Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bliss My Soul. . . Again. . .

Just a quick note today to mark the arrival of Jenn's-and-my 34th wedding anniversary (or, put another way, the successful completion of 34 years of wedded bliss) (Well, Jenn might not agree that all 34 of them have been exactly blissful, but why quibble?  It's been good.  Mostly.  ;)  )

Thank you, My Beloved, for throwing your life in with mine, and for loving me so very well for lo, these 34 years.  I'm well aware that you didn't have to do that, and blessed am I that you did, and that you stayed with me even when I made it hard for you.  You have made my life both richer and happier, and I'm grateful for every minute we've spent together.

Happy Anniversary, My Love.  I owe you, big-time. . .


You may have noticed that I've spelled my wife's name with two 'n's above.  This is a change of somewhat recent vintage, so as to distinguish her from our neighbor Jen, who lives across the street, and is in a women's group with her, in our Christian community (and who, coincidentally, also writes a blog of her own; hopefully, it wasn't too confusing to see the occasional comment from 'Jen' who seemed to know things about our family that I'd never blogged about. . .)  Besides, her mother, for whatever reasons of her own, has always written her nickname as 'Jenn'.  So now, you can, too. . .

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Am a Nazarene

The mark shown above is a 'Nun', the Arabic letter 'N'.  In northern Iraq and Syria these days, it is being spray-painted on the houses of Christians ('Nazarenes' as they are known among Muslims) by radical Islamist thugs, to mark the house as a 'Nazarene' house.  When the spray-painted 'Nun' appears, it announces to the occupants of the house a four-fold decision, effective immediately:

1) Convert to Islam, or
2) Pay the dhimma*, and submit to dhimmi-tude, or
3) Leave, without your possessions (which now belong to Islam), or
4) Die

Nice, huh?

*The dhimma is essentially an 'infidel tax', designed to maintain the infidels in economic subjugation.  Dhimmis (those who pay the tax) essentially accept second-class citizenship.  They may not offend the eyes of pious Muslims by displaying any infidel religious symbols (eg, wearing a cross, or a nun's habit, or priestly vestments, or displaying a cross on a church building); neither may they build new churches, or repair old ones.

The very ancient Christian population of Iraq and Syria, which dates back to the early beginnings of Christianity (and pre-dates Islam by several centuries), is essentially being eradicated, as you read this.

The response of the rest of the world has barely been more than chirping crickets, and I can't begin to fathom why.

Is it because the 'victims' are Christian, and in the secular West, we think of Christians as the killjoys of the Sexual Revolution?  Or because, when we hear 'Christian', we think of obnoxious southern-accented TV evangelists, or the weird family with 20 kids?

Or is it because the thugs in question are Muslim, and we fear their irrational wrath?  Or because, somehow or other, we're stuck in a stereotype of Christians as 'oppressors' and Muslims as 'oppressed', and so, finally, the Christians are getting a little come-uppance (and about damn time)?

Or, do we tell ourselves that this is a 'religious problem', and therefore out-of-bounds for a secular state?

I really, really don't understand that Western governments (our own included) won't even issue impotent 'statements of condemnation', much less initiate any humanitarian measures on behalf of the Nazarene refugees.  And Western media will discuss the political and 'warfare' aspects of the dispute, but not the 'religious cleansing' aspects.

What in the world is going on?

By myself, I'm at a loss as to what I, as an individual, can do, concretely, to help my brothers and sisters in Christ across the world.  Anything I can do, like displaying the 'Nun' at the top of my blog as a sign of my solidarity with them, seems utterly 'token' and impotent.

But I do stand with them.  And, if I can do nothing else, I want them to know that.  I, too, am a Nazarene.

And, I will pray.  Partly because, even if I figure out how to do all manner of humanitarian good, but don't pray, I'm kind-of missing the point.  I will pray that God (Allah, as even Arabic Christians call Him), who sees every sparrow that falls from its nest, will watch over them and protect them, and deliver them from evil, and stay the hand of the evil-doer, and grant them His peace.

Oh, Lord, have mercy. . .


(edit, 13 Aug)

Here is an essay posted yesterday, making a similar point to the one I'm making, but providing more supportive documentation. . .


(edit, 21 Aug)

And here is another one. . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

And Here They Are. . .

(left to right: 6F's boy, 3M's girl, 2F's boy)

Not that I'm a proud grandpa, or anything. . .

Sunday, July 13, 2014

All Present and Accounted For

Late this Friday evening just past, 2F gave birth to her little guy, so now all of the grandchildren are present and accounted for in extra-uterine space.  Another cute one (seems to be the only kind we make, in our family); 6lb-8oz, and most of it hair, to look at him.  And even though he was born on 7-11, she resisted the urge to name him Slurpee ( I mean, just think of all the great 'baby' puns you could make off a name like that; but, I digress) (I suppose there's also a set of puns to be made around a theme of 'craps', which would also have some hilarity relative to babies, but one should be careful not to push things too far. . .)

And suddenly, 6F's little guy, 6 months on the outside, looks positively huge. . .


And I hope it's not too terribly churlish of me to hope for a wedding or two before the next round of grandkids commences. . .

Sunday, June 15, 2014

2-1/2 Weeks

Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Jen and I have one of our marriage-prep sessions (#4 of a series of 7) with an engaged couple from our church.

Friday, May 30 - Graduation open house for the son of a dear friend, whose husband died a year-and-a-half ago.  Happy, for sure, but sad that Dad wasn't there to share it with him. . .

Saturday, May 31 - Wedding of a young man, classmate of 3M, who was one of my Little League players, back in the day. . .

Sunday, June 1 - Baptism of 3M's baby girl

Monday, June 2 - 1F's birthday, celebrated quietly at home with wine and gin-and-tonics.

Wednesday, June 4 - 7M's confirmation Mass.  4M was his sponsor, and St. Sebastian his patron saint (something about the images of ol' St. Seb stuck full of arrows caught his imagination, somehow. . .)

Saturday, June 7 - Another marriage-prep session (a double, #4-5) with another engaged couple.  Also 2F's baby shower, and another graduation open house (which, you know, means that at least we don't have to cook).

Sunday, June 8 thru Tuesday, June 10 - Craig & 4M are in Seattle, finding an apartment for 4M (recent college grad that he is) to live in when he goes back in July to begin his job with a large, well-known purveyor of fine coffee.  Cheesy tourist photos to follow:

Saturday, June 14 - Ordination to the Catholic priesthood of our next-door neighbors' son, another former Little Leaguer, and former classmate of 3M.  Also 2F's birthday (her 29th) (no, really!).

Sunday, June 15 - First Mass for the newly-ordained young priest.  Which puts an entirely different twist on Father's Day (to say nothing of how his Dad is busting his buttons). . .


For those of you keeping track at home, that's officially a crazy-busy 2-1/2 week stretch.  Looking ahead, it calms down, but only a little.  We've still got more marriage-prep sessions, and 4M's going-away party on the 28th (I didn't anticipate that his moving away across the country would have quite the emotional impact on me that it's had).  So, this June is pretty much a target-rich environment. . .

And, for the Catholics among my readers keeping score, you may have noted that five of the Seven Sacraments are accounted for in the above calendar entries (actually, to be perfectly candid, I'm pretty sure that, somewhere in the past 2.5 weeks, I've gone to confession, although I'll decline to go into detail on that one).  So if anyone is feeling sick, come on over, and we can get you anointed, and fill out a Sacramental Bingo card (kidding! . . . I'm kidding!)


And, it being Father's Day, and me being a father and all, I am grateful for my kids, each and every one of them (joy, grief, heartbreak and all) (did I mention the joy?), and to Jen, for making a father of me in the first place. . .

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seeing Red

We live near a large state university, the same one that Jen and I both graduated from, back in the day, and 4M just recently (and my dad, a few days before that).  Large enough to have its own on-campus police force (colloquially known to the locals as the Kampus Kops), comprised to a fairly large extent of Criminal Justice majors who aspire to be real police officers someday.  And therein hangs a tale or two. . .

The MSU campus is, not to put too fine a point on it, huge.  A couple square miles, at least.  Which works out to well over 1000 acres, and that doesn't even count the farms to the south of the 'built-up' campus.  So, depending on where one is going, there are certain corners of our metro area that almost inevitably entail driving across campus, in one direction or another.  Which, because of the Kampus Kops, can sometimes (even often?) be waaaayyyy more painful than it needs to be.  Nineteen-year-olds with badges.  How could this possibly go wrong?

It has become apparent, through long experience, that the young Kampus Kops have been taught that people who are careless and unconcerned about things like obeying the law, are often careless and unconcerned about other, smaller things, and that the aspiring young officer of the law, by taking watchful note of these small markers of lawlessness, will often bag bigger Bad Guys than would seem to first meet the eye, because the petty scofflaw is the outward presentation of the Major Criminal.  Dontchaknow.

And so it came to pass, one fine Sunday evening, as Jen and I returned home from a prayer meeting (the geography of which made for a significant advantage if one chose a cross-campus route on the way home), that, about halfway across the two-mile expanse of the campus (and a lovely campus it is, if I may say so myself), I was summoned by flashing red-and-blue lights atop the vehicle behind me.

ME (thinking): What the heck?  I'm watching my speed (just for the sake of saying so, several members of our family had recently been ticketed on campus for 3-over-the-limit, and similar severe crimes).  What is this all about?

A couple minutes pass while the officer runs the standard check on my plate number.  Then the officer gets out of his squad car and proceeds to my window.  Knowing the drill, I hand him my driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.  Looking up, I see a pimply-faced young man trying to look as stern as he possibly can.  He seems momentarily taken aback to find himself face-to-face with a gray-haired gentleman.

KAMPUS KOP:  Do you know why I pulled you over, sir?

The classic cop-question to put the driver-miscreant on the defensive.  I searched my brain cells for anything I might have done to attract the attention of this erstwhile specimen of MSU's Finest.  I knew I wasn't speeding, and I was taking a route across campus that didn't entail any turns, so I hadn't failed to signal a turn.  Finally, after a minute or so, I admitted defeat.

ME:  I'm sorry, officer, I have no idea.

Actually, I'm kinda curious to find out.

KK (with a triumphal, even smug air): You have a broken tail-light.

So that's it!  Of course!  I don't even remember how the tail-light lens came to be broken, but in researching the replacement cost of the tail-light, I got a number distressingly close to $200, so I decided that I wasn't going to pay that kind of money to replace a tail-light that was still entirely functional.  I made my way to the auto parts store and purchased a roll of red tail-light tape, with which to cover the hole, and restore the red parts of the tail-light to their original redness.

ME (a little confused):  But I taped it over with the red tail-light tape. . .

KK:  Well. . . it's the wrong shade of red.

He looked me right in the eye with a straight face as he said this.  I looked him straight in the eye right back, not saying a word for a minute or more.

ME (thinking):  Did you just say 'WRONG SHADE OF RED'???  ARE YOU F***ING SH***ING ME???  'WRONG F***ING SHADE OF RED'???  Does it even occur to you how f***ing brain-dead STUPID that sounds?  You pimple-pocked puke!  I wanna talk to the genius that gave you a badge!

ME (out loud, very respectfully):  Uhhhh, I'm sorry officer, but I specifically bought 'Tail-Light Tape'.  (I fished around in the glove-box for the remnant of the roll, still in its package, which proclaimed in large, bold letters that it was, indeed, no-fooling, 'TAIL-LIGHT TAPE').  Is there a different brand I should have bought?

At this point, the young officer-wannabe had a look on his face like he had a stomach-ache, and wished he could be anywhere else.  That damn cracked tail-light was supposed to belong to the biggest drug-dealer on campus, not some gray-haired decent-citizen type who was probably older than his dad.  And the old guy saw right through his BS about 'the wrong shade of red'.  The search was now on for a not-too-badly-failed graceful exit, although, to be brutally candid, it was already too late for that.

KK:  Well, uh, try to be more careful about how you repair your broken tail-lights, OK, sir?  I'll let you off with a warning this time.

ME (thinking):  'LET ME OFF WITH A WARNING'???  You BETTER freakin' let me off with a f***ing WARNING.  'Cuz if you ticket me, I am DEFINITELY contesting it, just to hear you say 'Wrong Shade of Red' to the judge, Idiot-Boy.

I'm thinking that it's not getting any better for the kid as words continue to come out of his mouth, so I just try to bring things to a merciful close, so I can be on my way.

ME:  OK, officer, I'll try to do that.

KK:  Thanks.  Have a good evening, sir.

ME:  I'll try.

ME (thinking):  Dumbass; there's 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. . .

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Musings on Maternity. . .

Mother's Day, and I have an unruly tangle of thoughts running around in my mind.  They don't quite coalesce into a tight little package, but they do more-or-less swirl around a central theme.  Sort of.  See what you think. . .


As I have contemplated the significance of three grandchildren arriving in our lives this year, none of whose parents are married, it has struck me with wry irony that this is the continuation of a grand family tradition.  I myself, having been adopted as a small child, was conceived and born out-of-wedlock no less than my newly-arrived (and yet-to-arrive) grandbabies.  And you know, it hasn't done so badly by me, after all.

I have always had, I think, an, um, earthier-than-normal appreciation of motherhood and childbirth.  When I met my birth-mother, 25 years ago, I was already a father of three children; three times, I had been with Jen in the delivery room to witness the birth of our children, and the awe of it has never left me.  So one of the first things rolling around in my brain when I met my birth-mother was that here, at last, was the woman in whose body I spent the first nine months of my existence, and between whose legs I came into the world.  Um, earthy, no?

When 1F was born, she was the first person I had ever known who was genetically related to me, and it was endlessly fascinating to look at her and see little odd traits that I knew had come from me - a cowlick at the same place on her hairline as the one I had, the contour of a nose, or an oddly-shaped toe.  Jen and I have never lost our sense of awe that our children are, quite literally, MADE of the two of us.

In time, I wondered how those things had come to me in the first place - whose eyes, whose toes, whose cowlick did I have?  And so, when my birth-mother and I were reunited, there was a lot of staring at each other going on, trying to sort out the genetic connections we shared with each other.

Along with that sense of connection, though, I have always carried a deep sense of gratitude to her.  For carrying me in her womb, certainly (I was sorely disappointed, even if I understood why, to find that there were no photos of my pregnant, 19-year-old birth-mother; I can't explain it, but it would have given me a kind of comfort to see her swollen belly, knowing that 'that was me'), but maybe as much just for giving me birth.  I was in college, a couple years after Roe v. Wade, when it first dawned on me that I had been somebody's unwanted pregnancy once-upon-a-time.  And then finally, and most significantly, I am grateful to her for giving me to my family, which, for better or worse, formed me into who I am today.

And then, even once I was safely adopted into a family, my adoptive mother left my dad (abandoning me in the process) when I was nine.  Dad remarried, and his second wife raised me from age 10 until I left home to go to college (and, who am I kidding, the 'raising' didn't exactly come to a screeching halt in my college years).


So, for me, Motherhood is a bit like a relationship status on Facebook - 'It's Complicated'.  But then, not really.  Even just watching Jen's relationships with our children (or our daughters with theirs), I see something wonderful, something intrinsic, something splendid and awesome, in the connection between mothers and their children.  It's roots are biological, for sure, but it swells to engulf their hearts in ways that simply aren't the same for fathers.

So Thank You - Happy Mother's Day.  To my own mothers, each of you in your unique way; to my wife, the mother of my children; to my mother-in-law, who gave life, and even more, trained up the finest woman I've been privileged to know; to my daughters (and my son's baby-mama), mothers of my grandchildren. And I bow in honor to all the mothers I have known - blessings on you all, for your sacrifices on behalf of your children; and maybe all the moreso for making fathers (which, at least in my case, was pretty much the same thing as making a grown-up) out of your husbands.