Alarms, prom dresses and postal delivery, OH MY

People who like to watch reality TV should come in to my house and live my life just 24 hours. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to. Every day presents itself with a new drama, and it’s all real.

Take today, for instance. At 12:15 a.m. while watching Jimmy Fallon, my house alarm starts to beep but, since we’d never heard that in the past three months we’ve lived in the house, we had no clue that’s what it was. My teenager hears something, too, and we track it down to the alarm system.

After pressing tons of buttons, I finally get it to stop. Okay, so I think that’s over. At 6:10 a.m., the alarm siren goes off, by itself. My husband is already up, so the alarm is no longer armed. Is Casper the Ghost now living in our new home? The only way we can shut it off is to pull a circuit breaker outside and take the battery back up out of the system. I call the alarm company, they will come out later in the day.

I meet the alarm guy, a very nice man, but he has no clue why it would have gone off like it did without being armed. He gives me the line I have heard so many times since we started in January 2011 building our new home in Metairie: “I’ve been in the 28 years, and this has never happened before. … Call me if it happens again.”

Okay, like I wouldn’t call him? Didn’t I just get him out to find out what was wrong?

While I am home dealing with the alarm, I realize another problem hasn’t worked out.  I know I shouldn’t get started talking about ordering a dress for prom season. It’s hell, pure hell. Dramarama isn’t even a strong enough word to use. We are on a budget since we built the house – understandable, right?. So my daughter – to her credit – searched all over the find the perfect dress. She finds one on line. I look at it and approve it – since it cannot be strapless or indecent it any way. It’s beautiful. Just perfect for a teenager, which is so difficult in this day and age and our culture.

We order it on March 4. We pay more than I wanted, plus pay extra for two-day express delivery.

I call to check on it last week to see when it might come in.  I learn that the dress isn’t scheduled to be shipped until June 5. JUNE 5!!!!! REALLY!!! The prom is in late April.

I call the company and tell them my dilemma and ask if they thought I would have ordered a dress had I known it wouldn’t be delivered until June 5. Basically I am told I didn’t read the fine print – just like another customer she had just spoken to – and there is nothing they can do.  (I guess us busy working moms just can’t read.) They will not refund our money. No way to get it faster, either because it is supposedly custom made somewhere in the world.

Finally, they agree to let me pick something else and they will charge me an extra $40 to allow me to do this. What am I supposed to do? Lose hundreds of dollars or pay an extra $40? The same day my daughter calls the company, unbeknownst to me. They tell her the same thing and add that they talked to me, had notes in my file,  and to pick out something else.            Well, it’s not as easy as that. She goes back on the website, and we discover now that most of the dresses that are supposedly custom-made like the one she originally ordered now have a date of, guess what, JUNE 5 on them. No longer does it say 6-8 weeks anywhere on the website. Coincidence? I don’t think so. If that had been clear to begin with, customers like me searching for “prom dresses” during “prom season” would not have ordered a dress from this company.  Why weren’t only the dresses available to be shipped in March or April only advertised as prom dresses? So deceptive.

And, when you call the company, the phone number dialed instantly puts you on hold for 15 minutes without even a person coming on and saying you are on hold. A person comes on, puts you back on hold and then we are disconnected not once but two times!!! So we try a third time and told the girl do not put us on hold. As we are on hold those three times, the availability of the dresses she likes goes from 2 to 1 to 0 all before our eyes. My daughter is crying hysterically. This is so ridiculous. We can’t even talk to someone and the dresses disappear.

If a dress is custom made couture, how can any size no longer available? We ask that question and were told it must be glitch in the computer system. I get so incensed that businesses blame technology for their lack of helping customers. HELP ME! I NEED CUSTOMER SERVICE WHEN I CALL!!

So she orders a dress, of course, even more expensive than the first, but at this point we just need to get this done. When parents are beaten to death emotionally, sometimes we just cave in. That’s something I struggle with all the time. But I know all of us can’t be strong every minute. I only have two kids. I just don’t know how people with many more children do it. I come from a big family and you would think I could roll with the punches better, but there are always too many punches to duck.

You think ordering the dress is the tough part. Think again – DELIVERY. The dress is delivered by USPS by Express mail within days on a Friday. Which seems great. Finally, something is working out. But, no one’s home to sign for it, so a notice is left. Easy enough, right? You fill out a form that was left, tape it to the mailbox and the postman is supposed to deliver it the next day. The package is not delivered on Saturday. So, we take the notice to the nearest post office. It’s not there. I call the 1-800-ASK-USPS, give the tracking number. They guarantee delivery on Tuesday with a confirmation number. Mail comes on Tuesday, and the dress is not with it.  I call the USPS number again, they say there are sorry. WELL IT’S EXPRESS DELIVERY AND THE PACKAGE IS RETURNED AFTER 5 DAYS. I am sweating it out here!! What are we supposed to do? The notice has been on my mailbox for three days now and no package.

I am given another local post office to call. They laugh when I explain m y dilemma. LAUGH. REALLY,  although the guy seems really nice. They have the package but close at 5 p.m. Luckily my husband works nearby. He asks for the nice postman who finds the package but doesn’t open it. I wonder what we will find tonight when it’s opened??

Fishers of children: Where an avocation supports a vocation

By Peter Finney Jr.

Clarion Herald

            Jesus called his disciples – fishermen by trade – fishers of men.

            On the banks of a City Park lagoon in March, several permanent deacons and deacon aspirants and candidates of the Archdiocese of New Orleans found out what it was like to be fishers of children.

            Deacon Ray Duplechain, the executive director of the archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate and an avid saltwater fisherman, hooked up with several of his fellow permanent deacons to host a morning of fishing for 45 third-graders at Resurrection of Our Lord School.

            The kids used bamboo poles that were strung Tom Sawyer-like with plastic fishing line. They rolled up white bread and stuck it on their hooks as bait.

            And then they waited.

            A good time was had by all – except the kid-sized perch. The rookie anglers caught two buckets worth, and even though most of the fish were given absolution and returned to the water, one child had a different idea.

            “From what I gather, he brought his fish home in a plastic bag,” Deacon Duplechain said.

            The morning’s emphasis was definitely on the “low” in low-tech. Deacon Duplechain has property in Mississippi, and he went out into the woods one day and cut down 45 bamboo poles.

            “We strung them up and put corks on them and brought out a few loaves of bread,” he said.

            Last year, the deacons hosted 15 kids at City Park. This year, Resurrection teacher Donna Bialas, whose husband James is a permanent deacon, was able to get 45 third-graders involved.

            Each deacon, deacon aspirant or deacon candidate was responsible for three kids. They had a group prayer and delivered safety instructions. There was even a registered nurse on hand in case one of the children “got a leaf in his eye,” Deacon Duplechain said. They finished off with sandwiches, orange drink and cookies.

            What could be better than that?

            “Most of them had never been fishing,” Deacon Duplechain said. “Most of them have not even experienced the sense of where fish come from. They’re at a point in their lives where they’re so innocent and inquisitive. They want to learn and they want to talk about it.”

            Deacon Duplechain said the neatest neat thing for the deacons was connecting their vocation with their avocation.

            “We can take that day from our busy schedules and it really grounds us in what we’re called to do,” he said. “We have to be available to whomever God calls us to be available.”

            Fishing can be a spiritual experience.

            “There’s one thing about fishing that really draws you to the Gospel message,” Deacon Duplechain said. “You don’t really know that there’s a fish there. You have an idea, but you can’t really see them. It’s the same thing with faith. I think Jesus was on to something when he called his disciples fishers of men.”ImageImageImageImage

Figuring out why he didn’t win this one is now Sean Payton’s ‘Job One’

I’ll never forget my conversation with Sean Payton in 2006, after the New Orleans Saints had shocked the NFL just a year after Hurricane Katrina by racing to a 5-1 start in advance of their bye week.

Inside the Saints’ indoor practice facility, Payton recalled the conversation he had with his mentor, Giants coach Bill Parcells, who had cautioned him before he accepted the job as the Saints’ new head coach that “Job One” would be figuring out “why that franchise had never won anything before.”

One of the conclusions to which Payton came was that the live-and-let-live culture of New Orleans – Bourbon Street as a teeming, exotic Garden of Temptation – fueled a type of gluttonous excess that easily could derail celebrated, 20-something athletes with time, money and promising careers to burn.

That’s why Payton said choosing the right players – players who had talent but who also were highly intelligent and had exhibited good character and decision-making in college – was the key to fulfilling Job One.

Payton made the comments knowing his players would have a week’s furlough without his direct supervision. The Saints wound up losing their first game after the bye week, but they rebounded from three losses in four weeks to finish 10-6 and make it all the way to the NFC Championship Game.

Fast forward six years. If there is a cautionary tale to Bountygate, it is that, in the crunch, when character really mattered, the head coach himself fell victim to temptation, the one that asserts that professional success, at any cost, trumps everything else.

Need a nasty defense? Just get it for me, and don’t ask questions.

The NFL has evidence that Payton lied about the existence of a bounty system run by defensive players and coaches to pay cash for injuring opposing players. The NFL also says Payton urged fellow coaches to be complicit in the lie that the program did not exist. He persuaded his coaches to make sure when they talked to NFL investigators, their “ducks were in a row.”

The reality is that while practically every NFL team has engaged in pay-for-performance at some level as a fraternity bonding experience, the Saints brought the art form to the corporate level. And then they lied about it, repeatedly, when they were caught.

The penalties imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are harsh and unprecedented, but they are justified. The innocent – the fans – must suffer with the guilty, because the social nature of an offense means there are social consequences.

Perhaps Payton will use his one-year suspension and the loss of $7.5 million to re-evaluate where he and the organization that brought so much joy to so many people got so totally off track. If the sledgehammer punishment is taken in the spirit of fraternal correction, this coming year of professional uncertainty can be a time of personal growth and the rebirth of a passion to win the right way.

Everyone makes mistakes – some more visible than others. In this Twitter world, where a camera is on every hip or inside every purse, there is nowhere to hide. Celebrities and NFL head coaches are such easy targets.

But Payton needs to figure out why he didn’t win this one. That now has become his Job One.

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

Sojourners movie

It’s taken me a while to get this up but I couldn’t dismiss writing about the premiere of the movie, “Sojourners,” recently at Notre Dame Seminary.

            The event was packed, sold out in fact. Young, old and in between, including me, sat and laughed and were touched by the honesty of the young adults on an annual trip to Medjugorje with the Sojourners of the Burning Heart ministry.

            Sojouners musicians performed several songs, includinng the movie’s theme song, and filmmaker Steve Scaffidi and Sojourners of the Burning Heart moderator Tammy Dupuy gave a quick talk before the screening.

            “This is a story for all of us that are looking for more,” Dupuy said. “Our prayer for this movie is that it will spark a light and help people advance their prayer life and help people decided where they are going on their (faith) journey.”

            Archbishop Gregory Aymond was on hand to chat and take photos with teens and called the movie a “story of discipleship and responding to God’s call for discipleship.”

            I spotted groups from various high schools there. St. Mary’s Academy seniors Dominique Shelton and Gabrielle Trepagnier learned of the event from their teacher Laura Chance. They said they really didn’t know much about Medjugorje before, only heard tangentially about Mary appearing to people there. They were blown away by the movie.

            “It was really good,” Shelton said. It was eye-opening just seeing how much love you can experience in an area and the warming of hearts of those who were there. I’d like to go there. I want to feel what they felt – that joy that they experienced.”

            Scaffidi plans to take the movie on the road to Italy, Spain, London, California.

            “It’s taken on a life of its own,” Scaffidi said.

            Find the movie at http://www.thesojournersmovie.com.

            Contact Dupuy about the Sojourners at tammydupuy@yahoo.com or 289-3194.

How to explain: $15 million grant to Catholic Charities for BP oil spill relief but the phasing out of Operation Helping Hands

Archbishop Gregory Aymond thanks John Davies, president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, for a $15 million grant to Catholic Charities to provide counseling, education, job training and direct assistance to needy families affected by the BP oil spill.

By Peter Finney Jr.

Admittedly, it’s a difficult situation to explain.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans received the largest single grant in its history last week – $15 million from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation – to help lead a consortium of area nonprofits that will aid South Louisiana families impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill.

Almost concurrently, Catholic Charities announced it would wind down Operation Helping Hands, the incredibly successful house-rebuilding ministry it established after Hurricane Katrina, by June 2012.

Some logically might ask: How can the “church” receive all that money and yet still close a home-rebuilding program that in the six years since Katrina has attracted 29,076 volunteers from around the country who have rebuilt 195 homes and gutted 1,983 others?

A look beyond the headlines is instructive. Continue reading

Stitching hearts together

By Beth Donze

Sometimes the most gratifying stories encountered by Catholic newspaper journalists are the stories that happen “after the stories.”

I learned of one of those today. Continue reading

Eleven years and counting… on your stories for Kids’ Clarion!

St. Joseph the Worker first graders Justin Favorite Watson, Kyron Smith and Matthew Moore (l-r) were on the cover of the September 2000 edition of Kids' Clarion, the publication's debut issue. They are now high school seniors.

By Beth Donze

Although it’s been 11 years since Kids’ Clarion debuted as the Clarion Herald’s monthly publication for and by Catholic children in grades K-8, I will never forget the beaming little faces that graced the cover of our very first issue back in September 2000.

Justin Favorite Watson, Kyron Smith and Matthew Moore, then first-graders at St. Joseph the Worker School in Marrero, are pictured smiling from ear to ear on their first day of school, wearing the construction-paper watermelon necklaces they had made in art and holding a real watermelon that their teacher would later cut for snack.

Continue reading