disturbing the peace

at the ultrasound, the sonographer told us, “yes, you are pregnant.”

we rejoiced.

then, he said, “wait a minute, there’s something…”

we froze. 

oh no, something’s wrong.

then, he said, “there’s another one, you’re going to have twins.”

we were shocked, floored–on the floor (literally)…we called family and friends and shared the news…a few days later, the aftershocks of what we were told started to hit us…it was an amazing, unexpected thing…and full of unknowns…

and, of course, “the unknowns” bothered me the most…

i had been dealing with some moderate levels of anxiety and panic before we got this news (details of which are best saved for another post or venue)…but, this news–the thought of having twins, two babies at once, ratcheted up the anxiety to new heights (as you could expect)…

i thought about going away for a night, to get my mind right…before the epic life change of “fatherhood” arrived…so, my wife, in her wisdom, mentioned a retreat center called pacem in terris–peace on earth–it was a place she had been to years before…a place where you can experience peace and quiet and solitude…

my wife, when telling me about this place, said that she had been there once (a while back) for a similar reason…for quiet solitude…she also told me that while the time away was good, she left back home before the full day was up… she told me that “the quiet” was too much for her…

i didn’t know what she meant, i didn’t know how powerful “the quiet” could be–until i went there myself…

so, i packed an overnight bag and a few snacks and headed up to pacem in terris…my wife had told me that all they provide is fruit, cheese, and bread–she knew better than most about my freakish metabolism–importantly, she knew that if i didn’t have a little extra sustenance i would first, shake…then tremble…and ultimately–implode…not good…

anyways, after a short drive (just north of the twin cities), i arrived and went to the welcome center…here, i was greeted by a sister (the place is faith-based and of the catholic variety–franciscan)…she welcomed me and visited with me for a short time about why i was there, some of the “rules of the hermitage*”–and she gave me a chapter from the bible to contemplate, if i wanted…it was psalm 139 (she told me that reading it over and over and over, like a meditation, was often a good thing to do)…

[*the little cabins on the property of the retreat center are called ‘hermitages’; and while you stay in an individual hermitage, you’re referred to as a ‘hermit’–there is no cost to stay there, though donations are appreciated]

she also told me (rather forcefully) that…one of the most important things about the hermitage was that it was a holy, peaceful, quiet space…and that, while i might see other hermits around (as i walked the footpaths of the property), i was not to speak to them, nor they to me–silence was the rule of the day, for every day..

so, i gathered my things and headed out to my hermitage…it was a tiny cabin, with a sink, bathroom, bed, and desk…on the desk table sat a basket that contained fruit, bread, cheese, and a welcome card…next to the desk, was a small burner, tea-pot and cup…after getting settled, i went about my day…i spent it sitting and journaling, reading a little henri nouwen, thinking about my wife (our life and twins), reading psalm 139, and walking on the footpaths…i only saw one other hermit on the trail…and we passed in silence like we were instructed to do…

day went on into night and i slept a quiet, restful sleep…before falling asleep, i thought to myself, my wife was right, it was difficult to stay quiet for that long (though i had only been there about 10 hours before ‘hitting the hay’)…but, i had made it to bedtime, with determination–all i had to do was sleep, wake up, and spend a few more hours at the retreat and i would accomplish what i set out to do…

waking up the next morning, i felt rested and alive and refreshed…this has been good, i thought…

so, i gathered my toiletries, towel, and a change of clothes and headed to the main building of the retreat center…it was the only place on the property that had showers for the hermits to use…i took a shower, washed my face, brushed my teeth, changed clothes, gathered my stuff and headed towards the bathroom door (it was a large single bathroom with a shower, sink, mirror, and toilet)…i was feeling good…

until…

i unlocked the latch, twisted the door knob and tried to open the bathroom door…

it wouldn’t budge…i jiggled the knob–no dice…i tinkered with the lock–nothing…i pushed/pulled on the door while jiggling the door knob–still nothing…

i looked at the door–stared it down, in fact…as if that would help…then, i looked around the bathroom…for anything, anything that i could use to ‘pop the hinges’ with…it wasn’t ideal, i didn’t want to ‘jack up’ the door, or worse, have to drop $200-$300 on a new door for the sisters…but, at that moment, it was better than the alternative…it was better than the unthinkable…

so, i scoured the bathroom…top to bottom, side to side…and found absolutely nothing to use…i also double-checked my shaving kit–nothing good in there, either…so, i put the lid on the toilet seat down, sat down, and chuckled to myself for a moment, thinking, i can’t believe this is happening?! then, i thought, my phone?! 

like a sweaty-toothed madman (shout out to ‘dead poets’, yo!), i searched my belongings…and found…my phone…i powered it on and found the number to the retreat center, i called it and got–the answering machine…the nuns were out…i cursed them under my breath…then immediately “crossed myself” and begged for forgiveness–sorry, sisters

i called again and again…finally leaving a message…

uh, yeah, hello, i’m one of your hermits and i’m locked in the bathroom in the lower level of the main building…if you get this, can you please come and let me out… 

i sat back down again and thought to myself…

maybe God is trying to tell me something…like i need more time alone?!  or maybe, my wife needs more time alone back home?! 🙂 …subtle, real subtle, big guy…

time went by…

then, i knew what i was going to have to do…the unthinkable…

make some noise…

let me say that again, if i wanted to get out of there i was going to have to break the unbreakable rule for pacem in terris and “break the silence”-

so, i got up and walked towards the door…i tried to open it once more–no luck…i pressed my ear to the door, listening, hoping that another hermit might be passing by…i didn’t hear anything or anyone…so, i called out…

is anyone there? i’m locked in here.

[i used a medium level tone/volume–i wasn’t fully committed to ‘sounding off’ in the silent world of pacem in terris]

all i heard in return was absolute silence…

i cursed under my breath again…and pumped myself up for the next round…thinking…

i’m gonna have to ‘get loud’.

so, this time…i took a deep breath…and then shouted and banged on the door…

no more peace.

no more quiet.

i went on for about 10 minutes, until he showed up…

he said: hello, in there.

i said: are you a hermit?!

he said: no, i’m the maintenance man.

i thought: praise Jesus!

i said: great, i’m locked in here can you help me out?

he said: yep.

he tinkered with the lock…for exactly one minute…then, it popped open!

i thanked him (enthusiastically).

not too long after that, i packed up my belongings and headed home…on the drive back i thought a lot about my time there…especially, the last little bit…

and one of the things i was reminded of is that God has a sense of humor…and that sometimes, we are so very serious about our lives, too serious…especially us religious folks–and especially, us christians…on that day, i was reminded of the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously…and that, while some things are indeed sacred–it’s important to laugh at ourselves once in a while…

regardless of what new, “unknowns” await us on the horizon…

fury road (chicago)

part II – the windy city

we did laundry, re-organized the van, had the scheduled maintenance done on the van–and slept in our own beds for two nights…and less than 48 hours after our trek to utah and back…we (mom, dad, son, daughter) continued the epic road trip of our lives…this time, we headed east, towards chicago…to see my sister there (for more details on my sister–see the post titled, “my sister, chris”)…

we knew we could make it…heck we just drove several thousand miles together…we made it through that trip, successfully, in large part to ‘how the kids did’ (and with the mercy of the Lord, of course)…yes, it was intense, and yes, our son had an ear infection…but, they managed surprisingly well…way better than i thought…i think ‘they did well’ because “my wife planned well” and had (in addition to episodes of “paw patrol” and “jake”) a lot of ‘low-tech’ activities for them…reading books, coloring/activity sheets and books, white boards, cars and action figures, etc. – and we had two “blessed bags of saving grace” from my wife’s coworker and friend, kate…thank you, kate…your stuff + my wife’s stuff made it fun for the kids!

anyways, this is my first person account of the second phase of fury road:

1. 1130am – we leave the twin cities (we had planned to leave at 9am).

2. 630pm – we arrive in chicago (one of the all-time great american cities) – making extremely good time (the drive seems like a snap after the previous adventure).

3. my sister, chris, makes pizzas.  we eat, talk, and relax.

4. we “hit the hay” – and set up camp in her two room apartment.

bedtime.

bedtime.

5. meltdown #1 happens – jack “goes ape” during breakfast at the lucky platter (we see the first signs of life on the road).

6. we recover.

7. we drive down to millennium park and hangout, play and eat italian ice; it turns out to be a fun day, especially for the kids…and it is great to have some time to catch up with chris and hear how her life is going and for her to hear the same from us…we’ve never had the kids with us in chicago before…it is great to see!

millennium park.

millennium park.

(more) millennium park.

(more) millennium park.

8. nap time.

9. meltdown #2 happens – jack and grace “go ape” after nap time (we see the next signs of life on the road).

10. the travels are catching up with the kids.  they are on the ropes.  minutes from a knockout. it looks bleak.

11. my wife uses her magic powers to “rally the kids”.

12. we recover.

13. we go to dave’s italian kitchen for my sister’s birthday dinner – great food; we come home, open presents and “face-time” with my parents–who are on face time for the first time, which makes the entire call all the more entertaining.

14-18. the day is good.  we have brunch, take naps, and ride the “l-train”.  jack and grace can hardly contain themselves (it’s as if thomas himself shows up).  the train pulls to a stop in front of them and we jump aboard…we ride the train for a “whole 15 minutes” (and it is worth it…just to see the looks on their faces).

L-train

L-train

19. 830am, the next morning, my wife and i exchange a “knowing look”–translation: yeah, we’re ready to be home.

20. 835am, i give jack his antibiotics and have a flashback to the utah trip (and feel a flash of anger)…medical school is not worth it...then, i try to coach myself back…thinking…let it go, let it go

21. 836am, i can’t let it go.

22. 837am, i think to myself, i should’ve asked for some “meds”, too.

23. 838am, an ed sheeran song starts playing in my head–loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes…

24. 839am, repeat #22

25. 840am, i “dial it back in” and make 100 trips up and down 50 flights of stairs. to pack the van, i haul an amount of luggage/gear that would normally accompany a professional baseball team.

26. 9am, after a brief stop at dunkin’ donuts, we head home.

27. noon, we stop near madison, have lunch at panera with my wife’s friends.

28. on the drive back, i daydream about a novel new show for TV–amazing race–family style.

29. the idea causes me to have a minor panic attack on the road.

30. i recover.

31. i keep the idea to myself until now.

32. 530pm, home sweet home.

33. happy birthday, chris!

34. jack and grace are presented with their “road warrior” badges – way to go, kids–you’ve earned ’em!

i can’t believe that we just did all that…honestly…we made it…and, at the end of the day…upon reflection…it was insane, but it was also good–we also know that we are fortunate to have the time to do that together, as a family…to be able to be there (in person) and celebrate the people we love–first, with jamie and steve in utah…and then, with chris in chicago…it’s a gift…

daddy punched me

after starting his antibiotics, jack started feeling better pretty quickly…so, at one of the wyoming hotel stops jack wanted to ‘wrestle with daddy’…after about 15 minutes of rough-housing, pillow wars and laughs we stopped to take a break…i looked over at jack and he was grabbing ‘hold of his abdomen…

at that point he said (in a half-sad voice)…

mommy, daddy punched me.

🙂

[i had landed on him at one point, but hadn’t punched him…come on, you’re ridiculous?! one of the things we’re starting to see is “some exaggerating” and “storytelling”–it’s usually hilarious, except when they say things like this in public]

fury road

part I – the wild west

about a month ago, my wife and i were invited to the military ceremony of our brother-in-law (steve) who was being honored with a special promotion at hill air force base in utah…my wife was excited about the invite and wanted to be there for the ceremony…

so, i thought that she should fly out there and represent our family for the event…she thought that we all should go…but, not by plane (because that was too expensive)–instead, she thought the four of us (me, my wife and our 3 year-old twins) should drive out there…wouldn’t it be great if we could all be there for the ceremony, she said wistfully…

but, i was hesitant for 4 major reasons:

1. driving out there with our kids, with the age they’re at, sounded like suicide.

2. we had a timeline–we needed to be there by june 5th at 1444–and we wouldn’t be able to leave until after work on june 3rd (because we’re teachers and that was the last day of school with the kids in our classes).

3. it’s the end of the school year…and as any teacher can attest to, it’s not a time of the year when you’ve got extra energy in reserves.

4. we had already agreed to go to chicago to see my sister at about the same time as we’d be getting back from this trip…

[fyi…we live in minneapolis, people…which means we’re talking about an 18+ hour drive to get there in time]…

but, my wife really thought we should do it…

and, i gave in…tempted by the open road, propelled by my wife’s passion…

the following is a first person account of what went down, best as i can recall:

1. we leave the twin cities at 5pm on june 3rd.

life in the van

life in the van

2. we arrive at rapid city, south dakota at 230am.

3. we leave rapid city at 11am, and drive and drive and drive.

4. detour in wyoming.

5. we realize that there are only 5 roads in wyoming (and one of them is closed today).

6. the detour means we must drive north, then west, then south.

7. we drive and drive and drive (we see a lot of wyoming–almost all of it–beautiful state).

8. we arrive in layton, utah at 130am.

9. 8am, our son, jack, wakes up crying and with a fever (complaining of a sore throat).

10. 830am, jack and i go to urgent care (in utah it’s called ‘instacare’).

11. 850am, strep test done.

12. 9am, strep test = negative.

13. 915am, ears are checked–after 15 minutes of cleaning, 1 years worth of ear wax is removed from his ears–no wonder why he didn’t respond when i yelled at him ‘not to run into traffic’ 🙂

14. 920am, observation – “slightly red”.

15. 930am, diagnosis = virus.

16. 930am (continued) confirmation that…medical school could, in fact, be a waste of time and money.

17. doctor: “running another strep test” – “will let us know tomorrow”.

18. repeat #14.

19. because of the “not sure if it’s strep or not” diagnosis — the wife attends the ceremony solo.

20. let me say that again, the wife attends the ceremony solo.

21. i let out an insane laugh–from somewhere deep, deep inside.

22. the kids and i set up camp in the hotel room…i drink one (or more) jack and cokes throughout the day and keep “a close eye” on my children who happily watch the disney channel.

23-27. we have a great “next couple of days” (the nights were a little rougher)–hanging out with family and celebrating–we see ‘antelope island’, plenty of bison, have a bison burger, swim, eat, drink coffee, discuss the similarities between obi-wan and Jesus, see ‘devils slide’, wrestle john (my father-in-law), have some laughs and make some great memories–and we get the doctor to o.k. antibiotics after my son is unable to sleep for two nights–his ears were in bad shape, but his legs worked fine…he kicked me, repeatedly, in the back for two nights…now, that’s worth the trip right there...

bison!

bison!

great shot at antelope island!

great shot at antelope island!

the families at devils slide.

the families at devil’s slide.

28-32. we drive back. we take an extra day. first to casper…then, the round-about way to rapid city…the detour is still on…and since we’re pushed north we opt to take it a little further and see “longmire country” — stopping in buffalo, the city that the “longmire” books and show are based on–and we see more of wyoming–but not all 🙂 ….it is a great day on the road…not only are the antibiotics kicking in (oh, and i haven’t mentioned gracie, our daughter, in this regard because she has been a rockstar traveler–taking it all in stride)…but, buffalo is an amazing little town that sits snug on the edge of the big horn mountains…and the vista tempts the traveler to turn west along scenic highway 16 towards the tetons and yellowstone…hard as it is, we resist the pull west…and turn towards south dakota…that same day we reach mount rushmore (which is a sight of it’s own)…and jack says, of mount rushmore, ‘i liked the guy with the beard best’…and then to rapid city for the night.

the busy bee cafe as featured in 'longmire'.

the busy bee cafe as featured in ‘longmire’.

the presidents!

the presidents!

33. the next day, we cross south dakota, with a sneak peek at the badlands.

34. then, home sweet home.

35. “cheers, steve (and jamie)–way to go!”

[stay tuned for “fury road” part II – the windy city]

tradecraft…your voice (part VI)

i spent three years working in youth ministry (christian setting)…

well, what does that mean?  

it means that you work in a youth program at a local church…planning and organizing activities, events, community service projects and opportunities for spiritual growth and development–for elementary, middle school, and high school youth–basically, you try to connect to children and youth in a church setting…

it can be a great job because of the relationships that can develop with youth and families in the church community…you can connect with individuals and families at a level that is just not possible in some settings and that is an amazing thing…but it can also be a challenging job…because most parents and families have really high expectations about what they think you should be doing for their kids (this is especially true in churches with large youth programs)…and it’s been my experience that, while a parent might be hesitant to approach a pastor with a complaint or criticism, they don’t have the same restraint when it comes to you (the youth director) and they’re very likely to let you know what they think of you and your work (sometimes, in some of the most un-christian ways you can imagine–where is the love?!)…i’ve worked in prisons and in churches and the same ‘rule of thumb’ applies to both settings — watch your back...i am certain that there is a sociological dissertation waiting to be written on “life behind the scenes at a local church”…

anyways, we’re movin’ on…

one summer, we (the senior high youth director and i–i was the junior high leader) took a group of 40 high school students and 12 adults to new york city for a week (our church was based in omaha, nebraska)…the week was primarily focused on community service projects…there were also some recreational activities mixed-in during the afternoons and evenings…for fun, we went to central park, times square, the today show, battery park, chinatown, and the statue of liberty…and we also went to ground zero (not for fun, but just to see it…the location where one of the 9/11 attacks happened–it was the kind of thing that knocks you on your ass when you see it, i’ll never forget it)…anyways, our service-partner organization in new york city was called ysop (ysop = youth service opportunities project)…so, while we were in new york city, we stayed at a hostel and each day ysop would send us out in small groups (by way of mass transit) to a different work project in a different borough (the bronx, queens, brooklyn, etc) in new york [their main focus is to send out volunteers to work with the homeless and the hungry–which is what we did!]

quick note: i’ve participated in a lot of service experiences in my life…and this one was, by far, one of the best mission trips i’ve ever been on…ysop runs a highly organized, efficient, and ‘legit’ operation…i would recommend their organization to anyone wanting to bring young people to serve in new york city while fully experiencing the realities of the boroughs…check ysop out at:  http://www.ysop.org/

[i know…there’s a lot of background to this story…but, we’re getting there...to ‘the voice’ part, i promise…hang tough;)]

so, it was wednesday…mid-week in our experience…we had been working hard and playing hard (seeing a lot of sites), and it had been an especially hot and humid week in the city…it was the moment, during these kind of trips, when little ‘flare ups’ start to occur between ‘kids and kids’, ‘kids and adults’, & ‘adults and adults’–it is bound to happen…in this particular case, we were all en route to public transportation (making our way from the hostel to the ysop office) and one of the kids (named aron) in the youth group asked the senior high youth director if she would alter the plan slightly for the evening so we could stay out later in the city…walking en masse, like this, we were quite the sight (moments like these made me feel bad for nyc:) …anyways, aron and the senior high youth director were at the back of the pack and i was at the middle, with some other kids and adults up in front of the herd…as aron and my colleague were talking, the conversation became more and more ‘heated’ (i heard most everything that was said; i think this is due to my bionic ears…but seriously, the tubes i got when i was a kid did something spectacular…could it be that my military doctor who implanted the tubes in my ears was a part of a covert government program to engineer super soldiers?!  we can rebuild you…🙂

basically, aron was asking to alter the plan for the group and my partner said, “no–not happening”…it came out very sharp and i cringed a bit when i heard the tone of her response…in her defense, she was as hot, tired and impatient as everyone else in the group…aron was agitated, too (at his limit)…normally, a great kid–positive, smart and not easily disgruntled…but, in this case, he wouldn’t let it go and huffed up towards the middle of the pack…mumbling his distaste about the decision to some of his peers…

after a few minutes…he must have caught sight of me walking nearby because he was suddenly at my side…and i could see a little bit of fire in his eyes…it was something i had seen before…it was the kind of look you see in a kid when they’re going to openly challenge you, to push your limits

then, he spoke…

aron: can i ask you something?

me: sure.

aron: what would you do if we all took off running in different directions right now?

[at that moment, i stopped walking…then, he stopped walking…and there was a “pause”…warning bells went off in my head…and then, the  little voice in my head said, it’s a trap…don’t take the bait…]

me: well…i’d probably head down to times square and enjoy my free time…

[i held my serious face for as long as i could…which wasn’t long…then, i busted out laughing…he did too…]

after a minute, he spoke again…

aron: that’s probably the best thing i’ve heard this morning…awesome…

then, he sped up to some friends near the front of the pack…

he didn’t take off, neither did any of the other kids…but, it wasn’t really about ‘making a run for it’…he was just testing me… he was looking for a fight, he was looking for a confrontation (with me, the only other ‘official staff member’ on the trip)…in this case, he was looking for a fast ball and i threw him a curve…it helped that i had heard the earlier exchange and some of his grumblings–so, i had a bit of a head start on how to respond to him…what to say and how to say it…to defuse and disarm him...how to use my voice in that way...

it’s something you can learn to do, too… it’s a skill you can develop…

in time…

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