Let’s Go!

I love being a dad. Totally. I love being a husband too and I’ll share that journey with you in the upcoming book but I find fatherhood to be one of the most intriguing things I have ever done.

I have loved watching Izzy grow over the past year in a half for many reasons but one thing I have been dwelling on has been her sense of adventure. For being a year and a half old, she packs a “get up and go” attitude that I’m actually jealous of. She’s a bold kid and I love that about her.

Izzy says a lot of things that sound a lot like an Ewok but the words she has down in English, she nails. Of these, her proclamation to “Let’s go!” just wants to get you moving. It has lit a fire in my belly a little to grow this adventurous heart. This past year we started to tackle the 22 county parks around Buffalo, packing up the girls to go explore and marking off the map with tacks on the cork board. I’m already thinking about what’s next on the board, what experiences to share with the family, where to go, what to see.

One of the greatest tales of adventure ever written, in my humble opinion, is the combined works from J.R.R. Tolkien of, “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”. Reading the trilogy a couple of years ago and now going through “The Hobbit”, I’m just fascinated at the way Tolkien attracts the adventurous heart. It tickles a string that tells you, “Let’s go!”. I think when I get caught up in the ins and outs of life; paying bills, going to work, routine, we lose a little bit of that adventure imprinted on our heart. Sometimes all we need is a little hobbit to say “Let’s go!” to get you moving.

“I want to see mountains Gandalf, mountains.” – Bilbo Baggins

The Discipline Series: Interview with a Corrections Officer

“Without structure, you invite anarchy”

I sat down with Tom Ahearn, an active member of St. Greg’s parish, for a cup of coffee and conversation about discipline in his life. There are a few things you need to know about Tom. Tom is a solid guy. Physically and spiritually. Shaking his hand can be compared to grabbing a bear paw. As a retired corrections officer, he still has the means to flip you upside down. Instead, he uses his heart to make a difference in people’s lives.

All too often we banter back and forth around the cafe with double or triple helpings of sarcasm. You can hear his lighthearted laugh from a mile away.

A: Thanks for joining me today Tom. Tell me about your career working in corrections.

T: I worked at the jail for 20 years. It was a tough role and there was a lot of peer pressure that leaned on my conscience. How did I get to that point? My father was a Buffalo firefighter and we grew up on the East Side. My neighbor, Mr. Simpson was a police officer and was a huge influence on me. I looked up to these guys. They served people everyday and saved lives. I first signed up as a young man to take the civil service exam but the blizzard of 77 canceled it that year. In the meantime I had to buy my time and worked as a manager at a shoe shop.

I took the test for correction’s officer in 1982, I didn’t study and earned a whopping 70%. That’s low but the demand for the position ended up scooping me in. I started in the academy and then completed four weeks of on the job training. Spent the majority of my career at Attica jail with some tough guys. The pay was low but the benefits were very good. It really helped me take care of my family.

Sometimes I see my life as a contradiction. There are times when I think about the things I’ve done at work where I have slipped. As I’m sure you can imagine, prison life is not easy. I’ve been hard on people. Sometimes I would say, “the ends would justify the means and the means justifies the end,” just to get through. It’s difficult to be in a toxic work environment that challenges your faith. I would go to my priest and ask, “how can I do some of these things and be a good person?”

I was injured a number of times, broken nose, knuckles, two total knee replacements. I always went back to work after because I needed to take care of the family. My family is what keeps me focused. Eventually the injury’s finally caught up with me and was officially retired by HR.

A: What keeps you on track?

T: 1. My wife.

I had a great career. I learned a lot about politicians by being the vice president of our union. There are honest ones, fair ones, and liars. I could have gotten into politics and was tempted to. I was invited to run for office a number of times but my wife always said “over my dead body”, and she meant it. So that was that but I found later that it was her disciplining me. I listen to her and trust her judgement. Janet has always encouraged me to keep going through law enforcement but when it came to politics she saw something else. The saying is true, behind every good man is a great woman. She keeps me grounded. She actually brought me back into the Church when I was younger. I found that I was straying but when I met Janet, she kept me on the straight and narrow.

From there I kept getting involved with the Church in various roles from parish counsel to helping with the Eucharistic Ministers. Janet was always behind the scenes but was stronger and smarter than I. If discipline is a backbone, Janet is my backbone. It’s important to get each others back when we are running short. To keep each other disciplined. That’s marriage.

“If discipline is a backbone, Janet is my backbone.”

2. My father.

My father’s discipline in prayer was instrumental in showing me how to be diligent. Being Irish Catholic was unbelievable. We knew how to have a good time but you wouldn’t mess with the faith. He would have us go to church every Sunday and build prayer into our routine as we grew up. This stayed with me as I grew up. Before he passed, he had a Catholic prayer book by his side in the hospital room while waiting for his surgery. I’ll never forget that he carried this faith to the end.

A: What would you want to share with people about discipline?

T: You can look at discipline through a variety of ways. Life, family, church, and prayer. Without structure, you invite anarchy. Prayer is a great way to build that structure. I love the liturgy of hours, a discipline where you pray at certain hours with those around the world. I grab a cup of coffee in the morning and sit down for my prayer time.

If I can give one piece of advice, live your life with Jesus at the head of it. The rest will fall in place.

The Discipline Series: Interview with a Hospitality Executive

I had a phone interview with Paul one evening back in March in the midst of my Exodus journey. Paul has been a part of our family for twenty years, recently celebrating his twentieth anniversary to my cousin Jenny. Some would call him a Legend.

I wanted to talk to Paul about discipline because he is a man who carries a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders; A man of God, a husband, a father, a younger grandfather, a high-level leader at a renowned hotel in Pittsburg, a missionary, an athlete. When you talk to Paul, he’s a very down to Earth kind of guy. Fun, engaging, and humble. I wanted to know, how does he do it? How does he keep it all together? Find out with me through our conversation below.

A: Where are you most disciplined in your life?

P: It’s all about preparation. Setting up a good day starts the night before. Getting a good night sleep, not eating bad stuff. When I’m tired I eat bad stuff and it takes me off of the right road. I try and get up early enough to spend time with my wife, that really sets the day off well. However, there are times I just run out the door and I miss that. It just slows me down when I don’t have that priority right. My family is everything.

Starting in January I’m going through the bible chronologically. It offers great commentary and starts great conversations with my wife. For example I started talking about Moses recently, like, “who was Moses to throw those stone tablets?”

You have to find what works for you but setting up the morning is really helpful. There’s a guy I know who is up at 3am to make time to pray. On the commute time into work, I will listen to MercyMe or something like that, that will get me into a prayerful mood. When I get to work, it’s go time. No chance to pray. I’d be fooling myself if I thought I could. Work can be so distracting that I can’t focus on a conversation with the Lord. When I am on the train coming home, I find that is a good time to decompress from the day.

A: Where are you least disciplined in your life?

P: Weakness, spiritual weakness. When I let the world take over, bury me in stuff. Worldly stuff that distracts from what my priorities are and takes my eyes off the prize. We all have that stuff right? Name it.

Sometimes you need to slow down and take time with the family and the Lord. I know I have to carve out time in the morning and have spiritual grounding. I don’t read the bible as much as I should but wow I feel the difference when I am making the time. When I know tasks are piled up at work I am lured into running out the door with out making my time.

I don’t go through the day as Mr. Wonderful but I can be discipline at work with language and getting stuff done. When I have a good solid start to the day, then I can go through the day with more strength.

A: As a family man, where does discipline fall for you?

P: My goal is to raise a Godly family. You can’t fake it and that is the driving force for me to stay sharp and be the best guy I can be. Discipline with work starts with my wife. She gives me a lot of latitude and we see eye to eye. We’re on the same wave length. When I say “I have to do this for work” she understands and makes the room for it. So that understanding makes me want to come back to her and help her more. It makes me want to be a better man and take more responsibility at home.

This effort and respect into the relationship has made it easier to stay disciplined and focused on the home front. I don’t look at it as a chore or task, I want to be there. This is engrained in me.

A: Where have you grown the most in the last 20 years?

P: I’m sure if you would have asked me 20 years ago when I was dating Jen, my answers would be totally different. Definitely as a husband. Being disciplined in who I surround myself with. I want to be better for her. I want to stay disciplined for Jen and live with integrity.

A: How do you think others can achieve growth now?

P: Prayer. Other guys, the right guys. Accountability with good men going through the same time. Sometimes machoism gets in the way. It helps to hear from those who have been there and done that. You have to pick a solid group or even one bud that you can talk seriously with and be honest with.

But it’s tough to be vulnerable and have an accountability partner. It takes time and it’s relational. When you find that group, hold on to them. Invest in that time and don’t lose touch. We didn’t call it accountability but we knew each other so well that we would know something is up if we’re out of sorts. It’s not just about required questions but it’s all about knowing that person well.

A: What else is important?

P: We need encouragement as men. We need that and it makes discipline possible. Jen builds me up and gets me back in the game. We’re not meant to do this alone. Like Iron Sharpens Iron. I want to be that warrior, the more you learn about your purpose the more you want to be a better warrior. That faith grounding is your identity.

Christmas season – Vocational thoughts

As I sit at Delta Sonic waiting for an oil change for Ani’s car, I thought I’d put together some thoughts I’ve been having over Christmas. It’s the second day of Christmas and my true love sent to me, one adorable family.

I didn’t think it was possible but I’ve been growing more in love everyday with my wife and baby. Both surprise me more everyday. Ani has been having a tough go with sleep lately but regardless, still has a glow to her. Izzy just keeps getting cuter everyday. She is becoming more aware and audible, melting my heart just over a week ago with her first “dada!”.

I was sitting down with the girls Christmas morning opening Izzy’s first gift, a dolly, and I just had a moment where I couldn’t be more greatful for my vocation of marriage. Me and my girls, sitting on the floor by the tree, just having fun. I just took a mental note. God has done wonders through this marriage to my heart as I continue to discipline myself to be the husband and father I’m created to be. God is good.

The girls and I will be representing the Holy family tonight at St. Greg’s and I’m just reminded of St. Joseph’s example. As a young dad, I’m sure he had his fears like the rest of us. Some relatable and some not. Relatable, how am I going to put food on the table? Not relatable, how am I going to raise the Son of God? 

He did it one day at a time, trusting the Almighty in his labor and love. So tonight, I will huddle with my wife and kid among live animals and hay, dressed as St. Joseph and just give my trust and thanks to God. 

It’s a…

 

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Ani – July 2, 2016, happiest day of our lives. A year of careful planning and lots of prayer had brought us to that joyous day. Everything, from the beautiful ceremony, to the fun and energetic reception, was perfect. We were so blessed to be surrounded by our family and friends, we could not have asked for a better day.

Our honeymoon was just as amazing as our wedding day. From Miami, to the Keys, to the grand finale in Orlando, visiting Disney and Universal Studios. During our three years of dating, we were always so busy and had very little time to spend together. It was so nice to get away and spend 11 days alone together.

Before getting married, we of course discussed the topic of having kids and raising a family. We were open to having children whenever God blessed us with them, however we didn’t expect anything right away. What a surprise it was during our honeymoon to discover that there was a good chance we were pregnant. We were not certain, but there were many signs pointing us to that conclusion. Adam was ready to purchase a pregnancy test before we even came home from the honeymoon, however I was stubborn and thought we should wait until we got home. I had always planned on surprising Adam with a positive pregnancy test one day and figured I could still do that when we got home (even though I think he was more convinced than I was that I was pregnant).

Checking into our first hotel, there was a darling receptionist with a beautiful name: Marisol. From that point on, the running joke (from Adam) was to rub my stomach and exclaim “Marisol!” even before there were signs of me being pregnant. We both agreed we really liked the name (we looked up the meaning and loved that it was a version of Mary, both of our mom’s name) and that we would use it some day for our future daughter.

We kept the name to ourselves, even after discovering we truly were pregnant and later shared the news with our families. We wanted to be surprised regarding the gender and wanted to surprise everyone else with the names that we had picked out. Marisol was the only name that we had agreed upon.

The joy that we experienced on our wedding day overflowed into our honeymoon and continued into our return home. We were on cloud 9, life could not be any better and we could not be any more blessed.

Adam – One week after returning from the honeymoon, I had to leave my bride and growing baby for two weeks. I was leading a group from our church on a pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day. While my mind was on work and travel, my heart and prayer was dedicated towards my new life as a husband and now as a father. I prayed for the grace to be a good dad and for the safety of our little one. “Happy, healthy, & holy” was my daily prayer for Marisol. On our last day in the mountains, I picked up a stuffed lamb as a keepsake to bring home for the baby.

On Sunday August 7th, we announced our exciting news to our parents and siblings. We carefully planned how to reveal the news right down to catching their reactions on a Youtube worthy video. The reactions were priceless.

Ani – August 9th, two days after sharing the joyous news with our families. I went to the gym just like any other Tuesday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary, until I went to the bathroom after my workout. Nothing could have prepared me for that moment or the events that followed.

When I finally got home, I became very upset to find that Adam was not home. When I got ahold of him, I could not form words. Just uncontrollable tears. Tears that I have never cried before in my life. He assured me he was on his way home and coming as quickly as he could. I finally made my way into the house and after taking a quick shower, collapsed on the couch and cried some more. When Adam got home, he came and held me. We sat there and sobbed together as reality set in, our baby was gone. I finally composed myself after a while and asked him to call the doctor. They told us our best bet was to just go the ER. We were slightly optimistic after being told that sometimes severe bleeding can happen and it doesn’t always mean a miscarriage. A few tests later, our worst fears were confirmed. Marisol was gone.

There are no words to describe the feeling of losing a child. I was approximately 5-6 weeks along. While many have tried to assure me “at least I wasn’t further along,” a loss is a loss, and I will never get to meet my baby in this lifetime. I will never know if Marisol was really a girl. I will never get to see her walk or talk, or throw her a first birthday party. I won’t know her likes and dislikes, who she will become, will she be a Zumba girl like her mom? That is an inconsolable pain that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

I am truly grateful for the love and support of our family and friends who shared in our grief and took care of us in the days following. Most of all, I am so thankful to my amazing husband, who was just as heartbroken as I was, but remained strong through it all so he could take care of me. We experienced a lot in less than two months of marriage. Even though this was the most difficult thing I have ever had to experience in my 26 years of life, I am thankful for the bond it created in Adam and I, and for how much it strengthened our marriage so early on. I got to really see his heart not just for me, but for our baby, a love that is so beautiful, pure, and strong. I would never choose to go through this, and I truly hate that I did, however I could not ask for a better man to walk through this with.

Here we are, two months later, the pain is still present, and the tears still fall. It is really hard for me to make sense of how I am feeling most days. I have never experienced so much anger towards God, and I am not sure what to do with that. I know He can take it, and one day He will heal my heart and soften it again. Until then, I have an incredible man by my side who I know is praying for me alongside family and friends. This is not something we will ever get over, we will carry this for the rest of our lives. But we have each other and the hope and promise that we will meet Marisol someday. Until then, we have an angel watching over us.

Adam – Learning more about miscarriages, I’ve come to find that it’s a common experience, with 1 out of 4 pregnancies ending this way. I know friends of ours that have walked this path too, some experiencing it multiple times. It has been a part of the healing process to talk about it with them. It helps to know we are not alone in it. Sisters Hospital also has a great support system and a memorial in honor of all of the babies who were lost. Another antidote for anger has been a beautiful lesson in spiritual direction on Job. Perhaps a conversation for another time…

I wish our reveal to you was different. While so much hope was built and lost we know that God “walks through the mess” with us. This is still a message of hope. We hope that our experience can help others as well. We’re available to talk and walk with you too should you find yourself in this mess.

God bless,

Adam & Ani