Category Archives: Family

Ninevah90 Warning

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I made a comment on another blog I was a bit wary about.   I dared question whether or not it is wise for everyone to jump right in and do the Ninevah90 program.

The response I received was actually not what I expected.   I expected to hear why everyone should be able to do it, and that not embracing it fully is a sign of weakness, which is all the more reason why you should do it.    But I received a lot of agreement.

Basically, what I said about it is that everything there is good.   I have no issues with anyone doing it.    But it’s also a LOT.    Depending on where a person is in their spiritual journey, it could be utterly overwhelming, and perhaps even counterproductive, to try and do it all.   We humans are fickle creatures, and some have a tendency to become demoralized and give up on the whole thing if we fail to do every last thing.   I suggested that, at least for some, it may be a wiser course to stretch yourself, but still make the additional devotions, prayers, and activities achievable.

I was happy I received such agreement in one respect, but then I got nervous about whether or not i was just encouraging an attitude of copping out…

The following is a follow-up comment I made, that I thought I’d reproduce here.

“I wanted to make sure I clarify my comment a bit. I guess I’m just a strong believer in proper balance. And I think we all get out of balance at times one way or the other and need to constantly self-correct.

In no way am I saying that nobody can take on the full Ninevah90 program. Nor am I saying one should easily or simply dismiss it because “it’s too hard.” Nor am I saying that we shouldn’t constantly challenge ourselves to do more than we are currently doing… to take that “Next Right Step” in our spiritual growth.

What I am saying is that we are all in different places on our spiritual journey, and we all have different responsibilities in life that we cannot disregard or replace with another time consuming activity, whether it is a holy one or not.

As an example, a friend of mine – a wonderful and committed Catholic – at one point in his spiritual life thought it was a good idea to try and do everything he read that other saints did. And he was demanding his family do the same. All were good things in and of themselves, but the sheer volume of things he was doing, and in turn asking his family to do, became a real stress and caused problems in the family: Hours of adoration, hours of volunteering, hours of prayer, attending this function and that function… My observation was that I thought I fostered a better relationship with my kids and family by simply being at home and talking with them or playing a game with them. Yes, we also incorporate prayer and other spiritual devotions into family life, and I am not saying we can’t do more – we certainly can. But he was not in balance, and I could imagine even the good Lord was saying “the saint you are trying to emulate was single and a monk. You can’t do what he did – go spend time with your family.”

The Ninevah90 thing is very good, and it’s a great challenge to take upon ourselves what we can handle, and perhaps that one thing more that we feel we may need to help have God lift us up to accomplish it. That’s the next step. But if one tries to leap over a tall building in a single bound from where they are now, there is a risk that you end up a spot on the sidewalk.

I’ve already seen someone on my Facebook page lament that already on Day 3 of the program, he is undergoing a lot of spiritual warfare. I have no idea what that means, and it may very well be a true statement, but I couldn’t help but think “or maybe you just took on too much.” If he’s truly being attacked in unforeseen ways, he needs my prayers. If his view of spiritual warfare is that he doesn’t have enough time in the day to fit everything in, then I’m afraid no amount of prayer will create additional minutes for him. But hey, I could be wrong.”

I’m reminded of some of the criticisms about Catholics by some other Christians about “piling up words.”   While this criticism is usually in response to devotional prayers, such as the Rosary, and is completely unfounded, there is nevertheless a risk that some people just believe that piling up devotion after devotion after devotion makes them more holy.    We risk getting out of balance.   The proper perspective of any devotion is that we are in a relationship with God, that we are participating in the work of salvation that He alone made possible, and that we are being His hands and feet to the world around us.    If we just do a bunch of stuff in order to satisfy all the daily requirements of a program and somehow think we’re now a better person for it…  well, there may be some truth to that in terms of a better understanding that you can do more, and forming good habits.   But it could also become this obsessive action that erroneously leads to a belief that you’re working your way to heaven.

So, whatever you do, make sure your life is in balance, and make sure you know why you are doing it and why this is an important thing.

 

Team Hamstring

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So, on a completely different and personal note…

My son was part of a Flag Football League this year.   The last game was called off, and it was decided that it would be fun to have the team play against parents, coaches, and teachers.

My initial response was “This is not a good idea.”

My wife and son finally convinced me to play the game.

I am 48 years old, and I work at a desk.   I used to be a very good athlete.   Used to be.

Result:  Severely pulled hamstring.

But I was not alone.   Two other pulled hamstrings and a pulled calf muscle, and it was determined by more than just me that “maybe that was not a good idea.”

I’m on the mend, but it will be a few weeks before I can do any vigorous exercise.   Not that I did before.

Male and Female He Created Them

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It’s one of the most fundamental aspects of creation.   Aside from all the theology of it all, God created us to procreate.   The mechanism by which He did this was to create man and woman.   This is not just true of the human race, but of all living creation, save certain exceptions that are either single-cell organisms or random things God seems to have created just because He can and enjoys messing with us a little bit.

Yes, it’s true that certain elements of creation are either non-gender (bacteria, for example) and propagate through cell division, or are hermaphrodites (both male and female) and reproduce all by themselves through some sort of kinky process I don’t really care to dwell on.   But there is one common characteristic that every aspect of reproducing creation shares:  the way you reproduce is the way you’re designed, and the way it’s meant to be.

Man, of course, is our focus here.   We are made in the image and likeness of God.   It may seem strange that God the Father, a Spirit and neither solely masculine nor feminine, created us as male and female.   But we need to keep in mind that our image and likeness is our spiritual nature.  God has no body, so there can be no physical form at all that would be a perfect reflection of God.    Further, God is not just the Father, but the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It has long been theologically accepted that the family is a reflection of the Trinity.  While the Trinity’s oneness is spiritual and not physical, our humanity requires a way to commune with each other physically in order to physically propagate.  The Holy Spirit is the result of the love between Father and Son, while our children are the result of the love between mother and father.

One thing that has been apparent from the beginning of the first moment of man’s existence is that the devil realizes that the best way to undermine God, to mock God, to pull people away from God, is to attack humanity precisely where we most reflect God’s design for us, and most reflect His very essence.

People have often pointed to “End Times” study – such as in Revelation – and noted that there seems to be a false prophet (mockery of John the Baptist) who precedes the Antichrist (mockery of Christ).   The Family is, of course, attacked continuously throughout all of salvation history.

One thing that has also been easy to see throughout all of history is the attack on the procreative aspect of sexuality.   Whether we are talking about sex outside of marriage, or sex for pure pleasure, or contraception, or homosexuality – when the procreative act takes place without the procreative aspect of it willfully and purposefully in play, then this is an attack and a mockery of the very love between Father and Son that produces the third Person of the Trinity eternally.   It’s a mockery, then, of the Trinity itself.

This has always been a human struggle, and in different times these things ebb and flow and rise and fall.   It is probably worse in our time than it has ever been, but it is not a new attack.   The attack just seems to be more successful in its acceptance and effectiveness in drawing people into error and away from God.

However, we are now seeing an attack that I believe is unprecedented in all of world history.   It is an attack on the very existence of human being being male or female.    It is so absurd on its surface that it is easy to not take it seriously.   And quite frankly, we shouldn’t even be having a debate about it.   It’s is self-evident that we are male and female.   But it shows how easily duped we humans are, particularly among the supposed intellectual elite – that this is even something we are now discussing.

The deception is insanely diabolical.   Homosexuality is problematic, but it does not by its nature deny the gender of the person, whether male or female.    Even someone who feels like they are a man trapped in a woman’s body or vice-versa is recognizing that there is such a distinction – male and female.

I am talking about people who are now believing, and convincing others to believe, that they are neither male nor are they female.   They dismiss gender as “binary.”

This may at first be viewed with a bit of eye-rolling and easy to dismiss.  Quite honestly, I am not sure I even heard of the concept as non-binary genderism until a year or two ago. But we ignore this heresy at our peril.   This is more than an attack on family, it is more than a mockery of the Trinity, it is more than any of the previous confusions in the realm of human sexuality and family.  This is new, and it is an attack on the very nature of humanity itself.   It is the utmost mockery of the human person, and of God’s design, and of God.

It is already the case that Canada is considering the passage of – and very well may pass – a bill that will make it a criminal offense to address a person by the pronouns “he” or “she” in lieu of “they.”    I’m not making this up.     Within the last year or two – really as soon as the Supreme Court OK’d same-sex marriage – the entire issue of transgenderism reached a fever pitch, and transgenderism evolved in meaning from a man feeling like he needs to become a woman and going through some action or process to make that happen, to now being able to just say he’s a woman because he feels that way regardless of his biological design, to being no such thing as a man or a woman.   We are all just non-binary creatures who have no business calling ourselves one thing or another because it offends the sensibilities of those around us who don’t accept that we are one thing or another.

This is such a devious attack on human nature by the devil that I don’t think any one at any time ever saw it coming.    I have read countless accounts – fictional and predictive – of what the world would become as we near the End Times or Chastisement or whatever.    Most of those accounts properly foresaw a world falling away from God, becoming more selfish and violent, increases in sexual perversions, and so on.    I never recall seeing anyone accurately forecast that a good chunk of humanity would devolve to a state where we utterly ignore our physical attributes and refuse to recognize our gender, and further that this group would gain acceptance and relevance to the point where governments would promote this idea, outlaw opposing views, and completely turn the argument around and call all those who oppose it from the very simple arguments of observation, reason, and logic immoral bigots.

It’s quite mad, and it’s the world we live in.

We all know, in the end, that God has His ultimate victory over the Devil.   We may or may not see that in our lifetime, but one wonders how long we can sustain such a path of utter disregard for humanity.   The one remaining step to absolute perdition seems to be laws that criminalize the belief that humans are any different than plants or animals.   We’ve seen people argue this in the past, and they’ve been dismissed as the lunatics that they are.    But we may soon see the day where they are no longer dismissed, but accepted and celebrated, and their ideas legislated in some form or fashion.

If I were God, I likely would have wiped us out long ago.   Thankfully for all of us, I am not God (despite what the Relativists think).   But the only way for Him to gain the ultimate victory here on earth can’t be pretty for anyone.

 

Why Am I Annoyed by Happy People on Commercials?

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The little boy drops a bowl of cereal.   The bowl breaks and stuff is everywhere.   The boy cries.   The mom smiles and consoles him.  There is no anger or scolding.  There is only…  a Swiffer!   And joy abounds.

The man has heart pains.  But because of the magical pill he no longer has heart pains.  He now feels younger.   Now, all his time is spent laughing as he plays hide-and-seek or fishing with his grandchildren.

I hate these commercials.  But why do I hate them?   Do I not want people to love their kids and grand-kids?   Do I prefer that people lose their temper instead of being cool, steady, and joyful?

No, that’s not it.

The first reason i hate them is because I am not that perfect.   I’d have yelled at the kid and thrown him in the corner while grumbling about his clumsiness as I cleaned up his mess.    And when I retire, I look forward to spending time playing cards with my grandkids, but I’m probably not going to play hide and seek.   Too much work.   So, yes, I see my own imperfections in the perfect unreality of commercials.

The second reason I hate them is because I don’t believe they mirror most realities, and they’re trying to sell me something by lying to me about the fact that all my anger and imperfections can now magically be solved by this particular product.  That’s a lie.

But really, my dislike for all this goes much deeper.   I may be overthinking this, but I am utterly annoyed by the hypocrisy of our culture.   We sure love our kids in commercials.   They are our joy and our hope.   But in a society that has killed over 50 million kids in the womb and prevented however many other pregnancies because of the contraceptive mentality we have totally embraced, the idea that we really, really love our kids so much because they mean everything to us is simply a lie.  They don’t.

That may seem harsh, and I don’t mean it as a universal statement that applies to everyone.   But I do mean it as an overarching cultural statement.

Imagine the following sentiment from Mr. and Mrs. ABC:   “Oh, little Johnny and Jenna are just the joys of our lives.   We can’t imagine what life would be without them.   They are such blessings, and it’s so unreal watching them grow up!  The time flies by so quickly!”

“Oh, so are you planning on having any more children?”

“Good, God, no!   We can hardly handle the two we have!”

So… which is it?   The “money can’t put a price tag on the little darlings that bring the ultimate joy to our lives” parents, or the “I can’t handle this” parents.    Because saying you can’t handle something, to me, is not something you say about a blessing.    It’s something you say about a burden.

Now, don’t get me wrong.   I am not saying it isn’t normal to think that you can’t handle life at times, including the kids.   This is perfectly normal.   In fact, sometimes I think we need those times to allow us to refocus on God.   Because when we can’t handle something, we must humbly turn to God in our humanness and ask for help, and admit that we are not God, we are not in complete control, and we are imperfect.    The answers that God gives in these times may not be what we desire.   We get tested and refined and strengthened so that we can not only handle what we have, but a little bit more.    And to the extent we can’t, we need to lean on Him all the more.   This isn’t all about happy happy joy joy.

So, in our human ingenuity, we’ve turned to abortion and contraception as the answers to our burdens – children – all the while putting on a face of love and joy and happiness over the children we have, as long as we don’t have enough to disrupt our lifestyle.   And this somewhat peeves me.

But, I guess a commercial about a dad with 9 kids doling out a punishment while pulling out an old dishrag he found for a quarter at a garage sale probably wouldn’t inspire consumerism.   So, I’ll just have to live with the fact that people on commercials love their kids.   At least the ones they kept.

 

Thankfulness

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There is a lot going on in the world.   But at the end of the day, all of us need to reflect on our blessings and give thanks.   Without God, we are nothing.    I mean, literally.   Without God, nothing would exist.   Which is weird to think about all on its own.   But because God is, so are we.    And He gives us creation and each other during this temporal life, and only He and those who have gone before us really knows what is waiting for us on the other side.

So, let me express my thanks publicly here.

My wife and I have just returned from a vacation.   just the two of us.   It is difficult for us to remember the last time we spent extended time together – just us.   Nine kids will do that.   We’ve also vacationed with friends in the past as well.   But this time it was just us.

We celebrated 25 years of marriage on July 27.   Time sometimes feels short and sometimes drags on, but it is almost overwhelming to consider what has happened in the last 25 years.

God has been remarkably good to us.   I humbly express my gratitude for having had consistent work and the ability to manage finances throughout the years.    I am awed by His goodness in bringing my wife and I together in the first place.   When I reflect on how that all happened, I see His hand in it, even if we didn’t recognize it ourselves.   He had a plan for us and it took us a few years to figure that plan out, and I’m not sure we ever fully got it, but we keep trying.

Had someone told me I’d have nine kids at this point in my life I would have snorted coffee out my nose.  Which is really something, since I don’t drink coffee!   But we have nine wonderful children ages 3 to 20, and while this heaps up a boatload of frustration and anxiety at times, I am so incredibly thankful for every last one of them.

As a Christian, it goes without saying all the big things I am thankful for.   Jesus sacrificing Himself for all of us – salvation – the big stuff.   But all that just seems to big it is sometimes hard to wrap ourselves around it.    I think God likes to give us smaller things (still big – but smaller than, oh, eternity in heaven…) that we can actually grasp with our little minds so we can have things a bit more tangible to give Him thanks for.   A sunset, nice weather, safe travel, a good family…  My goal, sometimes achieved and sometimes not, is to never take any good thing for granted and to give thanks.

But today, I thank God for my wife and my marriage.   I thank God for the financial ability to take this vacation to Maine.   I thank God for providing us family that was willing to help make this happen by staying with the younger kids.   I thank God for safe travel to, throughout, and back.   And I thank God that my wife and I still love each other and enjoy spending time together.   And I pray that we continue to be blessed on many of these regards, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I offer my own well-wishes to any who might read this.   Take stock of your surroundings today and recognize God’s blessings, and say Thanks.

Revisiting the Wood Tick Story

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When you embrace the idea of being a parent of a large family, you just accept that there will be plenty of stories to tell when it’s all over with.   Not all of these stories reflect well on you, but that’s usually what makes them funny.

This post was originally posted by me on a previous blog, but we are in the midst of tick season right now, and as a public service it is worth revisiting.   Don’t try this at home…

I am about to write a post that proves that a pair of college graduates – one of whom took his share of Chemistry, Physics, and other courses on the way to becoming an actuary – can do something so stupid that any reasonable person would ask “What were you thinking?” Believe me, if someone else had done it, I would be calling the other person an idiot. And therefore, for consistency’s sake, let me be the first to say to myself, “You are an idiot.”

With that out of the way, allow me to tell the true story of last Sunday evening. We had all had a long couple of days. Prayer time was finished and it was time for the tykes to get into bed. And then, the fateful words were uttered: “Alex has a wood tick in his head!”

Well, I have lived with ticks all my life, and it was not time to panic now. And so, my wife and I casually observed said wood tick. Sure enough, there it was, sucking the blood out of my eldest son’s head. Deep down, I was hoping it would suck out some of the thoughts that enter the kid’s brain from time to time, but I knew that was fantasy. I had to take care of the immediate problem at hand.

Well, my wife is generally proficient with the tweezers. Be it a sliver or a tick, when the tweezers come out, the kids scatter. But in the end, they are unable to escape the fate that belies them, and after a few screams along the lines of “You’re killing me!” my wife triumphantly raises the tweezers with the enemy foreign object, and screams her battle cry, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad!”

But this night would be different. The tick was in deep, and it had strategically burrowed itself in amongst numerous hair follicles. I believe the tick knew that this would cause immense pain to its victim when the victim’s mother would accidentally latch onto the surrounding follicles while trying to pull it out. In any case, the tweezers on this night were not doing the job.

It was time to explore the old wives tales.

My wife’s first suggestion was to light a match and hold it up to the tick. Apparently, the theory is that the tick is smart enough to feel the heat and try to escape by backing out. Now, we’re talking about an animal that burrows a hole into other living things, sucks blood until it’s so big it has to let go, and once it falls off it can’t move anywhere and lays around until it’s either crushed or eaten. Survival instinct just doesn’t appear to be high on the priority list.

I balked at the match idea, considering the fact that I would be holding a lit match near the head of my six year old son, who would most likely be diagnosed with ADHD if we ever concerned ourself with actually getting him looked at.

Instead, I moved onto the next brilliant wives tale. If you hold a bottle of alcohol over the tick, it will back out. I’ve been told it’s because it can’t breathe and the alcohol bothers them. Well, the first mistake was thinking that this kid would actually sit there and let me hold the bottle tight enough so it wouldn’t leak all over the place. After two minutes of hearing “You’re hurting me!” with a lot of corollary movement and rubbing alcohol having been sent flying everywhere, it was decided that this technique probably wouldn’t work anyway, but certainly wouldn’t work in our case.

Crying and doused in alchol, with wood-tick still engorged, the son is losing faith in his parents’ tick-fighting prowess.

All of our kids are witnessing this activity, save the four year old who fell asleep during prayer time, like he always does.

Now, here’s where the story gets ridiculous. And you will see it coming, and you’ll think, “Um… DUH!” or some variant thereof. As embarrassing as it is, I must go on.

My wife, frustrated at the stupidity in thinking this whole rubbing alcohol approach had any chance of working, and mad at herself for allowing me to talk her into the idea, says to me, “This is not working at all. Let’s try the match thing.” As a loving husband who wishes to please my wife, and desires to see my son tick-free, I eschew all sense of reason and all knowledge of all things science, and how one thing reacts with another, and I answer “Alright. Give me a match.”

Now, there was probably 10 seconds or so from the time I declared those words to the time that the lit match was approaching the tick. That should be enough time for someone who took two semesters of Organic Chemistry to remember that rubbing alcohol and fire are a great combination if you want to set your house on fire. They are not so great a combination if your desire is to not set your child on fire.

Unfortunately, all we could think of was getting that tick out. It blocked all other thoughts that were attempting to leap from synapse to synapse in a frenzy, attempting to pull back my hand and say “You fool! Don’t do this!” But they were too late. The match approached the tick. And then…

Poof! The entire back of my son’s head was in flames. Now, let me be clear here… within two seconds we had that flame out and it all happened so quick that there were no burns. But man, he freaked out – and rightly so. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he dove to the ground. The other kids also freaked. I lost track of my two daughters until they came charging towards Alex and doused him with water, which only freaked him out more. We yelled “What are you doing?” and they’re all like “He was on fire!”

Meanwhile, the tick was still enjoying its meal.

In the end, I called a nurse’s line, and explained about the tick and asked how best to get it out. I, um, forgot to relay the part about dousing my kid with rubbing alcohol and setting him on fire. Oops.

Anyway, she basically said you can forget about all these old wives tales. Just pull the thing out and hope for the best. Well, we did, and the head stayed behind. So, now we keep an eye on it and if we are unable to dig it out after the swelling goes down a bit, we’ll have to take him in and get it removed so it doesn’t get infected. [Edit: we never had to do that] It’s possible it will work out on its own, but we’ve heard that they often don’t. Yay. Unfortunately, we were unable to get it out without squeezing the body of it, which means some blood probably squirted into the wound. Now we have to watch for any indication of Lyme’s disease, as well, and get him treated if symptoms occur. [Edit:  Thankfully, no Lyme’s – though another child would contract it later on]

So let this be a lesson to you all. Not that you needed it, but never underestimate the stupid things you can do if the situation is just right. I’m still whacking myself in the head and asking how I could possibly have done such a stupid thing.

I guess it’s clear… I’m an idiot.

[Note: I now highly recommend a simple little device called a “Tick Twister.”   It works wonderfully, and has kept our children blaze-free for almost 9 years now.]

I Hope You All Had a Wonderful Independence Day

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At least in the U.S. we are fresh off a major holiday where we celebrate our Independence.  Between celebrating as a family and getting caught up on some much needed work around the house, it was a nice reprieve from everything else that has been going on both on a personal basis and in our country.

As always, family, friends, food, and fireworks go a long way towards putting one’s mood where it should be.

Working outside this weekend, I did my best to put a lot of things in perspective.   On a personal basis, I have been doing a lot of reflection on the direction of our country.   But more important than even the direction of our country, in my view, is the direction that many Catholics and other Christians are taking in opposition of the direction of our Bishops and Priests.   A lot of the time I find myself dealing with a sadness that this is so, and wondering what – if anything – can be done to stem this strong tide.

A lot of things bounce through my head, but in the end I am settling on a major line of thinking:   only God can stem the tide.    I think we, as Christians, have a challenge ahead of us that we are being called to focus on:   take care of your own soul, and fight for the souls of family and friends.    This is not to imply there is not and should not be a missionary spirit in the Church, and on an individual basis.   But we must first defend our own territory, and it may be the case that this takes most, or even all, our time and energy.    And if it doesn’t, then we can reach out to others.

The other thought that seemed to suddenly get reinforced is that our joy is in the Lord.   Our ultimate goal is salvation.   And no matter how bad things get here, we can’t lose sight of that.   This is what makes us happy and joyful.

I do not want everything going on in the world to detract from that.   My sadness is not for myself.   I have some sadness for my family – that my kids now need to fight against things in the culture beyond what I needed to fight when I was growing up.  My sadness is for those around me who are capitulating and accepting the secular world’s morals above God’s Law.   I’d like to think this is a “productive sadness.”   Something to motivate actions that help the fight and make us stronger in our faith.  It certainly isn’t despair, nor is it a lack of hope.

God will ultimately prevail.   He’ll just do it on His time frame, and we are generally less patient than He is.

Choosing between “#%*!@&#!” or “Thank You Jesus, for loving me this much”. Or Maybe a Little of Both…

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So, Saturday was wood-splitting say. I had successfully cut down a few dead trees and chopped them up to approximately 16″ lengths over the preceding couple weeks, and it was time to split the whole she-bang. The young boys begrudgingly put on their work clothes and assisted me with the task that was sure to be seen as encroaching on Lego and Star Wars time. Pity.

All was not lost in the family work. Splitting wood does have its appeal. After all, a year ago I invested in a very nice wood-spitter. The hydraulic kind that runs on gasoline, not the kind that gets swung over the head. While it may take decades to get the monetary payback out of it that would justify the purchase in pure dollar terms, it has nonetheless almost certainly saved a few trips to the chiropractor, and possible purchases of other wood that would have been necessary due to my own limited time and admitted laziness. The boys can appreciate a good hydraulic mauling of a log as well as anyone, and so I keep them engaged by allowing them a turn at the lever that controls the splitter.

The dangers of heavy equipment are never to be taken lightly, and so I overdo the message about keeping hands away from moving parts of things that could crush the fingers – or worse. They do quite well. But it only takes once, so vigilance is needed.

Anyway, we ahd a couple very large logs to split, and these were perfect candidates for vertical splitting. Under this scenario, one raises the splitter to vertical, secures it, and then moves the log to an upright position. You do this by rolling it in place so you don’t kill your back lifting it. And so we did all this with joy and success.

After the conclusion of this task, it was time to move the splitter back to the horizontal position. This is a quite heavy element, and moving it back to horizontal requires some strength and effort. When I first pulled on the handle, the entire base moved a bit. To secure it, I placed my hand on the steel beam under the hydraulic component and gave a good pull to move the top part down. Of course, as the balance shifted, it went from being difficult to move to difficult to stop. There are two metal brackets that stick out of the top unit that are used to secure it to the steel beam. Silly me, I managed to forget to move my hand, which just happened to be right where those brackets come down.

A moment of struggle wot push it back up followed, and I was finally able to remove my hand.

“#%*!@&#!” <== Due to being surrounded by young, impressionable boys, I thankfully internalized any foul language that I really felt like using.

Now, a couple thoughts here:
1) Thank God for heavy-duty work gloves. I do think I may have one or two less fingers at the moment without them, or at least one or two less usable one. Though, the greatest damage was to the top of my hand.
2) Thank God for Guardian Angels, who I will give credit for putting it in my mind to be smart and wear those gloves. Though, it can be noted that an inspiring thought of "um, move your hand, you idiot" would have been appreciated, I will still be thankful for what I did receive.
3) When really heavy things fall on your hand, it hurts. A lot.

So, I need to provide a bit of background on my immediately next thought after "#%*!@&#!"

An internet friend/acquaintance (he used to be an actuary who frequented a forum for actuaries I use) and I used to talk about religion and the Catholic faith quite a bit. He was a convert who loved the Church and eventually became a Priest. During that transition time he shared with me a little tidbit on our little sufferings in life that I never really forgot, and have tried to implent as an expression of gratitude for being able to join my little sufferings with Christ's redemptive work on the cross. He once mentioned that he had the habit of reciting a very simple and short prayer whenever one of life's stubbed toes or pinched fingers or anything else reared its ugly head. That prayer is simply "Thank you, Jesus, for loving me this much." This was not his idea, but was given to him by another friend. He loved the idea, and so did I. The idea, of course, is to try to take that painful moment and immediately think of what Jesus went through, and instead of being angry about the pain, be thankful for it. Sounds odd, but if you can get yourself in the mindset, it's a nice way to deal with those sufferings and offer it up for something or someone.

So, I admit that this particular time I had a little bit of a delayed response… this was no mere stubbed toe. This was something where I was afraid to take the glove off and see what I'd find. But, I did finally manage to compose myself and utter that prayer. One interesting way I was reminded to do so was that my entire left arm had a pain shoot up to the top and then felt very weak for a couple minutes. I was reminded of reading a study the crucifixion and about how the nails through the wrists would have been immeasurably painful due to the nerves that would drive the pain all the way up the arms. My pain was not nearly that bad, but it was a reminder for me of the pain that Christ must have suffered.

The hand looked pretty bad. It swelled up to twice its size and I needed to take a break, but I determined that I could continue my work, and so I did until I was finished. I was further comforted by our neighbor – an ER doc. Her son was at our house for the morning and when she stopped to pick him up she checked the hand out. Thanks be to God it seemed like I missed all the worst things that could happen. Probably nothing broken by the pain tests she gave me, and the tendons on the fingers seemed to be strong, suggesting no issues there. Basically, ice it and it will hurt for a while, but I'll be OK with no lasting damage.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me this much.

South Dakota Does Exist

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Nothing fancy here, but I will provide a little update here…

1) Thank you so much for well-wishes and prayers. So far our guardian angels and patron saints have been very kind to us on the trip – safe travel so far and no serious injury or death to report, which can be a small miracle with 6 boys 11 and under…

2) Day 1 was a drive day

3) Day 2 was a Laura Ingalls Wilder tour. My two daughters and my wife loved it. The boys enjoyed it to varying degrees. I managed to tolerate it… not exactly my thing. But that’s what you do on vacation as the husband and father. Then, on to our house that we are renting to Piedmont.

4) Beautiful home and location. Love love love it.

5) Day 3 – always enjoy goin to Mass in different places, and always appreciate the universality of the Mass. It’s a wonderful piece of wisdom that the Church has the same readings throughout the world and the same basic Liturgy is celebrated, so that we knew we were still in prayerful union with those from home, as well as everywhere else. I don’t often reflect on that, but when somewhere distant I always remember it. Got a tip from the Priest on a hiking rail in the area, too! Met a nice family with 4 young children who loved seeing our “large” family. I find that having all these kids around us and actually seeming happy is a witness all by itself. After a lazy afternoon at the house, we decided we needed to “do” something, so we went to the nearby Petrified Forest. Not the most spectacular thing in the world, but interesting nonetheless. We are in the Black Hills, and we have hiked to the top of the nearest “mountain.” This is where I thought I’d lose a son or two… lot’s of rocky, cliffy areas and steep slopes. Somehow, we managed to make it back alive. It was also a reminder of my woeful state of physical conditioning.

6) Day 4 – Mount Rushmore. We loved it, but probably don’t have to say much about it. Ice Cream in Keystone (a family rule that cannot be broken: we must eat ice cream every day. It’s my rule. Everyone complies.) We toured a Gold Mine in Keystone and panned for gold.

7) Day 5 – Mammoth site – saw lots of bones. Pretty cool. Went to Wind Cave and explored a cave. Also pretty cool. (Literally- 53 degrees) Ice cream in Hill City.

8) Day 6 – Scenic Drive – Spearfish Canyone. Wonderful scenery. Did some hiking and saw a couple falls. Did lunch in the city of Lead, at Lewie’s. My wife read they had world-famous burgers there, so that’s what we had. Half-pounders. Sweet. I got mine with bacon. I don’t apologize for it. After that we went to Deadwood, which we suspected and then confirmed doesn’t have a whole lot to offer for children. Summary of Deadwood: Gambling, Food, Gambling, Saloons, Gambling, Old People, Gambling, Wild Bill Hickok, Gambling, Bikers, and Gambling. We did manage to find a museum that really wasn’t my thing, but my wife really enjoyed. Also, we had a round of Sarsparillas at the #10 Saloon, and saw a re-enactment of Wild Bill getting shot. This appears to be like the most amzingly historical event in history if all you had to go on was Deadwood. Ice Cream at the house.

9) Day 7 – Today – Badlands. One word: Awesome. We all hiked up in a few spots, saw some mule deer, and just really enjoyed the view. Then we felt obligated to go to the city of Wall and visit – you guessed it – Wall Drug. Yes, we allowed the signs to work. It’s a huge tourist trap and generally too expensive, and has all the elements that would usually lead me to want to put a bullet in my head rather than spend another minute there… but… we actually really enjoyed it! I wouldn’t spend a whole day there or anything, but I appreciated that they had a few things set up for little kids. They had good ice cream that wasn’t outrageous (yes, ice cream in Wall) and we did buy a few touristy things, but it wasn’t too bad. We all agreed that the Badlands/Wall day was a day well spent.

10) Tomorrow is Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse, and National Woodcarving Museum. Saturday is Rapid City, where we will go to Bear Country and a couple other things, and head back for Mass. Sunday we are driving all the way back to Wisconsin and expect to get home at about 1 am Monday morning, so please offer up another 5 second prayer for us.

Assessment at the moment is a thumbs up on SD! We know we are unable to see everything we want to see here, but we’re trying to get a taste of a lot of different things. So far, so good!

On to South Dakota

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Hoping you all celebrated the Feast of the Assumption with Mass and contemplation…

I have put posting here as a lower priority lately, but will be picking it up more in September. Just so you do not think I have gone away forever, I thought I’d submit a quick post to let you know that we are embarking on a family vacation to South Dakota. The bus leaves tomorrow.

If (a very BIG if) I am bored and have some extra time I may post an update or two, but in all likelihood that won’t happen.

Anyone who is reading this, even a little 5-second prayer for safe travel for our family is appreciated.

God, our Father, through the intercession of our guardian angels, patron saints, St. Christopher, and our mother Mary, please grant that we may have safe travel and a blessed time as a family as we take in many wonders of your creation. Amen.

God bless all of you.