Busted Halo
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February 6th, 2014

This February brings about a very special time in the sports calendar that comes around only once every four years: the Winter Olympics. The coastal resort town of Sochi, Russia, has been selected to play host to the world this winter. There will likely be much fanfare and media attention given to the medalists and other contenders whose prominence transcends their own sport. Over the years, Kristi Yamaguchi, Peekaboo Street, and Shaun White have become names familiar to the U.S. Olympic enthusiast. Additionally, athletes competing in sports particularly popular during the Winter Games have become household names and a part of the pop cultural landscape, sometimes for the drama beyond the sport itself (think:…

February 5th, 2014
The connection between faith, writing and waiting

I just read a really terrific short story, and now I feel myself bobbing like a cork toward a deep dark cataract of despair. On the one hand, part of me truly delights in this well-crafted, mysterious piece of prose by a writer of growing renown. At the same time, though, the marvelment I feel is coated in a very thick layer of, not envy exactly, but a sense of comparative professional inadequacy. I stare at the pages in my hands like I’m trying to decipher hieroglyphs, and I ask myself: How did he do that? How did he write something so subtle and memorable and complex? Why can’t I do that? When will I be able to do that? Will I ever?
I say that I’m floating toward a deep dark cataract of despair — deep and dark, yes,…

February 3rd, 2014

Lonely blue jays and cardinals mark the days of midwinter, spreading color sparingly with their fretted flights above browned lawns and bare, grey trees. Even silver-haired snowbirds are growing weary of southern hibernation and long to return to the blooming laughter and hustle of families and children along street corners, park benches and backyard barbecues.
The world moves with stiff joints and shallow breaths through mornings where the step from bed feels like an arctic swim, while our motivation to change seems as stuck as a Prius on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in an ice storm. With many weeks of cold still ahead, we are already growing irritated with wool coats, early evening’s darkness, frosted windshields…

January 29th, 2014

January is drawing to a close, which means football season is as well. For some, this is a bittersweet time, full of Super Bowl fervor followed by a hollowness that cannot be filled until the draft starts up in May (or at least until SportsCenter begins avidly discussing new prospects later in February). But for others, myself included, the Super Bowl is a time of dread. This year, with Super Bowl XLVIII coming to my city, I cannot be less enthusiastic about a bunch of burly men rolling around on some fake grass. And with a snowy polar vortex in full swing, I think we already have enough to worry about without traffic jams, crazed fans, and the “NFL Experience” taking over the New York metropolitan area.
If you’re…

January 27th, 2014

We often hear of things being super, but how super are they really? Superstorm Sandy was not any fun for people in the Northeast. Superman isn’t even a real human person, only a character of comic and film fiction. And the Super Mario Bros. don’t have anything on me and my two brothers. (Please… we can jump higher and grow better mustaches.) But the Super Bowl? That might actually be worthy of being called “super.”
It’s Super Pop Cultural
Although the Super Bowl is really just a football game, is it so much more than that. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched athletic events on television every year. It carries with it many pop subcultures. Super Bowl commercials are often more watched and talked…

January 15th, 2014
Making the most of a day off courtesy of Mother Nature

When I was a teacher, I used to view snow days very differently. Each time school was called off, I’d feel like I was back in my twin-sized bed, under flannel sheets, in my Garfield nightgown, with my mom peeking through my bedroom door to deliver the good news before going to work. Few experiences could transport me back to childhood so quickly in my adult life as having a snow day, even if I was the one, now, in front of a room full of squirrelly students saying, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to listen to the news tomorrow morning,” secretly praying for school to be called off and just as excited.
In my years after teaching, I started working another job and began commuting to work. Snow days quickly…

January 13th, 2014

Then came The Fall, which is what I like to call what happened when I was 26 and my metabolism turned on me like Benedict Arnold — or Judas Iscariot if you prefer to keep things biblical. I didn’t realize it right away; I never weighed myself and I ignored the pleas of the waistlines of my jeans and khakis, while stuffing myself into them until the buttons inevitably popped off in exasperation; at which point I would just curse shoddy workmanship and dig through my closet for yet another pair of pants whose seams I could stretch to their farthest limits.
It was only after my doctor gingerly informed me that I was clinically overweight that I began to consider the idea that I was … well … clinically overweight.…

January 8th, 2014
Don't make just another New Year's resolution. Change a daily habit -- and improve your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Lately, New Year’s resolutions have been getting a bad rap. And sure, the ubiquitous weight-loss goal is easy to ridicule, since it always seems to fail.
The essential problem is that New Year’s resolutions are big, dramatic, turning-point goals. But our health is not a matter of big dramatic choices we make. Instead, it’s all about the habits we slide into.
Yet a “new year” still holds so much inherent appeal — the feeling that things can be different, that we can make a fresh start.
You can have the best of both worlds. Why not apply the momentum of the new year to a realistic habit change?
After all, when you find ways to improve your physical well-being, your mental and spiritual well-being will…

December 26th, 2013

As the year draws to a close let’s take a look back over the events of 2013 and remember the things that we have lost over the past 12 months (some for the better). Whether they left us cheering or jeering, here are 13 “endings” from 2013. What would you add to the list?
Breaking Bad — After five seasons watching the exploits (and tragic downward spiral) of chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White, fans of AMC’s Breaking Bad finally got to see how the story ends. Though we had to bid Walter White and Jesse Pinkman goodbye when the final episode aired September 29, there is some good news for Breaking Bad addicts: AMC is moving forward with a spin-off series, Better Call Saul, based on lawyer Saul Goodman…

December 24th, 2013
What to do when you feel more "Bah! Humbug!" than "Holly Jolly" this Christmas

It goes without saying that the holiday season is stressful. Holidays may be especially stressful for young adults, as going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s isn’t quite as simple as it once was. Young adults reside in the land of “already, but not yet” in terms of career, relationships and financial stability, and navigating through that land during the holidays can make one want to have pizza delivered and bypass all things holly jolly.
For example, John landed his ideal medical residency program, which means he doesn’t have time to travel for holidays. His family is proud of him, but does not understand why he’s not spending a week with them like his graduate…

December 19th, 2013

While we’re on the subject of Christmas music, let me recommend two short musical dramas with Christmas themes.
Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors,… the first opera ever composed specifically for television, centers around Amahl, a handicapped shepherd boy with a tendency to make up stories. Amahl’s widowed mother, already driven to distraction by desperate poverty, doesn’t know how to cope with her son’s overactive imagination. One cold winter night, three kings arrive at their door, needing hospitality from the destitute shepherds. Amahl underlines this irony with some telling questions:
AMAHL: Are you a real king?
BALTHAZAR: Yes.
AMAHL: Have you regal blood?
BALTHAZAR: Yes.

December 18th, 2013

As a singer, I realize the natural bias that comes with the following statements:

Music is the universal language crossing all lines of ethnicity, economic background and experience.
Music communicates beyond the words sung or the notes played and can evoke moving emotions of the human spirit.

That being said, I find Christmas carols and songs to be a genre of music that inspires a joy and happiness that really sneaks up on you. Christmas music starts playing like clockwork in my parents’ home. The day after Thanksgiving, before we put up the Christmas tree and set up the decorations outside, we turn to our favorite Christmas songs to get us into the spirit. The Christmas season is one full of preparation, excitement…

December 18th, 2013

“We might as well be moving to Russia!” I wailed at my mother as I threw my Han Solo action figure into the packing box with the rest of my toys. The reality was we were moving from the North Side of Chicago to the South Side, but to a 7-year-old whose entire existence had been made up of a few city blocks, there was nothing more terrifying than leaving the comforting northern den of my beloved Cubs, for the thorny lair of the hated White Sox.
My mother had just remarried after my father’s death the year before. Added on to the indignity of leaving the only neighborhood I had ever known — where all my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents resided as well — was the fact that I would be changing…

December 16th, 2013

As children, my little sister and I took pleasure in watching seasonal movies in anticipation of Christmas. Among our favorites was a stop-motion animation feature based on “The Little Drummer Boy.” I have fond memories of watching Kara imitate the cartoon boy in the film, playing “pa rum pa pum pum” on her own little plastic drum. As children, I saw things so simply — a little boy played the drums for baby Jesus! As an adult, I see profound meanings in the lyrics. So, allow me to be an adult for the moment while I analyze the heck out of this song.
“Come they told me…”
In the song, the birth of a new King brings a quiet curiosity to Bethlehem. At the time of Jesus’…

December 11th, 2013
Holidays with family can be stressful — Here's how to survive

The holidays are fast approaching; don’t wait until it’s too late. No, I’m not talking about shopping. I’m talking about dealing with family and friends (especially family) during what has often been dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year.”
How will you know it’s too late? You’ll know it’s too late when you’re beaned in the middle of the forehead by a brown-and-serve biscuit while guzzling down your third glass of Merlot during Christmas dinner. Believe me, I’ve been there.
The holidays change a lot when you become an adult. Gone are the days of childhood, when Christmas’ sole worth was based entirely on what was under the tree:…

December 10th, 2013

“Good things come to those who wait,” is a consistent piece of advice given to those who suffer from extreme impatience. That is why I have heard it repeatedly these past 20 years. As a child, Christmas was one of those unique events that came regardless of whether I waited or not. For that reason, I never let Christmas come to me. Instead, I pursued Christmas with an unbridled haste. I began listening to Christmas music November 1; I had a Christmas wish list prepared at least three months in advance with all proper citations and references; and all pre-snow angel bodybuilding began long before the first snowfall. I chased Christmas as if, at any second, it might disappear. Of course it never did. But that…

December 4th, 2013
Rising above the immediacy of today's technological world during Advent

I finally got an iPhone. I often wait much longer than the average person to do things the average person is doing, like reading or seeing any of the Harry Potter series (and yes, my social life suffers after multiple HP references and the confusion that follows). I don’t know why I do it. Stubborn? Suspicious? Lazy? Perhaps a little of all three.
But my brother, the IT administrator in the family, made a commendable effort to convince me to get an iPhone, so I finally gave in. And of course, I love it. So much for being different.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a café with my friend and telling him that I distracted myself before falling asleep the previous night with thinking about how I might build an igloo if I was ever…

November 29th, 2013

It’s almost here — Black Friday. The big shopping day that follows the big eating and giving thanks day (although those lines are blurred more each year). There is something admirable about avoiding the frenzy altogether, but let’s be realistic. If you are going to venture out on Friday to start, continue, or finish your Christmas shopping, how do you avoid losing yourself in the consumer-driven, line-cutting, short-tempered mayhem? Here’s a guide for making it through the mall with your spirit intact:
Be grateful. Say thank you, out loud and with gusto, to anyone who holds open a door, moves aside in the aisle, or lets you pass them for a parking space. Remember, Thanksgiving — a day meant to…

November 27th, 2013
How can we celebrate the season we’re in -- and avoid the rush to Christmas?

It finally happened to me. This year, for the first time ever — and hopefully the last — I was ready for Christmas before it was even Halloween. Now it could have been that I started in on Halloween a little earlier than usual (I was lucky enough to get to Six Flags Fright Fest the weekend that it kicked off back in September) or it could have been the weather (it was starting to get a bit chilly already toward the end of October), but as likely as both of those possibilities may seem, I think the true culprit here is good ol’ marketing. At the end of September, Christmas lights, decorations, and all sorts of other holiday wares have crowded the shelves, urging us to skip over the fall altogether and jump straight…

November 25th, 2013

There is really only one way to make stuffing. I don’t know the recipe. I know there’s a lot of sage in it, and definitely no sausage, and certainly no fruit or nuts. It is the definitive stuffing, because it is my mother’s recipe for stuffing, and I have eaten it every Thanksgiving of my life. So there.
I won’t be able to eat the Thanksgiving stuffing par excellence this year; I’ll have to settle for another, inferior stuffing. It might not have sage in it and, heaven forbid, might actually have sausage or fruit or nuts in it. Also, I won’t be playing bingo after dinner this year, or Scattergories or Balderdash, the way my family does. I thought everyone’s family played games after Thanksgiving dinner?…

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