Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Eulogy for Mary Marco

On Thursday I mentioned to someone that I love very much how I was asked to do this and that I was a little nervous about the responsibility and wanting to say something meaningful. She told me, “You shouldn't be nervous because I know you will speak from your heart and everyone will feel that.” I hope that you find what I say meaningful but I will promise you this, especially you Rob, Heather and Denny – every word I say and every second I speak will come from the heart.

Human nature is a funny thing, you see someone in a wheelchair and the first thing you see is the chair, not the person in the chair; and typically, your first thoughts are why and your first interaction has this awkwardness to it as a reflection of those thoughts.
It wasn’t long after the first time I met Mary that I realized how well she understood this common behavior. So much so, that she had a clever distraction - one that altered the landscape of that first interaction with her – that distraction had a name - Mandy.

Who here remembers Mandy?

Mandy was a service dog, a very special service dog. You know how it goes when you see someone with a dog, the attention gets focused initially on the dog and the next interaction is with the person holding the dog, like magic, the wheelchair disappears, at least for a little while. Certainly for a long enough period for Mary to work her infectious and unique charm on you…that Mary charm.

Mary was okay with breaking the rules of service dogs, typically it’s frowned upon for people to fuss over a service dog like they would with any other dog, but Mary let it happen and Mandy considered it part of her job.

I was always convinced that Mandy knew that this was unusual and not covered in the service dog training program but she was loyal to Mary. Mandy also knew how to keep it, and Mary, in check – she knew just how much to give back to visitors and when to reign it in. It was always pretty incredible to witness the bond between Mandy and Mary; they are together again.

Earlier this past week, I was driving up route 126 and stopped at a red light at the intersection of route 30. If you are familiar with that intersection, you know that it is somewhat menacing and infamously treacherous. As I came to my stop and was observing the intersection activity, I spotted a blind woman with a walking stick, all alone, waiting to cross route 30. My heartbeat rapidly increased as I felt this immediate sense of concern and I thought, should stop my car right where it is and run over to help this woman cross the street? It was one of those moments where everything kind of slows down around you except your thoughts and your heart rate. I noticed the light turn green, and as usual, a car or two had to speed past to make the light and add unfortunate credibility to both adjectives I used earlier about this intersection. I saw the woman do a little move with her walking stick and just cross the street as if it was no big deal.

I was relieved, then all I could hear were the car horns, and that other stuff you here from drivers behind you. As I moved on, the next thought I had was whether I had prejudged that blind woman’s ability based on my perception of her disability. It haunted me for a few minutes. The reason I bring up this story is because one of the things Mary leaves us with are the lessons she learned about overcoming obstacles and the lessons she taught us about how much one can do, and that how much one is able to do should not be judged by anything other than their shear will and desire to do it.

Mary fought her share of battles, most would see the wheelchair and were at least able to have some sense, maybe, of the physical challenges and the battles she had to fight to ensure that she had the necessary accommodations to physically get through life. I’d for one vote to put her picture next to the word persistence in the dictionary. Mary was also a champion for all who demand and deserve equal access and when something was not right, especially for those who didn’t feel confident enough to demand for themselves, whether or not it affected her personally, she spoke up, she was willing to stir the pot and she got results. AS I write this, it reminds me of the last time I saw Mary, right here in this church on the day that Denny was baptized. At that time, the lift we had that goes up into our church hall had not been in the best condition and of all people for it to not work for, I didn’t want it to be Mary – mostly because she’s family at St. Andrew’s but also, I couldn’t be certain that she wouldn’t rat us out J.

I should probably mention how I know Mary, I work at MassBay Community College, not too far from here, at the Framingham Campus. Mary was a student there from the fall of 2005 until she achieved her dream of graduating in the spring of 2013.
Mary was given the honor of being the student commencement speaker and I’ll share with you one of the stories she told. Math was her nemesis, but she was as determined as anyone to win yet another of so many battles, to her, this was just another can’t that she knew she could…she did!

Mary would sometimes spend a few hours at a time working with our math specialists, after she was done, she would give them candy. In her words, “after two hours of teaching me math, I figured they deserved a treat!” I remember her doing this, she would often slip me a piece of candy , which is pretty cool because I didn’t have to sit through two hours of math to earn it…I guess she liked me J.

It’s important to recognize that Mary was so grateful to all who gave her the love, the respect, the help and honored her dignity not as someone with a disability but as someone.

In her commencement speech, Mary revealed that she had a number of learning disabilities growing up and this was during a time when such disabilities weren’t recognized publically, there were no learning specialists, no Americans with Disabilities Act; in fact, she spoke of being ridiculed and ignored. During that speech, Mary mentioned how people would call her “stupid”, then she looked out at the large commencement crowd and with a pride that beamed so bright it could light up the entire town, she said, in that gritty, I’ve lived this life voice that was recognizable from anywhere within hearing range, “I proved them wrong”…the crowd applauded.

It’s almost serendipitous that we here at St. Andrew’s are amid construction to make our facility more accessible to all people. I ask that you take this with you when you leave here, it may seem obvious but we all need a reminder every once in a while, especially in the times we are living in right now. When you look out into a crowd of people, see just that, a crowd of people. Mary was a constant reminder of that, I saw her share her heart with countless numbers of students in the years she spent at MassBay. Mary was a fellow student, a mother figure, an ambassador, a woman of faith and a friend to all.

I’ll close with the words Mary closed her commencement speech with and suggest that Rob and Heather play back that speech for young Denny down the road, where he can hear his grandmother say “If you want something, really bad enough, you can accomplish your goal with hard work and determination. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it, just say you can do it…and do it.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Charity Work

I thought I would come out of retirement for a moment because a blog post is the best way I can tell you about a number of projects I am working on over the next few months and to ask you all for your good thoughts, prayers (if that is something you do) and if possible, lend a hand with a donation to one or more of these causes:

On April 9th, I will be participating in "Walk Away Homelessness" for an organization called Family Promise Metrowest. Family Promise has a very unique and wonderful approach to how it helps homeless or near homeless families.

Please click the link below for my Family Promise fundraising page to learn more about the organization, the event and to make a donation.


On April 30th, I will once again walk for the ALS Association's "Walk to Defeat ALS". I participated in the Boston walk back in October of 2015 and learned that they do an event in Worcester in April. One again I am walking in honor of my dear friend's brother, Francis Farrell.

I've done a number of such events, I have to say that October event moved me to tears, it was so emotional and not all of it was sad, much of it was inspiring and I had to do this event again.

If you would kindly check out my ALSA Walk to Defeat ALS fundraiser page by clicking the link below, and if so moved, every donation helps.


On May 1st, just one day after the Walk to Defeat ALS, I make my return to Project Bread's "Walk for Hunger". In past years, the Walk for Hunger has been 20 miles - I did that walk 5 times and raised well over $5,000 thanks to your generosity. Quite a few years have passed since my last time and I am ready to take on the challenge again. This year, due to road construction, they have shortened the walk to 10 miles, but the cause is the same - it is a wonderful event. Please see my Walk for Hunger fundraiser page by clicking on the link below.


On May 7th, I will be participating in a Habitat for Humanity project. There is no fundraiser page here, I'll be helping to build a house for a family, I've done it once before about 10 years or so ago, it was an amazing experience.

I simply as for your good thoughts.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this and pitching in, any way you can.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

On Grieving

Someone shared this with me earlier today, I had to share it as well...

Someone on reddit wrote the following heartfelt plea online:

“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”

A lot of people responded. Then there’s one old guy’s incredible comment that stood out from the rest that just might change the way we approach life and death:

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me every time someone I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter’. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the waves come crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find the waves are only 80 feet tall, or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
UPDATE: 11/30 - I unintentionally forgot to include the link to the original post. I manually typed it here because in the original post, it was presented as a graphic with white letters on a black background and can't be read by screen readers. For the original post CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where's the Fun?

As I close in on 3,000 posts and more than 11 years into this blog - I have recently found myself reflecting on its life and future.

I hate to say that I am closing it down or even to say I won't be posting...I do still love this place and I am especially grateful to all who've read it over the years.

I do recently find it hard to get to and when I miss a day or more, I begin to feel guilty. I know, it's silly to feel that way, but I do.

I just don't know, but I think it's only fair to at least say there is a chance that there will be longer gaps and fewer posts, and I know that could eventually mean that some, or even all of you who do so kindly come to this place will eventually stop.

I can't express my gratitude adequately enough - I've shared a lot here, perhaps more than I should have sometimes.

This isn't goodbye, it's just I have no idea at all...I may show up tomorrow and just go in a posting frenzy...maybe I shouldn't say anything and just do whatever feels right when it feels right....

Can you tell that I am thinking out loud?

Feel free to chime in on comments...for now, I am going to bed.

I love you all, especially the radioactive one!

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Firepits are Good

My Saturday was filled...then I faded!

I "slept in", Saturday, which to me is anytime after 5:30 am (I got up around 8).

I had a bunch of materials left over from the bath remodel that I wanted to return for a refund, it was a workout just getting it all into the car from upstairs, but I got it done. I had tickets to a pancake breakfast fundraiser, my plan was to hit the breakfast, then head to the tile shop to take care of business.

At the breakfast, I ended up bumping in to a number of people I know, so it was nice. I brought a deck of cards to try out a new trick I have been working on, I went to perform it for a friend and the two grand kids of a colleague - of course they kept screwing it up - but I was able to improvise and do a different truck that wowed them.

The tile shop return netted me back about $650! On the way back, I stopped for a froyo and got a call from my friend Ameesh - who was planning to go walking and asked if I was interested, Despite getting a good upper body workout loading the car and then later unloading, I knew I could use a good walk.

We did a 6+ mile loop and went back to his place. Next thing I knew there was a firepit going, his wife made some apps and we sampled some Ace Pumpkin Cider (super delicious), Nitro Stout (pictured above, also yu,,y) and a Red Wine that they had picked up (I didn't think that was all that good).

Later, other friends came by to hang for a while - I was planning to go see the Road Dawgs later than nigiht...I got home around 6:30, maybe 7...I sat on the couch for a bit and ended up passing out. By the time I woke up I was feeling I decided to stay in. I got so much sleep, I woke up at 5:30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep!

An Evening With Gilbert Gottfried

Friday night I saw comedian Gilbert Gottfried live. I had seen Gilbert once before and it was the only time I ever laughed so hard at a comedy show that I nearly pee'd my pants and stopped breathing. He's not for everyone, it's a very unconventional comedy act, but for me, it's just so damn funny!

It was either the late 1980's or early 1990's when I first saw him perform, until Friday night...and once again, nearly stopped breathing with laughter.

Cooler this time, he was very accessible at the end of the show - he greeted his fans (sure, he was selling merch too) but he is so different off stage, very quiet, humble and gracious.

Here are some pics...most taken by my friend Joel:

Gilbert checking out the crowd before show - I took this pic

Me and Gilbert - taken by Joel
Here are some shots Joel took during the show:

Finally, here's an artsy post-show shot, taken by Joel:

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Short and Tall of It

On the left, the shortest of all my colleagues, 4 foot something (also 93 years of age and still works full time). On the right, the tallest of all my colleagues, 6 feet 10 inches.

This is a spectacular photograph.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Bathroom Done....ish

The contractor I hired to do the bathroom completed the job, in a proper amount of time, for a fair price, he showed up for work every day, did exactly as I asked, provided perfect service...there is a first for everything!

The bathroom looks amazing!

I do have one more thing to do to it, I decided I want to put sliding doors on the tub/shower instead of a shower curtain. I set up an appointment for next Wednesday, their earliest available spot, for a well reviewed local company that specializes in such work.

Feeling good about it all...

Monday, November 02, 2015


There have been a large number of coyote sightings in my town. Worse, it seems animal control doesn't give a crap.

My stance is we should kill off the population - before they kill one of us, they are dangerous.

I have a headache, a bad one.

Stupid coyotes!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

From the Mouths of Children

There were a number of baptisms in church today. Usually, the sermon during baptisms is geared toward the kids, who all come up and gather around the altar and Julie, our rector includes them in the sermon by asking questions.

Today, one of the questions she asked of the kids was if they could name a famous saint. One kid said St. Paul, another, St. Francis...then, out of nowhere, one young child uttered:

St. Louis

The church erupted with laughter!


It's rare that I  watch a football game in which the Patriots aren't playing. With the Pats off and me heavily desiring to procrastinate from grading, I saw there was a game between the  New Orleans Saints and the New York I went for it.

This has been one of the wildest football games I've ever seen, an offensive frenzy with lots of excitement and incredible plays. As I type these words, the game is tied at, are you ready for this, 49! 36 seconds to go....

20 seconds to go...

Amazing...Saints win 52-49

Saturday, October 31, 2015


It's been a few days, this 8 week course on top of a particularly busy schedule these last few months have really caught up with me. I am sorry I haven't been here as much as I want.

In good news, the bathroom remodel is coming along well, just a couple of very minor glitches. I am betting it will be done very soon.

Grading final exams right now in the 8 week course - here's how it's going:


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Financial Aid

I've been working inside the higher education system for long enough to see some crack that are so obvious that I can't imagine why they haven't been patched up this far in. I am all for the idea of financial aid, I think in theory it's great and opens up the opportunity for education for so many people. That said, the system is so broken and it needs to be fixed now.

Int he current system, let's say a student qualifies for $1000 in aid and there expenses are $800; they can finagle a refund check and cash out  the $200. In fact, I've heard with my own ears student complaining about needing their refund checks for a variety of things such as vacation, Christmas gifts, cigarettes, and other things they should not be spending that money on. Whatever isn't spent on tuition and text books MUST go back into the system - we need to implement this right away.

Another rule that must be implemented immediately is academic criteria for maintaining financial. I say you should be required to maintain a C average or better or you lose your aid. You did below a C, you get on a payment plan, wages garnished and all, and pay what you took for an education that you chose not to take seriously. maintain the C or better, you keep your aid as long as you qualify. There should also be additional requirements that limit the amount of courses that are at a D or below - this is common where people tack on a "bullshit" course just to maintain 12 credits and then skate by in that class...there should be no skating by on that dime...ever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The Carnage

I was frantically running about this morning - I had to lure my cat into my kid's room to lock him up in there for safety while the contractor is in the house working; needless to say, we are enough days in that he has made the association that he's getting locked up and that makes it harder to do so.Then, of course once successful, he immediately begins his gut wrenching howling. The move is to have everything it its place so that once he gets locked in then you make a run for the car and off to work to minimize hearing said howls.

I locked him in, ran down only to realize I left my keys upstairs in my bedroom...which I keep locked while the contractor is on site. No problem, spare key to bedroom hidden in the office. Oh crap, the office is locked too. Oh yeah, spare car key is locked in bedroom with car key-car key...panic sets in, f-bombs flying so fast and furious I worry the FAA may intercede.

After a few minutes, I take a deep breath and realize I do have a fully charged cell phone with Internet access. I know if I call a locksmith, I'm probably in for $150 - so I google "How to Get into a Locked Interior Door" (brought to you courtesy of proud moments).

First solution involves the sentence, "How to fashion a lock pick from a large paperclip". At first I was game, then I realize that all of my paperclips are locked in my office. then, it hit me that even if I can perfectly "fashion' the necessary tools, lock picking takes practice, what are the odds I pick up on that skill right away? I was already getting close to being late for work...what's next.

I pass up on several other Macguyver like things that just seemed unrealistic to a very practical statement, "when all else fails, grab a hammer" - I have (or as you will soon see, had) one of those. The illustrated instructions indicated that one should "take several shots at the handle, not so much because it will do anything, but it will help you take out your aggression on it for being locked." The idea was to wack it good a few times then use the claw of the hammer to wedge against the door and yank the handle off the mechanism (I oft grab the opportunity to use the word mechanism....and the word oft).

After a number of good wacks (as you can see in the photo above), I go for the yank and like right out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, nothing happens to the door handle but the top of the hammer breaks right off, the wood handle itself split clear off - I just started to crack up while yelling WTF (and secretly looking for a camera crew).

Can't forget the desperate attempt to "hacksaw" the handle off...see ridiculous excuse for a hacksaw in the picture above). Anyway, it occurred to me that since I am mid bath remodel, maybe the contractor has a hammer in my house, so I rumble through his belongings and find one...hoping it's a better quality one than mine (imagine explaining that to him as I add the cost of a new hammer to his next payment), I get aggressive on the handle again and this time, make some progress...I get the handle to fall off leaving this odd protrusion that I have no idea what the heck to do I return to that web site to see what comes next. While attempting to navigate phone with my left hand, I grab the mangled protrusion from the door and give a forceful twist and the door opens.

The rest is irrelevant but of course, the whole time since locking Oliver up in my daughter's room, he's yelling and then terrified, I suspect, at the loud whacking of the door handle....

Anyway, I made it to work on time (barely) and have already replaced the door handle.

How was your morning?

Monday, October 26, 2015

NFL Commissioner Me

Here's just a few of the things I would do were I named NFL commissioner:

  • Offensive pass interference would go away, it's a stupid penalty and makes no sense.
  • Pass interference, needs to be reviewed. For certain, the penalization would change, it's way too drastic.
  • The safety would go away.
  • The on-side kick would disappear - another stupid part of the game.
  • New rule: In the red zone, you can attempt a FG more than once, as long as you have enough downs.You can even attempt a field goal and if you miss, proceed with regular play (again, in the red zone).
  • No player can have hair sticking out of their helmet past the name on their jersey. Players with hair that long will not be allowed to play in the game - hair must either be gut or tucked into something. If hair comes out, they would incur a penalty.

The Fallen

I'm sitting at a desk out in the lab today and I hear a student from the writing center yell out for help. I ran over to see one of the part time writing specialists on the floor. I think she's around 70 years of age, she took a fall on vacation less than a year ago that set her back a few weeks but recently she's seemed fine.

She mentioned that she's been nursing a bum knee - she used the arms on her chair to get up to take some pressure off her knee and one of the arms was a bit loose and that's how she lost her balance - or so it was assumed by her and the student.

We took out all of those chairs right after - did what I could to help her, she refused professional medical treatment and insisted she was fine. over the next few hours I checked in on her a few times, as did a few others, including a visit from her husband (they live in the same town).

When I left, all seemed fine. I got a text earlier by another colleague telling me that the woman had fallen a second time. I hope she is okay!

Post Concert Frivolity

After the Ringo Starr concert on Friday night, we went back to The Four Seasons hotel lounge to celebrate a friend's birthday. I wouldn't normally end up there, but I don't regret going...especially since we got to hang with some of the musicians from the band.

At first, Jimmy spotted Gregg Rollie, who most famously played with Santana and Journey. I went over to him and chatted very briefly, then asked if he would mind coming over to say happy birthday to my friend who was a fan - he was gracious enough to come over for a few minutes to offer good wishes and take a few photos.

Steve Lukather, most famously form Toto walked by, he was gracious enough to wave but it was obvious he just wanted some down time with his friends, so the wave was enough.

Greg Bissonette, who has played drums on lots of things and with lots of folks, including early David Lee Roth solo projects, was sitting with his friends. I went over and shook his hand, chatted very briefly then asked if he would consider coming over to say happy birthday to Jimmy, who is a drummer himself and a fan; he said, "sure thing, be over in a minute." A minute or so later, he had snuck around so we wouldn't see and he came from the other side of the area and him and his friends sang happy birthday and hung out with us for a chat and pictures. After he let, we ran into him later in the lobby as we were leaving and he spent more time with us...very nice guy.

Great night for sure!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ringo Starr & His All Star Band

Months ago, after the John Mellencamp concert at the Wang Center in Boston, I wrote them to complain about a problem at the venue (I may have told this story)...long/short - I ended up with 2 free tickets to Ring & His All Star Band. I took my friend John, as big a Beatles fan as I've ever known.

Here was the band lineup:

Gregg Rollie (Santana, Journey, etc.)
Richard aige (Mr. Mister)
Steve Lukather (Toto)
Todd Rundgren (Utopia, Solo, Nazz, etc.)
Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, etc.)
I didn't get the name of the Sax Player

And the setlist:

It Don't Come Easy
Island in the Sun
I Saw the Light
Evil Ways
Bang the Drum All Day
Don't Pass Me By
Yellow Submarine
Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
You're Sixteen
I'm the Greatest
You Are Mine
Oye como va
I Wanna Be Your Man
Love Is the Answer
Broken Wings
Hold the Line
Act Naturally
With a Little Help From My Friends
Give Peace a Chance

Fun show!

Busy - Update

Very busy weekend, I'll bullet a few events here and elaborate later:

Saw Ringo Starr & His All Star Band
Met Gregg Rolie (of Santana, Journey, etc. fame)
Met and spent a little time with Gregg Bissonette (Of many works including early David Lee Roth solo)
Participated in the Walk to End ALS - a very emotional day
Saw The Road Dawgs
Ate too much