Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Transformations #21, Addendum

To sate my readers' curiousity, here is the secret I couldn't tell before.

My wife, as most of my readers will know by now, is was pregnant with our sixth child (see that link before offering your congratulations).

She doesn't relish being countercultural with quite the same passion as I do, and dreading the reaction of those around us who don't understand our lifestyle choice and the priority we put on following the Church's teaching on life issues, she has asked me to keep this news quiet for a bit.  Even with five children, we often draw stares or comments like:

  • "It's called a CONDOM."
  • "Time to tie those tubes!"
  • "Are you done?"
  • "Was it planned?"

I can't even begin to convey how offensive I find such remarks.  They a complete invasion of our privacy and quite rude. No stranger in the supermarket would ever dare say to a family with no children, "Are you infertile, or just selfish?"  So where do they get off making such comments about families with lots of kids?

At any rate, my wife and I had a bit of a dispute over how appropriate it was to hide our news from the people in our lives who don't 'get' us, and I agreed to postpone our formal announcement until a time of her choosing.  This was a difficult decision for me, and I made it by sheer act of will for the benefit of our marital harmony.  That act of will is the growth moment which I could not share before.

The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Taketh Away

For those of you who weren't aware, we learned on June 16 that we were expecting another child.

On July 24, during our vacation with my parents at Arlington Beach (pictured above), my wife miscarried after about 2 months of pregnancy.  She's doing fine physically and is recovering emotionally.  So am I.  We have named our little lost one Rita Hope Kautz.  We were able to baptize the remains, and also received a blessing from the priest after Sunday Mass at the nearby Catholic Church in Strasbourg, SK - St. Rita's Parish.  We chose the name Hope because this baby arrived in our lives at a time of renewed hope in our marriage.

As you shared in our joy at the announcement of this baby's conception, we invite you now to share in our sorrow.  We commend our lost daughter to the care of our Father in heaven, and to the company of her sister Rachel.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transformations #30

At my work, the owners have set up a lending library.  The original idea, which unfortunately has lost some steam lately, was that employees would be required to read one book per year which would help them find deeper wells of inner motivation.  It's a great concept, but in my two+ years there, I've only been assigned one book - The Fred Factor.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and there are a lot of great gems inside it.

For some time I've been petitioning the president to add Lior Arussy's Excellence Every Day to the library.  This book was a great help to me as I tried to recover the part of my soul that I lost as I began to succumb to the pressures of mediocrity before I resigned from my last job.  It would fit in quite well with some of the other well known titles and authors on those shelves right now, including John C. Maxwell's Developing the Leader Within You and Max Lucado's Facing Your Giants.  I've just finished the former and have just started the latter.

Most inspiring was this bit from chapter three.  Lucado is describing how Israel's King David, before he became King, was fleeing for his life from King Saul and found strength by praising God.  Lucado extrapolates on this effect:

Wander freely and daily through the gallery of God's goodness.  Catalog his kindnesses.  Everything from sunsets to salvation - look at what you have.  Your Saul took much, but Christ gave you more!

This message resounds with me very profoundly.  Lately my prayers have been along the lines of complaining how busy I am.  With my recent time in our adoration chapel, I made more of an effort to offer up prayers of praise.  I was led to Psalm 94, and God put it into song in my heart, which I hope to introduce to the 12:00 noon Sunday Mass in a few weeks.  This experience of praise was much more enriching than a simple gripe session, and I consider it a lesson learned.

Transformations #29

I admit, I'm a little behind in my announced thrice-weekly schedule of these Transformations posts.  I don't feel bad about it, however, and I don't intend to play the make-it-up-later game.  I'm just taking one day at a time.

That being said, I know that my subconscious has reason to delay posting this particular item.  It knows that if nobody knows about this next step I'm taking, nobody will be the wiser if I give up on it.  So here goes: I've finally decided to tackle the fitness dragon with a little more vigour.  The other day I was doing up the button on my shorts after using the washroom when it popped off, pinballed around the room, and I'm pretty sure landed in the cyclone of swirling waste which was on its way out of my home (i.e. in the toilet).

I liked those shorts.  It's no big deal to sew on a new button, but there's a reason it came off in the first place.

I've asked for a friend who has some experience with exercise to help me design a workout program.  Once I've got a better understanding of it, I'll post again with some more details.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blast from the Past

Years ago - way before the Internet - I had a Tandy 1000 TL computer.  This featured an 8086 processor, less RAM than my old calculator watch, and two floppy drives - for 5.25 inch and 3.5 inch disks.  In its day, it was a very trendy and innovative computer.  Tandy monitors could display sixteen colours using their proprietary technology while IBMs still maxed out at three colours.  It had a bootable ROM, which could launch Deskmate, a program which arranged all your Deskmate applications like the text editor, drawing software, games, etc into windows on the screen.  The actual individual programs needed their floppy disks inserted before you could run them, however.

If you installed a serial port card, you could even hook up a mouse to make navigation easier.  If you didn't want to have to keep swapping discs out when you ran programs, you could install a "hard card" - which was an expansion card with a 20 MB hard drive stuck to it.  I had two of those hard drives, and they both stopped working years ago, when I was still actively using the machine.

This Tandy has been one of the few things I've managed to hang on to since my bachelor days.  I did a lot of writing on it back then, and it was on this machine that my old buddy Phil Chajkowski at Aldersgate College saw me doing journal entries and came up with my nickname "Doogie" which has stuck to this day.  I must have moved sixteen times in my unstable and gallivanting bachelor days, and it came with me every time.

While tidying up the garage, I dusted off the old beast.  On a whim, I hooked everything up and tried booting the computer.  Here's what happened:

So it looks like I'll have to consign this dear old electronic friend of mine to the scrap heap.  It's a pity, but life goes on.  Although I wonder if it's so old that it's become a collector's item...

Transformations #28

I surprised myself when I found out that this will be my 501st post on this blog.  I don't know where the self-doubt I have about my ability to write a book comes from, but it's clearly ridiculous.  All I have to do is write a book where every chapter is about something different and the publisher lets me take five years to write it.

Anyway, on to today's transformation event.  I bit the bullet and tackled the workbench in my garage.  It was a huge chaotic mess.  Considering that I have about 30 labeled drawers in the garage for my various tools and hobby supplies, I've been feeling rather bad about how cluttered the workbench itself had become, especially because I consider myself to be an organized individual.  To those women out there who would shriek in dread at such a tidying project, you must understand that for a man, time alone in the garage is energizing and relaxing.  It's almost a "nothing box" activity.

With all the responsibilities and duties that stream my way each day, I often find it difficult to take some truly relaxing time for myself.  This statement may surprise my wife, but it's true.  So when I made the decision to tackle the mess and informed my wife I'd be in the garage, it marked something new and different for me.  I've observed that the "fun" label I'm assigning to this post is the least used of my transformation labels, especially when it's about something that I'm doing in happy solitude.

Now I have a nice, clean workbench, and part of my soul feels more rested.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to Put a Shirt on a Baby Without Interrupting the Bottle

Over the years I've picked up many useful tricks, insights, and shortcuts on parenting.  Five kids will do that to you.

Here's one.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Transformations #27

To celebrate our 11th anniversary this past weekend, my wife and I secured overnight babysitting and shot off to St. Malo Provincial Park for a 20 hour vacation.  We set up a tent, swam in the lake, cooked our food over an open fire (note to self: bacon grease combusts easily on open fire), and cycled to the nearby Farmer's Market to peruse their wares.

We woke to rain at 5:00 AM on Saturday, but after ensuring the tent was not leaking, fell asleep until the summer heat woke us up again at 9:00.  Campsites are so much easier to set up and tear down when you're not wondering where your three year old is!

Overall, we had a positively splendid time and have pledged to do this once a year.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Transformations #26

This week I did something that I never thought I would do.

My 11th wedding anniversary is tomorrow (woot!).  I couldn't think of anything steel to give to my wife, and I had no other leads.  I wandered into Michael's the other day, looking for inspiration, and suddenly it hit me.

A scrapbook!

My wife is an avid scrapbooker, and she has always tried to get me involved in it, saying that it's not just a thing for women.  I've always told her that because I'm so gifted in the arts and crafts area that if I started scrapbooking I would soon intimidate her, and it's for this very reason that I don't intend to keep scrapbooking (heh). But I wanted to do it this one time, out of pure love.  I picked up a medium sized book with 10 pages in it and a few supplies.

I told her that I was working on her gift and that she couldn't bother me in the basement for the past few nights.  The first night - Tuesday - I spent scanning through old photos from when we met, our courtship, our wedding, the children we've brought into the world, and life in general.  I picked out 34 photos which touched on a little bit of everything and mapped out which ones would go on which pages.

The next day - Wednesday - I took the original photo prints and a USB stick with some digital pictures on it and had them reprinted during my lunch break.  On the way home on the bus, I wrote a couple of poems to put in the book on the first and last pages.  Once the kids were in bed I sequestered myself in the basement again and cropped photos, stuck them on the pages, and added a few thematic flourishes.

Too anxious to wait for our formal anniversary (it's not like sex, where you have to wait for the wedding date), I presented it to her last night - Thursday - and was shocked to discover that she had no idea that I was working on a scrapbook.  She thought I had been doing something with steel.  But she loved it.

It was a profound experience for me, as I was amazed at how my love and affection for her grew as I immersed myself into our memories.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Transformations #25

This weekend my parents and my nephew visited us.  They picked a brutally hot and humid weekend to come, but overall we had a great time.

You idiot!  You shot my hand off!
My nephew Dustin is a neat kid.  His dad - my brother Ben - and I aren't cut from the same cloth, but in many ways Dustin's acorn fell closer to my tree than to Ben's.  One of our common interests is a passion for setting up forts from scrap blocks of wood, filling them with little plastic army men, and shooting them with Nerf dart guns.  OK, this may be more of a thing I'm into, but Dustin certainly enjoyed it while he was here.  Even if he couldn't beat me.

Dustin lives on a farm and hasn't a chance lately to resupply his stock of army men (there are many reasons why a boy's supply of them can dwindle).  We had some time on Saturday, so I took him to Toys R Us to see what they had in stock.

Dustin was my very first nephew; the trailblazer.  I remember when he was just a wee babe, and I'm amazed at how he's grown up so fast.  I rarely get the chance to see him nowadays - once a year, at most.  So it was a neat opportunity to spend some time shopping with him, and to get to know each other just a little bit better.  It's a reminder that there's more to my family than just my family.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Transformations #24

Today I did something I've never done before.

I had a beer.

This may shock some of you, and I'd wager that the split is 50/50 between shocked that I've never had a beer, and shock that I had a beer.

It was a Moosehead Light Lime (check out that website; it's very creative!), at a friend's house for a Canada Day / birthday get-together. The temperature was in the mid 30's, it was smotheringly humid, and there was no wind.

This news may sound unusual for a transformations moment, as typically a man trying to improve himself would be moving away from alcohol. But mine is a special case. Raised as a tea-totaling Protestant, my first sip of alcohol was a glass of champagne at a wedding reception I attended shortly after deciding to become Catholic. I was 23. I believe I had a bit of wine at Christmas that same year. Then someone introduced me to Bailey's and the other creamy liqueurs. I would occasionally try some beer, but could never quite develop a taste for it. This may stem from my taxi-driving days, when I grew to identify the smell of beer with... less pleasant odours.

So today, finishing my first ever bottle of beer, marks a milestone for me.

But don't worry Mom - I won't make a habit of it.