Happy Friday, Y’all! Hope you are having a good one. Right now our family is a bit spread out as Daddy is away doing training. :-/

But he should be back soon. Mommy and Evie and Ellie are making do as best they can right now.

Last Friday night (after Family Friday) was pretty busy as we raced to get all the garden and yard tasks done before Daddy left. We mowed the lawn, took out the garbage and the compost, turned the compost, and then got a couple of wheelbarrow loads of black gold to plant some flowers in.

Everybody does work around here!

We spread it at the base of the rock wall in the back yard. We got some Sweet William seeds from Aunt Dude and Aunt Susie, and since they are a weed that grows pretty much anywhere, we are hoping they will thrive in the dry, bare strip along the rocks.

Then on Saturday morning we let Mommy sleep in for an hour (she’s going to need it) while Daddy and the girls went and picked blackberries for breakfast, and made blackberry pancakes.

Then on Saturday after evening Mass we drove up to SeaTac and dropped Daddy off at the airport, which was sad for everyone.

On days like that, it’s nice to have Mommy home all day, and to spend the day in Jammies.

Evie taught Ellie how to mix pancakes, so Ellie could teach piggy.

And they watched movies and snuggled with Mommy and played legos. And Mommy tried a new hair style for Evie and it turned out beautifully.

Meanwhile, Daddy arrived at his destination and found a very lovely surprise in his backpack!

Letters from Mommy and Evie!

Those are always the best!

So a week of training, working, and learning has crawled by as the summer winds to a close. Evie’s new school year is just around the corner, Ryan is still job hunting (not very successfully. It seems no one wants to hire a PA who hasn’t been a PA for at least a couple of years.)

Keep us in your prayers. Have a great weekend, and God Bless!

Another week of Daddy being gone has passed. Everyone has been very busy.

But it’s still important to take the time to stop and smell the Daisies.

Last Sunday Mommy took Evie and Ellie up to Deedee and Papa’s house to visit.

Ellie is still not sure why she should smile at the phones that people are constantly pointing at her.

This was also the week of Emma’s birthday party next door. Since the fence is still broken, it was relatively easy for an invitation to make its way over to our side, and for our kids to make their way over to their side.

Meanwhile, Mommy kept herself busy by pulling out Daddy’s old Texas Skillet, the one he has owned for more than a decade, the one that has sizzled a metric ton of bacon in its time and has never been washed, and which also has been living on top of the cupboard in the kitchen for a couple years because it started burning on and Ryan never made the time to strip and cure it, where it has been collecting dust and grease from the old broken oven vent before Ryan fixed it…

You know the one.

A few weeks ago Kathleen read in her 1930’s homemaker manual that the way to strip cast iron is to boil potato skins in it. It worked on her smaller Texas skillet (it’s more of an Oklahoma skillet, really) so now she tried it on the far nastier big skillet. It worked quite well actually, and she was able to heat treat it and cure it with vegetable oil. We’ll see if Ryan can remember to maintain the seasoning when he gets back.

Ryan has been busy also, long days of training,

It may seem like a lot of effort, but the National Guard is called upon to perform the same missions that Active Duty is called on to perform, but we have only about 40 training days per year to prepare for them, compared to at least 250 training days on Active Duty. When you think about that it makes sense for us to go out in the middle of nowhere and really knuckle down to getting after it for the few weeks of AT we get.

Evie is doing her own training, these days. Without being prompted she accurately pointed out the spot on the lake that we visited when we were in Glacier three weeks ago.

We assume that she remembered it from the big wall map Kathleen showed her when she was there, since she can’t read yet.

She is one smart cookie!

Our peas have started producing too!

Between our peas and the neighbor’s peas (they are on vacation and asked us to pick their peas while they were gone) we are pulling in about half a colander at a time. Not bad for two tiny little plots.

And that’s about all the happenings this week.

Daddy drew a picture of a bunny in the letter he wrote to Ellie, so she decided to play bunny.

We hope you have had a good week and continue to have a wonderful weekend. God Bless. Pray for us.

This has not been a very Family Friendly week, starting with the weekend. We make the most of it as usual, but it has been a bit rough.

Saturday was a busy day. We spent the morning transferring ownership of Grandma Betty’s car to us so that Mommy will have a commuter to take to work, and our larger car can stay home and fit all the carseats more conveniently for when Grace has to take Evie to school.

Then Daddy had to go up to the Armory in the afternoon to finish packing gear for Annual Training. We went to Saturday evening Mass together, and then Mommy got called in to work. So it was one of those days that we just didn’t get a whole lot of together time.

But at least we had lunchtime together, and Mommy made Daddy a glorious large pan of patio beans for his trip.

Then on Sunday Daddy got up before the sun to drive out of state with a few other guys for Annual Training.

Ironic, really, leaving for AT on Father’s Day. Of the guys out here, only one doesn’t have kids yet. Welcome to Special Forces, even in the Guard.

Once we arrived there was the obligatory shaving of the face.

Before we can successfully guard the nation we must first divest ourselves of our panache.

Then let the training begin.

Good to get behind the gun again. And also it is really pretty country out here.

Evie informed Daddy that he needed to write her letters while he was gone. That is what she learned from the Korea trip last year.

There you go!

Mommy’s letters take longer to write. We have had a little time for sightseeing between events. Ryan got to visit a very beautiful local Church.

My home away from home.

Meanwhile back on the homefront, Mommy continues to hold the course with the girls. They spent Sunday at Deedee and Papa’s house celebrating Father’s day.

This week was also Evie’s last day of school for the year!

We are so proud of this big girl! She has learned her letters and her numbers and has done a wonderful job of learning to listen to her teachers and get along with her classmates. She works hard and has so much energy!

Mommy is run quite ragged, but she still manages to get things done, and still have time to hang out with the girls.

Deedee and Papa were able to come over earlier this week as well.

With the nice weather there is a lot of playing in the Hammock.

It is the best place to relax.

Daddy can’t wait to get home and relax there with his girls.

Evie erasing the days, one at a time, until Daddy comes home.

That’s all for this week, folks.

Oh, and also Ryan got official word that he passed his national certification exam last week. He is now officially a PA-C.

And that really is all for this week. We hope you guys had a great week, and have a wonderful weekend. See you later! God Bless.

No Family Friday last week because Daddy was super busy. He has been getting some good training, and also teaching some good training to other medics.

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Practicing Hoist operations.

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Instructing some regular army medics on advance trauma care.

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Learning how to do Trigger Point Dry Needling

There is nothing he likes better than teaching or practicing medicine, so it was good to get out of the office for a couple of weeks to get back to his real job.

Meanwhile, the girls have been having some fun of their own. Mommy and Evie have been doing a lot of cooking and canning. They started off with some rolls, which I suppose is really more baking than cooking.

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First you have to add the flour.

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Mommy was exercising some almost super-human patience, because Evie likes to pinch and squish the dough, and doesn’t like to slow down and listen.

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But eventually they got them put together…

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And they came out looking beautiful!

Next, Mommy moved on to ham and bean soup, which she canned in her new pressure canner.

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Poor Daddy, the night Mommy was cooking these he was having trouble finding decent food because of the training schedule. He wished she could FEDEX some of this out!

And finally, just in time for Thanksgiving…

Cranberry Sauce!

Aren’t they gorgeous?! Look at that color!

Kathleen has had some major life changes these past two weeks. After ten years as a vascular ultrasound technologist working with the same group (under two different organizations) she decided it was time to move to a job with a more family friendly schedule.

Family Friday 179 (1)
It isn’t really goodbye, of course. It’s a small ultrasound world in the area.

No more nights, weekends, holidays or call! And best of all, she will be starting out building her new lab from the ground up. She’s pretty much the boss! She will do great at managing and leading.

It’s also baby sale time again. (No, they are not having a sale on babies at the local L&D). The annual child and baby rummage sale is on, and Kathleen has been working very hard to be ready for it.

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That’s a lot of stuff!

This year she has not only been consigning Evie and Ellie’s old clothes and toys, but also has been putting in consignments for friends and co-workers as well. Of course this means hours of work, but she made a few hundred bucks in consignments, and got Evie and Ellie outfitted for the winter for next to nothing.

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The sale-mobile!

Now that Kathleen is between jobs, so to speak, she took a well deserved weekend break to go out to the ocean with her Mom for some relaxation in the beautiful Pacific Northwest fall weather.

 

 

Apparently in some parts of the world they like to supply their beaches with sunshine, or some nonsense like that. Here in the PNW, we like to be a little more laid back than that. Cloudy all the way, that’s how we like it.

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Can’t let a little cloud get you down!

But there are still some sunny days, and opportunities to enjoy them.

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Evie cannot wait until winter…

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Look, Mommy, I’m skiing!

And then, of course, there was Halloween. Ellie had to help Mommy make Evie’s costume while Evie was at school.

 

And then she helped Mommy carve a pumpkin.

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She was pretty sure that the pumpkin ought to be something to eat.

All ready!

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Family Picture!

Then time to go trick-or-treating! First we visited GeeGee.

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They made a lot of old people’s nights!

And then off to visit Deedee and Papa.

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Papa looks scary!

Unfortunately Halloween was a little too much excitement and sugar for Evie and she turned into a royal pain the rest of the night, and most of the next day and Mommy had to deal with it. But Evie will get over it and be back to herself before long, hopefully.

We had a little bit of a fright earlier this week when Mommy found Ellie eating some mushrooms from the lawn, but it turned out that they were non-toxic and Ellie enjoyed exploring the children’s hospital emergency room once they let her eat and wander around (at least someone had fun there).

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What’s that, Mommy?

And that is all for this weekend. Hopefully we can have a quiet, uneventful, restful weekend with lots of snuggles for Mommy and the girls, while Daddy gets closer and closer to coming home.

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Bye!

God Bless you all and remember to pray for us!

Last Thursday on our anniversary, Ryan was trying out a new move on the rings. He had tried it once before a couple of days earlier and been unsuccessful. So this time he tried harder. Here is what Happened:

This resulted in our anniversary being spent mostly at the hospital.

Fortunately they were able to get Ryan in for surgery to repair the injury the very next day. So now he is walking around the house with a sling, And will likely be in the sling for the next two weeks. Overall recovery time will probably be about three months.

No word yet on whether this will nix the deployment or not. We probably won’t know that until his post surgery follow-up appointment at the end of the month.

Oh well, that’s the price you pay for trying to be a badass. Just means I’m going to need to take a little bit longer to nail that move. Certain people have suggested that this injury is a symptom of some strange condition known as “getting older.” However, I don’t think that’s accurate. As a matter of fact since we’ve been married, the average age in our household has been going down, not up. So I can’t be getting older! Because Math!

 

Manmaker (2)
Insert Man Here

 

 

 

I have spent a good portion of my life in the space between an ALICE pack and a pair of combat boots. I first put on a rucksack at the age of 17, at basic training, when we had to train up for a culminating event which consisted of rucking 12 miles in 3 hours with 35 pounds. I did not realize at the time just how integral a part of my life that piece of equipment would one day become.

I began to take it a bit more seriously when I started training up for Selection in 2003-2005 (completed but did not pass), then again training for Sapper School in 2006 (completed but did not pass), and then again when I got back from Afghanistan in 2008, training up for Selection again, (passed, September 2008). I spent the next two-years of my life in Fort Bragg, slowly and painfully crawling across the wilds of North Carolina with an unhealthy amount of weight on my back.

During that time I averaged between 20 and 30 miles per week on my feet, either rucking, running or both. I remember hearing other guys say, “I cannot wait until I graduate and go to a team, and then I don’t have to do this outdated, leftover Vietnam BS! I’m just going to lift and get freaking huge and never ruck again.” They were saying it, and I was thinking it. I just wanted to get to that place where I could concentrate on getting jacked and tan, without having to spend 5 to 8 hours under the ruck every week.

Then I got to First Special Forces Group and spent the next three years on a mountain team. If you think military mountaineering is about scaling sheer cliffs in shorts, climbing shoes and muscle shirts, think again. It is mostly about… you guessed it. Rucking.Colorado 14er (2)

That’s really what it is. It’s all about carrying heavy things some more, just in steeper and more dangerous terrain; and sometimes over snow.Marines Cross Country CA

What is strange is that over time I have come full circle. I started out a starry-eyed young dreamer longing for fortune and glory and excited about doing real Army things! Rucking was fun because I saw myself sneaking into enemy held territory to wreak havoc on bad guys and rescue good guys. Then it became a chore that I had to do, but I didn’t mind because I was good at it. Then it morphed into a demon. At Selection they talk about the “fear monkey” which is an unfocused sense of panic that jumps on your back and sinks its dirty fingernails into your flesh. If you let it, it will sink its teeth in your neck. We also refer to the rucksack as “the tick” because it settles onto you and sucks the life out of you. It gets to be so painful and miserable that just the sight of the tick brings on the fear monkey. You literally panic at the sight of the rucksack.

That is when men either quit, or don’t. And that makes all the difference. If you don’t quit you will find yourself swallowing the fear and at the bottom of the cup you will find enjoyment. It’s the same thing with rock climbing (I am afraid of heights). I don’t think I have ever been on a rock face without promising myself that if I only get off this one alive, I will never climb again. It works every time. And I came to enjoy climbing.

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It’s freakin’ cool when you get there.

 

You have to push through the fear to find the joy.

I was talking with a younger guy a while ago, a younger guy who is kind of drifting right now, contemplating his options without acting on any of them. I recommended he start rucking.

Right now my brother Adam and I are engaged in a men’s group doing a program called “Exodus 90.” I brought up the what-if, “What if we lived in a society where every boy had to pass selection as a teenager before he was allowed to hold a job or date a girl.” I may write a novel about that someday, if I get the time.

In Special Forces training the rucksack is a tool. It’s purpose is to force each man to that choice: quit or don’t quit. They don’t particularly care whether any individual quits or not. They are in the business of weeding people out who can’t hack it, and selecting people who can. They use the rucksack, partly because it’s tradition, partly because it is a highly useful skill in combat, but also partly because it is not sexy. If they used weightlifting, or crossfit, or something like that, there would be the unfortunate sexy component. You could look in the mirror in the middle of the suck and think, “Dang, I look good!” But they want a challenge that isn’t fun, isn’t interesting, doesn’t look sexy, and you just have to dig deep and do it anyway. If you can’t do something when no one is looking, and when it isn’t sexy, then they don’t want you. The rucksack will weed you out.

In this sense I use the ruck differently than they did at Selection.

I call the ruck “The Man Maker.” I truly believe that for boys having a hard time transitioning to manhood, the ruck is as good a way as any to learn what you need to learn. Its purpose is not to weed out those who can’t hack it, but to teach those who don’t know they can hack it that indeed they can. And to teach those who think they can that in fact they still have a lot to learn. I encourage rucking as a vehicle for bringing people to that place where they either have to quit or keep going, and then teach them that they can keep going.

Of course some will learn, and some will not.

And of course, the rucksack is not the only man maker out there. A herd of cows, a plot of ground, medical school, a fishing boat, a coal mine, a deployment, the seminary, a small business, a farm, a marriage, children; all of these can bring a boy to that same choice. In other words, life will make a man out of you if you accept its challenge.New York Flood 2017 (16)

That is how God designed it. That is the purpose of this world, to bring you to the moment of choice, which is alive and throbbing underneath every moment of our lives. The rucksack is a model for this, and video games are its antithesis.

Just be aware. Rucking will make a man (or a woman) out of you. But it will not make you a Saint.

61vmyhdipkl-_sx258_bo1204203200_A long time ago, (by which I mean probably about a decade) a book by Rick Warren entitled, “The Purpose Driven Life,” was topping the bestseller chart. It had already taken the evangelical Christian world by storm, and even topped the New York Times Best Seller List. I was on active duty at the time and I remember chaplains handing out copies by the crateful, and book study groups forming at every base. You could find copies flying off the pinewood shelves in the major FOBs in Afghanistan, and even on offer in any of the smaller FOBs that sported a chapel.

I never read the book.

I am not sure why, since I was reading probably well over a hundred books per year in those days (I could kick myself when I recall how I took that ability for granted) but I just never was that interested in it. I suppose I thought the title said it all.

Life should be about a purpose. I had a purpose (becoming Special Forces) and I was ordering my entire life around that goal. Or rather, my purpose was to become a consummate warrior-poet-mystic, triple-role which Brad Miner would dub “The Compleat Gentleman,” and Special Forces was the path I was following to pursue one arm of that purpose. 4153dpdpwpl-_ac_ul320_sr214320_

In the regular Army I was an anomaly, but not so terribly much of one as I thought I was. I was one of the very few who not only wanted, but intended, to become Special Forces, but I was not the only one with a purpose. In fact, most of the guys had a purpose higher than themselves. They had long term goals for themselves, for their families, for their careers,. One of my best friends, Mike, was thinking about going Special Forces with me, but he was then the age that I am now, and he had met someone, and he was feeling the need to settle down and raise a family. As he put it, “At some point you have to decide whether you want to go on being John Rambo, or whether you need to become a good Christian husband and father while you have the chance.”

Perhaps it was our closeness with mortality, but the few in the unit who had no purpose other than making it back to the civilian world so they could smoke weed again, were actually in a minority.

Then when I got into the Q course I was surrounded by purpose driven men day in and day out. Those who were not so driven didn’t last long.

Now I wonder if I might not have done well to read Warren’s book. Being an evangelical Christian he might have pointed out the error in my thinking, namely, that my purpose was not high enough.

Wedding eucharistThis is the great truth of Christianity that I have slowly come to learn, that God has created each human person specially and intentionally and for a purpose, and that our purpose, (your purpose and my purpose) is to exist in relationship with Him.

That’s it.

It is really that simple, no other purpose will satisfy. No career, no family, no retirement, no American dream, no vacation, no adventure, no mission, no glory, no achievement… nothing will satisfy except relationship with Him.

“For you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” as St. Augustine says in his “Confession.”

Or as Saint Paul would say, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

This purpose is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, the source and summit, the starting point and the goal of every choice, every thought and every affection.

But on the other hand, the fact that this is our only purpose as Christians does not negate other, lesser purposes. To the contrary, it places them in context and gives them their true meaning. It is because God has called me to be a husband and father that it has transcendental and essential meaning, rather than merely accidental meaning. It is because He has called me to pursue the path of the warrior-poet-mystic that my training takes on an enduring and spiritual significance, rather than being merely a hobby.Ruckmarching

In the light of the One purpose, everything matters. I will offer one example, the thought which triggered the writing of this blog, that is, the placement of my cellphone charger.

For me an important part of pursuing that relationship with God is starting the day with an hour of prayer. I make exceptions for emergencies, (such as staying up all night with a newborn) but in the main I try to pray for an hour every morning.

In order to do this, I need an alarm to wake me up in the morning. That alarm is provided by my cellphone, a recording either of Josquin de Prez’s “Ave Maria for Four Voices” or of Trope’s “Kyrie – Virginitatis Amator.” By a sort of operant condition, it is enough to wake me from even the soundest sleep, despite being very quiet and beautiful. But if I can reach it without getting out of bed, then I can hit the snooze button (or worse, the “stop” button). I have done this without even waking up a couple of times. Or, if I am not quite asleep enough for that, I can argue myself into setting a backup alarm for an hour later, and going back to sleep.

Then that second alarm goes off an hour later and I wake up, realizing that I have now missed my prayer hour, and I have a terrible choice ahead of me. You see, immediately after my prayer hour is my workout time. Training is still a duty for me, and I don’t like to miss my scheduled workout. But, if I haven’t said my prayers, then I am faced with the dilemma. Should I skip them and try to make up a rosary or something in the car, and get on with the workout? Or skip the workout, and do my prayer time, instead.

Or maybe I will just go back to sleep and not do either. That has happened more than once.

So I keep the phone in the bathroom down the hall, on top of my gym clothes on the sink. In order to turn it off I have to get out of bed and walk into another room and pick it up off the stack of gym clothes. If I had to I would put a bottle of cold brew coffee next to it.

That is what I mean by purpose. It is the choice to hem yourself in when the purpose is strong in you, against those moments when the purpose is weak.

That’s what St. Thomas More was talking about, which means that one may think of getting up in the morning as a sort of preparation for martyrdom.

Life is simpler with a sword in hand
Because the sword is simple
Focused
Tapered
Narrowed.
And when I drive it home
Wielding legion molecules of steel
Forged and forced into ordered
Patterns of interwoven strength
By the heat and the hammer and the heart
Of the burly smith (broad with bulging arms
And a poet’s eye
Visionary,
A technician’s eye
Critical,
A boy’s eye
Young enough to believe in heroes)
Fiercely leap and drive like fire behind
One
Single
Mathematical 
Point,
Which my sluggish soul pursues.

 Hate has no place in a warrior
For only love can forge a worthy sword.
At such moments my flowing body
Takes on the nature of the blade.
And I imagine my mind too is 
Focused
Simple
Quiet
At peace.

 I always come home from the mission,
The deployment,
Or the war;
The office,
The gym,
Or the dojo.
Sweat-stained,
Weary, 
Bruised,
I eat an apple and shower
And sit beside the crib 
To watch my bright-haired baby breathe
And all of me reaches out to seek her cheek
And touch tenderly with just one fingertip
Lighter than a butterfly
Softened with a kiss.

 I get into bed next to my wife
And slide close and stretch to take her hand
And all my body and soul
Reaches
Searches
Touches
And loves with the same totality.
All of me.

Another week of not much Family-ing, because Daddy was away on clinical rotations. So most of the pictures are from the weekends.

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“Here Mommy, these will make you all better.”

Evie really likes playing doctor, these days. She always wants someone to “be sick” so she can make them “all better.” Mommy makes a very good patient because she will lie down on the couch any time Evie asks her to.

Daddy, on the other hand, is a terrible patient, because he never follow’s Doctor’s orders.

 

Evie got to stay over at Deedee and Papa’s house a lot this week, because Mommy is on a new work schedule for a few weeks. She has to work every day, instead of just three days, but she only works eight hours instead of twelve, so she gets home earlier, and no nights.

Daddy got to come home from Oak Harbor early this week, but he still had a ton of Army stuff to do online, so he wasn’t able to pick Evie up until Thursday night. Deedee dropped her off at the bank where Daddy was conducting some boring business type stuff. Evie was immediately enthralled by the “puter” they had that was just her size.

 

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“This is my ‘puter! I’m typing!”

So much so that she didn’t want to leave the bank.

 

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“No, no, I am doing my work!”

We had to have a talking-to about that. It’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to be mad, but even when you are sad and mad, you still have to do what is right. Which means when Daddy says it is time to leave, you can cry if you feel you must, but you still have to put the toys away.

Another thing that Evie really likes nowadays is the word, “Why?” Daddy loves it because it is one of his favorite words too.

On Friday, Daddy and Evie went to early morning Mass, and then to the park for some ninja training.

The library was hosting an event for kids, and the police came to show off one of their cars.

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Evie thought the police car was the coolest thing ever. She was all ready to get buckled in the back seat and drive away.

 

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“This is my seat, and this is the baby’s seat.”

Fortunately, Daddy didn’t let her stay in the police car. She did get to go down the slide with the police man a few times, and had a picnic with Daddy.

 

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Daddy is not very good at taking selfies.

And that’s all for this week. We are just working on getting done what we need to get done while still having at least a little time for what matters most.

And, of course, counting down to our next little big adventure!

 

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Not long  now!

God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

Ruckmarching
Training must be about more than personal development in order to be a path to Holiness.

A little over a week ago Kathleen and I were sitting on the couch having a date night. We had already folded the laundry and finished watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which meant that the festivities were winding down towards bed time. (Do we know how to party it up or what?)

 

I switched on my Relevant Radio app on my phone and we listened to a short, two-minute podcast from Father James Kubickia. I cannot for the life of me remember which saint he was talking about, and I cannot find the podcast now. I have tried quite a few times since then, because he shared a quote which shocked and challenged me, and which I have been trying to place ever since. Apparently, whichever saint he was talking about once said in a letter:

“Your desire for suffering has grown sluggish.”

If I had been tracking at the time, that quote would have stopped me in them. It reminded me of something a Special Forces guy said in my hearing when I was at Fort Bragg last year for “leadership” training:

“Our Special Forces ancestors spent years living and fighting in the swamps in Vietnam, and we can’t even get up at 5:00 AM to go work out in an air-conditioned gym.”

Both ideas get at something that has long eaten at me, the idea that we Americans, especially American men, are the lesser sons of great fathers. I thought about both these quotes later that week when I was at the gym in the morning, after finishing my squats and deadlifts. The next thing on my schedule was sprints, and I had planned on doing them outside on the track, but it was in the low 40’s and I really wanted to let the sprints go, and just do a couple miles on the treadmill instead. Half of me couldn’t believe it. “Really? It’s 40 degrees out and you are whining about it being so cold!? What a wuss.”

The other half of me wasn’t listening. It was just complaining: “It’s chilly out and my throat will hurt, and I don’t want to sprint because my legs are tired, and I have to work today and…” yadah, yadah, yadah, yammering uselessly.

I did go out and do some sprints. But I am not what I used to be. There was a time when I had a goal (being Special Forces) that consumed my waking and sleeping and made me hungry for suffering. That desire has grown weak and sluggish, crowded over by the cares of civilian life and an unhealthy attachment to comfort, routine and convenience.

It is right and just that Special Forces should fade out as my reason for getting up in the morning. As a life goal it was always small potatoes, looming large in my mind only because of the smallness of my mind at the time. Being Special Forces would have been a fine goal, if it had been more about taking care of the team and protecting people than about my personal program of self-improvement. Nowadays I have my family, a higher, nobler and worthier goal than SF could ever be. I have medicine as well, which, as long as I think about care of patients rather than the medical detective novel I have running constantly in my own mind, is likewise a worthier goal. And I have more of a relationship with God than I used to, which is the noblest, highest and ultimate goal.

The problem is that these are only intellectual goals. I acknowledge them as projects on my to-do list, and check them off every day, but I do not love them, in the sense that I do not forget myself in pursuit of them. Or at least, I don’t forget myself very often. They don’t draw me so far as to desire suffering in order to be like Jesus.

When whichever saint it was said, “Your desire for suffering has grown sluggish” I think he was using that desire as a measure for love, and what he was really saying was, “Your love has grown sluggish and it no longer drives you to make sacrifices for God or neighbor.”

His accusation rings true in my soul. WOF crucifixion