Monday, August 03, 2015

a/c and me

"The U.S. uses more electricity for air conditioning than Africa uses for everything."

The quote comes from a Washington Post article on America's obsession with air conditioning. An interesting read. Pope Francis mentions air conditioning briefly in Laudato Si, linking it with our "harmful habits of consumption."

In North Carolina, I kind of like my A/C, even while understanding that we can become accustomed to the weather around us. I'm not sure that I want to. But perhaps I'll dial the A/C down a few degrees today even so.

life is odd

In recent summers, we have traveled to Michigan for about a month to help my parents with a little pizza/ice cream/grocery on a lake up north. I work alongside my mom and dad. I have very little free time. And then our short summer (usually about a month) ends and we return to North Carolina, my wife to work and me to home. The transitions are difficult each time for me.

I'm often at odds with myself, with my place.

In another, bigger transition this year, all the school-age children are going to be in school, and I will be home with only the two youngest, Asa and Ellie. Life will still be insane, but perhaps with the homeschooling hat hung up for now I will also have more time to be a little more ordered and free to write. This is my hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the fandom menace

I have never been keen on the typical American sports fare of baseball, basketball, and football. I can get into football when necessary, but the other two- meh. I actually quite like watching some sports that many find absolutely boring: tennis, running, cycling, and soccer. I don’t mind hockey either. But it doesn’t require very much time in front of the TV to get my sports fix except for the month of July. If I have the time, I like to park my keister in front of the TV and catch Wimbledon and, even more, Le Tour de France. This year, I enjoyed the World Cup.

Perhaps there is really no rhyme or reason to it, but I didn’t grow up with a father who watched many sports. He was an avid outdoorsman. He liked guns and fishing rods. And guns. (I’m not an avid hunter or fisherman either, but that’s another story.) So I suppose if I were to blame or thank anyone, it would be him.

My recreation has always centered around books and couches. If I could lay on a couch all day and plow through half or all of a book - undisturbed - I’d be happy. Nowadays I find it difficult to read for long, but I chalk it up to the constant weariness and interruption of having so very many small people around. And Facebook and Twitter is ruining my attention span. I can get through an article, but finishing whole books - real books - becomes harder and harder for me. If I lay down at night after the offspring have gone to bed to read a book instead of watching TV, then I simply get more sleep. Now that I think about it, that wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

So I live life off, different from what one typically thinks of when one thinks of an American male. I’m OK with it. But sometimes it makes it hard to find things to talk about with other guys. We were part of a Baptist congregation at one time where sports was all the other men would talk about. Mostly basketball. March was a dreary month for me. I’d smile and nod and try to stay awake.

I am poor in male small-talk currency.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

... pray for us

It was a holy day of obligation today - All Saints' Day. So I took the kids to Liturgy at noon. It was one of those cases where you walk in precisely five minutes late and they are finishing the Gospel reading already. The light-footed Mass worked out well for me and the eight kids, since the TWO year old doesn't usually sit quiet for long.

You know, I wish I could go to Mass every day. But here's the wickedness in my heart: I wish I could go by myself. Mass is hard with little children. It is often merely showing up, blessing yourself with holy water, and then shushing the children for an hour. But the participation remains, doesn't it? Presence is something. It's essential, as a matter of fact. I have heard it said, and it seems proven in my life in so many ways, that salvation is mostly just showing up.

Whether you got to Mass today or did not, may the saints whose names we bear pray for us. And may we be converted to Christ as they were, so that our children might have icons of Christ in their own homes instead of icons of anger and impatience. Pray for me.

I must decrease. St John the Baptist, pray that Christ might increase in me. St. Irenaeus, pray that I might behold God in the ordinariness of life, that I might be fully present and fully alive.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

warm blankets

Warm blankets on cold mornings are lovely, but such cozy solitude can't last. Soon cries draw me up the stairs to the littles' room, who want community and closeness and noise. Others will wake up and join us. This old body will have to warm today with work and hugs.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

reading aloud

I need some suggestions for books to read aloud to the kids. It seems my list, my memory, is heavily fantasy-science fiction, so I need some help. What are some books that you loved hearing read to you (or reading when you were a little older)? We are about to finish To Kill a Mockingbird and need something in the next week and a half. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

debate season

Somedays it seems as if Cate (3) and Noah (2) carry on an argument from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed, punctuated by pushing, screaming, crying, and the like. They're tiny, inseparable curmudgeons. "Nuh-uh," is their favorite response to the other. Noah likes to tack on a belittling, "Baby!" (Which we are working on.) An old, little married couple, each too afraid and too in love to be without the other.

you cannot give what you do not have

Sunday, October 07, 2012

full speed ahead

Asa is 3 1/2 months old now. He was such a scrawny thing when he was born - a little bag of bones. But he's fattened up beautifully. Occasionally I'll look up from what I am doing and see a big smile on his chubby face, looking at me. I am hilarious. He sits in his swing and tells his story to whomever will listen. He was born on the nativity feast of John the Baptist (June 24) and so we gave him a second middle name, Jean-Baptiste. The older children are smitten with him. They pause in their play to come kiss his warm, fuzzy head.

What a blessing children are. They overwhelm me, cover me like autumn leaves.

Fall is when "every leaf becomes a flower" (as, I believe, Nietzsche once said). Family, holidays, the final weeks of ordinary time. Christ the King. Cider and donuts, Campfires and hayrides. Pumpkins. Spice. The sweep and crunch that calls one into the yard. The smell of burning leaves and the sound of rakes scraping cold earth. Runny noses and cold, happy cheeks. Warm blankets and thick socks.

We spent the summer in Michigan. On the way out the door, I sprained or fractured my ankle. But ice and ibuprofen work wonders. The 18 hour trip that followed wasn't terrible. And when we arrived in Michigan, work helped the healing. I helped my mom and dad with their ice cream-pizza shop over the summer - a seasonal, summer operation on a lake. And, of course, they helped us. I fell in love with Michigan all over again while I was there. And while I had very few free days, we spent them fully visiting the Mackinac Bridge and the U.P. We hunted for petoskey stones while breathing lapis skies. Lake Michigan and Michigan lakes - it is hard to top them. Trip in northern Michigan and you stumble into another state park or national forest. It is home. It is family.

Family is difficult and lovely. Often we try too hard. We try to force family - something that can't be forced. You fall into family. Yes we bicker and get on each other's nerves. That's OK. We are broken and warted, all of us. But we are family. We participate in life together. We generously make room for one another. We accept all that is given, and give everything in return. It can be frightening. It is dangerous being real. But damn the torpedoes.

Monday, June 04, 2012

June

June is a time for dreaming, setting out, and rest. So many things are happening and have happened and will be happening, and these activities repeat themselves every year like a poem. June is hope-filled.

. . . . .

We have two birthdays at the beginning of June, Sophie and Will. We will be having a third this year and forever after with the birth of our new son, Asa. When will that be? Only God knows. Asa's due date is June 19, but the baby don't have no calendar in utero. This child will be our eighth (still with us), and our fourth boy. We are excited. Laura is physically ready, or has every appearance of being so. So ready and yet, as always, so un-ready. A baby jars the teacup. We have so much planned for this summer and hope that it will all play out at least somewhat as we suppose. The best thing happening is this baby boy, of course. And part of me wishes we could just rest with him as we are, where we are. We have other responsibilities, however, and they will be nearly as demanding as a hungry baby.

. . . . .

We are finishing up the school year - a year at home this year. Sophie started the year in public middle school, but we decided together that it would be best to pull her out mid-year and let her finish at home with her sisters and brother. We're happy we did. It has been a good year. We have all learned how important learning is and how difficult it is at times with the interruptions of family. But it has been a good start. I can't imagine sending them back to school at this point, which is saying quite a bit given the time of year it is. Teaching them at home is difficult. It is not perfect. It is far from perfect. But it is certainly good. I have learned quite a bit. They have learned as well. Not all of that learning has been academic, but all of it has been necessary. And we have a long way to go. I have told the kids that we would be finishing up this week, which we will, but that we will also be working throughout the summer - reading, readings, prayers, some math, and the learning that comes through life's tectonics.

This summer is set to be a particularly disruptive one, though that is not to say that it will be bad. The disruption here will be good, as far as I know. The baby, primarily. And then Laura and I will be celebrating our 20th anniversary with a quick jaunt to Italy (we wish) and then we will be heading up to Michigan for a couple of months (!) to help my parents with their ice cream/pizza shop that they recently acquired. I am looking for work in Michigan as well. If that work doesn't pan out, at the end of the summer we will be back here for another year in North Carolina. If it does, we will be back and forth some to ready the house for sale and say our goodbyes. I am not sure how much free time there will be this summer as I will be working a lot, but it will be a nice change of scenery if nothing else. We are hoping and praying that Laura does not have to go back to teaching and can stay home with the baby. She's ready for that change, though her being ready for eight children 24/7, I'm not so sure. But who is ever ready for that? Child rearing is part of our theosis and, therefore - though, definitionally a struggle - a beautiful journey.

. . . . .

I need to write more. I feel less without it consistently, in some way, as part of my life. A friend sent a link via Facebook of Neil Gaiman's recent commencement address and it was refreshing and insightful. I am a writer. Writing is what I do. And while I do not always do it well, there is something in me that demands I do it. Now there are more important callings in my life, certainly. But these callings are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they lean upon one another. Writing is a strange profession in that I am not sure it will ever provide for our family. I am not sure it needs to. I am quite certain, however, that money is not the point of it. And I am certain I need to write. I know it.

. . . . .

This past weekend William received Holy Communion for the first time. How beautiful! I always get wet-eyed during one of my children's first participation in a sacrament. It is a wonderful thing to see them entering more fully into the life of the Church, into Christ's very life. It doesn't get any better than that. It was a good weekend.

. . . . .

Thanks be to God.