A Day in the Life: Really a Microcosm

Alarm and two snoozes:

Got the paper, visited the bathroom

Started making school lunches–interrupted so I could make breakfasts

{NobleWife gets the kids up and dressed}

Continue making lunches.

Child #1 out the door to the bus.

Make my own breakfast and lunch.

Eat breakfast, get child #2 out the door.  Wait for bus.  … Wave goodbye

Take a shower…get dressed

Say goodbye as #3 gets driven to preschool by NobleWife

Head out the door preparing to meet a contractor to look at changes in church.

Get to church, to find out plans have been changed.

Walk to visitation at someone’s house.

Visit with the person for an hour.

Walk back to church.  (on the way back, I saw a beautiful sight: a tree root, which formed a small pool, in which there lay a little yellow maple leaf.  🙂   )

Back to church in time to prepare for a lunch meeting. Except return a call to General Presbyter (GP) asking me to take on a fairly large responsibility with the Presbytery {“NP,” says she by way of introduction, “the presbytery needs you to step up your service.”…..}

Attend meeting to disucss possible strategys for presbytery regarding its urban churches…

Afterward, discuss said opportunity from GP with the person who just retired from said position.  Hmmmm…sounds like an even bigger responsibility than I first thought…..

Meet up with a newly arrived colleague and go out for tea and a catch up about our life and work…

Depart for church to attend weekly Bible Study with folks…

Arrive at the same moment as one of the BibStud participants…which is fine, but little time for transition….

Check email (first time that day, and it’s 3:50) fortunately not a lot needed in response, but at least one bit of correspondence about an upcoming trip that will have to wait.

Bible Study

Direct transition into Preschool Support Team mtg

Commute

Home…dinner…

…kids rushing around…another having to go to soccer practice…

dog who has entered her last phase of life who isn’t sounding very good and needs some love and attention….

this journal entry….

…a quick computer game….

….bed time for kiddos (maybe pickup soccer kid first?)

maybe a conversation with NobleWife?

maybe 15 minutes of junk tv (if I’m lucky, sports)

crash and prepare for another day, not quite so hectic (maybe)……

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50 Years is a Long Time

Today marks 16 years of being married with Celinda. It’s funny, 16 years doesn’t sound like all that much, but it seems like she has been part of my life forever. At least my life as it is now.

When I think back to life before being married…ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. What a young buck I was then.

A year removed from college; five years removed from high school!; I barely had hair on my chest, now it’s growing on my face; the hair on my head was Kodiak dark, now I’m not sure which one’s winning in the war of salt v. pepper.

Alot has happened in the years since we said our “I do’s” in the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland, OH. What I’ve discovered is that I was lucky to find the woman I did, when I was barely mature enough to make such a decision. I’m glad she saw fit to undergo this life’s journey with me. And I thank her for her patience and her love.

The combination of our dna has produced three magical children, and she is a marvelous mother and partner in parenting.

And still we’ve only done this thing for 16 years. We’ve just come back from a trip celebrating my parents’ 50th anniversary. 50…fitty…fiffffff-ty…five-oh-my-gosh-I don’t know how they’ve done it.

How do you celebrate such an occasion? For each couple it’s going to be unique. For my folks, they said they didn’t want anything special. They said that their four children, four spouses, five grandchildren, and about 50 dogs didn’t need to make the trip to get there for the occasion. They said a nice quiet dinner with my sister and her husband would be enough. That’s what they said.

My brother and wife had decided from the get-go that they were going to surprise them; and show up unannounced. My other sister and I were slow to catch the Spirit’s vision for what this occasion needed to be about. But eventually we all caught on and converged upon my parents in their very special house, for this very important event.

I won’t bore you with the details, but will only offer two wonderful events: The first occurred in the kitchen while we were showing off some pictures from a trip we’d taken over Spring Break, and I saw my sister and two kids sneaking in from the garage. The look on my Mom’s face when she processed that these people hadn’t been there before and weren’t expected and yet were delightfully received, was priceless. Happy anniversary!

The second came, two days later, somewhere between the fifth and sixth holes of the Lake Lure Golf Club. My Dad had given my oldest son a set of starter golf clubs and we were taking them out on their second tour of duty. The foursome included Dad, my son, myself, and my brother. Father’s Day coincided with this weekend. Four men/boys together: Father, sons, grandson. Three generations…and a smile of gratitude, satisfaction, and blessedness crept across his face. Across all of our faces. On that Sunday we played golf. And it was good.

I still don’t know all the intricacies that make up being married for 50 years; as I said, we’ve only been at it for 16. All I can see is that there is a lot of maturation that has to happen…with each individual in the couple, as they cringefully watch their children mature and navigate their own loving partnerships. I guess there needs to be a fair amount of letting go, but also of intervening. Gratitude and humility must be somewhere in the mix, along with a great amount of stick-to-itiveness.

50 years is a hell of a long time. But for my folks I’m guessing parts of it have felt like the blink of an eye. While I stare 16 in the face today, I’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving that we are still together; healthy, wealthy, and gaining in wisdom. I’ll say a prayer for two sets of role models (Celinda’s and my parents) who have taught us such important life lessons. And a final word for grace in the years to come.

Religious Education – Why is it important?

I just finished having a delightful conversation with a colleague of mind who falls somewhere in the categories of humanist, secularist, atheist. We have gotten to know one another while attending the meetings of our community’s interfaith council. He has gone a long way in helping me see that faith does not have to do exclusively with denominations of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or like tradition. He is starting to open my eyes to the religious world of the non-believer. What is religion in this instance? A world-view that helps give form and function to the way one lives without being centered upon a deity. Ethics, philosophy, and especially reason are it’s building blocks. My friend has the calling (my language) to be a humanist chaplain…providing pastoral care in an institutional setting for those who do not hold onto a God-based faith. It’s fascinating!

In a couple of months, my friend is going to be married to a woman who defines herself as a cultural Jew. She was raised in a Jewish home, but her family wasn’t terribly active in the life of the Temple. However, her religious background (and heritage) is important enough to her (and to my friend, her fiancee) that they are going to be married by a rabbi. Once they have children, they would like for them to attend Sunday School; to learn about Judaism.

They also decided to become members of the Temple where they will be married, which means that they are currently involved in a Judaism 101 class. Our conversation turned to what it means to be a member of a synagogue and what it means to be a child reared in a Temple. As we talked, I began to hear some familiar themes to what it means to be a child of the church, and to grow into a member of a congregation.

What is similar is that children in both sects are asked to study their religion until they reach the age of 13ish. In Judaism they achieve the Bar- or Bat Mitzvah. In Christianity, teenagers make it to Confirmation. In each tradition, the education usually ends there, and the young people more often engage in social or mission activities with their peers.

So often it seems that these bits of religious education get these young people to an important rite of passage in their religious tradition, but in the big picture for what does it prepare them?

My friend and I talked about how Jews mostly reconnect with their community on the High Holy Days. For Christians, the days are Christmas Eve and Easter. Otherwise, it seems most members of these institutions are comforted in membership to a particular church or denomination, but don’t really find themselves to be led to take a deeper journey into their faith tradition. A point where interests resurfaces happens when they have children, and they want their children to experience the same level of participation in the religious community as they had…therefore re-instituting the cycle for another generation.

I throw this question out to you, the reader: what are the most important aspects of religious education; as it pertains to children, to youth, to adults? What are the points of engagement that lead people to seek deeper into the meaning of life, and to be involved in a community which is interested in doing the same?

On Her Own Terms: An Ode to Life and Determination

We recently accompanied our cat Anni through the end of her life.Anni

Even at age 16, we were surprised to find out that she had a tumor in her jaw, which was likely to spread quickly. After two weeks of eating nothing, we watched for her to show signs of weakened energy.

Anni was heavy–not grossly overweight–but she did carry a fat pouch that swayed under her when she walked. I’d love to know what she carried in that pouch, because as the days went by, the pouch diminished, but her energy stayed level. Not only did she maintain her energy, but whatever was being released by the pouch made her more affectionate: once a recluse, she was now hanging out with the rest of us, even willing to be pet by our three kids. The latter behavior usually elicited a spitty hiss, followed by flight to safer territory. The hiss changed to purring and flight gave way to contentment.

Anni was determined to live what was left of her life on her own terms, and we were glad recipients of her terms of agreement. Whenever we walked into the room where she was, she greeted us with meows of recognition. As the cancer spread through her mouth and throat, the meows turned to squeaks…still utterances of affection, calling for loving attention.

What normally would have been regarded as a yin-yang type of relationship, she became one with the dogs; sleeping on Yin Eb, Yang Annitheir beds, yearning to follow them into the yard. In her final days, smelling the grass, basking in the sun, and feeling the air with her whiskers, became her pursuits. She even spent a whole afternoon in our fenced in backyard, once she no longer had the energy to seek broader horizons.

Day by day, we were left wondering if tomorrow would be the day to take her to the vet for the shot of mercy. But Anni wasn’t gonna go out like that–she determined for us, that the bed she faithfully shared with us for 16 years, would be the bed where she drew her final breaths.

The Spirit of Anni left before her body worked through the process of shutting down. We remain renewed and inspired by her desire to live life the way it should be lived: basking in the sun, sniffing the breeze, and giving/receiving care and devotion to those whom she loved. We’re glad she now rests in peace next to her sister Kitty…we move forward into our own lives grateful for such companions along the way.

Ten Year Old and IMing, Part II

So, we decided to go ahead and allow our son to IM.

It’s amazing how much some of his peers already know about the world of textspeak. You know: lol, r u there, lots of goofy shorthand stuff. And they are quick to help Adrian catch up to it.

They are all using AIM which comes with lots of bells and whistles if you know how to navigate through the menus. So, many of them have football team wallpaper or have configured the sound it makes whenever a message is posted to make a particular noise (so far, just a quarterback’s “hut one”).

However, one of the functions that is making us leery is the ability to link to anything on the web and particularly to Youtube. The most common links right now are hybrid music videos: like this one which puts together images from Star Wars to the song “I Like to Move It” from the kids film Madagascar:

Innocent enough, right? Using technology to splice together film clips and set them to music. Kind of fun. Obviously, though, alot of what’s silly or fun for adults is not appropriate for children.

Part of the deal we made with our son is that his IM account is open to our viewing at any time. And while Mrs. Nopas was looking through some of his buddies’ profiles she found a few links to videos that crossed the line. She also found some other kids’ posts making derogatory comments.

Are we prudes? Are we overprotecting our first-born? Will we be more lax with children 2 and 3, when their time comes? (Only time will tell on this one.) Are we setting important boundaries?

We’re not going to shelter our kids. But we are going to let them know what’s appropriate and what’s not, and teach them an ethical framework by which to measure what comes their way.

So, we’ll start by going through some of the links and messages on our son’s IM account with him and talk through it.

Surely he’ll go to school the next day and brag to his friends just how cool his parents are. Right?!?

Viewing a Ten Year-Old

When I took my 10 year-old son to his piano lesson tonight, he said a quick goodbye and went into the house of his teacher. I stood outside with our dogs, waiting for our 7 year-old daughter to finish up so we could walk home together.

As I peered in through the translucent security window by the door, I could see him sitting on the steps, on-deck, but his face and shape were a bit hazy. For a first-time parent of a boy his age, this is how I feel about my fathering skills: I kind of know what I’m supposed to do, but it’s not all together clear.

Up to this point, parenting has been pretty intuitive. But now, admittedly, I’m guessing much of the time. He’s old enough to “get” stuff, he’s intelligent, and yet, at times, he’s as bone-headed as they come. What used to be a 98% jovial kid, I now find in occasional, mysteriously pissy moods.

We come to find out that one of the latest episodes is because ALL of his friends are IMing and he’s out of the loop. Apparently, they get to school and talk about their screen names and the conversations they’ve supposedly had, and he’s just lost–feeling deprived. (Of course, this is the first we’ve heard about this, but in his mind, he’s gone over it a thousand times, and somehow, I guess, we should have figured it out.)

So, cool parents have navigated their kids way into AIM, or other such forums? Or, you’re going to tell me, they’ve taught each other. Just like they are doing all those other things that parents who try to be a part of their kid’s life fear are happening beyond their vision. Not that I’m too afraid of 10-year-old IMs…I don’t think?!?

Mrs. Nopas (I stole this titling format from my friend LadyBurg) has taken the bold steps of talking about drug use (esp. inhalants), with this one and his sister. They seemed to understand the weight of making poor judgment calls….

But, dude, the boy’s only ten!

….It’s just a strange and fuzzy time to be a father.