This week, Dom and Melanie recount yet another emergency room adventure, get your taste buds revved with what they’re been cooking (and grilling), revisit Brideshead, and talk about the art of Biblical translation.
Melanie and I have just launched a brand new project into the world. Wee have a new podcast we’re doing together called Raising the Betts. It’s part of the StarQuest Media network, of which I am CEO, and despite having created and been part of a dozen different shows and podcasts over the years, it’s the first time I’ve been able to get Melanie in front of a microphone!
In this first episode, we talk about our backgrounds, how we met, we dated, we got married, and we had kids. We also preview some of the topics we’ll be discussing in the future, like homeschooling, cooking, our trips both near and far, the challenges of marriage and parenting, and fun stuff we’re doing around the house. We’ll also talk about books, TV shows, movies, music, and art, as well as current events and news stories that particularly affect us or make us passionate. And of course, we’ll talk about our Catholic faith, whether it’s something that comes up with the kids or part of Melanie and my spiritual lives.
We hope you’ll give it a listen, subscribe, share it with others, and let us know what you think.
Well, I’m moving on again. For the past two years, I’ve been Director of Community Engagement for Massachusetts Citizens for Life, an organization doing important work holding the line on assisted suicide against well-funded opposition and helping lower the abortion rate in Massachusetts. But as of today, Tuesday, May 1, I will be leaving that job to take on the full-time position of Chief Executive Officer of the StarQuest Podcast Network (SQPN).
Those of you with a memory for minutiae may recall that I have been Executive Director of SQPN since November 2015 in a part-time capacity. Last January, however, the former CEO and co-founder of SQPN Fr. Roderick Vonhogen left SQPN to focus on his Dutch-based media organization Trideo. After much consultation and consideration of SQPN’s future, the board of directors has decided to rebuild SQPN with an exciting lineup of current and new podcast shows. Part of that rebuilding has been a recognition of the need for someone working full-time to manage everything, to be a primary host of most shows, to schedule panelists, do the audio editing, manage the web servers, and so on. That someone is me.
So now as of May, I can say with all sincerity to the question, “What do you do?”: “I am a podcaster.”
When the weather forecasts last week started talking about a potential nor-easter by the end of the week, I wasn’t paying much attention. That’s because my focus was on Melanie’s impending surgery on Wednesday and everything that would be required of me. First, I wanted to support and help her. It was a day surgery that featured the laparascopic1 technique, which is routine, but it was also general anesthesia, which is not. At least for Melanie.
On Wednesday, my mom came over to watch the kids and I took Melanie to the hospital where I waited all day. It took longer than we expected because she had a hard time coming out from the anesthesia, which is part of Melanie’s difficulty with it. We headed home and I had to go back out to find a pharmacy to her prescription for pain medications. Because of the opioid epidemic, they are no longer prescribed electronically, but must be filled with a paper scrip. And for some reason all the pharmacies were busy and so I had to find one that could fill the prescription that night so Melanie would not be in agony all night.
Then on Thursday, I worked from home because she was still woozy from the medicine and still in pain. That was when I started paying attention to the storm forecasts. This is New England. Nor’easters are expected in the winter and this one was going to be mostly rain, they said. Rain instead of snow? What’s to worry? It turns out there was plenty to worry about from the rain and the wind.
The summer of 1996 I was planning to move from Ohio back to Massachusetts. I had finished up at Franciscan University of Steubenville and had a job that allowed me to work remotely from anywhere I had an internet connection. My friend, Randy, who was from Phoenix, had got a job as a youth minister in Salem, Mass., and so we agreed to get an apartment together. However, he then was offered by his new boss, the pastor, Fr. Timothy Murphy, to come live in the spacious, mostly empty rectory to save money. Randy was concerned about our agreement, but the pastor extended the invitation to me as well, letting me rent a room and receive board for monthly rent.
That was how I met Fr. Murphy, who would become a friend, a mentor, and a father-figure to me over the next two decades. Fr. Murphy retired from active ministry a few years ago and has now died after a short illness.
In 1996, Fr. Murphy was the newly arrived pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Salem, the second oldest parish in Massachusetts after the cathedral-parish in Boston and the oldest church dedicated to Mary in New England. Fr. Murphy was always proud of the history of the parish, including the fact that he was the second pastor named Timothy Murphy, his eponymous predecessor having lived in the 19th century.
Father Murphy had previously been pastor of St. Angela’s Parish in Mattapan since 1979, an inner-city parish with a very large Haitian immigrant population that had grown there as the neighborhood transitioned from mainly Jewish and Irish families who were moving out to the suburbs. Notably, Fr. Murphy was the first of his seminary class to be named a pastor (back in the days when not every parish priest became a pastor and if so after decades of ministry) and he learned of his assignment on the day Pope St. John Paul II celebrated Mass on Boston Common, October 1, 1979. He served St. Angela’s until 1995 when he took a sabbatical year in Rome before going to Salem.
That year in Rome was special to Fr. Murphy and he talked about it often in the following years and he stayed in touch with the other priests from around the United States who were in the same program year. It also prompted him to do more pilgrimages and international travel.
My brother had solar panels installed on his house by SolarCity about 3 or 4 years ago now, right near the beginning of the new leased solar panel trend. In the past, you had to buy a solar panel setup outright, often at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars outlay. Even with tax credits and electric savings, you wouldn’t see a return on your investment for years. But the new solar panel leasing allows you to get panels on your roof for a low monthly fee. You don’t own the panels, but maintenance is taken care of by the vendor and, in our case, we’d save about half off our utility bill.
This seemed like a good deal so we contacted my brother’s salesman, but because of a number of distractions we never followed through. Earlier this year, I saw something from Google about going solar where I could enter my information and several different solar companies would contact me about their services. I did and heard from one, Vivint. They gave me their pitch, which outlined what’s involved and how much we would pay.
I’m fascinated and inspired by looking at how other people organize their days and their lives, including what they carry around with them on their persons or in their bags. There’s a whole genre of blog posts and even web sites dedicated to the concept. I like them because it sometimes gives me ideas of useful tools or gadgets that can help me more productive or just ready for what comes my way.
I prefer a carabiner as my keychain because of the ease of getting keys on and off but I had one too many cheap carabiners come apart over the years. So I decided to go with something sturdy, which is in fact an actual climbing carabiner. This is the Black Diamond Screwgate Carabiner ($11). What makes this better is the locking gate that screws up tight and doesn’t unscrew on its own, even being jostled in your pocket. It’s a bit bulky, but not too much and its size allows me to put plenty of keys on it without crowding. And, bonus, if you need to belay off a building unexpectedly, you have a carabiner.
In addition to my keys, I carry on my keychain a Verbatim TUFF ’N’ TINY 32GB USB Flash Drive ($13). I’ve carried for almost four years now in my pocket every day. It’s built to withstand dust, water, static electricity, and the constant jostle of your keyring. You never know when you will need to transfer important files from one computer to another or someone will need to give you a large file that’s too big to email. If you’re a little geeky, you could set up an encrypted disk image on it and keep a password-protected backup of your most important data, like all your passwords. Because it’s encrypted, even if you lose the drive, you’re not at risk. If I were buying today, I might look at a newer product that’s similar, the Verbatim 32GB Store ’n’ Go Micro Plus Flash Drive ($16), which has a rubberized to provide additional protection.
Also on the keychain is the True Utility TU246 TelePen ($10). This has proven itself over and over again. I’ve been in many situations where I need to sign something or write a note and there’s no pen around. Not any more. This great little pen is always handy, writes very well, and is comfortable in the hand. It has saved the day many times for me in the year I’ve owned it. You can also impress others with your preparedness when you pull it off your keychain and hand it over.
Battery and cable
Given all the gadgets we walk around with these days, staying charged can be a challenge. However, I do find that my iPhone 7 Plus keeps a pretty good charge all day for me in normal use, since I often plug it in when I’m in the car or at my desk. However, sometimes I’m out all day or we’re on vacation or I’m with someone whose phone battery is running low. That’s when having a backup battery comes in handy.
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At the end of January I finished the most arduous and stressful consumer experience of my life: refinancing my mortgage. When people would tell me that going through a refinance was difficult, I assumed it was normal difficult. Maybe for them it was. For me, it was an epic journey, like Frodo and Sam crawling through Mordor to Mount Doom, half-dead and expecting to be done for with every step. My Mount Doom was my mortgage and my Sauron was Freedom Mortgage.
I started this process in March 2015. Between that date and August 2015, I tried to close three times, but each time encountered sloppy errors in the paperwork made by their employees: spelling errors in my name, failure to include all parties, forgetting necessary documents. Once we got to the date of closing and I even had my certified check with closing costs in hand when they cancelled.
By then I was falling behind in my mortgage due to late fees and other issues and so I suspended the process until I felt ready to proceed again. I contacted Freedom again in March 2016 and everything proceeded until June when I was then told we couldn’t move forward because I had more than one late payment in the past year… Yes, due to their errors!
So I came back in September and once more encountered problem after problem. I was told one thing and then a week later told something else that contradicted it. Their several employees I had to deal with squabbled among themselves about who had responsibility for particular areas and even disagreed about necessary steps I had to take.
Each person I talked to gave me seemingly arbitrary demands for paperwork. One said I needed this document, another said I didn’t. And every time I talked to someone new I had to go through the same rigamarole of fixing mistakes in their records. For instance, they had a phone number for me that had been disconnected for 10 years in the system. Every time I talked to someone new, I had to tell them to take the old number out. This happened right up to the closing despite me correcting them a half dozen times. I even had the closing signing agent show up at my door unannounced because they had given her the old number.
Last week, we started hearing a constant drip, drip, drip from the bathroom faucet.1 It wasn’t even a slow drip, but a quick one that I knew was wasting a lot of water.
So on Saturday, I wanted to go to Home Depot to get some replacement parts, but first I needed to determine whether it was the hot faucet or the cold one and what kind of faucet it is (compression, ball, cartridge, etc.). So I tried turning off first the cold water supply valve and then the hot one to see which one caused the drip to stop.
The cold water faucet was the culprit, but I couldn’t turn off the the hot water supply. I put as much torque into it as I dared, but it wouldn’t completely close. That would be bad if I ever had a real leak, but it wasn’t of immediate concern, so I left a message by email with our plumber. Then I put that aside and I took out the old cartridge from the cold faucet and headed to the Home Depot…
…where I was confronted with the wall of faucet parts. I need to let you in on one important detail: Before we bought our home it was renovated by a flipper, which means they used the least expensive “contractor special” parts available for everything, faucet included. So as I stared at all the replacement parts, I had no clue which to choose. I stood there for 20 minutes, comparing the original cartridge in my hand to every possible one I could find that looked similar. Finally, I just picked the one that looked the closest, although they weren’t identical, and prayed for the best.
I got home and put the new cartridge into the faucet, put everything back together and it fit!
Except the faucet was backwards. By which I mean when you turned it to the “on” position, the water stopped and when you turned it “off” the water flowed. It turns out I’d purchased the cartridge for the hot water faucet, which of course is reversed. But the drip had stopped! At this point, I wasn’t making another trip back to the Depot of Homes and so I just ordered the cold water version on Amazon.2 We could survive with a backward faucet until Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the plumber got back to me and said he’d come by on Monday. That morning, as I cleaned out the cabinet under the sink for him, I noticed some of the items were wet. That was my next bad omen, but I was willing to take a trip up “de Nile” and pretend it was condensation or something. When he showed up, I explained why the faucet was backward and he had the professionalism not to laugh at me outright or shake his head at my idiocy. He did have a few choice words for the renovator/flipper’s PVC pipework under the sink, but he assured me he’d sweat the broken valve off quickly and put a new one in its place.
I went off to my office to work until he came to find me a bit later. It turns out that the drain stop was the source of the leak under the sink and while he was trying to fix it, the thing broke off. Normally, he’d have some bits and bobs of old faucet sets in his truck and he’d just pop one of those in there, but his less-than-brilliant assistant had cleaned out the truck. So now we’d need to buy a whole new faucet because you can’t just buy the drain stopper bit, and off he went to the plumber’s supply store.
Which means that the leaky faucet I’d fixed and whose (second) replacement cartridge was still on the way from Amazon was going away anyway. Meanwhile, after the plumber got back getting the new faucet in and dealing with the original Franken-plumbing took a couple more billable hours.
So here I am with a shiny new faucet, a replacement cartridge fresh from Amazon ($10), the other replacement cartridge the Lord knows where in the trash somewhere, and a bill for plumbing work for $450.
But no drip!
It’s Isabella’s birthday, which included lots of books, lemon cake with lemon frosting, and a birthday dinner at her favorite Vietnamese pho restaurant.