{ 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'

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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...

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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.

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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.

Transient

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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}

{ A Sign of the Years (mine) }

Never mind telling me all about distinguished company. Yeah well, sure it looks great on them. But that’s a few great men who made a difference in history
— David Wilcox 'Top of My Head'

The top of my head shines through my haircut
Even when I brush, shape and style
Top of my head smiles at the young man
Telling me I must have been alive awhile
The top of my head shows up in pictures
Don't it make me look so strange
I guess I only see my used-to-be
And everybody's seen me change

On the top of my head I got a suntan
My top's down for the sunny day
It's so strange to be a grown man
Wonder how I got that way
I can't believe all that time I wasted
Worried 'bout the hair I lack
Sometimes I catch myself lean in the mirror
Wonderin' if it's growing back

Never mind telling me all about distinguished company
Yeah well, well sure it looks great on them
But that's a few great men who made a difference in history
See it only looks right on a great man
With a lifetime of great things done
But time has got tight
It's gotten late, man
I'd like to think that I've just begun
But there's no sense riding in a big black stetson
It's nothing I can hide away
And they say every hair on the head is a counter
But so is every single day, anyway

On the top of my head...

- David Wilcox from the recording East Asheville Hardware

It's 'funny' how songs can mean different things to you at different points in your life.  When this came out 13 years ago I thought it pretty funny and I still do yet, now that the years have passed and I find myself coming up on 45 this summer, it has come to have an almost 'biting' and realistic tone. Never had I thought that it would happen but, yes, I am losing some serious hair on the 'Top of My Head'. 

Now, I will admit that there may be times, though rare on occasion, that I may have a slight issue with being 'wrong' or losing an argument  - maybe even a slight bit stubborn but I've never been accused of being vain.  I'm sure many have seen the 'Real Beauty Sketches' promo by Dove going around.  If they had brought me in to describe myself my description would have been basically 'fat hispanic dude' and then the one described by the other person would probably have brought about a sketch of Quasimodo and I would not have been surprised. So, it feels doubly odd that 1) I'm losing my hair and 2) that it really bothers me.  But, it really does.  

At this point I'm not sure what can be done or what I will do.  Baldness does not run in my family. It's the last thing I expected.  I was all ready for hypertension, vision loss (of which there has been some), high cholesterol, maybe some diabetes - basically all the classics.  But hair loss?  No. Total curve ball. So, there's an internal struggle that has become part of my daily morning ritual.  After showering and in the process of getting ready product goes into my hand and then into my hair.  As I start to brush - there it is - right along the part - staring right back at me - taunting me - SCALP! - just behind the few hairs desperately trying to cover it like an elephant trying to cover itself with a washcloth. Try as it might it just can't happen.

So , what are the options? I guess I could become a triathlete and shave my head like so many triathletes. But I hate running. Skinhead? Nah. My wife wouldn't like me getting a motorcycle and I really have no desire to tattoo anything on my neck. Plus, it probably wouldn't jive with my faith. Then there's going for a whole Kojak vibe but I'm probably too old to join the force and make detective.  Though I do have many episodes of Law & Order, Columbo, Psych, Castle, White Collar and SVU under my belt. Do you think one can test out based on hours of detective shows? No? Hmmm...I wonder. Well, If that's the case then it's probably too late to take up acting and start hanging out with Willis, Diesel, Stewart (Picard), Statham, Chiklis and Kingsley, huh?

Where does that leave me? To be frank (who I'm sure has hair), I'm not really sure. I guess for now I'll just take it as it comes (or goes would probably be the more appropriate term) and keep trying to be a better me...albeit with less on top of my head.

Oh, and if you'd like to hear the song just listen to it here.

{ 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...

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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.

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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!

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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...

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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

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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

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We have a new Pope!!

what else is there to say about that...

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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