{ The Taskmaster }

These days it seems that I tend to break everything down into a 'task' simply to have the ability to organize and 'attack' the day to make sure things get done. My day ends up being a list of to do's and I move from thing to another.

Last night the list was down to:

1.) Drop Joshua off at RR Express Game

2.) Take Dominic to get his new flat bill, Official MLB Boston Red Sox Cap

3.) Pick up Joshua from RR Express Game

I was tired and ready to just be home so rather than take the time to go around and see who wanted to come along and get everyone dressed, locate shoes (because they are never together in a pair for some reason), ensure bio-stops were made, try and get everyone out the door without the dogs getting out, and then trying to get everyone in the truck, then buckled…well, you get the idea.  I decided to 'sneak' out with just Joshua and Dominic on the 'dl'.  

So, we were off and after dropping Joshua off Dominic and I were headed to the RR outlets to get the much anticipated hat.  But then after looking in the backseat as we were waiting at the stoplight he looked so small.  I realized that in focusing on the 'task' I didn't allow for the relationship.  So, I asked Dominic, "would you like to pick up your brothers?  would it be more fun?".  Of course, the response was "yes" - and by then I had hoped it would be.

Brothers and sister were picked up and we had a great time buying a simple cap.  Oh and there may have been some Aunt Annie's pretzel sticks thrown in for good measure.  

Having an empty car just doesn't feel right sometimes.

{Deus Caritas Est}


{ 7 Quick Takes - Vol 13 }

It's turned a bit chilly here in ATX and not knowing quite what to with myself I have decided to embark on a 7 Quick Takes that will be inspiring and uplifting to ones soul. A magnum opus that will inspire the hearts of downtrodden men.  A list so moving that people will contemplate its meaning in times of oppression if only to grasp an idea of a time long gone and draw hope...

Or...maybe I'll just let y'all know what's been going on. Ya. That will take a lot less time. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
— Charles Dickens 'A Tale of Two Cities'


Quick update to my last Quick Takes regarding photo backup. After searching around for a bit I came upon a service that I believe will give me some peace of mind. It's called Mosaic Archive and the two things I like most about it are 1) works right into my Lightroom workflow without requiring Lightroom to be open and 2) it allows for RAW backup. It's all backed up onto Amazon servers so no worries about server redundancy. Price is really reasonable and the only limitation that I really experience is the speed of my upload data stream. I've decided to stage the consolidation for now and only have brought together my existing Lightroom catalogs to begin key wording and editing (oh, if I had only started with a proper DAM workflow). What that means is that I've combined only about 28K photos so far and have only uploaded about 10.5K photos. Next step will be to gather iPhoto catalogs across different computers and any orphaned files that are all over my HD's. Baby steps...


I'm usually late to the party on many things but I just saw this. Have y'all seen this kid? Serious vocal chops!  Also, what a great song from the late Luther Vandross, "Dance with my father". Beautiful song.


Speaking (or is it singing) of Fathers I wrote a blog post earlier this week about being a Dad and some of the little moments of grace I've come across over the last couple of weeks. Feel free to chime in on how God has come to teach you how to be a better parent. I'd love to learn more on the things I'm missing.



Locally (Austin, TX) produced 'Two Guys a Girl and a Catholic Podcast' has released their latest episode (#93).  Check it out here or on iTunes.


For those of you who missed Anthony Esolen's article regarding the upcoming decisions regarding the Boy Scouts I urge you to read this piece and actually any other piece he has written for various websites.


For the iPhoneographers out there I seriously recommend checking out the iPhone app 645 PRO! I'll probably be putting together a post about it and what it offers but, especially if you want to take quality B&W photographs, this is a great app to have in your arsenal.  I started with film and sometimes miss film but this app allows me to have some of the controls and film grain looks of some of my old film stock.  Check it out!


Made it out to the Matt Maher concert last night and it was great.  Though I'm a big fan of Maher the one who stole the show for me was Chris August.  I was already familiar with a couple of his songs just from the radio - my favorite being 'Center of It' - but the set he played was really impressive.  Dude has some serious guitar and vocal chops.  His set up was basically a guitar, computer and microphone and he just laid a serious groove with a bluesy/gospel feel.  Video below is obviously not his song nor is he playing guitar but I really like the song.  Hope everyone has a great week!

Remember to check out other 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary

{ Deus Caritas Est }

{ Confession, Grace and Fatherhood }

I love being a dad. It can be hard and frustrating at times. I will lose my temper or run out of patience. I can react without just cause handing out punishments that are maybe too harsh for the transgression committed. There are times when I don't give my children their chance to voice their case as I'm done with hearing anymore ... from anyone. In a nutshell, I sin.

I can offer excuse after excuse to justify my reactions...

"It's been a long day"
"I'm stressed about work"
"It's their fault. They just don't stop"
etc., etc...

And, sometimes these are true statements. But the real truth of the matter is sometimes it's simply me giving in to the struggle with my own weakness and giving myself permission to act as I probably shouldn't. I know this in my heart of hearts...if I allow myself the time to reflect on myself and my actions. That is hard. No one really likes to hold up the mirror to themselves to see their 'ugliness' but it is essential to continue to grow as a person. As a dad.

Aquinas tells us that grace perfects nature. This truth has become more clear every year. That this perfection of my nature is essential to not only my person as a child of God but also in the daily duties of my vocation as a father and a husband.

Since therefore grace does not destroy nature but perfects it, natural reason should minister to faith as the natural bent of the will ministers to charity.
— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8, Response to Objection 2.

We are all called to holiness. This is easier said than done. Especially if you are the dad penning this post. I'll be the first to admit that it is easy to give myself a pass simply because I'm a dad. A dad with 6 kids. A dad with 6 kids who is not monetarily rich by any stretch of the imagination. Easy to give myself a pass because (fill in the blank).

The last few weeks have been a real period of introspection and, simply put, grace. A grace that has allowed me to see my own 'ugliness' and the grace to overcome some of it. 

One of the best analogies I've heard regarding sin and its effect on our soul is that our soul can be likened to a vessel and grace  likened to water. Now, sins effect on the soul is like a crack in the vessel. The larger the sin the larger the crack and as God tries to fill our soul with grace it it too damaged to hold that grace. In essence, the vessel has lost its ability to fulfill its nature. Confession returns the vessel to a state without cracks and therefore can be filled again.

Rembrandt_Prodigal son.jpg

One of my absolute favorite parables in the bible is 'The Prodigal Son'. It's a story that has always resonated with me since I was a young boy. Just last year Jenn and I attended a First Communion workshop with Dominic as part of his preparation. During one of the 'sharing' times I found myself recounting the story to him and not being able to hold back the tears as I got to the point where the father runs out to his son to embrace him and welcome him home. The father runs! 

But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
— Luke 15:20

One other thing that is not plainly stated but can be inferred by the phrase 'at a distance'...the father was always looking for him. Hoping for his return. Always looking out onto the horizon waiting for the day that his son would return. And with the return comes the embrace. The acceptance back into the family. The kiss. A sign of the forgiveness and love poured out by the father. 

In my own life I've always been like the son. Though sorry for my transgressions, my entry into the confessional has been more formulaic than anything else. There's a ritual to the sacrament and it is easy for me to come up with a way of confessing my sin using a sentence structure that 'softens the blow'. It confesses the sin but allows me to save face - something that is basically the opposite of confession. It is valid - and even heartfelt - though almost medical in its style of reporting the sin. A reservedness. I will share that I typically choke up during the Act of Contrition so there is contrition but that is still after a guarded confession.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago during my last confession. Something in me was tired of giving in to the weakness of my will. I entered into confession with a sense of abandonment. I was sorry, as all other times before, but this time I longed for a Father more than just the forgiveness. I longed for the person and not for just what that person could do. I confessed like no other time before. There was no selection of just the right phrase or turn of words. It was just a son saying 'I'm sorry and I need - truly need - your grace and though I am not worthy I still long for that love and compassion...a father that will run out to greet his son back into his arms'. 

Every human being comes from the hand of God, and we all know something of God’s love for us. Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must first learn to forgive before anything else.
— Mother Teresa

I have two younger sons who are quick tempered and will lash out either verbally or physically depending on the situation. This is something that is common among boys and I understand this. What I do not tolerate is when they lash out at their mother. They both know this. 

One night a week or so ago one of them had lost his temper and made the unfortunate decision to take it out on his mother. I was not home at the time and therefore was not there to reprimand him. When I came home I found him sitting in one of our chairs just looking sad. After saying goodnight to everyone who already were in bed and Jenn explaining to me what had happened I walked back out to him to reprimand him. 

As I walked towards him I could see in his eyes and in his face that he was remorseful. Truly sorry. In that moment I knew that he didn't need me to tell him what he did was wrong. He knew that. What he did need was forgiveness. I picked him up in my arms and sat down with him in my lap and just held him. Embraced him. Kissed him. As the tears ran down his cheek and I could feel the tension in his body melt away I whispered to him, "it's ok. I love you" and we just sat there. Together.

You see all these years my perspective has been that of the prodigal son but within that moment with my son I was given the grace to feel the mercy and love of the Father for his children and in that grace to be a better dad. Grace does perfect nature.

{Deus Caritas Est}

{ 7 Quick Takes - Vol 12 }

My slacker quicktakes. Had every intention of posting these on Friday but stuff came up...as usual.  So finished them early this morning and now almost forgot to publish them...


The last few months have been quite eventful that it's difficult to even think of what to share.  I think I'll just pick up from my last QT's.  There I left off with my daughter turning 13.  Well, along with becoming an official 'teen' she decided to become a blogger.  If you'd like to see into the mind of a cute 13yr old mind you can check out her blog at http://www.musingsbymary.com  There you'll find plenty of posts on manicures and homemade beauty tips. I keep suggesting a post on how much she loves her dad but for some reason i'm still waiting…I'm sure it's because she can't find the words to express the depth of her love for Dad…or maybe it's just not cool.  I'll stick with the former.


Just a quick book recommendation.  Over the last few months I've found myself coming across a professor/author that has really grabbed my attention.  I may have mentioned one of his books before: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.

Well he came out with another book: Reflections on the Christian Life.  It was a perfect read for the end of the Lenten season.  He is a literature professor at Providence college and simply has a way to connect the great authors and their works with Christ and the Christian life.  Highly recommend the read!


This past weekend I decided to take on the task of consolidating photo libraries to try and get prepare for a cloud backup solution.  Well, this apparently has proven to be a bit more involved than I originally wanted to admit to myself.  In the back of my head I knew I had let it get to be a bit of a mess but once I started digging in it was hard to stick my head in the sand.

I use Adobe's Lightroom for my main workflow.  I've been using it since it came out a while back.  We are also a Mac household and so that means there is also iPhones, iPods and an iPad and that has meant using iPhoto as well.  I never started being serious about cataloging and tagging photos and now the time has come for me to pay the price.

So far, I have only made it as far as combining two Lightroom Catalogs (2 laptops) into one.  That alone has merged approximately 25K photos.  Some are key worded - most not.  I have one more 'main' LR catalog on the iMac that has approximately 13K photos. Now, I'm not sure this is a whole lot as compared to others but there is one thing that has been evident in going through all this:
I HAVE A TERRIBLE MEMORY.  I'm not sure what it is but going back and looking at all these photos brought things back to mind. Feelings were felt again. Smiles returned. Laughter. Sadness...basically life.  I know that may sound melodramatic but it really was like opening a window to time past and seeing my little girl at 3 and remembering all those fun times and worries and dreams and just wondering what her life would be like only to now see how she and her brothers have come along and how they are somewhat coming into their own in various aspects of their lives.  This 'mess' that I had in front of me was a good one and one that I feel all the more necessary to preserve.

I love photographs...


One more book recommendation that is timely. With all the equal signs that were/are floating around on Facebook I found myself getting more an more frustrated by all c*%p that was being tossed around and a lot of what amounted to just 'bullying' all who had an opposing view.  Well, this book is a great read which defends marriage as defined as a man and woman institution from history and natural law as opposed to religion.  If you have the time pick it up.  No matter what side you are on in this debate.  

What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense
By Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson, Robert P George


If you don't have time to read or would like to also see the basic points in a video look below.  It's in 3 parts so be sure to watch all 3.
"What is Marriage?: Man and Woman, A Defense" Part 1/3


We have a new Pope!!

what else is there to say about that...


During this year's SXSW I found a new favorite band called Delta Rae.  These are some kids with some tasty harmonies.  They will be back in Austin on May 25th at The Parish.  Looks like me and my boy will be going to check them out.  I'll leave y'all with one of my favorite songs from their album.

Be sure to head back to Jen's Conversion Diary for other slackers

{ It's been a while }

4 months to the day. Can't say I really have any reason other than 'life'.  There have been plenty of times that have come up where I've had the urge to write to either respond to something that I read or to share something that has happened.  Apparently that urge has not been strong enough to sit down and just…write.

I do hope to change that in the coming days.  Things planned:

More Pictures

I seem to have dropped the ball making this happen.  I really enjoy taking photos but for some reason it has felt more like a grind to pull out my camera lately. This is something I need to change and will.

More Posts in General

Nothing elaborate but in the last few months it has struck me that I really would like to have something that my children could look back upon and remember things that happened in our family and maybe see a little more into their Dad and his perspective on those memories.

Specific Posts

One post that I've been trying to write for years is on homeschooling and why we decided this route for our family. It's been a challenge for a multitude of reasons but as our oldest gets older and we get more and more 'questions' from family I think it's time.

Along the same lines I get questions or comments from folks about having so many kids and it's at times an awkward experience based on what they say or ask or joke about. I love having a big family and so there will be more stories on the triumphs and failings and humorous side of having a large family.

Faith. We are a Catholic family and as such there are specific seasons and experiences that revolve around our beautiful Church and so you will see more of that as well.

So, that's my commitment to the blog - for family and friends.  

{ Deus Caritas Est }

{ 7 Quick Takes - Vol 11 }

So, it's been a few weeks since my last QT post.  Let's see...what's been going on?
(for more QT's visit Conversion Diary)

- 1 -

My oldest, Joshua, turned 15 back in October (hard to believe he's already 15!) and though we celebrated with the family with a cake our gift to him would be a trip out to the country for some recreational activity and then lunch.  So, a couple weeks ago that's just what he and I did.  I took the day off from work and went out by Lockhart to have some fun and then we feasted at Black's BBQ.  It was delicious!

- 2 -


This past weekend I participated in my first ever 5K - the Run For Your Lives Zombie Infested Obstacle Race.  It was a blast!  I'll probably write a whole separate post on it but I will let y'all know that there was no training involved on my part which was not the smartest way to go as it resulted in some true soreness the following day.  That along with a sprained toe.  This came about due to the shoe selection for the day.  I typically love wearing the Vibrams but today I selected the wrong pair as the ones I wore had no real traction.  As I was going through the course my toes kept sliding forward and this resulted in a very sprained toe.  Not good.  But I survived and plan on doing it again next year.  Oh - and there is video...stay tuned.

- 3 -

It's hard to believe we are almost through Advent.  Time has flown by.  I was able to make it to confession Wednesday night and I will share something here - I really do not like going.  I know I'm not alone but, that along with a scrupulous conscience, will often keep me at bay.  This time it was different.  I had one of those moments of grace earlier in the week with my youngest son, John.  These last few weeks he's been a bit more to handle than usual and the one thing I have a really hard time with is whining - which at times it seems he has a gift for.  Well, as is often the case in our home, there was an altercation among the younger brothers with John being the primary offender.  After we went through the ritual of me telling him to say he was 'sorry' and him being obstinate with his emphatic 'NO!' I picked him up and carried him into our room.  After letting him have a bit of a fit we sat there together and I calmly asked him if he knew why he was in trouble.  He said 'no'.  I asked him, 'well, what did you do?'.  The response was the classic, 'I don't know'.  As we went back and forth it struck me how important it was for him to tell me - not for my sake as I already knew - but for his.  You see I was able to 'see' clearly that it was about him owning up to what he had done and to see it for what it really was - something wrong.  But that wasn't the lightbulb - that part was the obvious part.  No, the moment of grace was experiencing that sense of 'tough love' or mercy as a father wanting to spare his son the heartache of falling into a path of sin or hardness of heart later in life by revealing his stumbling early on to put him back on the right path.  So, it was with this in mind that I entered the confessional - not only as a penitent sinner but also as a son returning to his father.  It's one thing to know this in your head (which i have) it was a great grace to really experience it.  Another reason that the story of the prodigal son is my favorite parables.

- 4 -

This past weekend we went to get our tree.  The kids love to go cut it down.  Last year, because of the drought, there wasn't the opportunity.  This was not a problem for Dad (me) as he prefers the firs to the virginia pines.  But this year did see some rain and so we went out to the Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm to make our selection.  Well, this year was a win-win situation.  'Unfortunately', the pickins were a bit slim and we could not find a tree that was large enough that the kids liked so we had to 'settle' for one of the Fraser Firs that they had for sale.  Win-win.  We got to ride the tractor. Cut some pine circles for ornaments. Roast marshmallows.  Play in the maze.  And bring home a pretty tree.  It was a nice day!

- 5 -

My baby girl takes ballet at the Slavin Nadal School of Ballet.  She's been in there since she was 4 and, 9 years later, is quite the little ballerina.  This week they had their open house where we were allowed to come in and watch the sessions.  I know I'm the dad but I have to say I was quite impressed with the progress she has made this year - actually since the summer.  She is a graceful little girl.  As for the pictures - I decided to go old school and process them to look like my old film days when I shot and developed my own B/W film.  I've been having the urge to get back in the darkroom but it's no longer practical (not sure it ever was) for me so I use Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 these days instead.

- 6 -

Speaking of photography.  If you haven't heard of REI's 1440 Project you need to check it out.  It has some awesome pictures of regular people just enjoying the outdoors.  They also did some great gift idea videos you can check out as well for those last minute gifts you may need to run out and get.  "My body double, Katy" is the line that cracked me up.  They have many videos.  Checkout the whole playlist.

- 7 -

And since Christmas is just a few days away I wish you all a blessed and merry Christmas.  May your homes be filled with the joy of our God loving us enough to send his Son.

{ Deus Caritas Est }

{ A Day In The Park }

Took the time to run down to Common Ford Park on Saturday and had a great time playing football, tree climbing and picking pecans!

It was a good day

{Deus Caritas Est}

{ 7 Quick Takes - Vol 10 }

- 1 -

Back in the saddle.  It's been 4 months or so since I posted and have re-committed to writing again.  My first post back (found here) is a bit more personal than anything you would expect from me if you knew me (my wife, Jennifer, was surprised so that says something) but it was just some things that I felt compelled to share - maybe just a catharsis - but I believe also a way to put my money where my mouth is so to speak.  If you have any pearls of wisdom in helping me living out a life of faith I'd love to hear them!

- 2 -

Well, I'm not sure why I've waited until now - I'm sure I just wasn't ready - but I'm taking a first step towards the world of GK Chesterton.  I'm not even quite certain how this came about but I think I'm going to enjoy the ride.  I started trying to do the audible version of Everlasting Man and I can't do it - or if I continue to try I will surely wreck at some point as it takes quite a bit of concentration to follow the line of reasoning he presents or simply unfold the ideas he offers the reader.  Because of this I'm stepping back and starting with a book on Chesterton's writings to provide a map or lantern by which I'll be able to follow a clearer path through the prolific writings of this great author. Wish me luck!

- 3 -

It's hard to believe that next week is already Thanksgiving.  Where did 2012 go?!? Now, at the risk of starting a class warfare between the 'haves' and 'have nots' that will continue through the ages where plowshares will be beaten into Panini Spatula's I will share that one website that had me laughing out loud (literally) this week was one shared by my friend, Kelly.  I must warn you it is not for kids (at all) due to the use of some profanity and so I won't link to it.  You have to make the decision for yourself by searching for 'The Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog'.  My favorite listing is the one for Waffle Batter Dispenser.  I think just because it hits home a little too close.  What's your favorite?

- 4 -

So, it looks like we Catholics may be heading back towards meatless Fridays - as in sans meat - no meat - zilch on the meat - hold the meat - "I'll just have a salad…with the dressing on the side".  I guess this is where we separate the men from the boys (girls already eat salad…).  We'll have to decide do we wear our faith on our sleeve or do we live it.  Let's live it.

- 5 -

Tonight (Friday) is going to be a big night in the Mireles household.  We are going to watch 'Brave'.  I have yet to see it as do my two youngest, Elias and John.  Yet that hasn't kept them from dropping trou (pulling down their pants) and sticking their butt out towards their older brothers while yelling 'feast your eyes!'  I hear there are some other funny parts in the movie.

- 6 -

This quick take is just a shootout to the company that I use to host this blog, my son's troop's website and my wife Jennifer's.  They are located in NY and were really affected by Sandy.  You can read about the dedication this company has to keeping their customers up and going.  

Go Squarespace!

- 7 -

It's official. My baby girl turns 13 on Sunday.  The Lord has been gracious in allowing me to build up to this occasion.  There have been trips to beauty shops - buying of nail accessories on amazon - having random beauty apps show up on my iPhone - etc etc etc  So, is it any wonder that there is plenty of Taylor Swift played in our house as well?  Now, the one thing I have to admit is that my brain is wired to latch onto a catchy hook and the one that has me right now is 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' by the aforementioned Swift.  I find myself lip syncing with Mary after I pick her up from ballet.  There's a fist bump then we turn up the 'jam' and sing together.  

It's fun having a daughter.

Now for your listening pleasure (I just noticed it's all done in one shot):

Back to Conversion Diary

{ Deus Caritas Est }