No One Told Me About This

0706141318-00 This last week my wife and I have been alternately lamenting and rejoicing in the fact that our oldest three children are gone for a week. They are off camping with their boy scout troop. Oddly enough the oldest one was gone the week before to special camp to help him get his Eagle. In Short we have been short at least one of the kids for almost two weeks now.

Don’t get me wrong, we love having our older kids around. In fact, that is kind of the point here. The title comes from something that was said a couple days before or right after my wife and I got married. One of her younger brother’s friends said something about missing your kids when they move out. My Father-in-law replied, “That is what happens, kids grow up, get married and move out of the house.”

100_4923That statement has been in the back of my head since that day. But I will be honest, it is one of those things that sneaks up on you. I remember only oldest being a tiny baby and holding him my arms. While, it does not exactly feel like yesterday, it does not feel that long ago. This year he is starting his senior year in high school. Our kids are about every two years after that, and sometimes I look at my oldest son, and I can suddenly see the parade of children who will be growing up, getting married or religious life, and moving out of the house.

I do look forward seeing them grow up and seeing the people that they will become. They are all incredible kids. And I am so proud of the people they are becoming. But I am not in a hurry for them to get there.100_2961

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For the Ones Who Don’t Make It Home

So have that beautiful wedding dress. Right now it is just hanging in your closet, and it will probably be out of date before your daughter is ready to get married.

But fear not. All is not lost. You can put that beautiful dress to a very good use again.

And I don’t mean wearing it to the store or just hanging around the house it in.

*** FAIR WARNING.THIS SUBJECT MIGHT VERY WELL BE HARD TO DEAL WITH ****

As it says in the warning, this is a pretty serious subject, so if you didn’t heed the warning, this might be your chance to bail out. I won’t be offended.

Ok you are still here? Good. Thank you.

Angel Gowns is a project helping parents and families of those babies who never get a chance to come home from the hospital. They take donations of wedding dresses, volunteers then make beautiful gowns for those precious little ones. Image-61-225x300[1]

I can tell you from experience that having things like this available, a gown, someone to come in and take pictures of our little one, and other support from NICU helping hands .org were invaluable.

I am making a very personal request here. In these modern times when infant mortality is very low, we don’t like to talk about these things, but they do happen, and then they do, the parents and families need your help. If you can donate to a group like this, if you have a wedding dress that is just hanging in your closet, consider donating it to Angel Gowns. If you are a photographer, consider donating your services to <a href="“>Now I lay me Down to Sleep. And take a moment to check out these sites and see if there is anything you can do.

Thank you.

Again those links are:
Wedding Dress Donation: Angel Gowns
Photography: <a href="“>Now I lay me Down to Sleep.
Other support Options: NICU Helping Hands .org

Blog Hop – Writing Process – Interview

I have been tagged in a Blog Hop interview about my writing process.  I was tagged by my Alter-ego and Co-editor Michell Plested. Little is known about the origins of Michell as they are shrouded (or at least covered with a moth-eaten towel) by the mists of time. What is known is largely obscure and often contradictory. Oh and he sometimes speaks about himself in the third person.  He is The author of Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero which was nominated for several awards and the forth coming sequel.  He has been faithfully podcasting his Great show about the writing process Get Published since 2009.

He has many more credits to his name, and you can find out more about him at his website michellplested.com 

Mike was tagged by Robert Runte, who was tagged by Joe Mahoney, who was tagged by Susan Rodgers… There is more, feel free to follow it all the way back to the beginning of the internet.

So on with the interview:

Michell: You are a very busy guy. Two jobs, a large family, a farm to tend and several projects on the go in writing, editing, slush reading and podcasting. How do you manage to juggle everything?

Jeff:  The best answer to this is a quote from one of my favorite books, Captain’s Share by Nathan Lowell
I apologize ahead of time if I get the quote slightly wrong.

Captain Delmen: How are you managing?
Captain Wang: The truth is I’m not, except by massive applications of avoidance behavior.

 

In all fairness. At this point I don’t have that much of a farm, our sheep have all been turned into food, or given back to their owners, and we just have chickens who really don’t take much work, but the sheep are coming back, and there is always the chance that we could fall off the grid at some point and go “full time farmer,” as my kids say. But back to the question.

The reality is that I just find a way to make time if it is really important to me. It is one of those things, if you have a lot of projects going on, no matter how busy you are, you can make time if you want to. It is a real balancing act, and I won’t lie, I have dropped a number of balls from time to time, but I usually manage to keep the important things up in the air. I wish I had a magic secret that I could share with you, but I really don’t.

Michell How do you balance having so many projects on the go? Do you work on one at a time for each one: or a certain number of hours; or a % of your writing time; or is it just a matter of focusing on each deadline as it comes up? Or do you switch from one to the other as you get blocked or bored with what you’re currently working on?

Jeff: Yes! It really is kind of a combination of all of those things. Obviously deadlines play a pretty big role in determining what I work on but that is only part of the story. I usually will work on something until I get stuck and then jump to the next project until I get stuck there, and them come around to the next one. Since I don’t really have any dedicated writing time I can’t say if I spend a % on any one project or another, but I do try to give any given project my full attention while I am working on it.

Michell What is your writing process? Where on the “just sit down and write <—> detailed notes/outline” continuum do you fall? Do you revise as you go, or first draft and then revise? Any routines or rituals that need to be followed?

Jeff: My writing process. Ha! What writing process? That is not really true. I have a process, but it is much more of a by the seat of your pants kind of thing than most people would like. I don’t outline. I have tried several times and usually end up just tossing the outline out the window by the point I get to point # 2 on it. For that reason I tend not to do it, as all the time I spent outline ends up being wasted, and I have precious little time to create in the first place. That also means that I tend to write much shorter works a lot more often then I do longer ones.

As far as once I get writing, I will often sit down and write an entire short story in one go. There is something about the momentum that allows me to just get it out there. I do not revise as I write. Occasionally I will correct a typo that is really bothering me, but most of the time I tend to leave them until I go back to do an editing pass. Because, as I said I write by the seat of my pants I do find myself re-writing stories from scratch sometimes. That seems counter intuitive as far as not having enough time, but once I get that initial idea down, the rewrites come very quickly.

Probably the thing that surprises people, is a lot of times when I sit down to write I don’t have a clear idea of what I am going to write.  Some times I have a general idea.  A very general idea.  Something like, a writing prompt, a picture I have in my head or some times even just a character that I want to explore.  Once I have that Idea, I just start writing.   I make something up until an idea clicks.  Usually this consists of writing a scene that I have decided to put my protagonist in, until something happens.  A lot of times these opening scenes get trashed, but that is ok since they are really just there to get my creative juices flowing.

Michell: You have written short stories and novels. You have edited anthologies and you have produced podcasts. From those experiences, what stands out as the most important learnings and principles or advice so far?

Jeff: It is going to sound rather trite be you need to write.  It does not matter how good it is, or even if you get published.  If you want to write then you have to do it.  Don’t make excuses why you can’t, just do it.

Feedback.  Getting feed back is essential.  If you don’t get any feedback, you have no idea what people think of your work.  You might be making simple mistakes that you can’t see.  You have to ask for feedback sometimes.  But accepting feedback gracefully is also very important.  Understand that you might not be the best writer, podcaster, whatever, right out of the gate.  It is going to take time, and there is no such thing as an over night success.

Like everything else writing is work.  Sometimes it is a lot of fun, sometimes it is a lot of work and you are going to hate it.  But in the end it is ultimately worth it.

Michell Anything else you’d like to add on your writing process?

Jeff: I have a very unique process.  In the 20  or so years I have been working with other writers, I have never found anyone who writes just like I do.  The reality is that everyone has a different writing process.  I tried very hard in the beginning to make my writing process like other peoples processes, and I really struggled.  Nothing I was writing was very good.  And I really started hating writing.  Then one night I sat down and wrote a story.  I wrote it the way I wanted.  At first it felt like I was cheating or something because I was not being regimented or sitting at my writing desk or wearing my “special writing socks.  Then I showed it to someone and they liked it better than what I had been writing.  What had happened was that I was able to incorporate some of the lessons that I had learned by studying other people’s processes styles, into my own without really changing the way that actually wrote the stories.    The moral of this story, do what works for you but don’t be afraid to study and learn from other people’s methods and styles.

 

So that is it for the interview.  Thank you Michell for tagging me.  This was a lot of fun.  Later this week, I will post links and questions for the two people I have tagged.

 

A Scene Only A Father Could Love

I am a dad. Yeah you might know that already, but what you might not know is how integrated I am into dad mode. I am a dad, pretty much all the time. Let me give you an example.

Yesterday, while we were out for dinner for my daughters birthday, and while we were waiting for dinner to arrive, I saw the end of a golf tournament. After the guy won, his wife came over and handed him his young son.

Of course the first thing I thought of the Bill Cosby routine, Jeffrey. “She handed Jeffery to his father and punched him dead in the face.”

But after that I enjoyed the scene of him walking along holding his son and giving the crowds a high five. About half way through, he switched hands, moving the kid to the other hand.

Now I understand that this might truly be because he had just had a “hard day of golf” (that is a subject for a whole other post) But the first thought in my head had nothing to do with his being tired, and it was something that just about every father had encountered. Ugh! Kid you need a new diaper, and the nearest diaper is likely back in the car.

Like I said, I am a dad. What can I say.

Defining Moments

Recently I was invited to attend a military retirement ceremony. As normally happens there was a lot of pomp and the ceremony. What impressed me more than the ceremony was the retiree’s speech. He had been a fighter jet pilot, and he talked about the flights that meant the most to him, the ones that defined his career. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he talked about super high flights, super low ones as well as some others that were in between. The last one he focused on was one of his first solo flights, and how at that moment even being so young, that moment changed his life forever, and some times how he wished he could have that moment back. Not so he could change it but so that he could relive it and savor the moment more.

The point of his talk was about valuing those moments. Stepping out of that moment (looking back) and looking at the time around those moments and realizing what they meant to you, to your family, and to the world around you. How they shaped your life, how they changed you.

I started to think about maybe the top 5 (because he picked 5) times, the top 5 moments in my career to date that have shaped who I am. First, I realized that my career is boring. So I expanded on the idea to include the rest of my life.

I thought it might be a fun experiment to try to write those ideas down, talk about what they meant to me and then share them with the world. Then I thought it might be interesting to invite some other people to do the same thing.

Defining Moments

When I set out to write this post, I had some pretty specific ideas about what I wanted to write, but when I actually sat down to write, I found that they didn’t really meet with what I think I wanted to this series to be about. I mean I could talk about the day I got married, or the day I first become a father. Without a doubt, those were huge moments in my life. They shaped who I am. Both of those have completely changed who I am. Becoming a father, taught me that I love being a father, and getting married has taught me and will continue to teach me what it means to really love, and thank you for that my dear.

While these events were important, there are a few events that have changed me in other ways. The first of those was the day I got off the plane from JFK airport and walked into Frankfurt International Airport. What followed was almost 7 years of cultural shock. I spent from just before my ninth birthday until after my 16th birthday living in Germany. We traveled every chance we got. I learned to ski, I speak some German to this day, and I have respect for the culture of Europe that I don’t think I would have gotten had a not lived there.

The next event that defined who I am was only about 6 weeks later. When we moved to Germany there was no housing available right away. And we were stuck in a hotel. We didn’t speak the language, we didn’t really know our way around, and even though we had a great sponsor who showed us around, it was pretty easy to get depressed pretty fast. That was what was happening to my mother who was stuck in the hotel all day while my father went to work and my brother and I went to school. It was spilling over, so one day my father said pack some bags we are going on a trip. While there was some moaning and groaning, we all piled in our newly acquired car and headed south to Garmish. We spent the weekend in the General Paton hotel. My brother and I got our first experience of ordering fish by picking it out of the tank.
Understand that it rained and sleeted all the way down, as it had almost every day since we had arrived in Germany. We had seen nothing except the same grey skies that we had seen in Frankfurt. And even though we had a nice room and a good meal, I think even my father was beginning to question driving the 6 hours to just spend time in an even more cramped hotel room. That first night about midnight, my dad got up to get a drink of water on his way back to bed he took a moment to peek out the curtains. The next thing we knew the curtains were opened wide and all of us were awake. “You have got to see this,” he said.
The sky had cleared up, the moon was out and right out our window were the Alps bright as daylight in the moon light. It was that moment that I think turned our minds around, and we all decided that we wanted to be there. The beauty of what we were seeing was to this day indescribable. It also started my life long fascination with living in and around the mountains. So to my poor wife who probably had no idea why was so excited that whole drive out to Colorado just before we got married on seeing the mountains for the first time, it is my dad’s fault.

I met my wife the year before we left Germany, and I have always maintained that I knew she was the the one for me the day I first noticed her walking into our classroom. The fact that I didn’t notice her until the ned of the day and that she was in most of the rest of my classes that day, well we will just gloss over that part. While I still maintain that is the case, I was young and stubborn (read stupid.) It was not until I was sitting on a mountainside in France, that I realized it was not the girl I was dating that I missed, and that I was my wife-to-be that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

The birth of each of our kids has been something special. Our first son was taken away from us and put in the NICU only 24 hours after he was born, my wife had an emergency C-section and we were 200 miles from home with no money and no way of getting back. I remember holding him and thinking what the heck have we gotten ourselves into. And each kid after that had their own surprises. Our first daughter, and 5th child was born while I was away at school, I remember getting the call about 5:30 am that my wife was going to the hospital, and then failing the quiz that day, and the rushed trip home that weekend. The three children that we planned to have at home and because of one complication or another ended up in the hospital anyway, and then our current youngest being born at home when I ran out of the room to get a towel and the look on my wife’s face when I came back and she was holding that precious little one. My children have change my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

Each one of these moments has changed my life. They have defined who I am in ways that even before I started writing this I didn’t realize.

Later this week Scott Roche will take a stab at telling us about his defining moments.

Want to join in the fun? please use the contact form below to let me know.
Thanks,
Jeff

The Sinner’s Guide To Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher – A Review

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family PlanningThe Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning By Simcha Fisher.

This book came highly recommended, so when one more person recommended it to me, I decided that it was time to get a copy. Well actually two copies, since the deal right now is if you buy the hard copy you get the kindle version for free. That worked out really well since my wife prefers hard copy and I prefer e-copy.

I should start this review by saying my wife and I have been practicing NFP for more than 14 years, and we have been teaching it for just over 13 years. So while I was excited about reading this book, we have some experience in helping people who have questions about the why’s and the where’s and the hows of NFP. We have heard many of the complaints, promises and hype about it. We have lived a lot of the pains and joys of it as well. And in the last few years we have gotten rather tired and probably jaded by all of the sunshine and unicorns side that you see most of the time.

This book, is not one of those sunshine and rainbows, puppies and kittens. Well maybe it is because, as anyone who has ever had a puppy or a kitten will tell you, that while they are super cute and there are some great benefits to having one, they can also be a pain. Ruined floors and furniture, torn up shoes, walks in the middle of the night that and unexpected puddle that gets your socks wet right after you turn the lights off.

So on with the review. This books starts with a disclaimer. This book will not teach you NFP. It will not tell you about all the different methods, it will not even tout one version of NFP over all the others. It won’t tell you about the dangers of using artificial birth control. So if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you.

After the disclaimer, the first few chapters are about the realities of living with NFP. Why you might choose it, and some of the common arguments. And I enjoyed reading about them. Even though I knew it was the case already it was good to hear that other people struggle with using NFP as well. The chapters on why, biologically speaking, the struggle can be so darn hard was especially nice to see.

For a long time my wife and I called ourselves the NFP dropouts. After reading this book, the title no longer seems all that appropriate. While my wife says she already kind of knew this, believe it or not, outside of class, guys really don’t talk about these things. So it was nice to see that there are other couples out there that are just as much “dropouts” as we are.

I have only given this book three stars. And all three stars are for the first half to two thirds of this book. the last third of the book deals with, well, it deals with sex. Ok NFP is about sex. Not entirely, a good portion of what NFP is about is learning to listen to and interpret your wife’s body, in order to help prevent or to achieve a pregnancy. But that is just a start. NFP is about respect and love and intimacy that extends way beyond the bedroom.

While I suppose it was good information to get out there, and as one of the reviewers pointed out, that normally you would only find this kind of information in a very intimate conversation with a close friend, some times it would be good to keep more of that information to those close intimate conversations.

I am a prude. I will admit it. But, I am a prude who is willing to talk about just about anything in a one on one conversation. We have had couples ask us some of the questions that were handled in the last third of this book. So it is not that the subjects are “off limits” or something. The problem I had with this section of the book, was that it was no longer a close personal intimate conversation. If I had not been laying on the bed right next to my wife, I would have been really uncomfortable reading this. After all, if I were talking about this kind of stuff, I would have her there with me, so if I were reading it I would need to be sitting right next to her, even with that, I was glad she finished the book before me so that she knew what it was that I was reading. To say it made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. While I know there are those that would disagree with me, I feel that some conversations are best left to intimate situations when both the husband and wife are involved. So while I appreciate the effort Mrs. Fisher made in getting this information out, I kind of wish she hadn’t. As it stands by the time I was finished with this section of the book, I was soured on the whole thing, and really had to try hard to put my feelings aside to write anything positive about the book at all.

My last comment on this book is this. Who am I to say one person’s writing style is better or worse than another. So I want to make it clear that, that is not what I am saying. I know that Simcha has a very personal and rather informal style of writing. I do like her style for most of the things that she writes, but some things require a more formal style. I think if some of the subjects that I found uncomfortable were written with a less irreverent and a more formal style they would have been easier to deal with.

If you are struggling with NFP and feel like you are all alone out there, and if all you are hearing from the people around you is the puppies and rainbows side of it, this is likely a great book for you. If you have been using NFP for long enough that you know that it is a struggle and that there are other people out there like you, this book might be just more of what you already know. At best it will be an affirmation, at worse it will make you uncomfortable if your not reading it with your spouse.

View all my reviews

Since you know what I think about it, and you know my wife read it as well, here is her review.

Happiness and Trepidation

baby[1] a Few days ago my wife and I made kind of an announcement, and I am just getting around to writing about it. We always love sharing the news about our little babies, but this announcement came with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.





First, let’s start with the happy part. HEY everyone we are having a baby! We are so very excited about it. We wanted to shout it from the roof tops. So there we were yesterday shouting it from the highest roof top we know (Facebook.) We showed the picture to the kids. As a small aside, it is wonderful to see how many of them saw the ultrasound and not only knew what that meant, but also could pick out the baby. They were all very excited. The only concern we got from the kids was from our oldest. He asked, “does this mean I am going to have to learn to drive an even bigger van?”

I love babies. Not just my own but other people’s as well. If we are at a function were people have kids, you are likely going to find me holding one. I love100_4923 being dad. Some days my head feels like it is going to explode if I get one more question about why, why, why, or a child who does not want to do their school work, but at the end of the day I know that despite the headache, despite the piles of laundry that I still need to fold and have the children dump back into their hamper because they don’t want to put them away, this is why I am here. I love being a dad. I love being with the kids, wrestling, playing, building train tracks, drinking imaginary tea and eating imaginary cookies. I love teaching them new things and practicing the old, and over all just watching them become the people, that I know they will be.

100_4958So why, with all this joy, do I also have trepidation and sometimes even abject fear? Let’s start with the simple answer, it is a new life a new and precious, and fragile life, and I am not as sure of myself as I once was about these things. Despite all our medical knowledge and all the prayers, there is danger involved here, both for the new baby and mom. But let’s not focus on the big things.

How about the questions. As you probably know, this is baby # 11 for us. That is a pretty big number. Big enough that people, even good Catholic families, tend 2013-12-31 18.45.52to give you side ways glances, and ask you questions like How did this happen? Sometimes I actually look forward to these questions now, because I feel like I am prepared for them, usually because it is an opportunity to practice my snarky responses. But some times the questions come from people you didn’t expect. Sometimes even the people you expect to be supportive really aren’t and that is some times hard to deal with.

Some of the questions aren’t like that though. Some of them are just questions, but they hurt none the less. No matter how carefully they are asked. For example, my wife’s doctor’s nurse, a wonderful woman who is very caring and supportive had some background questions to ask, and the conversation went like this.

“How many pregnancies have you had?”
*My wife counting on her fingers* “15.”
“How many living children?”
“9.”

See, a simple question asked with respect and dignity and yet, it hurts. It is not because it was wrong of her to ask or anything, just hard to think about those babies that we will never get to hold.

So yes, while I am very excited, I am fearful. I am uncertain about my own abilities. We debated for a while if we were going to tell any one other than our very closest friends and those people who needed to know. (The God parents for example.) I was all for sending out birth announcements as a way of letting most people know. But my wife did something that reminded me that this is a reason to be joyful. She started telling people. She started telling them and letting them know how happy we were. And we are, and I am. So welcome to the world my little one. We can’t wait to meet you.
– Love Dad

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

This post was inspired by post a Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace


doorsKevin Cummings was one of the first people I met online. Even well before I got to know him (and I still don’t really know him I just like to think that I do.) I knew I liked this guy. He used to run a podcast called Short Cummings Audio. Short humor essays that he called Life — In Funny, Six-Minute Slices. I got his sense of humor, and that meant to me a lot.

As I talked with him several times I felt like I got to know him. Turned out he was Catholic and a father and well, just an all around nice guy. So when he started a new website called Seminarian Parents. I was interested. For a lot of reasons, but one in particular, my oldest son and maybe one of his younger brothers are discerning a calling to the priesthood. The blog is about the personal journey, both as a parent and a fellow Catholic from “mere mortals” to priesthood, and about the journey the rest of the family is taking around him.

A couple of days ago he published the article linked here. When I saw the article I knew I needed to share it with people. But I knew that I also wanted to say something about it. I want to try not to take any thing away from what Kevin has said here. I think he has some pretty important things to say on this subject, but I wanted to add to it.

I think very few people seek out a vocation. They look for jobs and friends and, do what feels right at the time. But a vocation is something completely different. Kevin Actually already wrote a piece on vocation that does a better job than I can of defining what vocation is. But in short it is about your life’s work. What it is that you are going to do with your life. That is so much more than just your job.

Like Kevin says in his post, Marriage is a vocation, albeit one that a lot of people don’t take seriously any more, but a vocation none the less. It is, in truth no less of a commitment than someone entering the priesthood. Priest’s make sacrifices to be a priest, and married people make similar but different sacrifices to be married. They are vocations, and they both require a high level of commitment. They both require a level of sacrifice.

When I was younger, after I was engaged to my wife, I thought maybe I heard the calling to the priesthood. I remember those questions swirling in my head. “Am I ready for that level of commitment?” And it hit me that even though I was only engaged at the time, I was because I was already talking about that level of commitment with someone else. It was not the level of commitment that turned my mind from one vocation to another, because while they are both different, they are both life long commitments.

I appreciate the priests who we know, and have made this wonderful choice to be priests. We actively encourage our children to look at religious life as a real choice and to pray so that if they hear that calling them they might be ready to answer it. We also try to teach them that marriage is the same kind of vocation, and requires the same kind of sacrifices, and requires the same kinds of prayer to discern.
Thank you Kevin for such a great post about opening up to Grace.

This post was inspired by a post Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

Fathers in the background – St. Joseph

st_joseph_the_carpente-242x300
Over the years I have given a lot of thought to fatherhood. I remember when I was in 7th grade, and I was reading Bill Cosby’s book Fatherhood. At the time my lab partner teased me about the book asking if I was going to be a father or something? Of course at that moment I said no. No, I don’t think I was looking at fatherhood way back then but it was a pretty funny book.

The truth is that even with such dubious role models as Bill Cosby, Tim (the Tool Man) Taylor, Michael Keaton and Ray Barrone I was pretty sure that I did want to be a father even then, just not yet.


*** I think that I should stop for a moment here and say that I don’t think of myself as a great father. I don’t even think of myself as a particularly good father. This is not one of those, “Look how good a dad I am” posts. I am just a dad who is trying to figure things out as I go.

I think despite the questionable role models, or the lack of good role models on TV, I still wanted to be a father. I still wanted to have kids of my own. Why? Well I am not sure, but I did.

Over the last few months, St. Joseph has become my hero. He really should have been all along but what can I say, I am kind of slow learner. For me it all kind of started with the little youtube video that always shows up around Christmas. You know the one. (Yes, it is a little silly, but the video is a beautiful reminder of what they faced together and how it would translate in our world.)
The important part to me starts right about 1:13 when friends of Joseph start to question what is going on. We don’t all face the same things that St. Joesph did in bringing a child into the world. We don’t face God being the father of our children, but we all do face a fair amount of uncertainty. One of those uncertainties, will be the people that we count among our friends before we have children. Some of whom will question our choices, and some, as happens to Joseph at 1:54 when 23 people un-friend him, some of them will abandon us altogether. Looking back at it now I say, good let them go, I remember how that felt. And I am not saying it is going to be easy.

stjoesephThat is another lesson learned from St. Joseph, some times being a father really isn’t easy. A personal example of that, one day before our eldest son was born we were told there was something wrong. So we had to drive over the mountains to Denver, and then once he was born. Because of a health condition we couldn’t go home again. It was a trying time, but that is nothing compared to what the Holy family had to deal with. They had to leave home and to go to a crowded city, where there was no place for them. Once they get there, having their baby be born in a stable. Then in the middle of the night being told, by an Angel, that you have to leave now. Not to go home, but go even further away to Egypt. It was a good thing that Joseph was a carpenter and could find work just about anywhere.

That brings me to the reason I chose the title for this post. Most of the time, in today’s society if you see a father portrayed at all, he is portrayed as a bumbling idiot, who some how manages to make money so his family can survive. He is often in trouble, with either his wife and some times his kids, and normally is the laughing stock for all of us. Yes, these are sitcoms, but are there really any good father figures on TV anywhere else?

In this we could all take a lesson from St Joseph. It is a hard lesson to learn especially in today’s culture, Being a good father is not about being the center of attention. It is not about your friends, either the ones who have stuck with you, or the ones that have abandoned you. Even when St Joseph probably had something to say it was not recorded. And yet he was still an effective father.

While it is unclear when he died, it is generally accepted that St Joseph died before Jesus was very old. Despite that, he spent enough time with him, teaching him and being a father to him, that when he did die Jesus and Mary were able to survive on the skills learned from his father. And yet, we never really hear about that. We don’t have any records or youtube videos of the afternoons spent in the shop working. We don’t have any accounts of Joseph spending time with his son, teaching how to play ball, or fix the house up or use the tools. We have to assume that he was an effective teacher because Jesus was also known as a carpenter, and known to be good to his mother.

So Today I think about St. Joseph. He is the role model that I want to follow. I hope that I am managing to do a good job of it, but I am likely not anywhere near as effective as he was.

A Father’s Prayer for His Children

Saint Joseph, I come to you with my concerns for the welfare of my children. I recall your anxiety when, to your surprise and Mary’s, Jesus was not among your relatives and friends on your return from Jerusalem. I too worry about my children. Many dangers surround the youth of today. Sometimes, in my loving concern for them, I may seem to them to be difficult or even harsh. Help me to remove the barriers that may come between my children and myself. I love my children and desire good and wholesome things for them. Good Saint Joseph, watch over my children and inspire me to know how to speak and act in love. Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for me. Amen.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory.
Amen.

The Training that actually Stuck

*** Warning this is about an active shooter training that I received for work. The Topic is graphic and visceral, but very important.***

This past week, we had some training that we had to go to for work. We have these training sessions a every few months, and we always grumble and groan about them. I am sure at least some of you have been in the mass training sessions that I am talking about. The ones that you have to go to every year or couple of years, you have to sit through them, and even the presenter does not REALLY want to be there.

This is normally how it goes. Everyone comes in and finds a seat, and the noise starts. Lots of phones being used to play Angry Birds or whatever. Then the boss gets up front and people mostly quiet down. The presenter gets up and starts talking and the noise slowly grows as the training goes on. You get a phone or two going off, and people quickly shutting it off, or walking out to answer it loudly.

This was not your typical training. Oh it started out like normal. But as soon as the trainer got up there, you knew something was different. First, he was a plain clothes police officer, gun and badge very clearly visible. Second he started off with a warning that went something like this, “This video is a re-enactment, but it is very realistic. There is no shame if you need to leave the room. When we first saw it, we weren’t told it was a re-enactment, and it had real effects on a lot of the people who saw it. It made us angry, sick to our stomachs, and just all around emotional. It is not because of the gore, because there really isn’t any. It is… well you will see.”

The video we watched was, well to say it was traumatic would be putting in mildly. I have not seen something that disturbed me so much since I visited Dachau as a child. (It is not the video I linked to below.) This was a black and white, supposed to be through the CCTV system, view of what it might look like during an active shooter incident. Briefly, it was 11+ minutes of two people coming in and rooting out every person in a building, taunting many of them and killing them all, before they eventually killed themselves. You can hear the gun fire, you can hear the screams and pleas for help and mercy, you can hear the 911 operator trying desperately to get the gunmen to stop as she reports what is happening to the police. There is no voice over, no musical track,there is nothing that tells you this was not real, there is only the printed warning at the beginning that warns of the disturbing nature of the video. It was one of those things that really sticks with you.

During the video the room was silent. Almost 600 people in the room and there was not a sound. At one point someone’s cell phone went off and rang like 10 times before the person even moved to try to silence it.

I am not going to link to this video for a couple of reasons. First, because I could not find it, and second because it is really disturbing, and I would rather not have anything that disturbing on my site.

Was the video effective? I don’t know. It got everyone’s attention, and if that was the desired effect, then yes it was effective. Will it help people be prepared? Probably not. I say that because in the end what I felt was a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, not one of being prepared. There was no way out for those people, and the two shooters were not interested in being reasoned with or reasonable at all, and there was nothing any of the victims could have done.

There was quiet for a long time after the video was over.

Afterwards we talked about the warning signs, what is known about the patterns for active shooters. We talked about some of the case studies of the most famous ones from the past 50 years. And then we talked about what you could do.

Obviously the best thing to do is see the warning signs and try to stop it before it happens, failing that there are some things you can do once a situation is going on.

Below I have linked to a video from the DHS. This one too, is a little graphic, but much less so than the first one we saw. I am not saying that it is the best training video, but it does seem to give some pretty solid, if not what I would think of as obvious advice. I say that because it seems like the three steps they suggest are pretty obvious. But in times of emergency some times you need the obvious advice.

WARNING THIS VIDEO IS DISTURBING! I WOULD RATE IT NC-17

Normally I am not a huge fan of things put out by the Department of Homeland Security, but they do have some pretty good information here. link to the DHS website with more information.

So, other than because It disturbed me, why did I want to post this? It is pretty simple. You know that feeling that things will never happen to you? You know how people talk about these incidences? The problem is that the number of them is growing. There were 83 of them last year. Not to be glib, but what you might find is that they are coming to a place near you.

If you have not seen an active shooter training, please take a moment to watch the video above. I highly encourage you to talk to your employer about getting an active shooter training in place in your workplace. They don’t even really have to do anything, there is a 90 minute training session right on the DHS’s website.

Last, it is a pretty scary topic it, but if you have kids I highly encourage you to talk about it in some way. More and more of these are happening in places where they might be. Maybe something as simple as tell them they should listen to the adults in the room when something like this happens.