“Alright Then, I’ll Go to Hell.”

“What Religion are you?”

Startled, I responded “Catholic.”

I will never forget this question on the first day I walked into my dorm room as a college freshman.

It has left an indelible mark on me as the stone cold reaction I got from my roommate turned into completely shunning me. As confused as I was, I now realize this was my introduction to a dark side of conservative, “Christian” America. A side that has left me a bit disillusioned with the hypocrisy of religion.

This same hypocrisy is not new. We are the country “under god” that once declared that slavery was the will of God. Mark Twain understood this hypocrisy and once wrote “if Christ were here now, I know one thing he most certainly would not be, and that is a Christian.”

While I respect and agree with many of the religious values that are espoused in my own church and by “Christians” whom I respect, I can’t help but agree with Twain in many cases.

I can’t help but shake my head at the vitriolic language that has been spewed by these “Christians” during the 2016 presidential election. While I am most certainly pro-life, I am baffled that being pro-life also means being anti so many other things. Anti- gay marriage? Whom am I to deny others the same rights as I have? Anti-gun control? Hmmmm….isn’t gun violence destroying lots of lives as well. Anti-Muslim? Anti-immigrants?

Even the priest in my Catholic Church not so subtly hinted in a homily that we should be good little Catholics and vote the Republican ticket. I get it. Vote Pro Life. However, my idea of pro-life believes treating people with respect from conception to natural death. And that includes all people. Mexican. Muslims. Women. All people.

So, compromise my values, and adhere to those “Christian” beliefs? Shunning gays. Judging non-Christians and non-evangelical Christians. Turning our backs on helpless immigrants. Supporting vulgar, crude, venemous language.

Sorry, if that’s what it means to be “Christian” and conservative in this day, no thanks. In the words of another masterful sentence penned by Twain, “alright then, I’ll go to Hell.”








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If You’re Not from Philly

If you’re not from Philly…

You don’t know the passion.

You simply can’t know the passion.

Green-clad fanatics screaming, both in frustrations and joys,

Fathers connecting with their girls and their boys

A dying grandfather etching eloquent letters,

Imploring the birds to play just a little bit better

Strangers of different colors, creeds and classes standing as one

To revel in the glory of the crisp Autumn sun.

If you’re not from Philly, you don’t get the passion.

If you’re not from Philly…

You didn’t get October,

You just couldn’t get October.

A red euphoric storm capturing the hearts of both young and old,

As the Phightins’ gave us all memories more precious than gold

100 years and ten thousand losses had left their mark,

But one October night exploded with light beyond that dark

The cheers and tears of grandpas, both here and above

Rang in our ears, strumming the tune of loyalty and love.

If you’re not from Philly, you couldn’t get October.

If you’re not from Philly…

You can’t taste the steak,

You just can’t taste the steak.

The neon lights shimmer above the busyness of Ninth and Passayunk,

Welcoming thousands of pilgrims (even when the Eagles stunk)

Aromas of fresh bread and perfectly greased meat tantalize,

Urging winding lines to brave frigid air and storm skies

If you’re not from Philly,

You can’t run the steps,

You just can’t run the steps.

Our city’s hero, arms raised heavenward, triumphed over his doubt,

Conquering demons both inside and out to show his true clout

Once thought to be a laugher and a certain defeat,

This stallion trained, even pummeling frozen meat

Creed, Mr. T, nor even a giant Russian could stand in his way,

Reminding us each that we can indeed seize the day.

If you’re not from Philly,

You can’t smell the shore,

You just can’t smell the shore.

Jersey’s small towns like Elmer paint that yellow-bricked road,

Leading kids to a wonderland that will make them sandy-toed.

The boardwalk illuminates and dazzles with games and rides

While the ocean rolls wildly, capturing our joy in its tides.

But it’s the people that make Wildwood the perfect position

For generations of family to renew a sacred tradition.

If you’re not from Philly,

You don’t know me.

You simply can’t know me.

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Where I’m From # 2

Where I’m From


I am from childhood innocence.

From all-day marathon backyard wiffleball games

From swingin’-for-the fences homerun derby

And Epic Orioles-Phillies battles

From pitching duels, towering blasts, and home plate collisions

That remind friends how to drink from the fountain of childhood.

From a basement that painted a canvas of memories

From all-night indoor soccer battles

Waged between friendly combatants

From all-out rumbles atop a torn-up mattress

That truly tested our intestinal fortitude

From frigid winter afternoons

From pond hockey to icy b-ball tournaments to racing down hills,

Mother Nature couldn’t slow us down

I am from a big loving family

From weddings filled with dance and song

From the Irish roots that play a soulful melody in my heart

From the Philly fandom that courses through my blood

From Wildwood days spent amidst the sand, waves, and boards

I am from fishing trips

From getting lost amidst a meandering stream

From towering trees and

From sing-alongs and laughter alongside a bright, crackling fire

From one of life’s great lessons: “there’s more to fishing than catching the fish”

I am from Mountains that tower above the clouds

From Mount Washington’s breathtaking vistas

From the Inca Trail’s rocky road to an ancient universe

From the misty fog atop Clingman’s dome

From whipping winds and pulverizing rains on Algonquin

From the physical challenge and soulful serenity that each grants

I am from legendary sports memories and the people I shared them with

From engulfing an entire pizza during an all-star game with Dan

From stopping Emmitt on 4th and 1 with my dad

From 4th and 26 with a roomful of prayerful 5th graders

From Penn State’s Fiesta triumph with an overflowing France living room

From NFC title glory with Greg

From World Series triumph with Michelle, and the phone calls that followed

From hugging my dad when the Irish completed perfection

From the Flyers clawing back from 3-0 with my dad

I am from a tradition of Faith

From a 2,000 year-old legacy

From grace before meals

From Sundays spent in church

From Midnight Mass every Christmas eve

From “Hail Mary’s” in my most vulnerable moments

I am from long runs in the sun, rain, or snow

From Box Hill’s windy, rolling streets

From Baltimore’s menacing 26.2

From never-ending country roads through Lancaster’s majestic countryside

From Broad Street’s gentle whisper

I am from a cast of characters who shaped my childhood

From He-Man’s power to conquer

From the wise words of Optimus, crushing the powers of deception

From the family values shaped by Cliff and Claire

From the Stallion who rose from obscurity to conquer his doubts, tower the steps, change a nation, and inspire a generation

I am from books that touched my soul      

From reminders not to harm “mockingbirds”

From resisting the temptation of “The Ring”

From Morrie’s reflections on life and death and Eddie’s finding his purpose in “Heaven”

From Katniss’ determination to take down the Capital

I am from lyrics that ring out the truth

From Dave’s “celebrate we will,” “take the best of what’s around,” “dreaming of things that we might have been,” “the wine that set Jesus free.”

From Bruce’s “a sad man livin’ in his own skin and can’t stand the company.”

From the Crows’ “believe in me, cause I don’t believe in anything, and I wanna be someone to believe.”

I am from Hempfield

From students who challenge, frustrate, inspire, and amaze me.

From colleagues who push me to test the boundaries.

From a community steeped in a tradition of excellence.

I am from Imperfection

From a lack of confidence and a search for identity

From addictions that have destroyed loved ones

From a constant questioning of my Faith and the church in which I was raised

From anger, frustration, apathy,

I am from a renewal

From moments that remind me of life’s true meaning

From singing “Silent Night” as Ryan falls asleep on my chest

From Andrew’s loud giggles as I toss him on the couch

From the gift of learning from my students each and every day

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Where I’m From # 1 (based on template)

The WHERE I’M FROM Template

Inspired by “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon

1) I am from worn-out sneakers , from empty pages and plastic wiffle ball bats (3 ordinary everyday items or product names).

2) I am from the cluttered chaos of children’s toys scattered amidst the floor with love and laughter (home description with vivid sensory details).

3) I am from the pond and surrounding hillside that enchanted neighborhood kids on white winter mornings, and the towering gangly trees checkering the backyard diamond     (plant, flower, or natural item(s) near your home).

4) I am from over-the top holiday celebrations (family tradition) and excess stemming from love (family trait), from Jerry and Rose’s faith and loyalty (name of family member) and Quigley (another family name) and Pollis (family name).

5) I am from_________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________(description of family tendency) and__________________________________

_______________________________________(another one).

6) From “don’t use that tone of voice” (something you were told as a child) and now echoing the same to my own kids…yikes(another).

7) I am from Midnight masses, Hail Mary’s, and breathtaking natural beauty that draw me back from my apathy and cynicism (representation of religion, faith, values or lack of it)

8) I’m from the tradition and loyalty of South Philly and Ireland’s green shamrock shore (place of birth and family ancestry), from Sundays at the Vet and Linc and circle sing-alongs to “Fields of Athenry” (two food or cultural items representing your family).

9) From my dad’s working his own way through college moving furniture (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _my grandfather’s working on the railroad and __my uncle Jim’s stories about absolutely everything (another another detail about another family member).

10) I am from Rocky’s courage against all odds, battling the evils of Mordor and my own “Rings,” and singing of memories when ‘I wore a younger man’s clothes’ (3 movies, books, and/or songs).

11) I am from scrapbooks and journals that capture joy and pain, triumph and frustration, faith and doubt (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

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I am What I am


I am what I am. I am Michael Pollis (and there’s no middle name, thanks for asking).

I am a son. I am my father’ work ethic, his values of seeing a job through. Slowly, I am becoming his attention to detail. I am my father’s lack of concern about fashion (sometimes to my wife’s frustration). But hey, I am what I am. I am my mother’s energy, an inability to sit still. I am my mother’s faith, rock solid and steadfast. Though sometimes, my faith wavers, I am what I am.

I am a brother. I once was an agitator, an instigator, a divider. Man, I guess I was what I was. Now I am a confider, a listener, a uniter. I am Christine’s energy, Kathleen’s toughness, and Daniel’s sense of humor. I am making new bonds with two brothers-In-Law. I am what I am.

I am a husband. Bonded by this covenant, I find meaning. I am a friend, a listener, a comforter, a provider and a partner. The laughter and memories we’ve shared are the foundation of my very being. Whether we are traveling to different countries or simply struggling together through a crossword, our connection is a constant reminder of how important others are. Building a life, a home, a family, I find strength. I am what I am.

I am a cousin. Coming from a huge family, I value loyalty; I value the traditions that have been passed down; I value the lessons I can learn from those who have come before me; I value the magical times: the weddings, the sporting events, the Wildwood days. I am what I am.

I am a friend. To some, I’ve been close since high school; others I’ve gained as an adult. Strengthened by their loyalty, their laughter, their kindness; challenged by their wisdom, their insights, their weaknesses; completed by their humanity and their honesty. I am hiking trips, pool parties, concerts, Turkey Bowls, training sessions, sporting events. Most of all, I am diverse all because of them. I am what I am.

I am a Catholic (and yes I am very much a Christian). Praising my God, believing in his promises, observing sacred traditions, uniting with others, seeking forgiveness. I struggle daily to live out the morals and values my faith professes even as the world around me casts shadows of false gods. I do my best to keep an open mind, valuing the beliefs of others even as some might ridicule mine.

I am a language lover. Books, music, movies, I dwell on the magic of the written word. I am collector of quotes, a dweller on the deeper meaning of stories. I am what I am.   I traveled with Frodo, sympathized with Atticus, related to Holden, faced evil with Harry, and cried with all of Mitch’s creations. The authors and the characters they create have become a part of me, shaping my view of the world and of humanity. Lyrics speak to me. I love Bruce’s simple truths, Dave’s deep reflections, The Crows’ metaphorical imagery, Billy’s nostalgia. The musicAnd movies, ah movies. I remember great lines, eloquent, timeless, and universal (or sometimes just downright hilarious). I hear Forrest’s lessons, Rocky’s courage, Sam’s loyalty, Simba’s growth, and of course, Ace’s absolute ridiculousness. I am what I am.

I am a writer. Sometimes the words flow. Sometime the blank page taunts me. I want to write more, yet allow life (and laziness) to stop me. But, when I do write, I feel alive. I write of my experiences: of hikes, of trips, of family and friends and lessons learned along the way. I write of lost loved ones: of grandpop, who inspired me so, of Mike, who was way too young to go, of Gabriel, whose laughter I never even got to know. I write poetry, sports articles, narratives; I write for myself and I write for others. I write novels (well, I should say I am slowly writing a novel whose end is finally in sight). I am what I am.

I am Irish. (yeah, yeah, no short leprechaun jokes) My family’s native land, I had always held a reverence for the Emerald Isle. I’ve always known the music, but now I’ve tasted the magic. You see, I’ve walked the ancient streets of Dublin, kissed the Blarney stone, and circled the Ring of Kerry; I’ve soaked in the majesty of the cliffs of Mohr, listened to the tears atop the walls of Derry, and danced jigs in Donegal. I am what I am.

I am a workoutaholic I am a runner. No, I’m not fast, but the countless miles on my feet could tell a multitude of stories. Stories of aches and pains, yes, but also stories of accomplishments, of finishing 26.2, of fighting through the pain and fatigue, of always trudging onward. Of exploring the farmlands of Lancaster by foot, of following in Rocky’s footsteps down Broad Street, of escaping to another world

I am a lifter. Battling iron and steel, I show my true mettle. Push-up, pull-ups, and a swiss ball: I can pour out sweat in my basement and come up each time a stronger person, not only physically, but also emotionally, and spiritually. Working out is my escape! I am a competitor. Not always the strongest or fastest, but I’ll fight till the end. I am what I am.

I am a Struggler. The last two-and-a-half years have been the toughest of my life as I’ve suffered from a debilitating, agonizing foot condition that has not only put my running on hold, but has literally brought me to my knees. Countless doctors visits, a surgery, and numerous physical therapy sessions have brought no answers. On many days, the pain has traveled straight from my foot into my soul. It has cause me to cry; to feel sorry for myself; to question God; to shout out in anger; even to give up. Still, this experience has helped to shape me. No matter how bad it gets, I must keep my faith, and continue the journey. Though this pain is a part of me, I refuse to allow it to define me.

I am a mountain man. Whether I’m hiking, fishing, or camping, the mountains restore my soul. I’ve walked in the shadows of the Incas with Michelle, fished creeks with my dad, cousins, and uncles, summitted Washington with my boys, conquered Clingman’s with Chris, and peaked Algonquin with my bro. No cell phones, email, TV—just awe-inspiring reminders of God’s grand creations. I am what I am.

I am a sports fan. NFL Sundays, March Madness, October baseball, overtime NHL playoff hockey—I love it all. Watching my Birds, (2008 world champion) Phils, Flyers, and Fighting Irish, I cheer like a child. I am what I am.

I am a bleeder of green (and this one goes a little beyond the simple statement ‘I am a sports fan’—just ask my wife). The green blood is very real. Yes, it’s true; you can check. It’s actually a genetic disease, one that truly shows its symptoms on Sundays in the fall. Some ask: why root for a team that never wins the championship or why care so darn much. But, it’s more than a game. It’s a tradition of family, friends and a common thread that unites us all as we root for our Birds and shout exuberant cheers of “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles! I am what I am.

I am not always truly what I am. I am sometimes a cynic. I am sometimes a pessimest. I am sometimes a doubter. I am sometimes a complainer. We all are what we are. But then I’m a dreamer, a hoper, a believer, all because of a simple act, a beautiful sunset, a friend’s gesture, a student’s growth. I am what I am.

I am a teacher. I am a motivator, a coach, an inspirer, a counselor, an instructor, a creator, a continuing learner. Traveling with my students, I embark upon the world of language and literature to learn more about my world and myself. Though I’m sometimes overwhelmed or doubting my profession, I know I’m shaping a positive future. More than a job, it is what I am.

I am a link in a chain. Created by God and forged by grandparents, mom and dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, I am but a product they’ve all helped me become.

I am a GodFather– To my nephew Miles, and Baby Genna, I have been entrusted to be a role model of God’s love. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. Yet, I know I will learn as much from them as they do from me. I am what I am.

I am a father. No longer living for myself, I am now a guardian of the future. Over two years, I have seen the transformation from a tiny being completely dependent on me for everything to a young boy with an inquisitive mind and strong personality. What a reminder of the beauty of life. In Ryan’s smile, I see innocence, I see happiness, I see hope.

I am what I am

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I remember

I remember tying the red radio flyer wagon to the big wheel and zooming down the hill on Rogers Avenue.

I remember my cousins and I jumping over waves and pretending they were sharks.

I remember playing “cubs” with my cousins and siblings.

I remember my cousin, at a young age, passed out drunk in the back of a car after his sister’s wedding. I remember seeing addiction destroy lives.

I remember my first fishing rod, a gift from my uncle Walt.

I remember seeing my uncle Walt sick from cancer, with his face and mouth severely distorted.

I remember finding out that my uncle Walt had died, not totally grasping what that meant.

I remember my dad telling me that fishing isn’t about “catching the fish.” I remember sitting around the campfire singing songs into the wee hours of the morning.

I remember reaching the summit of Mount Washington with five of my best friends, our weary, blistered bodies staggering to the pinnacle in triumph and awe.

I remember the fog lifting and the sun rising as I stared out over Macchu Piccu.

I remember going to the Vet with my dad for Eagles games. I remember going to his childhood church, and eating at Pat’s Steaks. I remember the grease stain that still remains on my jersey.

I remember the 2005 NFC Championship with Greg. I remember calling my dad from the stadium and telling him “this is for you, uncle Jim, and uncle Walt.”

I remember the 2008 World Seires. I remember Brad Lidge and Carlos Ruiz embracing on the pitchers mound. I remember hugging Michelle. I remember calling and texting friends and family. I remember thinking of my grandpa, the biggest Phils fan of all, up in Heaven, smiling down on us.

I remember my first headball goal, I remember scoring from midfield like Carli Lloyd did in the World Cup final, I remember the joy of playing soccer.

I remember getting made fun of: “Pollis can’t jump.” I remember getting laughed at when I tripped over the ball in a scrimmage. I remember losing self-confidence. I remember not trying out for the team.

I remember finishing my first marathon. I remember destroying my personal best in the Hands-on-House Half Marathon. I remember conquering my fears in the Savage Race.

I remember finding out Ryan’s heart rate had dropped. I remember Michelle being rushed into the Emergency room. I remember shaking, and muttering “Hail Marys,” not know if our baby would make it. I remember the joy of that first cry.

I remember first steps as he let go of my hands and staggered across the room before collapsing in the chair.

I remember thinking Lee was larger than life, towering over the other neighborhood kids with his strong, athletic build and his wide, childish grin.

I remember talking to his sister on Facebook after not having heard from the family in about 25 years.

I remember her telling me that Lee had been killed in Iraq serving our country.

I remember September 11. I remember Nicole running into my room screaming “the planes hit the building.” I remember finding out later that night about Mr. Joe missing in New York. I remember writing a poem because I didn’t know what else to do.

I remember feeling sad for Walter last night as he described his  dysfunctional living situation. I remember feeling anger at the adults in his life who had let him down.

I remember feeling bored with teaching ninth grade, the monotony of the same old routine wearing me down.

I remember feeling disillusioned by decisions made by educational “experts.” I remember the frustrations of feeling chained and tied down as a teacher.

I remember the struggle and nervousness of teaching a new course. I remember the trepidation I felt for the first time in years. I remember how this made me feel alive again as  a teacher!

I remember feeling helpless as a father. Ryan’s irrational outbursts. Andrew’s temper tantrums.

I remember feeling unparallelled joy as a father. First steps. Swim lessons.

I remember the magical smile on Ryan and Andrew’s faces as they spun on the swings at the Mountville carnival, the wind streaming through their hair as the bright full yellow moon illuminated the Friday night sky.

I remember the innocence of watching kids sleep. I remember the fatigue of Monday mornings. I remember the frustration and impatience that filled me as I tried to get the boys out the door.

I remember singing silent night, Ryan’s still body resting on my chest, lifting gently up and down with each breath.

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Paterno’s Legacy?

Admiring, respecting, and cheering for Joe Paterno became a lot more complicated in the last years of his life. For my entire life, I had looked at Joe Paterno as a symbol of all that was right with college sports: loyalty and tradition, a focus on academics and personal development, and excellence on the field. It was so easy to root for Penn State since their players did not get in trouble, they embodied selfless teamwork with their plain white uniforms and they pulverized opponents with good old-fashioned smashmouth football.

Then, suddenly, everything got crazy and the idea of rooting for Joe Paterno became a whole lot murkier. When Jerry Sandusky was accused and eventually convicted of horrendous sexual crimes against children, it became unclear how much Paterno and other Penn State administrators may have known. Our country’s media scrutinized the Penn State “football culture” and the shine of Joe Paterno as a coaching legend was now marred considerably. I remember questioning whether Paterno should have done more, but I was still a bit shocked when he was fired. I honestly was unsure whether the Penn State Board made the correct decision.

Now, after reading Joe Posnaski’s book about Paterno, I am struck by new new observations about the longtime Penn State coach. First, it is obvious that Paterno was not perfect, and that some players greatly disliked him while playing for the Nittany Lions. It is also obvious, however, that Paterno did impact the lives of his players long after their playing days were over. Secondly, I now believe that Paterno was a scapegoat. While he certainly could have done more, Paterno deserved better than a dismissal via telephone call after more than a century of leadership at Penn State.

The tragedy of the situation was highlighted by a question Paterno’s nephew asked: “Dad, does this mean we won’t be Penn State fans anymore?” The childhood innocence in this question is so striking. This young man wanted nothing more than to cheer for his favorite football team, but the horrible actions of one adult, and the questionable actions of another group of adults had now complicated this simplistic idealism of Happy Valley.

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