take it to a point where he would have to show some kind of decency to his fellow human beings.  I didn’t find that point.

“Ok, so let’s say you have planned for all these contingencies, and you have thought everything out.  Then tomorrow, you suffer a massive stroke.  You are paralyzed on one side, you have lost the inability to speak, and you no longer have control over your bowels.  Your wife has to continue working because you are no longer able to.  The nest egg you put back for savings is gone because of having to pay off your medical bills.  What do you do?”

“That’s what I have long term disability insurance for.”

“Ok, great.  So let’s say that after your physical therapy, you are somewhat able to take care of yourself and you unknowingly soil yourself while you’re at home.  Your wife is at work, you are confined to a wheelchair, and are unable to get to the bathroom to properly clean yourself.  You sit in your own filth for hours until your wife returns home to find that you’ve developed a pressure ulcer.  The wound becomes infected and you are admitted to a skilled nursing facility for wound care and IV antibiotic therapy.  You are carried under your wife’s insurance because long term disability doesn’t cover medical expense and your wife makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid.  Your wife’s insurance only covers 30 days in the facility, but after that time, you are not ready for discharge.   You rack up an enormous amount of debt for the remainder of your stay.  What do you do?”

“I will starve myself to death.”

“Nope, sorry.  because of your stroke, your swallowing capabilities are compromised and your wife had the doctors place a permanent feeding tube in the event you were unable to take food orally.”

“My wife wouldn’t do that.  She knows my wishes and I’m a DNR.”

“DNR is only for if your heart stops beating and you don’t want CPR.  Also, you are unable to speak for yourself, so your wife becomes durable power of attorney of healthcare, making your decisions for you.  She is grief stricken and doesn’t want to watch you slowly die, so she goes against your wishes to keep you alive.”

“I refuse to be a burden on my family.  I would kill myself.”

“Seriously?  You’d leave behind your wife and kids just so you’re not a burden?”

“That’s what life insurance is for.  They’d be taken care of.”

“You would leave your children without a father?”

“They will learn to overcome….”

Wow,  I was absolutely flabbergasted at the fact that this person thought his family would be better off without him if he was disabled.  He was completely unable to put himself in other people’s position and just told them to suck it up.  Thinking about the conversation for the next several hours, I found my mind going to a very dark place.  Is this what our society has become?  Do people really think like this?  Have we become so narcissistic that we can’t think past the end of our smartphones as to how our actions affect other people?

I spent the next several days off of all social media.  Scenes from the movie Idiocracy played through my head.  Thoughts of prepping for the end of days and how and what skills I needed to teach my girls in order to survive the downfall of society ran through my head.  I ran simulations of what to do and where to go given various situations.  In the coming days, I put these thoughts to rest, allowing reality to settle back in and realize that the majority of people are good natured.

The funny thing about prayer is, you never know when or how they are going to be answered, or in what manner.  Last night, as myself and my family gathered around the dinner table, I lit the candles on the advent wreath and invited everyone to say the blessing….

“Bless us O Lord, for these thy gifts for which we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen”

Without skipping a beat, my daughter continued, eyes closed, hands folded….J

“Dear Jesus, please help all the lonely children who don’t have mommies or daddies to find strangers to love them and be their mommies and daddies for them so they don’t have to be lonely anymore and so they are no longer strangers.  Amen”

The Gospel of Matthew speaks of revealing God’s power and strength to the children and that from the mouth of babes shall the Lord’s praises be sung.  My wife and I both stopped dead in our tracks looking at our daughter.  We both gave her a hug and told her that she was a very loving person for praying for such a beautiful thing for people you don’t even know.  We didn’t coach her to say this, nor do we know where she got it from.  But in that moment, I couldn’t have been prouder.  And in her innocence and compassion, I am given hope for a brighter future.  In the meantime, I offer all of you reading this, my thoughts and prayers.  God Bless.

The Final Salute


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Over the past several blog postings I have been sharing with you all my experiences in learning how to play the Great Highland Bagpipes. One of the reasons for learning to play, aside from the fact that I think they are freakin awesome is to help honor our nation’s’ heroes upon their death. I spoke briefly about this in an earlier post, but for those who missed it, here is a quick recap…..

I work for the Department of Veterans Affairs on a long term care unit. Over the past several months, there has been an interdisciplinary team working together to create a new procedure for honoring the passing of our veterans. It is called the Final Salute. As a part of this Final Salute, it was suggested by a fellow staff member about how it would be neat to have a bagpiper playing in lieu of a recording of Taps at the nurse’s station being played while the body was being escorted off the unit. I had the esteem honor and privilege in taking part in my first one on the bagpipes recently.

I was on vacation when I received the call at home from one of the nurse managers.

*ring ring*

“Hrrmmph….Ahem! Hello?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I wake you up?”

“No, I was awake, just not out of bed yet.”

“Oh ok…Hey, um….I know you’re on vacation, but have you left town yet?”

“No, we’re not leaving for a few more days. What’s up?”

“Well I just got a call that there’s been a death. Would you be able to come in for a Final Salute?”

“Um Yeah……give me some time to take a shower and get dressed and I’ll be there.”

My pulse immediately quickened. Here we go. I had played for a few ceremonies on the units before. Usually just one song and done. This was the first time I would be performing for a extended length of time in front of what very well could be a large majority of the hospital staff. I quickly got ready and headed into the hospital.

Upon my arrival, they were completely ready for me. There was an honor guard composed of staff members who were also veterans. The body was transferred to a lidded cart and draped with the American Flag wrapped in a military funeral fashion as you would seen on a casket. I made quick work, assembling my pipes and making sure I was playing in tune. I rendezvoused with with honor guard and we quickly went over logistics since this was everyone’s first time with a bagpiper.

After a few deep breathes I struck in the drones and began playing Amazing Grace, leading the honor guard down the hallway and marching to the elevator. When I reached the nurse’s station I went straight into a rendition of Taps while the body was being loaded onto the elevator. All available staff on the unit were present and able bodied veterans were there saluting their fallen comrade. As I completed, I took the stairwell down into the basement.

The other part of the Final Salute is on the ground floor of the hospital. Shortly before the ceremony is scheduled to commence, a station wide page is broadcasted stating the time and place of the event. All available staff members then arrive to the area and line the hallways from the unit of the deceased all the way to the morgue. I exited the stairwell and was met with a literal throng of staff who turned out to pay their respects. I took my place in the front of the honor guard and once again struck in the pipes. As I began to march, a veteran staff member called “Ten-Hut! Present Arms!” All staff present who were veterans themselves snapped to attention and rendered a salute. All other placed their hand over their heart. As I played, I found very quickly that the ceilings on the ground floor are a lot lower than they are on the units. It became very apparent to me when I started to hit the top of my bass drone against the Exit signs and fire door thresholds. I was required to maneuver several back bends amidst my playing which did nothing more than increase my nerves.

As I round the final corner, my nerves began to get the better of me and I had a horrid case of cotton mouth. So much to the point where I was finding it difficult to breath while suppressing the urge to cough. In between breaths I made pitiful attempts to swab my mouth with my tongue furiously in an effort to generate some semblance of saliva. I reached the morgue just as the last stanza of the funeral march I chose to play was coming to a close. I turned around, cut out the pipes and stood at attention as the entourage escorted the body into the narrow passageway that led to the morgue. In front of me was the entire amassed group of staff that had fallen in line behind the honor guard and followed us all the way to our stopping point. Not a dry eye in the house could be seen. My anxiety disappeared almost immediately when I saw the outpouring of emotion that these people were having. It made all my efforts to this point worth it. This display has proved itself to be a wonderful expression of gratitude for what our nations veterans sacrificed throughout their lives, and I am humbled and honored to be a part of it.

My first public bagpipe performance


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In my last post I wrote about my latest venture into learning how to play the bagpipes.  Now after several months of practice, I have made the transitition to be playing on the full set instead of only the practice chanter.  One of the reason why I wanted to learn to play in the first place was so that we had a way of better honoring those patients at the hospital who pass away while inpatient.  

I had been practicing every day in an effort to be able to keep my tone steady and all of the reeds sounding at the same time.  One day last week, I received a text message on my day off from a co-worker updating me on the status of one of our long time patients who had recently been placed on hospice.  The message simply stated: “We may need a piper tonight.”

Now, up until this point, I hadn’t thought about playing for our patients yet.  I didn’t feel like I was to that level yet.  But I was torn at the same time because I wanted to be able to honor this patient, who I had cared for over the past 3 years.  I immediately put my pipes together and spent the next several hours practicing Amazing Grace over and over and over until I had pushed my body to the point where I couldn’t play anymore.  I decided to make a recording and send it along to my co-workers.  

“Now, I want you to be brutally honest.  Tell me if it sucks.  You won’t hurt my feelings.  If it doesn’t sound good, I’m not going to play it.  I don’t want to ruin the solemnity of the occassion.”

I received a response several minutes later….

“I just played this in the nurse’s station.  You just gave us all goosebumps.  Pack your pipes.”

Nervously, I set my instrument case by the back door to make sure I took them as I was heading out in the morning.  The patient had made it through the night and all the next day.  They passed away early the following morning.  I didn’t receive a call because it was still in the middle of the night, the night shift nurse didn’t know to call me, and playing bagpipes at 5 am when everyone else on the unit was asleep wouldn’t really go over that well.  I felt defeated that I wasn’t able to honor them, but at the same time felt relieved that I still would have time to hone my craft before an actual performance.  

News had traveled fast that I had made the recording.  Soon everyone I walked by was asking me to play it for them.  It even reached the ears of the other long term care units at the facility.  Several days ago, the Hospice Interdisciplinary Team was on our unit to conduct rounds with our other patients who were on hospice status.  They asked me if I had my bagpipes with me that day because there was another patient on another unit that they didn’t seem to think would be making it to the end of the day.  I said that  I hadn’t brought them today.  It was about that time that my wife texted me to tell me that she was going to be out shopping with her mother and if there was anything that I needed.  I quickly texted her back asking her to swing by the hospital with my bagpipes.  

I went back into the breakroom, closed the door, assembled and tuned my pipes.  I was ready for the call to come.  With an hour left in my shift, I received a call, but it wasn’t the one I was expecting.  One of the practices that we have implemented at our facility is to have a small ceremony honoring the life of the person who is near death.  The family is usually present, all available staff gather in the room.  Kind words are said, prayers are offered up, and calming words are said over the patient.  The call I received was from a nurse manager on the other long term care unit.  She was asking if I would play Amazing Grace after the ceremony.  

“They haven’t passed away?”

“No, not yet.  But I heard you warming up earlier, and I really think it would mean a lot to the family if you played.”

After being taken aback for several moments I agreed and began heading to the next building over, bagpipes in tow.  I received several strange looks from other staff members not knowing what to think of a nurse carrying bagpipes.  I met up with the nurse manager and said that I would stay out in the hallway due to the close quarters and the sheer uncontrollable volume the Great Highland Bagpipes produce.  Since I had my ear plugs in, I told her to give me a signal and I would start playing.  

The ceremony lasted about 5 minutes.  I could see from inside that they had gone around the room giving whomever desired an opportunity to speak.  The chaplain then led everyone in prayer and I got my signal.  I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears from nervousness.  What if I hit a wrong note?  What if my tone isn’t steady?  What if I don’t blow hard enough?  No time for any of that now.  I blew up the bag, struck in the drones, and began to play.  I could see those present mouthing the lyrics.

“Amaaaaaazing Graaaace how sweeeeeet the sound, that saved a wretch like meeeeeeeeee”

I had made it halfway through the song when my anxiety got the better of me and I began squeezing the bag too hard.  The added pressure caused two out of my three drones to close off and quit playing.  CRAP!!!!  Well, I can’t get them back again, that would require letting off the pressure and causing the instrument to make Chewbacca like noises.  Best follow the advice of every music instructor I’ve ever had and play through it!  I got to the end of the song, cut off the pipes, and stood there for a moment.  My breathing was heavy from playing so hard, my abs ached, and I was drenched with sweat.  Through my earplugs, I could hear other patients who had come out into the hallway after hearing me singing the second verse of the song.  I looked around the room and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  I quickly left to return to my home unit, number 1: to save myself from any embarrasment, and number 2: it was nearing change of shift and I needed to give report to my replacement.  

As I was waiting for the elevator to arrive, I heard a voice coming from the nurse’s station.

“Holy Crap!  Those were real bagpipes!?!?!?” one of the other staff members manning the desk exclaimed.

“Um yeah.  I’ve only been playing for a few months,” I said sheepishly.

“Seriously????  We thought that was a recording!!!!  That was awesome!”  

“Thanks,” I said blushing as I got into the elevator. 

Later in the corridor, the Hospice physician and nurse practitioner had caught up with me.  I was struggling to get the security door unlocked with my hands full with the pipes.  They were very pleased and stated how happy the family was for me to do this for their loved one.  My anxiety melted away and was replaced by pride and honor.  I could feel my blood pressure and pulse begin to return to normal.  Now that my first time is over and done with, I look forward to hopefully starting a new tradition.  

You’re learning to play the….WHAT?


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When I was in college, I was forced to take several courses that I REALLY didn’t want to take.  One of those courses were to fill a fine arts elective.  I was in band in high school, but didn’t want to join a concert band because I frankly didn’t have time to attend rehearsals, so I figured I would take a cake course.  “World Music Appreciation” was the title of the course.

For the next semester, I spent most of the lectures with my head bobbing up and down like I had a fish on the line in an effort to stay awake for the duration.  The class was nothing like I thought it would be.  The professor was a white haired bearded gentlemen with a soft spoken monotonic speech.  I felt like I was listening to a DJ on the smooth jazz radio station at 3 in the morning.  He droned on about the subtle variances in gong music from the Philippines or how the percussive nature of Indian belly dancing told a story with each dance since each step, slap, or hit had a different meaning.

My performance in the class was mediocre at best.  My test scores were a solid B- to C+ and my once thought cake class was turning into a potential GPA buster.  Towards the end of the semester, I was able to bring my overall grade up to a more respectable range, knowing that my final grade would rely on the final exam.

Approximately 3 weeks before Finals week, the TA’s passed out the parameters for the final.

“The Final Exam for this class will not be in the traditional paper test format.  You will have one of three options.  You could attend an ethnic music concert and write a paper.  You may research an ethnic music style, and write a paper, or you may learn to play, and perform before the class, a song on an ethnic music instrument.”

Hmmmmm……I really don’t want to try and find a local concert and then write a paper.  BORING!!!  Research?  No thanks.  But the learning to play a song on an instrument intrigued me.  I already played the saxophone, tuba, and guitar.  How hard could it be to learn one song?  But who do I know who has a unique ethnic instrument?

My wife and I were dating at the time.  Her family has a very rich Scottish/Irish heritage.  So much so that her mother, my now mother in law, had a set of family heirloom bagpipes in her possession.  I wasn’t planning on touching those since if someone happened to them I would be a dead man.  But she did have a learner’s set that she had gotten in the hopes that one of her children would learn how to play.  I asked if I could borrow them for a couple of weeks and she agreed.  This would be great.  I would learn the fingerings, squeak out Amazing Grace and collect my A.  Not so much.

Holy crap this thing is complicated to play!  Everything I read stated that it was very difficult to learn how to play without the assistance of an instructor, which in that short period of time I was interested in obtaining for this one class.  The instrument itself comprises of 3 drones, each of which have their own individual reed in them that must be sounded.  Then there’s the chanter, which is the part that has the holes for making the notes, also with it’s own reed, plus the blowpipe to inflate the bag.

In my short experience with it, I was never able to get all 4 reeds playing at the same time.  I did however manage to learn the basic fingerings and squeak out Amazing Grace on a practice chanter for the class.  Beginning students of the bagpipes start out on the practice chanter for approximately the first 6 months to a year of instruction before making the transition to the full set of bagpipes.  The explanation I found was that the instrument itself takes so much concentration and focus to operate in producing and steady and good quality tone that the fingerings and notes have to be engrained into muscle memory.  When the day of the final arrived, I got my A and gave the bagpipes back to their rightful owner.

Fast forward to a few months ago…..

I work on a long term memory care unit.  The residents we have become a second family.  When one of them passes away, it’s hard on everyone.  We had been trying to develop a plan to put in place to help honor the passing of our residents, kind of like a mini-funeral if you will. We would conduct a short service on the unit and have a gathering of everyone to pay final respects as the body is escorted to the morgue.  The families of the deceased really appreciated the effort and respect that we showed for the guys, so we thought, “Is there anything more we can do?”

So then one afternoon, several of us were sitting in the nurse’s station talking about it, when someone “piped up” (pardon the pun) and said, “Hey!  Wouldn’t it be cool if someone learned how to play the bagpipes and played Amazing Grace or something as we are escorting off the unit to the morgue?”

That’s when I opened my big mouth…. (shocking right?)

“Ya know, that’s a really good idea, but the bagpipes are a REALLY hard instrument to learn how to play, not to mention there is only one volume that they can be played at, and they’re really loud!” I said.

They all turned and looked at me…..  “How do you know?”

I then told them the story about the college course and my brief experimentation with them.  The response I got was a half cocked smile and a facial expression that appeared to say ‘What are you waiting for?’  I quickly dismissed the idea and the conversation moved on.  The original staff member then began pricing bagpipes online and we were back to the topic.  That afternoon, I thought nothing of it.

Or so I thought……

A few weeks had passed and I had forgotten completely about the conversation about the bagpipes.  My oldest daughter had recently celebrated her 4th birthday and she not so subtly began reminding me that we had told her that we would put her in dance classes when she was 4 years old.  Since she was about 2, she fell in love with the Nutcracker ballet.  So much to the point that she would try to imitate the dancers in our living room, wearing a tulle tutu, jumping around on a yoga mat.  My mother in law always wanted to see the girls do either Irish or Highland Dancing.  I was unsure about doing Irish dancing simply because the mounting popularity and the whole concept seemed very overwhelming.  I didn’t know much about Highland Dancing, but I was drawn by the seemingly niche nature of it.  A quick Google search later, and I found a Pipe and Drum band in the nearby major metropolitan area that offered lessons for it at a reasonable price.  I further explored the Lessons tab of the groups website and came to the bagpipe section.

“Want to learn the bagpipes or drums?  Lessons are free for band members.”

Free you say?  You have my attention.

I approached the subject of Highland Dancing vs. Ballet to my daughter.  She was confused and concerned.  A quick YouTube search pulled up hundreds of videos to show her what it was all about.  Her eyes got wide and her mouth agape.

“Daddy… you see those dresses those girls are wearing?????  I want to do that dancing!!!!”

“Yes dear, it’s called a kilt.”

“I want a kilt!!!!!”

Never mind about the technical aspects of the dance itself, this kid is only concerned about the outfit.  Whatever floats her boat I guess.  After several email exchanges, we were enrolled.  Her in dance, and I in bagpipe.  The next week we all loaded up into the family car and made the trip up to the big city for our first lessons.  I was hooked, and so was she.

Now here we are two months later from our first visit.  My daughter has learned the basic steps of Highland Dance and is starting to learn her first performance set.  I have been doing work on the practice chanter mainly.  I found a good deal on a set of used bagpipes online that I picked up.  I’m hoping to be able to make the transition to them soon.  I also have begun learning my first performance set.

Thus far it has been an exciting and fun filled journey that we have been embarking on.  In the evenings I will pull out my practice chanter and run through my exercises while darling daughter will grab a kitchen chair for balance and practice her high kicks and pas de basques.  The toddler, who is just starting to walk, will hold onto the coffee table and attempt to follow along.  My wife watches with a beaming smile on her face to see her whole family taking part in their heritage.  It will be interesting to see where this new venture takes us.

The Pickle


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Ah, Springtime.  That magical time of year when everyone has been trapped inside for the past three months and finally take the first steps of opening up the house, getting that fresh air wafting through, only to realize the amount of stagnation and filth that has been allowed to linger over the winter.  Maybe this is why thousands of us are inspired to perform an annual purge colloquially known as “Spring Cleaning”.


This phenomenon had cast its shadow upon our household several years ago.  After going from room to room systematically eliminating the collection of waste, we arrived upon the kitchen.  It was my duty to tackle the fridge.  While inspecting the various bottles of expired salad dressing and way past their prime leftovers in the freezer, I discovered a large pickle jar all the way in the back of the fridge with one solitary pickle in it.  It was the industrial size pickle jar that you get from Sam’s Club.  I turned to my wife.

“Hey, what do you want me to do with this pickle?” I said.

“I dunno.  Flush it for all I care.” said my wife.


So to the bathroom I went with the ginormous pickle jar I went and poured the contents into the porcelain throne.  FLUSH!!!  Down went the pickle.  “Problem solved!”  I thought to myself.  Or so I thought……

About two days later, we were both sitting at home when I heard my wife yelling from the bathroom……


On to my feet I scrambled and ran to the bathroom only to find that the toilet was in a very rapid fashion, completely backing up…..all…..over…..the floor.  I quickly grabbed the plunger in a desperate attempt to force the sewage back in the other direction.  I spent the better part of an hour working with that plunger to try and persuade the onslaught to cease.  My attempts were in vain.  I was beginning to feel the need to call in a young priest and an old priest to begin shouting “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU” over and over again.  I finally gave up and decided to amend my tactics.

I took a quick trip down to the hardware store and picked up a 50 ft drain snake.  Down into the depths of the bowl I plunged my hands down into the murky waters as I fed the snake down into the pipes in the hopes of discovering the offending blockage.  After about 20 feet in, I couldn’t feed anymore.  I also couldn’t get the snake to turn when I cranked it.  It was stuck.  My first inclination was that a tree root had busted through the pipe and I now had the end of the snake wedged into it.  This particular model of snake had a bit on the top to connect a power drill to.  I knew for sure that if anything was going to break through, it would be that.  To the toolbox I go to return with the drill.  I cranked the power up all the way and pulled the trigger as far as it would go.  The toilet bowl gave a low shudder as the snake fought against the plug.  After about 5 minutes of drilling, advancing, drilling, advancing, I felt something give way.


My wife arrived in the bathroom a few moments later.  She gave me a horrified look of disgust at the sight of me covered in sweat and sewage.  It was around that moment that something began to appear on the surface of the water.  We both peered closely into the bowl.  It was at that moment we both realized what it was.  My face turned from a look of worry to shame knowing the fault of my ways.  My wife’s face turned from dismay to anger.

“You FLUSHED the PICKLE!?!?!?!?!”  she exclaimed.

“Uh…..yeah??  You told me to…..”  I squeaked out in a timid voice.

“I was being SARCASTIC!!!”

Needless to say I had found the errors of my ways.  After getting the toilet into proper working order again, I proceeded to scrub the bathroom from top to bottom, then proceeded to do the same with myself.  I guess you could say that my common sense went down the toilet.  And that’s how I got into a pickle with a pickle.

New Year’s Exhaustion


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For some, New Year’s Eve means meeting up with friends and family to celebrate the old and welcome the new.  A time to drink and make merriment awaiting the much anticipated ball drop in Times Square at the stroke of midnight and the singing of Auld Lang Syne while couple embrace each other in a traditional kiss…….These people don’t have little kids.

Our week that followed Christmas was rather hectic.  After running around the state to various Christmas celebrations with different factions of family, we were all pretty spent.  To top it all off, I was slated to start a night shift rotation.  I’m not particularly fond of working the nights, but when your nurse manager gives you all the requested days off you put in for during the Christmas season, you don’t really bitch about a less than ideal schedule for a few days.  In an attempt to not get myself completely turned around onto another shift I try to make an effort to get a late evening nap in prior to heading into the hospital.  Fat chance.  Both kids were busting at the seams exciting about their new treasures they had received and with the constant traveling over the past several days, their schedules were equally messed up.  By the time everything was cleaned up, kids were in PJs, teeth brushed, stories read, diapers changed, and bottles fed, I had to be at work in about an hour.  I laid down for what brief time that I had in an effort to be somewhat functional at work, only to drift off to the sound of my alarm going off.  Begrudgingly I pulled myself out of bed, put on a uniform, and headed to the hospital.

The first night was rather uneventful leaving me to return home and curl up in bed for a quick couple hours of sleep.  I walked into the bedroom to find both girls curled up in bed with my wife looking up at me with dark circles under her eyes.  She informed me that they both have been up for approximately two hours.  We chocked it up to being the interruptions from the norm and there would be a readjustment period.  I laid down to sleep while my wife ushered the children into the living room.

The next night didn’t go as smoothly…….

My arrival to work was met with an onslaught of issued that had occurred on the prior shift that were now being brought to my attention.  The rest of the night continued to escalate in a similar fashion.  While handling a multitude of emergencies, I was receiving text messages from my wife about every hour and a half.

“Just got the baby a bottle and back to bed and while I was feeding her, the eldest woke up screaming for you.  What the hell?  Both kids up before 1 am?  I hope tonight isn’t going to be crazy here.  Hope you have an easy night too.  Love you.”

“So the kid is awake and crying because she wants to have fun at our New Years Even party.  I think I’m going to lose my shit.  I just needed to vent.  I hope you’re having a better night than I am.”

“Finally said Uncle.  After the kid waking up 2 more times, she’s in bed with me.  Now she says her bed is making noises.  She needs a fan, or something for white noise.”

“You have got to be kidding me.  I think the baby is waking up now.  No one is cooperating tonight.”

“Just got them both back to bed.  What the hell is wrong with tonight?  Hope you night is going well.”

“I cannot get the kids back to sleep now.  They are both up.  I really don’t know what to do.  I am so upset.  I don’t want to lose my temper, but I’m getting a short fuse now.”

I felt bad for her not being home and able to take at least one of them off of her hands.  When I arrived home that night from what seemed like the busiest night shift I have ever worked in my entire career, I found the kid bouncing off the walls awake and whining about wanting breakfast.  The baby was restless in her crib and my wife was passed out cold in the bed.  I went ahead and fixed breakfast for the kid, then proceeded to lay down on the couch after the baby drifted back off to sleep.  I was awoken about an hour later by my wife with the baby in tow telling me she was up and it was ok for me to go to bed.

After a few hours of sleep, I got up ready for our New Year’s Eve party at the house.  We had bought all kinds of junk food at the store a few days before and my wife was already busy in the kitchen preparing the spread.  Our unofficial tradition is to make several different kinds of party food that is laid out on the counter top open for grazing throughout the evening festivities.  The usual smorgasbord every year includes homemade buffalo chicken wings, fried onion rings, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks, and a shrimp ring.  After getting of coffee and coming to my senses, my wife asks if I could go to the store to get butter for the wings.  She thought she had enough to make the chicken wing sauce, but alas, she came up short.

“Are you kidding me?  At 5 o’clock on New Year’s Eve?”

“It’s up to you dear if you want these wings to turn out.”

Begrudgingly, I put on my coat and run across the street to the grocery store.  True to my initial suspicions, the scene was as absolute madhouse.  The shelves were nearly bare, the crowd was standing room only, and every checkout lane was open and backed up midway up the aisles.  Luckily, the two items I required were still in stock.  I jumped into the self checkout line which was backed up well into the pharmacy at the time.  Luckily since there was 6 self checkouts, I was able to get out rather quickly and return to the safety and sanity of my own home.

Or so I thought……

I returned home to find both children screaming, my wife trying to equally manage cooking and attempting to quell their distress in vain.  My re-entrance was enough of a distraction that the chaos settled momentarily.  We put out the food and began our feast.  Like most 3 year olds, getting the kids to eat food in one sitting, let alone eating at all is comparable to hostage negotiations, so leaving her plate unattended meant that it was fair game to the family dog to attempt to snag a bite.  This of course causes the kids to become literally unhinged.  Keep in mind, none of us have slept hardly at all, so the forthcoming wails and flails were escalated to a pitch that caused the dog to cower and whimper.  After a hard reset and distraction, I suggested we bring out some board games we received for Christmas as well as glow stick bracelets she received from her grandparents.

Enter Chutes and Ladders.  A beloved children’s toy.  I am in prone position on the floor next to the Christmas tree, with both kids attempting to set up the game for the first time and explain the concepts of play to the kid.  The baby is in close proximity to the both of us surrounded by an array of her new toys set to explore.  While trying to separate the game pieces from the perforated cardboard, the kids is finding a new found game in her own right of everything requiring to be knocked over with the glow stick bracelets while she makes “Pew! Pew!” noises.  FINALLY I am able to get all the pieces separated, assembled, and accounted for and the game starts.  I am able to hold the kid’s interest for only a few minutes before the baby decides that she wants to play as well.  At 7 months old, she has explored the notion of crawling, but  has well perfected the butt shuffle.  In a series of coordinated arm flails and leg kicks, the baby is able to make her way over to the game board and proceed to shove anything and everything in the “3 years and up” game into her mouth.  As the kid begins howls of protest, I am on my haunches attempting to pry the game piece out of the infant’s Kung Fu grasp.  I return the baby back to her previous position with her toys and we return to the game.

Several minutes into play I remember how LONG it can take to complete one round of this game!  In the early stages, if you hit a chute or a ladder, the gains/losses are rather minute.  The further you progress, the risk increases.  This becomes ever so apparent when out of 100 spaces, the kid lands on Square 87.  The image shows a little boy climbing on top of a shelf to get to the cookie jar only to fall down the chute to Square 24 where the boy lay on the floor crying with the broken cookie jar.  The game may have well have started completely over.  My horror and disdain growing increasing by the minute, all the while the baby continues to move from the game board, back to her toys, over to the Christmas tree in which is she bound and determined to pull over on top of herself.  Everyone is crying…..

I begin to speed up play of the game by spinning for both players, moving the pieces the necessary spaces to avoid chutes at all costs and garner spots onto ladders whenever possible amidst the kid continuing the “Pew! Pew!” game with her glow sticks.  After a seemingly eternity, the kid arrived at the 100th square and I declared her winner.  I make quick haste to pack the game back up and try to redirect my attention to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on the TV.  My repulsion for Jenny McCarthy and her Anti-Vaccine Movement along with the smug plastered expressions on Ryan Seacrest’s face forces me to change the channel.

At this point, both kids continue to whine and cry for no apparent reason to where I threw my arms up in exacerbation proclaiming, “OK!  It’s time for bed!  Happy New Year!”  Surprisingly, I was met with little resistance from all parties involved and the nightly bedtime transition proceeded unequivocally.  I take one look at my wife as we return from the respective children’s bedroom.  I can exhaustion on her face as well as a look of defeat in that the night had gone completely opposite as planned.  Just to make sure everyone was thinking the same thing, I asked her:

“Do you want to stay up until…”


“Ok, let’s go to bed.”

The time was 9:27 PM.

The Look


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We’ve all seen it at some point in our lives.  We have either been on the receiving end, or dishing it out.  I am of course talking about The Look.  Every parent has their own version of The Look.  It can present itself in several forms and severity, but the intent is universal.  It’s the expression that comes across the face of said parent when they catch their kid screwing off when you know they know better.  The Look is a soul piercing glare that can bring the most hellacious behavior to a screeching halt at the very sight of it.

I remember in particular one person in my life who had nearly perfected The Look.  Mrs. Ellis, my 5th grade teacher would be able to instill the fear of God into us in milliseconds.  She was a stout woman.  Very stern, but kind.  She was one of my favorite teachers because she made learning fun.  She had gone back to college after all of her children became school aged to get her degree in early childhood education.  Not only was I in one of her first classes, but her youngest son was also in my class, and on occasion, we would try and pull a fast one to see if we could get away with it from her.  It was quickly learned that this was a woman who would not tolerate being trifled with.

I was a recipient of her version of The Look only once.  It was during a vocabulary lesson.  Our instructions were simple.  We were to listen to the word, write down the definition in our notebooks, be able to use the word in a sentence, and then be prepared to regurgitate this info multiple times throughout the remainder of the week for the final showdown on Friday when we would be formally tested in our retention.

“Ok, your next word is ‘alluring’.  Powerful and mysteriously attractive or fascinating.”

Being the oh so clever smartass that I was/am, I thought I was being cute by letting out a low and guttural “OooooooooooOOOOOooooohhhh” all the while waving my hands in pantomime of a ghostly figure.  This garnered a few chuckles and snickers from my peers until their expressions became flat and they fell silent as their stared over my shoulder.  I turned to find that Mrs. Ellis, standing the corner of the room, over a pair of reading glasses, had begun her full on assault of giving me The Look.  It was as if her eyes were melting the very skin on my face right off.  She continued with the lesson without ever the first breech in eye contact with me.  I was frozen solid while she continued on with the next word.  I tried to look away, only to have my eyes drawn back and locked again with The Look.  I prayed for mercy that this silent punishment would end.  I thought to myself that I would rather take 20 lashings from a belt than have to endure The Look for one more second.  After what seemed an eternity, she relinquished her power over me and continued with the lesson.  I broke out into a clammy sweat.  My heart was pounding in my chest.  For the next several days I was afraid to approach her or raise my hand in class for fear of repercussion of The Look.  My classmates averted their eyes to me as if I was a Leper and needed to clinging to my bandages screaming “Unclean!  Unclean!”

While my experiences in parenting are still in their infancy, I was able to unknowingly unleash my version of The Look on my oldest recently.  Being 3 is a difficult time, and I understand that sometimes it is near impossible to resist the urge to lay out a nuclear assault level tantrum at a moment’s notice, but my daughter’s timing was absolutely impeccable!

My father recently remarried.  After the death of my mother, it was of mutual understanding between the two of them that Dad would move on and find someone else.  Myself, along with my brother, and my new Stepmother’s boys were asked to stand next to them as witnesses to the ceremony in lieu of a traditional bridal party.  My daughter was asked to be a flower girl in the sense that she would hold my Stepmom’s bouquet during the vows.  During rehearsal, my daughter got this down pat.  Her procession was flawless, her recession perfect, and with a little encouragement she stood in front of me and held the practice bouquet like a little angel.

Fast forward to the next morning…….

Being the morning of the wedding, we all are feeling slightly rushed.  My brother and sister in law were staying with us that weekend, so including the kids, there were six people in the house with one bathroom.  Not a whole lot of sleeping in happening.  We arrived at the Church and immediately started taking pre-ceremony pictures.  So far so good.  One of my Stepmom’s grandkids were in attendance and made a quick playmate with my daughter.  All was well and good.  Soon after, guests started to arrive.  We took our places at the back of Church and greeted them as they trickled in.  This particular Church had a small children’s area in the corner,  equipped with toys, coloring books, markers and the like.  My daughter honed in on this like an eagle sighting in his dinner from mid flight.  The first sign of protest came from her when I made an attempt at explaining to her that this was not the time for her to play in the play area, and that Daddy didn’t want her to get any marker on her pretty white dressing before the wedding.  When protests began to turn to demands, she was quickly bribed with the prospect of candy in return for good behavior, we returned to DEFCON 5.

The organist began playing Jesu of Man Desiring which we knew to be our cue to begin processing down the aisle.  The bride, accompanied by her two sons entered to Trumpet Voluntary.  The minister began giving a speech regarding why we were here that day and asking the bride and groom if they were entering into this covenant willingly, etc.  The time came for me to come to the pulpit to give a reading.  When I motioned for my daughter to stay put while I was reading, she protested and ran to Mommy who was sitting in the front pew.  I completed the reading without effort and retook my place between my father and brother at the foot of the altar.  My daughter rejoined me there as well.  It was at this time that the minister began a monologue about the sanctity of marriage and how it should not be taken lightly, and is a blessing from God.  The 3 year old is no longer impressed.  She makes an attempt to climb onto the altar.  After several motions of pulling her back down to me, she flails herself onto the floor at my feet.  I attempt to look around with a sheepish grin on my face through my gritted teeth and rising  blood pressure attempting to avert a scene and get her back to her feet.  Pulling her to her feet by one arm, I lean down and through grit teeth to curb the behavior immediately.  Of course this back fires into further fits of rage and my wife is forced to step in and take her back to the pew in a last ditch effort to pull some semblance of compliance out of her.  Her defiance escalates into further screaming.  That’s when from the altar, I send her The Look.  It of course did not have the same effect on her as it did on me with Mrs. Ellis.  Her flailing became increasingly violent like Reagan from the Exorcist to the point that she slung back in the pew and with a resounding THUD clocks her head onto the back of the wooden seat.  The low hushed tones of “Oooooh” can be heard from the congregation.

At this point I can feel beads of sweat beginning to pool on my forehead.  I can feel the heat in my face as my blood pressure rises and I near boiling point.  My faces begins to contort into something evil seen only during a bad acid trip as I attempt to control my rage.  My wife, bless her soul, at this point is forced to carry the child out of church under her arm, Heisman style in one arm, while clamping her hand over her mouth to stifle the screams.  I begin to see the discomfort on the faces of some of the guests in the congregation at my facial expression and I make an attempt to regain my composure.  Thankfully, Mommy was able to calm 3 year old down in enough just in time to bring her back up to the altar to hold the bouquet.

Several guests shared with me after the ceremony that 3 still did a great job despite the behavioral mishap, but then followed it up with how The Look made their flesh crawl.  My problem is, if it worked on everyone else, and wasn’t directed at them, why didn’t it work on MY KID!?!?!

Enlightening pain relief


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Over the course of 2015, I vowed to live healthier. I got out, started exercising, and lost 50 lbs. It’s the smallest I had been in years. Over the winter, I kind of fell off the wagon. Birth of a new baby, lack of sleep, etc. I have since gained back 20 of the 50 lbs I lost. I didn’t really notice it until my clothes that I bought after the weight loss began getting tight. So I told myself I was jumping back into it full force.  
WRONG. I jumped right into one of my Insanity DVDs, and ended up exacerbating an old ankle injury. Tack on working full time as a staff nurse, my ankle was the least of my worries. Trying to work while accommodating the pain has led to an increase in my already tight legs, hips, and back. In the past few days, I have been in constant pain from my legs to my shoulders. Getting up to work out at 5am has been greeted with my body screaming back at me in vehement protest. So exercise has been going by the wayside. 
I knew I had to do something, but didn’t want to sit around. I had let my gym membership lapse because I wasn’t going, and wasn’t sure if I was able to have the time to recommit. So where to go from here. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the guest was the show host’s personal trainer. On of the cohosts asked him about what to do when nursing an injury particularly an ankle. The trainer said balance training like yoga. 
YOGA???? I am not doing yoga. Do I look like a hippie? I mentioned it to my wife who partake in yoga from time to time and told me that I should give it a try, and that I would enjoy it. But there is no possible way to lose weight doing yoga right? A quick Google search showed that in fact it can help with weight loss, as well as trimming up the midsection. So I thought, what the hell. I have nothing to lose, and the pain is getting to the point where it is affecting my work. Here lately it takes me walking the length of the entire floor before my ankle releases from its previous seized up position. 
I had done several searches on YouTube to find something that would be effective and not too much “channel your inner lotus flower” vibe. So I typed in “yoga for men”. I immediately was brought to the channel of a gentleman from Florida with shorts, a T-shirt, and a buzz cut. Ok, this is good start. He’s fully clothed, and no pony tail. The videos were also shot in a park, not some random sweat lodge. Further investigation revealed this guy had over 500 yoga videos on his channel and added more weekly. Ok dude, I’ll give ya a shot.  
So today after work, I went to the grocery store to pick up baby formula and something for dinner. My wife had the kids out on a day trip and hadn’t returned home yet. I popped dinner in the oven and started up this guy’s YouTube channel. I proceeded to lay on the floor of the living room, and while combating my dog who thought it was play time, I started my first yoga workout. The video lasted 20 minutes in its entirety, and during the course of it, listening to this guy, I realized he was a man’s man who’s only motivation was to help people. I enjoyed the banter that he would give between instruction and his witty banter. At one point, he said that many of us probably have an expression on our faces likened to having our toenails pulled off. Assuring that this was normal and ok gave me the sense of satisfaction that I was doing this goofy stuff right. 
Upon completion the thoughts running through my head were still filled with skepticism. It didn’t feel like I had DONE anything. How is this going to get rid of my pain. I got up on my feet and went to check on dinner. WOAH…….. Am I standing up straighter? I haven’t felt this loose in years! My pain is reduced, my range of motion has increased, and I FEEL better. Folks, I am here to tell you that I am a convert. As I sit here and type this I can feel my back, legs, and core absolutely on FIRE that I normally don’t have unless I did a full ab routine. So to all those nurses out there who are having joint pain, back pain, hip pain, etc, and going to work just makes the problem worse, I’m here to tell you to give it a try. You’ll be surprised. 

Be Prepared


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Before I was Nurse Daddy, I was in my younger days, a Boy Scout. All through my childhood starting in the first grade as a Tiger Cub, all the way to my senior year of high school where I earned the highest rank of Eagle Scout. The Boy Scouts taught me immeasurable life lessons and skills, some of which I still practice to this day. Every day when I leave the house, I have my pocketknife, a multitool, and a flint and steel striker on my person at all times. While I try to always carry the Boy Scout Motto of “Be Prepared” to heart, the events leading up to, and including tonight, taught me that I can do better.

Like most middle class American families, we own two cars. The first car is a Ford Escape SUV that is the primary family vehicle that I refer to as the babymobile. Kind of like the batmobile, but with more baby wipes, and severely lacking in the heavy artillery department. The other car is my wife’s car from college. It’s been through the ringer a few times due to some unfortunate incidents with large four legged antlered animals, but it runs well and gets the job done of getting you from Point A to Point B. This is what I drive as a commuter vehicle.  
Several weeks ago, I noticed that the right front passenger tire was looking a little on the low side. I thought nothing of it, took it across the street to the gas station and put air in it. A few more days go by and I notice the tire is low again. Upon further inspection, I found the causative agent to be a rather large and nasty looking nail sticking up out of the tread.  
Now, I am fully capable of plugging a tire myself. I have done it numerous times. The only pressing issue was having the time to dick around with it on my next day off, which was already full with doctor’s appointments, music time at the library, and general errand running. So I got in the car and took it down to the local tire center to be repaired. After waiting for nearly an hour, the fine gentleman comes out from the garage to tell me that per their policy they are not allowed to plug the tire because of its age and signs of dry rotting on the inside. He was more than willing to sell me a new tire, but my wife and I decided a long time ago not to sink any more money into this car than necessary. Plus, the air was holding in the tire for several days at a time, so I just kept airing it up as needed until my next day off where I could set aside an hour to work on the plug.  
Fast forward to two days ago. A cold front came through Southern Ohio and overnight turned what was late Summer into Autumn. As the time approached for me to go to work for the night, I happened to look out the front window and see that the rapid drop in temperature had rendered the tire completely flat.  
Now, I have one of those cigarette lighter powered air compressors that can help pump up a tire if left stranded. It will get the job done, if you have 20 minutes to spare, which at the time I didn’t. Across the street I went to the gas station and bought a can of Fix-a-Flat. Within minutes, the goo was in the tire, the tire was off the rim and off to work I went.  
Fast forward to tonight. After a rather long and interesting shift I anxiously left the hospital at midnight to head home to my first weekend off in a very long time. Keys in the ignition, engine fired up, and here we go! THUMP THUMP THUMP.
The tire is not only flat, but also completely off the bead and Fix-a-Flat oozing all over the parking lot. I look back at the parking spot I just pulled out of. There sat the nail that was in the tire. The nail….that had been holding in that tire for weeks, now had been pushed out by a $10 can of bullshit and lies. No worries! I can change a tire!  
I pull out all the extraneous junk in my trunk (pun intended) to gain access to the spare tire. Here is where I realize I have come to Lesson #1 of preparedness for the evening. Check your emergency equipment regularly. To my frustration, I find that the retention rod hold the spare tire, tire iron, and jack has completely rusted over. It’s not budging. After several minutes of cursing, banging, and sheer brute strength, the rusted seal broke loose it’s hold on the retention rod and I was able to slowly spin it off. After this, I find that not only was the retention rod rusted, but so was the tire iron, and jack. Round two of cursing, banging, and sheer brute strength allowed the jack to slowly yet surely, begin to turn. Using the flashlight on my iPhone, I am able to begin to lift the car off the ground. Then everything goes dark. My phone battery, which was already low, completely quit on me, leaving me in near darkness. I opened the car door to get my car charger only to remember one little important bit of info. Oh yeah, I forgot. My car charger broke and I never replaced it. Lesson #2. Always keep a method of reliable communication with you and a method to maintain it.
Due to heavy rains earlier in the day, the fog was setting in and heavy. My only source of light was a nearby street lamp dimly glowing through the fog allowing me to at least see shadows. After almost an hour, the spare tire was on the car. Keys in the ignition, engine fired up, weekend here I come! THUMP THUMP THUMP.
Guess what? The spare tire is flat too! Lesson #3. See Lesson #1!!!! Luckily, I still had my handy dandy little air compressor in the car and the spare was still on bead. I began to pump up the tire, went back in to the hospital to call my wife to let her know I was ok and washed my hands.  
I am happy to have made it home safely through the fog, but I realize that things could have been much much worse. Luckily I was still at work when all of this happened to where if needed, I had resources that could have been utilized. This weekend will now be spent working on plugging the tire, purchasing a new car charger for the cell phone, and soaking everything in my trunk with WD-40!! So from the mouth of an Eagle Scout, here is the moral of the story. Be Prepared to Be Prepared.