Sunday, April 1, 2018

Indeed!

"If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But. . . 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

-- from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15

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Christ Is Risen!
He is Truly Risen!

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Wishing my readers (all three of you) a blessed and joyous Feast of the Resurrection of Christ!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rays of Sunshine

I've had occasion, over the 12 years that I've been running this blog (and its predecessor), to put my grief before your eyes (along with my many blessings, to be sure).  Five grandchildren and no weddings, and other things of that order, have grieved me greatly (and perhaps unduly bent my opinion of my own fatherly qualities in a negative direction; perhaps).  But, to be sure, it's not all gloom around here, and just lately, the news has been trending in a distinctly positive direction. . .

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We are in the last month-and-a-half before we have the first wedding amongst our children.  1F will be marrying her fiancee (call him BN; or would you rather call him 1Fh - 1F's husband, get it?) in May.  My dear eldest had some rough years on the way to this point, and BN would be the first to tell you that he has his own shortcomings.  But he adores her, and the two of them have a delightfully symbiotic relationship (which is to say, they help and support and take care of each other in some lovely ways).  Over the months of their courtship, BN has made his way into our collective hearts, and become a part of our family.  A real occasion of joy for our family.  So, that's nice. . .

About a month ago, 4M announced his engagement to his girlfriend of the past few years (call her MR; or maybe 4Mw, when the time comes), to be married early next year.  She's a sweet young lady.  She and 4M met in college, at Jenn's-and-my alma mater.  After college, they went their separate ways for a year or so, but kept in touch.  Then a couple years ago, she moved out to Seattle to be with him, and things progressed from there.  Her family has been wonderful to ours; Jenn and I spent a couple days with them at their cottage Up North over the Christmas holidays.  Delightful folks.  We could not be happier to be adding her to our family.

So, two weddings in the next year (with the possibility of more to come; but, you know, carts and horses, and all that. . .).  This will be fun. . .

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And we just got word today that the adoption of 6F's new baby girl will be final in short order.

It was a source of great, uh, frustration and sadness when she told us, about a year ago, that she was pregnant out-of-wedlock for the second time.  And her latest baby-daddy was, how shall I say it, a loser of the first order - in his early 40s and living with his mom; and I'll leave it at that.  But we were pleasantly surprised when she made her adoption plan, and started making more constructive decisions for her life and future, like going back to school.

Baby-daddy was just fine with her new plan (since it didn't involve him having to pay for anything).  But then he told his mom.  And she raised hell, even showing up on our doorstep, letting us know in no uncertain terms that she was not going to allow us to send her one-and-only grand-baby away, and calling us nasty things and impugning our religion, and promising to break us with lawyer fees (which betrayed a lack of understanding on her part of how these things go; we've at least gone through the adoption process once before, so we know how it works, and we know that, for better or worse, grandparents, ourselves included, have no standing in such cases, at least not in Michigan).  We were pretty sure that we had the better of the legal argument, but you never know what a slick lawyer can get a court to accept, so it was not without some anxiety on our part.

Baby-girl was born in October, and immediately placed in the care of the putative adoptive parents.  The first court date was in November.  Now, back when 1F was placing her baby girl for adoption, there was only one court date.  But in this case, there were a total of four court dates to accomplish the same result.  Four times, we had to go downtown to the courthouse, and spend an afternoon sitting in the hall (as grandparents, we have no standing in the case, and Baby-daddy's lawyer made sure we weren't allowed inside the courtroom), trying to avoid saying anything to Baby-daddy's mom.  For the fourth court date, they even fired their lawyer, and brought in another one, which threatened to start the proceedings over from scratch, but thankfully, things didn't play out that way.  It seemed a large part of their strategy was to delay, and delay, and delay, and pile up legal fees for our side.  To make matters worse (or maybe better, all things considered), their lawyer was arguing the case as if it were a custody dispute, rather than an adoption hearing making a determination of the best interests of the child.  Incredibly frustrating.

In late February (after four court dates spanning three-plus months), the proceedings finally came to a close.  Baby-daddy's parental rights were terminated (apparently, sending the birth-mother a text message calling her a 'stupid c**t' was not helpful for his case), and then 6F's were, and things for Baby-girl were on their way to resolution.  But there was still a 21-day window in which they could file an appeal, and as they left the courthouse, they promised us that an appeal would be forthcoming, "all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to."  So we waited, expecting to hear about an appeal.  We also received a couple of legal papers, asking us to answer questions pertaining to the custody case; which was odd, since there were no longer any parental rights, on either side, to hold in dispute.  Confused to the bitter end. . .

Yesterday was the last day of the 21-day window, and by the end of the day, we still hadn't heard anything.  But, you know, sometimes these things take a couple days to work through the system before they're publicly posted, so we figured we'd have to wait a few days longer.  But today we got the final word that no appeal would be forthcoming.  It turns out that they did, in fact, see a lawyer about filing an appeal, but the lawyer told them they had no chance of winning the appeal, and refused to take the case.  So the adoption will be final, and 6F, Baby-girl, and the adoptive family can all get on with their lives (and Baby-daddy can get his mom off his back for a while).

As with 1F's birth-daughter (now 12 years old), we know the adoptive parents.  Not well, but we know both sets of their parents better than we know them.  During the 'home study' phase of them being selected as adoptive parents, we got to talk with them.  They told us that, while they were fine with having an open relationship with 6F, they really didn't want to deal with Jenn and me.  That was a sadness for us, but we understand (and just for the sake of saying so, the adoptive parents of 1F's daughter were initially more reluctant to deal with us than they were once they were more secure in their parental status).  And besides, one of the sets of grandparents are pretty close friends of ours, so they will 'smuggle' us photos, and tell us stories, which is a nice bonding thing between us (we've known a few instances, among our friends, of couples whose kids have married each other, and the 'co-grandparenting' relationship is a lot of fun).

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So - rays of sunshine.  God is good. . .

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Things You Don't Say to Your Wife

You might have seen this before,but I just saw it recently, and it had me rolling on the floor (Jenn even liked it, too. . .)

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Things You Don't Say to Your Wife
by Tim Hawkins (with apologies to Green Day)

Hey honey have you gained some weight in your rear-end?
That dress you wear reminds me of my old girlfriend
And where'd you get those shoes? I think they're pretty lame
Would you stop talking 'cause I'm trying to watch the game

If you're a man who wants to live a long and happy life
These are the things you don't say to your wife

I planned a hunting trip next week on your birthday
I didn't ask you 'cause I knew it'd be ok
Go make some dinner while I watch this fishing show
I taped it over our old wedding video

If you're a man who wants to live a long and happy life
These are the things you don't say to your wife

Your cooking is ok but not like mother makes
The diamond in the ring I bought you is a fake
Your eyes look puffy dear, are you feeling ill?
Happy anniversary I bought you a treadmill

If you're a man who wants to live a long and happy life
These are the things you don't say to your wife
If you're a man who doesn't want to get killed with a knife
These are the things you don't say to your wife

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Just for fun, here it is on YouTube (or, the Tube o' You, as my late friend Buck would have it ). . .

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sad Times at the Alma Mater. . .

There are no words to describe my sadness over the situation over at my alma mater. I mean, it is beyond awful, and anything I could say runs the risk of seeming trite.  I wish it were a bad dream, and I could just wake up and make it go away, but alas, it is all too real. . .

I am a father of three daughters, and I understand all too well the sheer helpless rage that this awful person was able to abuse so many young women, who are themselves someone's daughters, right under the noses of people who were charged with protecting the well-being of those young women.  I mean, some of the abuse happened while the girls' mothers were in the room with them.  Such was the level of this man's deception and depravity.  It boggles the mind.

On one level, I understand how it could happen.  Dr. Nassar had achieved for himself a certain lofty reputation as a sports doctor.  He didn't just work at MSU; he worked for the US Olympic women's gymnastic team, which won gold medals, and whose members became the darlings of TV coverage every four years.  Some of the women who testified in court had more-than-modest fame.  There was a level of prestige that accrued to the university for having such an eminent doctor on its staff.  So, when he 'explained' his abusive actions as 'cutting-edge' medical techniques, there was a disposition to accept his 'explanation' at face value.  Because, you know, he was a 'cutting-edge' guy, and he knows things the rest of us don't.  It can be hard to see things one would rather not see. . .

There were 156 women who spoke in court about being abused by Dr. Nassar.  One hundred and fifty-six.  It seems pathetic to even cite the number.  To paraphrase Josef Stalin, one young woman abused is a tragedy; 156 is a statistic.  But each one of these young women was somebody's daughter.  And they weren't all university athletes; the youngest was only 6 years old. And all they wanted was to play gymnastics.  Or soccer, or softball, or volleyball, or tennis, or track.  Getting sexually abused wasn't supposed to be part of the program.

I have always been a proud alumnus of my university; I have bled green, as we like to say.  But this is just the saddest, most awful thing I could imagine.  The kind of thing that happens someplace else.  But this happened here.  At my school.  And people I have admired and respected were found wanting.  The school's president and athletic director have both already resigned/retired, and one wonders who'll be next.  I have no idea how events will finally shake out, and what the university will look like when they do.  I hope that things are put in place to ensure that such a thing can never happen again; or at least, that the next would-be abuser is stopped at least 20 years sooner. . .

One of the women told the court that her life had been ruined.  I would hope, and pray for her, that that won't, ultimately, be true.  Harmed,she has certainly been; perhaps even scarred for life.  At least one of my daughters has suffered abuse, from which I was unable to protect her.  And she was irrevocably harmed by it; her life has not gone the way she planned when she was young.  But her life wasn't ruined.  She is a stronger woman today, even notwithstanding the awful things that were done to her.  There is healing, even if you walk with a limp.  And I would pray for healing for each of those 156 women, and the unknown others who didn't speak in court.  Don't let this define you.  You are worth so much more than Larry Nassar gave you credit for. . .

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(add, 27Jan)

Rachel Denhollander was the first of Larry Nassar's victims to go public, and the last to speak to the court. Her statement is a hundred thousand times more eloquent than anything I've said, or could ever say.  I encourage all my readers to read it, in its entirety. . .

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Update. . .

It's coming up on four months since I had a stroke.  At the time, the main 'stroke specialist' who saw me in the hospital was quite optimistic that my vision would recover, and that within three months, I would be back to normal. . .

Alas, that has not been the case.  My vision is essentially unchanged since then.  In the first weeks, I thought I was noticing some improvements, and I may have, but in the sober light of nearly four months experience, the recovery turns out to be pretty minimal, so far.  I tell folks that there are three aspects to my 'recovery' experience: (1) actual healing/recovery, which, in retrospect, seems pretty minimal, (2) adapting to the new 'boundary conditions' on my life and health, which is certainly happening, and (3) wishful thinking, which has probably also been happening.  It is, unfortunately, hard to tell the difference between the three, from inside the confines of my own experience.

So, unless something major happens in the next few months, I am probably done with my working career, and will be looking at retirement options.  Which, you know, ain't so bad as all that.  I turn 62 in less than two months, so I'm not cutting that many years off the various and sundry 'time lines'.  Besides which, I will almost certainly qualify for Social Security Disability, which, along with the long-term disability benefit from my company, will carry me nicely to age 65, when things will 'normalize' again.  Plus, I can start taking my pension from my first job at age 62, at the full payment (which ain't all that big, but it ain't nothing, either).  So, financially, the stroke might even turn out to be a happy thing.  Financially.

The thing is, other than my vision, I feel fine, physically speaking.  As in the initial days, I don't have any physical 'deficits' other than my vision.  All of my limbs are working normally, my speech and memory are fine, and my smile is the same one I've had my whole life.  I had my vision evaluated, and they told me it was good enough to drive, if I felt confident enough.  And that has been the case - I can see well enough in the 'global' sense to drive, and do most of the things I would normally do.  The problem is with the kind of detail that's involved in reading and writing.  I can read, but it's more of a grind than it used to be, and I find myself going over the same passages multiple times to be sure I'm getting them right.  It's actually easier to type stuff on the computer than write them by hand (for whatever reason, writing a check is a particular adventure; maybe that'll save me some money in the long run. . .)

Honestly, my overall health has probably improved since the stroke.  My blood pressure is lower, and I'm sleeping better.  I'm coming to the realization that, for the last few years, I've been pushing myself really hard, in all sorts of ways, and it was taking a toll on my body that I was slow to realize.  If I felt tired or lethargic on a bike ride, you know, the answer was just to keep riding, even ride harder, to burnish my conditioning.  Which works better when you're younger than 62, I guess.  In fact, knowing what I know now about my symptoms, and thinking back, it's likely that I had at least one previous mini-stroke, the effects of which were small enough to basically ignore. . .

And you know, in the back of my mind, the thought of going back to work was provoking in me feelings of dread.  If I were really determined to go back to work, I might even be able to, but I couldn't be anywhere near as productive, and it would only provoke more anxiety and stress.  To say nothing of the 'background' stress of commuting over an hour at either end of the day, just to get there and back.  I'm seeing that I just don't have the energy or stamina for that kind of pushing myself, anymore (and you know, I didn't have it even when I was doing it, the past couple years).  And that simple acceptance is proving to be very liberating.  I was talking with a guy after church, who had recently had a stroke of his own, and had briefly gone back to work, before his boss finally told him it was time for him to be done, before he hurt himself worse than he already was.  "It's just not worth trying to be a hero," he told me, and just admitting that thought into my mind lowered my blood pressure several points, all by itself.

So, the adventure continues.  Jenn and I have been saying for a while that we'd love to retire and have more time/energy available for the marriage ministry we've been involved with, and it seems that we'll be able to do that even sooner than we'd hoped.  Jenn is still working, but me being at home has us looking more seriously at how/when she can join me.  8M graduates high school in two more years, and that will probably be a bright line in the sand (if that isn't mixing my metaphors too terribly).  But at this point, we will simply see what we will see (heh; you see what I did there?)

Monday, December 25, 2017

John Chrysostom at Christmas

From a Christmas homily of St. John Chrysostom (c. 349 - 407) 

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The angels sing. The archangels blend their voices in harmony. The cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The seraphim exalt His glory. All join in praise at this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in Heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and He that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles Heaven: hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices and enfolding within itself the Sun of Righteousness. And ask not how; for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God. This day He Who Is, is born; and He Who Is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His.


Come then, let us observe the feast. Come, and we shall commemorate the solemn festival. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been restored, a heavenly way of life has been planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men hold speech with angels.


Why is this? Because God is now on earth and man in Heaven. On every side all things commingle. He has come on earth, while being whole in Heaven; and while being complete in Heaven, He is fully on earth. Though He was God, He became Man, not denying Himself to be God. though being the Impassable Word, He became flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Therefore He became flesh, so that He whom Heaven could not contain, a manger would this day receive.


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May the Word-made-flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us, be intimately present to each of you. . .

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Couple More Quotes. . .

"The Truth is like a lion.  You don't need to defend it.  Let it loose.  It will defend itself."

          - St Augustine


"One word of Truth outweighs the world."

          - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn