Along with the hamburger and hotdog, the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich has to be included among America’s simplest culinary delights.    A staple in almost every American family diet, you would think that one could not improve on the simplicity of the PBJ — until now!   Heck, even Vegetarians will like it.

Introducing The PBJ Dog





James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Let’s face it.  Things are not good. People are dying.  Fear is at an all-time high — and that includes an odd fear of each other.  

I recently sent this text message to an old friend, a fellow Amazings fan:  What I would do to just be able to watch the Mets blow a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth! 

Most of us hope and pray for the day when things to get back to normal!  But I don’t.

Yes, I’m saddened by the many, many deaths, especially when I see what’s happening on Long Island, where I was born and raised, and where most of my family and friends still reside.

I want my kids to go outside and play with their friends without fear.  (Although, I would argue that it’s not they who have the fear.) I want to be able to talk to someone less than six-feet away or go food shopping without a damn mask.

I want COVID-19 to go away just as much as everybody.   

But I don’t want things to go back the way they were before the pandemic. 

I’m truly enjoying the extended time I’m spending with my family. I spend more time with my boys than ever before.

Our living room has become a classroom, a gym, a wrestling ring.  Now that it’s warm, our youngest has created an obstacle course outside for our family to exercise daily; and my oldest and I have played catch almost every day.

My wife has started Home Ec classes, so our boys can be self-sufficient, God forbid if they have to.  We take family walks together. Play games together.

My wife and I are communicating more, spending more time together, and growing closer.

People, it appears, are generally becoming more caring.  This week our Church rang its bells at 7 pm in solidarity with the people in NYC who lean out their windows, fire escapes and balconies nightly to celebratethe efforts of healthcare workers across the Big Apple.

As a whole, we are placing more value in the things that are important and putting less value in the things we’ve discovered we can easily live without.

Our police again are being valued!  We no longer take our doctors and nurses for granted.  Teachers have regained the respect of parents, and parents are being valued by teachers more than ever!

Above all, after generations of focusing on youth over wisdom, our seniors are being valued more than ever — beyond the role of babysitter.

This list goes on and on.

Daily, I pray to the Almighty that He spare our home, our town, and our nation.  That He makes this season a true Passover and bless all who have suffered with a true Easter.

I want COVID-19 to go away!  Forever!  

But, I don’t want things to go back to normal.  I want some things to stay exactly the way they are now.


James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.


Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

As a teacher, one of my many task is to define the word Theory.   The Theory of Relativity is among the list of theories I bring up.

Now, I teach Biology, so there’s really no reason to introduce the The Theory of Relativity to high school freshman.  So then, why do I do it?

Well, I try to convey to my students that the sign of intelligence is having the ability to take something complex and make it simple.

For example,  it was reported that Einstein defined his theory about time with this anecdote:

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.

I don’t know about you, but I think if Einstein was alive today, he would reconsider his wording to include handwashing.

Until now, I never realized how long 20 seconds takes!

Maybe I’ve been washing my hands wrong all my life, but it never felt that handwashing took this long.

My wife takes advantage of our new pastime by saying an Our Father and a Hail Mary.

Really?  Twenty seconds?  That’s all it takes to say those two prayers?  For me, it always seemed to take longer.   That means a whole Rosary takes less that 30 minutes!

So how could the Theory of Relativity be described today?

Put your hands under a running faucet for 20 seconds and it seems like an hour.  Say an Our Father and a Hail Mary while doing it and that hour seems like 20 seconds.

Apparently, I’m no Einstein.

I’ve never put my hand on a hot stove.  However, as far as spending time with a pretty girl, I have to admit, Einstein could not have chose a better analogy.

Spending lockdown with my beautiful wife has made these last four weeks seem like a few short days!

I hope she feels the same way about spending time with me.

It’s all Relative!

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.


Every year during Holy Week, I watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ — and every year I cry; and every year,  I cry at the same scene.

I can watch the betrayal of Jesus by Judas;  I can watch the Sanhedrin trail before Caiaphas; I can watch the brutal scourging;  I can watch Jesus fall over and over, and look-on as people spit on Him and kick Him;  I can keep it together as nails are driven into the flesh of His hands and He is lifted upright on a cross, all without shedding a tear.

However, every time Peter denies Our Lord, my heart and soul weep; my body quakes; and tears flow down my face.

This year, I was prepared.  I told myself that I would not cry as the scene approached, but  again, I could not hold back the tears.

How many times have I denied my Lord in my thoughts and words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do?  More than three!

When I was a boy, I was once told by a priest in my home parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, that there’s a  follower of Christ in scripture who represents each and everyone of us.

For years I thought that I was Thomas, Doubting Thomas, because I have always questioned and studied to not only understand, but to please my hunger for the Truth.

I thought, deep down, if given enough evidence, my faith would never waiver.  Today, I have a library of evidence.

After watching The Passion, annually for the last decade and a half, I have sadly come to realize that I am Simon Peter, Cephas, Kepha.  I am someone who denies the Lord.

Denies, plural and in the present tense.

I so want to be Simon Peter, the Rock, but the sad reality is that I am not, and I may never be.

Who in scripture are you?  Have you ever pondered that question?

Maybe you are Peter, as well? Or Andrew? Or James? John? Philip? Bartholomew? Thomas? Matthew? James the Lesser? Jude? Simon the Zealot? Matthias? Saul? Mary Magdalene? Martha? Mary? Lazarus?

The truth is: The person we are eventually supposed to be most like is Jesus Christ.  And, like my Lord, every time I fall, I pick up my cross and carry on!

As Christians, we carry on even if we need someone else to carry our cross for us!

This Holy Good Friday, maybe you can join me and pray,  “Forgive me, Lord. Have mercy on me and on the whole world” and then pick up your cross and carry on.

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.


Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay


If you compare my social media activity before the Coronavirus to after the virus hit, you would notice a sharp decline.

I’m calling and texting friends and family more.  If I want information, I’ll text a friend or relative in the field or I’ll watch a press conference on YouTube.   

The whole press conference!

That doesn’t mean I don’t go on any social media platforms.  

I do — just to see what’s trending.

This week: Franklin Graham was a major trend on Twitter.

As a Catholic Christian, I cringe every time I see a Christian leader in the forefront of news — because it’s usually not good, especially in the Faith I practice.

I clicked on the thread, read some of the comments, and watched the edited online clip.  

In short, Franklin Graham said that mankind has been hit by this pandemic because we, as a whole, have sinned; we have turned our back on God — and that got people angry!

Very, very angry!

Okay, God does not cause death and illness.  I wrote about this in a memorial piece about a dear friendGod does, however, allow death and illness to come into our lives. 

It’s called God’s Permissive Will.

I’m not going to get into it too deeply, which is why I left the link.

In short, we are a fallen people; and the more we fall away from God, the more bad things happen to us, collectively.  On the other hand, we can individually be as good as Joseph in the Old Testament, and something bad can also happen to us.    

Stuff happens — to bad and good people.

A stray bullet.  A drunk driver.  Cancer.  A virus that leads to a pandemic.

At the time, we may feel terribly forsaken.

It’s tough to understand this kind of Permissive God.

But let’s examine what the people who disagree with Franklin Graham are not showing you.  Let’s examine why Franklin Graham was discussing the Coronavirus at this point and time in the first place.

In the complete interview, Franklin Graham, first spoke of his mobile field hospital in Central Park, supplied by his foundation Samaritan’s Purse to assist New York City’s fight in the COVID-19 epidemic.  

What I saw amazed me and filled my spirit with hope.

The Central Park field hospital has supplied New York with 68 extra beds, 10 extra ICU units, and a team of experienced doctors, nurses, and volunteers.   As of today, 34 beds are already full with five people in ICU.

Samaritan’s Purse is working with the Mount Sinai Health System which has multiple locations throughout the city.  The organization is caring for people regardless of their faith or their beliefs.

In the past, Samaritan’s Purse has sent medical teams to Haiti, Bangladesh, Iraq.   It has gone into Africa to combat Ebola.

That’s what Christians do.   

You don’t have to agree with everything Christians say.  Heck, we all don’t agree with everything we all say.

But, all Christians, regardless of our denomination,  have one thing in common. (Or at least we should.)   Christians, as believers in Christ’s love and grace, are a people of acts and good deeds.

For the majority of Christians throughout the world, this week is Holy Week.  

It starts off with the Jubilee of Palm Sunday and quickly turns dark as Our Lord is led to the cross on Good Friday, almost symbolic of the past four weeks in the United States.

Jesus didn’t get crucified because he did wonderful and miraculous things.  He didn’t get beat, whipped with 40 lashes, and nailed to a cross because he told people to love one another.

Jesus was crucified because of some of the tough things that he said. His words made some people uncomfortable — and all the good He accomplished was ignored.

He was crucified because some people of good will did not understand why He was present at that point in time in history.   He was crucified because He was trying to save people.   He was crucified because he was trying to turn people’s attention back onto God.

His words were twisted, used against Him, and He was publicly flogged and humiliated — much like what is happening right now to Franklin Graham.

The Good News is we know how this story always ends.

As we enter Holy Week, may be all come together and pray for a true Passover and that a true Pascha, a true Easter will soon follow.


James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.



Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay


Maybe I was like the rest of you, but before COVID-19, I took a lot of things for granted.

One of the things I took for granted was the overall health of my family and friends.

When someone sneezed, I would habitually and lackadaisically simple say, “Bless you!”

For some, like a cousin in the family, that was even too much to say.  A simple “Ga’ bla” would do.

Then COVID-19 hit!

Schools closed, then businesses started to shutdown as we all began practicing extreme “social distancing”.

One evening, last week, my 10 year-old had a running nose, a symptom which would have warranted much attention.  In the past, if it got worse, we would just assume it was allergies and would give the kid a benadryl before going to bed.

Well, this time, his temperature rose a bit higher than 98.7.

“His temperature usually runs high,” my wife calmly informed me, knowing my profensity for concern, something I call K.I.D.S.

And then, he sneezed.

“God bless you,” I said with an emphasis on God and you.

There are many legends regarding the coinage of “God, bless you.”

National Geographic reports that during the plague of AD 590, “Pope Gregory I ordered unceasing prayer for divine intercession. Part of his command was that anyone sneezing be blessed immediately (“God bless you”), since sneezing was often the first sign that someone was falling ill with the plague.” By AD 750, it became customary to say “God bless you” as a response to one sneezing. [1]

Regardless of its origin, it’s time again that we start offering a true “God, bless you” to everyone — everywhere.

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

life-belt-498453_640 (1)

Image by Picography from Pixabay

About five years ago, I had hip-resurfacing surgery.  Though my condition was congenital, I lived a fairly active life until my mid-thirties.

I tried everything possible to heal myself, but could not.  I was nearly crippled by the time I decided to put my fate in someone else’s hands and go under the knife.

My post-surgical transformation has been nothing but miraculous; there’s really no activity I cannot do with my kids.

You can say that I have been physically reborn!

A day doesn’t go by that I’m not thankful to this man who healed me.  Today, I continue to go out of my way to talk to anyone I see on crutches or with a limp, to tell them about this miracle worker and the hospital where he practices.

It made me start to think: Isn’t this how the earlier Christians acted; those who saw Jesus perform His miracles?

Maybe that’s why they were so fearless in their praise and worship?

So, what about us?  Why are so many of us not talking to everybody about the miraculous transformation Jesus’ has had on our life?

Well, maybe you haven’t experienced a miracle in your life?


Instead, imagine that this miracle worker just saved a life?   Maybe it’s your life? Or a life of a loved one?

What would you do FIRST?

In the initial moment, I would guess that you would be beyond grateful. Most likely, you’d be thankful to that person for the rest of your life.

I’d suspect that you wouldn’t be afraid to go around telling everybody you could about this person.  You’d most likely tell anyone who would listen how he or she saved you — and not worry if some people weren’t interest in what you had to say or were even put off by it.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if you set aside a day to give that person thanks.  Maybe you might even ask the local government to honor him or her?

Eventually, however, you’ll come to realize that there’s really no way to pay this person back; or anyway to even pay forward on something like this.

Besides the honor and praise, you might start to evaluate your own life.  You might even change your habits.  Eat better.  Exercise.

Love deeper.  Speak sweeter.  Give forgiveness to those you’ve been denying.

You know how the song goes…

But the reality is: beside giving this person the honor and praise they rightfully deserve, there’s nothing you can do to express your gratitude except, maybe, to start valuing life over all other things.

But being human, you may finally feel a need to do something.  So, you might ask that person what they need? Or ask one or two of his or her friends?

These desires are all innate, given to us by the God who created us, as is the natural order of this process that begins with thanksgiving and followed by continuous honor and praise, and ends with the action to please.

As a Catholic Christian, when catechizing our children, I feel that we are no longer properly fostering the natural order of  desire when it comes to the One who saved us.

Instead, we have moved the need to do something, first and foremost, and with that, we have placed the teaching and practice of social justice before the praise and honor of the Savior.

Unlike the Social Justice teachings given to us by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum and expanded upon by Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno, today’s social justice catechism perpetuates the gross misunderstanding that our Christian life and salvation starts and ends with acts of good works, a teaching supported and promoted by the “good feelings” such acts of kindness bring.

The Church does not teach this — nor has it ever!

In fact, the Church teaches that “[w]e cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved” [Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534]. CCC 2005

We are saved solely by the Grace of God; the God who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Much like our poorly catechized 16th century brothers and sisters, this present-day catechism, taught in many of our parishes across the United States, has appeared to repackaged “good works” under the guise of true social justice.

In today’s social justice catechism, however, there’s little talk about the Son as the Christ who saved us, and therefore, even less discussion on why He deserves our daily devotion, let alone a day of Thanksgiving (Eucharist) during the week where we put aside all things  to honor and praise Him.

When discussing this, I can’t stop thinking about the last scene of Saving Private Ryan.   

After watching Captain John H. Miller, played by Tom Hanks, take his last breath, Matt Damon’s character morphs on screen to the present.   We discover that citizen Ryan has brought his entire family to pay homage — not because they were commanded to come, but because they wanted to join their father in this moment of honor and praise.

As he kneels in front of the stone-carved ivory cross that bears the name of the man who saved him, he humbly states, “Every day, I think of about what you said to me….”  Finally, he turns to his beloved wife and says, “Tell me I’m a good man”.

Absent such honor and praise, Religion becomes nothing more than a venue for service projects that anyone can do anywhere turning our service to  God into a mode of self-gratification — feelings and works — absent of a true reason or holy cause.

This is why, I believe, so many of our young people are leaving the Church in droves.

You cannot proclaim the nature of your service. You cannot say: This is what I will do!  This is how! and when! and why!  [As if] you are trying to match your will with God’s and call it service. [1]

Such service lacks Truth.  You know it and the Nones certainly know it.  And, that’s the  betrayal of the social justice catechism.

The only Truth is that there’s no possible way to pay back the One who has saved you — especially the One Who gave His life while trying to save yours.

All you can do is act like someone who truly believes that your life has been saved.


James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL


1.  Taken from The Staircase (1998) about the Miraculous Staircase of the Loretto Chapel in New Mexico, USA.





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Image by PixArc from Pixabay

It was kind of an amazing sight — if anything about being part of a funeral procession could be amazing.

Minutes before, we had just viewed the wake of a close friend for the last time.

For me, she was a friend, a sister, someone I knew since high school.  To my wife, she was a close confidant.  To my boys, she was an aunt-figure who lavished them with love, gifts, and hand-me-downs — bags and bags of hand-me-downs.

She was the stand-in for our first-born’s Godmother, who couldn’t make it north from Nashville — a role that she would voluntarily play on a permanent basis.

After saying goodbye, we left the funeral home with heavy hearts, gathered in our minivan, and joined a long line of cars that followed her hearse from the funeral home down Montauk Highway to Wellwood Avenue, the main street of my home town of Lindenhurst, Long Island.

As we pulled up to the Church, our cars were stopped in the middle of the road by a traffic officer.   Second in this seemingly mile-long procession, we quietly watched and waited as the officer spoke to the driver of the car in front of us.

Shortly after, he slowly approached.

“Good morning,” I greeted him, believing that he was going to point us to an area set-aside to park.

“Just leave your keys in the car,” he politely commanded, seemingly in disbelief.  Then added, “… just in case we have to move your car.”

Park here?  In the middle of Wellwood Avenue? 

Wellwood Avenue is the main artery in and out of my hometown.  When our parents asked where we were heading after school, we would often say “Into town” which meant we were going to Wellwood Avenue.

It’s where we got pizza, ate ice cream, saw a movie.  It was the home to our restaurants, our Church, our local theater.

Only one street went from the shore line of our community to the very end of our town, and that was Wellwood Avenue!  It was, in more ways than one, our main street.

We did as he asked, as did the rest of us in the procession, and slowly exited, leaving our vehicles parked along the double yellow line.

That’s when it hit us all — and we moved forward, like zombies, in perpetual disbelief.

The streets were lined with bystanders.  Elected officials and police officers in dress uniforms stood at attention.  There wasn’t a parking — or standing — spot in sight.

Wellwood Avenue — Main Street — was shut down!

“You only see something like this if a President dies,” I whispered in the ear of my eldest.

My knees weakened as the bagpipes waled, seemingly guiding us all inside Our Lady of Perpetual Church, my childhood parish.

Like outside, the Church was adorned, wall-to-wall, with people from all walks of life.  Elected officials.  Teachers. Parents. Loved ones.  Relatives and friends.

Every parish priest and every deacon was present.  In fact, the officiant of the Mass came all the way from Virginia to serve and honor the deceased.

Absent, however, were news reporters.

You see, on paper, my dear friend wasn’t someone “special”.  She was just a mom, a housewife, and a friend.

She never sought higher office beyond the PTA.  She never sought fame or riches.

All she did was love and love large; so much so, that at news of her passing, a multitude came to pay homage. So many, in fact, that they had to shut down Main Street.

Seeing all this, I struggled, as a Christian, how someone so faithful to Our Lord could be taken so early and so painfully?

Finally, the priest approached the podium to give his homily.  He shared with us all an event that only he and her husband knew:  After being diagnosed with brain cancer, the doctor asked this couple if they had any questions.

“Can you give me three years?” she asked.

“One of my patients lived 20 years,” the doctor professed. “Most live four to 15 months.”

After leaving the doctor’s office, her husband turned to her and asked. “Why did you ask for three years?”

“You and the kids aren’t ready now, but you’ll be ready in three years,” she answered, and three years was the time she was granted.

Jesus, the priest reminded us, only had three years to prepare His family, the world.  Comparing my friend’s mission to that of The Christ, the priest defined Jesus’ mission as Love.

The priest then spoke directly to her husband, “Your marriage presented that Love to all who witnessed it.”

I was a groomsman in their wedding. I witnessed that Love first hand.   In fact, I wanted that same Love in my life, in my relationship with my wife.

I also knew that my dear friend had slipped into a coma only days after her wedding anniversary.

Suddenly, the yoke of my sadness was lifted.

You see, she knew, as the priest explained, that God didn’t make her sick.  She also knew that He can take a tragedy and use it to send a clear message of his Real Presence — and often He uses His most loyal followers to communicate this message of His Love.

Take the death of His Son, for example!

Soon, everyone in the Church and all the people lining the streets, would know what I had just realized…

“And like Jesus’ life,” the priest added, “your marriage, your Love-on-display, lasted 33 years.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing.  An Irish funeral followed the Catholic funeral at the cemetery, so things might not be exactly as I remember them.

But for all those listening on that day, in that holy place, the veil was lifted and His message was clearly received.

therese-giganteTherese M. Gigante, beloved wife of Gerard; cherished mother of Christina, Gerard, Joseph, Annemarie, and Matthew; loving daughter of Margaret and the late Vincent Moran, caring sister of Ann Massetti, Vincent Moran, Mary Cramer, Margaret Cronin, Elizabeth Lovizio, Bernadette Haffner and Joseph Moran; adoring aunt to many nieces, nephews and, endearing friend to many more, died on November 15, 2019 exactly as she lived her life, sharing the gift of Christ’s Love to everyone she encountered.

Always a giver, she only asked for three things:

  • A Church funeral where we could all pray together.
  • An after-party where we could all drink, love, and laugh together.
  • And for us all to move on.

Well, we did our best and gave her two out of three!  Enjoy the video of her life.  You’ll quickly understand why it won’t be that easy for many of us to move on.

In the end, keeping true to herself, she gave us all a very clear and lasting message:  The only road that matters is the road you take to Heaven!

Rest in Peace, Reese, and may the perpetual light shine upon you!



ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  There will soon be a scholarship in Theresa’s name.  To honor Reese’s life in a special way, all my profits from the 2020 sales of my book:  Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, an inspirational novella, will go to that scholarship.  You can find the book on Amazon. com.  God bless.


James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL
James Dobkowski
Today, James lives in UpState New York where he continues to teach.

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Source: Pixabay.com – Tanna66

Most people know that I’m Catholic.  So much so, it shocks some when they discover that I teach AP Biology.

Science only confirms most of what I believe, but that’s a discussion for another time — so, stay tuned.

Growing up Catholic, I never knew anything else.

It’s not that my parents sheltered me.  I just never gave it much thought — even though one of my best elementary school friends, David Goldstein, was obviously not a practicing Christian.

In fact, when David died, my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Green, suggested that the money I was collecting for flowers would be properly spent by planting a tree in Israel in David’s memory.  (Mr. Green was also not Christian.)

So, I was aware of different faiths … just not other denominations.

Funny as this appears to me today, I naively assumed, at a very young age, that if someone was Protestant, it was because one parent was Catholic and the other parent was Jewish.

With that, I though Protestants had the best of both worlds because they got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.   Funny, right?

As I grew as a Catholic, I started to become more aware of the world around me.  Soon, I became disillusioned with Rome.

Oddly enough, my disillusion had little to do with theology.

I was a middle-schooler and not yet as aware of the wealth Church teachings as I am today.  Sadly, I was just tired of the Pope.

I wasn’t tired of the role of the Pope or the Primacy of the See of Peter.  I liked the Pope.  So much so, I took the name Paul as my Confirmation name in honor of the present Pope at that time, St. Pope Paul VI.

I was just tired of the Pope always being Italian.

I know! I know!  That sounds extremely shallow — and somewhat ethically bias.  I assure you that I was not and it wasn’t.

My neighbors: the Cornelias, D’Angelos, Rizzo, Stavolas, were all like family to me — and still are to this day.  In fact, I often refer to myself as a Closet Italian.   Let’s be honest, is there any other cuisine on Earth better than Italian food?

However, when Pope Paul died in the summer of 1978,  I hoped– no, I prayed — that the next Pope would be a nationality other than Italian.

My thought, at the time, was that if the Church was truly universal, why wasn’t there a Holy Father in the last five-hundred years that was something other than Roman?

You’re probably thinking why wouldn’t the Pope be Roman, it is the Roman Catholic Church?  Well, the truth of the matter is that it’s not.

It’s the Holy Catholic Church; or simply The Church!

The placement of the word Roman in the Church’s title never truly existed until the Middle Ages.  However, it became, en vogue,  derogatorily, during the 16th century, especially in Anglican speaking communities, such as the U.K. and the United States. [1]

Much like the evolution of Yankee Doodle, which started out as a pre-Revolutionary song of mockery, the term Roman Catholic has, in turn, been embraced positively by most Catholics who worship using the Latin (or Western) Rite of the Church.

There are 24 liturgical Catholic Rites under the supreme authority of the See of Peter.  So the Pope is not the head of the Roman Catholic Church; he has authority over the entire Church; ergo my middle school discomfort with a Roman monopoly the papacy.

Irregardless, as they say in Brooklyn,  I remember praying to God to give me a sign to stay Catholic.   Soon, my prayers turned into something more of a challenge.

I began challenging God.

For the first time, I paid close attention to the Papal Conclave.

I remember watching, waiting for the smoke to rise from the historic stack thousand.

Black smoke meant there was no consensus and the secret conclave would continue.  White smoke meant a choice was made.

I remember the newscasters informing the viewing audience that historically the Cardinals burnt hay along with their ballots.  Wet hay would cause the smoke to turn black..  However, during the 1978 conclave, chemicals would be used for the first time and the first time in history the artificially colored smoke appeared — and it was gray! [2]

Confusion followed, then came an announcement: There’s a new Pope!

Soon, I would discover that my personal prayers were not answered.  A man named Albino Luciani, an Italian Cardinal,  was the next in line to Peter.

I have to admit, I openly welcomed the election of Pope John Paul (now Pope John Paul I).  He appeared warm and likable, quickly gaining the nickname, “The Smiling Pope.”  

Even his name, John Paul, was different, truly pontifical, in a bridge building sense.

However, his election, for all the wrong reasons, caused me, a Long Island boy, with Irish and Polish heritage, to question my Catholic Christian Faith.

Again, I began praying to God to give me a sign.

My prayers, however, went from being a challenge and soon became an ultimatum.  (Remember, I was just a kid.)

But then it happened…

Thirty-three days after the election of Pope John Paul, my brother came home and announced, “Did you hear? The Pope died.”

I recall rolling my eyes thinking that he was about a month behind the times.

“No, I’m serious,” he added.

However, I was not convinced since he was had an affinity to telling tall-tales.  Even my mother wasn’t taking the bait.

He was so insistent, we put on a 24-hour News station — which was radio in those days — 1010 Wins out of New York City.

Their slogan: You give us 22 minutes; We’ll give you the world

Soon, much to our surprise, we learned that The Smiling Pope, was dead.

It seemed like the World watched as Cardinals from the four corners of the globe gathered again at the Vatican and under the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

Amazing, two papal conclaves in one year!

Two days later, there was an announcement on ABC-News: There’s a new Pope!

The world again watched as the Vatican made the announcement of Habemus Papam!  for the second time in 2018.

“As far as we can understand,” the late Peter Jennings announced. “Cardinal Felici just announced the name of a Polish cardinal.”

I don’t remember much after that beyond disbelief.

I’m not saying that God killed the Smiling Pope to keep me among the Collect.

The Almighty definitely knew the election of a fellow Pole to the See of Peter wouldn’t make me a very good Catholic — at least not for a very long time!

So then, was it Divine?  Probably not.

However,  the election of Karol Wojtyła to the Pontificate proved to me  that the Church, headquartered in Rome, was truly catholic — and on that day I really became Catholic.

The election of John Paul II, I believe, also sent a clearer message.  To paraphrase John Paul II on the day of his election his message, this message was:

“Even though you may feel far away, you are always near to Me if you stay in the communion of faith and the Christian tradition.”

In time, I would see John Paul II in person when he came to the United States.  Over time, he became a father-figure to me, as he did to many.

I remember crying on the day he died in 2005 and I often miss him presence in the world, as I miss both my dad, Robert, and my step-dad, John.  However, like my father and step-father, I know he belongs to the Communion of the Saints.

I still struggle to be a good Catholic, as do most of us; but I am still Catholic in faith, deed, and practice —  and will remain into the hour of my death.

Today, John Paul II remains alive, as do all the Saints.  Every night before my boys lay down to sleep, we recite this simple prayer:

Saint John Paul, pray for us!

JP 2

Source: Pixabay.com – ddouk

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom where featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and Burbank Leader, and earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.  James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar, as the teacher who most influenced their academic career.  He has also appeared twice, as an educator, on “America Live with Megyn Kelly”. Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

Mr P and Mat

Mr. Lee Paseltiner, in 2009, playfully enjoying my little man.

Like most teachers, I have to clear out my classroom at the end of the school year, so the custodial staff can come in and prepare the room for next year. 

Everything not nailed down or pinned to the wall is put away in locked drawers and closets, or it has to leave the room — which means all my living creatures come home with me for the summer months.

This year, as I was cleaning, I found an old, paperback textbook written by my AP Biology teacher, Lee Paseltiner. 

I opened it up and found this dedication, handwritten and signed by “Mr. P”.

Mr. P's Book


To Dubba,

A former student in my Advanced biology class, outstanding teacher and dear friend.

Lee Paseltiner

He always called me Dubba, my high school nickname — and until recently, I always called him “Mr. P.”

My relationship with Lee Paseltiner started to flourish after I called him and asked him for help with a graduate paper that I was writing on “Hand-on science education”. 

Mr. P was a pioneer in the field of hands-on science. 

He was a member of “a creative and ingenious teacher staff … [that] developed and implemented its own brand of individualized biology called LindLearn” which was the singled out by the NABT as one of 10 exemplary programs in Secondary Biology.

In 1980, he personally started a program, in my high school, for Seniors called L.E.F.T., Lindenhurst Environment Field Trip, which continues to this day.  I was one of those Seniors — a LEFTy, as we proudly called ourselves.   

L.E.F.T. took us to the Sunken Forest on Fire Island for a week-long hands-on adventure into one of New York’s most unique ecosystems.

Not only did we study the ecology of Fire Island; we were joined by a group of dedicated teachers from the Departments of Art, Math, Social Studies, English and Phys Ed. 

I won’t be so dramatic as to say that the L.E.F.T. experience was life-changing; it was, however, life-forming

For me, L.E.F.T. strongly confirmed my decision to attend the University of Montana and study Wildlife Biology as an undergraduate.

The paper that I was working on was titled WHY CAN’T JOHNNY? A look at how today’s science-curriculum excludes certain students.  Kind of an unconventional title for a graduate term paper, but I excelled at being unconventional.   

Without hesitation, Mr. P. sent me an abundance of information on LindLearn Biology and L.E.F.T

From there, I would periodically call him up to just to “talk shop”.

He always had lessons to share, as well as a list of articles and books to read, including “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire” and “There’s No Short Cuts”, best-sellers by Rafe Esquith, the Walt Disney Company’s 1992 Teacher of the Year.

I would later share “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire” with my school principal, Chris Krohn, at the Community Day School in Burbank, California, and together, she and I planned a professional development day where we actually visited Room 56 and spend the day observing Rafe Esquith, in person.

This wouldn’t have happened without Mr. P’s influence.

After Mr. P. retired, he paid a visit to my classroom in Burbank, California during one of his West Coast trips to visit family.  He viewed the grounds and meet my famous Sulcata tortoise, Kobe and observed my student’s award-winning project.

You can only imagine the look on his face when I handed him with his very own personalized, autograph copy of Rafe Esquith’s latest book.

A few weeks later, a package arrived for me from Long Island.  It was from Mr. P.

Inside, I found an album of photos that he had taken of me and my students, pasted with his signature feel-good stickers, along with a personal note of compliments.

It was like having my performance on the baseball diamond praised by the legendary Yankee great, Babe Ruth.

After my wife and I moved back to New York, we would often have dinner with the Paseltiners at their home on Long Island.   He just loved my boys, as you can see in the photo featured above.

During our long dinner conversations, we discovered that our lives oddly intertwined.  

When discussing how I met my wife — we met while working at the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, NY,  Mr. P and his wife, Judi, shared that they were Puppy Raisers for GDF and once cared for one of the Foundation’s stud dogs.  

During another dinner, we discovered that the Paseltiners had Honeymooned in the Lake George Region, the Melody Manor to be precise, a resort minutes away from where we were married and very close to our present-day home.

What really blew us both away, however, was when we learned that Mr. P’s mother-in-law was my father-in-law’s English teacher at the Bronx School of Science.

No matter how intriguing those connections were, the conversation always got back to teaching.

“It’s like planting seeds,” he would always say about the goal of a teacher.  “But most of the time, you don’t get to see the end product of what you planted.”

My family was saddened when the Paseltiners decided to move to Florida to be closer to their grandchildren.  However, shortly after the decision was made to relocate, packages started to arrive at our doorstep. 

Almost daily, we received a large box filled with items from his legendary classroom.  

Turtle skulls. Shark jaws. An enormous dried-out sea star. Corral. Natural sponges.  Something that looks like a giant vertebrae. A self-penned script on Photosynthesis — props included.  His “Soft ice cream cone” lamp and his giant retractable DNA model — which has become my own personal fidget spinner.

I fidget allot — especially after my morning coffee!

“You can’t play the accordion with RNA,” I often shout in class as I open and close the large double-stranded squeezebox of nucleotides, in a playful effort to capture the attention of eighth and ninth graders, wondering if Mr. P would approve of my antics.

Mr. P also sent a box of wildlife Christmas tree ornaments which we use annually to decorate our Pasel-tree-ner

We grew close and talked often.  Mostly about education, but he always directed the conversation back to me and my classroom.

He taught for at Lindenhurst High School for 47 years and AP Biology for almost three decades. It was like having your own personal mentor on speed dial — and it was beyond amazing to have such a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips.

“It’s like planting seeds…,” he would always remind me every time we talked.

So, I found it odd when Mr. P recently stopped returning my calls.

One day, out-of-the-blue  I saw that I had missed a call from Mr. Paseltiner — and was happy to see that he had left a message.  

“Dubba, it’s Mr. P.  I have something to tell you.  Some of it bad. Some of it good.”

Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, I called him that night.  

“Let me apologize,” he began, struggling to talk.  He told me that he went into “hiding” per se, after being diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer. 

Then, he started to tell me a story about a turtle…

“Recently,” he said, “a turtle crossed my path.”  He continued to tell me that he and his wife stopped the car to rescue the turtle and place it to the side of the road.   

Though it was safe, out of fear, the turtle instinctively drew itself deep within the protection of its shell.

Like the turtle, Mr. P explained, he had also recently withdrew from life. 

So, he was calling me to apologize for not calling and to let me know that he had decided to finally come out of his shell. 

That was the Good News. 

The bad news was that he sadly had weeks, maybe, at best, only a few months to live.  His goal, he told me, was to make it to his anniversary in June.

We spoke for hours.  We laughed. We cried — but we mostly talked about teaching.

Always an optimist, he invited me down to Florida when life was less hectic.  

Finally, it was getting late and my boys were still up, so we said “Good night.”

I made it a point to stay in touch and reach out as often as I could. 

If I came across an interesting Science article, I sent it his way.  I would text photos of the boys — and I called to discuss my Regents results.

As a man, I hope to be half the father and husband he was.  As an educator, I strive to be as good as he was — knowing I may never attain such a lofty goal.  

If every teacher could be just a little bit like Lee Paseltiner, we would quickly become a nation of envy throughout the world!

Two weeks ago, while driving to picked my boys up at Day Camp, I passed an unusually shaped item in the road.  My experienced-eye told me that it was a turtle, frozen in fear, on the double yellow line of a busy roadway, deep inside its shell.

I turned my car around, parked on the side of the road, and got out to rescue this helpless creature.  Dodging traffic, I cringed a few times as passing cars nearly clipped its delicate, dark carapace.

Finally, I picked it up and planned on placing it on the side of the road in the direction it was going.

But then, I though of Mr. P.

In that brief moment, I decided to make this a teaching moment for my boys — as he most likely would have done.

I safely packed the turtle in my car and drove the short distance to camp.

I introduced the turtle to my boys and explained that we would keep it for only a short period of time — just long enough so they could learn a’bit about its species.  But then, I explained, we would return it to its proper home.

I thought my five-year-old would put up a fight, but he fully agreed — a miracle in itself.

They found a large tote and filled it with water.  Together, we found a large rock with a flat surface for the turtle to sun.

We determined the turtle was a male and then gave him the name Jethro.

For the next two weeks, the boys took care of Jethro daily.

I planned on sending a photo of Jethro and the boys to Mr. P, but life tossed a few curveballs our way this summer, so I never got around to it.

The truth was that I kind of withdrew into my own shell.

Mr. P had become more than just a mentor; he became a father-figure, a close friend — and I feared my next call would go unanswered, a sign of bad news.

Finally, the boys and I decided it was time for Jethro to go back home.

Soccer camp would be over at the end of the week and we determined that it would be a good time to release him safely back into the wild.

Since I knew Mr. P would love to hear another good turtle story, I made a conscious decision to reach out to him after Jethro was set free.

As I sat watching my boys practice soccer drills, I sent Lee a photo of them that I knew he would enjoy.

I usually would have posted a note along with the photo; something like: “Nothing says Soccer like plaid shorts and neon green socks 🙂 Let’s chat soon.”  But, the expressions on their faces were so priceless, I wanted the photograph to speak for itself.

Minutes later, my phone rang.  It was Judi Paseltiner, Mr. P’s wife.

“Hi Dubba, it’s Judi.”

“Is it bad news?” I asked as choked back the tears.

“Yes, Dubba,” she sadly replied.  “It’s bad news.”

That night, I laid in bed reviewing old emails between me and Mr. P.  I kept thinking how much I was going to miss our long phone conversations.

I felt so alone, as if I lost my co-pilot in the classroom.

What’s it going to be like entering my classroom without that tremendous safety-net I always had that was Lee Paseltiner? I wondered.

During one of our last conversations, Lee finally told me his age, something he never revealed in the classroom.   I chuckled to myself as I reflected on that conversation because that’s something I also do!

We shared so many I do that too moments on the phone these last few weeks.

“Dubba, I’ll finally tell you.  How old do you think I am?”

“Well, I never wanted to ask out of respect for Judi,” I said with a smile. “But, when I was teaching at Lindenhurst, I saw a County Champion trophy by the gym for the 1960 Basketball team — and you were the coach.”

“When I was young, a doctor told me to exercise and stay away from red meat and salt,” he told me.  “So, I did.  I would jog every day; and when I couldn’t jog anymore, I swam a mile a day … until recently.”

He paused and then proudly added, “Dubba, I’m 87.  Not a bad run.”

He was not at all bragging.  He was teaching.  He was always teaching.

“Remember, Dubba,” he said one last time. “It’s like planting seeds.  Keep planting seeds.”

Lee Paseltiner — my teacher, my mentor, my friend —  passed away peacefully on July 26 at his home in Parkland, Florida.

He L.E.F.T this planet a better place then he found it.  After a lifetime of teaching, that might be his greatest lesson of all!  

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AUTHOR’S NOTE:  If you have any fond memories of Mr. P, please leave them in the comments section below.

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL
James Dobkowski
As a writer, James has been featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.
Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom where featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and Burbank Leader, and earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.  James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influenced that student.  He has also appeared twice, as an educator, on “America Live with Megyn Kelly”.
Today, James lives in Up-State New York where he continues to teach — and his friends call him Dubba.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Line Divider Image by Mahua Sarkar from Pixabay

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