Once Upon a Time in a Land Far, Far, Away…

Our oldest granddaughter is a sophomore in high school now and our second oldest granddaughter is in 7th grade and is looking at high schools. Because of this I’ve been reminiscing about high school lately.

For many of us high school was a distant time and place. Still, high school wasn’t just the school building or the four years spent there. It was the people. It was the experiences. It was social order or disorder as the case might be. For many of us high school left an indelible mark on our psyches. Being accepted or rejected socially; being scholarly or not; being on the team or not; being physically attractive or not; these things in many ways defined our ability to succeed as adults. In some cases rejection may have made us work harder to find our real worth. In other cases gliding through the high school years might have given us the impression that life would be a breeze and we ended up stagnated or unfulfilled. Regardless if we were jocks or geeks, cheerleaders or bookworms, trouble makers or do-gooders, those four years had an effect on us.

I was a geek who thought he was cool. Kind of a hipster-doofus with most of the emphasis on doofus. I was not a good student. I was not athletic nor particularly attractive and I think I was invisible to most of the popular girls. Although I wasn’t a target of abuse or bullying like some of my geekier friends, I was nonetheless relegated to the “loser” group. I had some popular friends too but it’s likely that I thought we were better friends than they thought we were. I wasn’t miserable in high school, I just knew my place. If there was a contest (and thankfully there wasn’t) I would have probably been voted “Most Likely To Be Forgotten”.

Then the strangest thing happened. I graduated. I got a part-time job near home and went to a local college. I met a girl at that job who had attended a neighboring high school and was attending a different local college. I flirted. She flirted back. We dated (in that we’re-both-poor-college-students sort of way). We had fun together. And she really seem to like me. I learned from others that she had been popular at her high school and was on the Coronation Court – the royalty of high schoolers. It suddenly occurred to me that I was no longer defined by the high school cliques. I was still a geeky weirdo but she didn’t see me that way or she was too polite or too kind to point it out or maybe, just maybe, she liked me the way I was. This changed everything. Everyone seemed to know her and love her. She had been in the upper echelon of high school and I was, well, just me.

But she liked me, in spite of who or what I was. The Princess and the Frog! I learned a valuable lesson from that girl. She took the time to look past my outward appearance. When she looked at me she didn’t see the kid who didn’t measure up. She saw a young man with potential. With one kiss I turned into her Prince. And she changed our lives forever.

I hope that all our grandchildren have good high school experiences. And whether they’re the popular girl on Coronation Court like their grandmother or the doofus standing on the sidelines like their grandfather, I hope they measure their self-worth by what’s inside and find a princess who will hold the mirror up to their soul.




Years ago I worked with a guy who had a young son. My workmate discovered the little guy, who was usually quite active, in solemn contemplation. Concerned that his son was anxious about something, he gently asked, “Hey buddy whatcha thinkin’ about?” His five year-old’s response: “Cheese.” He was just blissfully enjoying the moment. Not worried tomorrow. Or what had or hadn’t happened the day before. Just cheese.

Sometimes I long for those “cheese” moments in my life. Times when I am truly present. When I can turn off the worries and the anticipations of tomorrow and let go of the recriminations and regrets of the past. I’ve tried centering prayer and meditation but I usually fill the silence with silly pop songs in my head or I struggle to remember if I’ve paid a bill that was due or what my third grade teacher’s name was. I’m a “what’s next? – let’s move on” kind of guy. It’s a struggle for me to S L O W  D O W N and smell the roses.

LIVE-YOUR-LIFE-TO-THE-FULLESTThis weekend was my 45th high school class reunion and I felt blessed to be very much in the moment. Of course we reminisced about school days long ago but mostly I met my old friends where they are today. Some married high school sweethearts. Many of us are grandparents now. Some have had amazing careers. Some have found great fortune. Some have had more than their share of heartache. But for a brief shining moment we were the NEW AND IMPROVED class of 1973 in 2018. An updated version – free of adolescent angst.  We weren’t the jocks or geeks or cheerleaders or rebels anymore. We were just old friends sharing a moment in time. The wrinkles and gray hair and extra pounds seemed to magically disappear as we embraced one another.  We shared laughter and rekindled friendships. The familiar faces and warm conversations made me feel as though I had just graduated and turned right around and walked back through the door.

I know that it was just one moment in time. I know that we will all rush back to our busy lives for better or for worse. But I left the evening feeling extremely grateful. Thankful for my friends. Thankful for my memories.

And so I’m sitting at my desk today smiling to myself and thinking about high school (and a little boy who once loved cheese) and I’m living in the moment.







High School Class Reunion and Beyond…

Saturday was my high school class reunion. I have to admit that I approached this reunion with some amount of trepidation. I’m not sure why. I’m not the only one who is now 40 years older than when we graduated. We’ve all had our share of life’s joys and sorrows; triumphs and setbacks. But High School leaves this indelible mark on your psyche: jock or geek; brainiac or goof-off; good girl or bad boy. Some of us spend the rest of our lives trying to live-down our high school hijinks and some of us spend the rest our lives trying to relive our glory days (sad to think that some might have actually peaked in high school).

I suppose secretly I was hoping that maybe the captain of the basketball team would be fat and bald and that the homecoming queen would be a hot mess. Turns out that they are still attractive and even more importantly they are nice people. Guys that were jerks in high school seem to have mellowed with age. Girls that were unattainable then are somebody’s grandmother today and still beautiful. Some former classmates have incredible families. Some have had amazing careers. Some have accomplished great things. Some have enjoyed simple pleasures and good lives. It appears that time is the great equalizer.

I was the geeky kid that always forced my way into situations where I didn’t belong (probably still do). My best friend was a popular jock in high school and NEVER stopped being my friend although I probably made it difficult for him at times when I was in full nerd mode (we’re still friends today). The smart kids were my friends in school too, even though I barely managed a C average (maybe they took pity on me). I suppose that I never knew my place. Still don’t.

But the place I’ve found, with my lovely wife, has been the perfect place for me. We’ve built a life together that is full of love, joy and laughter. We’ve celebrated our successes, shouldered our burdens together and been partners through it all.

My class reunion was a lot of fun. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years. We shared a lot of good memories and plenty of laughs. I realized last Saturday that reunions are a reminder that life is precious and time marches on.

Once upon a time a group of individuals shared a special time and place: High School. It was unique to us. For some it might have been angst-ridden; for others it might have been delightful; and for still others it might have been a bore. But it was ours.

We were the Duchesne High School Class of 1973!




Tragic. Horrific. Unimaginable.

These are just a few of the headline words used to express the shock and dismay of the merciless attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning. Children massacred – it’s still almost too painful to contemplate but I try to understand; to make some sense of it. But I cannot comprehend the hate so virulent in one individual that he would commit the most despicable crime against the most innocent of victims.

As a citizen I am outraged. As a parent and grandparent I am shaken. As a child of God I am broken-hearted.

HandsThere’s a part of me that wants to “put it away”; to not talk about it; not think about it. I would like to tell myself that it happened far away and was random and can NEVER touch me or my precious grandchildren. But as I write this, the tears stream down my face thinking of those grandfathers in Connecticut that won’t get to hold their grandsons and granddaughters on their laps again; who won’t hear giggles and see sweet smiles. Who will never again get another tight squeeze around the neck or a precious kiss on a craggy old face.

Today at Mass our priest asked us to lift up those families in prayer. He implored us to be THE PEACE that we can be in our own families; in our own communities.

I can’t undo the hideous attack that was perpetrated on those children in Connecticut but I can be an agent of peace. I can deplore violence. And I can defuse anger and hatred in my own life. I can try to love as Jesus taught us.

Won’t you join me? Let’s mend broken relationships. Let’s try to ease the pain of others. Let’s stop buying music, movies and video games that glamorize violence. Let’s ask our members of Congress to actively work on real gun control legislation. Let’s stop reacting to violence with more violence.

There is hope amidst the horror. And as we enter into the fourth week of Advent in preparation of the Christ Child, let’s truly create some peace on earth.



The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Too Cool For School

Last weekend while Deb and I were out for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, I ran into an old friend from high school and it got me thinking …

Remember high school? Of course you do! Most of us spent 4 years there. And some of us seem to have spent the rest of our lives attempting to re-live it or desperately trying to forget it. Either way, it seems that our experiences in high school leave an indelible mark on our psyche. Some would say an emotional scar.

I went to high school in the ’70′s and we had all the usual cliques: the popular kids, the jocks, the brainiacs, the goody-goodies, the freaks, and the geeks. I fell somewhere between the freak-geek categories. I really wanted to be a jock or brainiac but I didn’t really have the goods. And because I knew I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be popular, I rejected all the normal ‘rights of passage’ in high school. I was a “Rebel Without A Clue”! It was easier to mock the popular kids than to try to fit in. It took less effort to ridicule the smart kids than to study hard and become one myself. I took the easy way out. When you’re a gawky, pimply-faced dork with no athletic ability you are certain to be relegated to one of the bottom tiers of the high school pyramid. So with the inverted logic: “if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em” I spent the next four years working very hard to try to be “too cool for school”.

Looking back after 40 nearly years I now realize that I wasn’t cool at all but my friends accepted me for who I was. And they carried me through some rough years. What’s truly ironic is that my best friend was a jock (and we’re still friends) and the smart kids let me hang out with them, too. No one in my high school was really a badass even though some kids tried to pretend like they were. And those guys accepted me (even if I was a wimp). There were even popular kids that were sincerely nice to me for no apparent reason – I had nothing to offer them. I’m still thankful for their kindness after all these years – thanks Jan, Trish, Alan, Keith, and others…

I met my wife after we graduated from different high schools. I was the hipster-dufus at my school; she was the popular girl at hers. I married a POPULAR GIRL who had been on the Homecoming Court! That changed everything. I realized then that being popular or a nerd only mattered in high school (or at high school reunions). And I became (sort of) popular with her friends, too. Mainly I became confident in who I was and stopped comparing myself to other kids. If someone as beautiful and remarkable as Deb could love me, then I must be truly worthy or just incredibly lucky. Either way – my self esteem took an upsurge. I grew up and I learned to like myself.

Today I’m Facebook friends with some of my former high school classmates and many of us have grown children and grandchildren now. We’ve all had many years to “get over” high school but somehow at times I’m drawn back to those days. I suppose there’s something comforting about that shared experience. It’s kind of fun (in a weird way) to reminisce about what once was. Be it geek or homecoming queen; jock or freak, I guess we just all needed to belong. And I for one am glad that I did.

In a couple of years we’ll be having our 4oth high school class reunion. I’m sure that I’ll be way cooler than most of the “kids” that are there but I’m too mature now to tell them so. They’re just going to have to figure it out for themselves. I hear that some of the members of the football team are fat and bald now. And I suppose the homecoming queen’s tiara might be a little tarnished, too.

Me? Well I’m still working on my “cool”.



P.S. Keike it was great to see you!

Catholic Inter-Scholastic Speech League

Recently a friend from high school, who is now a Facebook friend, asked if anyone remembered a nun that taught English and did dramatic readings.  There were some responses and some of my former classmates think her name was Sister Judith Ann.  But I remember a Sister Jeanine that was also an English teacher and was the Theater Department sponsor.  My memories of Sister Jeanine aren’t necessarily pleasant but reminiscing about high school and teachers made me remember C.I.S.L. (Catholic Inter-Scholastic Speech League) – another memory that wasn’t particularly pleasant!

C.I.S.L. was an inter-Catholic school speech competition.  There were several categories:  Debate, Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Dramatic Reading, and Duet Acting.  Somehow I managed to find myself on the ‘Duet Acting’ team.  My acting partner was Margaret, a girl that I had gone to school with since 1st grade, and she and I were really bad actors – REALLY BAD! 

Duet acting competition involved taking acts from plays that had two main characters.  Performances were usually just one-act.  Most of the other schools had teams that were doing scenes from contemporary popular plays in the 1970’s – “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” was a perennial favorite.  Maggie and I wanted to do a scene from “Butterflies Are Free” – remember the movie with Goldie Hawn and that guy with the dimpled chin?  Anyway, Sister Jeanine insisted that Maggie and I do a scene from “Victoria Regina” – seriously.  So there we were all pimply faced and gawky trying to “be” Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – what in hell was Jeanine thinking?  Needless to say, we were awful.  No.  Awful would have been an improvement – we were wretched!  But we toured all the local high schools – Dominic, St. Mary’s, Rosary, JFK, Aquinas, Mercy, etc.

I guess because I have a German sounding last name, Sister Jeanine thought I could play the German Prince Consort – who knows?  And Maggie?  Well she was better than me but that’s like saying rotten eggs smell better than dead flesh – it really doesn’t help much.  We used these phony accents: She the English monarch.  Me the German Prince.  Usually somewhere in the middle of our ‘act’ we would somehow switch accents.  All of a sudden Albert would have a ‘veddy‘ English sounding voice and Victoria would begin to sound like a German peasant.  And being the consummate professionals that we were, of course we would laugh.  We would laugh so hard at times that we completely forgot all our lines.  That’s when we became truly entertaining – “Victoria, what on earth is making you giggle, so?”  or some such nonsense would come out of my mouth!  I can still see Sister Jeanine fuming on the sidelines while we slowly ‘self-destructed’. 

Once at Bishop Du Bourg High School some kid offered Maggie a hit off his joint (remember this was the ’70’s and we were in Catholic Schools).  Ironically, that was her best performance.  Needless to say, our poor performances never earned a ribbon nor even an honorable mention.  And those pompous Debaters and snotty Extemporaneous Speakers HATED us because we always brought the cumulative team score down.

But Maggie was cool and we had fun.  We never expected to win OSCARS one day.  We were just high school kids having a good time.  And if Sister Jeanine had let us do “Butterflies Are Free”, like we wanted to, we could have kicked some serious butt. 

I wonder where Maggie is today?  Heck, she might be a great actress with a new name, but I doubt it.  I just hope her memories of C.I.S.L. and our high school high-jinx make her smile.  I wonder if Sister Jeanine ever thought we were funny?  She could have used a hit off that joint!