Category Archives: personal

Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.

Bad:

1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control

Good:

1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012

 

 

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Filed under adoption, blogging, depression, family, life, personal, siblings, surgery, writing

So Little Guy needed some new shoes

Like any three-year old, Little Guy seems to either outgrow or wear out shoes within a matter of weeks.  It’s getting to Christmastime, one of those times where the kids get a little spiffier, so he needed some “dress” shoes.  When we were at the mall shopping, we stopped at that essential store for parents with toddlers: Payless.  Lovely Wife was looking around and pulled down a pair of shiny black cowboy boots.  “What about these,” she asked, “they would work, wouldn’t they?”  I got a big grin on my face and nodded my affirmation.  She had Little Guy try them on, and of course he fell in love.  They were right up there with his sneakers that have Spiderman on them and light up.  It was here that I informed Lovely Wife that cowboy boots were one of the coolest things for a little boy to own.

I think she already knew this however, because there was already a little boy in the house who owned a pair of cowboy boots.  One that is 35 years old.

tiag1

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But it’s not just the boots.  Somewhere deep inside of me, I yearn to be a cowboy.  I know, it sounds silly, but hear me out.

Apparently this has been going on for a while.  I was at my mom and dad’s house a while back, and mom had packed up a box of stuff from when I was a tot.  Curious, I flipped open the flaps of the cardboard box, and there was a pair of shiny black cowboy boots.  I didn’t remember those, but I did remember the ones that I owned when I was about 7 or 8.  Gray at the feet with black shafts.  Man, did I love those boots.  I would put them on, along with my jeans and a flannel shirt and my black felt hat that had been misshapen and recreased about a thousand times.  I didn’t have a horse (real or otherwise) but I didn’t need one.  I remember owning two cap guns.  One looked like a typical clip style that you might use if you were a G-man on the trail of John Dillinger.  The other looked like a Colt Peacemaker.  You can guess which one got more use from me.  Back in the days of the early 80s, it looked real, too.  It wasn’t cast in crazy colored plastic.  It was metal.  It did have a plastic grip, but it was meant to look like ivory.  It certainly didn’t have a bright red tip at the end.

Wild Bill Hickok

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Maybe it was in my blood (pretty sure now that’s not the case).  Maybe it’s because I grew up in South Dakota.  After all, at one time or another Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and the James brothers all passed through our great state.  Whatever it was, I wanted to be out there.

Of course as an adult reality has sunk in.   Not just the fact that the days of the Wild West were long over even before I was born.  As far as I can remember I’ve only fired two real guns in my life: my father-in-law’s shotgun (at some clay pigeons–which I was pretty good at hitting) and my brother-in-law’s brother’s AR-15 (which I shot several times at an empty bottle of Crown Royal without a successful hit.)  I have a Mustang, but she has wheels rather than hooves.  I couldn’t even be a modern-day cowboy.  Although I have ridden a horse before, just the thought of being in the saddle all day makes my ass sore.  The closest I have gotten to the cowboy experience is repeated watchings of my favorite movie: Tombstone.

Lovely Wife has helped me indulge my little fantasy since we’ve been married, though.  A few years ago for my birthday she bought me a baseball cap embroidered with “National Day of the American Cowboy July 26, 2008”.  Of course July 26 happens to be my birthday.  The real gift was still to come–later that week she escorted me to RCC Western Store where I got to pick out my own adult sized cowboy boots.  I have several belt buckles.  Never mind that some of them have things like the Batman logo on them.  This summer I purchased a cowboy hat from Cabelas.  A real fur felt job.  I’ll never be a cowboy, but I can put these items on, and strum my guitar while I sing Country music tunes.

I am sure not everyone understands.  Toby Keith does, at least according to his song.  I think Little Guy does too.

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Filed under Christmas, cowboy boots, cowboys, guitar, music, personal

Faith and Prayer, Part 3

After being away at college for a while, I had settled into a routine.  St. Thomas Aquinas, which had become my “home” church, held a Mass at 7pm on Sundays.  It was a perfect time to wind down from the weekend and prepare myself for the week.  Although I had several friends who attended that service, I liked to make myself scarce ahead of time, because I liked to have the time to worship with the community while at the same time worshiping by myself.

Most of the congregation at this particular mass consisted of students, but there were other members of the Ames community represented as well.  It was here that little old ladies would start the tradition of turning to me as I was getting ready to leave and saying something like “You have such a wonderful voice!”  At first I would respond with a thank you.  Later I would respond that it was God that gave me the wonderful instrument.  Later still, I started to tell them that St. Augustine said that “To sing is to pray twice,” a phrase that I still use.

After the 7pm Mass, the staff would have “Church Chats”, where one of the priests or a lay person would lead a group of parishioners in a discussion about faith, tradition, ethics, etc.  For someone who grew up in an environment where things just “are the way they are” it was refreshing.

English: Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's B...

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The summer before my junior year, I had the great privilege of being able to travel to France and Italy with my family (my dad loves to travel and wanted to take my sister and I while we were still able to travel easily).  In Paris we went to Mass at Notre Dame, officiated on that day by a Cardinal (whose name I do not remember).  Having taken French in High School, (and of course with the conformity of the Latin Rite), I was pretty much able to follow along.  Going to Rome and the Vatican was an even more exciting experience.  Throughout Italy we had seen beautiful churches and works of art (e.g. St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and Michelangelo’s David in Florence) but nothing compared to St. Peter’s Basilica, or the Sistine Chapel.

 

English: Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 i...

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But the most exciting event was still to come.  By one of those “know someone who knows someone” connections we were able to get into Mass with a small group of people (about 30 or so) and Pope John Paul II.  Surprisingly to me, the Pope did not officiate the Mass, but rather was part of the congregation.  Looking back, it makes sense to me.  Afterwards, the pontiff greeted us all.  I was worried that I would be nervous and dumbstruck, but he was a very humble, warm, and witty person.  He asked us where we were from, and when we said South Dakota, he said “We don’t get too many from there.  New York, California, but not South Dakota.”  He also gave everyone a rosary.  I have never used a rosary very much, but of course I still have it and will use it on occasion.

My senior year, needing to fill out an elective for my degree, I took a New Testament class.  It was a great class to take, as the critical thinking and historical context added an extra layer of interest for me.  It was taught by Dr. Hector Avalos.  Dr. Avalos let us know early that he had a photographic memory, calling roll the first day without a class list in front of him, and subsequently calling out students that had skipped class, again without referring to any written class list.  He was very brilliant and thorough.  And he is an atheist.  This really troubled some students, and as a Christian, perhaps arguably should have troubled me, but it didn’t.  Taking this one class helped me reassess my own faith.  For a time I had to fall back on my basic articles of faith, and decided that I needed to scrub up a little more on my Christian faith.

After I graduated, I moved to Vermillion, SD to get a Master’s Degree from the University of South Dakota.  Here I was able to reconnect with some of my High School friends.  One late summer night, a few of us were sitting outside, downing some beers and smoking cigarettes (one habit I have thankfully dropped).  Perhaps inexplicably, we started talking about faith, religion, and the nature of God.  When I was walking home that night, I had an amazing experience.  Still ruminating on our discussion, I made a point to myself in my mind.  Today, I can’t even tell you what that point was (unfortunately) but I had an intense yet pleasurable surge of energy course through my body.  Not quite electrical, not quite fire, not quite ice, I don’t know how to explain it.  I do remember that it felt like it was coming from the inside out.  Prior to that time, my view of God was somewhat Deist in nature.  But here I felt as if I was being communicated with directly for the first time.  Or at least for the first time that I was able to recognize and acknowledge it.

Coming in Part 4, Back to Music and my Protestant Wife

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What’s in a Name: Inked Edition

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Window of St. Augustine...

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Earlier this year I waxed somewhat poetically about the names that were given to me by my parents.  Names (not just my own) still are somewhat fascinating to me.  I thought of this the other day when talking to my son.  Before he was born, my wife and I were leaning heavily towards calling him “Gus”.  My grandfather’s nickname was Gus, and it was one that not only we both liked, but would most likely be unique among his peers.   The only issue was that we could not agree on what Gus should be short for.  I wanted Augustine, after St. Augustine, the great theologian, philosopher, and church father.  Lovely Wife leaned toward Gustav because, well, she liked it.  When he was born we settled on a different name, but then it was suggested that we use Gus for a middle name.  The debate was renewed.  Finally, after several minutes of back and forth, Lovely Wife said, “What about just Gus?” So Gus it is.

Well, interestingly enough, often times now Little Guy will seem to ignore you if you use his first name, but pays immediate attention if you call him Gus.  Maybe it was meant to be in the end.  It will be up to him what he goes by as he gets older, but for myself, it turns out that I find myself calling him Gus about half the time.

That got me thinking about my own name.  In the Catholic tradition it is commonplace to give your child at least one saint’s name.  Alas, to this point there is still no St. Ryan.  My middle name is David, and while there are a few St. Davids, none are particularly well-known (King David of the old testament is not a Saint.)  This got me curious about St. Stephen (Stephen being the name given to me at birth).  I knew his story well–he is often known as St. Stephen the Martyr, as he is recorded to be the first martyr as seen in Acts 7:58.  I looked on the list of saints on catholic.org, and learned that St. Stephen’s feast day was December 26.  Most people would think “Oh yeah, good King Wenceslaus looked about, on the feast of Stephen…”, but my first thought was that December 26 was my parents anniversary.  Not only had they adopted a son originally named Stephen, but had also nearly named me Stephen themselves.  One of those odd syncronicities that I have run into quite a bit.  Curious, I looked up who feast day fell on my birthday, and found out that it was Sts. Joachim and Anne.  If you are unfamiliar with them, they are the traditional/legendary parents of Our Lady.  Interestingly enough, from my point of view at least, St. Anne is the patron saint of mothers.

Finally, today, I wanted to share with you my tattoo that I got a few weeks ago.  I wanted something that would be unique to myself, while honoring both my names and families.  With the help of Erin at The Electric Crayon, this is what I was able to come up with:

It is located on my right shoulder.  A couple of quick explanations.  I put it on my arm in tribute to the passage from the Song of Solomon “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion as fierce as the grave” (8:6).  While the narrator is talking about romantic love, I none the less connected it to love of my family as well.  The author is talking about the “tattoos” of the time, and their permanence, so to set oneself as a seal upon another’s heart was to make them permanently theirs, just as I belong permanently to my families.
Secondly is the letters themselves.  The big initials are the initials of my name, the ones seen everyday, by which I am known.  Inside those are inscribed the initials of the names given to me by my birthmother.  They are somewhat hidden, known to few, but still indelibly part of who I am.

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A Slight Diversion.

I had to share this quick thought.  Tonight before the kiddos went to bed, we all laid on our bed: Lovely Wife, Baby Girl, Little Guy, and me all cuddled up together, with Wonder Pup at our feet, reading stories.  Have you ever had one of those moments that you wish would never end?  Those few minutes were the happiest I have been in quite awhile.  I now have a new “Happy Place” when I am stressing.  What is your extra-special-go-to moment?

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The Belated Mothers’ Day Post

Last week I had a pretty major event happen, one that I was a little worried about.  For six months I hadn’t told my parents that I had found my Birthmom. 

My Mom and I were talking on the phone about concerns that we have about my sister.  My sister, who is also adopted, suffers from depression as I do.  However, I am afraid that part of her coping mechanism is alcohol.  My Mom related to me that she knew a little more about my mother than she did about my sister’s.  That was pretty much all that she said that day.  The next day, we continued the conversation.  My Mom told me about friends that had found their biological families and the various things that had come from their meetings.  Somehow, I just knew that she was going to ask me.  I invited her to our house, where I shared info and pictures of my biological family.  My Mom was of course sentimental, but overall it went better than I thought it would.  I really should have given her more credit. 

Later last week I went to the drug store to buy Mother’s day cards for Lovely Wife, Grandma, my sister, and of course both of my Moms.  I realized while I was picking out cards that this year I would be celebrating Mothers’ day rather than Mother’s Day.

I suspect that there is a question that both my Moms have.  “Did we do the right thing?”  One mother who bore the physical pain of giving birth, and who loved me so much that she gave me to a woman that she would probably never meet. The other mother who knew the pain of infertility, and although she felt the joy of holding her new son, undoubtably she  also felt compassion for the girl who made a heart-rending decision and took a leap of faith.

I can never say which life would have been “better”.  I am sure that I either way would mean trading heartache for heartache and triumph for triumph.  I do know this, however.  Many years ago, my mothers gave me a family.  Within the last year, I have been welcomed back into another family.  What a blessing it is to be a part of those two wonderful families.  Today I can state unequivocally (in two statements that sound redundant, but aren’t) an incredible truth.  I love my Mom, and I love my Mom.

I am so lucky to be able to celebrate Mothers’ Day.

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Things that should bother me, but don’t.

We all have pet peeves.  Those  little annoyances that get under your skin.  Or maybe there are big things that you worry about, but you really aren’t in a position to change.  I was thinking about this recently, and I thought of a few things that should bother me, but don’t.

It should bother me that I am losing my hair.  There are so many things out there to halt this process or cover it up.  Rogaine.  Propecia.  Remember spray-on hair?  How about the stuff that you shake on your head?  If you would have talked to me 15 years ago I would have been singing a different tune.  Maybe it was because, in my early twenties, I was too worried about looking “old”.  I dunno.  But I remember complaining about it, and one of the girls that I was talking to told me that bald is beautiful.  I have pretty much embraced it since then.  I cut my hair very short, sometimes shaving it completely.  Now I just wish the rest of it would fall out so I wouldn’t have to worry about any upkeep.

Lovely Wife is terrible about waiting in lines.  We can pace back and forth at the grocery store, scanning people’s carts for whoever has the smallest load.  I tell her to just pick a line and commit.  Waiting in line just doesn’t bother me.  When I think about all the times in our lives spent waiting–waiting in traffic, waiting on the phone, waiting for someone to show up at your house–waiting in a line seems insignificant.  If you are alone, it gives you a little time, no matter how short, to just block out the rest of the world.  If you are with somebody, it is a short snippet of time where you can chat.  Maybe you can even turn it into quality time.  I probably wouldn’t talk about anything too important, though.  People like to eavesdrop.  I know I do.  Especially if I am standing in line with nothing else to do.

It doesn’t really bother me if people choose not to vote.  Hear me out on this one.  I think people should vote.  But abstaining from voting can be a vote in itself.  Maybe you don’t know enough about the candidates or issues to make an informed decision.  Maybe you do know enough, but just can’t pull the lever for any particular person without bile rising up in your throat.  Maybe you really don’t have the time.  Whatever the reason, I believe in your fundamental right not to vote.  As an American, I think that about the men and women that have stood up for my liberties.  One of those liberties it to do whatever the heck I want to on election day.  Have you ever looked at the election results of a country with some tin horn despot where the s.o.b. gets 100% of the vote?  What a sham.  Furthermore there are other ways to be a conscientious citizen.  Serve in the military–or don’t serve, because you disagree with our policies.  Volunteer your time.  Give money to charities, causes, or candidates.  Go to a city council meeting.  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.  Write a letter to whomever is representing you in Congress or Parliament, or whatever your representative body is.  Demonstrate.  Talk to other people about the things that matter to you.  Boycott an establishment that is doing something that is really rubbing you the wrong way.  Patronize one that is doing things right.  I think you should vote.  But if you don’t, it doesn’t bother me if you complain.  Go ahead.  It’s your right.

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