Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary!weddingpic

Yup, once again it is our anniversary. Last year my wife and I made list of things that we loved about each other 18 things About my Wife on our Anniversary. This year I would like to do something a little different. I would like to tell you one of my favorite memories of when we were younger.

My wife and had both participated in some level in scouts as a kid. I made it only to Star Scout. At that point I got out of scouts for various reason. My wife, who is much more awesome that I am, got her gold award. (for those of you counting, that is the equivalent of making Eagle in Boy Scouts.
There were other differences in our scouting experience as well. I, big surprise here, was never out going and after about the age of about 10 the songs that they sang at sing-a-longs were pure torture to me.
Poll The Princess Bride KissMy wife liked these things. When she was repelling, caving, and primitive camping, she worked with the younger girls to learn these songs.

When we were first married and our first son was born, we would be riding in the car, and he would fuss, and she would start singing camp songs to him. He grew up to songs like, Two little Froggies, Ding-a-ling-ling Goes the Fire Truck, And the one that has stuck with me ever since.

A Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe

Obviously there are various version of this song, as with all camp songs. But being the strong willed person that my wife is, this is the one that sticks in my head.

I could imagine the boy would would dare to tell her that. It took on special meaning again when our fifth child was a girl. She was and is as strong willed as her mother, plus since she has four older brothers. I again could imagine the boy who tried pull something like this with her.

This is one of my favorite memories of my wife because, despite the fact that really disliked many of these songs when I was kid, they have brought so much joy to our lives of the years as we have, first sung them to the kids, then taught them to them as they got older, and then finally listened to the older kids teach them to the new ones.

2014-10-25 11.05.30Thank you dear for that, and remember. Gonk, Gonk went the little green froggy!

Advertisements

18 Things I love about my Wife on the occasion our Anniversary

weddingpic
Not to be outdone by my wife and her list, who is much more awesome than I am, here is my list of 18 things I love about my wife on the occasion of our 18th anniversary. And yes, it is a day early.

1. My wife can balance a budget, and no matter what I bring home manages to make it all work.

2. She has always supported my many and varied career changes.

3. Moving is never really a question with her, just a part of life. Not if, but when.

4. Through everything she had remained hopeful.

5. She convinced me that I wanted a big family, and she was right. So very right.

6. She believes in me.

7. Through everything, even when I lost hope about my writing career, she has always supported me.

8. She is not afraid to try new things.

9. Given the choice, I think she would rather be a mom than anything else

10. Shows no fear at the idea of 30+ kids coming over for the afternoon to play

11. She laughs at the people who say, “I have to cook a huge meal for Thanksgiving we are going to have 11 people!” That is our house everyday.

12. Even with our limited budget, she always makes sure that we have good, and interesting food to eat.

14. She is always excited when a new baby is on the way.

15. Even though we never really planned on it, she has taken, the addition of chickens, sheep and multiple dogs without batting an eyelash.

16. She can laugh at my mistakes while still not making me feel stupid for having made them.

17. She puts up with all of my Bill Cosby jokes.

18. She makes it look easy.

and one more for next year.

She loves me more than I deserve.

Thank you Cheryl. Here is hoping for many more chaos filled lovely years with you. Always and Forever yours

Defining moments – J.R. Murdock

Apollo_11_first_stepAfter being invited to a military retirement ceremony where the retiree talked about the defining moments in his career that shaped his life, I thought it would be interesting to ask other people about their defining moments. Many of these will be very personal, some of them will mean nothing to anyone but the person who is writing about them but for all of us, we understand the idea. There are moments in our life that shape us and change us forever.

Defining Moments by J.R. Murdock

Life is filled with many things that will change a person forever. Many are things that a great number of people will experience. Yes, these things will change your life, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Marriage (or finding a partner to spend your life with), getting a degree or two or three, children, burying one or both of your parents. It’s the course that life takes. For me, the biggest life-changing events were in moving.

There are other things that also change your life forever that may never happen to another person. Possibly a course of events that put you into a position to make that life changing event.

At thirteen I was living in a very small town. I had no prospect of a better life. Things were what they were. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I hated physical labor, but living with my mother and step-dad in the back woods of Minnesota, you did physical labor. Mowing lawns for spending money. Shoveling driveways. Raking leaves. Cutting wood. Helping neighbors. Going to a worksite to help shovel gravel, sand, cement, or carry roofing material. Never a shortage of things to do.

Then my mother left my step-father. Life took a turn I wasn’t expecting. My father, a man I’d only spoken to on the phone a handful of times over the years and gone to visit twice, wanted my brother and I to move and live with him.

The jump was made and we moved from the little town of McGregor, Minnesota to Durango, Colorado. Life was easier. Still, there was no shortage of things to do. The winters were a little lighter, but there was still snow to shovel and grass to cut. Fewer trees meant no leaves to rake.

After only a couple of years, my father decided to move back to Minnesota. My senior year in high school was in an even bigger city, Minneapolis. I liked the big city and I loved the house we had moved into. I didn’t like the cold and I hated the snow. I needed a change.

When I was eighteen, I joined the Navy. Sure, millions of men and women have joined the military. For me it was a chance to get away from the life I’d always known. I had dozens of reasons to join, but mostly it was to get away from home. To become my own man. To do my own thing. I moved from coast to coast while in the Navy. I lived in Orlando, Florida, Pensacola, Florida, Lakehurst, New Jersey, Seal Beach, California, Long Beach, California, back to Pensacola. In a few years I’d been on beaches from the Atlantic, to the Gulf of Mexico, to the pacific, and back again. Each time I drove across the country, stopping and seeing everything I could see. Before I was twenty-two, I’d been in over half of the lower forty-eight states.

When I got out of the Navy, I moved back to Durango. When I was in high school, and in the Navy, I played drums and bass. My best friend had lived in California while I was there and he’d moved back to Colorado. I moved there so we could start a band.
We did.

Durango isn’t known for its music scene. So we packed up everything we had and moved to San Diego.

At twenty-six, when I finally decided that the band thing was never going to work out, I was fairly confident that I would never marry, and I would never have kids. I had been to the bottom as a starving musician. Being a musician was awesome, but starving really sucked. I needed to reassess and start over.

I got myself back into school. I got a degree. I got a good paying job. Then I got a better paying job. I met my wife. Got married. We had my favorite daughter.
One thing doesn’t seem to have changed, though. We still move from place to place to get ourselves into a better place.

If it hadn’t been for all the moving I’d done throughout my life, I would be a completely different person. Now, at 45, I’ve lived in 24 different places across six different states. I’ve stayed in hotels in more than a two-dozen different cities and driven through at least 30 states.

For me, change is constant. Many things will never change, but I’ve settled down so many times, that I can call almost anywhere home. Yes, growing roots for many helps define their life. For me, it’s all that moving and uprooting that’s helped define who I am. Sometimes I think I don’t want to move any more. Then I find myself moving yet again. For me, that’s just a part of life. Something that will probably never change. Sometimes, I hope it won’t. It keeps me guessing just where I’ll lay my head next and when the next adventure I will have.

Despite what you may think, J.R. Murdock did have a normal childhood. If you consider swimming in lakes, playing hide and seek in the woods, and spending more time with his imagination than a television, then yes, it was normal. There are those times when little voices will talk to him inside his head. This was never a frequent occurrence and he learned to ignore them. Most of the time.j.r.murdock_1361732631_04[1]

His first book was attempted over several years (probably closer to a dozen) and somehow that book about Dungeon and Dragons characters just never really worked out the way he wanted it to. Someday it might! Just you wait and see. Those characters will not stay down. They will have their story told! I’m telling you here and now…

Shhh, calm. Relaxed. Don’t scare away the nice people that have come to this page and might want to buy a book (or three).

Where were we? Oh, yes, the voices inside his head. They like to talk to at inappropriate times. Fortunately they also talk to at appropriate times and that’s when books happen. Yes, the voices must have their story told or they just keep talking over one another and it’s just a big old jumbled mess and nobody will want to read anything like that, right? So it’s good that they get their chance to come out so that you’ll have something to read and enjoy.

When not listening to the voices inside his head, J.R. Murdock spends time with his wife and his favorite daughter (yes, there is only one daughter that’s why she’s his favorite). They reside in sunny San Diego which is about as close to paradise as you can get and still be in a big city.

Find out more about Mr. Murdock
http://jrmurdock.com
http://ofgnomesanddwarves.com
http://about.me/j.r.murdock

If you would like to participate this this and submit your own essay please use the contact form below to let me know.
Thanks,
Jeff

Defining Moments – Dan Absalonson

Apollo_11_first_stepDefining Moments by Dan Absalonson

I often try to stop and enjoy moments in life. I guess I’m a bit introspective that away. I think I learned that from my parents. They would take us out on the boat at the lake cabin, or stop us at the top of the mountain before we went down the hill for the first time on a ski trip, and tell us to stop and look around and take it in and enjoy the moment. To be thankful for what we had. So we did. My brothers, sister, and I had a lot growing up, but we learned to be thankful for it. I’m sure there were many times I could have been much more thankful, but now as I am an adult myself I’m grateful for the lesson from my parents of being thankful and really enjoying the moments in life. There have been some crazy ones, like right now we have six kids under six in our house. Three of them are ours and the other three are foster children. It’s not easy, but trying to enjoy the moments in life instead of always looking forward to what’s next has helped me enjoy life more.

Getting married

My wedding day was an amazing day I’ll never forget. I was so happy and so excited to marry my best friend. I tried to really enjoy it, because that’s what a lot of other people said to do. Don’t let the stress get to you, just enjoy it, so I did. Being married has definitely shaped who I am today. I’ll never forget watching her come down the aisle and wanting to do whatever I could from that day forward to make her happy, protect her, and love her. Doing these things have made me grow a lot as a person. I learned how selfish I am. How scared of change and conflict I am.

As I write this today I am a much stronger person and I am incredibly thankful for that. My wife helps me to be strong and she is an amazing support system and a person who pushes me to rise to the occasion. We currently have a 3, 4, and 6 year old and also care for 3 foster children who are 4, 5 and 5. I never could have imagined being able to do what we’re doing right now but thanks to my wife I have become a stronger person who is able to deal with more. I still pale in comparison to her strength, but I’m very thankful for the person I have grown to be. I used to be a limp noodle with no backbone. Now I’m a lover and a fighter – hopefully I’m always fighting for righteous things.

Deciding to change my career path.

I was a week into my second quarter at my local community college when I changed my mind from wanting to become a teacher to becoming a 3D artist. It was a huge decision. A turning point that would decide what my career would be. I dropped all my classes and enrolled in a couple digital art classes instead. One was a Photoshop class and the other was the only 3D art class they had. A few moments lead up to this defining moment, but it was one of the biggest decisions I made that steered the rest of my life from that moment on. It ended up moving me from the home I grew up in to the big city of Seattle four hours away – a town where I didn’t know a single person. So for those moments that helped push me over the edge and decide I wanted to become a 3D artist instead of an English teacher.

I was blessed to have an awesome art teacher in junior high and when the first full length 3D movie Toy Story came out on video he had us watch it over the course of a few classes. He told us to study it. Watching that film critically filled me with wonder and made me want to be a part of making something like it. The next moment was when I was playing a video game. I made my character climb up a ladder and the animation of him climbing was so bad that I thought to myself, if I knew the tools I’m sure I could do a better job than this! The last moment was the first quarter of community college where a classmate used a simple 3D rendered video in his presentation. He wasn’t majoring in 3D but liked fiddling with the software. I thought, if he can make that awesome imagery maybe I could too.

So during the second week of my second quarter of college I changed my career path. Since then I lived in Seattle for several years, made tons of friends, moved back to my hometown and am now working my second job as a 3D artist. From what I’ve heard from others I have a rare situation in that I can truthfully say I love my job. I’m so thankful I get to use what I learned at The Art Institute of Seattle to bring home the bacon for my family. Every day at work feels like a privilege.

The Day I Became a Father

I’ve always wanted kids. I remember dreaming of having a family and children when I was in high school. At the age of 25, the same age my parents were when they had me their firstborn son, my wife and I had a son. Like with Jeff’s child, he was taken from us and had to spend several days in the NICU. That was really scary and no fun, but I’ll never forget when he was born. It was definitely a defining moment. It felt like I was in a dream. It was so surreal. One moment the doctors are working and I’m holding my wife’s hand, the next moment I’m cutting our son’s umbilical cord and he’s crying. My son knew my wife’s voice and when the doctor put our baby boy on her chest and she spoke her first words to him he stopped crying and looked towards her. I’ll never forget that moment. It was amazing to see my little boy comforted by his mommy’s voice. Now he’s turning six this month and has grown into an amazing little guy that I couldn’t be prouder of.

The Day We Adopted a Child

It was another surreal day going to the courthouse, walking through the metal detector, waiting while all dressed up, and then going into a courtroom with a judge waiting for us. We sat down at the table you see defendants or plaintiffs sit at on law TV shows. We answered a few questions for the judge and then got to have our picture taken with him. Then outside the courtroom we were handed a folder full of paperwork and as our lawyer handed it to me he said, “Now in the eyes of the law it’s as if you guys gave birth to her.” And like that I officially had a daughter to take care of and love and teach. I was a boy. I know what boys are like and how to take care of them, but girls? I guess all I can do is try my best. Seems like a more weighty responsibility raising a girl, but I’m sure it will be another thing that helps me learn and grow. Especially in the teen years, or so I’ve been told.

Throwing a Birthday Party for a Foster Child

The two times my wife and I were able to throw a birthday party for a foster child were pretty amazing and made all the difficult days of foster care seem worth it. When one of your kids asks a foster child turning four what kind of cake they want and they ask what a birthday cake is – you feel pretty privileged to throw a birthday party for that child. The look on the face of both of the children we’ve thrown parties for as they sat before the cake, blew out the candles, and then opened tons of presents was priceless. I’m getting a little emotional just thinking about it now. There are many times I wish we weren’t doing foster care but when I think on the two defining moments of those birthday parties it makes me glad we’re doing it. Being a foster parent has surely helped define me as a person. It’s made me a whole heck of a lot stronger. Right now I’m used to parenting six kids the age of 6 and under – when going to the mall, out to restaurants, to the park, and at home. I couldn’t do it without my wife’s help and I don’t know how she manages when I’m at work. Someday when it’s just our three kids again, life will feel like a breeze 🙂

Dan first started writing stories in elementary school, where he and a friend would skip lunch and recess once a month to eat in the DanHatCar[1]library while hearing all about the new books on the shelves. His love for reading, as with visual art and music, has now extended into creating his own fiction. He works as a digital artist and lives in Washington state with his beautiful family of five. A huge fan of audio books, Dan podcasts all of his stories for free. You can find those stories here, or subscribe to the podcast with a button on the right. You can also find many free and a couple cheap eBooks of his stories at all the popular online retailers through the link above. Dan loves podcasting his fiction, but is involved in a few other podcasts as well.

If you would like to participate this this and submit your own essay please use the contact form below to let me know.
Thanks,
Jeff

Defining Moments – Scott Roche

After being invited to a military retirement ceremony where the retiree talked about the defining moments in his career that shaped his life, I thought it would be interesting to ask other people about their defining moments. Many of these will be very personal, some of them will mean nothing to anyone but the person who is writing about them but for all of us, we understand the idea. There are moments in our life that shape us and change us forever.

First up is Scott Roche

I’ve had an interesting life so far. I’ve lived in six states. I’ve
worked in over a dozen industries. I have a wife of nearly twenty
years. I am a father to three children; one of whom is autistic and
another who may be bipolar. I’ve been bankrupt and at one point lived
in a trailer not much bigger than an RV with nothing but a kerosene
heater for warmth. Now I’m blessed with a lovely house across from a
lake and am able to provide well for my family. At every step in my
life I’ve tried to learn from past mistakes and let every incident
work towards making me a better person.

Jeff asked me to think of a few things out of that history that have
changed my life for the better. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, many of
them may be perceived by others as failures. I find that most often
it’s easier to learn from hardship than from success.

Flying Island Press – Jeff and I were part of the glorious experiment
that was Flying Island Press. Sadly, it didn’t last forever, and we
closed the doors on it quietly, each of us moving on to other
projects. I said it more than once while I was there, and I’ll say it
again, I learned more from that experience than I would have ever
learned on my own. Being an editor, slush reader, and quasi-social
media director for it stretched me as a person. I got to experience
the joys of finding new authors and the pains of rejecting stories
that were soooooo close. Having read so many good and less than good
stories has made me a better writer. Last, but not least, getting to
work with the crew is something I will never forget.

Fatherhood – Most of the stuff I write isn’t for the squeamish and
REALLY shouldn’t be read by children. When my own kids asked me to
give them something of mine to read I didn’t have anything to hand
them. After much thought and a dash of inspiration, I came up with the
character Ginnie Dare. Crimson Sands, the first book with Ginnie, is a
point of pride. The feedback I’ve gotten indicates that I created a
book that parents can read with and to their children. It’s something
I likely wouldn’t have written except for the intervention of my own
children.

Rejections – One of the temptations of an era in which we can
self-publish all of our own stories is to do just that. Writers can
circumvent the whole rejection cycle and put out everything
themselves. I think that’s a mistake. Sending your short stories to
anthologies and your longer works to publishers can be a valuable
experience. I’ve been doing more of that lately and it’s taught me
patience, thickened my skin, and made me want to be good enough to
make it past the slush reader’s desk.

Extended Unemployment – I’ve often thought, “Man if I just had free
time, I’d write my butt off.” Well guess what? I got my pink slip in
January of last year. I was unemployed for six months. I don’t think I
wrote six thousand words. I’ve been employed and have written almost
fifty thousand words of new fiction since the beginning of the year.
It’s not as much as I’d like to have done, but it’s more than I’ve
written in the first quarter of any year I’ve been alive. And that’s
with kids, a wife, and a full time job. You can do this. It taught me
that I was using my blessings as a crutch not to write. Not doing that
anymore.

Bad things are going to happen to us all. Life gets more complicated
the older you get. You can’t let those complications stop you or slow
you down for good. Sometimes you’ll have to step back and take stock,
but don’t let that be permanent. Let life’s defining moments, good and
bad, drive you forward with a new purpose!

Scott Roche craves only caffeine and the clacking of keys. He
pays his bills doing the grunt work no one else wants to take,
bringing dead electronics back to life and working arcane wonders with
software. His true passion is hammering out words that become anything
from tales that terrify to futuristic worlds of wonder. All that and
turning three children into a private mercenary army make for a life
filled with adventure.

Scott’s Website – http://www.scottroche.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/scott.roche.author

Twitter – http://twitter.com/spiritualtramp

Patreon – http://www.patreon.com/scottroche

eBook_cover (1)Scott is also trying to fund his next book in the Ginnie Dare series so if you are so inclined please consider throwing a few dollars in his direction.
IndieGoGo. http://igg.me/at/ginniedare/x/397786













If you would like to participate this this and submit your own essay please use the contact form below to let me know.
Thanks,
Jeff

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.

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

Rules For Dating, A Guide For Teenage Boys. – A Response of Sorts – With Updates

After some serious thought, I have updated this article a bit.  I think you will like some of the changes, and all of the important things are still here.
Today I read an article that I really liked. Teenage Dating for Girls Part I “Teen Dating for Girls- Part II.” Having girls that are not yet teens I was interested, and I wanted to see what the author had to say.  One of my favorite things was that she openly said,  These are our rules, they might be different for other families, but these are some basics.  I really liked that.  Too many people kind of say, hey these are our rules and should be everyone else’s as well. I am going to say right up front that I am following the same line. These are our rules. They might work for you, they might not, but they are our rules, you don’t have to like them. (See the warning message on the side —–> )
However, it struck me as I was reading this, that while this was a list of the rules for girls it should also be at least a starting point for a list for boys.  After all, the boys that are taking our daughters out are just as much in need of guidance as our daughters.  More importantly, our sons need guidance on what is expected of them if they want to date.

DSC02263[1]

The great thing about a list like this is that many of the rules apply in both directions:

You need to be at least 18  display a certain level of  maturity before you can start dating.

     While this is not a hard and fast rule, it should be a good rule of thumb.  But, why wait so long?  Well the answer is simple.  Dating (courting) is really about trying to find a mate.  Since this is a list for boys, they are looking for someone to be their wife.  If you are not serious about being ready to get married you should not really be dating.  
I have had some time to think about this rule.  While is still mostly stand behind it, I think putting an arbitrary age on it is a bit problematic.  My wife and I started dating early and at that point in time I really was looking for someone to marry.  I think the age limit really needs to be more of a maturity limit.  So I have reworded the title. 
     Let me clarify here, dating is not the same as going out with a mixed group of boys and girls, even if there is some obvious pairing.  The more obvious the pairing the more likely it is that a chaperon is necessary, but this is not the same thing as dating.  This is the time when young men and women should learn to be around each other.  See how the other reacts without all the other social pressures of actually dating and the need for “romantic interests.”

Getting to know the Family; being friends first

    Just like the list for girls the list for boys should include that if a boy wants to date a girl, he should be willing to spend time meeting her family and spend some time with them.  This is also true of the girl.  She should have a good idea of what kind of family he comes from.  Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters might also be able to see things that our starry eyed young man can’t.
    To that end, being friends first is a huge deal.  It is not always true that you will build a friendship before a romantic interest begins because some times they happen at the same time.  Again remembering that dating is about finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with, and that while you are young it is very easy to be blinded by those romantic feelings.  If you have time to get to know the person first it makes that “happily ever after” that much easier.   Besides it is a lot easier to get to know someone’s family when you aren’t under the pressure of trying to impress them because you are romantically interested in one of them.  If you have spent time hanging out working in their garden, playing with their brothers and sisters, talking with their parents you will have a much better idea of who it is you are getting involved with.

DSC02190[1]

     Girls who want to date my sons, if you come to my house it is not a test.  It is not a trial, you are not there to be judged.  You are there to make friends, to learn and understand, to see the young man that you are interested in, in situations that you might not have seen him in before.

Being a Gentleman Is a Must.

Dear my sons.  
I really hope that I don’t have to tell you this.  I really hope that you have seen me treat your mother and your sisters with a level of respect that helps you to understand what it means to be a gentleman.  I don’t always pull your mom’s chair out, and I joke about opening doors and letting them go in first (dragons) but it is incredibly important stuff.  If you are not a gentleman around your date and I see it, I will say something about it.  
Love,
Your Dad.
When the tools are put away and it is time to go out on a date there are some things that you leave behind, on the farm as it were.  This is just a short list but it should give you a good starting point:
  • Swearing (you should not be doing this anyway.)
  • Passing gas and burping.
  • Talking about your bodily functions or those of the farm animals, (Unless that is a serious part of your conversation.)
  • Chewing gum or your food like a cow (sheep.)
  • Watching the TV and not your date. (I know every place you go has one up on the wall, remember that what is on TV is never as interesting as the person sitting across from you or maybe next to you.  NEVER!)
  • Discussing where the food you are eating comes from (again if this is not a serious part of your conversation and even then, once it is on the plate this is generally considered bad form.)

There is a flip side to this of course.  The woman who you are dating should know how to act like a lady.  I won’t say that…

Ok guys, let’s make this simple. we live on a hobby farm.  We have animals, and we go and plant and pull weeds and generally get messy and gross at times.  Your sisters are not excluded from this work.  In the same way that you are not excluded from doing dishes, laundry, and general house work.  We are equal opportunity mess makers.  Your date should understand that.  See the section above about being friends first.

Crew_working_DSC02345

What am I driving at here?  Think about your sisters.  When it is time to put the tools away and head off to church or nice dinner think of the way they act and dress and are treated. That should be a good measuring tape for your date.   If the young woman you are dating does not think enough of herself to dress appropriately for a date, what is she going to think of you?  Again, understanding what you want for each other is very important and why getting to know someone well before you start dating is important.  Some young women dress, well um let’s just say immodestly, because that is what everyone else is doing. But some young women do so because they feel that is the only way they can get and hold your attention.  Here is a hint: If that is the only thing keeping your attention on her, your relationship is in serious trouble.  Let her know that you have more respect for her than that.  If she feels that way, it is likely that what she needs is a friend and not a date.  I am not saying that you can solve her problems.  I am not saying you should even try.  I am not saying that she even has a problem.  But I think that there needs to be a level of understanding between you before you start dating.


Asking Permission Or Maybe Not

While I still stand behind this idea, I also think that it is, well, let’s just say that there are some difficulties here.  
First, thinking that asking a persons parents means that they are then going to say yes to you is a mistake.  A person, even a child does not belong to their parents.  This is particularly true in the case of romantic relationships.
Second, we are talking about a commitment for the rest of your life.  If we are talking about “The Question” this is not something that should be sprung on any one ever.  You should have some long and serious discussions about this way in advance.  Keep in mind that a person is never truly free to say yes, if they are not also truly free to say no.  Yes, a strong enough willed person will be able to make the right decisions no matter the circumstances, but very often we feel outside pressure.  If you already have the approval of their parents are they going to be worried about disappointing their parents if they say no?  
When it come to “The Question” I am a big proponent of popping the question part really being a show and tell for family and friends.  You should have already talked about this in depth, and maybe even asked the person in private, so that when they are standing there in front of their family, friends, a crowded restaurant, Yankee Stadium and you ask “The Question” you really should already know the answer.  (Hint: it helps the world at large around you if you are good actor and can act surprised, but if not, remember this is not really for them.)
In short asking permission can be a very slippery slope.  
There is also the reality that not all families are traditional. Many parents, fathers especially,  don’t respect the rights and boundaries of their daughters.  This can complicate things when or if you ask permission.  Again, these are discussion that you should have with your potential date / spouse before hand.   See my section on being friends first.  If you are already friends having this discussion with them, while it might be a little awkward won’t be totally out of left field. 
This can be a pretty scary thing to do. But remember that it is a sign of respect for both the woman you are dating and the family she is coming from.  I did not ask your Grandfather’s permission to date your mother.  I didn’t ask his permission to marry his daughter, and I am sure that to this day, that colors our relationship.  I am sure I will never measure up to what he believes his daughter deserves, but I also suspect that I would be a great deal closer to that measure if I had, had the courage to ask.  Have courage.  Be strong.  And know that once you have asked the hardest part left will be asking her.
Again I am going to point to the section on being friends first.  Getting to know her family.  This becomes important when it comes time to ask.  It is much easier to ask someone a difficult question when you have mucked out stalls with him, or whatever it is that you might do together.
So let’s sum it up here guys.  You should not start dating until you are serious about being ready to spend the rest of your life with someone.  You likely should not take someone you can’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with out on a date.  You should be a gentleman, your date should be a lady.  Remember that you want to live happily ever after.  You might date someone who you can’t live happily ever after with, and that is ok.  That is part of the dating process, but you should not go into a date, or start dating someone with the intent of not following through.
I want to thank Everyday Catholic for giving me the inspiration for this post.
I know that some people are going to  disagree with me, please feel free to let me know in the comments, but I will warn you that if you are not respectful I will not post your comment.

The First Kiss

Poll The Princess Bride Kiss

I remember the first time I kissed a girl.

It was not what I expected. You have seen the movies I am sure, the first kiss is always perfect, and it shapes their life afterwards right? The couple always remembers that first kiss. Well we flubbed it. Missed each others lips and everything. Thank goodness for me, this was not my first kiss with my wife to be. But the funny thing was that even though the kiss was bad, it was really good.

I don’t know how many of you remember your first kiss. I remember very little about the kiss itself other than it was clumsy and the way it made me feel afterwards. I remember kissing other girls after that, but none of them made me feel like that. It was like floating. It was a wonderful feeling. And it didn’t matter after that which girl I kissed it never felt like that again.

Well, almost never. Yes, I dated other girls before I met my wife to be. But she was something special. Usually the fact that you are dating is sealed with a kiss, but not with her. With the woman who would one day be my wife things were different. We had been dating for several days maybe as long as a week before we kissed that first time. You will notice that I said, several days maybe even a week. The truth is, we don’t remember for sure. But we do remember the date of that first kiss. We silently agreed never to talk about the real date and just accept the date of the first kiss as the “official” date.

Just like my very first kiss, our first kiss was a bit of a mess. I have no excuse. I mean I had done this before. It was her first kiss, but I had done this before. I should have been able to handle it. But that was the thing. With this woman, really very much a girl still at this point, everything was like the first time, all over again. But that is the way it should be right? I mean when you meet that person who is perfect for you, the past should not matter, and everything is new.

isabel_with Mom and DadFast forward 20+ years and there are days when we manage to miss on a kiss, and it still feels like that first kiss. I am not saying things are perfect, or that we are always happy. That is not it all what I am saying. But there are enough of those good, wonderful, glorious moments that they out weigh any of the bad.

This picture in particular, is one of those low moments but it has been, at least for the past year, one of those moments that has also drawn us together. We are older now, I have grey hair, at least the hair I have left is going grey. I get injured when I run too much, and I can’t pull all nighters and still function as well the next day like I could when we first met. My wife is still perfect in my eyes, I know she has changed too but she is perfect in my eyes. The thing is that we really make a great team. We know how to compliment each other. She really knows how to make me feel better when I need it. I think I know the same things for her. I am far from a perfect husband, but I do try.

That is, if you ask me, what marriage is all about. It is not that cloud nine feeling you get when you first kiss. That should be there of course, but there is so much more than that. There is the need to support each other when you are at the bottom of the ladder and it is so far up to cloud nine that you can’t even see it, and everything in the middle. There are going to be those days when you want to throw in the towel, and there are going to be those days when you wonder why the heck you would even think about throwing in the towel.

If I had a time machine and could go back to my younger self and tell me one thing, it would be this. Life is hard, but that first kiss, no matter how goofed up it is, is going to be one of those moments you will remember for the rest of your life. Remember it when you are at those low points, it will remind you of how good it can get. Remember that it is not all going to be like that, but those moments that are like that, are totally worth all the ones that aren’t.