The Truth Is Out There

Staying informed these days feels like a full-time job. After one month of Trump, I was convinced it had been 100 days. Thank God for journalists and truth-seekers. When you hear someone say, “How do you know what’s real or not these days?” give them some tips. If you read something that appears false, try to find the same story elsewhere. Search for sources. If Trump gives you a list of media companies, tweeting that they are the enemy of the American people, try getting your news from them or all of them. He only dislikes them because they factcheck him. The truth is out there. It’s not hard to find, at least not now while we still have a free, independent press.

If you aren’t subscribed to some newspaper or legitimate online news source right now, I ask, what in the hell are you thinking?

As he so often does, Andrew Sullivan is providing an interesting take in his weekly posts at NY Mag’s Daily Intelligencer. Here’s something from nearly two weeks ago. It feels like two months ago.

Their [Putin and Trump] domestic politics also have disturbing parallels. Trump would love nothing more, it seems to me, than to be an American Putin, treating the country as he long treated his own corporate fiefdom. He once explained he admired the autocrat because Putin has “great control over his country.” Like Putin, Trump would love to control the media. Like Putin, he has developed a leadership cult, devoted to the masses. Like Putin, he believes in a government that has “killers.” Like Putin, he threatens his geographic neighbors. Like Putin, he has cultivated an alliance of convenience with reactionary religious conservatives, to shore up his power. Like Putin, he believes there’s no moral difference between American democracy and Russia’s. Like Putin, he is enriching himself by public office. And, like Putin, he has targeted a minority as a scapegoat — Putin targeted the gays to gin up support while Trump targets the Muslims and Mexicans. And as Putin has RT as his conduit, so Trump has the Murdoch empire.

Published

What seems like two years ago, I submitted a short essay to the Denver Post. To my delight, I heard back from them. They wrote that my essay was being considered for online publication as a guest commentary. A couple months passed and I hadn’t heard anything from them so I emailed the Post again. They wrote back, saying that my essay was still in the queue and I would be notified if it was published. I maintained my optimism for about one more month and then, like all writers often do, I gave up all hope. I started wearing Crocs, drinking Folgers, and bought tighty whities in bulk at Costco.

Skip ahead to 2017 and I am half-heartedly looking for writing gigs when I do a quick self Google. I was curious if any of my writing was available on the web still. One of the top results was a Denver Post page titled, “Guest Commentary: Tiny hands change everything.” I clicked on the link. I confirmed that it was my work and noted the date. July 17, 2015. UPDATED April 24, 2016.

The photo with the commentary is of an adult hand, one finger of which is grasped by a tiny baby. This is not a photo of hands I know. I could have provided a better photo if they had told me I was going to be published.

Like this one…

IMG_2923

And then I read the words. Thoughtful, touching, but flawed. Like nearly everything I write, I only thought it was decent or, at best, good, at the time I wrote it. Now, almost two years later, it strikes me as insufficient, short, even a little cheesy. I would have been happier to link to it back in July of 2015. Linking to it now is anticlimactic. It feels like I am sharing a draft with you. Nonetheless, for it to appear on the Denver Post‘s website and for me to not share that on this blog does not feel right. Here is the article.

Have a great weekend.

 

At 3

I look at London and whisper, “You weren’t supposed to be three yet.” It is just like last year when I whispered to her, “You weren’t supposed to be two yet.” And the year before that when at 1 she was 9 months old to me.

We were robbed. At least that’s how it felt for a long time after London arrived. Robbed of that anticipation. Robbed of what this pregnancy thing was supposed to be like, especially for Kate. I have written about it before.

But as time has passed, healing has come. More and more I think of London’s premature birth at 26 weeks not as robbery, but as getting to receive the greatest gift I will ever receive three months early.

Though her birth and the following three and a half months in the hospital have left Kate and I with scars and, at times, profound distress, the experience is slowly shaping into a larger blessing as we watch London meet and exceed our expectations and the expectations of every healthcare professional she has seen over these three years.

London is less and less defined by the story of her birth, but for her mom and I, as we move further and further from that night, we are made more aware of how that night has shaped us into the parents, friends, and professionals we are today. We are aware that the passage of time will not completely fade that night in the minds of others, but throws it into sharp relief for us.

Emboldened by a Trump Victory, No, Not That Kind of Emboldened

Like many of you, I was late to bed on Election Day. The morning after, I was early to rise, unfortunately remembering right away that Donald Trump just became the next President-elect. I hadn’t slept well. I had a headache. And I had six miles to tick off the training calendar. Hoping that the run would distance me from America’s new reality, I welcomed the strides ahead more than I typically do before the sun rises.

The one thing that struck me as I ran my usual route was how quiet this morning was. There was little traffic in the usually congested roundabouts. Even less traffic on the sidewalks. I had a sense there weren’t as many people joyfully embracing the morning in the aftermath of this election. Of course, I live in Denver County, where Trump earned less than 19% support; I wasn’t expecting to run into a lot of cheery people. But the atmosphere was something different than disappointment. It was somber. I had a sense people were mourning in those dawn hours.

After my run, it was back to reality, which this morning included getting through breakfast with my two-year-old daughter without my coffee supplement. As soon as possible, we were out the door to replenish the coffee bean container in the kitchen. I drove to the nearest coffee shop, which for me, happens to be a Starbucks. In I walked with London and I had this peculiar feeling. I looked around at the clientele, not surprised to see the shop was already full of immigrants, as this particular Starbucks always has a very diverse customer base.

I was sad. I could feel it on my face. But the peculiar feeling was shame. For the first time in my life, I had a sense of shame from being white. I wanted to announce to the whole café, “It wasn’t my fault. I voted for Clinton.”

And I wanted to say that I was sorry. To the Muslim barista, I am sorry. To the nice Ethiopian men sharing the Starbucks patio with London and I, I am sorry. To the immigrants sipping their morning espresso, I am sorry.

We have heard a lot about those people who have been emboldened by a Trump victory. The KKK, the racists, the xenophobes, and all the bigots out there think it’s their time.

Well, show them that it isn’t. Be emboldened to greet with open arms, a smile, or a handshake, those who Trump and his deep base have disparaged. Women, immigrants, non-whites, Muslims, Jews, or Mitt Romney. You shouldn’t have to look far. Go out there and be better.

Someone Else’s Hot Take

I have not taken the time to sit down and write about the election results. I am still in the process of getting through the shock, absorbing the news, and watching Stephen Colbert’s Election Night special on Showtime. But there are quite a few politicians and journalists who have sat down in the aftermath to record their thoughts or to share a story and some advice. Today, I share with you one letter of note. “A Letter to Young Women: How We Will All Move Forward Together Now.”

So how do you cope with how you feel right now?

First, don’t be destructive: Don’t burn a flag, don’t be vitriolic. Anger will give you a worse hangover than cheap tequila.

Second, you are allowed wine—preferably to drink with friends because I know how lonely you are feeling.

Third, find your thing. Find your cause, and get back in the game. Be a mentor or volunteer. Remember every priority of Secretary Clinton’s and dive into one headfirst. Most importantly, bring your friends.

It’s our responsibility to form a tribe unlike anything that’s ever been seen before—one that is stronger, louder, and more ferocious than ever. The suffragettes didn’t win us the right to vote by walking down the street with headphones on, reading Twitter. We cannot let this happen again.

It’s a short, passionate letter. You can read the rest by Alyssa Mastromonaco at Broadly.

A Vote For Decency

For the last three election cycles I have heard, “This is the most important election in modern history.” The first two times I did not believe it. If anything, in 2008 and 2012, it was political hyperbole from both major political parties, expressing fear of their opponent winning and desperately trying to spread that fear among on-the-fence voters, hoping they would agree and fall in line.

This time around, I believe this is the most important election since I have been voting. (I am 33.) It has come down to the most unpopular nominees since polling began, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. One nominee, from a political powerhouse, the Clintons,  wildly adored, untrusted, and loathed by huge swaths of American voters. The reasons for which I will not get into because there is nothing I can add to the discussion to persuade you one way or another and the other reasons were fomented in the editorial room of Breitbart (which is now, figuratively, the same thing as Trump HQ) or in the dark, hideous pulse of a Trump rally.

The Clintons are indeed measured, calculating politicians. This election cycle, when Hillary stands up against a know-nothing, fascist sociopath, her deserved or undeserved labels pale in comparison to Trump. She is at least sane. And that is what this election has come down to. Sanity.

In 2016, a vote for Trump or, just as bad, an abstention, is a vote for insanity. It is a vote for a person who is “characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one’s goals.” It is a vote for a need for stimulation, a need to live on the knife’s edge of nuclear warfare. It is a vote for conspiracy theories. It is a vote for having no concern about wrecking others’ lives and dreams en masse. It is a vote to affirm the idea that since you have spent the last four years watching cable news or reading jingoistic slop disguised as fact you know as much about international relations or economic policy as someone with advanced degrees in such fields, or as much as a former Secretary of State.

It is a vote for a bleak and volatile future, one that I, voting now as a father for the first time, am terrified for my daughter to possibly have to face.

In the last three presidential elections, I at least had the comfort of believing that our liberal democracy would continue if my candidate did not win. I cannot say the same this time around. Trump is not just a threat to his political opponents, but a threat to the idea of America, something that the five former presidents still alive today appear to agree with as not one of them supports Donald.

Hillary Clinton enjoys the support of some voters who would otherwise vote for the Republican nominee if said nominee was not a racist buffoon. That said, I have heard of too many Republicans drawing a false equivalency between the two big party nominees. Many of these Republicans are abstaining or throwing their vote away on Gary Johnson, a man who, in this case, they know only one thing about: that he will not win. Johnson provides an out for these aforementioned Republicans so they can say that they voted but they did not vote for Trump or Hillary, while simultaneously pretending that by voting for Johnson they have disguised the fact that they prefer Trump over Hillary. This is disgusting and fools nobody.

The same can be said for Bernie supporters who have refused to support Hillary and have thrown their support to Johnson or Jill Stein.

If a voter was already in the Johnson or Stein camps before the primaries concluded, then good for them, but all the latecomers to these alternative candidates are putting this country at greater risk than I feel they are aware of. A vote this late in the game for Johnson or Stein, or an abstention, is a vote for Trump and all of his rabid base.

I began this post weeks ago, intent on writing a lengthier piece on why I think Clinton is the best choice for this country. But since I started, even worse revelations about Trump have come to light, specifically his bragging to Billy Bush about sexually abusing women. I have heard this talk defended by Trump, Trump surrogate Ben Carson, and many others as locker room talk, with Carson going as far as telling Neil Cavuto that he has heard much worse in locker rooms. I have also witnessed the rape talk defended on Facebook under the ridiculous guise of “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” No one is saying we have not sinned and we have all made mistakes, but is there no expectation of decency in our leaders? Are there no standards? During the last week of the campaign these have become rhetorical questions.

I am quite afraid of the Trump base if he loses next month, but my greater fear is of a Trump presidency. If there were any doubt about Trump’s respect for his opponents, or simply ideas not one-hundred percent in agreement with his, the last week has certainly shown Trump’s true colors as he has admonished his own party’s leaders and veterans, threatened his primary opponent with imprisonment, lambasted the entire media establishment (minus Hannity, I guess), and had to deny multiple allegations of sexual assault, while implying one woman was not even attractive enough for assault to have taken place.

As a human being I am disturbed by the way he speaks about other religions, races, and the opposite sex. But I am not just voting as a human being next month. I am voting as a believer, as a husband, and as a father to a little girl. All of these roles have further convinced me that the most important thing we can do in November is to make sure Donald Trump does not become our next president. To vote for Trump would be to abandon all of those roles and everything I have been raised to believe in. Lastly, a vote for this man would be to abandon my human decency. Thus, I have had a very difficult time not judging those who are still standing with Trump, who are still abstaining, or who are still supporting Johnson. Because unlike in previous elections, these people are supporting a man for presidency who would have been fired from McDonald’s by now for the things he has said. Yet, these people think it is okay to give this man the nuclear codes merely because they have loathed the Clintons for decades? Or because they just cannot support a Democrat?

Just swallow your pride for once and keep this country alive. Then, in four years, you can have another go, but if Trump wins, I am not sure America’s future lasts that long and that will be on you.

Put Down Your Phone

It is such a joy to be able to read Andrew Sullivan again. Last week’s New York Magazine features a lengthy article about Sullivan’s rehab from blogging and his sustained connectivity to news, devices, and the internet. fullsizerender

I know from time to time I am on my phone way too much, especially in front of London, so reading this gave me several pangs of guilt, but it helped. Since I finished it I have been more aware of my screen time throughout the day and night. I have tried to cut back, but I also know that the lessons learned from reading Sullivan’s latest piece will likely fade. This should be on an annual required reading list.

The Body-Shaming Candidate

During the last two presidential campaigns I wrote blogs primarily about politics.

So far, in 2016, I’ve stayed away from blogging political on here. But election day will be here very quickly and I need to say a few things about this election, specifically about one of the candidates. I’ll get around to posting my thoughts on Mr. Trump, but for now I wanted to share this one commercial with you. It is made by Donald Trump himself, but it is an ad paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump merely provided all the material.

As a father of a beloved, precious little girl, Secretary Clinton could not have produced a better commercial. When you’re running against a candidate who thinks of women “as a collection of sex toys” (Comedian Samantha Bee’s words) reminding all the fathers of little girls all over this great land of Trump’s distaste for women is the most powerful message you can send.

Stay-at-Home Dads and Depression

I shared this article on Facebook a couple of days ago and I must share it here as well. It really is one of the most honest articles I have ever read about the stay-at-home dad life.

The reality of being a stay-at-home dad is that strangers are suspicious, our friends are patronizing, and stay-at-home moms—the one group you might actually expect to have your back—often won’t let you into their club.

Bradley Egel, who has been a stay-at-home dad for the last decade, told me when he first started taking his son to the park, he felt ostracized by the other moms.

“There was this group of moms who were extraordinarily cold to me. Sometimes to the point where they would just leave [when I arrived],” he said. “Then, after a year, this one woman—I guess she was like queen bee—walks over and says, ‘We’ve been noticing that you come to the same park all the time. What’s your deal?’ I was like, ‘I’m here with my kid. The same as you.'”

Read the rest of the article, “Why So Many Stay-at-Home Dads Are Depressed.”

I’ll Be Back

Since I threw it out there that I was going for a sub-40 10k time in this year’s IMG_9019BolderBoulder, it is with some disappointment and a lot of frustration that I now have to report there was no sub-40 time from me on Monday.

I am still thinking about all that went wrong early Monday morning and I have come up with a number of reasons (or excuses, if you like) that could have negatively effected my performance.

1. I had too much to drink before the race. I had to get up at 4:45 to make it to the start of the race that morning. I think all that time tricked me into thinking I could have a large coffee, 2 bananas, a big spoon of peanut butter, and a little water before my race. Although I was done eating and drinking by 6:10, 45 minutes before my wave started, this was way too much to consume before a race. I haven’t normally had that much to eat and drink before a race so I don’t know why I did something different on the day of the BolderBoulder. It’s a rookie mistake and I’m embarrassed by it. In previous running races–all 4 of them–I’ve had at most one banana, a little peanut butter, and maybe 10-12 ounces of water.

2. I took the first mile out too fast. 6:07 on my GPS watch. 6:11 on official results. Both are too fast for me, but it’s very hard at the start of a race to not let the energy get the best of you. You feel good. You are racing with the biggest group of fast runners you have seen. You stupidly think that you can maintain said pace because you still feel good. Of course I felt good. It was the first, damn mile. If I was running the race again right now I would slow down to a 6:30 for that first mile and try to maintain that through the first four miles, then try to pick it up for the last 2.2. In a 6-mile race a couple weeks ago my first mile was 6:36, then 6:37, and 6:34. I was hurting in mile 4 and 5, but still kept it under 7 minutes and then in mile 6 I had enough energy left for a 6:24. Mile 6 in Monday’s race was 8:02.67. Doh! I straight up walked 50 yards of that. It was gross.

3. I underestimated the Bolder Boulder course. There isn’t much of an incline in the first four miles, but it’s just enough to break you down if you underestimate it. I didn’t think it would prove to be that sapping to my legs, but it was. It’s certainly not an ideal course to set your PR on. That said, I haven’t been running long, so I set a PR (42:29), but was nowhere near my goal time.

4. I should have gone out for easy runs on Saturday and Sunday. This was the first time that I’ve tapered off a serious running regimen so instead of taking one day off my feet, I took two. I thought two might be necessary because I am a little more muscular than your avid runner. In hindsight, I think a 20-minute easy run on Saturday and a 10-minute easy run on Sunday would have been ideal.

5. My training program needs more interval work in it. I have already found good alternative programs to use for a sub-40 minute 10k. The regimens  are all about 10-14 weeks long and one of them has at least two, sometimes three rest or active rest days, which I certainly need.

6. Although my left foot did not bother me on Monday, something may be wrong with it. Since it was giving me substantial pain during the last two weeks of training, I did cut back on my interval training by turning fast 400s into fast sprints the length of a soccer field. That may have taken a slight edge off my fitness level, but I would not give this too much weight. That is why this is reason six, not one.

As far as the Bolder Boulder goes, I will compete next year and I have made some goals for that race. 1. Beat this year’s time. 2. Don’t vomit. 3. Don’t require medical attention. 4. Don’t take it out so fast. 5. Don’t drink a tumbler of coffee an hour before you run.

I will be happier and I will feel better after next year’s race if I obey these commands.

Drinking on Monday Starts at 8…am

For the last ten weeks I have been training for the Bolder Boulder.

This running thing is pretty new to me. I competed in my first 10k on Thanksgiving day last year. Since then, I’ve tried two 5k races and another 10k.

Before those races, I ran in one 5k at the Milwaukee Zoo in 2008. That race doesn’t really count. Between 2008 and the turkey trot in 2015, running was not a hobby. I still hit the pavement every once in a while, but it was merely for cardio.

IMG_8998

The start of the A Wave at the Bolder Boulder. Just looking at this gets my heart racing.

Part of the reason I have kept on competing since the turkey trot is because the racing conditions were so horrible then. It was 32 and raining and the trail was 2-6 inch thick mud. My time was awful. The last three miles of the race were run in 7:50, 9:53, and 7:24. Can you tell which mile I fell twice on, nearly impaling my hand on a very narrow tree stump?

I think it was soon after that race I decided I needed another shot at a 10k and I instantly thought of the Bolder Boulder. For much of my life I’ve lived within a 45 minute drive of Boulder and have never thought about entering the race.

The race is five days out and today I realized I haven’t trained this hard for a competition since training for my last swim meet as a collegiate swimmer in 2005. I am actually tapering off of what was, for me at least, a tough training schedule. I’ve even shunned a daily beer or beers for all of May, which has been almost as hard for me to do as the running. I think I have had two drinks since the start of May. That Oskar Blues beer after I finish my race at Folsom Field is going to taste so good.

For many of my training runs I had to literally push my training partner. For London, it has been an easy training schedule. She gets a cushy ride in the Mountain Buggy, sips away at her water cup, throws it from the stroller when she decides it’s cramping her style, and kicks off her shoes whenever desired. Her stroller ain’t light and neither is she, weighing in at 35 pounds, but I was thankful to be pushing just one kid over the last ten weeks.

On Monday morning, London will just be having her breakfast when my wave (AA) goes off at 6:56. I get so anxious just thinking about it. I’m not sure what I will think of the crowd. I am hoping to just lock onto a group running my pace and zone out for four, maybe even five miles before I think about the rest of the ground to be covered.

My goal is to come home on Monday with one extra t-shirt, one that says Sub 40 Club on it. With luck, it’ll fit me.

Back from the Basement

I’m back from the dead, I mean, the basement. For four months we endured one of the slowest basement finish projects ever taken on by man. It must be said that the aforementioned man and his pals worked maybe three days a week and a workday consisted of showing up at 10am and leaving by 3:30. Things got to a point where I did not want the man and his pals to work on anything else in the basement because every time they fixed something they broke or maimed some other fixture in the basement. The short list of fixes would grow from 5 to 40 in a week. I happily gave the man the check labeled, “Full & Final Payment,” knowing I was going to finish the rest of this basement myself.

Since then, I have spent every minute I had away from London in the basement. Even when she was awake I occasionally brought her down to the basement, installed her in the high chair, and queued up Sesame Street. I’d even push it to see if I could get her to watch two episodes in a row. I got pretty damn close a few times all without coating her with drywall dust, paint, caulking, and spackle. Success.

I had told the man that I could handle the painting of the walls,

IMG_8805

Kate enjoying an almost finished basement.

but somewhere along the way he thought that meant I was painting all the baseboard, trim, and doors. Rookie mistake on not clarifying that. However, after seeing how the man painted the ceiling, I felt quite confident I did not want him painting anything else in the basement. So, I took care of those things myself. The doors were easy, just time consuming if you want them to look good and show no roller or brush marks. The baseboard was a different story. I did not have the opportunity to paint it before it was flush with the hardwood floors downstairs. Painting already installed baseboard takes ten times as long as painting pieces of baseboard fresh from the hardware store. This is what really took up the majority of my work.

Other things we had to take care of ourselves: cleaning off the adhesive on the window frames left by this crazy,. strong, fireproof tape used to install insulation in the basement, installation of speakers in walls, caulking all trim/baseboard joints, filling nail holes, mounting doors, installing hardware, painting shelves, ceiling paint touchup, replacing a light switch, installing blinds, painting quarter-round trim, and finally, assembling Ikea furniture, which actually was given the final touch last night. All is not done. I have yet to paint a couple closet doors, paint the stairwell, install carpet on lower half of stairs, and paint an exposed I-beam. Kate and I agreed that when all that is done we will feel as though we finished a quarter of the basement ourselves.

Throughout this process I have been aware that we saved a substantial amount of money by using the people we used. We had expressed an interest in using the same people to finish the bathroom in the basement, but we will now be doing that ourselves. That will, undoubtedly, turn into a bigger project than it is in my mind and it will mean I may have to take another long break from writing, but this break may have been for the better too.

I’ve missed writing. Writing helps me destress. When I don’t have the opportunity to do it I have this horrible nagging sensation that if I were writing right now I would be writing some of my best stuff. Of course, this is not true, but it’s hard to ignore this voice, which always creeps into my life at the precise moment that sitting down for a couple hours to write something is an impossibility.

I promise no regular blogging at this point. I can’t even say for sure when I will write again. Like I wrote above, there are still significant projects to be completed before I can sit in front of a computer to write for even 30 minutes, but that time is closer now than it has been for months. I like that.

Prayers & the People

While London was in the NICU, I listened to Coldplay’s Ghost Stories religiously. I spent a lot of time meditating on one refrain in a particular song called “Magic.” The lyrics read:

And if you were to ask me
After all that we’ve been through
“Still believe in magic?”
Well yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Of course I do

Although when I thought about the lyrics, I would replace the word “magic” with the word “prayer.” And I would ask myself over and over again, “Still believe in prayer?” With all my heart I wanted to answer with an earnest, “Yes,” and for a while I did not have an answer.

Why couldn’t I find that earnest “Yes”? I thought about that every day while London was in the hospital and nearly every day since. After all that thinking, I am able to point to a number of reasons.

I have written on here before that not all NICU stories have happy endings. It may come as no surprise, but while we were in the NICU we were witnesses to some sad stories. Within two weeks of London’s birth, the baby in the next pod over died. I remember hearing some of the father’s last words to his daughter and then needing to step behind our curtain because I couldn’t hold back tears.

IMG_3084

Praying over London. What else?

Throughout London’s NICU experience we had a tremendous number of people praying for her. We were praying for her. And when we would receive good news concerning London’s health, people would be quick to thank Jesus.

I know there were people praying for that baby next-door. But when she died, I don’t know if people were talking about how much they prayed for her. When prayers are answered, people are quick to heap praise on God, but all too often God doesn’t enter the conversation when prayers aren’t answered. There is just a deep sense of loss (in the case mentioned above, loss of a child) and betrayal.

It is the absence of God in conversation following something like a loss of a child, whose survival was clearly being prayed for, that really grates across my soul. And as I let it grate more and more on me, doubt about the fate of my own child crept into my thoughts. Doubt about the ability of prayer to reduce swelling in London’s brain. Doubt about the ability of prayer to make one medication work better than the next. Doubt about the ability of prayer to make London’s lungs flourish.

Yet, I prayed, even though what I had seen in the NICU was doing its best to give me a cynical attitude toward God’s ability to give my daughter a fighting chance. But as I stood next to Kate and watched London seize up, turn blue from head to toe, and watched a team of doctors rush over to her bedside, prayer was the only thing I could hold onto despite clinging to Kate. I desperately prayed over and over, “Don’t let my daughter die.”

Again and again, I was exposed to suffering. Much of the time it was parental suffering, the kind you would expect parents to go through when their baby weighs two pounds. And, at times, it was the raw exposure to parents suffering the death of a newborn, as mentioned above.

In a new way, I was becoming aware of the fragility of my own faith. I had reached the bottom of my soul and I had expected to bounce back and come out better than ever, but I had gone crashing through it, revealing new limits to understanding and faith. This surprised me because I had not lost anyone. Many people endure far worse before they reach the point I reached. However we get there though, we often discover the same thing:

…Suffering gives people a more accurate sense of their own limitations, what they can control and cannot control. When people are thrust down into these deeper zones, they are forced to confront the fact they can’t determine what goes on there.

Lack of control. I had felt it before in my life, but not to this degree so it was easy to say, well, if I don’t have control, and the nurses don’t have control, and the doctors with all their tricks and knowledge don’t have control, then nothing can have control over this.

But doubt is a two-way street. As I doubted in prayer’s ability to heal every last weak and broken thing in my daughter’s body, I also doubted my newfound doubt. I didn’t know for sure that prayer didn’t work. I have prayed all my life for all sorts of things. Some prayers were answered. Some were not. A voice in my head kept saying, why stop now? Because I was afraid, afraid of not having this prayer answered exactly the way I wanted it to be answered. That felt really selfish. It is selfish. But I had prayed this long, I wasn’t going to stop when it came to praying for my daughter’s health.

I guess what tragedy does to you, or, in our case, what a really long stay in the NICU can do to you, is to remind you, just in case you have forgotten, that you are not in control. You never were, despite how good things were going for you. And, you never will be. I felt like this left me with two options. One, surrender to God and put my faith in him because I have discovered how little control (read none) all of us have. Or two, abandon the idea of a God who hears our prayers and can intervene to answer them.

Days, weeks, months, and eventually a year passed, during which God eliminated option two. I had just kept praying. I would often express to God that I really don’t know if you (God) can help with this, because there are many more people in this world that need more help than my daughter does, but somewhere along the way, can you do this one thing for my daughter? Again and again, the answer has been yes. I don’t know why, exactly, my prayers have been answered while the prayers of others had clearly not been. That’s part of the mystery. Part of the faith. I don’t have the answers. But for me, one answer had changed.

It was over a year after London came home from the hospital when I was again listening to Coldplay’s “Magic” and thinking about it all–faith, mysterious, confusing faith, love, my daughter, who I know is a miracle, and my little family–when I finally could sing the end of the song and mean it.
After all that we’ve been through
“Still believe in prayer?”
Well yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Of course I do

*Block quote about suffering is from David Brooks’ column in the NY Times, “What Suffering Does.”

A Speech Worth Listening To

Regardless of your NFL allegiance, or lack of it, I think this speech from Peyton Manning is worth listening to. Of course, Manning touches on his illustrious career in the NFL, but he acknowledges there is a whole new world of possibilities ahead of him and he is excited about it.

Most touching for me, was when Manning recalled the little things that over his 18-year career became the big things. He says that he is and will be teaching his children to enjoy the little things in life with the full knowledge that those things will mean the most to him and them when, decades down the road, he looks back on another career, that of being a father.

Two years into my own career as a father, I know that much to be true.  The moments such as the everyday walk to go get the mail with London, when she holds my hand and is so excited to be walking, to be alive, and to be with me. These are the moments that will mean the most to me when I look back on this career.

Thanks, Peyton.

12 Classics in 2015 (2016 version): The Executioner’s Song

I set out to read 12 classics in 2015. Technically, I finished seven in 2015 before I, quite optimistically, took on The Executioner’s Song, the 1109 page Norman Mailer book about Gary Gilmore. The plan was to finish this book in 2015 and then sprinkle the remaining days of 2015 with four slim classics. I didn’t get there. I finished the last page of ES last Monday.

Having never read a book over 1,000 pages before, I was fooled by Dave Egger’s quote on the back of Mailer’s book. “…It’s the fastest 1,000 pages you will ever know.” Well, it is the fastest I’ve ever read a book of this length, but certainly not the shortest amount of time I have taken to cover 1,000 pages of prose.

What is obvious in my completion of this book is that it was good. I would not have continued past page 300 if it was poor. I knew nothing about Gilmore going into the book. I’m not sure I had ever heard of him. This, Eggers wrote in the introduction, is one of the best scenarios for reading ES. In fact, Eggers urges Gilmore-clueless people to stop reading the introduction at this point and skip to the boIMG_8500ok. That’s what I did and I am ever thankful for it, for if I knew Gilmore’s fate there would be no suspense to carry me through to the last page.

I can’t believe someone would undertake such a vast project to tell Gilmore’s story, but Mailer somehow did it and painted a thorough picture of all the primary actors in Gilmore’s life (and there were a lot), giving the reader a complex cast of characters, matched only by the complexity of Gilmore.

Knowing what we know about Gilmore, that he killed two people, you want to dismiss him as a sick, bad person. But it’s amazing the people he wins over from the time he is arrested to the time he is executed. People poised to make a lot of money off of Gilmore’s death decide in the end that they can’t do it. They respect, even love, Gilmore too much to do that to him. This was the most surprising part about the book. There was this side to Gilmore that was very intellectual, caring, and even nice. Although his temper could flare up in the briefest of exchanges.

I enjoyed The Executioner’s Song. The book was worthy of derailing my original plan of reading 12 classics in 2015, for by finishing this book alone I feel like I accomplished something significant. That said, I am quite relieved to know that I can move on to the books that have been stacking up while I made my way through The Executioner’s Song.

Friday Humor

I’m at home still waiting for a drywall inspector to show up and look at my basement. The inspector was supposed to be here between 9:30 and 11:30. It’s past 1 pm now and nothing. London is asleep. I’m not going to start in on writing something knowing that I’ll likely be interrupted by the inspector, so I’ll share someone else’s writing for now.

It’s a funny piece, titled, “Dumb-Ass Stuff We Need To Stop Saying To Dads,” found on the Huffington Post, which apparently limits their paragraph length to three short sentences. Three is to give the HuffPo too much credit. Most of the time it’s one sentence and done for a paragraph.

I hope you enjoy the read.

Play Dates & Guns

My lovely sister-in-law sent me an article today. It’s not new, but becoming more relevant for this little family as London nears the age where somewhat unsupervised play dates will occur.

As soon as I saw part of the title: “The question I asked before any play date,” I knew it was going to be about guns. Sure enough, “Do you keep guns in the house?”

I am not going to pull quotes from the article, because you should read the whole thing. It’s short and sweet. 

My take: if you have guns, I want to see the safe they’re in before I’m hanging out in your house and especially before my daughter has a play date with your kid.

Hiding your gun isn’t enough. Okay, I’ll paraphrase one stat from the article, that 8 out of 10 first graders (first graders, people) know where their parents hide the guns.

Well done, America.