Welcome to my blog!

I started this blog to share the ups and downs of real life. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the mundane, the insane...you get the picture. Why??? For no other purpose than to encourage others who are raising a family, going through the ups and downs of life, letting you know you are not alone, and that we are not all epic failures for having a life that is not perfect!!!



Sunday, November 7, 2010

"A Cure Was Not to Be"

"God saw you were getting tired, and a cure was not to be, so he put his arms around you, and whispered "Come to Me". With tearful eyes we watched you, and saw you pass away. Although we loved you dearly, we could not make you stay. A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands, at rest. God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best."
This is the poem we selected for the back of my father's memorial cards for his funeral. It was so fitting, perfectly describing him, someone with a heart of gold, full of joy, and always hard working and hard playing. The picture above is so symbolic of who my dad was as well. Full of life and vigor before he got sick, having fun, laughing. One of the things my father requested was that we remember him, and make sure his grand kids do too. So, the next couple of blog entries are for just that-remembering him.
In this post, I want to tell the story of his death. To many it may not seem a way to remember the good, the life, the spirit that was my father, but after reading the story of his death, you will know so much about my father, just by the way he spent his last weeks. I will post some of the things he told us before he died in my next post, and some of the lessons he passed on to all of us in another post.
My father was admitted to the hospital on October 12th, for having blood in his dialysis fluid. This was after a year that included open heart surgery and valve replacements, surgical removal of cysts in his neck and groin, a bypass in his leg, and ultimately amputation of one leg. His health had deteriorated rapidly the past summer, and this hospital trip was after three days of not being able to get out of bed, and months of not eating. In hind sight, I think we knew he was not going to come home, and by some of his actions and comments, I think he did too. The doctors determined that he had a severe infection in his abdomen, (peritonitis), and the infection was in his spleen, his blood, and his heart valves. Even if he could beat the infection, the damage to his spleen and heart valves was so severe, that the doctors would not operate because his chances of survival were slim. For a couple days after the diagnosis and prognosis had been given, he was in and out of lucidity, so my mother was faced with the awful task of deciding what treatments to stop and when, and when to put him on comfort care. Luckily by that Saturday, he was awake, and with it enough to see some family members and friends who had gathered at the hospital. (We had spent the previous days contacting friends and family to let them know my father wasn't coming home from this one.) He also got to see his oldest two grandchildren that day, JB, my son, and my niece, Kailee. He was laughing, joking, being a wise ass- just like usual. Everyone went home, and I stayed the night. My brother, sister, and aunt and I had been taking turns. I thought he was sleeping, and I leaned my arms and head down on the bed rail. He placed his hand on my head, and touched my face. I looked at him, grabbed his hand, kissed it, and said I love you. He said I love you too, and asked if my Aunt Cathy, his sister and law, had made it in from Virginia yet. I said no, she will be here tomorrow sometime. He then told me he was done. He was going to wait until she got here, and stop dialysis treatments. I held his hand as tight as I could, and said okay. I am not leaving your side. I'll be right here. He protested slightly, and said he didn't want me to lose my job. I let him know my work was being so great throughout all of this, and gave me all the time I needed. I held his hand until he faded back into sleep. I have to admit, I was somewhat relieved that HE decided it was time. It spared my mother from making an awful decision.
The next day, he spent the morning talking with us, laughing, fading in and out of sleep. We talked about good times, funny memories. He was surrounded by his family, and his best friend. My mother, brother, sister and I were right there by his side. When my aunt Cathy arrived, he broke down into tears, and said he couldn't do it anymore, to which my aunt, always a rock in our family, said with such bravery and composure, "Then don't. You don't have too" That began the process of my father choosing his path on his journey through death. He said some very important things to all of us, and requested some very important things of all of us. (I will talk about that later) That night, he stopped all dialysis treatments, as well as any extra measures aside from comfort and his medication to sustain his blood pressure. My brother and sister spent that night with him.
The next two days were filled with much of the same- in and out of sleep. His nurses were fantastic, and that is for lack of a better word. When he was awake, he told us all how he loved us so much. He would make wise cracks, flirt with my mother a little. Then on Tuesday evening, the 20th, he decided to stop the blood pressure medication, be taken off all the monitors, and be moved into a palliative care room. I had gone home to get some rest, and came back up around 8. Within an hour, everyone else had gone home to rest. My dad was agitated, and not making alot of sense at this point, but he was not in pain. Throughout the night he remained in an agitated state. We increased his pain meds, gave him frequent breathing treatments. and anxiety medication. He went through alot of statements, and conversations. Ones that didn't make sense to me. but it was him reliving situations and activities that were comfortable and familiar to him. After not recognizing me for most of the night, around 2:30, i was holding his hand. He looked right at me, and I at him, and I said Dad I love you. He said I love you too. At around 3:15, he changed. He wasn't fighting for breath, and his eyes were distant. I called the nurses into the room, and helped them clean him up a bit. They advised me to call my family so I did. After getting off the phone with my brother, the nurse said you should come back in the room now. I went in, and knew he was dying, right at that very moment. I grabbed his hand, kissed his forehead, and said "I love you daddy, you don't have to fight anymore". As I sat there, beside his bed, I watched his breathing slow, and then actually saw the pulse in his neck stop beating. Just like that, he was gone. No sounds. No gasps. No last breath. Just silence. Just me and my father, alone in silence. It brought me great comfort to be there, and hold his hand as he entered into eternity. And it was fitting. Many of you know my father and I had a strained relationship for a long time, so this was like coming full circle. I was honored, and felt it the utmost act of respect, to be there as he left us. My family arrived shortly after, and we all said our goodbyes.
There are so many amazing, blessed, Divine moments in all of this. My father chose, after fighting a long, courageous battle, to enter quietly into the next life. He made his peace with all of us, and us with him. He knew beyond certainty how we loved him, and we knew how he loved us. Not only was it felt, but it was spoken. SO many families never get the opportunity to say goodbye the way we did. He controlled the when and how. That was important to him. He didn't die alone. He spent his final days with those who loved him the most, loving, laughing. He even prayed with me. (He prayed, I fell apart). He awoke with enough sound mind to make decisions we would have been devastated to make. He made requests, and clear directives as to what he wanted to happen. The whole thing was amazing. Profoundly sad, yet profoundly amazing. He was such a big part of our family. Truly the rock, the center. Definitely the strongest man I have ever known, and as if to show us all just how strong he actually was, and how much fight he actually had, we found out a day before he died, that the infection was gone.
The next few days were full of planning, and remembering. I have never felt so close to my family as I did in those days. With respect, honor, love, alot of laughs, and great admiration, his services brought together family and friends. I saw my mother as such a stoic, yet broken woman, holding it together for everyone else. My little brother and sister seemed to be adults all at once in my eyes. (Even though they had been adults for many years at this point.) As I gave his eulogy, I looked out and saw my family. I saw everything my father hoped and dreamed, sitting in front of me in my children and nieces. I saw everything that was important to him, in all the people that were there. I saw literally his whole life, laid out before me, and somehow, even though a cure was not to be, he was healed. He was whole. In every single person who knew and loved my father, in the family that was his everything, and in his grand kids, who he adored, he will live on.
RIP James E. Howe
May 18, 1960 to October 20, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking Life for Granted

As you may have read by my last post, this rash of kids killing themselves because of bullying has really affected me. Not just me, but my wife, and my oldest son, especially. The three of us have talked about it much lately. Also, many of you reading this may know we lost two babies before Emma. (Lillianna and Sarah). That was a devastating loss not just for me, my wife, and kids, but for our family and friends as well. My family has experienced loss. A few of my cousins died as children. All of my birth grandparents have died. (It's amazing, God saw fit to meet that need by blessing me with another grandmother- Grandma Barb) We face mortality everyday with my father's failing health. You'd think that would be enough to make me, or everyone in my family for that matter, understand the value of life. I hate this about myself, but sometimes, I still take it for granted.

It's quite easy to do-losing touch with people close to you, mistreating those close to you, disregarding or disrespecting people we come in contact with everyday, and the list goes on. All of these ways point to one thing- not respecting the sanctity of life. Not loving others, for no other reason than they are created, as you were, by God. I think of how many opportunities to spend time with my family I've missed. How many times I could have supported them a little more, or spent a little more time with them. Instead of watching TV, I could have played a game, or went for a walk with them. As my youngest son turns 8, and my baby turns 2, I am ever more aware of how time is flying by. When it comes to my father, I wonder, have I truly shown him I love him? Do the people who I value and love the most, know that? Does my wife know how much she has changed my life? Do my kids know how much of a blessing they are to me?

I guess I am thinking about this a lot today because of work. I work at a Dialysis clinic. I initiate, monitor, and complete life saving treatments for patients who would die if this were not available to them. Aside from the tasks, I talk with the patients, listen to their complaints, fears, stresses, and sometimes, they tend to take it out on us. It gets stressful at times. It can be emotionally draining, dealing with needy people day in and day out. Also, in a high stress environment, there is also drama, as is the case anywhere. It kind of caught up to me this week, and especially today. As I was discussing the stress and aggravation with my wife, I was overcome with such a feeling of guilt. As I thought about this throughout the evening, Two things occurred to me. One, I chose this line of work, and two, how dare I take for granted, the fact that I have these patients lives in my hands, every treatment. It was enough to almost bring me to tears. I have the privilege, the honor, the blessing, to help others preserve their life, the very thing I take for granted almost every day. Then I started thinking about the petty things at work that aggravate me. And that is what they are, petty. While I am stressed about stupid, petty issues, my patients are stressed about life. How are they going to afford their meds? What about their rent, or mortgage, since most of them can't work? As a matter of fact, my parents included, most of these patients have lost everything.

I have started to address some of this lately. If I am working on projects around the house, I get the kids involved. Not exactly fun, but at least we are spending time together. We have been just having fun, playing games more often. ( Last Friday, we had a three hour game of monopoly!) I've made an effort to re-connect with people. Last Saturday, I went on a date with my grandma Barb. We went to the Casino, had dinner. Had great conversations the ride there and back. It was wonderful. I spent the whole night with my dad last time he was in the hospital. Just being there. I need to get better at verbalizing these feelings to those closest to me, but hey, it's a work in progress!

And as for work, I am truly resolving to never again forget exactly what it is my job does. Not for greatness, not for recognition. It is actually pretty humbling sometimes, especially the patient care part. Before I get agitated about petty things, I am going to remember the huge things my patients deal with every day. An extra minute, some kind words, some encouragement-that is what I will focus on. I truly believe it is an honor to do this kind of work, now my attitude has to reflect that.

Life is precious. We all have experienced loss. We all have opportunities to show others that their life matters. For me, I believe my work, my family, the losses and struggles we have had in our lives, are for a purpose. I think God has used all of it to help me understand the value of life, and the role we all have in affirming that in others. It seems to me I was born for such a time as this.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unspoken Crisis

Its funny how sometimes things in our own life, and struggles we are facing from day to day are really put in perspective when you think of some of the struggles and problems others are having.

My father is in the hospital again, more dead tissue to amputate, more problems with his arteries due to the vascular disease. Still severely malnourished. He's just not doing well. I have spent alot of time with him over the last few days, and the frailty of life has really been driven home for me. He remains in good spirits though, and still made us all laugh a few times. As you can imagine, this has consumed alot of my emotions, and thoughts. Until I read the news online today.

I read of a young man, gifted and kind by all accounts, who was videotaped while engaging in a very private activity. This video was the plastered on the internet, for all of his friends, fellow students, and even family members could see. He was homosexual, and of course this story polarized everyone. You have Christians commenting on how he was distraught over his sexuality, and you have the media saying the internet was responsible. Some blaming the people who secretly videotaped him, some blaming him, and yet others still blaming his parents, for not equipping him to deal with bullies. I was appalled, disgusted, and deeply sorrowed by not only the whole incident, but the level of intolerance and lack of respect for human life that came out of all of this. To me, there is even a deeper issue that no one is speaking of.

Pheobe Prince, 15, Asher Brown, 13, Megan Meier, 13, Jesse Logan 18, Carl Walker Hoover, 11, Jeheem Herrera, 11, Eric Mohat, 17, Jon Carmichael, 13, Ryan Halligan, 13......

These are all young people, kids really, who committed suicide due to out of control bullying daily. We live in a society where if you don't have the latest electronics, nicest house, nicest newest cars, you're not good enough. If you are overweight, you're not good enough. If your gay, straight, christian, muslim, rich, poor, there is always some where, or some group of people you won't fit in with. Some of you may disagree, but that is how the world is. That in itself is bad enough, that we can't love each other, tolerate each other, and respect the sanctity of life. I have very strong religious beliefs, but I could never imagine hurting someone, physically or emotionally, just because they are different from me. As Christians especially, we are called to be loving and serving others, not picketing at parades and funerals. We should be kind, and charitable to every person, not burning Korans, or turning our backs on those in need. Our churches should be safe, warm, inviting places for everyone, instead we have Pastors judging and condemning from the pulpit. What kind of role model are these kids that are bullying others seeing? When did it become socially or morally acceptable to torture someone who is different? Why can't christians love muslims, and be tolerant, and friends with each other. Whether you agree with homosexuality or not, what happened to loving and respecting the person, for the simple reason they are alive? A life given, and created by God? Why can't rich kids befriend poor kids, and speak love and charity into their lives? Our society is creating groups, divisions of people, almost like the cast system in India. We live in an age where information is available at a keystroke, yet there is still intolerance and ignorance everywhere. Gotta have this, gotta be this, gotta wear this. It's sickening, and then we wonder why our kids are killing themselves, or others.

My middle son Nathan is very kind, very caring, and very sensitive. He's all about family, and loving people. Always finding a way to show care to others. His dreams are simple- to stay close to home, get married, and have lots of kids. (he wants 5!lol). Now, here's the other things about Nathan. He doesn't get caught up in the must have clothes, or toys. Whether you are old, young, gay, straight, cool or not, good looking or ugly, he loves you and respects you for who you are. Why can a child do this, but not adults? In reading these stories of these suicides, I though of how gentle and kind he is, and how others may want to tease him for that. I got all choked up, and immediately started looking into ways to equip all of my kids to deal with these situations. The first step is communication. My wife and I will talk with all of them to find out what is going on in their lives. The next step is our kids need advocates. Any issues at school? Call the school, and don't stop calling until the issue is resolved. Demand action. Set a clear and concise message that bullying, on any level, in any form, is NOT okay. Find out if your kids are bullying, and teach them that is an unacceptable behavior. We need to hold our teachers and administrators accountable. They need to step up and deal with bullying head on, instead of dismissing it as part of the usual teenage experience. Honest, frank discussions about bullying need to happen in school and at home, instead of just sweeping it under the rug, or ignoring it. In New York state, there are now laws against bullying. A step in the right direction, but how will they be enforced?

While I can rest assured that my kids will be fine, and I will defend them and support them to the ends of the earth, my heart grieves for these kids who don't have anyone in their lives to fill that role, or the kids won't speak up for fear of retaliation. Who will protect these kids???

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Bright New Day

Before I begin, I want to thank everyone who sent me encouraging messages and texts in response to my post yesterday. Especially my Gramma Barb, My Auntie Lisa, and a friend from way back when, dare I say high school, Melanie. Your words were all kind, encouraging, and reassuring.

So, yesterday, as you could tell if you ready my post, was a pretty awful day. It's funny how God knows us. Every part of us, even our frustrations and hurts. He responds by providing little glimpses of hope and beauty. Sends events our way to help us get over the little bumps in the road, or even better, the words of great people, speaking into our lives. Today dawned a bright new day, in many ways. First of all, the sun was shining all day, with a nice breeze. I love days like this. Its almost like the warmth of the sun touches our souls, and the breeze is like God whispering to us. I love the outdoors, and days like today remind me why. Aside from that, things went fantastic today. I said in yesterday's post that it seems none of us, (me, my wife, my kids) have been working together as a team. Today I got a glimpse of how that really works. Between Emily helping me with getting the tiles cut for the floor project, and JB helping me last night, we got the tiles in, and it looks great. I really appreciated JB's help, especially because it was unsolicited. I didn't have to ask him, he just started helping. My father in law was coming over today to drop off a ladder for me to fix the gutters, and ended up staying for over an hour. He helped me adjust the garage door, which has been a thorn in my side since we put it in over the summer. We talked alot too, which was cool. We don't have many times like that. He asked about my father, and how he was dealing with all of this. It reminded me just how many people actually do care, and are pulling for him. I had a meeting with some great guys from church, ate dinner with the family, and watched some of the yankees game on tv. My wife gave me a kiss and said thank you for all I have been doing around the house. That meant alot to me. I took my practice test for my dialysis certification, and got an 84. All simple, run of the mill things, but that's what I needed today. Simple things to go right. Later in the evening, I went to sit outside and do some reading. I hear Emma at the front door yelling "Daddy, Daddy", so I went to see what she wanted, and she just wanted to come outside and sit with me. As we were sitting on the swing, her curling her little body up in my side, she noticed the moon in the sky. She said all excited " what's that", with her cute little gasp. I said the moon. She followed it up with "pretty moon". After a few seconds of silence, she said "I love you". We just sat on the swing for a little while, cuddling up, enjoying each other's company. It was a perfect ending to a great day.

The whole day reminded me that each day, we are given a clean slate. Each day is a brand new canvas, to paint on it what we want. Each day, regardless of how we mess up, or respond to struggles, God gives us new mercy, for a new day. It also helped me realize that once a day is done, its done. We can choose to carry all of our junk, stress, hurt, frustration, anger, etc... into the next day, but if we always do that, we may miss the chance to enjoy a bright new day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

UGGGH!!!

I wish I had something profound, inspiring, or even remotely positive to write today, but I'm fresh out. I think we're in one of those times when it seems nothing is right. We can't get ahead of the curve on anything, and the more we pray about troubles, more surface. My father's health is still failing. He was doing well for a while, but now it seems as though they are going to have to amputate his other leg. It's frustrating, tiring, and leaves us with an all consuming worry. My wife has been his main caregiver/helper, and has just recently begun to back off a little because things are strained at home. I can't help as much as I'd like with my father, so that's tough. He's been struggling with all of this too, although he doesn't talk about it much. So we worry, we stress. How are we going to handle the care he needs? What about things at home? How is he going to deal with losing his other leg? Will he even survive another surgery? All answers we don't know, and all things out of our control.

Then we have the usual issues at home. It seems like none of us are working together. We have the same issues over and over, and we hit the same wall over and over. The more we try to improve, the more little things get in the way. Its so frustrating. Exhausting too. Even today, as I was trying to work on installing a tile floor, it was one obstacle after another.

I know that sometimes my expectations are the cause. I expect support end encouragement from extended family, but I usually get stress and hurt feelings. Even on my birthday, we cooked dinner for everyone, and Emily and I ate with the kids, while everyone else ate inside. Barely talked to my mother or my father, and didn't get so much as a card. I expect that even though we are sacrificing financially to have Emily stay home, that maybe a nice house, and safe, comfortable times at home would be the norm, but that's not the case. Between dealing with the kid's issues, not being home enough to get stuff done, and the constant worries about my dad, and money being tight, even home isn't safe, comfortable. Then, I get frustrated, and angry, and the whole thing becomes a mess. Uggggh!

So what do we do. Well, the only thing we can do is keep going. We'll deal with each obstacle as it comes, deal with the cards dealt us, and go on. I gotta believe though, that some day, some how, it will be our turn to come out on top!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Innocence of Youth is Lost

I was watching Prime News on Headline News tonight, and was mortified by some of the stories I saw. One of them was two thirteen year old girls fighting over shorts. Full on fist fight, tackle to the ground fist fighting. Were the parents around to stop it? A mom, grandfather, and several other adults were not only there, but they filmed it. In the video, when the girls broke it up, they were heard yelling "round two, get back in there", and things like that. Then, the video was posted on youtube. (The adults in the video were eventually charged.) The next story was about a 12 year old autistic boy who was attacked by three 13 and 14 year old boys. They boy stood there, because he couldn't process what was being done to him, and took punch after punch, kick after kick. All while other kids were video taping it, yes for youtube, and still other kids, laughing at him.

Although these were severe cases, they are a startling look at the fact that innocence is lost in today's youth. I see this everyday with my own 13 year old. My wife and I correct his behavior and his attitude, but we are fighting a losing battle. While we try to instill good, moral, behavior and decision making, it is being undone the minute he watches tv, gets online, or gets around other kids. His reason for not changing his bad attitude and behavior- because if he becomes a "goody goody" as he puts it, he'll have no friends. People will walk all over him, and he'll be a target. How sad is that. I have to tell you, after seeing some of the things today's youth does, and says, and watches, and how they act, I would be ok with him not having friends. This is all a really good argument for homeschooling. Today's youth seems to be all about themselves. Lacking kindness, generosity, and respect. Perhaps we created this with our need to have mentality, and our immediate gratification society. Where are the strong fathers, setting good examples and behaviors? Where are the strong role models? I don't mean to generalize, but where are the good kids??? Where are the kids longing to make a difference in the world? Where are the kids wanting to live above the crap and garbage our world is peddling? I don't mean to generalize, but are they out there??? Teen pregnancy is on the rise for the first time in decades. Drug use is on the rise. Teen drinking is on the rise. It is scary.

I love kids, and always have. I have always been an advocate. Most of my ministry has been to kids and youth. It absolutely breaks my heart to see our youth in such a state. I will continue to fight for my kids, teaching them to be good, moral people, no matter how different that makes them. I will continue to pray for all of today's youth, they need it. And to anyone with kids and teens in their lives, reward good and moral behavior. Show them that is what matters. Be examples of that kind of living to them. It is hard, but it pays off, and I know for me and my wife, we with four kids, we have a lot at risk.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Power of A Child's Hug

There seems to be certain days where everything that you are going through, or everything you are struggling with hits you all at once. Today was one of those days for me. For some reason, today was the day that I began to feel the demands and expectations that my side of our family and my wife's side of our family are too much. Today was the day that I feel like no one takes into consideration how my wife, my kids, or myself are affected by other's lack of thoughtfulness, or selfishness. Today was the day that the stress of caring for an ill parent, and the strain it is putting on my wife and I emotionally, physically, and financially, became overwhelming. Today was the day when it seemed loneliness crept in, and that the people in our lives who love us, love us with strings attached, or with expectations of what they can get. The times we are shunned-all hit me today. The times we are taken advantage of- all made me mad today. To top this all off, it was a horrible day at work. Heavy patient load, two patients had to be sent to the hospital, and it was just plain old, run all day busy. School starting, and the holidays right around the corner rounded it out quite nicely. To be blunt, it was a perfectly crappy day. But then something happened-something amazingly simple. Something ordinarily profound.

I left the back door to work, to head out to the parking lot. My wife was there waiting, and her, and all of the kids, as well as my aunt were all outside in the grass, enjoying the sun while they waited or me. Once my little girl saw me, she yelled "Daddy!!!!" She began running to me, arms out, as fast as her little body could run. At that moment, that very moment, the earth stopped spinning. The sky seemed more blue. The sun, more bright, warmer, more enveloping. The few seconds it took her to get to me, seemed like an eternity, and time stood still. That moment is burned into my mind like a picture is captured on a film. When she made it to me, I scooped her up, and she threw her arms around my neck and said "I yuv you!!!!!". At that very instant, the world was perfect. All was as it should be. That moment was a Divine appointment, a gift from God, planned from the beginning of time, all because He knew I would need it today. There is something about the unconditional love of a child that amazes me. There is a warmth, a connection, a heart to heart expression that runs so much deeper than a hug, that happens in moments like this. All of the frustration I was feeling, instantly gone. All of the loneliness and hurt that I was feeling from other people, were simply squeezed away. All of the expectations and demands that I was feeling from our families didn't matter all of the sudden. What mattered was me and my little girl. It's foolish of me to think that my little girl will always come running to me with open arms, saying I love you. Especially when she gets older, and has to be disciplined. When I make her change her clothes, I'm sure she won't want to hug it out. When I say no boys, I'm sure she won't feel like telling me "I yuv you!" And someday, I won't be the most important man in her life, and she will be running towards her husband with open arms, telling him she loves him. But you know what would be more foolish of me??? Not cherishing everyone of those amazingly normal, seemingly simple moments, where the hug of a child can make the world stop spinning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When I Don't Feel Like It

This week was my 33rd birthday. Age has never been a big issue with me, but for some reason, this year, my birthday hit me hard. Maybe it was because it was a stressful year. Maybe because I have a 13 year old going into 8th grade!!! Actually, I figured out it was just frustration about things I couldn't control.

Anyway, the weekend before this week, I had planned to go on a father and son camping trip with my boys, and some other fathers and sons from our church. Campfires, good food, fishing, swimming, just hanging out being guys. Sounds like fun, right? For some reason, I didn't feel like going. I tried to find excuses to bail. Work? Nope, already had the time off. Kids? That didn't work, I was taking the boys with me. Car trouble??? Many times before, but not this time. It seemed like the one time I actually wanted something to come up, nothing did.

Then take my birthday. Had to work all day. We had planned to have a big family dinner the day after my birthday at my parents house. Before I could object, or find reasons to get out of it, my wife and parents already had the details planned and the food bought. No getting out of it.

For me, I know when I really don't want to do something that involves groups of people, or building or maintaining relationships, that means I need to do it. People were not created to be alone. It is so easy for us to isolate when we are struggling, or trying to work through some difficulties. It's safer to not be around other people when you are feeling vulnerable. It takes less effort to be alone, than it does to be around others. The problem with that is that it isn't healthy. It hurts our soul. While being around others takes work, and at times can seem dangerous, and opens us up to being hurt, it also opens us up to being loved. To being part of community. To being supported and encouraged.

Incidentally, I took my boys to the father and son campout. We had a fantastic time. We caught a ton of fish, had some great fellowship with our friends, and just relaxed. I slept better than I have in months that night. To think that I would have missed out on that if I had given in to my thoughts on skipping the trip. I also did the whole family dinner thing. Actually, I am writing this entry from my parents house now. Had a great day helping my dad, and my wife worked hard to prepare a great meal. And now, actually looking forward to seeing my whole family here tonight for dinner-even though I didn't feel like it!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Father's Son

I found this picture tonight when I was looking through all our digital pictures. It was back from May of this year. It was a good day- Nathan's tenth birthday. My dad felt great this day. He went fishing in the morning, supervised my sister's move, and then a cookout for the party. This picture is especially poignant to me though, because it is three generations of Howe men. All of us are the eldest of our families, all of us share the same first and last names, and all of us are our father's sons.

My father and I have had a very rocky relationship, from a very early age. He was 17 when he had me. We practically grew up together. He was very hard handed, and his way was law. He raised me to be very hard headed and stubborn, especially when I believed in something, so needless to say, we didn't mix well. We would go long lengths of time not speaking after fights. Time that we would never get back, and given his health now, time I would do anything to have. As an adult, I decided I didn't have to take the strife, grief, pain, and anything else I perceived he did wrong, so the routine became he would open his mouth, I would open mine, all hell would break loose, and we wouldn't speak for months. Things would blow over, and we'd repeat the cycle. I of course placed most of the blame on him. That was until I had a very lengthy conversation with my Grandma Barb, who answered questions and explained to me the cycle of abuse he was raised in. That is when I really set out to try to salvage some sort of relationship with my father. We have both expressed our hurts, disappointments, and resentments we had for each other. We've forgiven each other. Healing began. Throughout this process, I realized I was a lot like my father. I truly was my father's son. At first, I thought that was a bad thing. I blamed all my issues and shortcomings on him. Temper?? Yup- his fault. Saying whatever came to my mind, without tempering it, or thinking about how it would hurt?? Got it from him. Making a decision, regardless how unfair, or irrational, then sticking to it- he taught me well. Eventually though, I had to take credit for my own faults, and realize that all those things that hurt me growing up, were hurting my family. My words were tearing my wife down. My "law" was crushing my kids. Could this be my father's legacy?

Now let me tell some of the other things I have learned from my father. I guess the biggest one is that when you are wrong, even if it is years later, admit it, apologize, and fix it. He never misses the chance to do that with me. Some other things I have learned from my father- to be independent. To be strong. To be a good leader. To help anyone I am in the position to help, but not let myself get taken advantage of. (still working on not getting taken advantage of!) My father was always so confident. I remember this one camping trip we went on as a family. Pouring rain, thunder, lightening, wind. We're all dry, in the tents, and where's my dad? Outside, in the storm, making sure the tarps and rain flies hold. I learned how to be a fierce protector. I learned that no matter what the past, everyone has the capacity to change. And throughout his illness, I learned what a family goes through together. I am closer to my father now than I ever have been, and I am so proud of who he is. His strength, love and devotion for his family, and his new capacity for kindness amazes me. I am proud to say, good and bad, I am my father's son.

Now I am kind of at a crossroads with my oldest son. I had him when I was 19, and much like with my father, in a lot of ways, we've grown up together. My desire and drive to make him better than me, have better than I had, and do better that I did, has caused a rift in our relationship. Our relationship is a lot like the relationship my father and I had. He is every bit as pig headed and strong willed as I am. Fiercely independent too. And his mouth!!! Man alive, the kid has got a mouth. But, you know what else he's got??? His loyalty and devotion to his family. His capacity for kindness. He is very confident, and always a leader. He's his father's son. I also see in him a desire to change his temper, and his attitude. Him and I both desire to change our relationship, and not let it get to the point where we are losing time we can't get back.

Now, here's where I put what I have learned from my father to use. Time to admit the things I have been wrong about. Apologize for my words that have hurt. Use my capacity for kindness and love, for those that matter most- my family. Thank you dad, and thank you JB. We're all our father's sons.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Kindness Of Others

As I am sitting down typing out this post, I am wondering if the title is a little off. You'll see as you read that this post is about actions, but I keep coming back to the root of some of the things I am getting ready to tell you about, and the only thing I can come up with is kindness. Maybe because it's the motivating factor. Maybe because it is something so lacking in our society, so when it happens, we have to call it what it is. You'll see by the end, maybe it should be called kindness of others- paying it forward.

Let me start by saying we are getting ready to start collecting school supplies and backpacks for needy kids at a local elementary school. Our church has done stuff like this before, like winter coats and hats, sponsoring a family for Christmas, helping meet a need wherever we can. This one is super exciting to me though because the kid's program at our church, which I oversee, is heading it up. All my kids in my Sunday school classes will be helping fill the backpacks, helping get the word out that this is what we are doing. A couple of them will come with me to drop them off to the school too. A great experience for them, I am sure. Another reason I am so excited about this is because it is another opportunity for me to pay it forward. Now, let me tell you a story.

Last fall and early winter, I missed a lot of work, being in and out of the hospital for seizures and massive headaches. We're talking migraines that lasted for days. After a 5 day stint, I got out the day before thanksgiving, and was cleared to go back to work the second week in December. I used up all of my paid time off, so I took a pretty big hit pay wise. We were in a position to give the kids a small Christmas that year, but nothing special. And, we were OK with that. We decided it would be good for us, and for the kids, to experience the true meaning of Christmas without all of the materialism. Now at church, we decided to sponsor a family, and the week of Christmas, all of us would deliver all of the gifts and holiday foods we had collected to this family. Even though Emily and I were in no position ourselves, we still gave. Nothing big, a grocery card and some Christmas cookies. I had heard our friends tell us about this family. How they had been through so much over the last few years, and they just couldn't catch a break. About how in previous years, they had given so much of themselves to others, helping others, serving at church. I heard them talk about how great the kids in this family were. I was excited to be able to bless such a deserving family, so we all got in our cars, loaded up with gifts and goodies, and caravanned to the family's home. After about a ten minute drive, we pulled into the back side of my neighborhood. I remember commenting to Emily that maybe we knew this family. Then we turned on my street. It didn't dawn on me until we pulled up in front of my house, that the family being blessed so unselfishly, so kindly, was us. I could do nothing but sob as I watched my friends, and people from our church unload box after box, and bag after bag, into our living room, under our Christmas tree. The boys were all crying, and stunned. Completely stunned. I hugged every person that night. We prayed in our living room, and sang Christmas songs. The tree was light, and decorations out. It was perfect. It was magical. It was amazing. Such joy, such love. When I asked my friend, our pastor, why he selected us, he simply said we wanted you guys to know we care. We wanted you to not just have an OK Christmas, we wanted you to have an amazing Christmas.

Even now, as I am typing this, the memory and feeling of that night is choking me up. The kindness of others brought so much hope, love, and joy into our lives. Here's the thing, if it stopped with us, it would have been wasted. Through the blessings we received, we were able to help my sister, who is a single mother, give her girls a little extra for Christmas. We had a wonderful family meal on Christmas night, which was so important to all of us, since my father was so ill. So now, any chance I get to pay it forward, whether with a kind word, or a hug, or just listening to someone, I do. My wife as well. The best part is that my kids even take the opportunity to be kind to others when the situation arises. (If only I could get them to be kind to each other!!!)

That is why I am so excited to be part of an act of kindness where I am the giver of kindness this time. It came full circle. The bible says you reap what you sew, and I have seen that in my life. My prayer is that I never miss an opportunity to extend kindness to others, and my encouragement for those of you reading this, is to do the same. It does something for your heart, and some day, some way, you'll get it back. Be blessed!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inconvenient Faith

I came to a pretty startling revelation today. It hit me at the weirdest time too, right in the middle of my shift at work. As you may have gathered in my last post, I am definitely having a "faith crisis". My relationship with God has been strained to say the least. As I look back to a time when my relationship was God was vibrant, real, living, moving, I realize that at that time in my life, things were great. While we always have financial concerns, (who doesn't), we were stable. My wife and I were both growing in our faith and our ministries. We entered a time in our lives where things at home just fell into place. We were blessed with great friends. Everything was good for us. It was when things started to fall down around us, when I should have held on to my faith, I let it go. In other words, when things were good in my life, God was good. When things were bad, I found myself asking "where is God?"

I have always admired people who have held on to their faith when they had nothing else. People who lived their lives totally believing that God has divinely blessed them. The perfect home, perfect kids, perfect marriage, perfect jobs. On both ends of the scale, I have seen people with amazing faith. Why then, for me, when I started to lose everything, did my faith take a hit??? I used to pray daily, read devotionals with my wife and kids, spend time in the bible. On the outside, I was doing everything a good little christian should do. But in my heart, I never learned to trust God, and lean on God when things were bad. I had very conditional faith. That leads to other issues. How can I be a good representation of my faith, especially since there are so many whack job Christians out there? How can I teach my kids the things of God, when I don't know them? How can I teach others, and minister to kids, when I stopped letting God minister to me?

I don't have any answers for that. What I do know now, is that while my life hasn't gone the way I wanted it to, or expected it to, I am not without blessing. What I do know is there have been time, and situations in my life where I shouldn't have come out on top, or protected, yet I have. And if I open my eyes, and look, and see, God has been trying to get my attention through others. So, that is my quest. Developing my faith to be strong, even when I am not. Developing a faith that still exists, even though things may be falling apart. Developing a faith that isn't dependant on how good things are, but a faith that challenges me to be better, have a better attitude, even when it's inconvenient, or I don't feel like it. Anyone can praise God among blessings, and standing in the sun on the mountaintop. Real faith, abiding faith, is being able to praise God when the storms are raging, and darkness sets in, and your lost in the deepest valley. I want a faith like that.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Barbra Streisand You'll Never Walk Alone .

This goes with the post "At the end of the storm, is a golden sky"

At the End of the Storm is a Golden Sky

So, I have a confession. Although my motivation for this blog was to share stories, and lessons learned in the hopes of encouraging others, I have found that so far, the one benefiting from it the most, is me. There's something about sharing your feelings, getting them out, expressing some things you've learned and are working through that is almost like therapy. Thanks for reading, and sharing this whole experience with me.

I want to talk tonight about one of the darkest periods of my life. In case I don't communicate this point, I will start with it. With every storm, there is an end, the skies part, and the sun shows itself again. At the end of a storm, is always a golden sky. Keep that point in mind as you read this.

Five years ago, my wife and I were blessed to learn she was pregnant with our fourth child. We had made some great progress in growing our relationship, and strengthening our marriage, so this baby was like a reward, or gift for our efforts. The pregnancy never developed, and my wife miscarried. My wife was devistated, and I was dealing with it, but still handling everything at home, keeping our family moving forward while my wife grieved. We had the never ending love and support from many people, and we got through it. We continued to grow in our ministries, moved into a position of youth and children's pastor at a church, and continued to build upon our faith. After two years, Emily was pregnant again. We shared this with our friends and family, and prayed without ceasing. We committed to each other and to God that we would trust him, and we placed the outcome of this pregnancy in his hands. We had our first sonogram. So far, so good. Everything looked normal, and we saw the heartbeat on that sonogram. A few weeks later, we heard the baby's heartbeat. We felt overwhelming joy that things were going fine, still praying without ceasing. The next sonogram showed a healthy fetus, and it actually was moving! Little arms and legs, the baby fluttering all over the place. Due to the previous miscarriage after three perfect pregnancies, the doctors set up a sonogram for the next Friday. The baby was hiding that day, so they decided to try again Monday. Emily told me to go to work as usual that day, no need for me to miss work again. I received a phone call at work from Emily, crying hysterically, and all she could get out was it happedned again. The nurse got on the phone, and explained to me that the baby had died at some point over the weekend. No heartbeat. No movement. The fetus was starting to detach, and fill with fluid. No life. The next days were a blur, filled with heartache, worry, pain, the task of telling everyone what had happened. Although we were surrounded by loving, supportive friends and family, it was the lonliest time of my life. After my wife recovered physically, she made it her mission to not let this destroy her. She talked about it. She even spoke about it at church one Sunday, as part of the message that day. I admired her strength. I respected her resolve. And I loved her more than I ever had. I, on the other had, was not doing so well. As a youth and children's pastor, it was my job, my calling, my passion, to love, care for, help guide and teach kids. Other people's kids. It was my life. I couldn't get my head around the fact that the one thing I love so much in this world, is the very thing that was taken from me, not once, but twice. It took me a while to go back to church, and resume my duties, but I wasn't the same. When my little girl died, ( we named her Sarah), a part of me died too. For months, I mourned. I couldn't get out of the darkness that was around me. I was going through the motions, not really meaning what I was doing, or believing in the faith I had spent years teaching. The storm was brewing, and I was lost.

In February the next year, my wfe told me that she was pregnant again. Fear and panic set in, and I said and reacted in a very hurtful way about it. See, I gave up on having a little girl, I was content with the family I had. My reaction, anxiety, and fear during the entire pregnancy took it's toll on me, my wife, and my marriage. During that time, the church I loved, devoted so much to, closed. I had a very painful surgery to fix my nose, and some sinus issues, and it was a long recovery. Emily and I were really struggling with our marriage, and it was falling apart. The storm was now raging in my life, and I was still mourning the losses of the other two babies. It was very tough for Emily too. She had to take daily injections, which were painful, and medication that made her feel sick her entire pregnancy. Even at 7 months when our closest friends threw her a wonderful baby shower, I was still detached from the whole thing. At 9 months when we finished the nursery, beautifully done for a new baby girl, I was still expecting the worst. I never let my self love the baby. I wouldn't let myself believe it would work out. Then she came. My grandmother (well, she's really my great aunt, but she is more of a grandmother to me than any of mine were) was in the room when she was born. She had never had children of her own, so we wanted her to witness it, and be a part of it. Her love and support helped us through so much, and made us feel loved, to an extent of which I don't think she realizes. All at once, I was staring at my beautiful, healthy, pink little girl. I placed my hand on her back, and stared into her eyes, and in an instant, fell in love. I cried so much that day, out of love, out of relief, out of sadness. My grandmother still says she'll never forget watching me fall in love with my little girl.

Fast forward 18 months. We have a beautiful little girl who is such a blessing to us. She brought so much joy and love to our family. We needed her. My boys needed her. I needed her. I still struggled throughout the year and a half. My faith took a hit that I stll feel. There is this weird disconnect with me and God now. I drank again, after being sober for 7 years. My marriage almost fell apart. Even though I had this gift, the storm was still raging in me. I can say now the storm has past, and I see the clouds parting. The sun is coming out. I realized with the help of a good friend, that I made that second loss of my daughter and idol in my life. I let the loss, not the recovery, define me. I never gave God the chance to heal my heart. I was so focused on the hurt, pain, chaos, confusion of all the events of that year, that I lost track of me. I lost track of what I do have. A wife that loves me, and takes care of me, and my children. Three boys who are just as in love with their sister as I am. Four healthy, beautiful, talented, smart children. A home. A job. My health got better. Wonderful friends. A new church home, where people have spent the last year helping us heal. I'm also leading the children's ministry again, loving kids. I still struggle somedays, but the darkness is gone. I'll always think about the little girl I lost. Here's what I know though, if not for those losses, we never would have been given the gift of Emma. We never would have felt, and understood the true joy and healing she has brought for all of us. And one day, when this storm called life is over for all of us, and the clouds part, I have two children waiting to bring me home, and someday, my famly will be whole, and the two we lost, will meet the one who saved me, my Emma.

No matter what the storm, trust me, after it passes, there will be a golden sky. Check out the video posted today too!

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Three Sons, or The Three Stooges, or Animal House

The joys of having three boys in my household. Indescribable. Truly. We have a 13 year old. ( that's him laying in the snow after he wiped out snowboarding.) We also have a ten year old, over there in the yellow jacket, getting ready to take the plunge on a snowboard. Down below, you will see our little monster, our 7 year old. (he's the one that has green hair.)

Now when I say things get a little crazy at my house, let me tell you a story so you know what I mean. One day when Emily was still working, I picked the boys up at the babysitters. Drove home, blasted some music, acted like a bunch of goofs. Got home, put Aiden down, (he was 3 at the time,) and the phone was ringing. Turned out to be nothing that important, very short phone call. However, in that time, Nathan, who was like 6, got dressed in his full batman garb, cape and all. Just as I was coming back into the living room, I see him, on the outside of the staircase with a piece of yarn tied around his waste, and looped around the banister. As if in slow motion, I opened my mouth, and tried to yell stop, but before I could get it out, he yelled "To the batmobile!!!", and jumped. Now in his mind, I'm sure the fast fall and sudden thud at the bottom were not all a part of his plan. Just as I see him get up and run away, obviously fine and unharmed, I hear Aiden yelling, with his little three year old voice in the kitchen, "I need hewp, hewp, hewp", which translated is help. He had stuck his head in between the arm rest and bottom of one of the kitchen chairs, and couldn't get it out. That was very typical of that time. You'll be happy to know, Nathan no longer dresses up in full batman get up, nor does he repel down anything, and Aiden stopped putting his head into things that he can't get it out of. Instead, we have constant bickering. Pushing, shoving, "don't look at me, mom he won't play my way, dad, tell him to put my guy down, it's not his." And the food they eat, my gosh I am thinking about buying a farm. If I tell Aiden to wait 5 minutes for something, he says but then I have to count to 60 five times?!?!?!?! JB informed me that I am violating his constitutional rights when I punish him for being disrespectful, or as he says, expressing himself. Ya know, right to free speech. One time, my wife and I were working on ways to respect each other, and show love to each other, so at dinner time, she made my plate first, before the boys. This was highly unusual for them, and a frenzy broke out. Full fledged panic. They started reaching in the pan of noodles with their hands, grabbing chicken, it was chaos. Completely hysterical to think about now. And speaking of dinner, our dinner time talk usually revolves around farts, burps, who can throw better, or how many times they got hit in the "nuggets" while playing sports that day. My point is, with three boys in the house, one of them a teen, and one of them a preteen, it gets pretty crazy. Its easy to lose track of how much you love your kids in the craziness of life. But, just when we are at our wits end, and frazzled, and totally understanding the concept behind boarding school, and why some animals eat their young, (kidding), my boys do something exceptional. They do something nice for each other, or us. They console, or play with their sister, whom they all adore. They make cards for my father who is very sick, or they help clean up so we can do something together as a family. Whenever it counts, like a family crisis, my oldest rises to every occasion with a level of maturity that astounds me. My middle son Nathan, somehow, someway, has such an understanding of love and caring, and shows it to people daily, and Aiden never misses a chance to make someone smile. Whenever we are out, or they are at someone else's house, we get such compliments on all three of them. While at times they are crazy, gross, rude, annoying, and disrespectful, there are still other times when they are bright, caring, responsible, funny, compassionate, loving, respectful humans. I just have to be ready to witness it, and look for it when it happens. In them I see so much talent and potential. So much promise. So many dreams I could never fulfill, that they will. So many goals I could never attain, that they will surpass. All children have that. My goal is this: in those crazy times, when I see more stooge than son, and more animal house then home, I'll just remember that they are still boys, finding their way, remember the good things about them, how loving they are to their sister, and be happy that they are my three sons, thanking God every crazy step along the way!!!














Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pruning

I have this tree in my front landscaping called a japanese maple. It is a really pretty tree, and I have admired it, and it has been one of my favorite things about my house since we bought it some thirteen years ago. It turns a deep red in late summer, and then really red in the fall. The shape is quite interesting too. About four years ago, the tree was damaged in an late winter ice storm, and one limb specifically seemed to die off totally. That spring the tree struggled, and by summer, I was worried the entire tree would die.

I came home from work one day, to find that the tree had been butchered!!! Well, not really, but it seemed it to me. My mother in law had cut the tree back. Way back. I was livid! I thought for sure the tree would die, but she said I should trust her, and in the next season, it would grow, and in two seasons it would be better than ever. She was right. The tree almlost instantly got greener, and new buds and branches started to appear. The next season, it changed back to it's red color again, and now, four years later, it is more beautiful than ever. Removing the dead, dying, and damaged parts restored it. Brought about new life.

Before you check out, and stop reading, don't- i'm not just writing about landscaping. I used this illustration to explain to my children why my father had to have his leg amputated recently. My father is ill, a severe diabetic on dialysis. He recently had a quadruple bypass and he has vascular disease to boot. He's also only 50, so his health issues have been exhausting for him, as well as the entire family. My boys seemed especially horrified at the idea that he was having half of his leg amputated. They couldn't understand why, and really felt like he wouldn't be the same papa. Well, after I told them the story about my favorite tree, and how removing the dead, damaged parts saved it, and made it stronger than ever, they understood. They have a new hope for my father, and a new outlook on his recovery. They now see and understand that in the long run, this will be great for my father, and may have very well saved his life.

There is another side to the story about the tree though, another lesson to be learned. It goes for us, our souls as well. How many of us have hurts, bad memories, bad experiences, unforgiveness? And what about disappointments and unfulfilled dreams and expectations? I have all of the above. So many of them were causing me hurt, and affecting every part of my life, my marriage, my relationships with my kids. It was until I did some "pruning" if you will. I had to remove some dead stuff, some damaged areas in my heart in order to have new life again. Am I there yet? No, but i'm still pruning. What I am noticing now, is more growth. More new life. More beauty and joy appearing in my life. See, I too, had to ask God to help me remove the dead and damaged to see new life, new growth. It's hard, and painful, and a long process, but so worth it in the end. If you want to read a good book to help you with your pruning, check out "Freedom from Your Past" by Jimmy Evans. Another great one is "Total Forgiveness", by RT Kendall. I should warn you- these books are life changing, so get your work gloves on, get out your pruning sheers, and prepare for some new growth. Be well!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Randy Newman - Feels Like Home

Feels Like Home to Me

There are so many sayings and songs about home, home sweet home, no place like home, home for the holidays, the list goes on. And songs too, like "Sweet Home Alabama", and "I'm Goin' Home", "I'll Be Home for Christmas". The list goes on. Let me ask this- is home really a place? Is it a location? For me, it is a feeling.

A while back, when I was going through on of the darkest times of my life, and one of the most lonely times as well, I remember the only place I felt safe, secure, somewhat whole, was home. But it wasn't at my house- it was wherever my wife, and my kids and myself were all together. Whether it was home, church (we spent alot of time there in those days trying to find answers), at our family's houses, with friends, whatever, I was fine, as long as my kids were all there, and my wife was by my side. I was home. My wife and I had the most loving, supportive, caring friends anyone could ask for, but even if I was with them, and away from my kids, I was lonely. They weren't home for me.

And even in the times when I was on my face, crying out to God for help to ease the pain of an unimaginable loss, it still didn't give me the comfort I had when I was home. Even through the most exhausting times when we weren't sure my father was going to make it through another surgery, or when I was going through my own health issues, and spent almost a week in the hospital, my comfort was knowing that once I was back with my family, I was home.

See, it's the comfort of being able to hug someone who has unconditional love for you, even if you've just punished them, or argued with them. It's the feeling you get when you see your kids smile and laugh. And when you're hurting, or they're hurting, a touch, a comforting word, or just holding each other, heals the heart. When we lost our daughter before Emma, we did alot of that. I remember one night after Emily had come home from the hospital, and the kids were in bed, I was doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. That's when I cried, and grieved the losses we had. Nathan, our middle son, who is also our most sensitive and loving, came up behind me, held my hand, and said "Daddy, I can sit up and cry with you.". And he did. He was 6, almost 7. I was home. There is a song by Randy Newman, called "Feels Like Home". I posted it on facebook, and here as well. Listen to it, and I hope you all can go to that place that is home for you. Be well!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beauty and the Beasts


So, having three boys has been great! Camping, fishing, rough housing, (ya know, pillow fights, wrestling, kix cereal wars- the kids where ya load your mouth full of them and spit them out like a machine gun-good fun, ask Emily!!!) Boys are easy- keep them busy! When you are going out in public, make sure they are dressed ok, and that they don't smell, well, like boys! I mean there are very valuable identities you have to pass on, and valuable traits and lessons you have to teach them, but overall, boys are straight forward creatures. We had it all figured out- then came Emma.


She is truly a beauty among beasts! Even now at this young age, she has a need, a desire to feel pretty, and have other people tell her she's pretty and make a big deal out of it. She can be rough and tumble when she is playing around the boys, but when you put a dress on her, her whole attitude changes. She ever walks differently. This past weekend we were getting ready to go out, and she picked out her dress, her shoes, had to have her toenails and fingernails painted, and it dawned on me. I suddenly had such an understanding of a basic need that every woman has had since the beginning of time- to feel beautiful. The issue I have is that we must as parents, as husbands, as brothers, and MEN, make women feel beautiful, not for their physical appearance, but for who they are. Media, TV, magazines, etc...they do quite a job making girls from such a young age feel inadequate. I don't have the answers to this dilemma, but I do have such a better understanding of it now, being a parent of a little girl, who is perhaps the most beautiful thing God has blessed me with in this life.


So, after you read this, find something beautiful about your wife, your mother, your sister, your daughter, and tell them. Tell them they are beautiful, for that. Tell them they will always be a beauty among beasts!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Introductions

Here we are! The Howe family. I'm Jim (in the hat and sunglasses), my wife Emily, My oldest son JB, (he's 13) is holding our youngest, Emma. (she's almost 2). In the orange shirt is our 10 year old son Nathaniel, and in the striped shirt is our youngest son, Aiden, and he is 7. As you may have guessed, we have our hands full. We're pretty young parents (32), we had our first child young, which presented challenges we'll discuss later. We've encountered struggles along the way, experienced amazing blessings, abundant joy, some heartache, and discovered a true faith. This is the journey we'll share with you throughout this blog. You'll hear from my wife sometimes, and from the kids too. We are by no means a perfect family, and we will never claim to be, but we are probably the most real family you'll meet. Life is messy-it's not perfect. Struggles aren't a sign of weakness. Coming through them together, and in tact, is a sign of strength. It's our hope that through our stories, our victories, and our lessons learned, others can be encouraged. You'll laugh with us, might even shed a tear or two. Welcome to our life-just less perfect!