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May 1st, 2002
Winging It: Meditations of a Young Adult (Orbis Books)

A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. -JOSEPH HELLER
I just received an invitation to a wedding in India from a woman I stayed with in Calcutta nearly seven years ago. Her youngest son is getting married, and she said it would mean a lot if I could come.
I chuckle aloud as I open the envelope, because I can’t help but remember that episode from Seinfeld when Elaine is invited to her friend’s wedding in India. She shows up to spite the friend she thinks doesn’t really want her there and discovers that the groom is her former lover.
The image of Elaine, drunk, with the nose ring, reminds me of the photo I took with two petite Indian woman. Towering over them…

April 30th, 2002
Remembering and Celebrating on Our First Anniversary

It’s been a year since we took that walk down the aisle. We’ve had a year filled with happiness, but it’s also been a difficult year because Mike’s mom spent half the year in the hospital and Marion’s grandmother has had her share of health problems as well.
In our first year we learned that marriage is about two people who are there to support one another no matter what comes their way. It’s about commitment, making a conscious decision to love your partner despite the difficulties.
The big day Our anniversary day was reminiscent of our wedding day. We went to the restaurant where our wedding reception was held, and we were filled with the memories of our special day. We even looked…

April 29th, 2002
Finding meaning under the covers

A year ago, my favorite morning ritual was to sit on my porch, drink coffee, and wave to the sad university students strolling to 8:30 classes. Then, I got married. I moved far away from my porch and surrendered coffee for green tea. One dawn, as I lay under the covers, I realized: I need a new routine. Then, I rolled over, snuggled into my husband’s warm hug, and found it.
It’s great: the alarm chirps, I roll towards Steve, and Steve hugs me. We lie together for a half hour, chatting and dozing and just passing time. He kisses my forehead. I stroke his hair. We talk of crazy dreams and plans for the day and, invariably, check the clock. We get up. He showers. I boil water. By the time we sit down for breakfast, I want…

April 28th, 2002
Tangerines and Transformations

Volunteering to teach confirmation classes at my mid-town Los Angeles parish is challenging work. Let’s face it, most teens sign up for the two year, twice-a-month program, because it’s SUPER important to their parents, while hardly registering as something to care about for themselves.
First ingredient: Vitamin J
So my pastor and I started out with a disadvantage only good teen snacks could remedy-Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos, cookies, hot chocolate, Snapple, sodas, tangerines (requested), spring water (also requested). These are the paths to a young person’s soul.
Okay, maybe more than snacks are involved. It helps that teens are intensely social and eventually figure out who likes…

April 20th, 2002

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
A line by Russell Crowe’s Maximus before going into battle in Gladiator
By now you have surely heard of The Osbournes, MTV’s new show all about the life of musician Ozzy Osbourne and his family. Here’s how MTV describes the show:
“The Cleavers, the Bradys, the Cosbys?and now the Osbournes. It’s the next generation of family-oriented sitcom, a reality-based comedy that follows the lives of Ozzy Osbourne and his family. There’s no script, the situations are real, the family is normal?well, sort of. (Watch) the First Family of Rock and Roll welcoming you to their world.”
When I set out to watch the show so I could…

April 20th, 2002
Wishing you many happy years together...

Mike and Marion Perracchio pronounced their wedding vows at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, April 20th, in New York City. Their column will be returning soon, but here are a few wedding photos:…

April 20th, 2002
The Wedding of the Year

April 20th–Our big day. All the preparation was done and our day had finally arrived.
Marion had a whole morning of preparation with her bridal party. “We all gathered in my sister Vera’s room, at the hotel and had fun laughing and talking while our hair was being done.” Vera gave Marion their mother’s Communion and Confirmation prayer books that were family keepsakes for many years. (Marion’s mom died when she was in college) This gift moved both Marion and Vera so much that they both started crying.
Mike and his best man, Crash (as he is known), stayed overnight at the parish rectory (courtesy of Fr. Brett) the night before the wedding. They were able to wake up and get all of those…

April 18th, 2002

On one level “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (IFC Films) as directed by Alfonso Cuaron is funny, racy, and sexy with scenes shot on some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches.
The movie is a fantasy tale about the exuberance and excesses of youth as depicted when two friends Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) go on a road trip to the beach with Luisa (Maribel Verdi), the wife of Tenoch’s cousin, who is leaving her intellectual writer husband because of his infidelity.
The lure of watching pretty explicit and sometimes forbidden sex scenes on the screen apparently transcends the difficulties people have with English subtitles, as the movie is drawing big audiences for a foreign film.…

April 12th, 2002
A College Student's Spiritual Journey from Minnesota to Thailand

Ever since growing up in Frazee, Minnesota, a small town with a population of 1,700 people, and living next to two Lao families, I had a dream of going to the Thailand/Laos. (Similarly, both peoples actually stem from the same group of people called the Tai Yay.) The two Lao families lived next door from when I was six until I was thirteen when they had to move away. During this time,
I was best friends with the children of both families. I spent my days at their houses, ate with them, watched Thai and Lao movies and concerts, joined in on their traditional ceremonies, and they would teach me a Lao word a day. That was the start of my love for the Thai/Lao language and culture. Ever since then, my Thai/Lao roots have kept popping…

April 6th, 2002
Justly Revisited

It was until my freshman year in college that I read the book “Farewell to Manzanar” – the true account of a Japanese-American family’s struggle as prisoners in a U.S. internment camp during WW II. That book, authored by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston , was forever seared into my memory for it proved that any government, no matter how democratic or well meaning, is possible of acting unjustly. And though WW II and the order to intern over 70,000 Japanese-American citizens seem like far-away history, the same capacity for unjust action is being revisited on Americans today.
This time those of Middle Eastern origin are being treated unjustly by a Justice Department intent…

April 6th, 2002
Past Pain Becomes Present Strength

He walked into the diner with his blue windbreaker and disheveled gray hair. His clothes were rumpled and his glasses were slightly askew. In short, he was a mess.
He sat in the booth directly behind us. The odor that emanated from him was bleach mixed with body sweat. It was impossible for us to finish our meal with the unappetizing stench.
I took a good look at the man. He looked to be in his seventies, balding, a bit weird. It was at that moment that I realized how much he reminded me of my dad.
The connection

While I know my dad can easily take care of himself, my uneducated Irish immigrant father has a few eccentricities that have embarrassed me over the years. I shudder sometimes when he launches into a story that everyone…

April 6th, 2002

We are all one cancer cell, car accident, or breath away from our own mortality. Many of us are one pay check, lay off, or serious illness away from bankruptcy, food stamps, even homelessness. Anything and everything can be taken away or drastically altered at any time. I don’t like to think about that part of my existence, but life forces me to look at reality. And sometimes real life hurts.
Tammi is my friend. She showed me what a family was when my family was torn apart. She helped me find faith in God when I lost faith in myself. She taught me how to accept the unacceptable when I thought my unborn baby would die. And she was there when my baby was born. She has watched him grow and loves him as her own. She gives more than…

April 5th, 2002

Believe it or not, the other day a few friends and I fanned out in pairs around a tourist spot in Santa Monica, California, and asked people for their opinions on what needed to happen to end clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
We listened to Catholics, Jews, Muslims, younger people, older people, Asians, whites, Latinos, and African-Americans.
The answer behind the answer
When I asked this variety of people-on-the-street what it would take to stop the abuse, most concluded, “Priests should be allowed to get married.”
Now we know that married men also have problems with pedophilia, so getting married isn’t a cure-all to what ails the priesthood. There had to be an answer behind this answer.…

April 4th, 2002

I knew a local cartoonist out in California named Paige Andersen, who one year near Election Day rendered drawings of improbable right-wing and left-wing extremists. I don’t remember the details. The right-winger was probably armed to the teeth, dispensing tax cuts as confetti, while the left-winger sported a pony tail and carried government cash ready to throw at any problem. I do recall that both drawings had arrows pointing to the respective extremist’s back pocket with the words, “Votes his pocketbook.”
As another election comes and goes, this part of the cartoon vividly comes back to me. It makes me wonder if polls ask the wrong question at election time. It may be we need to ask…

April 2nd, 2002

The edgiest character on TV these days is a sponge. He’s SpongeBob Squarepants and if you’ve never seen or heard of him, I strongly recommend you check out this creative, cutting-edge cartoon on the Nickelodeon cable network.
Before I explain why he’s so edgy, perhaps a brief introduction is in order, for those late arrivals to the Squarepants party. Allow me to loosely quote from his theme song: SpongeBob is a buck-toothed, rectangular-shaped character who “lives in a pineapple under the sea.” He’s “absorbent, yellow and porous,” and he fills his hometown, Bikini Bottom, with “nautical nonsense.”
SpongeBob’s pants are square,…

April 2nd, 2002
Enjoy The Da Vinci Code But Don't Believe It

Bookworm friends said they couldn’t put it down. More traditional Catholics excoriated it, calling it anti-Catholic. And good New York conspiracy nuts were declaring in the diner where I eat on Wednesday mornings that it was all absolutely true.
What could I do but read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code ? Hungry reader that I am, I engulfed it. As a concerned priest?yet averagely gossipy and intensely skeptical person?I had a more complicated reaction to the book.
Can you keep a secret?
There are limits to what anyone can believe. The basic premise of Brown’s novel is that the clandestine Priory of Sion has been guarding the location of the Holy Grail in unbroken succession from the time of the Crusades…

March 29th, 2002
A Canadian View of Americans in the World

It was an early April morning when I awoke to the news that an American pilot had bombed a Canadian training exercise in Afghanistan and killed four Canadian soldiers. I sighed and prepared for the fallout.
It was quick. The killing was labeled ” friendly fire” and Canadian radio call-in shows and coffee shops exploded with angry debate. Canucks were mad; we helped those Yanks after September 11th and they thank us with death? No doubt, as Canadian bodies were flown home for funerals, more than one ?United We Stand’ bumper sticker was ripped from a Canadian car and dumped in the trash.
Oddly, I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t crushed, disgusted, or crazed. Instead, I was amazed. Amazed that…

March 28th, 2002
My List to Keep the Prez Busy After Saddam

One of my favorite buttons, which I attached to my backpack during my freshman year in college, was one that sported a photo of Frank Sinatra and read, “It’s Frank’s world; we just live in it.”
If I were sporting a button today, that button would read, “It’s the Dubya’s world–everybody else just lives in it.” With President Bush’s order to topple Saddam Hussein through “a comprehensive covert program” now out in the open, I’ve decided to add my two cents on other pesky world leaders we may want to topple:
1. Fernando Cardozo of Brazil – Should we ever face Brazil on the soccer field, it’s nice to know that we can save…

March 28th, 2002
How Baseball Keeps Teaching Me About Forgiveness

What does a sport of rich owners and multi-million dollar players teach us about forgiveness, that concept so near and dear to all Christians?
With baseball – plenty.
The three R’s
And the answer to why is as plain as the seed that groundskeepers spread in winter. Three concepts are crucial to making a baseball diamond fit for opening day?the three R’s?renovation, rejuvenation, and repair. In fact, read any book about baseball diamond groundskeeping and you’ll think you’re reading an inspirational book about the power of forgiveness?and what springs forth from it. Are not the three R’s foundations of forgiveness?
Listen to a fan of America’s pastime during the…

March 28th, 2002
A Generation of More "Realistic" Computer Games

Virtual AmericaConstruct your own “virtual neighborhood” where hundreds of clones of Sam Walton, Michael Eisner, and Rupert Murdoch compete inside a gated community. Play as one of the three and set sales quotas for products that an army of immigrants, who toil underground for minimum wage, will want to buy. Caution: not for sale in Mexican border towns.
BustedEstablish a thriving medical practice in breast enlargement. In timed relays you must discover new and expensive ways to create the “perfect breast”—one that defies gravity and time. Craft the perfect breast and win an all expense cyber trip to sunny Beverly Hills. But be careful: ruin a breast and you get sent to Grenada…

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