enjoying the moment

The To-Do List

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Claire: “Papi you wanna play wit me?”

Me: “Not right now baby. We have to go to the grocery store, Costco, get gas, and pick up     mommy’s medicine. Not to mention finish the laundry.”

Claire: “Just 2 minutes Papi?”

Me: “Maybe later. If we have time.”
I find that the above interaction with my daughter is becoming more than just an occasional exchange. One day its groceries, another is picking up my gun from the gunsmith, another day it’s a Home Depot trip for lumber and a saw blade. There is always something going on that needs doing. Our family is busy, but so is every other family. As I re-read the conversation above it makes me angry, angry that I would dare say to my daughter that I don’t have 2 minutes for her. I spend more time updating my calorie counter app.

Claire turns 3 on Easter Sunday and I am finding that my little girl is growing up too fast. In the whirlwind of our busy lives there is this glorious gift we call Claire that repeatedly calls me to step outside of the business. To be childlike and enjoy these precious moments that are so quickly passing us by.

“2 minutes Papi.” But there is so much to do. “2 minutes papi.” I haven’t made dinner yet. “2 minutes papi.” I’m too tired baby. “2 minutes papi.” Baby, it has to get done.

It does have to get done. I am tired. Dinner needs to be made. There is so much to do. But my daughter is growing so fast…

I find that days go by and items are checked off my to-do list, yet the reason why I do those things (my family) seems to get the back burner. The to-do list gets things done so that my family is happier, yet it is keeping me from experiencing that happiness with them. The moments when I am playing with Claire I find that in the back of my mind the to-do list pops its head in, telling me there are things that need to be done for the family.

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way.

Maybe I’m ridiculous in my expectations. Maybe this is the way it is and I have to deal with it. Yet, Claire’s voice calls out to me. To enjoy the moments while they are still available.

“2 minutes Papi”.

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Categories: being too busy, blessings, Catholic, distractions, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, home and family, living in the moment, Parenting, time management, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awe, Wonder & Fear: Vacuuming at our Home.

Photo Jun 13, 6 08 29 PM

The vacuum cleaner starts and Claire goes on alert. Claire stands by watching to see where I am going to go next. There is healthy mix of fear, excitement, and wonder as the vacuum zooms by. As I pass Claire retreats with a concerned look and then closes in behind me to see the vacuum at a safe distance. There’s a little smile as she peaks around the corner of the room.

I love seeing my daughter’s reaction to scary things. The awe, wonder and fear that she experiences keeps her on her toes, but it doesn’t keep her away. Every time I watch this Claire vs. vacuum interaction I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in her mind. “Is it a monster? A beast that dad somehow has tamed? Both?”

It is inspiring.

Most of the time when I encounter something that is frightening I am not chasing after it and certainly I’m not in awe or wonder of it. I think many of us react this way. There is a level of practicality that makes us turn away from situations filled with fear and risk. Yet, I cant help but think how much more fun and unpredictable life would be if we chased after the “vacuum cleaners” in our lives. Would we discover that there really isn’t anything to fear after all? Would we see past the fear and find something better, something worth chasing?

At two years old there is still a lot of world to see and it can be scary. When Claire finds something that she hasn’t encountered before she pauses. I am reminded to pause as well and experience this new encounter with her. What I find in these moments is a new respect for life and recognition that things and people can be scary, but that there is a potential for something beyond fear.

Claire pauses as a frog passes by. She isn’t sure what to do. It jumps and she hides behind me. The frog continues to jump and Claire walks in front of me and begins to jump with the frog. I pause and look around. People stare. I begin to jump after Claire.

Categories: discovering, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fear, fear of household items, fully alive, living in the moment, new things | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed

Photo May 13, 7 17 21 AM

I was listening to the radio this morning and the weather folks were talking about how hot it’s supposed to get. High 80s they said. The radio announcers complained to the weather guy about so much heat. A week ago the same radio station and announcers complained that it was too chilly in the morning—high 50s. Three weeks ago it was in the 70s and felt fantastic. The radio announcer said, “this is great weather, but its not going to last.” It’s easy to denounce this announcer as a whiner, but in reality I, as well as many of us do the same thing. We tend to not be content with what we have before us.

We want more. Better. Newer. Now.

My wife and I recently acquired new-to-us couches from her brother. They are pretty great and we really enjoy them. Undoubtedly, when you change out a piece of furniture the rest doesn’t match anymore and so began a slight design renovation in our home. An accent chair here, a rug there, a piece of wall art and it is starting to have the country sheek look my wife likes. I like it too it’s got this rugged look to it. What I love most about our new living room is the piece of wall art (the header image above). The piece sits right above our new-to-us couch and it’s the first thing that catches your eye when you walk in. Written on the piece is the following statement: “We are truly BLESSED.” It is a simple statement, yet it is one I tend to forget.

We have had the “blessed” piece of wall art for a few weeks now and it is doing things to me I never expected. The piece of art has gone from country sheek décor to a constant reminder of how blessed I truly am. I walk into my home thinking about how I need to finish the basement renovations, redo the flower boxes, worrying about saving money, work, not having enough time, etc. and when my eyes turn to the wall art it stops me and reminds me of my wife, daughter, the fact that I have my own home, that I have a job, that I actually have a savings account with money in it, that I have food in abundance, neighbors that are amazing, that I and my family are healthy…I could go on.

Blessed. So blessed.

I definitely believe God guided my wife to pick this particular piece of wall art not only because it changes the look of our home, but more importantly because it is changing how I see and respond to the blessings before me. When we forget the blessings in our lives our hearts harden. We grow resentful and forget that all of it—life, the stuff, etc.—is a gift. A gift. I’m sure we could have more things, newer things, better things, but the “coulds” are not real. What we do have is.

Sometimes we are like the whinny radio announcer, not content with what is before us. Expecting it to be better and once it does get better we complain about how it will eventually get worse again. That’s no way to live.

What reminds you of your blessings? For me it is a piece of wall art. If you do not have a reminder, search for one. We all need reminders of the blessings in our lives.

Categories: being thankful, blessings, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fragile

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Recently at my church a young pregnant woman passed away. I won’t say how or names in order to keep their personal information private. I did not know this woman or her family, but they are a part of my faith family so it hurts all the same. My wife and I have been praying for them as have hundreds of others. I can’t help but keep thinking of the husband and what is now before him in raising the kids while dealing with the loss of his wife and unborn daughter.

In a moment life ended…

It stopped…

Gone…

When I was growing up I went to a rough school and kids died due to violence there, and in that area. I have experience death before but never as a father. Fatherhood adds a whole other dimension to death. The solidarity that I am experiencing with this families pain is tangible, and I don’t even know them. I think of the husband and my stomach gets tight and I feel sorrow. I keep thinking about how fragile life is. Sacred Scripture says our lives are like a vapor: here for a while and then gone.

I take so much for granted! Why? I do not know. Especially since life is a vapor. As the news of this families struggle has been shared via our Church family I have been holding on to my wife and daughter a little longer and a little tighter. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Today—now is all we have. Yet I take it for granted. We all do. Then death comes and reminds us. Someone else’s tragedy speaks to us and we come out of our delirium and appreciate what we have a little more.

But how long until that fades? How long till we go back to taking for granted?

A vapor. Here one moment and gone the next.

Categories: complacency, death, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fully alive, living, living in the moment, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Willing to Watch

 

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This a post from a fellow blogger Matthew Warner from his blog the Radical Life: http://theradicallife.org/willing-to-watch. This is a great post and one I’ve been wanting to write about.

Enjoy!

I have the privilege of taking my son to his Taekwondo class every week. It happens to be during the normal work day, so I build my work schedule around it.

But when I go, and he’s out there practicing, it’s always tempting to pull out my phone and “be productive.” Especially when he’s waiting in line for his turn to do something, listening to the instructor, etc.

But how does my son see it all? For the most part, he’s too caught up in the moment out on the floor to notice me. He’s usually focused on kicking a target, learning a new block or watching a more advanced student.

But every once in awhile he looks up for me, over to my spot on the sideline. And not just to make sure I’m still there, but to make sure I’m watching. He’s excited about something he’s doing and he instinctively wants me to share in that moment with him. He’ll have this look on his face that says, “See what I just did, Dad!? Are you proud of me? Do you care? Are you with me!?”

These are important moments, and I’m convinced that the summation of these seemingly trivial moments will contribute more to my relationship with my son and who he becomes than almost anything else. They help determine whether *he* cares about what he’s doing, how much he values himself and how proud he feels.

And the thing is, these moments are unpredictable. They can happen at any moment. And if every time he looks over to connect with me I’m looking at my phone or my work or somebody else instead, I’ve missed that important moment. And I’ve given the impression to him – rightly or wrongly – that I’m not watching him at all.

It’s simply not worth missing those moments. Whatever extra work I would have gotten done. Whatever entertainment I could have engaged on my phone or in conversation with another parent won’t have been worth it.

I even used to spend time during his class typing reminders on my phone of things to work with him on after class — advice on a particular technique or how he needs to bow more deeply or say “yes sir” more loudly. But even that, if all he sees when he looks over is me on my phone, I won’t be giving him what he needs most in that moment.

Now, instead, I watch the whole time as best I can. I try not to take my eyes off him, just at the small chance I’ll get to give him another smile that says, “I’m with you, son!”

I watch him run. I watch him listen. I watch him help others. I watch others help him. I watch his eyes light up when he breaks a board with a single kick, as he realizes just how powerful he is. In that moment, how could there possibly be a more “productive” way to spend my time?

Sure, when he’s older he’ll appreciate a dad who loved him by putting a roof over his head, worked hard all his life, carted him around to his various activities, celebrated with him and encouraged him to be his best. But I think what he needs even more than that is a dad who’s willing to watch.

Categories: children, distractions, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Tradition

As a Youth Minister I have come to see that 95% of the issues many kids have are in one way or another related to daddy issues. Whenever I have a kid come to me about drugs, behavioral, social, spiritual, sexual and or emotional issues a majority of the time it all goes back to their relationship with their father or lack of one. The flip side to this is that whenever I have kids who are confident, happy, and generally doing well it is because they tend to have a good relationship with their father. When I counsel teens I always ask them about their relationship with their father. Typically, this is where I get many of the answers I am looking for.

I have read several articles and studies on the importance of fathers being present in the lives of their children and they all say the same thing and confirm what I experience in youth ministry. Frankly, it pisses me off. If I can be blunt.

I recognize there are countless of factors as to why fathers can be inadequate, absent, not good enough, but whatever the reasons the result is always a damaged child. Maybe not badly damaged, but definitely with issues.

I do not want my daughter to have issues because of me.

So as of yesterday I am starting a new tradition. At least once a month until my children get married, enter religious life or move really far away I am going to go out on dates with them. I’ll come up with a better name than ‘dates’ for the boys, but for now that’s what I’ll call it. I will take Claire out on a date with me. We will go out just her and I and spend some quality daddy time. We may go to the park, chase things, pray, get Chick-fil-a or all of the above. The point is to spend time with my daughter and build a relationship where she recognizes her dignity, worth and that she is loved beyond all things.

These dates right now will be simple. We will spend them hanging out and helping establish her confidence by going down slides, or walking across the playground bridge by herself. As Claire gets older the dates will be a little different, the conversation will deepen, but my hope is that she will never have the insecurities and issues that are caused by a missing, uncaring, or physically-present-yet-not-there-father.

I’m not crazy. I know my daughter will still have issues—we all do. However, whatever those issues are I pray they will not be due to something I did or didn’t do. I don’t know if there is a list out there that fathers can consult to see if they are doing things right and helping their kids to be confident, recognize their worth and dignity. I think spending quality time, showing you love them and asking forgiveness when we fail is definitely key to this.

So for now I have to come up with creative ideas for taking my 13-month-old girl on a date. I welcome any thoughts!

Categories: children, daughters, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Parenting, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Switching Car Seats

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Claire had her first Thanksgiving this year and she got to meet some family members she hadn’t met before. Claire had some other firsts besides Thanksgiving and family:

  • She started waving her hands to say hi and bye and if you listen carefully enough you can hear her say, “hi”.
  • She is able to sit up in the grocery store cart without any support.
  • She is sounding off what sounds like “mama” and “papa.”

A couple of days ago we had to switch out Claire’s car seats from our vehicles. Claire is getting bigger and bigger every day. I remember putting her into her infant car seat when we left the hospital and I can’t believe she is too big for it now. Parents, friends and acquaintances all say the same thing, “they grow up so fast.” It really is true.

I don’t know if it is her learning to wave, sort-of-talking or changing out the car seat that has saddened me (or a the combination of the three), but the reality that my baby will not be a baby much longer is hard to accept. Claire isn’t going to college anytime soon, but it feels like she has taken a step closer towards that end of the spectrum.

I’m trying to maximize my time with her at this stage of life because it’s going to fly by. I guess that sounds weird since I should be maximizing my time with her in all her stages of life. However, this baby stage is so unique and it stinks that it is flying by so fast.

One of the benefits of this nostalgia is realizing how privileged I am to have this precious time with my daughter. Tomorrow is not promised to me, or to you, and so I must seize the moments or lose them forever. The last two weeks I have found myself playing with Claire and spending more quality time with her. I’m not going to lie, there are days when I cant wait for her to go to bed so I can get things done or just have a break. Somehow, switching car seats has changed that mind set. I’m finding myself waking up in the morning with a desire to be with my daughter and on returning home wanting nothing more than to have her in my arms.

Man…what a crazy, emotional ride! I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel when we switch out her current seat for the booster seat.

Categories: enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, living in the moment, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now: the duty of the moment.

now_watchRight now you are reading this blog that I wrote a few days ago. Right now you are processing this sentence. That moment has passed and you are now left with this moment. Have you ever realized that ‘now’ is all we really have? The past is gone; the future is ahead of us. All we have is this moment. Now.

I don’t know about you but I find myself thinking a lot about the things I did in the past. “I shouldn’t have said that”, “I wish I had done that differently”, “I really should have…” I also tend to think about all that I have to do, the things to come. “I have to get that talk put together by next Saturday”, “I really need to clean the gutters”, etc. Yet the past is gone and I can’t go back to it, and the future is ahead of me and I can’t get to it. Once the future is here—now—will I be looking ahead to other future events or will I contemplate on it as a past event?

Catherine de Hueck Doherty was a very wise and holy woman who had a phrase that has always stuck with me: The duty of the moment. Catherine referred to the duty of the moment as the now that we must focus on and give 100% of ourselves to. The now that is our duty and all that we have in that moment.

This is a quote from a talk she gave to a Catholic group on the matter,

“The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you. If you have a child, your duty of the moment may be to change a dirty diaper. So you do it. But you don’t just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child…There are all kinds of good Catholic things you can do, but whatever they are, you have to realize that there is always the duty of the moment to be done. And it must be done, because the duty of the moment is the duty of God.”

We cannot forget the past because it is ours, but we cannot live in it. We cannot ignore the future because it potentially will be ours to live in, but it isn’t here yet. Now is all that we have. This moment. What ever lies before you right now is your “duty of the moment”.  It is the thing that you should give all of your energy, love and focus to. It is the thing that you have been tasked with and should be your priority.

The now that I have with my family is more important than the past or the future because the now is real, is here, it is tangible and in front of me.

May we all focus on the “duty of the moment.” May we all be present to our families, today, now.

Categories: enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, focus, living in the moment, Parenting, time management, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mommy Daddy Time

IMG_9062-1024x651The last couple of weeks I’ve noticed that my wife and I have been unable to spend a lot of quality time together. Claire is such a gift and we love her to death, but taking care of her leaves us exhausted. There are many nights that Claire goes to bed and we drag ourselves to bed as well. Recently, the only quality time we have had is watching episodes of a show called, “Grimm.” As fun as it is to watch, we realize that our relationship requires more than sitting in front of a screen.

One of the things that friends, spiritual directors, priests and anyone who has any kind of experience with marriage and family tell me is that the Date Night is crucial. Having a date night with the wife is absolutely necessary for our relationship as husband and wife—not to mention our sanity. The Date Night is great, but it now takes strategic planning, synchronizing of schedules, and the alignment of Mars and Jupiter for it to work. Most importantly, we need to actually have energy for it.

We are always tired.

I love going out with my wife or doing the cheap date night at home. The problem is our lack of mental and physical energy. We are both exhausted from work and Claire that doing something outside the norm seems like it will be way too much.

Did I mention we are both taking classes for our Master’s degree? Maybe we are sadistic—or crazy.

Yet, the Date Night is crucial. I know many couples that have said that not having a regular date night was a bad choice on their part. So, the Date Night is a must. Got it. Now we need to make it happen because mommy-daddy time is foundational to our marriage, and our marriage is what gives life to our family. Everything that our family will become will flow from how my wife and I love one another. This is an incredibly scary thing, but it’s true. How I love my wife affects not only our relationship, but also the entire atmosphere and development of our home. Our children’s happiness, peace, calmness, understanding of God, sense of compassion and trust will flow from how Jess and I love one another. The way Jess and I romance each other with the Date Night perpetuates the cycle of falling in love with one another; which keeps us discovering more and more about each other; which will cause our children to grow in an atmosphere filled with love.

Love begets love.

So lack of energy, masters degrees, children, etc. cannot allow us to drop mommy-daddy time. Claire and any future children will recognize sacrifice, selflessness, love, respect, joy, kindness, and much more from what flows out of our marriage. Our love will either lead our children to recognize all that is beautiful or the opposite. So mommy and daddy time is necessary for all the other times to come with Claire and the rest of the future members of our family. Romancing one another is so important.

So with that said, “Honey, grab a Red Bull and your coat. We’re going out and having some mommy daddy time!”

Categories: date night, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, God, husband and wife, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time-free-carelessness

ImageI was talking to a friend the other day about trying to get things done when I have Claire with me and how impossible this seems. I shared that the Saturdays when my wife is working and I am home alone I can’t mow, fix or do the guy-type-things I need to do. I will try to figure out how I can get a task done with Claire, but it usually doesn’t go far.

“Maybe she would enjoy a ride in the wheelbarrow full of mulch? She can hold the shovel!”

When I accept that my guy-type-things are not going to happen I will sit on the couch with Claire and hold her while I watch TV or surf my iPhone—something I consider productive. Claire will usually get fussy and begin to cry and squirm. I’ll try to give her a bottle: she isn’t hungry. I’ll change her: she isn’t dirty. I’ll try to get her to nap: she isn’t tired.

A few days ago I sat down on the couch and forgot my phone in the bedroom and didn’t get the remote off the TV stand. I was sitting on the couch holding my baby girl with nothing to distract me. We sat…that’s all.

Claire didn’t fuss.

Claire actually goo-goo gaga the whole time and I responded with daddy’s own version. Forty-five minutes had passed and we were still hanging out without any distractions or interruptions. We were simply spending time together doing nothing in particular.

Why is it that spending time doing nothing in particular with my daughter is not enough?

I think many of us have lost the ability to be present to one another. To sit still, without a task, a text to check, an email to respond to, a dish to wash…the list goes on. One of my favorite authors/speakers, Matthew Kelly, says that we must develop the art of “time-free-carelessness.” Time-free-carelessness is being able to soak in the moment you are in without thinking of other moments to come.  To simply be in that moment and surrender to it.

The moments that I am able to have time-free-carelessness with my wife, daughter, friends, and self are usually the moments I enjoy the most. These are the moments where I don’t give other things permission to pull me away. Time-free-carelessness is a moment when I can give myself completely, and also receive fully.

I think that the issue with me lies with physical vs. emotional/spiritual tasks. A physical task such as feeding, changing or putting Claire to bed is got some substance. I can concretely establish the need and do the task necessary to accomplish the mission. An emotional/spiritual task such as playing, holding, or simply laying on the floor with Claire doesn’t have an immediate, tangible end goal. I can do these things a million times a day and there isn’t a physical need per say that is being accomplished.  I feel like a physical task is easier to do since it has an end goal whereas an emotional/spiritual task depends on many different variables.

I really need to just shift my way of thinking. My daughter is not a thing to fix, she is someone to know and love. Time-free-carelessness needs to be a priority because lawns do need to be cut and guy-type-things are necessary but Claire is more important. Those emotional/spiritual tasks may not have concrete manifestations now, but they will in the years to come. Lord, knows there are too many of us with daddy issues based on a lack of care-free-timelessness. I for one, definitely do not want to add to that.

Categories: dying to self, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, God, Parenting, patience, surrendering | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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