Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chrysostom, Yet again

“Say to [your wife], ‘Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one, both with Christ and each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.’”

- from Homily XX on Ephesians

Once again, St. John captures the spiritual core of the marriage relationship, way better than you might ever expect from a celibate bishop who lived 16 centuries ago.

And he even manages to address a ‘concern’ of mine, that I blogged about, once upon a time. . .

And besides all that, the concept of ‘even if I lose everything’ is much more, uh, current than I might wish it were. . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Say Shit, Daddy?

A while back, I posted one of my favorite quotes, from George MacDonald:

The business of the Universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise.

Life is just full of humbling experiences; I was reminded of another one recently, from back when my older girls were small. . .

Both of my 'big girls' were very much 'doll-playing' girls when they were little, and Molly and I were mildly indulgent of their fondness. We would buy them new doll clothes, and stuff like that, and it was just a lot of fun to watch them playing. We tried to draw a line at Barbies - the uber-buxom fashionista just wasn't the image we wanted to plant in our daughters' brains - but it was mostly futile; 'forbidden fruit is the sweetest', as the saying goes. Once they discovered that some of their friends had Barbies, they would just ask to play at their houses all the time.

Once, we were at the spring carnival that our parish school holds every spring, and there was a sale of several donated items. One of the men in the parish had donated some really nice hand-made wooden items, including a doll cradle that was the perfect size for our girls' favorite dolls, so we bought it, and the girls liked it, and had a lot of fun with it.

Over the course of many months of use, one of the 'rockers' on the cradle broke off. It didn't quite render the cradle unusable, but it was more of a hassle. So I, in my young-paternal earnestness, undertook to repair the broken rocker.

I should note, at this point, that I am mildly handy - I've built a few bookshelves from scratch, and a few other items, as well - but I sometimes lack confidence, and will stew over a project, sometimes for a considerable amount of time, while I try to figure out the best way to accomplish the goal. And this was one of those. The rocker had broken off in a way that was going to be tricky to re-attach it, and I thought about it for several days, before I finally decided that I would 'screw it and glue it'. And so, broken cradle in arms, I headed down into my basement workshop to do my Heroic-Dad thing.

Well, such things are never quite as simple to execute, as what they were in your mind when you first thought them up. I had an immediate problem of how to securely hold the cradle, so as to drill a hole for the screws, and how to hold the broken piece in place against the cradle body, so that the holes in the two pieces would be aligned. I jerry-rigged a kind of constraint, but it wasn't as 'secure' as it should have been, and when I started drilling the hole, it wound up being at a bit of an angle, rather than straight into the wood. So that, once I glued the broken piece in place, and started screwing the pieces together, the wood kind-of exploded, and rather than a not-quite-as-good-as-it-ought-to-be doll cradle, I had a completely unusable doll cradle, along with a small pile of splinters.

I was stunned. And frustrated. Really, really frustrated. It would be one thing, if it were an aberration for one of my projects to go catastrophically awry, but I'd had a few of them, in the preceding months, where my efforts at doing-it-myself so as to save a repair bill had resulted in an unrepairable mess, and even greater expense than the repair would have been. So, all of my frustration, mixed with anger at my own incompetency, just sort-of spontaneously erupted.

I stood there, staring at the mess, and just yelled, loudly and deliberately, "SHI-I-I-IT!"

And the next thing I heard, from behind me, sitting on the basement stairs, where she'd been quietly watching me work, was 2F (who was 2-3 years old at the time), saying, in all sweetness and innocence -

"Why say 'shit', Daddy?"

Ever feel like you just wanted to crawl between the cracks in the basement wall? I mean, here I was, looking for all the world like Heroic Dad, doing amazing, mysterious things to fix her doll cradle, and then, Huh - Why Say Shit, Daddy? Busting the cradle didn't make me feel nearly so bad as my sweet little daughter busting me for a non-deleted expletive. . .

Actually, Molly told me later (a wife with a Child Development degree can come in handy, sometimes) that 2F had no idea what the word was - she was only relating to the (all-too-apparent) emotion with which it was uttered. Daddy is upset about something; I wonder what he's so upset about? And so, she was only asking, in all innocence, why I was upset, so as to utter the excrementary expletive. The word itself was only a marker for 'Daddy is upset'. Which made me feel a little less like a jerk. A little.

It was still the least bit embarrassing, though. But, like most of my most embarrassing moments, it makes for a funny story, given sufficient passage of time. . .

Monday, May 11, 2009


This is the 144th post for the 'Running In the Yard' blog. Over the entire three-year history of my blog(s), the actual number is somewhat higher - a few of the earlier posts didn't get 'reconstituted' when I started back up, almost a year ago, and a few posts from my 'Second Blog' were repeats from my 'First Blog', and it didn't make sense for me to re-post both copies.


Well, this is also close to the third anniversary of my presence as a blogger in Blog-space, so maybe in honor of that, combined with my 144th post (which, for the math geeks among my readers, is also 100-base-twelve) (because yeah, that's just the incredibly nerdy way I roll sometimes), it is an opportune moment to indulge in a brief retrospective of my blogging life; you would be very kind to bear with me. . .

I discovered Blog-space sometime in the fall of 2005. I think that, at the time, I was bored with work, and took to surfing the web to alleviate my boredom. Initially, I found folks like Digger and FTN, who, would talk about their Christian commitment in the context of their marriages and daily life in general, and I found them encouraging, in helping me to at least take a 'Christian' approach to Blog-space.

For several months, I just lurked occasionally. I left my first comment on FTN's blog in March of 2006 (I don't know if that was the first comment I left anywhere, or not; but the other possibilities no longer exist, so I can't check them out). For the next couple months, I lived in Blog-space as a lurker-cum-comment-gadfly. Initially, I commented anonymously, but within a couple weeks, I adopted the 'Desmond Jones' pseudonym (taken from the Beatles song, 'Ob-la-di, ob-la-da', for those who haven't yet figured it out; I had used it a couple times for entries in the office NCAA pool, and the 'life-goes-on' vibe seemed to fit, along with the whole 'happy-family' bit) (maybe more ironically than I wished, but for blogging purposes, it worked well).

At one point, I complained to one of the bloggers I dropped in on from time to time (her blog no longer exists) that her blog wouldn't let me leave a comment, because I didn't have a blogger account. So, by way of addressing my 'problem', she opened a new blog for me, which she called 'Desmond's Place'. "So now you've got a blog," she said. "Knock yourself out."

I put up my first post on May 19, 2006. My first few posts were of the 'About Me' variety, introducing myself, Molly and our kids, and I told a few of the stories that described the 'boundary conditions' of our life - most especially, our troubles with our kids. And for a month or two, I was finding my 'sea legs' in Blog-space.

That July, I spent a goodly bit of my summer break (the company I work for observes a 'summer shutdown' week) - a little too goodly, as it turned out - tending my new bloggity toy, which irked Molly a bit, and she complained that I was spending too much time in Blog-world, and not enough in the real world, where she and our kids needed my attention (and more to the point, my 'mental energy'). So, impulsive creature that I am (and ever-obedient to my wife; sort-of), I shut down my blog. Actually, I didn't completely shut down the blog - I deleted all the posts, but left the blog itself in place. And thus ended the First Incarnation of my blog.

I didn't leave Blog-space, though - I just reverted to my earlier status as a 'comment gadfly'. For about a month. By the middle of August, 2006, I thought that, perhaps, I could take a sufficiently low-key approach to blogging, that I could remain faithful to my real-world commitments. So I re-posted a few of my favorite posts from the 'First Blog', and started back up.

In some ways, the fall of 2006 was the 'Golden Age' of my blog (such as it was). Amusing and/or thoughtful posts seemed to flow freely from my fingertips, directly into Blog-space. And in the course of it all, I made a few friends - folks like C-Marie, O272, Confused Husband, and Christian Husband (none of whom are actively blogging anymore); and I had some interesting exchanges with Emily from Australia, and Flutterby from Saskatchewan (obviously, I have some affinity for members of the British commonwealth). FTN had his first Real Blogger World House in November 2006, and I was privileged to be one of the participants; that's also where I first met FADKOG, so that was nice. Also in November '06, a couple new blogs popped up, authored by Recovering Soul and Therese in Heaven (I was one of the first to figure out that they were married to each other), and they also became good friends.

In January of 2007, my blogging life suffered a bit of a crisis. I had carried on an on-and-off correspondence with the blogger who had first opened my blog, mostly encouraging her to strengthen her marriage. That January, the correspondence had accumulated to a point where I thought that I should show it to Molly, in the interest of 'full disclosure', and keeping my hands where she could see them, so to speak. Well, Molly didn't like what she saw. Didn't like it at all - which made it a little bit hard for me to trust my ability to run my blog in a way that was appropriate to the 'real world' parameters of my life. And from that point on, the Second Incarnation of my blog was on life support. I ran a few token posts through the cold weather months, but Easter of '07 was the final end. I left the last post up for a couple weeks, and then deleted the blog.

Once again, I stayed active as a 'comment gadfly'. But, for over a year, I was quite happy not to have a blog. I even made a few more friends - hello, Phyllis and Xavier! And also my erstwhile fellow-Michigander and fellow-alum, Bunny; I think I also met Trueself around that time. But of course, as is self-evident, I was eventually moved to start back up again, and what you see before you (for better or worse) is the fruit of that. In June of 2008, I opened 'Running In the Yard', the Third Incarnation of my blog; I restored nearly all of the old posts. I've posted at a slower pace than before - about three posts every two weeks - and I'm not sure that the quality has been what it once was. But, I've made a few more friends - hello, Lime and Cocotte! - and that, to me, has always been the joy of blogging. Last fall, we had the Great Midwestern Blogger Gathering, and a few of us got to 'take it real' with each other, for a couple days. Which was very cool.

Anyway, there are now a full gross of my posts, spread unevenly over the past three years, available for your perusal and (I hope) enjoyment. Maybe even edification; I'll leave it to you all to decide. . .

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


This past weekend, Molly and I, along with Molly's mom and 1F, drove down to visit our grandkids. We had a great time visiting with the family. AG, 1F's 'birth-daughter' (if that's the word for their relationship), is quite the little chatterbox these days, and quite the little charmer. She was also most anxious to demonstrate for all of her guests, most especially 'Auntie 1F', that she is well on her way to potty-trained. All together, it was a wonderful visit. Molly's mom came along so we could take a four-generation photo of her, Molly, 1F and AG all together (I love those four-generation pictures; they sorta remind me, in an odd way, of the big fish eating the middle-sized fish, who is eating the small fish, only in reverse). We took a bunch of those photos, including one in which AG laid on her side across the laps of the three grown-ups. Very, very cute.

And it got me to thinking about connections - the connections we have with other people. I actually think about that a fair bit, from time to time. I'm adopted, and I have connections to the family that raised me, and my birth-parents, and their families, and Molly's family. And, in the person of AG, we are connected to the family that adopted her. That connection would exist, whether they were willing to have any relationship with us or not; it is, of course, gratifying in the extreme that they are not only willing, but openly ,and warmly, and graciously so. And likewise, in my person, my birth- and adoptive parents have had a connection to each other for the past 53 years, even though they only met each other a few years ago.

A very heart-warming aspect of our connection to AG's family is the way that they've adopted us as grandparents for all of their kids, including the two boys they've had 'in the natural way' since AG came into their family. I have no idea how to explain the phenomenon, but they are not the first couple I've known (or even the second or the third), who have struggled with infertility for several years, finally deciding to adopt, and then the adoption seems to 'cure' the infertility, and the mother who couldn't conceive for so many years, suddenly starts popping out the babies like the fertile-est Myrtle you've ever known (AG's parents now have three kids, spanning less than two years in age). I don't know to what extent adopting AG 'brought about' the natural conception of their sons, but I am so happy for them that it happened the way it did, and that our family could possibly, by whatever convoluted stretch, have helped bring it about.

Connections. I think of some of the work that my dad and I have done, tracing our family tree. And the times we've found things like great-great-grandfather leaving his father and mother, as a young man, and moving three states away - and right across the street from the family whose daughter would become our great-great-grandmother. And then I look up and down our street; or, I look around the church at Sunday Mass; or I look around the room at one of our community's prayer meetings - and I wonder if any of the young people I see there might become my sons-in-law, or my daughters-in-law. Or if any of my friends might become co-grandparents of my grandchildren (I have a few friends whose kids have married each other, and the relationship of the two sets of grandparents, who were already good friends before their kids married, is just really, really cool).

My birth-parents, who hadn't seen each other, essentially since my birth, finally met each other a couple years back, when my birth-mother was visiting friends in birth-father's state, and called him up, and they got together, with their current spouses. That probably wouldn't have happened, if I'd never searched for and met them. And yet, that connection between the two of them has existed for as long as I have.

And of course, in the person of AG, 1F is forever, and unavoidably, connected to F-bomb. It is what it is; much as I might wish not to have that connection to that man, the fact that AG, and her family, and our connection to them, are the outcome of our connection to F-bomb, are more than sufficient 'compensation' for the aggravation.

I apologize for the 'rambly-ness' of this post. My thoughts on it all are pretty 'impressionistic', and not terribly well-formed, just yet. But I find myself thinking a lot, lately, about the many and various connections we have to other people. . .


Edit, May 8 - It occurs to me that this post works very well in the context of the upcoming Mother's Day holiday - motherhood being the original and fundamental 'connection' in all of our lives. Having watched eight children grow in Molly's womb, I am sometimes envious of the deep physical connection that she has with them. Of course, they all have half my DNA, as well as hers, and I have done my best to be a sure and loving paternal presence in their lives, but they never had an umbilical cord connecting them to me, and they never kicked my spleen from the inside. . .

And that also touches on some of the wonder I've felt at meeting and knowing my birth-mother. Sometimes, as an adoptee, you can kinda feel like you fell out of the sky, into the waiting arms of your parents. But when I met my birth-mother, it was like, OK, this is where I came from - this is the woman in whose belly I grew, and between whose legs I entered this world. And it just made my life seem grounded to the earth in a way it hadn't been before. . .

So - rich blessings to all mothers - our culture doesn't value your rich contributions to its ongoing life, not nearly as much as it once did, and certainly not as much as it ought to. But, just speaking on my own behalf, I honor your role, and your service to your children (which we all are, in one form or another). Thank you all. . .

Friday, May 1, 2009

Makes Sense. . .

I was reminded recently of a talk, given a few years ago by one of the leaders of our Christian community, on the topic of Christian Manhood. In the course of talking about the Jewish commandment concerning circumcision (ref. Genesis 17:10-13), he made what I thought was an excellent point, and one I have never encountered anywhere else. . .

There is, he said, something profoundly appropriate about the sign of a man's consecration to God having to do with his sex organ. . .