The Orange Cone

Orchard Hill Church was planted out in Wexford, Pa right after Janet and I got married in 1988. We were one of the first families to become involved and our friend Sharon Gregory got me immediately involved in the skits that were part of the non-denominational service. Janet was more traditional in her service in the children’s ministry, but whenever they needed a goof to play a part in a skit, the phone call came to me. Dennis Bowman, the weatherman, played Keith Jackson the famous sportscaster in one skit with me playing Myron Cope. Another time they got me to run around the stage with a big black hole on my shirt, signifying how my life was empty. I soon retired from the skits because the assistant pastor at the time kept changing the lines on Sunday mornings. Too much pressure for me and I still kid him about how he drove me out when I see him running at the park.

Fast forward, I wanted to do something else to volunteer and I saw these guys directing traffic in the parking lot wearing shorts in a snowstorm. I smiled and said, that is the service opportunity for me and I signed on to be a parker. Now my first session was Christmas Eve Services and our church gets really crowded. The boss put me out in the front of the lot near the road and my job was to direct people up the hill to the main lot. Equipped with an orange vest and two flash lights in a blizzard, I dutifully directed people up the hill. The only crazy thing about that point position is that even though I had two lights and a bright orange hunting vest, I was a magnet for the Ford F-150s. People get confused when they come for the first time and are not quite paying attention. I had to be quick on several occasions to dodge the big trucks but I came out unscathed.

My new crew chief is Mike Fischbaugh who is one of these guys who will wear shorts and a windbreaker when it is 20 degrees. I swear the guy must be the most hot blooded guy I know but also has the biggest heart. Along with Johnny Salvini, Larry Zamer, Steve Nagler, and Matt Warheit, we manage the lot every other Sunday and mayhem usually ensues in one form or another.

I often shout out when an vehicle is coming in hot. People don’t pay attention when they are late for church and on their cell phones. They come screaming into the lot at warp speed and I shout the warning and jump to get my toes out of the way. Volunteering in the parking lot can be a hazardous occupation. But we love it. Matt keeps us all in line despite vigorous conversations about fantasy football where some folks are left to park on their own if the conversation becomes lively. Cindy Adams has the dubious task of taking care of the parkers with coffee and food on the multiple Christmas services. We also fall under her general guidance- poor girl. Her smile is welcoming as we come in between services to get warm and get a nice hot cup of coffee only to get back at it at the beginning of the next service. I always tell her the worse the weather, the better I like it. I like adverse conditions because I can wear all my foul weather gear including a 40 year old pair of green wool pants that I brought back with me when I worked in Maine. Love the crappy weather, and I always remark to Mike that this is the best volunteer job in the church. I kid him and say, ” When I croak, take my ashes and put them in that orange parking cone to remember me. A part of me will be left in that lot. We get a good laugh about that one.

I guess the point of all this frivolity is the fact that I believe that it is important to volunteer and serve where there is a need. This happens to be fun but when asked what I feel about the parking ministry, I always remark that we are the first smiling faces people see when they come to church. Maybe they are new and not sure about the format of our services. But we make them feel comfortable with a friendly smile and a cheery hello. They probably think,” these guys are crazy with wool hats and shorts.” But if we can help someone feel at home in a new surrounding, our zaniness has been worthwhile. An old pastor of ours once said,” You don’t have to serve overseas to minister. Just look around in your own neighborhood, school, workplace, or parking lot. God is all around us and protects all of us. Even when they “come in hot.” Thanks for reading.

The Cinnamon Roll ( and it’s cousin- The Sticky Bun)

In my January 8th 2015 post, I told you about my plight as an acraphobic skier. I opened up and admitted that I am afraid of heights which is kind of strange for a skier. But I suffer through the aerial tram rides and chairlifts to get to the top. Now, I bare my soul again and reveal a hidden vice that due to my upbringing in Catholic guilt ridden hell, I must reveal. I am an addict. I am addicted to cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. o-1

Sadly, this aversion to healthy eating began with my wife’s grandmother Thelma Curren, who made hot, fresh sticky buns in the oven and called me over to my future in-laws house when they were ready. I was not a coffee drinker at the time, and prepared for the feast by bringing my own freshly squeezed orange juice and enjoying my own rack of buns with raisins. These were prepared especially for me much to the chagrin of my future brother in laws and my future wife Janet. How dare Mrs. Curren make Pat McCloskey his own batch. I loved every bite.

Fast forward to riding my road bike at the Jersey Shore. As I make my 50 mile round trip to Cape May and back to Avalon, I justify my stops at Mallon’s, which after much research, I found to have the best sticky buns at the Shore. I bring a rack back to my family who devours them with glee and then they tell me to never bring them back again. Their perpetual diets are sabotaged by this practice so after the first rack, I ride to Mallon’s and eat a rack by myself, sweating and stinking all over their outside bench. The minimum order is 6 buns and if I cannot inhale them all with a coffee, I sneak the rest back to the condo and hide them in the fridge. I make my way back from the beach feigning a bathroom break and sneak the buns out to the microwave an no one finds out. ocean-city

This helpless habit continues to this day on ski trips. I volunteer always to go to the grocery store after skiing and sneak a bun or a roll on the way back. I find the great bakeries. A weekly ritual in the winter, locally, is to stop on the way back from Laurel Mountain and eat a couple of cinnamon rolls from The Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown. Nothing makes the drive home easier than a coffee and a couple of rolls. o I used to bribe my son Jack to come skiing with me by enticing him with a visit to the Pie Shoppe and he always bit. Now beer is a more likely bait for him. But not for me. As much as I like my IPAs, I will take the buns and the rolls first and foremost.

Penn State people like my wife will extol the virtues of the grilled stickies from Ye Old College Diner in State College, Pa. These mass produced beauties are great grilled and can provide a doughy base in your stomach after an all star night on the town. ye-old-college-diner-stickies But something is lost on me with these buns when you can buy them in the local grocery stores as well as at the Diner. The fresh, warm bun or cinnamon roll right out of the oven in a great bakery cannot be beat. I know my health conscious friends are rolling their eyes at me now and even though I try to eat mostly healthy fare, I can’t help myself when tempted with these treats after a great ride or a ski day. But I know other people slip, like my chiropractor who is deeply into holistic health. Even he goes off the wagon here and there by buying a bag of cookies from Whole Foods and devouring them before he gets home. I outed you Ray. Guilty people love company.

The only justification for this aversion to healthy eating is my diligence in trying to pay for the indiscretion. I truly think in my mind that I can run off that bun or cycle off that roll. I will sweat like a dog trying to burn up that treat and in my mind, after a vigorous workout, I have paid the price. Only to be tempted again in a day or two and the whole vicious cycle of sin and penance begins anew. img_1547

As I have grown older, I have finally found the holy grail of cinnamon rolls dangerously close my home. The Bartram House Bakery has, hands down, the most delicious, cinnamon packed, warm doughy treat one could ever consume. It is so decadent that I find myself paying for it with an over extreme workout. Instead of being a connoisseur of the sticky bun and the cinnamon roll, I have become a common sewer with weekly stops. What am I supposed to do? This sweet toothed practice haunts me as I struggle to lead the healthy lifestyle. So there it is. I have outed myself, dropped my drawers and told you of the struggle that plagues me. I have come out of the closet much like a drinker and the first step to redemption is to admit it. But, chances are, you will catch me sometime with a smile on my face and icing all over my chin. Thanks for reading.