The Fortune Teller

At 9 years old my son A.J. has a great concept of the art of sarcasm and humor, and employs them whenever possible. Tonight at the dinner table over hot turkey sandwiches and sweet potatoes he once again proved why I call him “My witty and entergetic little fireball.”

Aaron made one of the fortune tellers out of paper and was going one by one telling us our fortune. I remember making these when I was his age and walking the halls of Wiley Elementary School back in Michigan. My fortunes were written something along the lines of… “you will be the best baseball player”, “you like the first girl you see next”, or “you are great”. Sometimes they had the names of girls inside like “Joanna”, “Lisa”, “Jenny” and “Cheryl” Around the playground we’d and tease about who the other liked based solely on the fortune read at the end of the, pick a number, pick a number, and reveal your fortune sequence.

There are eight possible outcomes one can arrive at in this fortune teller.
These are Aaron’s eight fortunes.

1. You will live in a box.

2. You will get attacked by rats in 5 days.

3. You get a lifetime supply of pumpkin pie.

4. Safe!

5. For Christmas you will get a pony.

6. You will live in the trash.

7. You will be a pepper taster when you grow up.

8. You will need a cane when you are 20.

Julie got number 2. He proceeded to let us know “to watch out, because in 5 days the rats are coming. Even if we forget… they will come, and then it’s, aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! RATS!!!”

Crap, didn’t I already say no rats in the house?


Adell, Dom & the Three Little Pigs

On November 12, 2011 I was the officiant for a wedding between my two good friends Adell, and Dom.

Yes, I have been ordained. No, I still do not wish to debate the humorous nature of the previous statement. Instead I’d rather focus on their beautiful outdoor wedding. The temperature was warm outside, the bride was stunning, the groom was charismatic, and afterward the martini’s flowed. I decided to share my service in my blog (after I had the blessing of the bride and groom). I have to say this experience has forever changed me. I am not saying I am going to do the preacher man gig full-time, but it did give me a reawakening to what is important: Good friends and family, good faith, and spending the rest of your days with the love of your life.

Grab some chips and a martini, it’s a long read.

Good afternoon everyone. Please be seated. As we begin this service I would ask that you indulge me in a prayer. It’s a modified prayer that I say before performing on stage, cantoring in the choir, or just getting up in front of large groups. And it’s a prayer that my wife, my children, and Adell and I have shared before the curtain rose on many a show. And I cannot think of a more appropriate way to start this service today. So I am going to ask everyone to join hands and bow your heads.

Heavenly Father, give us the strength today to use our talents for good. For the benefit of others. To make the ones around us better. To love. Give us the wisdom to remember our vows, the resolve to honor our commitments and the courage to endure when things don’t go according to plan. May we sing through life with our best voices, smile with our brightest faces, triumph over our darkest days, and understand that every day is a gift when we are with the ones we love. Amen.

Please be seated. On behalf of the families and friends of Domenick and Adell, I would like to welcome you to this most joyous and somewhat nervous day to celebrate this sacred moment. We gather together to celebrate with Domenick and Adell as they stand before each other, and all of you to declare their love. And I ask God to bless their love and that they be joined forever as husband and wife. So it’s appropriate that we are exited and nervous. I sure am. I remember that day in my office at Jay Advertising where Adell called me up, and she said, “hey I have a very important question to ask you about the wedding…. You got a minute?” So as she made the trek over from the other building …I thought, She’s probably is going to ask me to stand up… maybe sing a song at the wedding? No invites, she wants me to create the invites.

Imagine my surprise…

All kidding aside. I was honored that day, I’m honored to be here today, and I’m delighted that all of you are here as well. Domenick and Adell have invited us here to be a loving support to them, because we’ve been there throughout their lives. They have called us here to witness their love, to stand behind them, to support them as they promise to face the future together, accepting whatever may lie ahead. They have searched their hearts, and their pasts, and have desired to be lifelong partners. And thus we are here not only to witness their vows to each other, but also bestow upon them our blessing. So I ask, do you bless this couple and pledge, now and forever, to support and strengthen their marriage by upholding Domenick and Adell with your love and concern?

Witnessing their pledge reminds us of the things that we’ve devoted our lives to, our own husband or wife, our partners, our work, our hearts. For a wedding is a reflection both between Domenick and Adell, but also among the congregation, you may not feel very religious, but what we have here, is, in fact, a congregation. At times like these we remember those who have moved on from this world. Domenick I know you are thinking a lot about your Dad and Adell your family too. And nothing can replace them being here with us today. But know that they are proud of you and they look down up on you with their love and blessing.

Domenick and Adell also called us here because they have something important to show us. In what they do today they show us what Gods love for us is like. A love that is total, and permanent and unconditional.

I have become good friends with Domenick and Adell over the years, and I was not surprised when Adell told me that she knew Dom was the one. The first time I met Dom, I turned to my wife Julie and said, you know what… he reminds me of your cousin Nick. Funny, Entergetic, Matter of Fact, Italian, Smart. He put’s up with all of Adell’s quirks. He’s perfect for Adell.

I have taken Domenick and Adell’s request to marry them very seriously. I struggled for a long time to find the perfect analogy to share today. My one tip to Domenick and Adell for a successful marriage. I mean really, what makes me the authority? Does my almost 15 years of marriage to my wife Julie qualify me to dole out advice? Maybe. Even so, it’s hard to put into words when forced to articulate it, In fact, in the words of Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmicht, “Advice is a form of nostalgia, Dispensing it, is a way of fishing the past out of the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth,”

But I got it.

Once upon a time there were three little pigs and the time came for them to leave home and seek their fortunes. Before they left, their mother told them ” Whatever you do, do it the best that you can because that’s the way to get along in the world. The first little pig built his house out of straw because it was the easiest thing to do. The second little pig built his house out of sticks. This was a little bit stronger than a straw house. The third little pig built his house out of bricks. One night the big bad wolf, who dearly loved to eat little piggies, came along and saw the first little pig in his house of straw. He said “Let me in, Let me in, little pig or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin”, said the little pig. But of course the wolf did blow the house in and ate the first little pig. The wolf then came to the house of sticks “Let me in, Let me in little pig or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in” “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin”, said the little pig. But the wolf blew that house in too, and ate the second little pig. The wolf then came to the house of bricks.” Let me in , let me in” cried the wolf “Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff till I blow your house in” “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin” said the pig. Well, the wolf huffed and puffed but he could not blow down that brick house.

So the advice is: Listen to your Mother. Whatever you do, do the best you can every day. Do everything with love. Work hard to build a solid foundation, so that when the tough times comes, when tragedy strikes, You can rely on the rock solid foundation you have with each other to pull you through.

Now I ask you to please stand.

My friends we come together in love to witness this joyful union. We have come together here to unite Domenick and Adell in the institution of marriage. This is a sacred rite, an ancient rite. God may bless it, and the state of NY may recognize it as legal, but these are but symbols, The true ceremony is what is happening within Domenick and Adell, as their hearts reach out to each other, and pledge their devotion.

Domenick Repeat after me:
With God’s blessing and presence in me and throughout our union, I, Domenick, take you Adell, to be my wife and life partner, to stand by your side when we’re on top of the world and when we have to lift each other up off of the ground, when funds are abundant and when we are financially burdened, on the days that we are healthy and during the times we are sick, to love, respect and support, from this day forward.

Adell Repeat after me:
With God’s blessing and presence in me and throughout our union, I, Adell, take you Domenick, to be my husband and life partner, to stand by your side when we’re on top of the world and when we have to lift each other up off of the ground, when funds are abundant and when we are financially burdened, on the days that we are healthy and during the times we are sick, to love, respect and support, from this day forward.

The circle is the symbol of eternity. It has no beginning and has no end. It is a symbol of union and of the earth. Of holiness, of perfection, of peace, and of a shared love. May Domenick and Adell who wear them always have a deep faith in each other, for the rings they exchange now serve as a constant reminder of the vows and commitment they make today.

Domenick repeat after me:
Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. Let it be a reminder that I am always by your side and that you are surrounded by my enduring love.

Adell repeat after me:
Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. Let it be a reminder that I am always by your side and that you are surrounded by my enduring love.

Sarced scripture says to clap your hands with shouts of joy.

My friends it has been an honor to celebrate the union of two people that I am very fond of. But we come now to our final blessing. And I invite you now to join in with me on this final blessing my raising your right hand and praying it along with me. Sound out an Amen. Show them your love and support with your loudest voice.

May almighty God with his word of blessing unite your hearts in the never ending bond of pure love….. AMEN

May your rock solid foundation of family and friends bring you happiness, and your generous love for them be returned to you many times over…… AMEN

May the peace of faith live always in your hearts and in your home, may you have true friends to stand by you, both in joy and in sorrow. May you be ready and willing to help and comfort all of those who come to you in need, and may the blessings promised to the compassionate be yours in abundance….. AMEN

May daily problems never cause you undo anxiety, or the desire for earthly possessions dominate your lives. May the Lord bless you, with many happy years together, so that you may enjoy the rewards of a good life… AMEN

And may almighty God bless you and bless all of you. This great celebration has ended. Now let the celebration begin. I would like to ask that everyone needs to remain outside for a group photo immediately following the ceremony and before heading upstairs for cocktails.

And by the authority vested in me by the State of New York, the Universal Life Church, and those attendant it is my pleasure to pronounce you Husband and Wife. And it’s my honor to introduce to you for the first time Domenick and Adell Cecconi. Dom you may kiss your bride.

Norfolk & Western Rides Again

It is finally complete. A 20+ year dream is a reality. The much awaited train track is under our tree. I spent the evening with my son Joey cleaning my old blue Norfolk & Western train at the kitchen table so that Joey, Rebekah, and Aaron can use it on the new track. The problem is that the train has not run in years and I am hoping that it still works. We take the rubbing alcohol, the q-tips and the sand paper to the wheels just like my Father and I used to every Christmas. Joey and I even made a make-shift connector from an old Rubbermaid lid to reattach the coal car to the engine. Once the train was cleaned and all tidy it came to the moment of truth.

Place the train on the track.

My heart was racing as I slowly gave power to the trails via the transformer. I have not seen this train move in a very long time. I was nervous because I was unsure of the emotions I was going to have either way. Whether it worked or didn’t. I wasn’t really prepared for either. I certainly didn’t want to get my hopes up and I for sure wanted it to move. The heart was racing fast. Then, I saw the light come on. The train hummed, sputtered, start and stopped, and finally roared to full speed ahead. “WOW” I said, and Joey cried, “It’s working!” And then the train promptly slid of the track trying to make it’s first turn. We both laughed. It didn’t matter thought. Seeing the train move warmed my heart. It was a great healer for a week full of mental ups and downs.

We tried and tried again, and each time the train would slide off the track. The train was acting like it was trying to shake the years of rust off it’s parts and it seemed determined to make it. The highlight was the ‘ol Norfolk & Western had just completed it’s second loop around the track without falling off when my 14 year old son Joey asked me. “When was the last time you saw this working Dad?”

I never really thought to do the math, so I paused and thought…

“15. Joey I was 15 years old.”

Joey’s eyes got really big with surprise and I could see him mutter a reflective “15 years old” under his breath. He responded with a quick, “Let’s put the train back on the track, and try again.” I certainly didn’t mind.

A Merry Christmas indeed.

All Aboard the Memory Express.

I like spending time with my Father. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I cherish it. I think about him at least once every day but spending a block of time together is something really special.

The reason for his visit this time was the holiday train track for under the Christmas tree. This weekend I have been look forward to for years, scratch that… decades. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to make a track for under the tree. We just never had the space. Growing up my Father had made one. His was an HO scale set complete with roads, streetlamps, multiple tracks and houses that were colorfully lit from beneath. Some of my favorite holiday memories are traced back to the times I spent playing the engineer, robbing the local bank and having the sheriff come in to make the rescue while the ‘ol blue Norfolk and Western circled the city. The two pictures to the left are old Polaroid photos that I found that detail my Father’s preliminary track layout. I didn’t realize I had these. Coming across them last week in two separate locations within my own collection of train parts and pieces was the Geraldo Rivera find of the century. These two photos have not been together in a very long time. (Time to frame them and give them their proper artistic due.)

As for my track, Santa has been bringing us one HO scale house each year in anticipation of having the space to have our own track someday. After the season, the kids and I would sit around the kitchen table and over the course on a couple nights would build the house. Since Joey is 14 we have a city full of character. My brothers John and Dan and I, divided my Father’s houses up a few years ago that were on his track. So i have 5 additional houses, scattered within my own that makes our final city.

Tonight was fun. Laying out the track parts and arranging the houses. Spending time with Dad in my garage while spending time with Joey and Rebekah as they helped. They didn’t know Grandpa was there with us, and that’s fine. They don’t think about him like I do. I don’t expect them too. I know my Father was smiling when Rebekah went house by house asking “Is this one that Grandpa built?” What about this one? And this one?” Each time I pointed out the next Grandpa house, she’d pick it up and inspect it closely. I liked her comment when she said that “Grandpa was really talented. I wish I would’ve know him” I responded, “Yes he was Rebekah, yes he was. He would’ve loved you. And he would’ve spoiled you rotten.”

I’m glad we have the space in the new house to finally make this track. when I complete mine it will be an HO scale set complete with roads, streetlamps, multiple tracks and houses that are colorfully lit from beneath.