Valentine Stalking Tips

How to stalk your Valentine (and maybe get arrested)

This Valentine’s Day, don’t settle for no. Sure, he told you to go away, don’t call again. She said it’s over, even my cat is afraid of you and nearly scratched a hole in the wall trying to escape though I had her declawed years ago. But you’re not going to give up on your obsession, er love, that easily, are you? No, of course not, regardless of that restraining order! That’s why we’ve brought you these smart and sassy stalker tips to liven up your pursuit this Valentine’s Day.

Tip #1: Make dinner for your sweetie. You’ll have to take it to your honey’s house, because there’s no way he or she will answer your phone calls, much less accept an invitation to your home, even under false pretenses (I’ve kidnapped your pet/sister/boss — you can try this for real eventually, but proceed through these tips before you resort to kidnapping). Your honey might not be home, and if that happens, don’t worry! Just call his or her friends and threaten them until they tell you which restaurant the love of your life is dining at tonight. Have a molten hot dish prepared for your sweetheart’s date — second degree burns from your famous lasagna are sure to teach the date a lesson about going out with your love, YOURS!

Tip #2: Buy chocolates for your sweetie. Or some other favorite food, whatever your heart-of-hearts will gorge on. Buy in advance so you have plenty of time (what do stalkers have if not time?) to lace the favorite food with mind-altering drugs. Don’t use anything that will cause your soul mate to pass out — the point is to manipulate, and you won’t be able to hold your honey-pie accountable for promises made under the influence if he or she is drooling face-down on the carpet.

Tip #3: Have fun with bondage. Other couples do it, so can you! Sure, your honey-bunny will complain and yell to the neighbors for help, but that’s all part of the role playing. Just go along with it — for days! Why not? You’ve already dug up all of your sweetheart’s private information, like his or her work schedule, sick time, vacation time, boss’ home and office phone numbers. Now’s the time to put that information to good use for a few fun “sick days” and much needed quality time together.

And don’t forget our favorite tip from the professionals: If you need to drive cross-country to stalk your sweetie, you can wear a diaper to get there faster.

Diversity on the Hill

The first Muslim representative on the Hill was big news, but I just heard about the first Buddhist on the Hill today.

A more diverse House could be a sign that our representative government is starting to look more like the people it represents. (Remember when it was a big deal to have a Roman Catholic president?) But I’m not ready to shout from the rooftops about our pluralistic leadership just yet.

Tolerance is not an easy thing, a mentor once told me, because to be truly tolerant, you must be able to listen to the viewpoints of those who are intolerant. Check yourself — are you up to the task?

By the way…Wouldn’t the new atheist intelligentsia have a field day with that statement? I interviewed Sam Harris while writing for the Camera, and I suspect he might put this in the category of “idiot compassion.” Or maybe it would fall under his larger umbrella of religious moderates being too tolerant — so tolerant that they let fundamentalists quite literally get away with murder.

The caveat is that the intolerant, the fundamentalists, the extremists — call them what you will — will always be around. Therein lies the wisdom of tolerance not as an antidote, but as a balancing factor. One Muslim man and one Buddhist woman will not turn Congress into a pluralistic love-in any more than a few religious moderates can stop hate crimes or racism. But perhaps they can provide much needed balance in a world full of people living at both extremes.

How to talk to a Buddhist (if you must)

If you’d like to read up on cultural misunderstanding, here’s a good place to start. This was posted on the Tricycle blog today from the Christian Post:

How to Evangelize Tibetan Buddhists in the West

With the Dalai Lama’s visit to the West this spring, “It will be a perfect time to defend and share the Christian faith with recent immigrants, high school and college students strongly influenced by Buddhism, and everyday Americans who have woven the Eastern religion into their personal philosophy and world view.”

It will be difficult to convert Tibetan Buddhists, the article concedes. Among other things:

“Buddhists do not understand terms such as God, sin, new birth, salvation, heaven and hell the same way Christians understand them.”

They probably won’t understand evangelism, either.

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Go find your dog

As I was walking out the door yesterday for a walk around the lake near our house, Jeremy said: “Go find your dog.”

We don’t have a dog. I’m quite allergic, actually, which ensures that we’re the only people in Boulder County who neither have a dog nor are waiting for one from the Humane Society. He was referring to an incident over the summer, which, of course, didn’t involve a dog, either.

I like to carry my mala and do mantras while I walk. I do them when we’re hiking, too. I’m so out of breath from trying to keep up with Jeremy that I couldn’t talk with him much if I wanted to. The Japanese Shugenja have their mountain waking tradition, and I have some modified (and surely less dignified) version of it.

One day over the summer, I was on one of my mantra walks around the lake. I was carrying a mala with big heavy beads, because I’d been caught in an afternoon storm the day before and my less conspicuous mala was drying out. The marroon beads had bled an eerie red onto my hands in the rain, and the whole thing still felt damp the next day.

So, I’m walking along with my heavy mala, minding my business, doing my silent mantras, and an older gentleman (why are older men always ‘gentlemen’) rides by on his bike and says as he passes:

“Where’s your dog?”

Huh? I didn’t get it. Maybe I heard him wrong. Maybe he though I was someone else, someone he usually sees walking her dog. Oh well. I’ll keep going, keep doing my mantras. Eventually, he came around again and yelled with a grin:

“I still don’t see your dog!”

Okay, this isn’t a case of mistaken identity anymore, is it? He’s seen me twice now, enough to know I’m not his friend who has a dog. Should I tell him about my allergies? Trust me, I’d say, I would not could not have a dog, not in a bog, not for a jog.

The third time was the charm for both of us. Turns out the poor guy thought my mala was a leash. He thought I had my dog off-leash — not allowed on the trail — and the first time was just looking for the canine as any cyclist would. The second time he must’ve been confused, and the third time he slowed down, paused, joked about my empty leash, and then:

“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s religious, oh, and that’s serious, I’m sorry.”

And then he was off.

It took me a while to be comfortable with carrying my mala in public, but it seemed as though I’d embarrassed someone else with it instead. I wish he had’t ridden away so quickly. I didn’t want him to feel bad, because I didn’t feel bad about my empty leash. I wish I’d had a chance to tell him it’s okay, we’re all carrying an empty leash, looking for missing dogs, or God, or something we’re not allergic to.

Dr. Phil is next

Today’s Denver Post reported that Ted Haggard will be leaving my beloved current state (Colorado) for my beloved home state (Missouri). Or Iowa, he said.

Is there a corner of Missouri or Iowa he can crawl into unnoticed? Definitely. I’m more worried about where Dr. Phil will hide.

Dr. Phil is next. I just know it. Not for a gay scandal, but for a relationship scandal. Okay, it might involve being gay. I don’t know. But he’s high on his fix-your-relationship horse, and after the Haggard and Foley scandals, we all know what happens to these folks — they fall. He who screams the loudest…well, screams the loudest.

That’s why I think Dr. Phil is next. Of course, I have absolutely nothing to base this on, other than a hunch that this guy’s gonna go down eventually. Oprah will be forced to have him on the show and grill him for being a polygamist, or running a high-class hooker service out of a McMansion, or something else that obviously would not lead to a healthy marriage in most circumstances.

I hope I’m wrong. My girlfriends watch Dr. Phil. He’s in those commercials now, giving that poor daydreaming woman such sound advice. People seem to like him. Which is going to make it even worse when Oprah tears him apart for having concealed his 17 divorces.

Speaking of Oprah, can that woman make you or break you, or what? Dr. Phil: made. Tom Cruise: broken. Book club authors (minus one): made. That’s why I’ve decided to get all my ducks in a row and get on her show. I’m not sure how. I don’t think I can invent a better T-shirt or must-have sheets. I don’t think I’m destined for the book club. Maybe I just need to investigate Dr. Phil’s 17 ex-wives. I just know they’re out there.

Slices of scripture

Family-owned pizza joint open about Christian faith

LONGMONT — When they opened Luc’s Pizza in Longmont eight years ago, Jim and Marie Lucarelli hoped to serve plenty of pizza. They also wanted to serve the community and God.

The walls and menus at Luc’s serve as a constant reminder of that. A plaque near some old family photos, to the side of the cash register, bears Luc’s Pizza’s unofficial motto, from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” The front of their menu carries the same scripture quote, and each section leads with scripture and the ichthys symbol — Lunch, Matthew 4:4; Pizzas, John 7:37.

The Lucarellis agree that the ubiquitous scripture, which even graces their company van, keeps them accountable to God and the life-long process of learning and being a Christian.

“We view it as a ministry,” Marie Lucarelli said.

Sometimes the scripture will lead a customer to start a conversation about faith, but Marie said that as a business, they never bring it up first or proselytize to customers or employees. She also doesn’t think Luc’s success is a result of being Christian.

“I think our customers like our pizza, and that’s why they come back,” she said. “I don’t think God is like a good luck charm I can pull out of my pocket, rub and be successful.”

The idea for the pizzeria started when the couple noticed the unoccupied store front at Hover and 17th Streets in Longmont that would become Luc’s.

“So we’re having breakfast, and start making notes on a napkin, ‘What about a mom-and-pop pizza place?'” Jim Lucarelli said.

At the time, finances were already tight. The family had been living on Jim’s teaching salary alone for a few years so Marie, who also had been a teacher in the St. Vrain School District, could stay home to care for their four children. But they worked together well for church and school projects, and they enjoyed making pizzas from scratch with family recipes and an old church cookbook. The kids were getting older, and a family business seemed like a good idea.

“I wanted to be able to contribute something to my family, the community, society in general more than just…” Jim said, pausing to find the right word.

“Getting a paycheck,” Marie offered.

Jim nodded. “Or achieving some of those ideologies in what the world might perceive success is,” he said.

The children also encouraged them to open Luc’s, and the oldest three, who were in junior high and high school at the time, helped open and run the pizzeria. Rachael, the youngest, made dolls out of paper plates and coffee filters from a blanket near the phone. Now 13, she trains high schoolers who work at Luc’s.

Luc’s could not have opened without the right help at the right time, say the Lucarellis. Their church family from Rocky Mountain Christian Church blessed their opening — “I think they kept us in business for our first month and a half, honestly,” Jim said — and a random act of kindness from a stranger saved them trouble over the enormous hood for their ovens.

Long before they opened, a health inspector stopped by to see if they needed anything. The Lucarellis didn’t yet know much about health codes or regulations for the hood, but the stranger gladly helped them out. They weren’t expecting him, they hadn’t called or submitted paperwork, and they’re still not sure why he dropped in that day.

“To me, that was a God thing,” Marie said. “We needed him, and somebody knew that.”

When the Lucarellis had to figure out how to make many pizza crusts at once, their friends Mark and Dorothy D’Agostino, who run D’Agostino Mugg-n-Pye in Frederick, let them use their mixer.

Dorothy D’Agostino said they used to try to discourage Jim from getting into the restaurant business.

“We knew it was hard, but also because we knew him and his personality, we knew he would be successful,” she said.

Now, Jim encourages them to close Mugg-n-Pye on Sundays — like Luc’s — so they’ll have more family time, but that’s not easy, she said.

Later, Jimmy Welzig, a friend from church who runs a heating and cooling service, — and who also bears witness to his faith with the ichthys symbol on his fleet of vans — quickly took care of a broken compressor for their refrigerator just days before they opened.

Welzig said the Lucarellis demonstrate their faith in many ways.

“You wear it on your sleeve,” he said. “That’s what we’re called to do.”

“I truly believe it’s about people recognizing sincerity and who you are,” Jim said. “It’s about how you treat people, and how you’re supposed to treat people.”

Marie agrees. “Our pastor likes to say, the good you do will come back to you,” she said.

At a recent gathering of other local Christian business owners — a word-of-mouth gathering Jim learned about when he made a delivery to another business and suggested saying grace — Jim and others discussed the more than 700 references to the heart and love in the Bible. You can do a lot of outwardly kind things, but it’s about where your heart is, he said.

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Holy Spirits

Church groups hit pubs to broaden appeal

On a recent Thursday night, after the children had been put to bed, five men were engaged in a deep discussion around a table. They mulled over suffering and the meaning of an old hymn with the lyrics: “God moves in a mysterious way.”

“Like, it sucks that you’re hurting, but it’s part of life,” said one, who had “Ezekiel” emblazoned across his T-shirt.

The conversation had turned to providence when a server interrupted to tell the men not to let the next table over hog all of the fries. The fries were for everyone.

A swig of microbrew, dollar tacos and heady talk of faith and God add up to Doctrine on Draught, Cornerstone Church of Boulder Valley’s weekly gathering at Southern Sun Pub & Brewery. But one drink only, please.

Scott Kelly, Cornerstone’s associate pastor, was inspired to start the program by the priest that hung out at his fraternity parties back at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Not many other people were talking to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon people about Jesus,” Kelly said. “But this father was there.”

The priest also bought a keg and invited people over to the Catholic student center for something he called Theology-on-Tap, Kelly said.

“I got to thinking, that was really cool that this guy would just show up and live the life of Jesus among us,” Kelly said.

But according to Kelly, sometimes the priest would get drunk, so he instituted a one-drink limit when he started his own Theology-on-Tap for Cornerstone, which is a cooperating church in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why not just abstain?

“Martin Luther was asked that same question,” Kelly said. “He said, ‘do not suppose the abuses are eliminated by destroying the object of abuse.'”

The twentysomething demographic is a notoriously difficult draw for many churches. A September study by the Barna Group reports that 61 percent of young adults “had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged.”

“The old methods don’t work like they used to,” said Chris Steele, young adults minister at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont. “You don’t argue them into their faith. You do life with them, and they discover it.”

Steele helped LifeBridge develop The Bridge, a group for young adults in college and beyond.

“Part of it is frustrating at times, because you want to say, just do it and trust me,” Steele said. But this generation questions authority, he said.

“People aren’t going to come to your safe buildings anymore,” he said. “You have to earn the right to say, ‘Let’s talk about this.'”

The beginning

Theology-on-Tap began in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1981 when a college student asked his priest for help with the “why” questions in life. By the time that student came home for the summer, the priest, Father Jack Wall, and youth minister Tom James had set up a six-week speaker and discussion series.

The program, which is now hosted in parishes or bars and restaurants, has spread to 46 states and six countries, according to their Web site,

Kelly changed the name of his new program to Doctrine on Draught after learning that Theology-on-Tap was so successful that the Chicago Archdiocese had trademarked the name.

The Archdiocese of Denver hosts a Theology-on-Tap series twice a year, timed with the college semesters, at Braun’s Bar and Grill near the Pepsi Center. Mercy Gutierrez, event coordinator for the Archdiocese, said the series typically pulls in 175 to 250 participants from up and down the Front Range, including University of Colorado students.

“The Archbishop is kicking off the spring series, and he’ll draw 300 people,” Gutierrez said.

Cornerstone’s crowd is around a dozen most weeks, Kelly said, and the format is different. Kelly usually shows up armed with blog entries, commentaries and tough questions to spark discussion in smaller groups throughout the evening.

Parker Eldredge, 25, is a member of Cornerstone and goes to Doctrine on Draught most weeks. He says that with his job, it’s much easier to get to than Kelly’s old 7 a.m. Dead Theologians Society. The society died, but the new pub gatherings already seem poised for success, he said.

Andrew Casey, 29, doesn’t go to Cornerstone Church, but he goes to Southern Sun on Thursdays because he misses the intellectual rigor of his religious studies classes at CU.

“It’s well worth it for me to go there,” Casey said. “Doctrine aside, the questions lead into bigger discussions.”

Sometimes those discussions can hit a personal note. When the discussion turned to the controversy of Universalism, Casey, who acknowledges that his beliefs are essentially Universalist, remained comfortable with the conversation.

“I think I could bring my Buddhist buddy,” he said, “and they could all sit down and talk just fine.”

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