Saturday, December 31, 2011

Papa Joe Prattico

Papa Joe Prattico

A dear friend of mine passed away Thursday. His name was Joe Prattico. He was 79 years old, and undoubtedly the face of my church. Everyone who loved him, and that was everyone, called him “The Pa”, or “Papa Joe.” He was like a grandfather or father to so many. He was the nicest man you would ever want to know, and that is an understatement. He loved Jesus and loved people. The following is my thoughts and memories of the man. I hope whether you knew him or not this will paint a clearer picture of who he was; and through his legacy, who he will always be.

60 Years of Marriage

On December 27th 2011, Joseph Prattico celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with his beloved wife, Carolyn, whom he so endearingly called “Goldie.” If you want to see a prototypical example of true love in marriage in a day and age where that notion is so frivolously disposed of so easily after the vows, look no further than Joe and Carolyn’s marriage.

That night, there was a party with his family and closest friends to celebrate. In his customary suit, (Papa Joe was the tannest, fittest, and snappiest dresser you have ever seen for a man in his 70’s.), he told his family how much he loved them. When he got home, before he had even changed out of his suit, Papa Joe fell down the stairs………

“There’s No Reason to Fight”

When I got engaged I remember wanting get Papa Joe’s advice on marriage more than anyone else’s. The first question I asked him was, “How do you handle a fight?” He looked at me and said,” I don’t know, we have never got in a fight,” throwing his hands up deftly as he spoke. I said, “You guys haven’t fought in 60 years?” to which he quipped back, “disagreements sure, but no fights. There’s no reason to fight.”

The way Papa Joe said it was not in the slight bit elitist. He said it in a way which seemed like the norm; as if he could not fathom why you would ever “fight” with someone you loved with all your heart.

The Only Man You Wanted Kissing Your Significant Other

Papa Joe’s trademark to the ladies was his kiss. He often ushered at church and was the first person you would see walking into the church halls. True to his Italian heritage, for over a quarter century Papa Joe would welcome the woman of Joy Community in with a kiss on the cheek. It was his trademark and one of the things so many ladies looked forward to upon entering the church.

A few years back I spoke with a young lady who had just began coming to our church a few months before. I asked her what brought her to our church. She said it was random; that she had just seen it driving by. Then I asked her what kept her coming back. She told me, “It was that Papa Joe guy’s kisses.”

The last time I saw him he kissed my fiancée Melissa on the cheek, then later went out of his way during service to come kiss her ring. Even before I knew it was the last time I would ever see him, I was thinking what a blessing it was to watch Papa Joe give his seal of approval and affirmation on our marriage with his trademark show of sincerity.


Not many near 80 year olds could pull off joining Facebook and commenting on ‘20 something’s’ posts like Papa Joe did. Over the past few years he was evident on the social networking site with his uplifting words of encouragement, which always ended in “blessings-Papa Joe.”

I believe he was probably on the site to keep up with everyone whom he had watched grow up since they were babies. He loved every one of us like his own kin. Papa Joe and Carolyn would start every day by going through the church directory and praying for EVERY person in it. Over the years, many have come and gone through the church, but I presume Papa Joe has never stopped thinking and praying for them. I would bet that Facebook was a place where he could see the people he loved so much and speak the love of the Lord over there life.

I found it interesting that most of his writings on Facebook were in all caps. He was so softly spoken in real life and I would love to know his thinking behind the caps on Facebook. I would be willing to say it had something to do with the fact so much of his warmth was displayed through a smile or a physical touch in person, that online the only way he could get across his passion for the people’s lives in which he was typing to was by making it louder with the cap-locks on. He will certainly be missed on Facebook. He will be missed everywhere.

The “Yanks”

I had two incidents in my life where Papa Joe and I were able to really connect beyond his wrist shaking handshakes. In 1996, I was 16 and the self proclaimed biggest Yankee’s fan in the world. Papa Joe was also the self proclaimed biggest Yankees fan in the world. We used to have Wednesday and Sunday night meetings at church then and twice a week Joe would come up to me and talk about the Yankees. “Did you see the game today? Did the Yanks play this afternoon? How about them Yanks? ” He would always call them, “The Yanks.”

That year the Yankees won the World Series for the first time since before I was born. Moments after they won, Papa Joe and Carolyn called in the way so many of you have been lucky enough to hear from them over the years; with two phones; as a tandem. We congratulated each other on the season and the championship as Mrs. Prattico also commented on how fast Joe Girardi ran and how he was super fast for a catcher.

In the last 15 years Papa Joe has talked to me about the Yanks almost every time we have spoken for any duration of time. The problem was that in the year 2000 I stopped loving the team of my childhood for various reasons.

One time in the early 2000’s, upon inquiring what I thought about the upcoming season, I told Papa Joe I didn’t like the Yankees anymore. He gave me a baffled look, paused for a moment, and said “What do you mean you don’t like the Yanks anymore?” I explained to him my lament and he seemed to loosely grasp it, although he still seemed perplexed.

As the next few years went on Papa Joe continued asking me about the Yanks when he saw me. He had refused to accept my decision to abandon them. I decided for the sake of Papa Joe’s and my ‘Yank’s’ bond, I would be a Yankee fan again whenever he brought them up. After that one time, he never heard a word of Yankee disapproval out of my mouth again.

The 2 Hour Standing Conversation

In April of 2008 I had my longest talk with Papa Joe. At the Men’s retreat in Geneva we got a chance to speak one-on-one for awhile, standing in the conference room. He at 75 years and 11 months of age and me at 27 years and 8 months of age, stood there and talked for about two hours. As we stood there I remember getting tired and looking for anything to lean on, but not wanting to suggest we sit down to save my juvenescence pride.

As I was teetering back and forth well into the 2nd hour, this man stood tall and square, never wavering or looking for a chair to even lean on, no less sit on. He never took his eyes of me as I or he spoke. I had gazed at the cookies on the table behind his left shoulder at least a half a dozen times during our talk. The man was about people… the man was for people.

What I will take out of our two plus hour talk were these two things. I remember him talking more than asking questions. He rarely deferred the attention away from him getting to know you. I remember asking him question after question about himself and him gladly answering. It was refreshing to hear him converse about himself for once. He even seemed comfortable doing so.

The most striking thing he told me was thrown in so nonchalantly and unpretentiously that you would have thought he was quipping about the weather forecast. Somehow I had asked him how he started going to New Jerusalem (now Joy Community) Church. He then told me that for years he had tried to convince one of his best friends, Al Gerhardt to come to church. I said, “Years?” And he said “Yes. Al was a bit stubborn about stuff like that back then.” He said eventually he was able to convince Al to come to church.

He told me from that, a group of couples began a church out of their houses and eventually they started, New Jerusalem Church. Pastor Al Gerhardt was later Pastor of New Jerusalem Church and remained so for twenty years.

Papa Joe humbly described to me the fact that he and a few friends started this church. I remember so clearly saying to him, “Wait a minute, you are the reason we are all here???!!!!”, and Joe saying, “Well, it was the Lord really.”

I’m not sure if most of the new people in our church are aware of it or not, but Papa Joe’s relentless outpouring of his love for Jesus Christ and his desire to see his friends and loved ones come to Christ is the reason we all worship at the corner of Bay and Goodman. I shudder to think how different my life would be without that church. My best friends, my schooling, my second family, support systems, and so much of my social life, have all been spawns of Joy Community. And all along unbeknownst to me, Joe Prattico, was one of the people to thank.

“What Would Papa Joe do?”

I hope this doesn’t sound sacrilegious to any of you, but a few years ago I had come to my mom with a problem and told her how I poorly handled it and she said one of the most comically profound things anyone has ever told me. Instead of giving me advice or delving into the problem, she simply said, “What would Papa Joe do?”

The funny thing is that any other name replacing Jesus in that famous catchphrase (What Would Jesus Do?) would be seemingly absurd and feel like grounds for instant lightning strike. But the Bible instructs us to be like Jesus, and you could search the world up and down until you can’t search any longer and you would be hard pressed to find a man in the flesh who reminded you more of Jesus than Joe Prattico. The catchphrase stuck and I can honestly say that in times over the past few years when I was struggling to maintain my composure, I quietly whispered to myself, “What would Papa Joe do?”

“Papa Joe knew”

About a year ago it was suggested to me to interview Papa Joe and learn more about his life. When I asked him he said, “I don’t think I am that interesting.” I didn’t get the feeling he wanted the attention, so I didn’t interview him. A few months later I asked him again, to which he gave a similar reply. So instead of persisting, I let some more time go by.

A few weeks ago, I told him again that I wanted to interview him. This time his response was much different. He seemed eager and ready to put his life story into words for someone. He quickly remarked, “Yeah, you keep telling me that.” As if to say he was ready for me to actually do it and stop talking about it.

I had every intention in the new year of sitting down with this man of God and learning about everything he had gone through in his life. I will always regret not pushing through with it and convincing him to let me interview him. I actually wonder now if he was always intrigued to pour out his life song to me, but he was just so humble that his automatic response was to defer from the attention.

So how come on December 11th, two and a half weeks before his death he was suddenly gung ho to sit down with me? Perhaps it was because in November he had fallen and broken some ribs and was more aware of the precious gift and fragility of life, especially as we grow older. But I remember his sudden eagerness for me to interview him to be both exciting and concerning.

What I am about to tell you might seem strange and I can’t decipher why I got this premonition in a dream:

Joe fell this past Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning before I woke up, or knew anything had happened, I vividly remember dreaming in words. The words were, “Pray for the Prattico’s”, and “Papa Joe knew.”

When I awoke after the dream I checked my email to see Papa Joe had fallen and been taken to the hospital with broken ribs and was being rushed into surgery with bleeding on his brain. Papa Joe succumbed to his injuries the next day, Thursday December 29th.

I couldn’t believe I had dreamt those words without knowing anything was wrong. I was wondering what the words of my dream meant and why they were shown to me in a dream. Maybe it was to encourage me to write in spite of being disappointed in myself for not interviewing him when I had the chance. But here is the best way I can define what "Papa Joe knew" means to me:

I think what “Papa Joe knew…” means is actually an incomplete sentence or statement that all of us can complete in our own personalized way. My statement would finish with Papa Joe knew how to make you feel like the most important person in the room, no matter who you were or where you were in life. He knew how to love you greater than anyone who wasn’t required, per blood relation, to do so. He left you asking yourself, “Wait a minute, is he really my biological Grandfather and nobody is telling me? Why does he care so much?”

Papa Joe knew how to make you feel like even your story about trying to pick out a pair of shoes to wear that morning was worthwhile. You would never catch Papa Joe looking over your shoulder at his surroundings as he spoke with you; a focus trait so many of us don’t have. Basically he made you feel special because you were special to him….. Papa Joe just knew.

“I miss the man”

I had a CD of Papa Joe talking about how much he loved Pastor Al, which was recorded shortly after Al’s death in 2004. On that CD Papa Joe got teary eyed and choked up and said, “I miss the man. But I know I will see him again one day. And I am looking forward to it.” I remember listening to it and thinking I rue the day we are all saying the exact same thing about Papa Joe.

Farewell, but not Goodbye

The way he died seemed so unfair to me until I began to hear the details. At first, I thought he fell the day before his 60th anniversary only to find out it was the day of.

He got to celebrate 60 years of marriage with his sweetheart, he got to wear his coveted suit, and he got to tell his family how much he loved them, moments before he fell.

I wondered why we didn’t get any warning. Why was he just gone? And then my sister told me that it would have been too hard for us to watch him grow old and weak; or to watch him suffer. And as hard as it would have been for us to watch, it would have been equally hard for Papa Joe to live it himself. He would not have liked “getting old.” He was too vibrant, too zestful, and just too plain good to suffer from getting old.

The Lord knew exactly the right time. There was no way he was taking him before his 60th wedding anniversary. There was no way he was not letting a suit be the last outfit he slipped into, and no way he was letting him go out in any other way but celebratory and dignified.

In the words of Papa Joe himself, “I miss the man. But I know I will see him again one day. And I am looking forward to it.”

Because above all else,Papa Joe knew the way to heaven.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Night

Moments ago I heard a sound that was all too familiar to me in the past. It represented incurable disease and hopelessness, and for a second just now it tried to represent that same thing it used to.

I am at my fiance's and her family and I had plans to spend the day out and about doing things you do on Christmas Eve. I had surgery Tuesday to laser remove massive amounts of scar tissue that allegedly have been causing my digestive system to be stymied.

Since the surgery, instead of the optimal opening of my system, it has closed to the point where as of last night it is not sustainable without copious amounts of prune juice.

This morning I have been up all night dealing with the results of the only viable option to move my system. Due to the current problem, I told Melissa I would be heading home this morning and not joining them out. As I lay in bed I heard the sounds of people busy to get ready to go somewhere. Keys jingling, plates clattering, feet pattering. It was alot of loud noise, the sound of ensuing plans being hashed out and brought to fruition.

See I spent alot of years in a basement, exhaustingly ill, with my family on the floors above me. Somehow the sounds of noise for a special day always resonated differently then the sound of noise on a mundane workday.

It was always the worst feeling when on one of those days where something important was going on,suddenly the noise stopped. The door would slam, the house would creak, and boom they were gone. It was so symbolic of being left behind;the world continuing while you were left fighting illness by yourself. You were indeed missing another life event.

Today when the feet stopped moving and the silence permeated the house, Satan wanted so badly to remind me of how awful that silence was. That is when I decided to write this blog.

I have been preparing a blog for a month trying to explain exactly what led up to me being healed of Crohn's Disease. I have a draft with the details of every encounter, every word spoken over me, every rough patch, and every doctor that said " It's Crohn's," to the last 2 doctors that said, " I don't understand why any doctor ever told you it was Crohn's." Instead I felt God telling me to write this up real fast and publish it. There is someone who needs to hear it. Someone who needs to know that the silence is not always hope lost.

I don't know why my first Christmas Eve with Melissa is going to be spent apart from her. I don't know why I have gotten sicker before I have gotten better. I don't know God's plan. But I know how it all ends. Maybe I have to suffer today to end up somewhere 27.4 years from now, that I could have not have gotten to without this specific circumstance.

Yesterday I scolded God. I told him that being ill on Christmas was not cool. Not after what I have gone through. I started to explain to him what I had been through, as though he didn't understand without my explanation. He quickly reminded me of the miracles he has done in my life; the absolute, concrete,stone cold miracles. He reminded me that I needed to understand that I don't need to understand what's currently happening.

I have been healed and only suffer in the temporal for a greater purpose; For the Glory of my Lord and savior Jesus Christ.(Tebow!!!!!!) I know this is going to pass soon. I pray even today that things would turn around for Christmas Day.

In the bible it says that we should rejoice in our suffering. From suffering comes perseverence , then character, then hope; and hope, the greatest of these, never fails.

I can humbly say that I always assumed once you reached hope that suffering was long behind it. All of those times where the house fell silent after a long rumbling, I was sure I was many steps away from hope. I couldn't wait until my creating noise was part of the fray on a special day; a hope fulfilled.

Today that scuttlebutt left me behind in the utter silence again, just like those years ago where the silence represented hopeless suffering. But today, knowing what I know now of Jesus and 'holy cow', knowing what he has shown me since the last time the house went silent.., Today that sound of silence is a silent sound of hope.

And now that I think about it, I guess it always was.

Addendum: I knew before I wrote this that it was for someone else. That it was God telling me to do it to help someone. I got confirmation of that after I posted it. Also, I wanted to be clear that this was not meant to be a downer or depressing. I was writing in a darker way yes, but with the ultimate message being I am excited and hopeful and know God has a detailed plan here for me health wise. Sorry if it came across as 'woe is me.' Lastly, after I typed this I felt God asking me to stay in Syracuse and I did and it was a good decision. Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

There's Something About the Way you Wink Tonight

Have you ever winked at someone? Like an unexplained wink that oozed definition and feel and the subject matter knew what you were winking about without any explanation? It’s a great tool of expression, right? A wink delivered on cue can speak a thousand words. Myself; I don’t think I have ever winked at someone except at myself in the mirror on a particularly good hair day.

The wink is a tough play with someone who is not familiar with you nor you familiar with them. Join me as I delve into the art of the wink and all it encompasses.

Sure, winking at someone your comfortable with is easy. It doesn’t even matter what it means because the person knows you well enough to know they like you and you’re probably just winking because you feel like tasting your dinner tonight instead of gabbing through it.

Winking without definition is a slippery slope however. Actually, legend has it Sonny Bono was winking at a ‘ski bunny’ in his last moments.

Winking at someone without a precursor is ambiguous because it can mean such a myriad of things. You can either be perceived as really nice or really creepy, all within the friendly confines of the same wink. George Costanza once had a whole month of his life screwed up because of an involuntary wink due to getting lemon juice in his eye. The definition of being hoodwinked’ is to be deceived or tricked. If I went up to the matronly Librarian who is standing about ten feet to my left right now and started winking at her, I would probably have my precious library card revoked for harassment. If I winked at this guy sitting at the terminal next to me I would probably…eh, I think he might wink back unfortunately. Wink at a girl at a bar and you are going to expose yourself to intense scrutiny and assumption, and probably end up with the last guy who winked at her’s phone number in your wallet.

Anyways, winkers in our society have been on the downswing since the onslaught of cynicism has barnstormed our everyday lives. Let’s look at some of the unfortunate paths some famous ‘winkers’ have trudged down.
Rip Van ‘Winkle was not an ambitious man by any means. He slept and slept until he probably woke up one day old, broke, wrinkly, and loveless(I have not read the story so correct me if he ended up the CEO of NoDoz).Henry ‘Winkler was a heartthrob in the 70’s as “The Fonz”, but have you looked at him lately?For goodness sake, he makes Rip Van Winkle look fetching. And don’t even get me started on the dreaded Winkelvoss twins. Not even their mother likes those guys.

I can only remember one person who has winked at me in my life. My former high school coach became my boss when I coached at my alma mater and he would call a kid into his office and pretend like he was mad at him. He would give him a hard time and break them down about some minutia and when the kid would stare at the ground thinking he was in for a session of cleaning Mr.Pfieffers blackboard erasers, Coach would wink at me to let me know he was messing with the kid. The subject didn’t get to see the wink however, so he had to sustain the elongation of the berating until Coach felt ready to let him know everything was going to be ok. Depending on Coach’s mood, this process could cover a bunch of winks to me and a plethora of boot shaking by the presumed assailant…See, another incident of a wink just not feeling all that good. (In all reality it was in good humor and he only did it to kids that could handle it. Everyone laughed together after. Win/Win.)

Anyways, a year ago today I decided to use my first ‘wink….’ E-harmony has a list of options of ways to break the ice with a potential matched mate. I had to choose between, “Hi. We seem to have been matched up, how are you?” “ You seem interesting, would you like to share an electronic mail?, “ I can see my unborn children in your eyes,” and just simply, “Wink.”

I chose to wink at Melissa and let it ride. I was excited when she winked back later that day. We began emailing a few days later and on September 17th of this year, we got engaged. We will be married on July 21st of next year.

Our relationship began with an online wink and to this day we haven’t winked at each other in real life. This morning I texted her, “wink” and she texted back that she was so happy and smiley when she got the first wink from me on that fateful day one calendar year ago. I shudder to think at what could have been lost had she misread the wink and been looking for a less flirty opening segment from her potential suitor.

All I know is I am in love. In love with a woman of virtue and passion for the Lord and for life. Melissa makes me laugh like I have never laughed before and it’s now finally safe to tell her that I do see my unborn children in her eyes; both her wide open eyes and her winky eyes.

I am saving my first real life wink to her for an opportunistic moment. Perhaps the next time I see her even. Or at the altar.Or as she lay on the hospital bed pushing out our first child. Or on my death bed as we say farewell on this side of heaven. Maybe all of the above.

I know this next wink will be unlike the first one, which was punctuated with a nervous question mark. The next wink or winks will end with a much different punctuation at the end of it. This time with a period. I love you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How God Cured My Incurable Disease

“So let the water’s rise, if you want them to”

I don’t know why I haven’t written about this miracle sooner. Maybe I was waiting for confirmation from a second doctor,which I finally got on Tuesday, to squelch any questions some may have of its validity. Maybe I have been too busy to write. I don’t really know but I know it’s been in the back of my head for 9 months now. It is a story of what God has done for me. It is the ultimate miracle to date in my life and it’s been 14 years in the making. Four years ago I was diagnosed with Crohns disease and now I stand here on October 20th 2011 and proclaim that two separate doctors have looked into my digestive system and confirmed to me that they don’t see any signs of Crohn’s disease. I’m going to write in several parts where I have come from,what God has done,and what a miracle it is that I no longer live with what the secular world proclaimed to be an “incurable” disease. And of course we are going to have a little fun at my expense along the way.

14 years ago this month I got sick. Very sick. So sick the next year of my life was spent trying to figure out what the heck was going on. My symptoms were bloody and frequent diarrhea,fatigue,anemia,and fevers. Whatever it was this was rip roared into my life right at the beginning of the one of the most coveted years of a young man’s life;my senior year in high school. I had finally come into my own socially and what do you know,I started pooping blood with no control over it. Not exactly a trait the ladies were looking for. I missed a ton of school and spent a lot of time at doctor’s offices. I had no clue I was about to embark on a struggle that these words on a piece of paper could never fully explain.

About 9 months after the initial symptoms I was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis,the second most severe digestive disease possible. U.C. is inflammatory bowel disease. It is defined as inflammation of the large intestine. About 1 in 300 Americans have either Colitis or the more serious Crohn’s disease. I spent the next 5 years on high doses of the sterioid prednisone,which I know now is just as bad as the disease itself.

The drug kept me alive though,although a lot of those years I was so drugged up I almost felt comatose. I was not myself. I was miserable, unhappy,and unhealthy. My hair thinned out and my face puffed up as side effects of the drugs. I was told I was going to lose my hips if I didn’t get off of prednisone,and I was only 21 years old.

When I was at my sickest I couldn’t even keep my head up over my shoulders. I was so weak that I couldn’t sit up for more than a few minutes at a time. (For a miracle story God gave me from this time in my life please read this blog if you haven’t already….

I also had no control over my bowels. At its worst I would have about 5 seconds between the time I first felt the urge to go,to the time I was actually going uncontrollably. Much to my chagrin there was not always a bathroom within 5 seconds of me. I would have to wear diapers when I went out during the day sometimes. I remember a time when I was at a New York Giants conference championship game and trying to decide if I wanted to wear a diaper or just risk it. I had already gone to the bathroom behind a parking lot dumster on the way to the game and didn’t want this huge game to be ruined by soiling myself. I remember deciding to wear the diaper in and telling myself, “This is awesome,you are watching your team play for the super bowl and your diaper is going to make sure you don’t miss it.” I was legitimately stoked. A 20 year old man with a diaper,his best friend, and his football team. ‘This is the life.’( I didn’t end up needing the diaper that day after all.)

But all joking aside,that was my life. Not to mention all that goes along with 10 to 20 disease driven bowel movements a day. I used to sleep all day and stay up all night because the day time was just too hard for me. I didn’t like going out during the daylight because I couldn’t inconspicuously drop a bowel movement at mine or someone else’s front tire in the sunlight. My eyes were also severely damaged by the potent amounts of steroids I was on and my eyes were so sensitive to light that I couldn’t stand it. One time a friend of mine stopped over during the day and I came out to the driveway. After I went back inside I couldn’t see a thing. I realized my eyes hadn’t seen daylight in so long that they were struggling to adjust from dark to light to dark again and I was just seeing darkness now. It went away after a few minutes but it was really a wake up call to how indisposed my body was.

In all these years I had no relationship with Jesus. I didn’t really care to. Perhaps I was mad at him. I really don’t remember. I was rude to my family and distant from my friends. I lived as a shell of myself. The disease and the drugs had worn me down and I had withered away to about 130 pounds at 6 foot 2. Looking back I probably should have died at some point,had it not been against God’s plan for my life.

I spent many a night in the hospital getting fluids or being examined. I was also a guinea pig to a new drug,being the first person in Rochester to receive Remicade for bowel disease. I had such a bad reaction to that drug that I ended up with a 107 degree temperature and rising before I finally got admitted into the intensive care unit of the old Genesee Hospital . I am convinced that without God’s supernatural touch,I die that night. I can’t tell you what it felt like,but it was bad and I don’t know how much worse it could have feasibly gotten before death would have occurred.

At some point in 2001,I went to a free clinic for osteoporis screening and waited in a long line with all elderly folks. After about 10 minutes I literally couldn’t stand anymore and bowed out of the line as all the people 50 to 60 years older than me stood there fine. It was that day that I knew I had to do something to regain my life.

On Christmas Eve of 2001 my mother and I went to a surgeon and decided I would have my diseased intestine removed. It would be a 2 surgery ordeal. The first,removal of the large intestine and the rectum, with construction of a J-pouch. The J Pouch would be my small intestine folded on itself and would serve as my new digestive system. I would be required to have an ileostomy bag for six months while my system healed. An ileostomy is when your small intestine is pulled thru your stomach and protrudes on the outside of your body,and excretes feces into an attached bag that hangs down.

Now the prospects of a bag were intimidating but we knew it was the only chance I would ever gain some semblance of a life. The surgery was a beast and a bear all rolled into one. On April 2 nd ,2002 I woke up with a foot long incision on my stomach,a poop bag hanging off of it, and the worst pain I have ever experienced. When my loved ones looked at the wound I could tell it must have been awful because tears welled up in their eyes. The doctors told me they had never seen a colon so diseased as mine. It was going to be a long road to recovery. But the good news was as my disease was defined as confined to the large intestine,now that I had removed it,I was disease free.

The ileostomy bag was a challenge. Some nights I would roll over on it while I slept and,what do you know?Pop goes the fecal. I did try to make the most of it though. I was open about having it and once placed it on a co-workers forearm and asked him “is this yours?”,before he ran into the bathroom and hid for about a half hour. I also wore it on the outside of my pants at a Chinese restaurant,much to the horror of my eating companion,Dan Wallace. I had to make the most of it and make fun of myself. After all how else do you deal with defecating thru your stomach skin?

In September of 2002 I had surgery 2. They took away the bag and I would be able to go the normal way again. They said to expect it to start with about 10 to 15 movements a day and to go down to about 3 to 5. I was excited that I was disease free and ready to get off the Prednisone (it took me a year to wean off the monster). I was ready to embark on my new life. The only problem was….. I never got better.

I had problems with the new pouch from the get go. I was going non stop and couldn’t properly evacuate. The only difference between this and colitis was I did have control over my bowels,so no diapers needed. But something was still wrong. I spent the next 5 years just living with it. I was tired of doctors and just wanted to live my life as well as I could. In May of 2007 however it was very bad and I decided to go to get a colonoscopy. The doctor discovered I was in the 1 percent who was misdiagnosed and I actually had the most serious digestive disease known to man;Crohn’s Disease.

The day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s,I played in a softball game. I hit a ball harder and further than I ever remember hitting it,for a homerun. This ball went on a straight line over the center fielders head by about 50 feet. I was not and had never been a power hitter. My mom commented that it was God giving me a blessing on such a hard day. I didn’t see it as such then,but looking back it just wasn’t in my power to hit a ball like that and I am sure it was God up to bat for me. It was so symbolic of what the next 5 years of my life was going to be like.

I had ignored God during the duration of the past disease (Colitis) and I would ignore him for the first portions of this more serious disease. But there was going to come a day where looking to him was going to lead to my deliverance. He knew what was going to happen,and that out of body homerun was just the start of the miracle of my healing from a disease I was just diagnosed with that morning.

Part 2 coming later this month. Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feeling Mushy for A Mush; My Lebron James Sympathy Movement

If you perused Twitter last night and looked at the trends, you would have found that the number one trend-er for the day was 'Rashard Lewis'. Rashard’s Wizards didn’t make the playoffs. Not even close. So why on the day of game 5 of the NBA Finals was he trending, and not say, Lebron James?

Well you see , because ESPN reporter Stephen A. Smith had reported from a ‘reliable’ source that he had a lead about Lewis having a devious physical relationship with Lebron’s girlfriend recently.

Whether its true or not I am not sure. This is the second time a rumor of another NBA star having a relationship with someone close to Lebron has arisen in the last few playoff seasons(Google, "Delonte West likes Lebron's Mom"). If I had to guess I would say its absolute truth. Usually reported rumors from a “reliable” source in the Orlando area are indeed accurate.( See: Tiger Woods);But on the heels of the most perplexing Finals performance from a superstar I have ever heard or seen, I found myself changing my sentimental stance on Lebron; I kind of feel bad for him

I feel for him as a human. He is a mortal after all. A 25 year old not far into manhood. He didn’t choose to be given the greatest basketball talent God may have ever doled out. He didn’t ask to be followed around by a camera as a 13 year old; seemingly setting the standard for the rest of his life being scoped under the lights. He certainly didn't ask to be involved in a relationship with a woman that would be rumored to go sour and having the villain of her possible infidelity be the number one trend-er on Twitter on the afternoon of the biggest basketball game of his life.

We haters have been eating up his failures for the last few days, and most of us probably haven’t stopped to think what it would be like to have your work scrutinized by tens of millions of people. Not to mention your relationship woes broad casted throughout national news media outlets.

Sure, I am still rooting for him to fail competitively on the court at this time. I pumped my fist at almost his every miss in games four and five. I however found myself opening up the possibility of an end game to my personal chastising of him.

I certainly don’t want to see him win a title this year. And thankfully, if the Mav’s can win one of the next 2 games, he will have to at least pay a years worth of dues for his utterly gross front running attempt.

However, I am now open to the possibility, maybe even the likelihood that one day down the road I could allow myself to root for him again and even root for him to win a title.

When I woke up yesterday if you had asked me if I saw a light at the end of my bitter tunnel I would have said absolutely not. Today I realized I might just want to see the saga'd quest continue for a few more years. Heck, maybe even a decade. But if 36 year old Lebron is 0 and 5 in the finals, wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey as their sixth man, and has a shot at a ring, I think I assuredly would root for the culmination of his chasing's to come to fruition for him. It's just that I enjoy good sports stories and drama so much, and the longer James goes without a title, the thicker the plot.

Listen, Lebron is struggling with an on the court complex, whether he admits it or not; Something is wrong with him and its not talent,it’s mental.

In his last 2 games, the biggest of his 25 year life, he has blended deferment and what can only be described as cowering under pressure, to a tee. The Anti King James side of me loves it. The humane side of me suddenly feels for him.

None of us could ever understand what its like to fail at our jobs and our relationships on such a public level as Lebron James has encountered in the past few days. We compare him to Michael Jordan, but he never asked to be compared to him. He never asked to be this good at basketball. He never signed up to be raked over the hottest coals in town. He never meant to be THIS.

But he did however sign up to be the bizarr-o Scottie Pippen , and my oh my what a fine job he is doing at being just plain bizarre. The man has superhuman ability and has been dubbed the chosen one, but has effectively boxed himself into a corner with his tail between his legs in this NBA Finals.

He tweeted "Now or never" before and about game 5. What now Lebron? Game 6 is still going to occur right?

This isn’t what I envisioned or hoped for from Lebron when I fell in love with his on the court character and basketball tools while he was in Cleveland.... But,this is exactly what I had hoped for when he shredded the city of Cleveland in a shameless one hour special last July.

Hey, in Four days Lebron James might win his first World Title. It’s still very much in play. But watching him on and off the court the past 2 days has given me a new found respect for the humanity  of Lebron James, and opened me up to the possibility of one day rooting for him to get it all right : I see myself rooting for him to find a interior, back to the basket, post game in his later years like Michael did, when his legs were weighed down. And I find myself pipe dreaming that he might go back to Cleveland at age 31 when his contract in Miami is up, with no rings in his baggage; and to win his first in Cleveland.

I always thought I was a softy when it came to sports. I realized today that if I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, in this encompassing disdain for Lebron James self induced highway robbery of his own ceiling, that I am an even bigger softy than I first thought. But alas, I slap myself and put on my "Go Mav’s" face for now.

It’s just too soon, Lebron. I know you never asked for all of this pressure or fame, and I now hope you get your trophy one day. But not this Tuesday. Not June of 2012. Maybe not even June of 2017. But yes, some June, some day.

Until then though Lebron, would it upset you if I rooted for Delonte and  Rashard  to win a title first??

Friday, April 29, 2011

Finding the Michael Scott in All of Us

Yes, I cried. Yes, I felt like a friend of mine was yanked out of my life and an important part of me was ripped out of my innards. Yes, I was elated for him to have ridden off into the fictional sunset into a life of fictional happiness; the one he had always dreamt about. The one with a wife and the promises of children. Yes, Michael Scott was veritable to me on a deeper level than just a television character.

I saw Michael Scott in a different perspective then most may have seen him. You might have seen him as a quirky, fun loving, goofy, asinine character on a television sitcom. When I really looked into his character though I found something in him that struck an esoteric nerve. He was zany and came off as a selfish, conceited imbecile because he was longing for happiness. He was often crass because he had internal anguishes of not having found true love and was simply acting out his hurts in a different avenue of expression. The creators turned him into a symbolic character that some people could relate to, whether it be at their current point in life or in a time gone by.

‘The Office’ is the only show I have watched every episode of week in and week out since ‘Seinfeld.’ With ‘Seinfeld’ I missed the first few years and never really felt drawn to a specific character. With Michael Scott I have experienced for the first time a friendship and dare I say love for a television character. The feelings are not reciprocated, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter who or what it is, as long as it touches you on an emotionally profound level, it’s worth pouring something into.

For 7 years I watched this character yearn and suffer in an often subtle, fictionalized morphing. After all he was a mid 40 something American male who craved to be liked and longed for a family of his own. Who among us doesn’t want to be liked? Who doesn't want family to share life with?

He was teetering on the edge of tragic figure status in that he knew he was running out of time. Running out of time to play ball with his kids. Running out of time to grow old with his grand kids. He was a white collar employee with a seemingly good salary and stellar health.  Yet this man was lost and lonely. It was somewhere around season 4 that it struck me that we were watching perhaps the most tragic figure in television history, masked under the guise of ridiculous humor.

The fact that his character was able to make me laugh like none other I’ve ever watched, in the midst of his search for his own personal holy grail was television genius. I always found myself rooting for him to finally find what he was looking for. But I never missed a chance to laugh at his expense either.

The 7 years I spent having the privilege of getting to know Michael Scott (Yes, I just typed that) were transcendent in my own personal life too. After a long, lonely night of gambling I would often pop in an episode of ‘The Office’ and bond with a character that was desolate in his own way.

I got to know Michael Scott in a time where I was far from where I am now. Much like him, I wasn’t sure of myself or where my life was going. As was he, I was painfully dumped a few times in my years of getting to know Michael. Through years of illness and confusion, I too wondered whether I was ever going to meet that special person and play ball with my child.

 As crazy as it sounds, I believe Michael Scott helped me through some of the most trying times in my life. In times where I wasn’t even close to my own family or God, I turned to that character to laugh and be touched. Sometimes just being able to say "At least I'm not Michael Scott", was enough to pacify me.

When it boils down to it, Michael Scott was just a television character. He doesn’t exist; he isn’t real and he isn’t in Boulder, Colorado right now having his culmination of a life hoped for with his fiance.

So how then, tonight, in his last episode did this fictional character’s contentment actually touch me as I sat silent on my couch? In my life I have learned the things I appreciate most are those moments you feel warmth in your soul without a word coming out of your mouth. He didn't need to exist.

I cried tonight watching this fictionalized character ‘die off.’ I didn’t feel dumb about crying or as if I was losing perspective. I found myself legitimately moved by the fact I am going to miss that goofy clown. You can earnestly miss old homes, vacation spots, or sports stadiums that have since been torn down. Why not a television character?

After some selfish tears of sorrow I found myself once again merry realizing Michael was happy. I was moved by this creation because it epitomizes so much of what we all strive for. At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy.

In that way, the spirit of Michael Scott will live on in all of us who truly grew to love him. And his spirit is all we have left of him now. I suppose it's all we ever had.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Day At The Too Fast, Fast Food Place.

I know, I know. I shouldn't even be eating it. But this is not meant to be a 'Come to Jesus' moment. This is a rant about the all too hasty abruptness of a fast food drive thru. Wait a minute, isn't that the nature of the basis of your decision to go thru a drive thru? No. My reason for drive thru's is that I don't have to answer to anyone when my shoes don't match or my boxers are indeed my pants for the moment. Sure, I would like for my artery clogging food to be given to me in a timely fashion. But lately, in the past year I have noticed a difference in the M.O. of fast food drive thru's. They are too fast. Even Superman needs a second to regroup.

What do I mean? Well if you don't know then you are eating right, so kudos. Because if you have had any experience with drive thru's lately you will have noticed the following, no matter which one you go to: These people are trained to send both unspoken and spoken vibes about how fast they want you in and out of their line.

You pull up to the drive thru already knowing you shouldn't be there. Your stomach is begging you to turn around but your soul is desperate for an insta-fix. So you pull up to the public address system and before you can even come to a full stop, an automated voice asks you if you want the most obscure item on the menu for 30 cents less then it usually is. The voice comes across as friendly, in real time, and focused on your needs, but really its a pimply faced high schooler in Beverly Hills California, who recorded it during one of his 2,4 hour shifts back around St.Patrick's day.

So you tell this voice "No thanks," only to get to the real person. Then the aforementioned real person comes into your life telling you to go ahead with your order. They don't even tell you to wait until you're ready anymore. If I'm not ready I feel guilty and apologize that I'm not ready. Why am I apologizing? Because I'm trained to worry about the voice inside the box more then about ordering what will make me happy.

So I apologize. From the time you apologize a running clock in your head is counting down. You know that apology is only good for about 15 to 20 seconds. If you are still contemplative after that, you owe the box another apology, lest you offend it. Honestly I had a friend make me leave the drive thru a few months ago because when the girl asked how I was doing, I said "Sub-par." The Giants had just been eliminated from the playoff race and I was indeed "sub par." He thought I offended her and didn't trust our food would be safe in her hands. I can't even be myself to the drive thru lady? We worry more about offending the drive thru guy then offending our spouses.

Anyways, you sit there worried trying to decide what you want, and all this time there is another,more tangible and less paranoid "clock" that has begun. Now if you are leery of big brother, do not read the following few lines. I'm going to delve into the little known underbelly of the fast food world. A fact that since we all have discovered that their fast food is literally killing us, they have now put at the top of the list of things they don't want you to know about. One that will change your drive thru life forever.

What is the "clock", you ask? The clock is just that. It's a clock. It begins running the second you pull up to the speaker. Fast food eateries chart the time it takes you to first come up upon their den of intestinal dismay to the time you drive off flustered, fumbling your loose change, and wondering why your straw only has half the wrapper on it.

They have quotas to meet. Not on the quality of the food per say, but on the speediness of getting you in and out faster than you can say "give me the real beef."

A computer system takes tabs on the times of every drive thru, and regional fast food joints are compared and judged by 'corporate' based on the data. Managers put pressure on their minimum wage workers to 'get em' in and get em' out', because their job performance reviews depend on it. Isn't it comforting to know that your on the clock as you go thru a drive thru like you are the general manager of a pro sports team? "Why did I pick Ryan Leaf this early?" "Why did I draft Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan?" "Why did I order the 10 piece nuggets when the 6 piece would have sufficed?" America has demanded this. I remember when I used to say " This fast food is too slow,"as a naive youngster........ It's my fault. I created this monster.

How do I know this? Well I cant name names, but insert the scrambled faced girl here whose name is protected and is shaking as she speaks into the camera. That's how I know. But I don't really know. Because she didn't really "know." And you don't know either. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So now you know your simply a time piece to them. Just sand in a glass. But we are still only at the ordering stage. So after a third apology, we order.

"Ya can I get a number two please, but not before you tell me who number two works for?" "I'm sorry sir, did you want a number 12 you said?" " Close. I do need an even number, you are right. But your 10 numbers off." " OK sir so that's a number 10 with a Hi-C then. Drive up for your total." " No, not a number 10,that's the number I hear gave Chris Farley his baker's dozen heart attack in that one week. I need a number 2 and that reminds me, why aren't your toilets cleaned more often during rush hour as they are during down hours?" "Sir, can you drive up?" "Can you Super size me??" "I'm not familiar with that term,.. or that movie sir. Drive up."

You pull up to the first window. The first window is where you come across the most miserable worker there. And you can't blame her. She is the girl in the box, who doesn't see any of her other co-workers and has to touch dirty money and dirty hands all day. She is as happy to see your penny's as your large intestine is to see your chicken carcass's,err,nuggets.

So your total was $9.81 and you give her a 10 and say "I have change." So you start counting your loose change from the median "things" holder. You start with the quarters, then realize you have enough nickels and penny's and can save the quarters for laundry,which could come sooner then later if you don't count your change fast enough and your Hi-c lid is somehow "accidentally" loose around one inconspicuous edge. (I know circle's don't have edges, but bear with me)

So you count out your nickel's and penny's and your sweating your famished head off. Why? Because you look up somewhere around the fifty cent mark and realize the following: The first window girl has her hand out the window, although her head is looking the opposite way, presumably at her texting machine. But by now the second window has opened. And there is a head leering out of it like a giraffe at a zoo. You realize your food must be ready at the window ahead. How blessed are you that a fresh batch of nuggets must have just came out of the oven? But, How do you know your food must be ready? Because the "giraffe's" hand is now outside the window with a bag in it. Wait, is this guy really dangling my food and my Hi-C out of window two while I struggle at window one? You bet your bottom feeding dollar menu he is.

So you give the uninterested, yet aggravated first window girl the change and she gives you your dollar bill back. You tell her you don't need a receipt. They always get offended when you say you don't need the receipt. I'm not sure why but I'm sure it has to do with George Orwell's "clock," in some way. So then you try to put your dollar back in your wallet, which is now on the seat beside you, as you pull up to window number two to get your meal;which has now had enough fresh air to make an arborist jealous.

Before you know it, your at window two and your dollar is just not nestled to your liking in your wallet. So instead of grabbing your food and beverage, you tend to the wallet. Now this incenses the pimply faced high school football star; Only he doesn't say it, he vibes it. The crass fast food worker vibe is the harshest. You should have seen how unspokingly angry the kid got the other day when I asked him to skim some of the cool whip off the top of my milkshake because it was overflowing....Anyways, So you begin to feel unhealthy disdain for this high school senior. It's not his fault the clock is running, you tell yourself. Give him a break,grab the food. But then you smile as you remind yourself its not your fault either, and you continue putting your dollar in your wallet.

By now he has pulled your all to quickly made and delivered food back into his booth, as if to try to scare you into thinking he may have the power to just tell you, "No food for you." Your dollar is half in and half out of your wallet due to unceremoniously folding under the pressure of the drive thru; but you know you can't go back to the wallet a second time. You just can't. So you finally are ready to receive your bag of food. It will all be worth it when you're eating you're tasty nuggets and your parch squelching Hi-C.

The boy gives you your food and you ask if their are napkins in the bag. He says yes. You say, "Notice I used napkins in the plural tense." He hands you some napkins. Then he closes his window in such a way, as if you were the drunken neighbor who sat on the porch all nite talking to your friends in an unruly tone, and keeping his kids awake.

You drive off and head home to eat. The "clock" has stopped at forty two seconds above the quota median. You just cost some manager her bonus, and your license plate number is plastered to a bulletin board in their back room on post office poster paper. But at least you got your food. You remember as your driving off you forgot the straw, so you go to throw it in reverse but its too late. The clock has already gotten the next victim. The giraffe has moved on to the next car.

You go home to eat frazzled. You're sure you must have a straw laying around from a time they put 2 in your bag when you only ordered one drink...It's time to eat now. Put the all to fast fast food experience behind you for a few minutes.And, oh, ..Enjoy your fish-fillet and iced tea.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The First Person I saw Accept Christ in God's Miraculous Timing

In October of 2009 I was newly dedicated to Christ. I decided I was going to stop gambling and had been attending addictions classes for the past few weeks, when God put together his first fateful divine appointment in my life.

The story takes place on a Tuesday night, but the ball begins rolling for its apex on the preceding Friday. I had gone to Tc Hooligans with my sister and brother in law and paid with my debit card. Somehow the card was split in half. Whether or not that has anything to do with the fact the waitress never gave it back to me, I don't know.

Four days later, I found myself in the neighborhood of a girl whom had broken up with me a few days earlier. When I looked down her street , I saw her new boyfriends car in the driveway. The aggravation of this caused me to begin driving to the casino in Buffalo. I had been about three weeks or so "clean."

As I drove thru Greece on my way to Buffalo I had to pick up some cash to gamble with. I had a 3000 dollar check from a poker site and was going to cash it at my bank, Esl. Well, I couldn't find any Esl's in Greece but I did find an ATM machine. By now I was vascillating and could feel the spiritual warfare going on in this situation. I reached into my wallet and couldn't find my debit card anywhere. Then I remembered I must have left it at Hooligan's four days before. It's the first time I remember losing my debit card in a place other then the ATM machine.

So here was my problem: I couldn't gain any access to money to gamble with. I was a half hour from home and only had a few bucks in my pocket. At first I was angry in regards to my bad luck, but as I calmed down I knew it was not luck at all. God had started the ball rolling four days earlier, knowing I would be challenged to gamble on this day.

The story gets better. As I gripped reality I decided I wasn't going to go to the casino ( Doesn't sounds like I had much choice, does it?), but I would instead go to addictions counseling that night.

As I sat in group counseling, an African American man of about 45 years of age, began to share of his life as a drug addict. He shared a story of a time he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Yes, died. He said he was pronounced dead and subsuquently revived. What he described he saw in his instance of death was daunting and haunting.

He said when he died he was taken to hell. He said he remembers the fires and the screams. He remembered seeing people in chains and cages yelling for help. His most succint description was of the heat of it all; the raw, molten, heat.

This man whose name I do not know, was revived and came back to earth. He said upon learning of hell's fury that he hoped to never go back there again.

After I listened to this story I remember God speaking to me so clearly. When God speaks you don't hear a voice audibly, but you hear a voice in your head that you know is not yours. You know its not yours because it is so peaceful and overcoming and seperate from your own day to day mindful conscience.

What God was saying to me was " This man just shared of hell and how awful it was, but ask him if he has accepted me as his God since then." So in front of about 10 people and upon Jesus's instruction, I said this. " Sir, I don't want to put you on the spot. But I think God wants me to ask you if you have done anything since that day to ensure you don't go back there upon your final death?"

The man said he had not. He said he was not worthy to be a christian because he had done bad things. He even said he was unworthy because he smoked.Imagine that;there are people out there who have not been ministered to properly enough that they actually believe cigarettes can seperate you from the God who made you.

We as a group explained to him that is exactly why he was worthy. We all have done bad things. We all our sinners. Thats why we need the Lord. We fall short without him.

This mystery man accepted the Lord that night. We all applauded and told him he will assuredly never have to experience that pain or that heat again. It was something so obvious to some of us; I mean be honest, if you went to hell and came back, wouldn't you make sure you never go back again?

This man hadn't dealt with it in the years since his experience. Maybe nobody ever told him how to get to heaven. Maybe the lies of unworthiness were so binding that he thought he deserved hell.

When I think of all that happened that week it was so clearly God. He allowed me to lose my debit card,and while upset about my personal life, allowed me to see him so clearly in my moment of weakness. All because he needed me at that meeting that night to hear from him, and to speak to a man who had literally been to hell and back. I'll never forget that divine day;One that would have led me to a casino without God's graceful intervention.

I'll also never forget that day because it was the first time God had given me the privilege to be used in bringing someone to Christ....And undisputably enough, God knew he needed me there that night specifically. ....After that Tuesday night in October of 2009, I never saw that mystery man again.....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Joe DiBella has a Nice New Girlfriend

 Joe DiBella has a Nice New Girlfriend

By Joe DiBella

If you haven't read this blog yet, please do; as it is imperative to understanding the following blog.

      Some people say I read into things to much. Have they told me this to my face? Sometimes. Have I traced this in their face? Sometimes. But actually I believe I look into things just the right amount. Funny; You never hear anyone say that do you?... 'He looks into things just the right amount.' We as a society are ever skeptical. It's the ever skeptics in so many that keeps so many from religion. Because although everyone knows we must die on this earth, so many skeptically for whatever reason lose interest in what happens when we do so. How could there be a God, they ask? Nothing comes out of nothing. But with that very same thinking there is the thinking that if a higher power didn't pop out of nowhere, then somehow we did? Something had to come out of nothing. You can't dispute that. So instead of saying we popped out of nowhere, how about saying God popped out of nowhere, and defining "nowhere" as "always there."

See I look into things just the right amount. Which is always. When you ask God to write your life's story as I have the past year or so, you will always expect God to be the one outlining your life's details. And God is deft enough to write between the lines. Whereas I pray almost everyday that I am also deft enough to choose to read between his lines.

Alas, my point: I have a new girlfriend. But not any old girlfriend you see. I paid $59.95 for the privilege and unadulterated joy of meeting her. I signed up for E-harmony in November with the belief I would be meeting someone significant. Did I surprise you with that last comment? Is it because you expected me to say " I signed up for E-harmony without thinking it was going to amount to anything significant?" Well that would be the commonplace themed statement to make. But you must realize, as I said before, I look into things just the right amount.

So when my mom text me for the third or fourth time in a couple months time that she had seen a commercial stating "E-harmony has a free communication weekend coming up and you should try it out," I was able to quip back "I already signed up and paid, and maybe you should try it out and find us a sugar daddy."

I have prayed for over one year for God to protect me from the wrong relationships. I had already had a lifetimes worth of those. So over that time God had made me privy to spots and situations he didn't approve of through lack of peace or lack of sensibility in the situation. I prayed for doors he wanted to close to close, and strings he needed to pull to be pulled.

For the first few weeks of E-Harmony, I was finding they were trying to hook me up with (in my eyes only) fairly unattractive woman mostly in the Great Toronto area. My 'looking radius' was set at only 60 miles wide and long. But apparently no one told E-harmony the fast ferry was defunct as they must have expected me to get to these woman on the boat to make it to them in 60 miles distance.

It was late in November that I decided that I would expand my radius to 90 miles. It was right about then that a mystery woman in Liverpool was going to quit her E-harmony account due to insufficient return on investment. Luckily for all of us, her best friend talked her into signing up for one more go of it.

On November 28th I winked at Melissa Holden Kaltaler.(Remember that middle name for later). Winking is the online equivalent to walking up to someone in real life and saturating them with a corny pick up line. Much to my delight, she found my wink to be at the very least, somewhat charming, and winked back.

To make a long story short, over the past few months we have talked and gotten along swimmingly and recently decided we should embark on a more then friends relationship.(After all it wasn't "E-platonic" we had signed up for)

Last week I felt an insatiable urge to go back and look at the date of our first email to each other. I knew the significance of December 1st being the date I quit playing "Holdem'; and of course the gift the Lord had given me at midnight on my one year anniversary in the Water baptism certificate being found. (As you read in the blog link above.)

Well, not much to my surprise, the date of our first Email to each other was indeed December the 1st. My one year anniversary of being set free from the bondage of gambling. I had asked God to portray things as making sense, and to me introducing communication with such a lovely girl on my "Birthday" made allot of sense.

Am I reading into that one? That's a 1 in 365 shot and 1 in 366 shot every fourth year, that we would start communicating on that day. If I was a gambling man I would not bet on that being a coincidence.

Another interesting tidbit : Melissa's middle name is 'Holden.' So what', you say? Well it is one letter off of 'Holdem.' One letter off of the game that ensnared my joy and spirits for so many years. Sometimes one decision or one letter per say, is much more significant then the small numeric change we believe the number one represents. Let's look at the tally board, in sequential order of how symbolic I believe the number one has been in my life in the past 15 months.

Significance of the number one scoreboard:

1) One hope for freedom from addiction.
2) One one time payment to a dating site.
3) One year of freedom.
4) One miraculous birthday gift at midnight on my one year anniversary from God.
5) One email sent on my one year anniversary of not gambling.
6) One letter discrepancy in a middle name separating that very middle name from the vice that had and would have always kept me from God's Will for my life.
7) One God in the 'middle' of it all.

We will see what God has in store in the next few months in this relationship. I know I just want the one true God in the middle of its orchestration. I'm just glad to have a peace that passes understanding about where I have been brought in my life in all regards.

I hope you believe me, in that I was looking into what I just wrote the exact right amount. When you believe in the one and only saviour who died,rose, and made one route for you to live in eternal glory,the number one becomes extremely worthwhile.

One isn't the loneliest number, like the old song bemoans. When you believe in Jesus, and his perfect love and plans, one is the only number that adds up.