Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Man of the Cloth

It's official: I am now an ordained minister.

I'm more than a little amazed and disturbed at how easy it is to simply buy an ordination online. Granted, I can only legally conduct weddings, baptisms, and funerals, but if I wanted to shell out another hundred bucks I could be able to do a whole lot more, including starting my own church. I doubt the "Church of Ray" has a memorable ring to the name, and even though I've always been perfectly comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, leading a group of people is another thing entirely.

I still fully intend on turning this option into a small side business, including a website promoting my services available (I guess this is my shameless moment of self-promotion talking about this) and fee charges. I'm not sure what other fringe benefits there are to calling oneself a minister aside from things like being tax-exempt, but I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

From now on, you can refer to me as "Reverend Ray."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

Your younger sister's wedding is coming up in less than two months. She texts you, asking when you'll be around again so you can get fitted for the suit you'll need for the wedding. You reply by saying you'll be in town next weekend for a birthday party as well as her wedding shower, assuming it's common knowledge for everyone involved, including her. She answers she doesn't know anything about a shower next weekend and that you may have inadvertently revealed a surprise. What do you do?


If you're me, you reply with a single word that isn't quite suitable to be reprinted here. Obviously my naivte got the best of me last night because I had no idea that wedding showers are almost always done as surprise parties. I knew they could be done as surprises, but in talking with my mom and my other sister about it, it didn't sound like this was private information. Fortunately, my moment of knuckleheadedness (not sure if that's a word, but for the purposes of this post it will be) was kept to a minimum for two reasons. First, my sister promised to look surprised at her shower next weekend. Second, I didn't say exactly when or where the party will be, so she might still be caught off guard a little when the surprise is revealed. And I'm sure after it's all said and done we'll be able to laugh at everything as well.

Can you tell I'm a single guy who hasn't had any real experience with planning weddings?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Goodbye, Newman

Thursday was a very sad day.

My sister and brother-in-law have an English bulldog named Newman. He's the most confused, lost, and aloof animal I've ever known, and yet he's also the most lovable animal as well. He's been a part of our family for the past five years, and he's made dog lovers out of everyone in the group.

This past weekend my sister called me to tell me Newman wasn't doing well. She said last week he hadn't been his normal super friendly and sociable self. He hadn't been eating or want to go outside at all. Something was clearly wrong with him, so she took him to a neurologist for an examination.

All our worst fears were confirmed when an MRI revealed a brain tumor. The doctors said surgery was possible, but there was no guarantee they'd be able to get everything, or that the tumor wouldn't come back in a year. Obviously the news devastated us all, but no one more than my sister and brother-in-law. They had introduced Newman to us all several years ago, and I couldn't picture what life would have been like without him.

Now we'll have no choice but to go on without him. My sister had originally hoped to give him drugs to make him more comfortable for the time being until they could go forward with his surgery after her wedding in September, but she called me last night in tears. She said his condition was deteriorating quickly and she couldn't bear watching him in such pain. I had plans to visit her, my niece, and Newman this weekend so I could see him at least one more time before things got much worse for him, but it wasn't meant to be. She said she had to put him to sleep today so he wouldn't suffer anymore.

I quickly broke down on the phone with her. She felt awful for putting him down at all, but I immediately told her she was doing the right thing. Newman loved everyone in our family unconditionally, and we all loved him back. As tough as her decision was, it was the right choice. I told her we'd use this weekend to celebrate Newman's life and reminisce over our favorite memories of him.

I already know my favorite Newman story. Last year we got together for Mother's Day, and I brought a collection of pastries for breakfast while dinner was being cooked. Both my sister and I were munching on a pastry, and Newman had a taste for all things - both dog food and human food. My sister didn't give in to him, so he saw I hadn't yet finished my pastry. He walked right in front of me and knelt down, shoving his face between my legs. If Newman could speak, he probably would've said something along the lines of, "Wow, that looks tasty. You're going to give me a bite of that, right?"

I simply looked down at him and said, "Oh, NOW I'm your best friend, huh?" And no, I didn't give him a bite of my pastry.

It's funny how animals can have such effects on people. I never disliked dogs growing up, but I was never a pet lover in general either. Spending the last five years with Newman as part of the family has completely changed my perspective on pets. In fact, three years ago my family got together Christmas morning for family photographs, and my dad insisted that the family photos weren't complete without Newman included in them (his exact words: "No Newman? NO GOOD!").

There will most certainly be a void in our family without Newman. He brightened any room he was in, and simply watching him walk around made us all laugh. My niece is far too young to have any attachment to him, so I hope that in time my sister and brother-in-law will get another dog for her to play with.

Goodbye, Newman. I asked God to feed you bananas since you liked them so much. You took great care of us, and we'll always remember you.