This Post is Festive

November 29, 2017 v4 p58

This Sunday marks the first week of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas.  I’ve already started to see people begin to decorate, but I hope they remember what this holiday is truly about.

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catholicsundotorg

I remember one of my aunts would always send me and Advent calendar when I was growing up.  It wasn’t anything special to me other than a way for me to count down the days until Santa came.   I remember waiting for it to arrive as soon as Thanksgiving was over so I could start counting down.   It also signified that it was time for me to start making my wish list.  Those calendars weren’t anything too special.  I remember them as a Christmas scene of a house usually, with little flaps that you opened every day to see what was behind them.  I never really understood what the meaning of the pictures behind the flaps were because, as a child, they didn’t make a seamless connection to the birth of Christ.  While I knew what Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, I was really only focused on how soon I could begin opening my presents.

I’m not exactly sure when those calendars stopped coming, but I’m guessing it was sometime around the age of nine or ten.  It was around age five when I discovered that Santa wasn’t real though.  That was my dad’s fault indirectly.  The local Lions Club in my hometown sponsors the Christmas parade every year.  One year in particular I remember sitting on Santa’s lap afterwards and noticing his watch.  It was the same watch my dad wore!  How cool, my dad and Santa wear the same kind of watch!  I mentioned that to my older brother a little later that day, who would have been nine if I were five.  He clued me in as to what was up, but was smart enough to tell me not to let Mom and Dad know I had figured it out, and to not let the rest of my classmates in on the secret.  He didn’t want me to ruin Christmas for anyone else.  That may have been one of the only times my brother had actually looked out for my best interests.

So it was pretty early in my childhood when I discovered that Santa wasn’t real.  All that meant to me was that I knew my parents were the ones who were buying me all of these gifts.  It was pretty easy to make the connection to them doing it as a way to show their love for me.  Unfortunately that made me feel like I should test how much they loved me.  As I got older my wish lists began to grown.  Not only in length but in cost.  Later in my elementary school years I figured I would just make my Christmas wish list an extension of my Birthday wish list.  With my birthday coming only weeks before Christmas shopping season it only made sense to not make two lists.  I would write a smaller amount of things on my birthday list and post it on the refrigerator about the middle of October.  I would then proceed to add to it every time something new would come up, mostly after the toy catalogs would arrive.  All of this would pull me further away from the true meaning of the holiday and the true meaning of why my parents would go out and buy me all of this stuff.

This behavior went on throughout my teenage and early adult years.  The more I wrote larger items on my list, the less I received what was on there.  The only exception to that was the Christmas before I built my first house.  My parents knew I would be needing a lot of tools and stuff for that so they used that as an opportunity to help me out with that stuff.  I distinctly remember my brother getting upset that day because the physically biggest gift in the room, my toolbox, was for me.  What he overlooked was that my mom had taken enough care to make sure she spent close to the same amount of money on both of us, and then wrapped everything so we would have the same amount of packages.  Clearly this was not what the holiday was about.  His actions really made me see how greedy I was being and I was completely humbled by my parent’s generosity.  This was the first time that I really started looking at Christmas in the way it was meant to be celebrated.

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Denise Baughman

In the years following that Christmas I began to ask for different types of gifts, especially from my parents.   One of the things I would ask for was tickets to sporting events, either for the University of Michigan or the Detroit professional teams.  The request for these tickets was for a pair, so I could take my son with me to these events and experience them with him.  Every year my wife loves to make Christmas goodies.  Every year she is kind enough to make extra enough for me to share with my coworkers.  We aren’t talking just a plate to set in the break room for everyone to share.  We package up individual plates for everyone, based on how many people are in their family.  Both of my places of employment where I have brought these in, they ended up being something that my coworkers look forward to, and usually begin asking me when they’re coming around the 10th of December.  Every year my wife’s extended family gets together on Labor Day and exchanges names for people to buy gifts for.  There is then the great exchange of wish lists as I like to call it.  It kind of makes me sad to see men beyond retirement age hand a multipage list of “gift ideas” to their younger generation relatives.  Especially when it includes items you should be embarrassed to buy publicly on your own.  Personally I usually ask for a gift card, or $25 in single beer bottles to add to my collection.

One of the best things I’ve gotten from returning to my faith is a different perspective on holidays like Christmas and Easter.   My perspective was so screwed growing up, that I didn’t understand how Easter was the bigger holiday in the eyes of The Church.  It was one of the first things that dawned on me.  Yes, the birth of Christ is important, but it was his death and resurrection that proved everything and started The Church.  Both holidays usually include giving gifts.  It is considered a tradition of Christmas that was started by the “Three Wise Men” who came to see the Christ child while he was still in the manger.  It is considered a tradition of Easter as a way to honor the gift the Christ gave us when he died on the cross for our sins.  Both viable reasons to give gifts, but the old saying is that it is better to give than to receive.  This is where things have become skewed.  When we make Christmas more about what or how much people are giving us, rather than how much we can give others (not just in physical gifts either), we start to lose the true meaning.  Jesus was sent to us to better show us how to better love God and each other.  The only commandment he gave us is found in John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

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catholiclanedotcom

This message isn’t anything new when speaking about the holidays, but it’s never been more vital to get out.  I will be spending time this year reviewing this with my kids so they can pass it on to their’s.

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Connecting the Dots

November 1, 2017 v4 p50

There are times in our lives when we think we have all of our ducks in a row and that we have everything figured out.  Then something inevitably comes along and completely throws all of that out of whack.

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When my parents died and my wife and I made the decision to move back to my home town I thought I could see the direction I was supposed to go.  I used to think that living in a larger city meant that I wouldn’t be able to make a big difference.  When I moved home I was in a much smaller community where I felt I could be a pretty significant influence.  The first thing I did was pick up a leadership role in the Cub Scout Pack that both of my parents had a hand in leading throughout my time in Scouting as a youth as well as for many years after that.  Not too long after that I joined the local Lions Club, following in my footsteps.  These were two areas where both of my parents had been leaders in this community, I felt I needed to honor them by following them in their footsteps.

Before we moved back my wife and I had become active in The American Cancer Society Relay for Life events in the area we were living.  Moving didn’t change that participation, it just changed the event we were a participant at.  This was a new area for me to show my leadership, one that my parents hadn’t been involved in.  It allowed me to use the leadership skills my parents had instilled in me through their example and through the Scouting experience in a different way.  It felt right.  It felt better, but I didn’t really know why.  Over a couple of years I realized that I was still able to honor my parents by leading in different areas of the community that my parents weren’t involved in.  My schedule became very full between Scouts, Lions, Relay for Life, and coaching my children’s sports teams, something had to go.  The easiest one to leave was the Lions Club.  Not because I didn’t believe in the mission but because at the time we were not financially stable and the only family member me stepping away would have an impact on was me.

I stayed active in Scouting after my oldest son left the program because my youngest son was about to join as a first grader.  I needed to stay active in between the two, about two years, to ensure there would still be a program for my younger son to join.  When he did I tried my hardest to take a different role.  For the previous three years I had been the administrative head of the program, the Committee Chair.  I tried to find someone to take that position when my son joined so I could be his Den Leader.  If you’re unfamiliar with the program each grade is set up in a “Den” and they do all of their advancement together.  I really wanted to be able to impact his experience with the program by leading that group, but nobody would step up to take my other job.  In order to support the rest of the organization I stayed in that position.  My son has since moved on to the Boy Scout program, older boys, and I no longer have a child in the Cub Scouts.  I’m still working to get someone to replace me before the end of 2017.

In the spring of 2012 I walked away from my job.  I didn’t have anything lined up to replace it but I knew that I had to leave.  I was working 60+ hours per week and there was no end in sight to the overtime being reduced.  There was also a factor of a 45 minute commute one, so an hour and a half in total each day.  Combine all of that with a toxic work environment that was fostered by the leadership of the company I worked for and I finally broke down.  At the time I didn’t have much of a relationship with God, but I had hope that I had enough to put my trust in him.  After a few weeks of struggling to find anything I took a temp job to pay the bills, it wasn’t the best, but it paid the bills and it was nice to be able to punch in, do my work, and punch out.  One morning as I was waiting to punch in a connection on social media from high school posted that he was hiring.  I asked for the details and applied.  As soon as I got off the phone with from the initial phone interview I told my wife that I knew I had to get this job.

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daytonlocaldotcom

Getting hired in to the company I work for isn’t the easiest thing to go through.  It can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to go through the entire hiring process, depending on how urgently the need for the position you are applying for is needed to be filled.  Your company doesn’t get voted to all of “Best and Brightest” award lists by hiring without thoroughly vetting its candidates.  Your company doesn’t organically grow fast and stronger than any other company in your industry without the right team.  Everything about the company I work for is done for its employees.  The company vision is tied directly to helping the employees grow.  When it looks at expanding or starting new ideas it applies how those effect they four core objectives of the company; employee engagement, revenue growth, margin retention, and customer service.  Probably the biggest one of these objectives is the employee engagement.  By concentrating on helping your employees grow and that they are happy, they will in turn do their best work.

When I started working in the warehouse there were only four of us.  We were pretty small yet, and with four employees we were over staffed.  Through meetings with my manager and company updates I could see the growth plan for the company would warrant the need for a manager over just the warehouse.  I had always worked hard at my jobs which have always ended up in me being promoted to leadership.  I had put this goal down for my manager to see so that he could help me work towards it.  We read some books together that would help, and they did, and we had some discussions about what other things I could do that would help me achieve my goal of becoming the warehouse manager.  During one of our monthly meeting he showed me a path that I had already begun to look at.  One of the common threads among all of the leadership gurus I had begun following was a faith element.  My manager asked me if I had ever been involved in a church.  We talked a little about the faith I grew up in, and he suggested that I take a look at getting back to that.

Here was another source telling me I should add this element back into my life.  I told my wife, and she wanted to join me on this journey, which made it easier.  I’ve written more in detail on my faith journey before and those posts are available in my archives, check them out if you’d like.

As I’ve grown more in my faith I’ve been trying to discern a better idea of what it is that I’ve been called to do.  Through prayer and contemplation there are three things that keep coming to me.  I feel a calling to serve God, to serve my family, and to lead others, specifically in a return to their own faith.  I’m finding it easier to serve God and my family, but something has been holding me back in that third part.  I really didn’t know what it was that could be holding me back.  I’ve been writing about how my faith has been helping me.  I’ve been trying to get through to some people I know who have shown that they need a stronger relationship with God, or just a relationship with Him to begin with.  But there’s something that is holding me back yet.

This leads me back to some of those books I read with my now former manager (he moved on to a different position in my company).  We read a book called “Start: Punch Fear in the Face” by Jon Acuff.  I began following Jon on social media and it was that book that actually started me writing this blog.  I had written a post about one of the 5k races I ran and shared it within his private group.  Another member who lives in the area read it and we became connected on social medial.  Over time we’ve had some very good discussions about leadership, and more often faith.  Although we are members of different denominations of Christianity, we seem to have a pretty similar view of how faith should play a role in people’s lives.  One of us posted something a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned that he had a book for me.  We finally worked out the details and met up at the local Chick-Fil-A for an ok meal and a great conversation.  The book he gave me was “Kill the Spider” by Carlos Whittaker.  It’s a story of the author’s journey through therapy to help him get through what was holding him back.  I can’t say that I’ve had a harder time putting a book down.

Without revealing too much of the book, I’ve spent the last five days on a journey of self-reflection.  I’ve come to realize that not feeling like I can really have an impact on people to strengthen their faith journey is just like the lack of self-confidence I have to lead in my professional life.  This is the basis of the metaphor in the book.  I’m not quite done with it, but I already have discovered what some of the reasons are that I’ve been holding myself back.  I really see that this is something that I need to work on.  I need to identify what is at the core of my lack of confidence.  I used to blame the undermining from my toxic manager at my old job, but it was there before.  I’m starting to see that this lack of confidence goes back further into my life.  I’m still unpacking all of this, and I’ve discovered that all of this is part of why I have trouble letting go of anger and resentment that I hold against people.  I have a new journey.

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spoonflowerdotcom

As I move from dot-to-dot in my life I’m starting to see why things connected the way they did.  I start my 43rd trip around the sun with a new perspective on how my next set of dots are going to be connected.

This Post is Strong

October 26, 2017 v4 p48

When it comes to being a man most people associate that with strength.  While that may be a truth, a lot of men are trying to project the wrong kind of strength.

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coachingforinspirationdotcom

There are times when I don’t feel like doing what I know that I should.  In fact that’s one of my weakest traits.  I have always been a procrastinator.  I would put off things until the last minute, choosing to do things I wanted to rather than what I needed to.  When it came down to me not having the extra time to work on those things before the deadline, I would put my head down and get everything done that I needed to.  This would often lead to me needing to put a lot of other things on hold, including in some cases my family.  While I may have been home, I would be tuned out to them in order to finish what I could have done days before.  A lot of times it cut into m sleep, but I continually did it.  I would always get things that were needed done, but it wasn’t always my best work.  That wasn’t enough to motivate me to change, because I knew I could find the strength to get it done in the end.  Or at least what I thought was strength.

While it may have taken physical and mental strength to complete those tasks, it wasn’t the type of strength I needed.  I always knew that I needed to act differently, but I never really knew how to go about working on it.  I’ve tried creating deadlines, writing things down on calendars, setting reminders, but ultimately I was always able to justify putting things off that I know I should do.  It’s a lot easier to skip doing things to spend time with my kids.  On the rare occasion that I didn’t get things done that I needed to I was easily able to write it off as having too much on my plate.  One example of that is some of the jobs I have to do as the leader of the local Cub Scout Pack.  The amount of responsibilities I have to handle in that position is considerable.  Over the past few years I have been asking other parents to step to take some of those responsibilities, but with no luck.  So when I miss a deadline or something gets forgotten, I could easily explain how much I juggle in that organization and most people accept that excuse.  Rarely has anyone stepped up to take some of those responsibilities off my plate.

As I’ve been on this journey into my faith over the last three years I’ve done a lot of looking at myself.  Trying to figure out what it is that I need to do in order to be the best I can.  There were a lot of things that I did in my past that I had to come to terms with.  That I had to make right with God and with myself.  As I’ve been making my peace with those things it’s allowed me to focus more about the areas that weren’t so obvious to me.  I’ve been focusing my prayers on what it is that God has discerned for me to do.  I feel like I’m beginning to see where that path is supposed to lead.  There are times when I can focus on my prayers.  There are times when I have difficulty getting through them.  The more I’ve been focusing my prayer on my discernment, to more certain areas of my life are trying to distract me from faith.  It’s becoming quite obvious to me what I must do.

I have to follow what God has discerned.  If I’m truly going to be love Him the way He loves me, this is not negotiable.  The second area I have to serve in is my family.  I must help my wife and kids to find the discernment that God has for them.  I must have the strength to get my wife and children to heaven.  This is not negotiable.  I’ve been trying to figure out how I go about that, and it hasn’t been easy.  The biggest obstacle I have to overcome in that area is my oldest son.  When my wife and I returned to our faith he was 15.  We didn’t want to force him to start going to church when we returned.  We both agreed that taking that route would not work, and that it would probably end up forcing him away further than he already was.  There was a lot of stuff I wanted to talk to him about before he left for college, but that was one of those things I found easy to put off.  Now I’m trying to find a way to still talk to him about all of that stuff.  This is a prime example of one area I need to be stronger in, and it has nothing to do with muscles.

One of my favorite verses in the bible is “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.  It really is true.  I’ve found some new speakers to listen to who have been showing me the way to grow this strength that I need.  I am figuring out ways to address these two very important areas that I need to strengthen.  When I get stronger there it will cause me to become stronger in other areas.  As I lead my faith life and family life better it will allow me to be a stronger leader in my professional life.  That will allow my career to advance, which allow me to be able to better provide for more growth in my faith, and to better support my family in what they want to do.  It all ties together.

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I need to strengthen myself physically.  But more people in my life depend on me strengthening myself as a better man.

This Post is Third

October 4, 2017 v4 p42

One of the many things that I learned from my parents was that I needed to help other people out.  That seems like common sense, but it’s not just about helping, but serving.

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Many people know how active I am in my home town.  I have been heading up the Cub Scout program for nine plus years.  I continue to do that even though my own children have moved on from it because their ages have forced them to move on to Boy Scouts.  I have been coaching my younger son’s soccer team since he began playing back in first grade.  I stepped back into an assistant role one year, but came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going work.  I wanted to be able to teach my son and his teammates in different ways than the coach I was assisting, so that only last one year.  Working with elementary aged kids can be really fun.  It can also be really trying at times, luckily the fun times are greater.

Part of the reason I stepped up to volunteer in these two positions is because I wanted to make sure my son had an enjoyable experience in both areas.  Having been a registered Scout since I was in first grade and having played soccer for just about as long I was confident that I could make that happen.  It has taken me some time to develop my ways of leading in these two areas, but I can confidently say that I have been successful in both areas.  When I see the boys who have gone through the Cub Scout program under my leadership attain the rank of Eagle Scout, and how much they worked to get it, I can tell I had an impact.  When I can see the skill level of my son’s soccer team improve dramatically from the beginning to the end of the season, I can tell I had an impact.  When parents are requesting to have their children placed on my team because they know I will coach them right on the field and off, I can tell I had an impact.

Ultimately that is why I do all of that, to see the impact I make in those young men.  That isn’t the only way that I serve.  I try to do my best to serve in everything I do.  At work I show up and do the best I can to make sure my coworkers have everything they need to get their job done.  I also show up and work as hard as possible to make that happen.  In every job I’ve ever held that is the attitude I went in with every day.  That’s what my parent taught me to do.  Because of that in every job I’ve ever had I have always been given more responsibilities, which have come along with more pay and often times promotions.  The only time I was ever placed into a leadership role during employment without “climbing the ladder” was when I was hired as a Department Team Leader for Meijer.  At that point in my life I hadn’t held any leadership positions in a job, but the Store Director who interviewed me was also an Eagle Scout (still is), and knew with that and their training program I could be a success.

As I’ve grown in my faith over the past few years I’ve been able to find new ways to serve.  I joined the local Knights of Columbus Council at my church.  That has afforded me the opportunity to create some great connections to other Catholic Gentlemen.  We do all of that through service to the church and the community.  The best part of that group is that I’m way at the back of the line of a bunch of men who have the same service mindset that I do.  It’s a refreshing change to just show up and be a worker bee sometimes.  I’ve begun serving my family through my faith too.  I have been living my faith life in a way that it is visible to them.  I try to show my son how to be a better follower of Christ.  My wife and I watch speakers on YouTube in the evenings more often than we watch broadcast television.  That has helped us strengthen our relationship and our family.  There are so many things I wish I could go back and do.

The more I do all of the volunteering I, the more is taxes my personal time.  There are many days, especially in the early fall, where I often don’t get home until 8pm.  That means I haven’t had dinner until late, and it’s almost always by myself.  That’s not good because I’m losing time with my family and because eating that late during the day, close to bed time, isn’t good for a person’s health.  It’s usually about this time of year when I start to get burned out.  In the past I was able to sleep in on or take a nap on the weekends.  Then I started to realize that doing things that way wasn’t allowing my body to recover properly.  Because of my desire to make sure my kids are getting the best program they can I continue to be the one who steps up.  This burn out point is where most people usually end up walking away.  Sometimes I really wish I would be able to just walk away like that, but it always causes an internal conflict.

The time has come for me to walk away though.  For the past nine years I have held the position of Committee Chair for the Cub Scout Pack in my home town.  As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t had a child in that program since February of this year.  I am committed to fulfill that position through the end of 2017.  At that point I intend to move into a different position that I currently already hold, Chartering Organization Representative.  That is the communication line between the Scout Unit and the supporting organization.  I would still be available on a consulting basis because I don’t think I will find a replacement that would have the knowledge on how to run the Pack that I do.  Whoever would take the position from me would then face the same situation I am in and need replacing.  It’s really a vicious cycle.

Just because I would be stepping away from that position doesn’t mean I would stop serving.  Stepping away would allow me to serve in a different way.  The more I’ve been studying and learning about my faith, the more I feel called to serve more within it.  This isn’t something I think that I feel.  There is a definite pull in that direction.  I’m not sure what that serving would like at this point in time, but I never will if I don’t answer the call.  I’ve always gotten satisfaction from the secular volunteering I’ve done in the past, but it doesn’t compare to what I get when I serve in my faith.  Serving in that manner gives me more than satisfaction, it gives me a sense of fulfillment.  It shows me how to receive His grace and mercy.  As much as I want to lead young men to be better leaders, I want to show others how to better live their lives for God.  How to receive His grace and mercy in their own lives.  Colossians 3:17 tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

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rockcitytimesdotcom

I worry about what will happen to the Scouting program in my town if I step away from the program in the capacity I currently serve.  But I worry more about my family and myself more if I don’t make Him first, my family second, and myself third.

This Post is Wobbly

August 15, 2017 v4 p31

When you aren’t standing firmly on all of your bases, your life gets a little wobbly.  Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t been firm on all four of my basis, and it has become noticeable.

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For the longest time I thought I only need three footings to build my foundation on.  Those were family, friends, and fitness.  I have always put my family first.  When my oldest son was born I did everything for him.  When my wife and I reconciled, I did everything for her and our son.  When our youngest child was born I did everything for all three of them.  I tried to maintain a social life through that period, and really only ended up with a few very close friends.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There are people from the past that I still maintain contact with, but it’s not at the level of friendship that those close friends have.  There are some people that I don’t maintain contact with that I wish I did get in touch with more often.  But we’ve all gone our separate ways, and when we do reconnect it is always good.  My fitness wasn’t really a big focus for me other than not really eating too poorly.  I certainly didn’t follow any specific diet, but I tried to maintain a fairly balanced diet.

A couple of years after we moved back to my hometown I began going to the gym.  That really had an impact on me.  Fitness was now the number two focus of my foundation, and I actually dropped to weights that I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.  It felt nice to be able to put jeans on that were smaller than the size I wore in high school.  Granted I think the fashion industries measurements aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago.  I hadn’t felt that trim since I was a teenager.  Then I began running.  That doesn’t sound like something that would cause weight gain, although it isn’t uncommon if you’re training for long distances.  What running led to was injuries.  That always led to excuses.  Which in turn, would lead to more injuries.  For the past five years I’ve started a solid workout routine, only to injury myself and have to take weeks off.  That is always followed by a tough time getting back in to a routine.  This is where I’m at right now.

Then my manager encouraged me to reconnect with my faith.  It was the single most life changing event in my life.  The more I allowed myself to follow where I was supposed to go, the easier everything else became around me.  I’ve seen in my own life how the power of prayer has worked.  That’s why I continue to pray every day.  Sometimes I feel like my prayers are getting a little stale, or that I’m praying for the wrong thing.  Then, as He always does, He reveals to me that I’m praying for exactly what He wants for me.  That is always enough to remind me that no matter how stale my prayer may feel, it’s always enough for Him.  I never thought that anything would become a more important footing for my foundation than my family.  I truly believe that my faith is the most important of those footings.  It is the basis from which all of the other footings are formed.  I brought my family with me, and began making more friendships at my church, building a strong foundation.

Then I read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  Of all the professional development books I’ve read, this is a top three influencer for me.  One of the last principles that Covey speaks about is the four parts to your foundation.  This was an eye opener for me.  The first one he speaks about is your faith.  I’ve put that first already.  Then there is your family, they are what drives me and encourages me to do what I need to get done.  At the time I was going to the gym five days a week, so that was covering my fitness foundation.  With all of that going on it didn’t leave much time to build on those friendships.  I’ve made a few that I fully hope will become stronger, but nothing yet like the ones I have with those few close friends from my early adulthood.  Between church, sports, and scouts almost all of my evenings were booked up.  It didn’t leave a lot of time for socializing.  My wife and I didn’t get much of a chance to go out without the kids, and some of the other socializing went by the wayside.  So I knew it was that area that I needed to work on.

I still haven’t figured out how to fully transition to a four footing foundation.  While always concentrating on my faith and family, I tried to focus on friends, and that has caused my fitness to fall off.  Well, at almost 42-years-old it doesn’t take long for your fitness level to drop off.  I rehabbed my recurring injury and was able to start running again.  I continued with the simple strength exercises that I had learned through PT and was able to run at a good pace.  I trained for and ran a 5k last October.  Then I stopped.  Not sure why, but my GPS watch tells the story.  There was a four month period where I was running three or four days per week.  Then nothing.  I started back up in the spring some, then twisted my knee coaching my son’s soccer team.  Again, nothing.  The stress of having your oldest child graduate from high school and then get ready to go off to college is really starting to show.  It’s starting to show every time I look down.

I’ve always had a hard time controlling my eating.  In the past I didn’t eat a lot of junk.  There were always donuts, and ice cream, and candy bars.  Before I would have only one of those three in a month.  Lately I haven’t been doing so well.  Then there is the issue with my portion sizes.  About 10 years ago we made the conscious decision to switch to the seven inch plates in our cabinet for dinner, unless we were having a big holiday meal.  That helped some.  It still doesn’t stop me from piling the spaghetti higher, or getting a second helping.  A few weeks ago I started doing some speed and footwork drills with my youngest son to get ready for the soccer season.  We do those two days a week, then run around the neighborhood three days a week.  After the first week I determined that my knees are going to hold up to that schedule, so I started adding more distance to my running.  Last weekend I was able to go two miles without stopping.  It was the slowest two miles I’ve run on pavement in six years.  I don’t like it.  This may be the kick start I need.  If I can get my diet straightened out it will help a lot too.

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I started rebuilding my life on my faith foundation.  I’m almost done rebuilding my family, and I’m just starting to rebuild my fitness.

This Post is Addicting

August 2, 2017 v4 p30

There were a lot of things I was looking forward to when I returned to my faith.  Coming face-to-face with my worst faults wasn’t one of them.

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I began looking for more content about my faith a couple of years ago.  I came across a bunch of different speakers on YouTube.  Fr. Mike posts all of his podcasts there so I put his name into the search bar.  It returned a bunch results that weren’t his weekly podcasts.  It seem that he is a speaker in high demand around the country at Catholic Conferences.  I started listening to his talks at some of these conferences while I do my inventory control work, where I’m out in the warehouse away from the rest of my team.  It is something I look forward to every morning.  My wife and I started watching them together after the kids go to bed and they turn control of the TV back over to us.  There are a lot of the other speakers from those events who have their talks posted as well.  They are all great, and very insightful to me.  There are two besides Fr. Mike that I listen to regularly.

After a few months I started to notice something in common among most of the male speakers I listen to.  Almost all of them have admitted to having an addiction to pornography earlier in their lives.  That really hit home, because one of those faults I wasn’t looking forward to meeting was what I’ve now come to realize was my own addiction to porn.  This has been a significant thing for me to come to grips with.  I’ve listened to the speakers describe how the women are usually drunk when performing, forced into performing, and generally treated as a slave.  It help me put together that by watching porn I not only backed the people enslaving the performers, but I was more or less treating all women the same.  It really made me think about how I treated sex in my own marriage.  I’ve apologized to my wife for the way I approached out sex life.  It’s allowed me to take my faith to a whole new level.

There are some pretty astonishing facts about the porn industry that actually shocked me.  The porn industry in the United States makes more sales than all four professional sports leagues.  The average adolescent boy has seen a pornographic image by the age of 11.  I was way ahead of the curve on that one, thanks neighborhood high schoolers.  So it’s out there, everywhere.  It’s never been as easy to access it as it is right now.  There was a report done on the local news on how a teenager could access porn in less than 10 seconds on their mobile devices a few weeks ago.  It showed how simple it is to find it on search engines.  We do image searches to see what kind of parts we’re looking for at work.  The joke used to be how far you would have to scroll down on the results before you came across a result that was NSFW.

It’s starting to make its way into mainstream media as well.  As people become desensitized to what they see in private, it takes more for something to grab your eye in public.  That has caused marketing teams to gravitate towards more immodest advertising.  Clothing industries start making their clothes smaller.  Sports media groups start publishing magazine article with athletes posing nude.  It’s hard to go on the internet and see articles that show how little a celebrity wore to the beach.  Which famous person is in the latest sex scandal.  These images are the biggest struggle I have with my addiction right now.  I struggle to not click on the articles or scroll through the slideshow in the magazine article.  To help combat that I don’t do much surfing on the web.  I spend more time on the internet than most people because of my job, and that help’s too.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched what most people would consider pornography.  Unfortunately I have many images stuck in my head that I have to struggle against for the rest of my life.

I gain the strength to fight this addiction from my faith life.  The speakers I listen to.  My deepened love for my wife, our marriage, and our Covenant with God.  My daily prayer life is centered on asking for forgiveness.  I have been to confession for this, and it was at that point when I began to feel the His forgiveness.  It also lead me to more introspection about myself.  Through that I have been able to be more of the man my wife needs me to be so that I can fulfill my Covenant by making sure she makes it to heaven.  I have come to realize that is what I am here for.  Through all of our past I always felt that it was still meant to be.  We took a tough road to get here, but I hope my wife can see how I have changed and trusts that I will do everything I can for her.  I can never say I’m sorry enough for the pain I put our family through due to my addiction.

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They say addicts are never really fully cured.  I guess for now you can say that I’m “on the wagon.”

On the Anniversary of Our Covenant

June 19, 2017 v4 p23

Today I celebrate 18 years of marriage with my wife Denise.  That’s in the eyes of God, not the State of Michigan.

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The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (7:1601 CCC).  I stood in front both of our families and our friends and entered into this covenant with you on June 19, 1999.  I promised to love you through everything.  I entered into it without coercion, freely and whole heartedly.  I promised to love and honor you as long as we both shall live.  I promised to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Despite a bumps along the road, these vows never changed.  Even in times when we weren’t together in the eyes of the state, I always felt like we were in still in the covenant.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  You have told me how every other guy you dated while we were separated was compared to me in your mind.  I did the same thing.  When I told my friends that we were reconciling they gave me a hard time.  They knew how much it really took for me to get over our separation.  Although I never really was.  I tried to do what I could to get our relationship back to where it was that day when we stood in front of God and entered that covenant.  You probably got annoyed with me a few times over that.  I’m glad that I never stopped “annoying” you.

Over the past few months some pretty big events have taken place in our family that have reminded me of this covenant we entered.  When our youngest son was welcomed fully into the Catholic Church I felt the receiving of the sacrament.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what it was.  It was truly great feeling to see how He was blessing our family.  I was completely shocked at how receptive our oldest son was to attending that event, given his previous lack of interest in the church.  To sit with you and our son at The Mass every week is another time I experience this sacrament.  When we join hands to pray “The Our Father” it doesn’t feel like there is an extra person between the two of us.  It’s as if I was standing right next to you, holding your hand.

I have been feeling the same experience when we have been attending events that are tied to our oldest son’s high school graduation.  I couldn’t explain it after the awards ceremony but it came to me at the graduation ceremony a couple of days later.  The sense of joy, pride, and excitement I felt for him, and our family was the fruits of our covenant and what felt receiving the sacrament all over again.  Once all of the dust settled and we were able to participate in his grad party I felt it again, although on a much smaller scale.  I would feel that same feeling I do at The Mass when I would get up with him early in the morning while we were staying at my parents.  I would put him in bed with me to try and get a few more hours of sleep out of him.  Lying in bed next to him felt exactly like lying in bed next to you.  This can only be from our covenant.

Through the past 18 years we have certainly had our ups and downs.  That doesn’t change any of the vows I said on the day we entered into this covenant.  I look forward to seeing how God guides the rest of our live together and how we will continue to receive this sacrament of matrimony.   This excites me more than anything else about our marriage.  To see how we have grown together over the past two and a half years since we returned to our faith is awesome.  The best dates I’ve had with you have come in that time period, and have all taken place at our church or with other people we know through Holy Family.  Things are a little rocky right now, but we will make it through with His help and the strength of our covenant with God.

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This Friday marks 13 years in the eyes of the state, but it’s today’s anniversary that has proven to be the truth.  I love you Denise!  I look forward to see where the rest of this covenant journey takes us!