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Month: March 2017

Raising Tough Girls

Raising Tough Girls

I worry about this, a lot. Kids these days can be mean, cold, and petty. One might point to diminishing church attendance or to the advent of the disengaged parent as possible causes. Whatever the reason, it is a reality. Mean girls. Bullying. Harassment. All of these things are problems in our society. As a single dad to one kind and wholesome 6 year old, the why is less important than the how she learns to deal with it.

One of the ways I am working on that is by building up her confidence in herself. She has always played soccer (she suffers through her dad being the coach as well). I want her exposed to team sports so she understands the dynamics of working with other kids. It is also an activity that helps her build athleticism, fitness, and coordination. My personal feeling is that team sports are a great asset in helping build well-rounded kids.

Another activity she loves is rock climbing. And by rock climbing I mean the rock gym with rope, harness, and belay. It is a great individual activity for kids to build self reliance and self-confidence. It requires patience and thought and purposeful movement. All characteristics that any kid would benefit from. Not to mention being a great tool for learning to deal with and overcome fear. There is also a huge upper-body strength builder which most young girls don’t get outside of gymnastics. If you have a kid I cannot recommend rock climbing enough as a way to build them up.

Something else we do is create ‘Challenge Events’ to complete. Our last event was a couple of weekends ago. In our town we have something called the Incline. It is an amazingly steep mile long trail up the side of a mountain. Grown adults who are in shape struggle with it. Fifi and I set a challenge to go hike it. The normal hike is a little under four miles (all of the elevation gain is in the first mile). When we arrived we were two cars too late to get a parking spot. It meant driving back down to the main town area and hiking up from there. Not a big deal aside from adding an extra MILE each direction.

I struggled mightily on the way up. My energizer bunny daughter had to keep waiting for me to catch her. She was feeding on the fact that she was blowing past adults. “I am doing so much better than my dad!” was something I heard her tell others repeatedly. We eventually cleared the summit holding hands. I took the photo below at the top. In her face I see all of the things I want her to have in life. I see pure joy, wonder, and happiness. I also see pride in accomplishment. I see confidence. I see a young girl who is up for the challenge of life. And that means a great deal to me. Pax vobiscom.

Happy kid.




100 Days of School Fail

100 Days of School Fail

Today is the 100th day of the school year for my daughter. As such, a litany of events popped up on my calendar for the week. Normally I am pretty on the ball with these things but the 100 days tasks snuck up on me. First, she needed to bring in a ziploc bag that had 100 “things” in it. They were going to count, measure, and weigh their “things” as part of a lesson. Monday morning, in a panic, I ran around the house and was able to scrounge up 100 dimes. Bam.

Today was 100 things on a t-shirt day. I planned for this last week. I ordered a new (and cute) pink t-shirt and a bag full of large googly eyes from Amazon. The plan was to glue to eyes on the shirt and she would be good to go. Last night I borrowed a hot glue gun from a friend and sat down to glue all 100 googly eyes on to the shirt. It took about an hour to complete but I thought it looked pretty good. I laid it down to dry overnight and went to bed.

Cut to this morning.

After dressing the rest of my child I went to put her 100 days shirt on (carefully I might add). Pop. Pop. PopPopPop. Almost ALL of the googly eyes popped right off. I won’t repeat the word that I was saying in my mind (being Lent and all) but I can tell you it was not a kind or gracious word. My daughter was holding up pretty well. She is a trooper in ways I did not know were possible for a 6 year old. I could tell she was sad but her face was stoic. I did the only thing I could do at this point. I threw all of our stuff in the car and headed to the store.

Our first stop was 7-Eleven. I ran in and fortunately they had 2 tubes of Krazy Glue. We went back to the car and I began super gluing the eyes to the shirt. I made it through about 10 of them before I noticed something… they were not sticking to the t-shirt!!! How is that possible? Super glue? Everything sticks to super glue. In a panic we jumped back in the car and tore off in the direction of Wal-Mart.

I knew just what I needed. Gorilla Glue. I have never met an object that I could not fix, patch, or put back together with Gorilla Glue. I started gluing googly eyes to the shirt like a mad-man. I probably did look crazy standing in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart at 7am gluing fake eyes on a pink shirt. Whatever. The eyes seemed to be sticking. I finished the shirt then set a box on top of it to apply pressure for the 20 minute drive to school. I was feeling better but still apprehensive that it would work.

When we arrived at school I hopped out and started getting everything ready. Fifi was late so I was going to have to walk her in anyway. I pulled back the box from atop the t-shirt and my heart just sank. Googly eyes had slipped out of place. They were loose. Worst of all the glue was still wet and saturated through the shirt. There was no way I could put it on my daughter. I broke the bad news to her and she just lost it. I felt like the worst dad in the world. I did my best to talk her through it and we glued the loose eyes back on and carried the shirt into school so she could at least show her classmates and teacher.

I gave her a kiss at the classroom door and headed back to the parking lot. As I was driving away I was overcome with sorrow. I broke down crying. I never asked to be a single dad. I didn’t want to lose my wife of 6 years. My daughter certainly didn’t deserve to become motherless at age 4.  We still need her. She would have had this whole thing done weeks ago. It would have been perfect. I, on the other-hand, completely screwed it up and broke my daughters heart. Dad fail.

Truth be told I was angry at God this morning. Angry that He allows young mothers and wives and children to die before their time. Angry that my daughter doesn’t have a mother who would not have failed her this morning. I know God has a plan. I know I am not always capable of seeing it. I know that in my heart. Today, though, I had a hard time seeing that with any clarity. The only thing I could see was my daughter hurting and that is the worst feeling in the world for me. Pax vobiscum.

I Went For a Run

I Went For a Run

I went for a run yesterday and it hurt. I actually used to marathon. What I really mean is that I have run 3 marathons. Recently however, I have done zero running. As part of my effort to get healthy this year I decided to pick it back up again. I dislike the elliptical. Can’t stand the bike. That means that for cardio I am pretty much stuck with running so running it is.

Yesterday was a busy day for me. I had a ton of stuff to do around the house. Mostly stuff I had been neglecting all week like laundry, dishes, and picking up bedrooms. I powered through all of my chores and even got the garage picked up. I had dinner plans but had enough time beforehand to squeeze a short workout so I hopped in my car and headed down to the gym.

The gym was pretty empty as it normally is on a Saturday afternoon. After getting some music queued up I hopped on the nearest treadmill and went for broke. I ran a little more than 2 miles at a shockingly slow pace. You have to start somewhere though and start I did. I am quite sure that I probably sounded like a wounded buffalo while I was running. We live a bit over 7000 feet in elevation so oxygen can be a legit problem when you are not in shape (which I am not). It was tough.

I probably prayed more in that 30 minutes than I did all week. Unfortunately God does not provide super human endurance on a whim. I was stuck toughing it out. The important thing was that I did get a run in and plan to follow it up tomorrow with another. Between not drinking any alcohol during Lent and doing cardio a few times a a week I hope to get my weight down to about 185. Pretty reasonable I think. Pax vobiscum.

A Story of Being Blessed

A Story of Being Blessed

I lost my wife in May 2015. She was born with a congenital brain defect known as an AVM. Over the course of about 9 years she had 7 procedures in an attempt to stabilize the problem. Ultimately it was not to be and she left this world almost 2 years ago. It is a pain unlike any I have ever known and will probably never know again. It was devastating. The hardest part, and most difficult thing I will ever do in my life, was sitting my then 4 year old daughter down and trying to explain to her that her mother would never be coming home. It still hurts my heart just typing the words.

While the whole story is something I will save for another day, there is part of it I wanted to share tonight. H- passed away two days before Mother’s Day. At the time Fifi had been waitlisted at what I would consider to be the best charter school in our metro area. That particular school has a June 1st birthday requirement for each school year. My daughter’s is in July. A different charter school had openings (actually it didn’t but I had friends who were able to do amazing things to help me) for kindergarten that required an August birthday. I got Fifi enrolled and she began kindergarten.

I was concerned for a lot of reasons when she started school. She had lost her mother only a few months before. She was very young for her class. We both had a lot of emotional pain we were dealing with and it showed by her attendance record the first half of the year. I think she had 14 absences before Christmas Break (not winter break mind you). Ultimately, we mostly righted the ship and she finished out the school year and had her kindergarten graduation. She is very bright and academically school was never an issue. It was the emotional baggage she struggled with.

Fast-forward to August of 2016. Fifi started 1st grade at her same school. I had bought all of her uniforms (embroidered and non-returnable) and class was under way. She was about to start her third week when I got an email from the school she was wait-listed on from the previous year. They had an opening for her but it required an answer within an hour. It was for a seat in their kindergarten class starting in 3 days. At the time I truly didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what the best decision was. Should I make her redo kindergarten with the long term benefit being a spot in the best charter school in our area? Not to mention it is a K-12 program, not just elementary. Once she got in she would be in through high school.

I didn’t have time to think it through. I prayed on it. I asked for guidance. That was really all I could do. I know a lot of people say they pray on things as a cliche. I actually did. I closed the door to my office and I laid my head on the desk and asked God to show me the way. Eventually I picked up the phone and called the admissions officer and told her we would take the seat.

I pulled Fifi out of school about an hour later so we could go home and pick up all of the documents needed to enroll her at the new school in the new district. It was Monday. Her new school started class on Wednesday. After buying a second set of uniforms and a second set of school supplies we were ready to go Wednesday morning. Normally, I would have had a meeting with her teacher beforehand to let her know the situation with Fifi’s mom. I just didn’t have time and had to wait until the following week to meet with her. At this point I was riddled with doubt and second guessing myself. Did I make the right situation? Was this what was best for my daughter? I truthfully wasn’t sure.

The following week came and I met with her teacher. It is still hard for me to talk about H-. Particularly when it is in reference to Fifi. As I was telling her teacher our situation she began to get teary and choked up. It is hard enough for me to tell people what happened and even more so when they get emotional about it. I was sort of at the end of my story and fumbling for the words to wrap it up. Her new teacher sort of took a deep breath and began to share her story with me. Her mother passed away when she was 4. She went on to tell me that the class assistant teacher had also lost her mom when she was 4 or 5. She looked me in the eye and told me, “We’ve got this.” If I wasn’t crying before I surely was then. Every bit of apprehension and doubt was immediately erased. My daughter was exactly where she was suppose to be.

To me, there is no other explanation than it was the work of God. What is the likelihood that I pull my daughter out of one school to enroll her at another only to find out that BOTH of her teachers lost their mothers at the same age that Sophie did? That isn’t luck and if you think it is you are a fool. God blessed us with a situation that was perfect and ideal for my daughter in a way that only He can.

Fifi is now half-way through her second year of kindergarten. She is happy and thriving and loves her teachers. She is in the school that I had hoped for and being a year older is probably the best thing in the world for her given what she has been through. While we have been through and continue to deal with hard things, we are so very blessed. God does amazing things. Pax vobiscum.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

A couple of nights ago I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix. If you have not seen it, the premise they present is that it is possible (and even preferable) to live a life with less. I whole heartedly agree that living with fewer materialistic goods is a good thing. I know I am extremely guilty of living with more than I should. It is something I am working on in fact. With that in mind I had a sincere interest in hearing their story and hopefully learning something. I didn’t.

At first, they present a case that is fairly compelling in many ways. They are both charismatic in their own ways and their philosophy certainly makes sense on the surface. As I got deeper into the documentary a problem presented itself. None of the people they were highlighting had children. Toward the end of the show a family of four is introduced. Aside from discussing a few aspects of their lives, not a lot of the information that was provided that was practical. Clearly Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus weren’t pitching their film to parents. One of the main aspects of being a parent is making sure you have enough stuff to survive life with your children.

I admire the idea of trying to minimize our human footprint on the earth. Doing more with less is a worthy goal. I myself have been in the process of a long-term purge of things that began about a year ago. I am teaching Sophie to hold on to things that matter and that she uses and to donate the things she doesn’t. I am working on downsizing my things. If I can’t look at something and find joy or practical use, I try my best to donate it. Holding on to things is still something I  struggle with. Hopefully I am getting better as I get older.

Any parent knows that it is important to have enough stuff to survive life with their kids. We have toys, games, books, puzzles, sporting gear… we have stuff. I know for a fact that if I were to divest myself of almost everything I own that my daughter would not have as enjoyable of life as she has now. As a parent why would I want to make that decision? I wouldn’t. I have one child at home. I can only imagine how much stuff the parents of a large Catholic family must acquire to keep heads above water.

I think the show has merit if you are young or single and don’t have kids. Aside from that, there are some good reflections on downsizing in general but not in a way that makes sense in my world. I can get by with less stuff but I certainly do need some stuff.

Do Three Masses in One Day Make Me a Masshole?

Do Three Masses in One Day Make Me a Masshole?

It is sort of a long story but I attended Mass three different times at three different churches yesterday. Technically, it was two normal Masses and one Liturgy of the Word. It did get me thinking about perception and how different people view can things so… differently. One of the things I hear from many non-Catholics is that the Catholic Church is “boring”. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. I heard the same readings at all three churches yesterday. I can see how some might find that to be a bit boring. I, however, find great beauty and peace in knowing that Catholics everywhere are hearing the same things, participating in the same liturgy, and hearing the same unifying message. What could be cooler than that?

While the readings and the liturgy were all the same, the environmental experience of the churches were completely different. The first Mass I attended was in the gymnasium of a local semi-rural school. It is a small parish that is getting close to breaking ground on their new building. It has been over a decade in the making and really is something special. It is the closest church to my home and one I have been trying to attend more frequently. As one might imagine it is a fairly casual environment. The choir is accompanied by flute and guitar and everyone sits on folding chairs. Before the dismissal one of the deacons goes around the room calling out birthdays and anniversaries. I find it to be a very welcoming experience.

My second Mass of the day was held at my local diocesan Cathedral. It is always a very solemn experience. There are signs posted admonishing parishioners to be quiet. If children are being too loud during the service an usher or representative will actually come to you and ask you to leave. Well, that is not entirely true. They will come to you and politely ask, “Do you know that you can hear the service via speakers in the narthex?” I am not talking wailing children mind you. It is often what I would consider as pretty low-level fussy kid-in-church noise. I get it. It is the Cathedral and not a local family parish. Fine. The problem I have with it is the fact that as a whole the parishioners are quite old. In my opinion, the religious education classes are sparsely attended for it being the Cathedral. How do they expect younger people to want to attend Mass when they have such a distinctly non-family friendly vibe? They do not have a nursery or cry room either. Did I mention this is where I have my parish registration? At least for the time being it is.

My third Mass (technically Liturgy of the Word) for the Rite of Election was at one of the larger Catholic churches in town. For whatever reason it feels very protestant there. It is a church that does chairs rather than pews. As a rule, I have a weird discomfort when a church lacks pews. The building itself is large and very open. If you were to remove the large crucifix and replace it with a normal cross it would look and feel almost exactly like a large Baptist congregation (truth be told, I don’t think I have ever been to a Baptist church. If I had, I am quite sure it would look exactly like this.) There were children wailing there. Overall it was a fine experience. It is not where I would choose my home parish to be but that is probably more a function of my weirdness than a statement about the church.

Three Masses. Three different churches. Three completely different experiences. Yet, all three recited the same readings and experienced the same liturgy. There is great beauty in that.

How to Screw Up Lent Sacrifices on Day 1

How to Screw Up Lent Sacrifices on Day 1

It all started innocently enough. My company (which is great by the way) held a fly tying workshop at the office Thursday evening. While I do fly fish, I have never taken up fly tying. The company brought in food and drinks and snacks for the 10 or so of us who were there. I had a sandwich and Izzy soda. No problem there. As the class was about to start a beer was offered to everyone. I accepted of course! I love beer. Who wouldn’t accept? Halfway through the beer I had an oh sh*t moment. I don’t drink during Lent. It is one of my things. Crap. I screwed up Lent on day 1.

I poured the remaining beer down the sink and went back to fly tying. In my defense, it caught me off-guard. I wasn’t at home where there is no beer. I wasn’t at a restaurant where I could expect to have a beer and choose not to. It was in my office. It was almost as if the beer was part of a sneak attack catching me off-guard when I least expected it. Excuses, excuses. I was back on track yesterday. Filet-O-Fish and water for my meal.

Moral of the story… don’t let a beer sneak attack you during Lent. You can clearly see the offending can in the photo above taken before my self-realized error. Pax vobiscum.

Lent 2017

Lent 2017

With no better place to start, the blog officially begins with Lent. I am not a cradle Catholic. In fact, a recent convert from Episcopalianism. I went through the Rite of Welcoming rather than the full RCIA process. I am not sure it is practically any different aside from the final liturgical form. Regardless, Catholic moving forward.

This is my first Lent as a Catholic. Coming from the Anglican communion it isn’t really a huge departure from what I have known. However, it does feel like it has more… gravity. It was important to me to get my ashes this year. It meant something to me. I picked my daughter up from school during lunch and we attended mass together. It wasn’t our normal parish church but rather one super close to my office. There were moments throughout the service where I was almost moved to tears.

At the conclusion of mass there was a lovely little old lady handing out free daily prayer guides for Lent. I took one. When we got back to the car I read day 1 then placed the booklet in my console. Yesterday, day 2, I read the second chapter:

Lord, help me pay less attention to the narrow walls around me, and more attention to how you will enlarge the hall of my life and fill it with blessing!

Those words really slapped me in the face. I know I spend far too much time worrying about… stuff. I spend too much money on stuff. My brain is too full of stuff. I needed that reminder to take a step back and evaluate the reality of my life. I thought and prayed on it last night. It was on my mind first thing this morning. I began to chart out some real changes I need to make in my life. Meaningful changes. Lent is a time of self sacrifice, reflection, and giving back. In no particular order, these are my action items for Lent 2017:

  • No alcohol
  • No brain-dead television
  • No spending money on myself aside from life sustenance expenses
  • Cut monthly household overhead by reducing frivilous expenditures
  • Read the Bible every day
  • Find a way to give back to the Church through volunteer work

That’s it. Those are my Lenten goals for 2017. I have already (quite accidentally) violated one sacrifice but that will be a story for tomorrow. Pax vobiscum.