A Lenten Conundrum

I consider myself a good Roman Catholic, albeit not exactly a practicing one. Most observers would consider me as more of a recovering one. I’ll be honest with you because really, I pride myself on being so in both my life and my writing: I don’t go to Mass every Sunday and I haven’t for some time. I haven’t been to Confession in over a decade and generally when I do go to Mass, I skip Communion because, as Sister Mary Margaret taught me in Grade School (back when we all lived in “J-Town” and no one lived anyplace else), to receive Communion with Mortal Sin on my soul–my aforementioned lack of regular Mass attendance–is punishable by nothing short of the fires of H-E-double hockey sticks.

Despite this, I do consider myself a good, if not a great Roman Catholic. Both of my children were baptized RC; both will attend Catholic School and both will learn the same things that I learned growing up. Why? Because I consider my RC upbringing crucial to the person that I am, currently, and the people I want my girls to be. When they turn 18, they can be whatever they want to be but until that day, guys? They’ll do what I and my wife want them to do. Baptism, First Penance, First Holy Communion, Confirmation… the whole shebang. Hopefully you get the point. If you don’t? This next part is for you.

I believe in God. I believe that His son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and was Resurrected a few days later.  I’m a little put off by the idea of a Holy Ghost (or anything ghostly, for that matter), but I concede that something changes within us when we are Confirmed. I don’t know whether Mary was a Virgin or not when she conceived Jesus and I don’t care. She is the mother of “the Word made flesh” and that is enough for me. I believe that “faith” is more than just what happens within a building every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. It’s more than giving money to an establishment. Faith is something inherent within oneself. Something that one believes. And me? I believe in all of the above and in Heaven, Purgatory and Hell too boot, though I do not believe that my missing Mass most Sundays dooms me to the latter because for the most part, I’ve lived a good and moral life. At least I hope it doesn’t. If it does, wow. My whole existence seems kinda’ pointless.

In essence, I believe in a secular version of the spirituality that I was reared in. I believe that my relationship with the Almighty is a personal one, and not something I have to dignify to a building full of worshipers or anyone, for that matter. That said, my reason for writing this blog entry is not to profess my faith to you, my loyal reader (or readers; I’m not really sure how many of you there are since the whole “Visitor” versus “View” thing here on WordPress is a little vague). It merely gives you a bit of background… a foundation that sets up what this blog entry is about: A Lenten Conundrum. 

Who here doesn’t know what Lent is? A show of hands, please. Lent, for those of you that don’t, is the period of 40 weekdays leading up to Easter Sunday that are devoted to fasting, abstinence and penitence. In essence, Lent is a time of purification for all Christians, not just RCs like me: Purification of the soul for the day that marks the anniversary of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead which, in biblical times, was also the day new Christians were baptized. Today–Tuesday, February 12, 2013–is the last day of Ordinary Time, pre-Lent and is known in most circles as “Fat Tuesday.” It is a day of excess: Of not fasting, not abstaining and being unrepentant before Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent. It is a good excuse to party and it always has been. But for me in 2013? Fat Tuesday signifies something else. Something much more dire and serious now that my idea of “partying” involves popcorn, sugar-free juice boxes and “Puss In Boots” on a Saturday night with my three and a half year old. Tomorrow, I need to give up something for Lent and this year? I have no idea what in the H-E-double hockey sticks I’m going to give up.

Last year, I gave up Facebook. Don’t all “ooh” and “aah” at once. It is possible despite our seemingly insatiable need as a species to see what our friends are doing and, in some cases, who they are doing, laid out before us in blue and white. The experience, or lack thereof was actually quite liberating. Granted, I spent a lot more time on Twitter than I normally do, but I didn’t feel as locked-in to my Zuckerberg-sanctioned timeline as I usually do. So that one’s out of the question. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I generally don’t eat sweets–I can’t because of the whole high blood sugar thing–and my only real vice–smoking–is now a virtual non-vice though I’ll admit to sneaking the occasional Cancer stick, but only on special occasions like at a wedding, or on a Saturday night whilst watching “Lock Up: RAW” with my wife. I’m not a big drinker, and the one thing that I could give up–caffeine–is just not an option. I don’t think I could survive one day, much less 40 without it.

Which leaves me with the title of this blog entry: A Lenten Conundrum. I’d give up blogging–and I’m sure one or two of you reading this would be okay with that–but giving that up is the same, for me, as giving up writing. I can’t. I won’t. It’s too much of a part of who I am. I’d give up sex but come on: I’ve got two kids–a three and a half year old and an eight, soon to be nine month old–for chrissakes. How much do you honestly think I’m getting? How much do you think I even care about getting laid at this juncture? I prefer a good night’s sleep or an uninterrupted hour of reading to getting schazzy. This is in no way, shape or form a reflection on my wife who is as beautiful and desirable now as she always has been. It is merely a personal preference. Nor does it make me less of a man. What it makes me is smart. Sleep… relaxation trumps sex. I can function at work on a full night’s sleep. I can not after a tryst-filled night. So sex? Out of the question, too.

What’s left? I think that pretty much uses up all of the broad topics. Social media? No. Sweets? No. Smoking? Not significant enough. Drinking? See smoking. Caffeine? H-E-double HOCKEY STICKS no! Writing? Nothing to gain. Sex? No point. Am I then reduced to actually picking out specifics to give up like Monster Energy Drinks, Mumford and Sons or Words with Friends? Perhaps. There has to be something. The driving precept behind a Lenten sacrifice is giving up a luxury. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a vice. So what luxuries do I enjoy, outside of the ones mentioned above? Here goes:

1. Cheese: I’m a cheese junkie, guys. I love it. American, Sharp Provolone, Cheddar, Port Wine, Gov’ment and Velveeta, if the latter can even be classified as “cheese” and not a “cheese product.” But there’s a problem with giving up cheese. During Lent, one can not eat meat on Fridays. And I really can’t eat fish. So unless I’m going to eat nothing but greens every Friday between this one and the Good one, I need to keep cheese in my diet. Eating nothing but greens would have the same effect upon me as not drinking caffeine. I don’t know who or what I’d turn into, but I know it wouldn’t be pretty. Why is it that I picture myself cowering in a corner and repeating “my precious” over and over again?

2. Soda: See caffeine. Soda’s not soda, diet or otherwise (and I can’t drink “otherwise” ’cause of the aforementioned, no sugar thing) without caffeine. Anything that masquerades as decaffeinated soda is little more than carbonated liquid in a juice box. I can’t… I wouldn’t survive without it. We’re talking about giving up a luxury, guys, not functionality.

3. Functionality: Both professionally and personally. I could give up being a functional cog in the machine that is my reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Give up working; give up going out; give up being a good dad and a good husband. But doing so would be incredibly counter-productive and… well sh*t, just downright wrong. Besides, I don’t think giving up something as crucial to my life as functionality was what my religious forefathers and mothers meant when they came up with the idea of a Lenten sacrifice. I guarantee you that if they did? There would be a lot more of us out there (as if the however many billion Christians that exist in the world, currently, isn’t enough). Admit it: Laziness is attractive. It is to me. I just wish I could be lazy more often. Sadly, there’s not a lot of room for that in my life, presently.

4. Sports: Too, too easy. I mean really? Giving up sports in Philadelphia right now is the equivalent of taking a vacation. The Flyers stink. The 76’ers blow. The Eagles went 4-12 and just resigned Mike Vick, much to the chagrin of 90% of the sports fans in this city. Phillies’ Pitchers and Catchers reported today to Clearwater, Florida for Spring Training but even that does little to assuage the general malaise that exists when one thinks about the local sports scene, currently. After all, the Phillies finished third in the NL East last year (81-81) and are projected to do the same by most pundits going in to this season. I’d do it, but something tells me that the Almighty would look upon it as me, taking the easy way out.

5. One of my many myriad electronic devices: Smart phone, lap top, iPad, Kindle Fire… you name it and I have it. This one could work save for one issue. Actually, multiple issues, one with each. Regarding my smart phone, I’m sure I could go 40 days without it. I could leave it off in my room at home for a couple of weeks and not think twice. But doing so would eliminate the lone means by which most people contact me. Whether via text, email, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter et al, my smart phone keeps me connected to my friends and family. I have a land line at home but I honestly don’t know it’s number. Generally when it rings I concede that the person calling me is either A.) A telemarketer, B.) A robo-call, C.) My Biological trying in vain to re-establish a relationship with me or D.) My sister, who for some reason always calls my house phone. I automatically assume that if the situation is dire they will call my cell. That said, my cell is necessary to my daily functionality. Ooh, functionality: A double no-no. Plus, I have a March upgrade to look forward to. Samsung S3 here I come! Regarding my lap top, I need it for work since I am the on-call guy for my company. If Sister Mary Margaret’s hydraulic system breaks down at 2:00 AM and she calls me I need to be able to check our warehouse stock, et cetera, et cetera. Regarding my… our iPad, I rarely use it. In essence, giving up the iPad would be the same as giving up my work computer: Something that I don’t own but am allowed to borrow occasionally. Insignificant. As for my Kindle Fire, while it might be nice to give up e-reading and go back to reading paper texts for a few weeks, I am constantly using my Fire to work on e-formatting Endworld. Considering my editor just finished her first edit and will be sending her copy back to me to be re, re, re-revised in the next few days my Fire is, unfortunately, a necessity, as well.

What’s left? I honestly don’t know. I’ve covered everything and anything that I can think of. Is it conceivable that at this juncture, on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence there are few, if any non-necessities in my life? There are luxuries, but are there any that I can manage to survive without for 40 weekdays? I guess that’s why they call it a Lenten “sacrifice,” huh? The idea behind it is a secular extension of the original idea of Lent being a time of  fasting, abstinence and penitence in preparation for the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection and by association, the day of Baptism. And I profess to be a believer in a secular approach to the Roman Catholic faith that I was reared in, do I not? How can I raise my girls RC if I’m not willing to lead by example?

Maybe I should give up caffeine. After all, I didn’t think I would be able to give up Facebook for six weeks last year and I did. It would be healthier for me, wouldn’t it? Should I? Would I?

I would not. Because I believe in God. Because I believe that His son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and was Resurrected a few days later. I further believe that neither the Almighty nor His offspring would ask me to give up something pivotal to my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence as a means of purifying my soul. I can do the same thing through prayer and reflection, can I not? In addition, I remain a little put off by the idea of a Holy Ghost (or anything ghostly, for that matter), but I concede that something within me causes me to think this way at this time of year, even after 30 plus years of doing it. Furthermore, I have believed and always will believe that “faith” is more than just what Sister Mary Margaret defined it as in the Fifth Grade. I believe that faith coincides with belief, and I believe that I have been asked to sacrifice early and often over the course of my life. I have done so with zero debate. I’ve never questioned the motive, I’ve simply accepted that it was something I needed to do. Despite it, or perhaps because of it, I believe that I have lived and that I continue to live a good and moral life. If the Almighty deems it otherwise? Then I guess I underestimated His judgement of what earns one entrance into Heaven, Purgatory or Hell. Still, I am required to give something up for Lent this year and I intend to fulfill that requirement as I have every year since I first learned that I had to. And if I need to pick one of the above listed “necessities” and not caffeine? I choose…

6. None of the Above: You read that right, guys. None of the above. Believe it or not, there is actually a luxury that I have not yet mentioned that I ingest on a daily basis. For lunch; when I get home. In truth? It is likely one of the main reasons why I’m as holly and jolly as I am right now. Chips, guys. Not just potato, but derivatives thereof: Doritos, Fritos, cheesy poofs, Smartfood. All shapes, sizes and flavors. When you combine this with my preexisting inability to ingest candy or anything sugary, I am, in essence, giving up what exists in my subjective reality as junk food for Lent. I figure this will not adversely affect my functionality, nor will the Almighty, His son or that darned Holy Ghost accuse me of “getting off too easy.” Plus, I might drop a few pounds in the process, a not altogether unappealing prospect as Winter begins to wane and give way to Spring and thereafter, Summer.

There you have it! Lenten conundrum solved. I’d like to thank Sister Mary Margret for allowing me to mention her multiple times throughout this composition. I’d also like to thank the Father, the Son and yes, even the Holy Spirit for being the foundation of my spirituality. No matter how secular said spirituality has become in the last few years, I still consider myself a good, if not a great RC. I’d like to thank Mary, the mother of Jesus and her husband, Joseph. Mainly Joseph because really? Mary gets all of the credit, all of the time. I’ll give it to her: The whole Immaculate Conception thing is pretty awesome. But Joseph? Even if Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ Biological he was, seemingly, an attentive and caring father/husband. We should all aspire to be that way, shouldn’t we?

In closing, I’d like to thank my wife, Nicole, who kept Natalie and Cara occupied while I completed this blog entry. She also helped me to decide upon my Lenten sacrifice. She’s giving up sweets–all variations and derivatives thereof–for Lent. No one thinks she can do it but me? I totally think she’s got it in her. Everyone reading this? Please send her your best, positive vibes. Thank you, and have a happy and healthy Easter Season.

Why I Hate February – An Anti-Appreciation

It’s no secret that I always get a little morose around this time of year, guys. To be fair to February, a month that I have panned for many, many years and am planning to pan in this blog entry (try saying that five times fast) my mentality starts to shift in mid-January, reaches its antapex around Valentine’s Day and begins to gradually improve thereafter. Generally by mid-March, I’m back to my oft times holly and jolly self. Cue Easter, baseball season, the hockey playoffs, playing outside, et cetera et cetera. To be fair to January and March, though? Generally only 50% of each month sucks. The other 50%? Not bad at all. 100% of February completely blows.

I’ve always been this way. I guess its just something about the Dead of Winter that gets me down. Granted, it wasn’t always this bad. Pre-the mid-1990’s, I would get slightly bummed out but not overly so. In truth? I’ve had my fair share of good experiences in January, February and March throughout my life. Even a few of the overwhelmingly bad experiences have been tinged with a silver lining or two, i.e. happy memories nestled amidst the sh*tty ones. But for the most part? The aptly named Dead of Winter has been a time of pain and disappointment for me on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

Why do I hate February? I guess I should start with a definition of the Dead of Winter. In actuality? The Dead of Winter refers to the coldest part, or the middle of winter which, chronologically, is more the end of January/the beginning of February than just February. Alright. I’ll concede it: Point, February. That said, it has seemed that over the course of my life, January has actually been pretty nice. Normal. Temperate. Higher then average temperatures; little or no snow save for the Blizzard of 1996 which buried the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for those of you not from around here) under three feet of snow for a couple of weeks.

February, though? Without fail, the temperature generally plummets an extra 10 degrees on the outskirts of Philadelphia and the sky almost immediately starts chronically crapping hard or loose–depending on the track of the storm–white stuff. This year has been no exception. While we here in the tri-state area have been spared a major storm thus far and are dodging another bullet tomorrow and tomorrow night whilst points north of us get a “historic blizzard,” we’ve been subjected to multiple… what we call “Nuisance Storms.” We’ve seen the sun for about an hour total since February first and the temperature has barely been above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (it’s 34 degrees Fahrenheit now per my Weatherbug phone app; conceded, then: Another point for February). The fact that that overrated groundhog Phil predicted that Spring was right around the corner this passed weekend is lost on me. Really? What the hell does an over sized rodent know? He doesn’t have to shovel his walkway, dig his car out or occupy a three and a half year year old and an eight month old because he can’t go outside. He gets to hang out, warm and cozy in his Hilton of a tree stump whilst the good people of Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania cater to his every whim. Freeloader. He reminds me of my Biological.

All together now: Ouch. 

No sooner had I written the above paragraph then the National Weather Service revised their forecast for this area and issued a Winter Storm Warning. Christ, I hate Karma. I probably shouldn’t have talked trash about my Biological. When will I learn? One to three inches of snow tomorrow night just became three to six inches tomorrow afternoon in to tomorrow night with one to two inches per hour possible at the height of the storm which, incidentally, will be during my drive home tomorrow night and which which, if history is any indication, will be further revised by the time I go to sleep tonight in to a Blizzard Warning. Jesus, February. Thank you again, sarcasm fully intended. And Phil? Thanks for nothing. I’m sure you were right and Spring likely is right around the corner if you live south of Virginia. But the rest of us? We’re likely screwed for another six weeks regardless of whether you saw your damn shadow or not.

It’s not just the environment on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in February that gets my goad, though. There are other aspects of it. Take sports, something which you may or may not know per what you’ve read on this blog I am an avid fan of. Guess what? I am. Anything and everything Philadelphia sports-related save for the 76’ers who for the most part have been a non-entity in this town since 2001. February marks the end of the football season with the Super Bowl, something that the Philadelphia Eagles have only participated in twice–in 1980 and in 2004. Both times they were favored to win. Both times they lost. Furthermore, the one team that has managed to bring home a championship since the mid-1980’s, the Phillies, are still in off-season mode and while Spring Training does start up in mid-February, it’s not enough to satiate the need for something. Anything. The Flyers? I love them. I always have and I always will. But I’ve got to be honest, here: They’re a disappointment. Yes, they’re competitive every year and yes, they rarely miss the playoffs but really? They haven’t won a championship since 1976. Even the 76’ers have won one more recently. Bernie Parent got old, Pelle Lindberg unfortunately got dead and Bobby Clarke got fired by the organization a few years ago (though I believe he’s back now in some capacity). The glory days of Flyers hockey are, I’m sorry to say, far behind us. Remember how many Stanley Cups we were supposed to win with Eric Lindros? We were supposed to be a dynasty. How many did we win? Nada. Zilcho. Zip. Meanwhile, the Sh*tsburg Penguins have won a couple.

One more time with feeling: Ouch. 

My point is that February is, for the most part, a dead time for sports here in Philadelphia and always has been. The Wing Bowl? It’s not a real sport. The Big Five? March Madness, guys, not February. When you’re down… when you’re bummed out, sports has a way of filling the hole that exists within your heart, mind and soul. Unless your teams stink. Then, you just feel worse. Hopefully you see my point. Yet another kick in the nads from February. Thank you, sir. Can I have another?

Sure. Why not? I should note before I continue that yes, my approach to this blog entry is different than it normally is. That’s because I’m a different me at this time of year. I’m not always the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face that I hope you know and maybe even love a little. In truth? I’m actually pretty damned depressive, as if this composition up until this point hasn’t proven that. Amazingly enough, though? Most people crawl up in to a ball and wait for the moroseness to pass. Me? I’m actually more prolific when I’m like this. If you enjoy reading this little pseudo-psychotic musing then that’s a good thing. There may be more. But if you like your your blogs light and fluffy, maybe you should redirect your browsers elsewhere. I honestly don’t know how bad it’s going to get.

Relationships. I’ve actually been in many relationships at this time of year. I am, in fact, in one currently. It’s called a marriage. Roll snare drum. Oft times in the past, even before my wonderful wife entered my life, I had a warm body to cuddle up to in February. Most February’s I had a Valentine. But most times the relationships in question were anything but warm and fuzzy like my teddy bear, Ixo Facto. Yes, guys, I have a teddy bear. I don’t sleep next to him and never really have. He occupies an almost permanent place in my Man Cave/Cara and Natalie’s supplemental playroom/office next to stuffed Yoda and stuffed Pikachu. He rarely emerges from the depths of the Marsh Household save for on the rare occasions that Sultana Cara carries him to bed with her and he joins, for a night, the stuffed harem that occupies her toddler bed. Ixo? He’s been a fixture in my life since the mid-1990’s and he is the last, remaining product of, surprise surprise, a February relationship.

Said relationship was intense, but short lived. I generally don’t think or write about it but at this time of year? When the cold impinges upon me from all sides and “Nuisance Storms” become Winter Storm Warnings before they become Blizzard Warnings? I’ll admit: I do. I’m helpless not to. I spent a handful of years ruminating upon its failure. Mine. In the end, though? I realized that ruminating upon it was destructive and counterproductive. I purged it from my mind as best I could and moved on with my life. And boy oh man, am I glad I did. Had I not… had I instead decided to dwell upon it I never would have met Nicole. Scratch that: I likely would have met her but I never would have embraced her as a partner and companion the way I did. We never would have married; we never would have bought a house; we never would have produced two beautiful, though at times troublesome daughters, one of whom–Cara–is a Sultana in training and the other–Natalie–is currently on a hunger strike and is perfecting her projectile vomiting skills (ah, parenthood). My life would not be what it is today and while I cannot be 100% sure, I’m pretty sure that I would be miserable. I once believed, as Bob Dylan said, that “chaos [was] a friend of mine.” Now? I believe that it is my own, worst enemy, especially with my well-documented idiosyncrasies. Normalcy, though? It is my closest compadre. My bro’. That said…

Death. The big finale. The ultimate journey. Call it whatever you want to call it. Death has not necessarily been a constant companion of mine in February’s passed but it has been an ever-present concern. Ever since 1997. Back then, I and my brethren all lived in State Pen, Pennsylvania and even the ones that didn’t were frequent weekend visitors. Back home, the only father figure that I had known since my Biological skipped town was fading fast, a victim of the Big C (that’s Cancer for those of you that have never heard the term or seen the Showtime series). There was nothing I could do. Said father figure actually didn’t pass until the end of March, 1997 but those days? February? Those days were the toughest. In the waning days of his life he was little more than an unresponsive figure in a hospital bed but in February of that year? He was still cognoscente of what was happening to him. And he was suffering.

I guess in a way it was good that I was a hundred plus miles west of him but deep down inside, I wanted to be there. I wanted to be beside him at the end but he, always strong-willed, wouldn’t have it. “Stay where you are,” he said to me in one of the last real conversations we had in, you guessed it, February, “finish school. It’s what you’ve been working toward. Whatever happens, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” I knew that it was lip service but I agreed to do as he asked. I guess it was the last request he made of me for I cannot remember any others. A few weeks later, he was gone.

I wasn’t there when he passed. I was working on my senior thesis–“Job, Melville, and the Abandonment of the Human by the Almighty”–when my sister called me to give me the news. I remember being equal parts saddened and relieved: Sad that he was gone but relieved that his pain had ended. And I was speechless. I couldn’t write; couldn’t vocalize what I was feeling, not even to my State Pen brethren. But I remember thinking backwards in disgust. Another sh*tty February, I thought over and over again as I drowned my sorrows with Red Deaths and Long Island Iced Teas. And that thought? It has stuck with me since despite the fact that his big finale… his ultimate journey didn’t commence until almost a month later.

Many others have passed from this world to whatever world lies beyond “this mortal coil,” “this insubstantial pageant,” at this time of year since. I’ve heard many explanations why. Some argue that it’s a question of loneliness because of the “Post-Holiday Doldrum.” Others say it’s simply the deep, winter chill claiming it’s rightful victims. Me? I believe that it’s February. F*cking February. There is something inherently base and decrepit about this month that defies explanation and while I honestly don’t have any proof outside of the speculation that has filled this blog entry thus far, I know it in my gut and I feel it deep within my sometimes cramped fingers. Like tonight. There’s a dull throbbing something going on deep beneath my skin that I hope is nothing more than the impending weather making its presence known. No “dry twist,” I hope (thank you, Stephen King) though admittedly, it does run in my family.

Speaking of the weather, it is now 12:21 AM on Friday–the day of the storm, alias “Winter Storm Nemo”–and the National Weather Service just revised their forecast again: 6-10 inches in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which includes mine, Nicole, Sultana Cara and Natalie’s little homestead in Broomall, Pennsylvania. I’d have continued this blog entry sooner but I had to run out and buy some gas for my snow blower which I will at last be able to use. I’ll give it to you, February. Another point, albeit a reluctant one. At least I have a new toy to play with tomorrow night. More good news: The worst of the storm is also not supposed to arrive until after I get home from work. Sh*t. Point, February. I’ve got to hand it to the current bane of my existence: It’s managed to rack up a few positives over the course of this composition.

Still, I will always hate February. This blog entry? It is an Anti-Appreciation of a month that has, over the course of my life, taken on mythical status in my pseudo-mad mind. If you’ve followed “Random Musings” for a while you know about my Appreciations. “The Mix Tape – An Appreciation” and “Contrary – An Appreciation” to name a few. All are linkable via the handy, dandy little “SEARCH” box on the right hand side of your screen. Just type in “appreciation” and watch what happens, Andy Cohen! Or don’t. It’s entirely up to you. If you choose not to please, forget that I mentioned Andy Cohen. In fact, forget that I mentioned him entirely, even if you choose not to look at any of my previous work. Thank you.

If anything deserved an Anti-Appreciation it was this. February. The Dead of Winter. Right now, Phil the Groundhog is rolling over under his hand-knitted covers in his five star, tree stump Hilton Garden whilst the rest of us prep for a “historic blizzard.” It’s not going to snow much in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, one of the perks of being a couple of hundred miles west of the tri-state area when a Nor’easter like “Winter Storm Nemo” comes roaring up the Atlantic coastline. Earlier tonight, the Flyers lost to the Florida Panthers in a shootout and the Eagles informally announced the signing of their new Defensive Coordinator. Um. Yeah. Okay. Is it baseball season yet?

I glance out the window beside where I write these words at the red sky overhead. What’s the old adage? “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight?” Wow. That seems pretty counter-intuitive since most nighttime, red skies that I have seen in my life foreshadow a nasty spell of upcoming weather. I briefly wonder what that person that gave me Ixo Facto so many years ago is doing right now. But then I look over at the sleeping figure of my wife and realize how insignificant those thoughts are presently, and have been for well over a decade. I further wonder if my Biological is glancing up at the sky from wherever he is, currently. But then I realize the truth: Whether he is or is not does not matter. He has his own Karma to contend with, independent of mine.

And the lone father figure that I gave a sh*t about? He is long gone, a victim of the Big C almost 16 years ago tonight. God rest his soul. He used to love nights like tonight: The silence outside, like the silence I beheld an hour or so ago when I ran out to the gas station to get fuel for my previously unused snow blower. “The calm before the storm” he and the people on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence called it and will likely continue to call it for many years to come. Admittedly? I see the truth in their assessment then and now and despite the time of year…

Despite the way February is crowding me currently with its frigid embrace…

Despite the way that I cringe at the prospect of another couple of weeks of it…

Well, guys? It could be worse. I could be a 76’ers fan.

Goodnight, all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Roll snare drum.

Penn State Proud – A Psuedo-Madman’s Take

For once I am going to dispense with the pleasantries. You know as well as I do where I’m going per the title of this blog entry. I’m kind of shocked and bewildered with myself that it’s taken me this long to craft a formal response to this situation. Maybe you are too and maybe you aren’t. In truth? I don’t really know why it’s taken me this long. I think I was waiting. Waiting to read the grand jury report… waiting for the dust from last November to settle a little… waiting until Paterno had passed… waiting until the trial had ended… waiting until the Freeh Report had been made public and lastly, waiting until the NCAA and the Big 10 had levied their respective sanctions on the university whose colors I have, for many years, proudly donned. Will I continue to do so after all that has happened? Am I still Penn State Proud, even now? There is a simple answer to that question, but before I get to it I’d like to cover a few necessary points.

To Sandusky’s victims and their families: I am so, so sorry. My heart breaks for and goes out to each and every one of you. Nothing that I can write or say… nothing that I can do will give you back all that you have lost. I understand that the scars that you have carried with you and the ones that you will carry with you for the rest of your respective lives can never be fully healed. I will keep you in my thoughts and my prayers in the hopes that one day, you will be able to find some degree of peace. God, gods or whatever deities you believe in bless.

To Sandusky: You are below reprehension. You are a sick and twisted, demented and disgusting, choose-your-adjective-and-insert-it-here-so-long-as-it-is-derogatory man. There is no punishment that fits your crime… no penalty severe enough for your actions, and while I derive a bit of solace in the knowledge that at the least you are going to rot in prison for the rest of your natural life, nothing short of public castration followed by a painful execution would make me happy. I’ve never been a proponent of the death penalty but you’ve made me a believer. Congratuf*ckinglations.

To the University Brain Trust that covered this up, Misters Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno and anyone else that knew: You disappoint me. All of you. Through your actions, nay through your inaction you spat in the face of everything that Penn State stands for. “May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves thy name.” Does that sound familiar? It is the beginning of the last verse of Penn State’s Alma Mater, the university that you were once the faces of. An Alma Mater is crafted, among other things, as a representation of the core values maintained by an institution, specifically of a school or a college. Said Alma Mater must be upheld at the most fundamental level. You failed to do so, and through your actions you cast a pall over everything good that the university has stood for since it was founded 157 years ago. Congratuf*ckinglations to you four, too.

End points. I now return you to our regularly scheduled question, already posed above: Will I continue to bleed blue and white? Do I remain Penn State Proud even after all that has happened? The simple answer?

You’re damned right that I do.

Let me be upfront with you before I continue. I figure I owe the between 35 and 60 of you that faithfully read “Random Musings of a Psuedo-Madman” that much. Afterwards, you can decide whether you want to continue reading or not. I will not hold it against you if you look away. My first exposure to Penn State? It was not to their football program. Though I knew said football program existed I was not overly infatuated with it. It was at a weekend, Forensics tournament (speech and debate for those of you that think I’m referring to something out of “CSI”) that I attended while still a sophomore in high school. Between rounds, I was allowed to roam freely across the campus and through the town and the more I saw of that happy, little valley at the geographic center of Pennsylvania? The more I knew that I had to go there no matter what the cost. I applied to and was accepted to two colleges: Saint Joe’s in Philadelphia and Penn State in University Park/State College. I unblinkingly opted to attend the latter at a satellite campus–then Ogontz, now Abington–for financial reasons despite the fact that I had a Forensics scholarship to “The Joe.” I have never and will never regret that decision. Why?

Because I remain Penn State. Class of 1997. I always will no matter what. Penn State is myschool… my Alma mater and no other will ever replace it. I look back fondly on my experiences there and I’m not just referring to the football games that I attended, the parties that I went to and the bars that I frequented. The culture of the school that I attended? It’s conscience?It was not… it is not just football and alcohol. Far from it despite what every magazine from Playboy to Sports Illustrated claims. It was and remains superior academics: A 93% first year student retention rate and an 85% graduation rate as of 2011 (source: About.com). It was and is a community of students, teachers and townies spread out across the entire world, united by a common thread: Their pride in their school. If you are Penn State you have been and always will be a member of Nittany Nation, regardless of whether you attended a satellite campus or University Park… regardless of whether you finished your BA, MA, PhD or “other” there or at another university. I still smile when I see a set of blue paw prints on the back of the car in front of me or a big, white “S” flag on a blue background hanging from someone’s porch. I still grin with pride when I look at the diploma that hangs over the nightstand in my room despite the fact that the university’s now unemployed, once president signed it. I am… I will remain Penn State until the day that I die. That said…

A common misconception has developed amongst the general public as this sad situation has unfolded over the last eight months. That misconception? That the actions of one man and a group of cowardly university administrators are reflective of an entire university. Don’t get me wrong. Certain people have fueled this misconception through a combination of modern idol worship and sheer non-acceptance of the facts. “There’s no way. There’s no way Joe Pa could have known about this. There’s no way that Spanier would have let it go.” They Tweet and they post on sites like Facebook, CNN.com and ESPN.com their unwavering support of the administration that perpetrated the cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes. Some shout conspiracy theories from Old Main to Beaver Stadium… from the lion statue to the Bryce Jordan Center… from East Halls to West Halls to the Pattee/Paterno Library to the Pollock Library. Some. The same “some” that took to the streets in State College last November the night that Paterno and Spanier lost their jobs in an attempt to get their faces on television and veiled it under the guise of a semi-peaceful protest.

The aforementioned “some?” They are merely a small sampling of the university’s extended community despite the fact that for one night last November and since they have been the most visible. The others? The majority? They were no where near State College that night, or they were but were not actively involved in the protests. I, personally, was home with my wife watching on CNN and following developments on Twitter as my daughter slept upstairs. At the time, I felt no sympathy for Paterno. I remember saying, over and over again that “it had to be done.” That the Board of Trustees had no other choice. I maintain that their course of action was the appropriate course of action despite the fact that at that time, there was no evidence of a cover-up… no evidence that Paterno knew anything other than what he had previously revealed in his grand jury testimony. Why?

Because Paterno did not lose his job because of an administrative failure regardless of what new information has come to light in the months since, specifically the info in the Freeh report that implicates him as a co-conspirator in the cover-up. He–the once winningest coach in Division 1A, College Football history (now 12th… congratulations, Bobby Bowden)–lost his job because he violated a moral imperative. He knew about what was going on and he hid behind his position as a subordinate in the university hierarchy. He “reported what he knew” of a lone incident to Misters Curley and Schultz and he left it at that. He did not notify the authorities and let’s face it: He should have. Regardless of the university’s policy he should have done the rightthing. Not the thing that the athletic department’s by-laws dictated. The right thing. We are raised from childhood to know right from wrong. He… none of them were or are any different. And they failed. ‘Nuff said. That said…

I believe that the sanctions imposed by the NCAA and the Big 10 are fair, though I am concerned about the impact that those sanctions will have on not only the current students of the university, but the professors and employees of it and the townies, whose livelihood relies almost exclusively on the football program. $60,000,000.00 in fines to be paid over four years to external, sexual abuse centers unaffiliated with the university? Fair. A four year postseason and Bowl ban? Fair. The vacation of 111 wins from 1998 to 2011? Enh… I get it and while I think it is a bit extreme (as my one friend said, “changing history doesn’t solve anything”), I understand the NCAA’s need to remove Paterno from his pedestal. So if I agree with everything that the NCAA and the Big 10 did… if I agree with the Board of Trustee’s removal of Paterno and Spanier last November, not to mention their suspension or removal of Misters Curley and Schultz, why am I writing this blog entry, right now?

I’m writing this for the unseen victims of this tragic situation. The silent majority of Nittany Nation that have bled blue and white for weeks, months, years and in many cases, decades. Teachers, students and alumni… the ones that didn’t clog College and Beaver Avenues on that mild night last November when the sh*t hit the fan because they were either in their dorms/apartments studying, in their apartments/homes caring for their families or in boardrooms/offices around the world putting food on their and their families’ tables. People like myself who have reluctantly hung on every moment of this investigation, from the day that the initial charges against Sandusky were filed to the day that the university’s football program was given not the so-called, collegiate “death penalty” but a punishment far worse: A walking “death penalty” if you will that will keep it uncompetitive for at least a decade… perhaps longer if history is any indication (see: SMU circa 1987).

I take nothing away from the children turned adults who have suffered and continue to suffer because of what Sandusky did to them and what the upper echelon at the university covered up. Let me repeat that: Nothing. I would never, ever claim that the pain that I and others feel every time we hear a news report, read an article or see a story like the one that graces the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated–heading: “We Were Penn State”–is anything remotely comparable to what the victims of any type of abuse suffer. But the claim that the actions of a few individuals, however reprehensible, are reflective of the “whole?” They are ludicrous. And the calls by people not affiliated with the university to boycott everything and anything with the Penn State brand name on it? Alsoludicrous. This is a dark time for the university that I and many others love and have loved for as long as I… as we can remember. And it is going to get even darker before long. As time progresses onward… as civil suits and lawsuits are levied against not only the individuals that perpetrated these awful crimes but the university that was the backdrop for their transgressions, things are going to get worse. And worse. And worse. No one can say how long this is going to last for and perhaps it would be better to just look away… to attach myself to another school (I hear Temple’s bandwagon has grown exponentially in the last few days). So why don’t I?

Because I can’t. Because Penn State University is my Alma mater. Because what I learned there, the people that I met there and the experiences that I had there have made me in to the man that I am today. The man that my wife loves and my daughters… I hope… look up to. Because I look at those same friends that I met there, many of whom surround me daily and I see a lot of blue and white, even now. Because every time I sit down to write a blog entry or something more substantial I think about my college education and where I learnedto write a blog entry or something more substantial. Because I remain “Penn State Proud” despite how many people have critiqued me and called me, “proud, alright… a proud graduate of Pedophile State University,” or, as my boss called it, “Boy’s University” (incidentally, my boss is a proud supporter of the Ohio State University which doesn’t exactly make his an unbiased opinion).

To those people? The ones stigmatizing the whole because of the actions of the few, or the one (thank you, Star Trek) let me say this: You did not go to Penn State. You have no idea what it means to be “Penn State Proud.” The few that have been implicated by both the grand jury’s report and the Freeh report? They have paid and they will pay the price for their actions or inaction. And anyone else that was involved? No matter what their title, power or prestige they will pay dearly as soon as their involvement comes to light. I have faith that it will. How can it not at this juncture? But “Nittany Nation” as we call ourselves? Not just the students, the alumni association, the employees and the townies affiliated with the university but anyonewith ties to it? The silent victims of this tragic situation? They… we are innocent. And we will remain “Penn State Proud” no matter what happens.

“For the glory of old State, for her founders strong and great, for the future that we wait, raise the song… raise the song. Sing our love and loyalty, sing our hopes that, bright and free, rest, O Mother dear, with thee, all with thee… all with thee.”

F.