Carrion

Carrion

Last week sometime I was watching Planet Earth II. I have watched the original Planet Earth more times than I can recall. Having new material to go through has been an exquisite pleasure.

A scene began following a Golden Eagle through the Alps in the winter. David Attenborough, the famous BBC narrator, explained that at this time food is so scarce that the eagle must spend almost all of its time searching or else starve. I watched as the thing circled around and around in majestic arcs, all the while scanning the ground for its salvation. I leaned forward, looking for that faint movement that would be some rodent or other animal scampering across the snow. Rilke whispered to me, Continue reading “Carrion”

Long Exposure

“Writing about the Christian life . . . is like trying to paint a picture of a bird in flight. The very nature of a subject in which everything is always in motion and the context is constantly changing — rhythm of wings, sun-tinted feathers, drift of clouds (and much more) — precludes precision. Which is why definitions and explanations for the most part miss the very thing that we are interested in. Stories and metaphors, poetry and prayer, and leisurely conversation are much more congenial to the subject, a conversation that necessarily also includes the Other.”

– Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places


I came across this quote this morning while reading the most recent post on internetmonk.com. 

I really like what Chaplain Mike said later in the post:

Jesus did not make God known by giving his disciples a “body of knowledge” from which they could formulate doctrines. He did it partly by teaching, yes, but that teaching was the farthest thing from academic.

  • It was not “doctrinal,” but incorporated fully into daily life, experience, ministry — more like apprenticeship than classroom, more like field training than book study.
  • It was told “slant” — in ways that prompted curiosity, imagination, questions, even befuddlement and resistance in those who were privileged to receive it, not in easy to learn propositional summaries.
  • It was relational, the kind of “knowing” that is shared between persons, which cannot ever be systematized, despite our many efforts to produce “how to” books about such bonds as marriage, parenting, or friendship.

One commenter agreed, saying, “We need cool heads and warm hearts. Study tends to overheat the brain. It leads to hot heads and cold hearts.”

Amen.

Smile Moment: Taking Out the Trash

Sometimes I experience or witness something that makes me smile to myself. There’s not really a place to mention it in person with people, so I thought about writing about these moments on my blog in a series entitled “Smile Moments.”


On my way home from work yesterday I stopped by my Trinity’s campus to grab mail from the mailbox I still have there and to pick up a couple rolls of quarters for laundry.

As I was walking back to my car, I noticed a young girl attempting to carry a large bag of trash. Clearly she was intending to walk out to the dumpster in the parking lot and throw it away. But this girl, probably about six or seven, could barely carry the thing because it was as about as big and heavy as she was.

As she struggled to carry the bag, grunting and moaning, looking at the distant dumpster, probably 50 yards away, with a sense of determination, I asked if she’d like some help.

“Hey there. That looks heavy. Would you like some help?”

I didn’t know if this was a chore or potentially a punishment given by her parents, so I didn’t know if I should say anything, but I couldn’t help myself.

Without even looking at me, eyes still fixed upon the dumpster, she replied,

“No, thank you.”

By this point she was practically dragging it on the cement sidewalk. It looked pretty heavy.

“Ok, then.”

Right then I realized another girl about her age walking up to her. It must have been a friend of hers. As she walked up to the girl struggling to carry the trash bag she told me,

“No, but thank you for asking and for your consideration.”

I was a bit stunned by the girl’s response to me. Her response was so polite and mature. I hadn’t even asked her. It made me chuckle to myself.

“Well, you’re welcome.”  I replied.

I gave her a smile. The kind that a parent gives a child they’re proud of.

As I got back into my car and began to pull away I saw both the girls holding the bag together, sanguine-faced and shuffling their feet under the weight of the bag. I thought about taking a picture, but even as a photographer I determined this was a moment for me to take a mental picture of rather than a digital one.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I drove away at the image of the two girls working together to carry that trash bag in my rear-view mirror. .

 

Witnessing an Evening of Resentment

After an incredibly long and cold winter in Chicago, and the third snowiest on record, it finally warmed up enough to allow me to entertain the thought that spring is indeed coming.

It was Pi day, March 14. My wife was still at work and had just called to tell me that she would be late coming home. She was sad because she had just worked a long, exhausting twelve hour shift at the hospital. To make matters worse she had to stay an hour late because the nurse for the next shift was running behind, which meant that my wife wouldn’t get to take the shuttle to the train station and would now have to walk. This was especially unfortunate because my wife is nearly 39 weeks pregnant with our second son. When she arrived at the station, after walking the entire way, she found out that the train was running twenty minutes late. “The cherry on top,” as she put it.

Because my wife could go into labor at any moment, my mother-in-law had come up to Chicago the day before in preparation, and to help watch our other son. With the combination of my wife coming home late, my mother-in-law watching my son, and the warm weather I decided that it would be a good time to take a night stroll through my neighborhood.

I popped in the headphones and went out for a walk. It was nice to see the streets full of life. People walking to and fro. Groups of friends hanging out, eagerly underdressed for the weather because of the hint of warmth in the air.

Earlier in the day I had gone on a walk with my mother-in-law and son to a local pie place to take advantage of the great Pi(e) day deals. At the time I felt somewhat guilty because I knew my wife would have loved to have been there with us. So as I passed by the local McDonald’s on my walk that evening I thought it might be a nice gesture for me to pick up a couple of those cheap pies for her. I knew she particularly likes the strawberry creme ones. She had had a long day, and she deserved some pie.

I have never been to our local McDonald’s in the evening before, much less a Friday evening. Apparently there are three groups of people who like to hang out at McDonald’s at this time of evening on a Friday night. And it was pretty cleanly segregated between the three groups of people.

One group, the largest group, took up most of the seating in the front part of the restaurant. Most seem to be in their mid-sixties or older. From what I witnessed, they all order the “senior coffee” for something like 65 cents and just sit around cackling about daily affairs. From the looks of it, it seems that they are the same group of men that sit out in front of the Bourbon Cafe during the summer, smoking incessantly.

The second group was that of what looked like mostly high schoolers. This was their hangout. I’ve seen this group of people here before at a time right after school had let out on a weekday. Kids running back and forth between tables, cracking jokes, flirting with each other. Some even trying to get some homework done.

The third group took up the back portion of the restaurant. From the looks of it, most of the group looked homeless or at least quite destitute. Dirty bags scattered around them, potentially holding all their earthly possessions. Some had cups of coffee or old hamburger wrappers on their tables. Most of them, however, were asleep either with their head on the table, or against the glass that separates the various booths.

I had bought some fries and a soda and had made my way to the back to sit and listen to some podcasts. Most of the people hadn’t even noticed that I was in their section of the room. I mostly just minded my own business.

A few minutes later, a woman with a large winter hat walked in looking for a place to sit down. She had a whole bunch of birthday balloons floating beside her in one hand and a Dollar Tree bag full of party decorations in the other. She reluctantly sat down facing me in the booth adjacent to mine. She gazed over to a man and woman across from us who were both sleeping. Her countenance fell with disgust. She saw an employee picking up the discarded trays and rushed over to him.

I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but spastically she pointed over to the two people sleeping in their seats. The worker seemed annoyed — not by the sleeping customers, but by the fact that he had to go try and wake them up because of this woman. I’m guessing that people aren’t technically allowed to sleep in the restaurant. But there were still seats, and they weren’t really doing anything that should be considered offensive. This woman just was overwhelmed with disgust towards them, and for some reason made up her mind to make it her mission to be sure they would not sleep in the restaurant.

The employee slowly made his way over to the two individuals and told them they needed to wake up. Clearly annoyed, they both opened their eyes, waited for the employee to get out of eyesight and went right back to sleep.

The woman thought this was some kind of outrage. She glanced at me to support her in her indignation. I would do no such thing. Right around this moment a young teenage girl, who I assumed was her daughter, sat down with her after being in the restroom. She had already missed the first encounter, but could clearly see that her mom was upset. She murmured about the sleeping individuals, jerking her head in their direction as she spoke. Her daughter slowly turned her head to glance at the two people and didn’t really seemed fazed. I’m guessing this is not the first time her mother has reacted this way to something that offended her.

At this moment the woman jerked off her winter hat to uncover a very, how shall I put it, robust mullet. I don’t know exactly what it was about the mullet, but it just made me laugh inside. There seemed something poetic about it, or maybe it made more sense to me. I don’t know.

She handed the balloons and bag of decorations to her daughter and went to go order. As she stood up her eyes were fixed upon the individuals, seemingly trying to wake them up with her stare of resentment. The daughter just got on her iPhone. She clearly didn’t care.

It took a while for her to come back for her food. In the meantime, the two individuals hadn’t moved an inch. They were sound asleep. As the woman came back with the food, she stopped dead in her tracks, stunned that they were still sleeping. She may have even gasped audibly.

When she got to the booth she motioned to her daughter to move to a different booth. They moved two booths over, still with in eyesight of the man and woman sleeping. Before the woman sat down, she went back to the counter to ask for the manager. A couple moments later the manager came out and begrudgingly told them to wake up. He didn’t even wait around long enough to see if they did wake up or not. He just did it out of duty. Like the other employee, he clearly didn’t care.

The woman was dumbfounded. Her face was red with anger and judgment. Reluctantly, she sat down with her daughter, who had already started eating by the point. For the entire meal she sat there glaring out of the corner of her eyes at the sleeping individuals. Throughout various points of the meal, the daughter tried to engage in conversation, but the woman just continued to stuff her mouth with fries and she shuffled with agitation in her seat because of the sleeping customers. It was sad to watch. She was so obsessed by the situation that she basically ignored her child sitting right in front of her.

I couldn’t grasp what it was that made this woman so upset. I mean, it’s McDonald’s. It’s not like it’s a nice restaurant. She couldn’t go complain to her waiter because there was no waiter. It’s McDonald’s!

As I witnessed this I was amazed by how much energy she expelled because of these two people sleeping. She became consumed with resentment toward them. Each interaction only fueled the fire. Her stares of judgment did nothing to them. They were sleeping. She could have sat with her daughter and enjoyed a meal together. But she made herself miserable by unnecessarily judging those two individuals throughout the entire evening.

As I bought a couple pies for my wife and headed home I thought about a quote that I heard somewhere. I can’t remember where I heard it first, but I know it’s one of those quotes that gets manipulated for various purposes. Anyway, I like it, and I think it speaks to the situation that I witnessed:

Living with resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other guy will get sick.

On Being a Dad

On Being a Dad

“Are you getting any sleep?”

That is the question that seemingly every person I come in contact with asks. What do you think? We have a newborn at home who eats every two hours.

No, no. I get it. I probably look like a walking zombie. It’s fine. I am just always amazed how everyone always asks the same questions at different stages of life. It’s quite remarkable, really. When I was engaged, people always asked when the date of marriage was. Then the second question they asked is where we were going for our honeymoon. When I was married and in a different location from my wife for about a year everyone said, “Oh! That must be SO hard! How do you do it?”

People are all the same. They ask all the same questions.

In other news, Micah is here. I am a dad. And it is amazing.

It’s interesting. I had months to ponder and think about what he was going to look like. Will he have hair? (Yes). Will he have my fingers? (Yes). Will he have chubby cheeks and thighs? (YES!). All the initial questions are answered in just a few seconds after birth.

(Side note: I really didn’t know whether or not I’d be interested in seeing anything of the labor. You know, like the blood and stuff. In my mind I thought everything was going to look like a civil war battlefield. Moans and screams, blood and organs. I thought it would be a bustling place of chaos with nurses rushing around awaiting the birth of Micah. In reality, however, everything was quite calm. The midwife came in with her Starbucks and was quite relaxed and nonchalant. “Let’s have this baby!” I held one of Sarah’s legs and felt like I was an intimate part of the delivery process. I wasn’t grossed out. I wasn’t overwhelmed. It just felt natural. I felt like this is the way things should be. Sarah was doing a phenomenal job, and Micah came in under 25 minutes.)

The weird thing, though, is even though I had a newborn son – a beautiful and precious baby – and I could see that he had my fingers and toes, he had Sarah’s hair, he had a cute little nose, I really didn’t know who this little guy was. I mean, I didn’t know what his personality was like. Does he have a personality? Who is he? All I know is that he is mine. He is my son. I love him to death.

One thing I realize is how blessed Sarah and I are. Sarah had a perfect pregnancy. Literally no issues at all. She had the normal morning sickness at first, had a great second trimester, and was a bit uncomfortable towards the end. She worked full-time throughout her entire pregnancy. (Sarah is amazing and a tremendously hard worker). We also had the perfect labor and delivery. Her water broke at 2:30 am (I had been asleep for like 15 minutes…) and she started keeping track of her contractions that followed right afterwards. She relaxed, took a shower, ate a bunch of food, and laid down for a while before we called the midwife and told her that Micah was coming. We stayed and relaxed at home (I couldn’t sleep, so I just played Madden 13 until it was time to go…) until about 7:15am. We got to the hospital at 7:45am and got a room soon thereafter.

Sarah progressed pretty quickly. Her midwife commented on how much Sarah was smiling and was in a good mood. But if you know Sarah, you know that she’s wanted this baby for like, well, ever. This was the greatest day of Sarah’s life. She was finally going to have a baby! I will say, I was pretty pumped as well.

Sarah is a trooper, though. She was going to take a relaxing bath at the hospital to help her through her contractions, but by the time the tub had been filled up with the appropriate temperature of water she was 8cm dilated. If she was going to get an epidural, now was the time before it would be too late. Although Sarah had been doing tremendously through her contractions (she really hadn’t made much more than a wimper) she didn’t know how bad they might get, so she played it safe and got the epidural. (The midwife said she could have done it without, judging by how well she had been doing). Sarah got the epidural, which was somewhat of a process in and of itself. The midwife came and said she was going to grab some lunch and when she came back it’d be time to have the baby.

The midwife was right. By the time she came back, Sarah was ready to have the baby. The midwife took off her jewelry, and put on some gloves and it was off to the races. But everything was so calm. Everything felt very natural. The midwife carried on a nice casual conversation in between contractions. During the contractions she was overflowing with positive compliments of Sarah and her ability to push Micah into this world. It was quite amazing. Sarah was clearly so happy. I couldn’t believe how well she was doing. Afterwards I told her how proud of her I was. It was so cool to be with her.

The midwife told me to tell Sarah what I saw. “I see LOTS of hair!” I told her. Then, within minutes Micah made his entrance into this world. He gurgled a bit. But soon came the cry that I had longed to hear for months and months. I cut the umbilical cord and then they quickly gave Micah over to Sarah to hold. And those are probably some of the most precious moments I have ever experienced in my life. To see Sarah’s face as she looked at Micah for the first time. I took pictures, and I’ll get around to posting them sometime soon, but I was tearing up for sure. (I am now…)

But everything went well. Basically, it went perfectly well. He weighed in at 7 lb 10 oz and had no issues. His heart was beating strong, his lungs sounded great. There he was. His first diaper on, his feet stamped for record, and then he was given to me.

Amazing. Others have explained this feeling as floating through the hospital room. I understood what they meant. It’s pretty surreal. It’s like you don’t know what to feel. It’s an emotion that doesn’t have a name. It’s an emotion that in 26 years of life I’d never felt before.

I’m a dad.

So yes, I have friends who have had miscarriages. I have friends that have lost their newborns. Horribly sad stories. Sarah and I do not take all this for granted. We are extremely thankful for this wonderful child and that all has gone so smoothly up to this point.

And Micah is a wonderful child. He sleeps well. He’s incredibly cute. He learned to breast feed very well, and he eats a lot. He only cries when he needs to eat or has gas. He is wonderful. And we are very thankful.

On the way home from the hospital I asked Sarah to pray for Micah and to thank God for everything. There is just so much to be thankful for. It took basically the whole 35 minute trip back to our apartment to thank God for all the blessings he’s given us with Micah. We have a wonderful support network. We have wonderful family members and friends who love us and are nearly as excited as we are for Micah.

Micah is now 11 days old. Sarah and I are still learning who this little guy is. We do know that he loves to sleep on his stomach. And he seems to really only like to sleep when someone is holding him. This can be hard in the middle of the night because you’re not supposed to sleep with the baby. Sarah has always talked about not sleeping with baby in the bed. But he just wouldn’t sleep on his own. Sarah decided to get a baby bed that goes in our bed so that we could comfort him when he starts to cry while we are in bed. It has it’s own little mattress and it has little side rails to keep pillows and things from coming into his area and suffocating or smothering him.

He also only likes sleeping on his stomach. This is like the number one thing they tell you at the hospital and at doctor visits. “Make sure that he sleeps on his back as opposed to on his stomach.” That was no problem for Sarah. I’ve heard nothing but the importance of such things from Sarah for years because she did a report on sleeping positions and SIDS when she was in college.

But Micah won’t sleep on his back. Now what?

Sarah was a bit distraught about this at first. But after asking on Facebook, we realized that we are not the first parents to have this issue arise. Nearly everyone’s response has been, “Oh yeah! We had the same thing. We just let him/her sleep on her stomach.”

So college papers and other convictions have been thrown out the window, and we just cautiously allow Micah to sleep on his stomach in his co-sleeper bed in our bed. So much for education.

I had been warned about little boys who when changing their diaper like to turn on the “fountain of youth.” (That’s what my friends and I have dubbed these occurrences). It has happened to me twice so far (but it hasn’t happened to Sarah. What gives, Micah?) When it happened I totally wasn’t prepared for it.

“WHOAH, WHOAH, WHOOOOAAAH!” I yelled the first time it happened.

Sarah was shocked, “What!? What happened?!”

“He just peed… EVERYWHERE!”

Now I must admit, it was pretty impressive how far that little fire hose of his shot. My guess was a good six or so feet.

Of course some of it got on me. But it wasn’t the first time he got me. The day before he had a loose fitting diaper that allowed for a steady stream to get me all over (somehow) both sides of my pants. I had been christened by my son. I felt I was officially a dad. Welcome to the club, so to speak.

Micah was born into a family in which his father happens to love NFL football. More specifically, Cowboys football. And Peyton Manning football. The Sunday before Micah was born, Peyton Manning had made his return to the NFL with the Denver Broncos. He played like the Peyton of old, picking apart the Steeler defense. It was great to watch. So much fun.

Micah was born on a Monday afternoon. That meant that he got to watch Monday Night Football with me. Not only that, Peyton Manning was playing against the Atlanta Falcons. Yay! I explained who Peyton Manning was and told him that he was the best quarterback ever to play the game. Then, in the first quarter Peyton Manning threw three picks in like a matter of five minutes. It was pretty embarrassing. I told Micah, “Micah, now that is NOT good football. I’m sorry.”

But the thing about Micah being born this season is that there is always a Thursday night game, too. So we never go more than 72 hours without NFL. It’s been pretty great. But he usually goes to bed early with mom, so he doesn’t get to see the whole thing anyway. So he missed the most ridiculous call in NFL history on Monday night. At least I’ll be able to say when they show that clip forever and ever from now until eternity that he was just one week old when that happened. 🙂

Well, being a parent is pretty cool. It’s a privilege. It carries with it a lot of responsibility. But I’m loving it thus far. Looking forward to the journey, for sure. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about in the future. But as for now, I’ll just enjoy the moments when he is this small. I probably should be editing some of his pictures.