Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joseph's lullaby

If you're anything like me, you find it a challenge to keep a focus on the true meaning of Christmas - distracted by shiny promotions and images of Santa.  I try as often as I can to remind myself of what I should be preparing for this season, especially when speaking to my sons about Christmas morning.  Striking a healthy balance between a parent's joy of gifts from Santa and a Christian's hope in the Christchild is always delicate.

Few things help refocus a Christian's Advent heart better than seeing a new baby born a week before Christmas.  Their innocence and beauty stand in stark contrast to the world in which he or she has just entered.  I was lucky enough to meet my close friend's daughter the other day, and couldn't help but see the parallels to the Christmas season.  The same hope we place in each newborn child, the almost limitless potential recognized in these little ones, is really our Christmases manifest.

And this is why Christmas and our Christchild is so beautiful.  For one time and for all time, that hope and potential which all mankind enter into the world with, a child born rose to the challenge.

On Joseph

I don't know that there is a more "manly" thing than for one man to take, as his own, another man's child to raise and love.  This is essentially what Joseph, Jesus' earthly father agreed to do - and not under normal circumstances, either.  Yet, his willingness to love completely this child is fitting example for opening a place in our hearts this season for Christ.

This lesson was only mediated to me through song yesterday while at the gym.  I nearly teared up running laps when MercyMe's "Joseph's Lullaby" played on my iPod and I listened to the words closely.  It is a beautiful song, sung from the perspective of Joseph to his new son.  For one moment Joseph asks this new savior, "simply be my child."  All fathers want to protect their children from the harms of the world.  Unlike the rest of us, Joseph accepts he can't, if only for one night of peace.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 was a much anticipated day for me, a 19-year-old college kid, living on my own for the first time.  Barely into my freshman year at Rockhurst University, leading the day's agenda was finding a ride to a record store to purchase Bob Dylan's newest album Love and Theft, scheduled to be release that Tuesday morning.

Probably for that reason I was already awake on my bunk when the phone rang that morning, around 8:15 a.m.  A phone ringing early in our dorm room was not terribly uncommon, seeing as my roommate, Tony, and I had girlfriends at the same high school in St. Louis, who would call us before class on occasion.

Having recently moved into a new room in Corcoran Hall, Tony and I were adjusting to each others' living habits.  Our pressing tasks included tracking down the right metal bars to bunk our beds, when I'd be able to get back home to pick up my Super Nintendo for our room's second TV, and where in the room we'd place the second TV.

Things were settling nicely for us though.  So when Tony motioned for me to turn on the TV I figured it was some quirky request by his girlfriend, Carrie.  Without a doubt, the TV was set to ESPN or some sports network, certainly not news.  By the time we got to a serious network, the world had already changed and two planes had hit the Towers.

For the most part, the remainder of the day is a blur.  I know Tony and I saw the first tower fall, and then the second, speechless.  I know I called my mom back home who seemed equally at loss for words.  I remember going to my political science course later that morning as news cameras filmed our class discussion.  Televisions were set up throughout the the campus' more crowded areas.  The environment was tense. Purchasing that CD just seemed silly.

I'd like to wrap this up cleaner and sum up some thoughts, but quite frankly, ten years hasn't been enough time to formulate any.  God be with thosewho lost their lives.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's a kid's world, now.

An older friend, Katie, has told me on multiple occasions that Joanna and I make parenting look fun.  Katie, who has no kids of her own, has at least begun to think about having children.  Her hesitation, which I imagine is shared by many, is that children could limit her.  She, like many, enjoys traveling the globe, staying out late and sleeping in on weekends. 

The other day I was remarking to some friends about how long it's been since I've left for work with Joanna still asleep.  The odd part, most mornings, when she wasn't working and before we had kids, Joanna would typically be asleep when I'd walk out the door.  Now, she and I are up anytime between 5:30 and 6:30 with one or both boys.  Needless to say, I have not needed to set an alarm in over three years.

There are other areas which have also changed.  We go to bed much earlier, drink a lot less alcohol and watch a lot more Yo Gabba Gabba (which isn't all that bad).  But, these changes don't seem taxing to us in the least.  They are what they are: part of life.  While life today might be different from our previous ones, it is not without its charm.

The early wake-ups aren't always welcomed, but the little smiling faces typically are.  Buying a mini-van for a growing brood is expensive, however, packing my most prized possessions at the end of a trip in one is always priceless.  And, while I haven't seen the ninth inning at a Saturday night ballgame this year, running the bases with Peter and Thomas on Sunday afternoons is a victory for me.
Parenting is not always fun.  I'd be lying if I said otherwise.  But there are few things in life that remain in a constant state of "fun."  And, there may be people who have much more fun than me and Joanna, but I doubt they're more satisfied.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

While I was out

So, suffice it to say, I've been out for some time and the blog has been relatively unattended. I've removed the cobwebs and it's safe to once again come back in. Although the summer brought opportunity to take advantage of the added free-time and blog more, I found myself wrapped up in abundant and fulfilling family-time.

Since March, Joanna and I have termed this summer a busy one with trips and tasks here and there, so much so that our Spring purchase of a mini-van seemed nicely timed (and installed DVD players an added bonus).

Although busy, the summer presented chance for much needed vacation and extended family visits. From visitors traveling to Kansas City to trips to Colorado and straight to Kentucky, the busiest part of the summer has been successful. Basically all of July was one big road trip, which really couldn't have gone better.

iPad 2

Aside from the vacations and visitors, I also (finally) got my hands on an iPad 2, which I am using to post this blog right now. For many, the iPad is an instrument for amusement and discovery. Mine, which will certainly accommodate similarly, will also be my companion in the classroom for the coming year.

I am trying to tailor my classes and student interaction to be more "cloud" and digitally friendly. My class presentation will hopefully profit from the iPad, too. My biggest challenge will be to remind myself to take baby steps with the technology and remember the iPad need not be an earth-shattering device to change everything, but one that enhances the educational experience for both student and teacher.

At first, I was looking for apps that would remove all obstacles, illuminate my students, and rid the classroom of the antiquated "way we've always done things." After quickly learning, "there's not an app for that" a shift in focus was needed. Which is where I am now: focusing on ways to enhance, improve and learn a new way to do old things.

Admittedly, I am a newcomer to the iPad and want to know best practices for the device in the classroom. When you come across one, please share. I'll try and do that same. Until then, do your best to avoid this heat!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:While I was out

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Defend all involved

There was more troubling news for the Catholic Church locally yesterday, as an area priest was accused of possessing child pornography on his work and personal computers.  The evidence appears to be overwhelming against the man.  The diocese is also under scrutiny for the manner in which the area hierarchy handled the issue.  It is my guess that the scrutiny will only intensify in the coming days.

Long and short of it; Late last year, the priest in question took his laptop in for servicing and the technician discovered the images in question and reported what he found to Church officials.  According to Church officials, and confirmed by the police, the diocese contacted the local authorities to ask about the content's nature at that point, ie. did it constitute child pornography?  At the time, at least two opinions concluded it did not.

The church acted by removing the priest from a local parish, moved him to a cloistered living environment, away from children and around adults.  The priest, prior to this move, received counseling.  Under the watch of the local diocese, the priest apparently ignored parameters, including attending family and friend's events, and partaking in a local parade.  At this, the diocese again contacted authorities.

Today, the priest is charged with possessing child pornography, among other disturbing crimes.  It is now May and many in the public want to know why the diocese acted so slowly in bringing this news forward, news they discovered in December of 2010.  The city's newspaper editorialized this morning, questioning the Church's priority to that of victims or priests.  No doubt letters will follow, demanding resignations and further reform.

And, all of this is understood.  The Church and Catholic priests have a terrible past, one marred by the acts of many, and further protected by countless among the Church's hierarchy.  What's worse here, the victims are often our most helpless in society, trusting children.  These acts have destroyed too many.  But, I want to advise caution, while at the same time acknowledging the problem.

Admittedly, I am a Catholic, proudly, and my world view will be colored by that perspective.  However, I am also an American and I live in a nation where rules are in place to guide our proceedings, specifically in the legal realm.  Of course, the legal side of things is really only half of it; there is the court of law, driven by a quest for justice, and then there is the court of public opinion, fueled by soundbites and media speculation.  I defy you to tell me which is more powerful.

At heart of this issue is what should the Church have made public and when.  Due to the issue's past, many will say, it would be best for all if the Church spills its guts about anything and everything.  How else can we truly trust the Church again if there is not complete transparency?  At first glance, that sounds like a strong and compelling argument.  However, it neglects to take into account all individuals involved in these separate instances.

I can imagine that one of the more difficult roles in today's society is that of good-hearted, upstanding Catholic priest.  You're well intentioned, desirous of doing God's work, and tasked to shepard over a large number of parishioners.  And at the same time, suspicion clouds your actions and paranoia affects your every interaction.  All because you can't outrun a caricature in the public and you're always one accusation away from being ruined.

As the term goes, it's impossible to unring a bell.  Once a modifier is placed on an individual, it's hard to be completely cleansed of its resonating.  And some terms, more readily stick.  Just ask several lacrosse players from an elite North Carolina university, who still live under suspicion, even after vindication.  But, historical failings should never be reason enough to indite entire groups.

If the Kansas City Star and many in the public have their way, and they may still get it, anytime an accusation or suspicion is had over a priest, the diocese should release the priest's name to the public, remove him from service, and police should isolate him behind bars.  You and I know very well that when that man receives his trial, if it indeed goes this far, the verdict will have already been read loud and clear in the court of public opinion.  Guilty.

I am not advocating cover-ups, pushing issues aside, or ignoring the sins of the past.  But, I am saying, because of these historical failings and perceptions, we are compelled to tread with caution when identifying suspects for public consumption.  Remove them from power, scrutinize their dealings, and protect the defenseless.  But, do your diligence to substantiate any claim.  For we know, if and when the name is released, that man will have a shell of his current self left standing, regardless of a jury's decision.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Graduation day

Yesterday was graduation for our seniors, which is typically a very nice event.  As the names of each student was read and they crossed the stage, several names evoked pride and happiness within me.  This class' graduation (2011) also marks, officially, ten years since I received my high school diploma (2001), from an institution I am quite proud of, De Smet Jesuit.  Although a decade sounds like a long time, it has gone by quickly. 

In ten years so much has obviously changed.  Four years of college flew by.  Establishing a career, marrying, and starting a family in our own home took a little over half that time.  These bright moments are results of seized opportunity and God's grace.  I can only guess what ten more years will look like. 

Quite appropriately yesterday, and for the first time, the administration offered school staff and board members the opportunity to present the diploma to their sons or nephews on stage.  Of course, ol' sentimental me couldn't help but get excited for my opportunity (hopefully) many years from now with my two sons. 

Nevertheless, yesterday's moment and my 10-year anniversary remind me about time, how it flies, pretty much regardless of the amount of fun being had.  At Peter's birth, time stood still.  Now he's almost three.  I lamented to my wife the other night about loving THIS moment in life and wanting it forever.  She assured me that there will continue to be moments to love throughout all times in life, that it keeps getting better. 

I agree with her, certainly.  One day I'll look back and remember this post, or yesterday's graduation and how I felt my sons' time was so far off.  And more importantly, hopefully the time between these two moments will be marked, continually, with an abundance of seized moments and full memories. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Low expectations: spring break '11

I am entrenched in the opening weekend of a much needed spring break.  And while many of my students and colleagues are wrapped up in extensive plans for their week off, I've decided to take a more relaxing and less creative respite from the hustle and bustle of the working world.

Every August countless teachers and students head back to school and every August countless teachers and students circle this week on their calendar.  It is every student's dream to head to exotic locations with their best buds and collect the most boss facebook photos to show the world (and future would-be employers).  Of course, once the week is over, those photos serve as only depressing reminders that spring break was then and Mr. Nickson's class is now.  Boo-hoo.

In the act of circling this week by August, I am no different.  However, my excitement at doing absolutely nothing distinguishes me.  Of course my wife and I talk about going places and doing things.  But, when presented with the prospect of being somewhere at a certain time, spending X number of hours in the car, and knowing I could get away with doing nothing, I will choose nothing.

That is not to say I'm lazy, or that I dislike my job.  Quite the contrary.  But spring break is special in its lack of schedule and expectations.  This morning for instance, my dog and I ran seven miles due to the fact that I didn't give myself an expectation.  Where ever we got, we got, I said.  This week, I'll probably go up to work quite a bit and get stuff done while the students are away.  But, with zero expectations, it's all gravy.

So while millions of high school and college students and teachers rush to make their flights, wade in crowded lines to walk through x-ray body scanners, and experience Montezuma's Revenge in their all-inclusive paradises, I'll be playing it hour by hour, enjoying my impending schedule of absolutely nothing.  Speaking of which, I need to get back to doing.
(How I feel this week)