Lucky Number 13 August 1, 2011Posted by Matt in family.
Tags: 13th anniversary, marriage
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On this day thirteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to take Diana Grogan as my wife. It’s true what they say, time does fly when you’re having fun and, might I also add, when you’re being loved.
We won’t see each other except in passing today because of our opposite work schedules, but Friday night we did get to go out for a bit and celebrate. In case you were wondering, we ate Japanese food, saw the new Harry Potter movie, and then went home for a few games of Super Mario Bros 3 on the old NES. It was a good night.
Off to Camp July 11, 2011Posted by Matt in family.
Tags: family, summer camp
Of all of the carefree childhood memories I have of summers past, one activity that I never took part in was summer camp. I don’t regret that at all because it’s not like I didn’t have things to do between baseball, family vacations, and, later, work. Not to mention that our choices were fairly limited and the idea of spending a week at a church camp never appealed to me.
I say all of this because our oldest child left for a weeklong Episcopal Church summer camp this morning. It’s a new experience for us and it’s amazing to think that she could possibly be old enough for that already.
I’m looking forward to hearing her stories when she gets back home this weekend. I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience.
Goodbye Xena June 6, 2011Posted by Matt in family.
Tags: dogbite, German Shepherd, kids
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For some six months now, she’s been a part of our family. She’s slept in the house, played with the kids, and done her duty exceedingly well as the guard dog she was trained to be. But, there had been signs over the months that perhaps all was not right with her. Perhaps it was from a past that may have been abusive, maybe it was her guard instincts, but for whatever the reason, it became apparent over time that something was not connected properly in her German Shepherd brain.
She’s a very protective dog and a fairly obedient one, but she has these strange snaps where she seems to lose control. We first saw this a few months ago when she bit our friend and priest, Patrick, for seemingly no reason, but after some discussion it was decided that this probably just an aberration in her behavior and life went on. About a month ago she struck again, this time biting the hand of my mother-in-law, but this time, after learning the facts of the situation, we decided that she may have been somewhat justified (the M-i-L tried to take food away from her, a full-grown German Shepherd that didn’t know her). Since that time I had noticed an increase in her aggressive behavior, but we continued to just keep tabs on her and muzzle her when guests were visiting.
Last night, though, was the final straw. She bit our two year old on his foot. Luckily, the bite was not a serious one (but still quite bloody), as we found out later at the ER, but it was enough to put a scare in us and help us realize just what she was capable of. So, today, we will be saying goodbye to our former pet.
Also, it should be said that our cat, Ozzy, will be thrilled by this new development since it will mean that, for the first time in six months, he will not longer be forced to spend the majority of his time in hiding.
Back to the Country June 2, 2011Posted by Matt in family, music.
Tags: country music, Garth Brooks, George Strait, kids, outlaw country
Over the years I’ve tried, many times in vain, to catch the ears of my children with the music I enjoy, to tickle their auditory canals with the tunes that I so love. Most of the times my mighty swings seem to whiff in the air, as the girls stifle yawns or, even worse, giggles.
My children walk to their own beat, though, and that’s actually by design, for we seek to have few constraints put on them as they feel their way through the world, so I’ve been pleased to see them choose eclectic pieces to call their own. Sometimes they plead for Pearl Jam, sometimes they order Outkast, and sometimes, thanks to their mother, they beg for Bon Jovi, but Rachel has decided to incorporate another genre into her repertoire.
Now don’t get me wrong, as just about all Caucasian southerners do, I have a soft spot for the white man’s blues, the music of the common man. I grew up in the 1980’s with the sound of “Amarillo By Morning” as a guide, and started coming of age in the early 1990’s during a resurgence of the genre led by Garth Brooks, but somewhere around ’94-’95, I began to lose interest. The songs seemed to become more co-opted by a crossover, pop mentality that robbed it of the classic fiddle and steel guitar sound, leaving behind a mere shell of its former greatness. Garth developed some strange, schizophrenic alter ego that made crappy music and even Strait seemed to succumb at times. By the end of the decade, I was over it.
As my interest in new country waned, my love for works that predated my birth grew and soon I became enamored with everyone from Hank Williams to the 70’s outlaw country movement led by great personalities like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. I turned to the genre dubbed alt-country including bands like Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Son Volt, and a host of others. Today I still don’t listen to country radio, but my appreciation of the form remains strong.
Rachel, though, doesn’t care much for these artists. She’s not into Willie or Wilco or Johnny Cash or the Drive-By Truckers. No, these hold no interest for her.
Upon hearing of her newly discovered love for the sounds of the South, I dug through boxes of old CDs to see what I might find to placate her, something that she might enjoy and that I might be able to stand. So far, I’ve found Garth Brooks’ “The Hits” and some George Strait, both of which she loves. Last night I went online and downloaded a few more things for her that I could stomach: Alan Jackson, the Dixie Chicks, and a few other songs (I even grabbed one that probably came out when I was her age, John Anderson’s “Swingin’.” It’s still awesome.).
Of course this also led me to realize just how dated I am when it comes to country music. The only newer act that I enjoy is Jamey Johnson and his outlaw persona is not one that appeals to her.
So, I turn to you as readers and perhaps even as fans of country music. What do you think she would like? It can be newer (meaning the last 10 years) or older. I’m open as long as it doesn’t suck.
Her First Concert May 19, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts, family.
Tags: Bon Jovi, daughter's first concert, Memphis
Tonight our 8 year old daughter is going to her first concert.
So, who does a third grader and her mother go see in concert that they are both wildly excited about?
I first saw that he was coming to Memphis some time ago and despite my own level of apathy toward the show, I knew that Diana would be interested. Needless to say, when Rachel heard about it she went bonkers as well and before long their tickets were purchased and the waiting began.
I’m not a big fan of Bon Jovi, but I’m really looking forward to hearing about Rachel’s experience at the show and I’m sure that this will merely mark the first concert she will attend in her life. Hopefully her tastes will “improve” someday and she and I will be able to go together. Until then, I’m just glad it isn’t Justin Bieber.
I remember going to two shows with my parents when I was a kid: the Oak Ridge Boys and Ricky Skaggs/Randy Travis. My first rock concert was Aerosmith at the Pyramid in Memphis around ’92 or so. Steven Tyler’s band was really my gateway to the concert world, though, and soon after that I saw Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, and a host of other bands that came through Little Rock around that time. Over time I’ve had the opportunity to see countless shows and I only hope that my love for live music will filter down to the kids. I guess we’ll find out about that tonight.
Dad the Cereal Killer May 10, 2011Posted by Matt in family.
Tags: breakfast, children, parenting, sugary cereal
Want to know a perk of being an adult?
Growing up we rarely, if ever, got to partake in the calorie-packed goodness of those breakfast items that danced across our television screens on Sunday morning. Oh, how those of us deprived of such pleasures would yearn for those Holiest of morning Grails, those hidden treasures that would constantly torture us with silly rabbits and leprechauns and cuckoo birds, singing their siren songs, beckoning us to taste, as we sat fixated on that magical box of brain-rotting ecstasy with its three channels and occasional static.
Of course it seemed as though none of our friends had to suffer this amount of injustice as they consumed mass quantities of Cookie Crisp and Count Chocula, while pointing and laughing at those of us not fortunate enough to destroy our tooth enamel before lunchtime. No, in our home it was Cheerios or Chex or perhaps Raisin Bran, or later on things like Honey Bunches of Oats. When you think about it, with the exception of the occasional box of Frosted Flakes, there were not even any recognizable cartoon characters on our cold breakfast foods.
After leaving home there were stages in life in which I am probably quite lucky to have not gone into apoplectic shock from the overconsumption of those sugary treats so long denied, to have not suffered massive organ failure from sweetness poisoning.
Then, of course, we had kids.
Soon, the begging begins, “Daddy, can we get Trix? Can we get Coco Puffs? Please, please, pleeeaaasseee?”
Being the progressive, life-affirming father I am, I respectfully reply, “I don’t know, honey, let’s take a look.”
I quickly gazed down at the nutritional information and surely my mouth dropped open and eyes bulged out in horror. “Um, honey, I don’t think this is such a good idea. How about some Cheerios? Or Chex? Or Raisin Bran?”
An Unpleasant Encounter Recounted May 6, 2011Posted by Matt in family, personal stories.
Tags: Baptists, conservative Christians, conversion, disdain for others, unpleasant encounter
Last night we attended the piano recital of our oldest child, Rachel. It took place at this very large Baptist church where her teacher serves as organist and where we attended for a short time after first moving to the area. I’m not going to recount the whole story, except to say that our exit from that church did not go over well with some people and apparently, even more than five years after the fact, there are those who continue to hold us in a sense of disdain.
I arrived at the church before Diana and the kids, so I proceeded to hang out in the parking lot and wait for them. Soon after I parked, though, a van pulled in beside me and I quickly realized it was a family from the church, one whom we had gotten to know during our short time there because they taught our Sunday School class. Being the somewhat friendly guy I am, I jumped out of the car when I saw them and went over to say hello. I should have known something was up when the mother of the family turned her back and walked away without saying a word, but being a bit simpleminded I continued on.
Walking up to the father of the family I stuck my hand out to him and he somewhat slowly and reluctantly took it in a quick shake. “Hey,” I said, “how’s it going?”
“Hi,” he answered back, “haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Yeah, I know, so what’s been going on?”
“Um, well we just had our homeschool graduation and um, well, now we’re here for piano.”
“So,” he said in a forced manner, “Do you still go to church here?”
“No, we’re actually doing something very different. St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.”
At those words it was like an invisible wall had come down between us. The look in his eyes was damning, but to his credit he didn’t say a word, just gave a nod.
Just then the van pulled into the parking lot. Sensing the tension, I called out to her “Hey Diana, Look who it is!”
Diana gave a little wave and a smile and they returned a curt nod. The father of the family then said, “I think we need to go on in,” and they walked on to the building.
“That’s strange,” I said as I turned to Diana, “What’s going on with them?”
She looked at me like I had two heads, “You don’t know?”
She proceeded to fill me in on all the more viscous details I had forgotten about and soon I began to remember a few additional ones, such as the time he told me my soul was in danger of hell because I didn’t vote Republican. That helped put their standoffishness in perspective and helped me see why, for the rest of the time, they did their best to keep their distance from us.
It was a strange meeting and, though I knew we had some differences of opinion, it didn’t bother me to be friendly, not at all, but the coldness from their side was completely overwhelming. So I began to ponder a bit on the more conservative sects of Christianity, about their in-or-out mentality and about how easily they shut the gate on those who differ from them and the only word that came to mind is one that they, no doubt, would wholeheartedly disagree with: cult. But it really is a strange, incestuous (not in a sexual sense, in more of a sequestered, self-propagating one), cult-like mentality that sets up these insurmountable boundaries between themselves and everyone else, effectively shutting the door on all who dissent.
As we sat in the recital hall, listening to the parents recount their various homeschooling endeavors and decrying the rest of the world, I couldn’t help but grin with the realization that I surely don’t belong with these people and it’s kind of funny that we ever thought we would want to be a part of them.
By the way, Rachel’s recital went very well. She did a wonderful job despite her nervousness and she is turning into quite the little musician.
Old Habits Die Hard April 25, 2011Posted by Matt in church, family.
Tags: baptism, correction, universal church
Consider this a slight correction on my earlier post about Easter Sunday and the baptisms of our children.
In the posting, I made the statement that my kids were baptized into The Episcopal Church. A nice lady from our church (the same one whose feet I washed on Maundy Thursday) gently corrected me and said that they are considered to have been baptized into the universal church, not a specific group. I like that sentiment even better.
Coming from a background that is oftentimes best described by its exclusivity, the idea that people are baptized into a specific church, whether Church of Christ or Baptist or whatever else, is second nature. I guess vocabulary will be yet another hurdle that we will need to overcome.
But, I’m okay with that. The idea of a universal church is so much more appealing anyway.
Easter: The New Life is Now April 24, 2011Posted by Matt in family, Holy Week.
Tags: baptism, conversion story, Easter Sunday, family, Sacrament, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
At the conclusion of our Maundy Thursday service and all throughout our Good Friday one, the altar stood bare and naked, devoid of the usual ornamentation to bring about any sort of celebratory mood among the parishioners. And though we attended the Easter vigil at sundown (7:44pm) the night before, it was this morning that the gates were thrown open and the glorifying gaiety poured out across our little spot in Southaven, Mississippi.
Of course Easter is the day on which we celebrate that most important Christian symbol: the empty tomb of Jesus. This idea of resurrection and rebirth permeates the entire service, reverberating through now lavishly decorated nave and embedding itself in the very spirit of all those present. The celebration itself is consummated by the proclaiming of Alleluia, a word not uttered throughout the entirety of Lent, building the anticipation for this celebratory moment of moments.
For our family, this day had another all-important meaning infused into it, for this was the day when our three children would be baptized, thus cementing our place in the Episcopal Church and with the wonderful people of St. Timothy’s. It was a transformative day, a time that will no doubt stand as a turning point in all our lives as we move forward into the world, our newfound faith accompanying us. We were joined at today’s event by my mom and the Dennis family, one set of godparents for our children (the other set, Patrick and Jennifer, were of course already there). We sat on the front row on one side of the nave and the other young child being baptized and his family sat on the other.
We began the morning with the flowering of the cross when the children of the church covered a cross near the altar with flowers (Patrick gave us permission to take them from our neighbors if necessary. He said we could just tell them that the “Lord needed them.”) Once complete, the opening procession came down the aisle and Patrick stood before everyone with energy visibly coursing through him and let out the word that had gone unsaid for some 40 days plus Sundays, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
Following the readings (Jeremiah 31:1-6, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Acts 10:34-43, and the Gospel reading: Matthew 28:1-10), Patrick gave his sermon for the week. His lesson for today’s service was a two headed creature, though he tied them both together well and in a way that I found to be quite profound. As you might expect, he spoke of the significance of the empty tomb and tied it to a discussion of baptism, specifically that of infants. “Baptism, is not for them,” he said as he motioned toward our children on the front row, “it is for us,” and he waved his hands toward the larger-than-normal crowd of parishioners. “They and you are already forgiven. That’s been taken care of. Jesus brought salvation to the entire world. Everybody. So, baptism is not about the individual, it’s about the community.” Baptism is then an affirmation, by the community, of what Jesus has already done for the world.
You know why I love this church? Because I’ve been saying some of these same things for years and it’s nice to actually get some sense of validation.
When the time came for the Sacrament to take place, those of us taking part in the service stood up across the front rows of the building and pronounced that we were presenting them to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. In case you’ve never witnessed an Episcopal Baptismal ceremony, it truly is a beautiful and meaningful thing and one in which the person being baptized, their parents and godparents, and the entire church takes part. It begins with the priest asking a series of questions of those being baptized and of those (parents and godparents) representing them. For example:
Priest: Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
Priest: Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
The questions then go through a litany of renouncing evil and promising to follow Jesus as Lord.
Next the entire congregation renews their own Baptismal Covenant, which is very similar in content to the Nicene Creed, in a question and answer format, and then say a prayer of thanksgiving over the water.
After all of that, it was time for the baptisms. Patrick took one child at a time, holding the youngest ones and letting our oldest two step up to the baptismal font on their own. He then cupped the water in his hand and poured it over the child’s head three times, saying, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”
Following that, he then marked their foreheads with the sign of the cross, saying, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Amen.”
Lastly he presented them to the congregation, saying, “Let us welcome the newly baptized.” The congregation then answers, “We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”
It was really an awesome thing to witness.
The only thing that might have made it more memorable would have been if more family had been able to make it, but my dad injured himself last week, my brother and sister-in-law were out of town, and others declined. We were so glad to have mom there, though, and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything. Even though our practices in the Episcopal Church are somewhat foreign to her, she still wholeheartedly supports us and that means a lot.
So, I guess this means it’s official now. We are Episcopalians. I don’t think we could have made a better decision.
Godparents April 18, 2011Posted by Matt in church, family.
Tags: baptism, conversion, Easter Sunday, Episcopal Church, godparents
Coming from a Church of Christ background, the concept of godparents has always been foreign, seen as just a title reserved for Catholics and mafia dons, but with the baptisms of our children into the Episcopal Church quickly approaching, people began asking us who we were going to choose. First, of course, we inquired about what they are and who should be considered. As with most things, there isn’t a hard and definite answer (one more thing I love about the Episcopal Church), but we found that a godparent is someone entrusted to aid in the spiritual upbringing of another’s children, particularly if something were to happen to the parents. They can be anyone – family members, friends, etc.
Diana and I thought this over individually for some time before coming together to discuss and compare and perhaps build a consensus on whom we would choose in this important capacity. We soon discovered that there would be no need for compromise or negotiation, for we both had the same people in mind. So over the weekend we set out to ask each of them if they would do us the honor of being godparents for our three children. I’ll tell you a little bit about who we chose and why.
Diana and I have had very few good friends as a couple in our 12 years of marriage. I think much of this is probably due to how different we are from each other – I’m more introverted and introspective, while Diana is very open and willing to tell anybody anything. We complement each other well, but I think these differences (and probably others) have long had the tendency to drive others away. So, in the few times that we have had good, close relationships with others, we’ve treasured them above almost anything.
The first couple we chose as godparents for our children are James and Veronica, two people that have been the best friends we have ever had as a couple in the entirety of our marriage. We met them at our former church (where they still attend) and quickly became fast friends. Together we’ve been through a lot and we love them dearly, considering them to be part of our own family.
Secondly, we asked Patrick and Jennifer, a couple who we have only known for about six months, but with whom we have already created a close bond. Though Patrick and I are pretty close to the same age, I look at him as a spiritual mentor, perhaps the only one I have ever had in my adult life and ever since we met them at St. Tim’s back in the fall, our entire world has changed for the better. They have made an indelible impression on us and our lives will never be the same.
Easter Sunday is the big day when our children will be baptized and our place in the Episcopal Church will be firmly cemented. I couldn’t be happier.