A Daddy’s Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband)

6 April 14

Father Daughter Dance

Dear Cutie-Pie,

Recently, your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in the world. Perched at the top of the list was “How to keep him interested.”

It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior.

And I got angry.

Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to “keep him interested.”

Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul—in that unshakeable place that isn’t rattled by rejection and loss and ego—that you are worthy of interest. (If you can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won. But that is a letter for another day.)

If you can trust your worth in this way, you will be attractive in the most important sense of the word: you will attract a boy who is both capable of interest and who wants to spend his one life investing all of his interest in you.

Little One, I want to tell you about the boy who doesn’t need to be kept interested, because he knows you are interesting:

I don’t care if he puts his elbows on the dinner table—as long as he puts his eyes on the way your nose scrunches when you smile. And then can’t stop looking.

I don’t care if he can’t play a bit of golf with me—as long as he can play with the children you give him and revel in all the glorious and frustrating ways they are just like you.

I don’t care if he doesn’t follow his wallet—as long as he follows his heart and it always leads him back to you.

I don’t care if he is strong—as long as he gives you the space to exercise the strength that is in your heart.

I couldn’t care less how he votes—as long as he wakes up every morning and daily elects you to a place of honor in your home and a place of reverence in his heart.

I don’t care about the color of his skin—as long as he paints the canvas of your lives with brushstrokes of patience, and sacrifice, and vulnerability, and tenderness.

I don’t care if he was raised in this religion or that religion or no religion—as long as he was raised to value the sacred and to know every moment of life, and every moment of life with you, is deeply sacred.

In the end, Little One, if you stumble across a man like that and he and I have nothing else in common, we will have the most important thing in common:


Because in the end, Little One, the only thing you should have to do to “keep him interested” is to be you.

Your eternally interested guy,


A Dad’s Letter to His Son (About the Only Good Reason to Get Married)

6 April 14

Dear Son,

It seems like yesterday you were blowing poop out of your diaper onto your mother’s lap. Yet here we are, on the verge of the birds-and-the-bees conversation. The poop was way easier.

Before we talk about sex, though, I want to talk about marriage. Not because I’ll shun you or shame you if you don’t put them in that order—although I hope you will—but because I believe the only good reason to get married will bring clarity to every other aspect of your life, including sex.

marriage masculinity ego

Photo Credit: bengrey via Compfight cc

Buddy, you’re probably going to want to get married for all the wrong reasons. We all do. In fact, the most common reason to get married also happens to be the most dangerous: we get married because we think it will make us happy. Getting married in order to be happy is the surest way to get divorced.

There are beautiful marriages. But marriages don’t become beautiful by seeking happiness; they become beautiful by seeking something elseMarriages become beautiful when two people embrace the only good reason to get married: to practice the daily sacrifice of their egos. 

Ego. You may be hearing that word for the first time. It probably sounds foreign and confusing to you. This is what it means to me:

Your ego is the part of you that protects your heart. You were born with a good and beautiful heart, and it will never leave you. But when I was too harsh toward you, or your friends began to make fun of your extracurricular choices, you started to doubt if your heart was good enough. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us at some point.

And so your mind began to build a wall around your heart. That happens to all of us, too. It’s like a big castle wall with a huge moat—it keeps us safe from invaders who might want to get in and attack our heart. And thank goodness for your ego-wall! Your heart is worthy of protection, buddy.

At first, we only use the ego-wall to keep people out. But eventually, as we grow up, we get tired of hiding fearfully and we decide the best defense is a good offense. We put cannons on our ego-wall and we start firing. For some people that looks like anger. For other people, it looks like gossip and judgment and divisiveness. One of my favorite ego-cannons is to pretend everyone on the outside of my wall is wrong. It makes me feel right and righteous, but really it just keeps me safe inside of my ideas. I know I’ve fired my ego-cannons at you from time to time, and for that I’m truly sorry.

Sometimes we need our cannons to survive. Most of the time we don’t.

Both men and women have ego-walls with cannons. But you’re going to be a man soon, so it’s important to tell you what men tend do with their ego walls—we justify them by pretending they are essential to being a “real” man. Really, most of us are just afraid our hearts won’t be good enough for the people we love, so we choose to stay safe and protected behind high walls with lots of cannons.

Can you see how that might be a problem for marriage?

If you fall into the trap of thinking your ego-wall is essential to being a man, it will destroy any chance of having an enduringly joyful marriage. Because, in the end, the entire purpose of marriage is to dismantle your ego-wall, brick by brick, until you are fully available to the person you love. Open. Vulnerable. Dangerously united.

Buddy, people have sex because for a moment at the climax of it, their mind is without walls, the ego goes away, and they feel free and fully connected. With sex, the feeling lasts for only a moment.But if you commit yourself to marriage, you commit yourself to the long, painful, joyous work of dismantling your ego-walls for good. Then, the moment can last a lifetime.

Many people are going tell you the key to a happy marriage is to put God at the center of it, but I think it depends upon what your experience of God does for your ego. Because if your God is one of strength and power and domination, a God who proves you’re always right and creates dividing lines by which you judge everyone else, a God who keeps you safe and secure, I think you should keep that God as far from the center of your marriage as you can. He’ll only build your ego-wall taller and stronger.

But if the God you experience is a vulnerable one, the kind of God that turns the world upside down and dwells in the midst of brokenness and embraces everyone on the margins and will sacrifice anything for peace and reconciliation and wants to trade safety and security for a dangerous and risky love, then I agree, put him right at the center of your marriage. If your God is in the ego dismantling business, he will transform your marriage into sacred ground.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage? Marry someone who has also embraced the only good reason to get married.

Someone who will commit to dying alongside you—not in fifty years, but daily, as they dismantle the walls of their ego with you.

Someone who will be more faithful to you than they are to their own safety.

Someone willing to embrace the beauty of sacrifice, the surrender of their strength, and the peril of vulnerability.

In other words, someone who wants to spend their one life stepping into a crazy, dangerous love with you and only you.

With my walls down,


Letter To My Daughter (From the Makeup Aisle)

6 April 14

Dear Little One,

As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like:

Affordably gorgeous,


Flawless finish,

Brilliant strength,

Liquid power,

Go nude,

Age defying,

Instant age rewind,

Choose your dream,

Nearly naked, and

Natural beauty.

When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.

But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning:

Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.

Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.

Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your glovesoff. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.

Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.

Age defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit.

Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom, and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you.

Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you—the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them.

Where are you the most beautiful?

On the inside.

From my heart to yours,


Movin’ On Up

22 March 14

Well, I decided to do it. As of yesterday (officially) I began my Upper Elementary (4th-6th grade) training in Montessori Teacher Education. This is something I have wanted to do ever since I completed my Lower Elementary (1st-3rd grade) 2 years ago. Now with the opportunities available to me in Oregon I felt there was no reason to wait.

The duration of the program is 9 months, (as was the last program, and I completed it in 6 months). If you are intrigued by any of this and would like more information you can visit the North American Montessori Center and take a look for yourself. I really recommend this program because of the distance learning aspect. Otherwise I would have had to spend a lot of time away from home and across the country to complete these trainings. My first set of assignments are due on 18 June, but hopefully they will be completed before then since (hopefully) we will be out of AZ by then, we shall see.

We had an open house last night and there seemed to be some interest according to our realtor, so we will see what the next few days. I’ll keep updating.

Blessed Mother Olga (Michael) of Kwethluk

16 March 14

Blessed Mother Olga (Michael) of Kwethluk
Her Life and an Akathist


Note: From the time I saw the icon (above) of Blessed Matushka Olga something resonated with me. I can not describe it, but as others who have experienced this have said, “There was just something about [her]. The holiness just exudes from the presence of the saints of God.  This is the same with Matushka Olga. 

Her Life

Olga (Arrsamquq) or Olinka was not a physically impressive or imposing figure. She bore eight children who lived to maturity, delivering several herself, without the assistance of a midwife. Her sons and daughters cannot recall that she ever raised her voice to them. Real People do not shout. With a large family and a husband often traveling to one of the dozen villages entrusted to his pastoral care, Matushka was always busy, but not only with her own household chores.

In addition to sewing Father Nicolai’s vestments in the early years, and crafting beautiful parkas boots and mittens for her children, she was constantly knitting socks or fur outerwear for others. Hardly a friend or neighbor was without something Matushka had made for them. Parishes hundreds of miles away received unsolicited gifts, (traditional Eskimo winter boots, “mukluks”) to sell or raffle for their building fund. All the clergy of the deanery wore gloves or woolen socks Arrsamquq had made for them.

As her children grew up and married, Matushka Olga had more than two dozen grandchildren upon which to lavish her hand crafted treasures, but she never restricted her generosity to her own relatives. Week after week she prepared the eucharistic bread (phosphora), serving as the principle agent by which the created universe was transformed into an offering to God at the village Liturgy. Her knowledge of services was exceptional. Not many Orthodox today have committed to memory the entire service for a major Feast, but Matushka Olga knew the hymns of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Pascha by heart in Yup’ik. Whenever a visiting priest entered her house, she hurried to don her scarf and approach with her right hand on top of her left, palms upward, requesting a blessing.

Increasingly freed from domestic chores as her remaining daughters assumed more of the load, she traveled with her husband to regional conferences, sharing her experience and wisdom with another generation of matushki. She enjoyed visiting other parishes during selaaviq, but was always glad to return home to Kwethluk. Through her lifetime, the village underwent radical changes. From a circle of small, semi-subterranean sod dwellings, it became a typical Eskimo town with a diesel generator, a grade school and later a high school, a community center, a Head Start program and clinic and several stores. Public radio and television from Bethel, seventeen miles down river, brought news and images of the world into every Yup’ik home. Wood stoves gave way to oil, dog sleds to snowmobiles.

Some years before her death, Matushka began to feel weak and ill but refused to concern any family members about her condition. She did not improve and her daughters noticed her loss of weight. Finally persuaded to visit the Bethel hospital, she was sent on to Anchorage. The specialists diagnosed terminal cancer. It was too late, they said. There was nothing they could do.

Part Two:

Matushka Olga received the news without bitterness or emotion, and returned home to prepare for the inevitable. Her family resolved that medical science would not have the final word, and two daughters left their bedridden mother for Kodiak, where they offered prayers both at Monk’s Lagoon and at the reliquary of St. Herman. Upon their return to Kwethluk they found their mother’s bed empty. She was outside hauling buckets of water from the village well, no doubt to do a load of laundry, or perhaps to scrub the kitchen floor.

For nearly a year her condition returned to normal, but by conference time the following August, Matushka was too weak to walk or to stand in church unassisted. Archbishop Gregory awarded her the highest distinction bestowed on laity in the diocese, the Cross of St. Herman, draping the red, white and blue ribbon and the enameled cross, bearing in the center the icon of Alaska’s first saint, around her neck at the end of the Feast day Liturgy.

Her condition continued to deteriorate over the next several months. She began to prepare for death, instructing her family how to do the things that she had always done for them, and how to distribute her few material possessions among themselves and her neighbors and friends. She had her wedding gown cleaned and asked to be buried in it. She told her sons and daughters not to grieve for her and expressed regret that she had taken a granddaughter into her home, not because she loved her less, but because she feared that the granddaughter might mourn her too deeply. As the end drew near, the grandchildren from distant Mount Edgecombe boarding school were summoned home. An early winter storm delayed them. By the time they arrived she was gone.

The day of her death, the village priest brought her Holy Communion. She sat up in bed, crossed her arms across her breast and received the Holy Mysteries, made the sign of the cross, folded her arms again, lay down and fell asleep in the Lord. It was the kind of death we all request, “A Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless and peaceful…”. News of her passing spread rapidly across western Alaska. Planeloads of mourners began to arrive as the evening Panakhida was sung at the house. That night a strong southerly wind blew forcefully and continuously, melting the November snow and river ice. Yup’ik neighbors from nearby villages came to Kwethluk by boat, an impossibility at that time of year under ordinary circumstances.

Hundreds of friends who came from as far away as Lake Iliamna and the Nushagak as well as from the Yukon and upper Kuskokwim villages filled the newly constructed church on the extraordinary spring-like day of the funeral. Upon exiting the church, the procession was joined by flock of birds, although by that time of year, all birds have long since flown south. The birds circled overhead and accompanied the coffin to the gravesite. The usually frozen soil had been easy to dig because of the unprecedented thaw. That night, after the memorial meal, the wind began to blow again, the ground re-froze, ice covered the river, winter returned. It was as if the earth itself had opened to receive this woman. The cosmos still cooperates and participates in the worship that the Real People offer to God.


A Remembrance
(This account really hit home with me…)

School and School Redux

15 March 14

Well, things have been a bit weird recently. I spent a little less than a week in TX to visit a friend I’ve known since 2002, and while there received an email with the official job offer from Oregon. Sadly, it was an email and not a phone call. The owner requested I write him an email back if I was interested, (Umm.. YES PLEASE!), and so I responded within 20 minutes and have been waiting for a response back, or a phone call. I plan on calling Monday though, as I called Thursday and Friday of this past week and he was not at the school, I am nothing if not persistent… (ask my wife how long I chased her before she would date me!) More on that when’re there is more to talk about. 

On a separate, yet related note, I am finishing my B.A. and I also began my 9-12 Montessori training. There are more reasons for this than I am willing to disclose at the moment, but when the time is right… This is going to be an interesting match up. I am so close to the B.A., and although it is frustrating as hell at times, I think it will be good for me to finish it if I am able. We will see.


More on Phone Calls and Waiting

5 March 14

I checked in with my new boss Monday and told her that I had not yet heard from the owner of MM. She had said when I spoke to her a week ago that if I had not heard from him he might need a bit of a push. Hence my call. Well, he called yesterday as I was loading boxed into the jeep at the current job that www donated by one of my awesome parents and I missed it. He left me a voicemail and asked me to call him today and touch base which I did at lunch today.

We had a short, but good conversation. He asked about my timetable and I told him my plans. He had said that he would like to see a resume even though I had told the new boss my qualifications and she was very excited to have another teacher on staff that was certified. I emailed him my resume after the phone call and he said he would share the info with his wife and would get back to me. I called the new boss and kept her apprised of the conversation and a few of my observations from that conversation.

Now comes my least favorite part. I wait. Either my boss will call or the owner will call. I did tell him in my email with resume that if there was a desire on his part or on the part of my new boss to meet me before the official move I would be willing to make a trip so we can all sit down and be on the same page.

On a house related note we had a prospective buyer come by yesterday and he liked the house but Kon was sleeping and Rach did not want to wake him. The buyer knew this beforehand and liked the house enough that he said he would come back during a time that was not nap time to see the bedroom. Here again, we wait.

We know how much I love this part…


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