Category Archives: Parenting

When Everything Goes Awry

Until recently this blog was all about my life as a dad in a Catholic household with a beautiful wife and two young kids (and an ill-tempered terrier).  As the need arises, and as my life wends on the path of inexorability, I also write about other things such as politics and the current crisis in the Church as they are places intersected by the life I lead.  In these instances it seems, rather, that God has steered the life I attempt to live into the paths of several oncoming trains that either inhabit that world (to my chagrin) or that I encountered (and that I disembarked) decades ago.

Confused?  Yeah, me too.  Stick with me.

Basically, tonight I just want to write about my life tonight.  It’s not glamorous but it’s mine and I kind of like it.  And to those of you who have started following because of the other recent topics I ask that you read this too and let me know if you like it.  And I thank you for your patronage.

Many of you know that I currently work full-time as a medical courier.  It’s what I’m doing at the moment.  After leaving the seminary I had a brief career as a television producer.  Then I entered the world of teaching and thought that would be my life.  I didn’t choose teaching, rather it chose me as they say.  After fighting it for a couple of years I gave up and realized that I 1) was good at it and 2) liked it.  A lot.  It was always about the kids.  They were wonderful and I was blessed to be part of their lives.  Then I moved into school administration.  Unfortunately right out of the gate I encountered a toxic work environment and, never having quit a job in my life, resigned that position.  God, in His providence, provided a job for me where I never had even a day-long gap in my employment.

I enjoy doing this but I know it’s not long-term.  And the devil (he’s real, you know) gets to me every now and then.  He’s constantly reminding me of my insecurities.  I look around and see all my friends successful, happy, and making lots of money.  Me?  Well one out of three ain’t bad.  See, the devil knows I want success and who couldn’t be happy being able to say he earns a good salary?  I have to keep reminding myself that I chose this career path by my actions and that God will again provide a path.  Right now I can’t decide if I should return to teaching, go after administration again, or try to make a go with a job in writing or marketing.  When I think about it I have a solid skillset.  I just haven’t had to look for work outside of a classroom in so long that I don’t know quite what I’m doing.  It’s humbling to admit that but I can do it.  I’d love to know that I could find something easily and walk into a job making at least what I was making as a teaching (which, believe it or not, wasn’t that bad).  Time will tell if I end up a mental case or land that job.  Prayers are always appreciated.

But here’s what happened in my current job tonight…

I typically work on-call from 4PM until midnight.  This makes it hard to spend time with the kids but I make every sacrifice I can.  It also makes it hard to visit much with my wife but I try.  It does afford me plenty of time to pray – the rosary and/or a series of Memorare’s and litany of the saints are a common theme in my car.  Actually the past few months have been quiet in this field.  Today, however, the DFW area was slammed with torrential rains.  When your job involves tendering and recovering sensitive medical parcels from a major airport, rain can spell disaster.  Lightning threats close the “ramp” which means nothing moves and you get stuck waiting in the cargo facility for hours.  Packages get left by the airline crews in puddles requiring repackaging and more dry ice which means extra travel and time.

Around 9PM tonight I got a call that a package needed to be recovered, opened, and photographed.  There was a question about how much dry ice was on hand.  This meant waiting for a termination letter to be faxed to the cargo office.  And that took over an hour.  To give you an idea how the weather affected everyone’s day, at one point in my night at cargo one of the workers slammed down his phone and shouted “Dammit, they lost that dog we were looking for!”  They ship animals, you know, and the animals take priority over just about anything else.  Then he added “It’s a service dog!”

Think about that.

They lost a service dog.

I immediately doubled over in laughter along with the other five people in the building.  Losing a service dog means that said service dog had to have been forcibly separated from his master who, presumably, needed his assistance to board the plane.  Also, service animals are allowed by law to fly in the cabin, not the hold.  Somebody screwed up big time.  And how did the passenger deplane?  Perhaps some other passenger lent him a therapy peacock to guide the way.

The other thing that really shot my night to hell was the realization that I would not be able to work out tonight.  As mentioned, most nights have been slow lately.  I’ve taken to scheduling my time at the gym around 9PM.  I work out with a buddy of mine.  Weightlifting has really become a passion of mine and I’m making incredibly progress.  I benched 190 the other night and not just a max rep but three sets of 6-8.  I’m impressed even if no one else is.  It’s become such a thing for me that I get pissed when my gym time gets scuttled.

As I was moping to myself about not lifting I glanced down at the scale where packages get weighed and got an idea.

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That’s right, there, right on the side of the scale were two 30 lb. weights used to calibrate the scale.  Didn’t take me long before I was using them as kettlebells.  A few sets completed and I jumped in whole hog.  By the time I was on the floor doing sets of push-ups the cargo manager instructed me to stop because it was late and I was making them feel “lazy” and “gross”.  OK, so not a complete workout but anything is better than nothing.  Good thing I didn’t bust out the jumprope.  And I guess that’s something I can be thankful for during this time of uncertainty; and that is that I’ve finally gotten myself in the kind of shape I’ve always wanted to be in.  It’s taken time but I’m pleased with my results.  And I’m happy to be enjoying good health right now.  So, praised be to God, right?

As I drove home from the airport at 11:30 thinking of all these things and wondering what the next step for me will be I remembered to say a few more prayers.  Can’t hurt, right?  And I ask each of you reading this to say one or two for me as well.  In the meantime I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing – being a dad in a Catholic household with a beautiful wife, two young kids, and an ill-tempered terrier.  And I will be loving it all.

*I’ve got a few more McCarrick/seminary stories left to post.  Stay tuned and as always…

Pray for the Church.

And please continue to read and to share my blog.  I don’t get paid to write but it is gratifying to know that people think enough of my work to recommend it to a friend.

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Inspired

Tonight I feel particularly inspired for several reasons.

For the past three weeks I have been inspired to visit Our Lord in Adoration more.  This is something that should require no prompting.  As a Catholic I certainly believe Him to be present in the Eucharist.  Our parish offers daily Adoration.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  That is, unless you’re me.  Yes, I have been working like a dog the past few months, putting in long and sometimes unusual hours between two jobs.  Outside of that I like to make my priorities my family, my health (in the form of working out), and rest.  It is foolish to cut God out of that equation.  I have been using the time in the car while running jobs for an increase in my prayer life.  A five hour drive to Houston, for instance, yields many rosaries prayed.

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It’s a Catholic thing…

But a few weeks ago I headed to church on a Monday night for some quiet time before the Sacrament.  I knew that a friend of mine would be there as well and was hoping for a chance to say hi.  We hadn’t properly caught up in a while.  We did get to exchange a greeting afterward.  It was what I saw while in the chapel that inspired me.  Here was a man, about my age, with young children, in the chapel, not there to see his friends but rather to lead his family in prayer.  Discipline.  That’s what it takes to be a leader like that.  I could end this by saying “he’s got it and I don’t.”  But I know I could have it too if I just committed to do what he’s doing.  It’s doesn’t just materialize.  It has to be acquired through practice.  It’s just like building a strong body.  I may have mentioned previously that this friend has that part down like nobody’s business.  It’s easy to see how he could transfer that discipline to other areas of his life.

I’ve been going every Monday for just a half-hour, bringing my copy of Sheen’s Life of Christ with me to read.  Next step: I want to start bringing my kids along too, though I’m sure they wouldn’t be nearly as quiet and reverent as his.  In time, perhaps, they will learn.  And he probably didn’t even know he was being used by God to inspire someone else to come to Him.

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Both of my friends crossed paths.  The one friend’s puppy assaulted me while I was doing an ab routine trying to get jacked like the other friend.

I also just returned from a trip to Colorado where I was inspired by another friend.  I got the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with him (we’ve known each other since college) and his teenage son.  The interaction between the two of them was so wonderful to see.  He’s a great dad and his son’s a good kid, too.  What I saw was a man filled with patience, humor, good cheer, and love for his wife and kids.  He works harder than I do yet still found the time to 1) hang out with me, 2) cart his kids around town, 3) act like a human ATM when they came at him asking for money, 4) mow his lawn, and 5) teach his son about caring for their new puppy.  On the dog front, the “puppy” is a 15 week-old St. Berdoodle.  Yep, you read that right.  The thing was one giant fluffy ball of energy.  She was only missing the brandy keg.  I thought of my own dad while watching these two (and the pup).  I returned home inspired to be more “present” to my kids and to do it with more of a smile.  I hope his kids appreciate how awesome their dad is.  And I bet he didn’t even know he was being used by God to inspire someone else to come to Him.

Finally I was inspired late last night.  While waiting at the airport in Denver for a flight that was delayed over four hours I encountered a man wearing a tank top.  I at once determined that no matter how big or defined my arms get, men should always have sleeves on their shirt.  There’s just something dignified about it.  I was inspired to good fashion.  Now I know that man definitely had no clue he was being used by God.

Catching Up

The astute reader (and the other one too) will note that I have not posted in a long while.  So here’s an update.

When last we spoke I had taken a job through a friend of my wife delivering lab mice safely from the airport.  The job ramped up in the past week in terms of busyness despite the fact that the largest air carrier of animals (including lab mice) suspended all animal deliveries.  It seems they not only killed a few dogs but also sent one or two to the wrong locations.  When Fido lands in Tokyo instead of with his family in Rochester people tend to get upset.  In any event, I have been working from about noon until midnight and beyond the past week.

I started teaching again.  The small Montesorri school my children attend found themselves in need of a teacher.  For some reason they thought of me.  Desperation makes people do desperate things.  Every morning from 7:45-11:45 I drive my kids to school, enter the building, and then proceed to teach.  My daughter is now my student.  She rather enjoys this.  I get a kick out of it too.

I haven’t worked on my book in a while.  For some reason writing is hard for me these days.

I am four weeks from completing the Body for Life challenge.  I’ve seen some slight changes which is a good thing.  The jury is still out on whether I will achieve the chiseled look the program promises.  All in all, though, I have been fairly healthy and I can’t complain about that.

My former trainer ran into me and gave me a book.  “It reminds me of you,” he said.  The book is called Living with a Seal.  It’s about a multi-gazillionaire who wanted to get shredded as an answer to a mid-life crisis.  So far, it sounds like me except without the money.  My acquaintance assures me that the humorous way in which the author presents his training sessions reminds him of the stories I used to write about him and me.  Again, the difference is the money.  I was always positive that if I had the means to pay someone what it would take then I could reach my goals.  But cash does not replace motivation.  The funny thing is I’ve always been motivated.  I’ve just always lacked the means to figure out what needs to be done.  There’s a lot of “micro” stuff that someone in training has to pay attention to.  Eat this specific amount of this type of protein down to the gram.  Work out in this particular way (don’t deviate at all) at precisely 5AM after one cup of black coffee.  You get the picture.  The former trainer still looks great.  It was nice to see him again.

Amazon Prime has been offering some real doozies under their “classic TV” section.  On Saturday morning I watched three episodes of the 1988 incarnation of Family Feud with my kids.  I figured it was safe.  And who doesn’t like Ray Combs?  The first question he asked the contestants was “Name something people think they’re better at than they actually are.”  Like lightning one contestant hit the buzzer and yelled “sex!”  I’ve always tried to be honest with my kids.  My 8 year-old daughter turned to me and said “What’s sex?”  “I have an idea, kids…  Who wants to watch Mr. Ed!?”  “But what’s sex,” she said again?  “Sweetheart,” I replied, “Let’s watch a little more and see the other answers first.  And she never brought it up again.

So tomorrow morning, at the start of week 9 (out of 12), I will get up at 6, get my black coffee, not workout since I’ll have the best of intentions to do that in the afternoon, get back into bed, check the news, look over my checkbook, pet my sleeping Russell Terrier, get up, get dressed, get the kids to school, teach for four hours, drive medical deliveries around the metropolitan area, chat with my new friends at the airport, not pick up mice, squeeze in that workout between jobs, and get home far too late to eat dinner or kiss my wife and kids goodnight.  I didn’t want to be out of work but I wasn’t hoping to be chest-deep in it either.  It’s all good, though.  Easter is coming.

A Debt of Gratitude

Miss me? Don’t answer that. Instead, say a prayer or two for me. I could use them right now. But enough about me…

A few weeks back a friend of mine was going out of town for a week. He posed a request to me. 

“Could you pet sit for us?”

I didn’t even honestly know he had a pet.

He doesn’t.

His little girl has a bunny rabbit. My motto is, if it doesn’t jump into your lap showing the affection of a hyper caffeinated child, it ain’t a pet. Also, if the slightest noise can cause it to have a heart attack and die, you might want to consider a dog. 

But we had a bunny when I was a kid. OK, we had about ten bunnies over the years. After Mom accidentally cooked Thumper I would have thought we’d learned our lesson. More on that later. 

Lepus: Latin for messed up.

Maybe it was the way he asked. He seemed genuinely embarrassed. He’s a pretty manly guy – the kind who exudes confidence that he could take on anybody in a brawl he’s that well built. To observe  this jacked dude lower his head and almost whisper the question “Think you could, um, take care of my daughter’s rabbit while we’re gone?” was quite comical. If it were up to him and he had zero regard for his little girl’s blatant admiration of her old man I think he’d let the critter starve. 

But I have a little girl too. More to the point I have a friend and here he was asking me a favor. 

Of course I said yes. And I meant it. The fact that I’m only writing about it now indicates how it truly was nothing to me because I was just helping a friend and fellow dad. 

And Fluffy and I had some good times. For a week straight I’d drive over, let myself in, watch some Cinemax, toss some hay at the rabbit, drink their wine, and leave. After five days I realized they don’t have cable and don’t drink. Once we got that straightened out I stated going next door where I encountered an emmaciated bunny. Also Cinemax has some weird titles. Fluffy and I frolicked together in the yard. I read him a few bedtime stories. Wilt Chamberlain: My Story seems to be a favorite. Every night without fail as I was putting the book down Fluffy would roll his eyes and say “Eh, I’ve got better numbers” before crawling into my lap and saying “I love you Daddy! and drifting off to sleep in my arms. 

Tonight I stopped by my friend’s house for a few minutes. It’s nice to catch up. We live a few minutes apart but see each other very sporadically. As I was on my way out the door he handed me a paper bag. “Just a little thank you for taking care of the furry little guy.” How did my brother Paul enter into this?

It was a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, and a big one at that! It was totally unnecessary but I accepted with great delight. He then added the compliment that he could tell I’ve been working out. Before you get all “that’s weird” on me, know that this man has borne the brunt of my insane desire to get in as good shape as he is for years. That compliment was very much appreciated. 

So, children, learn this lesson. When a friend asks a favor always say yes. Who knows? There might just be gin in it. And if you’re lucky you might just have a good friend who knows you like gin (and who understands how insecure you are about your body compared to his). 

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Dental Sprite Skeptic

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This girl’s going to be the death of me.  I haven’t pondered what “drastic measures” means but I’ll get there.

Rebuilding America

My son made this.

It’s a 3D puzzle of the US Capitol that my wife brought him when she came home from the DC area after a trip last weekend.  He worked on it every day after school.

Considering he’s only 7 it’s pretty impressive.  Yes, she and I helped him with some of the really intricate, tiny parts.  Still, he did most of the work.

I’m quite impressed.

Now I’m just waiting for him to run for president.  If he can build all this by himself, imagine how well he could deal with the real Congress.

Keeping Score

My daughter…  Gotta’ love her.  Well, I gotta’ love her anyway.  But if you knew her, you’d adore her almost as much as me.  Let me explain.

Let me first explain the special bond we share.

I was at a friend’s house for dinner earlier.  He has two little boys but no girls.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love having a son.  If I didn’t have my boy, who else would get my craziness?  Who else would I have as an ally when the women of the house align against us.  No, it’s awesome being a dad to a son.  Even though I know I have a heavy responsibility in just teaching him how to be a man when I’m not sure I’ve got that down myself; I love bonding with him.  We understand each other in a way that no other two people can.  And yeah, there’s something awesome knowing that I had a part in creating this little person who will perhaps one day pass on my genes, who will carry forth a strength I didn’t know I had, who will be for another a physical sign of God’s paternity.  Wow.

But my daughter is something else.  She and I were destined to be bonded from the day she was born on my birthday…  at the same exact time of day as me.  That’s spooky.  But true.  There’s something tender and beautiful about having a daughter when you’re a guy.  They soften you.  They make you realize how powerful you are by their daintiness.  They force you to realize that what brute force you have was put into you by God for the express purpose of taking care of them.  You get to be for them the perfect man, the image of the man they want to marry.  And more than that, you get to be superman for them.  You don’t even have to do anything special.  You’re automatically their hero.  I’ve never been anyone’s hero so it’s kind of awesome.

I love noticing all the quirks my kids have.  While I am extraordinarily proud of my son for going out for the local basketball league and sticking with it despite lack of decent coaching and an uncertainty of how to play the game I have to mention something about his sister and her cheering him on.

Yesterday was his last game, or so we thought.  It was a playoff game in the morning.  He’s 7.  What kind of playoffs do you have exactly.  We went to the game assuming something.  Since they had only one two games in the regular season they couldn’t possibly do that well in the playoffs.  Don’t misunderstand me.  Of course I want my son to win.  It’s just that winning that game would mean we’d all have to be back at 5PM for the second round.  And really, 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon kind of breaks up the day now doesn’t it?  To our great surprise they won.  Rats.

So we all returned to the YMCA at 5.  “Honey,” I asked my wife, “isn’t that other team the kids who beat them last time 44-4?”  “Sure is,” she replied.  OK.  A quick four quarters and we’re done for the season.

What was funny though was how my daughter and I got into supporting the little guy.  “Daddy,” she asked, “are they going to win?”  I knew they likely would not but didn’t want to dampen her sense of hope.  “Probably not sweetheart,” I said.  Oh, I guess I did just that.  “Seriously, little lady,” I said, “your brother is having fun right now.  That’s what matters.  Maybe we should have some fun too!”  And that’s when I taught her the wave.

OK, so we were the only two people in the stands doing the wave but it was so funny.  She laughed every time I jumped up with my arms in the air and then she’d do the same thing.  We also got on the floor and did a dance for her brother.  I’m sure he was mortified.

In the end, I think she learned more from me about basketball than he did.  Except about the score.  There are some things even a dad can’t help with…

“The other team,” she said, “has either 22 or 55 points.”

That’s right little girl.  Sometimes digital numbers confuse Daddy too.