Category Archives: Kids

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.

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Tattoo or not Tattoo

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jesus-tattoo-by-dennis-wehler-728x868Let me lay all my biases out from the beginning:   This opinion comes from both a Catholic/Faith perspective, but also deeply on my own opinion of tattoos.   And I have yet to hear any argument that has convinced me that getting a tattoo – especially one of visual prominence – makes any sense whatever.   I think they are stupid, pure and simple.   I know that rankles people, but I have a right to my opinion.   So, I’m going to be evaluating the question from the perspective of someone coming from a good, Catholic, family who is debating the relative merits of getting a tattoo, but wanted to make clear my initial bias in this question.   I admit I will not be able to refuse my opinion of it from my personal bias, and actually I am not even going to try all that hard to do so, because quite honestly I think the reason I already feel that way (and always have) is because I did the more balance, honest evaluation of their merits years and years ago.

So, anyway, my wife has these occasional get-togethers with other homeschooling Catholic moms.   The families range in various sizes and in various stages of where they are in life.    Some have large families (8+ kids) with some kids already graduated and in adulthood, and it goes all the way down to those with a couple young kids just getting rolling.

Without exception, every family takes their faith life seriously, and it is important to them to pass on their Catholic faith to their children.   Of course, we all have our own approaches and styles, and one could debate the strategy of trying to make this happen all day long.  Ultimately, all this really tells me is that none of us our perfect and it shows the importance of relying on God all the more in our journey as parents.   One of my favorite little prayers to utter is “God, please help these kids turn out OK despite my own stupidity and laziness.”

One of the moms is struggling a bit because her 2nd oldest son has a couple tattoos.   And now the third one has a sizeable tattoo on his forearm and wants to get one on his other forearm.    She has tried to argue for why this isn’t a good idea, and as is typical of young men, they think they know better than their mom.    Now, these young men, to my knowledge, have not strayed in their Catholic faith, still find it important, and still practice it.   They do not see any conflict with the faith and getting a tattoo.

And this is where my opinion comes in.

First, let me be clear.    I do not think, nor will I suggest, that there is anything intrinsically evil or sinful with tattoos.   Like many things, the real question is a matter of what is driving someone to do something.   But I do think that someone really needs to be honest with themselves in evaluating why they want a tattoo if they are indeed considering one.   This shouldn’t be problematic – we really should do this with everything we do.  Why do a I want ten million dollars?   Because I want to give it away to the poor or because I want to have an easy life with little or no responsibility?   Most of us would fall somewhere in between those two extremes, and while most of us aren’t going to get ten million dollars it’s still a worthy mental exercise to go through an honest evaluation and promise yourself and God what it is you would plan to do with it if it ever happened.\

Here are my opinions and responses to some of the clever (or not so clever) arguments on the matter.

  • Argument: Getting a tattoo today is like getting your ear pierced years ago.   It has become much more accepted, and is not looked at as a big deal.    Full disclosure – I got my ear pierced in my college days.   I was in a rock band, admittedly liked the looks of it, and I did it.   I don’t even regret it.   I thought it looked cool.   There was no more motivation behind it than that.   But I am not being a hypocrite here, in my opinion, with that comparison.   Because even back then, I considered the questions, and even then there were people getting tattoos and doing all sorts of other things.    I knew and considered that at any time this was reversible.   I knew that at some point in my life, I may well consider the wearing of an earring silly or immature.    I knew I could take it out at any time if the situation called for it without needing to mask it.    It may or may not have been a dumb thing to do, and I may or may not have had other opinions of me diminished because of it, but the impact was minimal.    Also, I could switch it up for the right occasion – a simple stud for normal wear or something gaudier for a show, or nothing at all for a trip to the parents who I knew didn’t love it.    So, I get the comparison, and the social attitude may be comparable, but the reality of what you are doing is not comparable.
  • Argument: But <insert morally upright individual> has one, and if he has one, it can’t be all that bad!     In Catholic circles, the argument du jour is Father Stan Fortuna , who is a Catholic Priest with tattoos.    OK, this is always a stupid argument for many reasons, and I’ll address why.   Before I do, let me go on record as not intending in any way to disparage Father Stan Fortuna.   I honestly have no qualms about him doing what he does or having a tattoo – again, he knows why he does.    But whenever someone points to “a” person as the example among a sea of counterexamples, it is in no way an honest argument.   If you are truly going to make your life decisions based on the example of others, then you don’t look for exceptions to justify your own behavior.   You look for what the majority of people are doing that you admire and respect.   Exceptions are just that – exceptions.   And there’s a reason why they are exceptions.   Now, lest you think I am making an argument about just following the crowd, that’s misreading what I am saying.   Being a devout Catholic in and of itself is already not following the crowd.   But once you commit yourself, then you do want to follow the examples of other devout Catholics.    Most importantly, Venerables, Blesseds, Saints, and the other holy men and women we meet in our life should be very important role models, emulators, and mentors for us.   We should follow this crowd whenever the question is something that has a moral or spiritual component to it.    And in this case, the vast majority of examples in this group have not littered their body with tattoos.   Exceptions exist, of course.   But you have to acknowledge the predominant behavior and consider why that is the case.   And it is  a much stronger case.
  • Permanence Matters: My opinion.   But while young people don’t like to consider getting older or meeting other people or needing to be a good example for future children and all that, time moves quickly.   I’m 48 and I can still very clearly remember my high school and college days.   I remember how I thought about things, felt about things…   young people today have a difficult time thinking we can relate but I can tell you those youthful memories are very clear – we do get it.    I may think it’s stupid to color your hair pink, or pierce your nose, or wear some of the clothes you wear.   And I may argue why those things are stupid, and you may ignore me because I’m older and I don’t get it (even though I generally thought the same thing when I was young).    But ten years from now you won’t have that hair color any more, you probably won’t have the nose piercing, and you won’t be wearing those same clothes.   Because you’ll grow and mature and change the way you think, and for your own reasons decide that it’s time to move on from that experimentation.    But you ink a huge Eagle – or even a Cross – on your forearm or your back and it’s there forever unless you go through the agonizing and expensive experience of having it removed.    To not even rationally consider this element of getting a tattoo shows a lack of maturity and foresight, in my opinion.
  • Desecration of the Temple matters: OK, I want to reiterate that the heart is what matters.   And someone may really think and believe that they have a good reason for doing what they are doing.   And they may even think God likes them getting a religious tattoo.   But God still made you the way you are – without them.    Relating this to permanence, you are purposely changing yourself.    Others may disagree with me, but this smacks of someone thinking that they can improve upon what God has made you.    This isn’t trying to keep you healthy or fix a medical condition.   It’s fundamentally changing the intended design of who you are and how you were made.   Sure, it may be cosmetic in nature, but it’s also readily apparent for all to see.
  • Size matters: I am against all tattooing, but like all other things of questionable nature there is scale as well to consider.   If I see someone with a pierced nose, I may think it unnecessary and a bit silly, and I don’t really get the draw, but it’s not an overwhelming shock.    If I see someone with a nose, lip, eyebrow, and cheek pierced I am going to form an unfavorable opinion of that person in some way.   I try not to be judgmental, and I am not supposed to judge the heart, and I try my best not to.   But this person is also bringing a bit of this upon themselves by publicly mutilating their body.    My judgment isn’t really one about the salvation of the person.  It is more a general feeling that something is really missing in this person’s life that they are trying desperately to fill.    Others may go to other unfavorable thoughts of what that person might be like it.   And you can lecture as much as you want about that being wrong, but it is also human nature, and quite frankly it’s not 100% wrong.   We are given the discernment to separate out right from wrong and right things from wrong things.   Without even judging the heart of a person, I am not going to apologize for knowing that there is something wrong or problematic about the actual act and display of getting multiple piercings.   I will just try not to jump to conclusions about the person – though it can be very hard to separate the two.      Likewise, I could probably live with a small tattoo that may have some unknown personal meaning, but the more there are and the bigger they are is going to directly impact my first impression of you.   And as to the argument that it’s my problem and not yours, that’s dead to me.   Sure, any judgment may be my problem to an extent, but it’s also yours.   Whether endearing yourself to future in-laws, applying for work, making new friends, etc.  these things are all your problem.   And unless you never judge anyone for anything, you can’t expect others to act any differently.   And if nobody ever judges anything, then God help us all.

I could actually go on.   Believe it or not, there are still additional points I could make.   But I’ll leave it to this last thing:

  • Find older people in your Church who you know to be faithful people, who also have predominant tattoos. Get to know them and then ask them if they are glad they have them.     I have done this on a few occasions, and in most cases there is regret.   In some cases there is acceptance that they did what they did and it doesn’t bother them.    In no cases yet have I heard anyone thrilled to death about how great their tattoo is, and they’d do the same thing all over again, and only regret that they don’t have more.

 

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

Random Reflections for the 2012 Summer Solstice

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Happy Summer!

Well, I’ve been a bit tied up lately and needed to make the choice that the blog here was a lower priority than a lot of other work that had to be done in both my personal and professional life. But I thought I’d just offer a personal reflection today.

Our lives are truly amazing. I sometimes find it difficult to find God in the work I do, but He is there. He has given me the skills and abilities to provide for my family. I was called to be a husband and father and never felt the call to religious life. To be fair, when I was younger I didn’t spend a great deal of time in discernment over it, but I do recall always feeling pulled towards married life. My education and circumstance has led to doing work for an insurance company. My job is beneficial to society and I put in an honest day’s work, but I can remember struggling a bit with the idea that, as I started really blossoming in my faith, that I wasn’t “doing more.” In other words, I almost thought I should feel called to some sort of ministry instead of a secular job. But I didn’t. So, I almost questioned my seriousness of faith because I thought I should feel called but actually didn’t feel called. A wise Priest friend of mine basically called me an idiot (in a nice way) and pointed out that we just need to be the best Catholics everywhere we are, and that the world needs good Catholics everywhere. Not that my company is unethical or dishonest – they aren’t – but I can help make sure that it stays that way. Further, God has blessed me with the ability in my work to provide for my family in such a way that my wife stays home and homeschools. I learned during this time to not look a gift horse in the mouth, and accept the blessings God has provided. Further, just to make sure I’m where I need to be, we pray as a family often for the ability to hear and understand and respond to God’s call in our lives. God can request a change in direction at any time, and we need to be ready.

At Mass last Sunday we heard about the mustard seed. I couldn’t help but think about my own gardens. I have not discussed it much here, but we have a somewhat massive gardening operation. It is a lot of hard work, and I start most of the plants we grow in a little greenhouse. Very few things help me to recognize the miracle of God’s creation like saving a seed from one of last year’s tomatoes and then planting it and watching it grow to yield a large plant with numerous tomatoes and countless other seeds. One tiny seed not only yields fruit, but also yields so many seeds within those fruit that you could literally cover the earth with tomato plants within a handful of generations of plants if you had enough people to harvest them and plant them and nurture them. This is unmistakeably miraculous, but it is so commonplace in our lives that we don’t give it a second thought – until you start toiling and working and thinking. And yes, I do have a mustard plant…

Youth baseball is coming to an end, and this is an occasion of praise! 🙂 The 9 year old has games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the 7 year old has games on Mondays and Wednesdays. Both love it and we are thankful to be able to provide this activity for them, but it really does creat havoc with the summer schedule, so we are always happy to see it end. The rest of the summer can now be freed up for more camping activities and other things.

I am, God-willing and time-able, planting the seeds for recording a new CD. I plan on focusing on Catholic prayers and devotions for this one, with some other stuff as well, but probably not incorporating much of the harder-driving music that I love to do. But I really want to focus on this. I also want to pull in a lot of talented people I know to be involved in it as well. Lots of visions and plans, but we’ll see where it goes. It’s not a top priority, but hope to steal time here and there. I would also like to find time to upload more songs from my last CD to youtube, and will be sure to link to any that I do.

In case you’re a late-arriver to this blog and have not seen/heard the three music youtube vids to songs on my CD, here are the links:

https://catholicdiatribes.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/holy-water-on-youtube/
https://catholicdiatribes.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/i-dream-of-heaven/
https://catholicdiatribes.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/quiet-time/

Yes, it really has been almost 2 years since I uploaded them, and have done NOTHING since. Shame on me. I’ll try to get some more up.

Blessings to all of you. I’ll try to get back into the prophetic walk through the Catechism shortly.

Dear God. Please Let me get through Prayer Time Without Killing Someone.

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on March 6, 2007.

OK, so it’s not quite that bad…   Most of the time.  And I do not want to discourage anyone from having family prayer time.  In fact, just the opposite.  It is a good and rewarding thing.  The paradox is, you don’t realize until after the fact how good and rewarding it is, because when you have small children, it doesn’t feel like a well-oiled, grace-filled experience.  But there are moments of clarity where you say “OK, that’s really cool.”   In particular, when they start asking questions and real conversation evolves.

Every night, our family gathers in the living room for prayer time.  It’s the pre-bed ritual, which means the kids know that the longer they can put off prayer time, the later they can stay up.  And since they know they go to bed after prayer time, there is no incentive to cut it short, either.   At least the older daughters have this all figured out.  The boys still have the attention span of an ADD-ridden gnat, and so there is not a lot of logic to be found with their behavior.

We started this long enough ago that it’s a given by now.  It has become a beautiful routine that I truly believe brings our family together.  This is done through supernatural means, though, because I am no help in the matter.  I’m impatient with demonstrations of less-than-perfect piety, which means I am perpetually disappointed in someone’s less-than-perfect performance during prayer time.  Believe me, I am not bragging here.   Countless times I have called myself a less-than-perfect loser for making this more stressful than it need be.  I tried praying for patience, but I gave up, because God wasn’t responding fast enough.

Our ritual is this:  Read a blurb about the Saint of the Day – at this point, the 3 year old is fluffing a pillow and either the 2 year old or the 5 year old or both have received their first warning regarding some randomly unacceptable behavior; Read a Chapter from the Bible (we have just started Ecclesiasticus) – at this point, the 3-year old is settled in and very comfy and the five year old has been moved to a different location where he will stop causing trouble; During most of the year, we say a decade or two of the Rosary on most nights (It takes approximately two Hail Marys for the 3-year old to be out cold and another 3 Hail marys before all prayer has been stopped and some punishment has been doled out: 90% chance it’s the five year old), and once or twice a week we’ll say the whole Rosary.  During Lent we are doing the entire Rosary each night as a family, with an occasional Divine Mercy; We have a special little prayer to end abortion, and then finally we always end with a prayer to the Sacred Heart (since we enthroned our family to the Sacred Heart a couple years ago).  At the end of that prayer we do a Litany of Saints.  The three at the end of the prayer are the Immaculate Heart of Mary; St. Joseph, Protector of the Christian; Our Guardian Angels and Patron Saints.  For good measure, these favorites are usually added:  the Saint of the Day, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Francis of Asissi, St. Francis Borgia, St. Odilia, St. Gerard, St. Jude, St. Lucy, St. Peregrin and whatever stikes our fancy at the time.  Thanks be to God, the five year old enjoys doing the Litany!

All this is wonderful, and I cannot express enough the importance of praying together as a family.

Now, if only I would listen to my own advice, and realize the joy of it while it’s happening.  I admit to getting too focused on behavior, and quite honestly I question the example I am setting.  Saying the Rosary should not be a blood-pressure elevating experience, for the love of Pete (whoever this Pete guy is…)

I have talked to other parents about their prayer time.  Some do less, some do more.  Everyone will gravitate to their own comfort zone over time.  When we started, we never did the Rosary, instead doing a number of other prayers.  After we were enthroned, we decided to stick with at least a partial Rosary every night. 

Prayer can be a challenge.  If you are not praying as a family yet, I highly recommend that you start somewhere.  Dive in!  Start small, with a greater goal in mind.  Once the routine of just gathering and doing it is firmly established and habitual, it’s much easier to do a little extra.  Pick prayers the whole family enjoys, or have everyone say a few words, or try the Rosary (with little kids, the Divine Mercy may be perfect – it doesn’t take near as long and even little kids pick up on it’s simplistic, yet powerful, prayer).   And I think it’s really a good idea to start reading the Bible together, as well, at least at some point.   Don’t take on so much that it seems unsustainable.  God will meet you where you are.  You’ll figure something out.  You’re smart people.

And, if you’re questioning the value of prayer at those times where you just don’t “feel” like praying, when you are going through the motions, etc.   I offer this consideration:  sure, it’s easy to pray when you feel like it.  It’s easy to pray when you get some direct benefit (a feeling of closeness to God, a petition for a desperate cause, or simply a feel-good emotional high of some sort that “raises the spirit”).  That is a good thing, to benefit.  But prayer is not really about you.  It’s primarily about God.  A relationship demands committment.  I personally believe that the prayers that God values most are those prayers we say when we force ourselves to take the time out, even when we have no emotional desire to do so.  It shows commitment, and it requires discipline.  I hold myself up as not a great example in this regard.  I am weak.  Would it not be for the commitment we have as a family, I have no doubt that I would not consistently follow through with my obligation.  Sad, but true.  I need His assistance with this on a constant basis.  We all need to buckle down and just do it!  (I hope using a shoe’s advertising slogan hasn’t cheapened the message.  At least I used an expensive shoe.)

 And while you’re at it, feel free to pray for me!