Thursday, December 24, 2015

Looking Back and Looking Forward

While I didn’t accomplish everything on my list from the beginning of the year, 2015 was still pretty epic.  If I had to pick themes for the year, I’d say I challenged myself more than usual, tried to say yes more than no, spent more time reflecting, and fell back into a few old habits that die hard.  To keep my mind focused on the good, and to look forward to next year, here are 15 things I did in 2015, and a few things to strive for in 2016:
  • *Hiked a winter 14er (Quandary in January, pretty amazing!)
  • Went to confession at least once a month
  • Went on a retreat
  • Put music to 5 of my songs
  • Presented a poster at PPAG
  • Survived the mud of West Maroon Pass (hiked from Aspen to Crested Butte and back for those not in the know)
  • Summitted two new 14ers, one of them solo, and my first 13er
  • Ate a peach in Palisade (it was the size of my head)
  • *Watched the leaves change in New England, and went horseback riding on the beach, finally
  • *Became a board-certified pediatric pharmacotherapy specialist…BAM!!!
  • Won a softball championship with all the people that we used to win championships with
  • Saw 5 of 6 former college roomies, definitely one of the biggest blessings of the year!
  • Went camping twice, for the second year in a row, which makes me feel like I’m officially legit
  • *Gave several dozen flu shots (what goes without saying is this also means I got my immunization certification)
  • Beat the Puzzle Room!!  One of my favorite activities of the year!

The ones with the asterisks are my New Year’s Resolution accomplishments- three things outside my comfort zone (four, if you count traveling by myself), and one new place (I actually had several new places this year).

Goals for 2016:

  • CAMINO!!!!
  • Reteach myself all the Spanish I learned and then forgot last time I was in Nicaragua so I can function in Nicaragua again
  • Apparently give a killer Maid of Honor speech
  • Coordinate a successful nursing education program
  • Send a friend a card every month
  • Hike a new 14er (this could probably be a resolution every year forever)
  • Take someone up their first 14er
  • Read a book that inspires me

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My version of love winning

I had hoped to bury my head in the sand and try to ignore the rumblings of the public sphere.  I had debated disconnecting from Facebook for a week in an effort to help myself remain charitable.  But that is the coward's way out.  And, as St. John Paul the Great said, "The truth is not always the same as the majority decision." My heart breaks for strangers, acquaintances, and dear friends who believe wholeheartedly in Obama's words: "This is a victory for America...we are all more free," and who also think that #LoveWins is an accurate tagline for the direction in which America is headed.

I have two general directions for my thoughts on this matter, one falling firmly in the faith camp, and one landing more in the political camp.

First, I think it is ironic that the masses are so eager to jump on a bandwagon of support, "loving" their brothers and sisters who may live a different lifestyle, encouraging those who have been ridiculed and debased, celebrating a shift in public acceptance.  And I wonder how supportive those same masses would be of Orthodox Catholics who have suffered persecution, hatred, discrimination, and poorly rationalized attacks for loving the unborn baby, loving the disabled elderly woman who no longer contributes to society, loving the prisoner whose redemption rests solely in the hands of God.  I know the members of the Catholic Church have not always lived out the grace, compassion, and love of Christ in a way that is befitting of her, and for those instances of failure, we must beg forgiveness.  But I also know that the Catholic stance of homosexuality is founded in deep and life-giving love of the human person.  I'm not going to take the time to explain the stance, though I would be happy to discuss it with anyone willing to truly listen, but the way Christ calls us to love those with same-sex attraction is a way of loving that is truly free.  Not the misguided understanding of freedom running rampant in our culture of death, which dictates that true freedom is the ability to self-govern those decisions which will bring about the most pleasure and satisfaction.  No, true freedom as understood by the Catholic Church is God "conferring on him (man) the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection."  (CCC 1730)  True freedom is the freedom to direct our will toward the attainment of what it means to be fully human.  Sometimes this involves sacrifice.  Sometimes it involves suffering.  Sometimes it involves acting in the best interest of others.  And loving someone means wanting what is best for them, not simply allowing them to do whatever they want to do.  In this way, I think sometimes it is harder to be loving than tolerant.  I can love someone without condoning their actions, and this holds true whether we are talking about same-sex attraction, alcoholism, anger, dishonesty, idolatry, envy, violence, etc.  A mother who refuses to let her child eat cake for breakfast everyday is not anti-cake.  She is loving her child and wanting what is best for them.  I could go on and on, but the primary thing I want to say is that it is possible to be in favor of upholding the traditional definition of marriage and still be loving toward those who disagree.  And if I'm being perfectly honest, I think it is those who seek to uphold that definition who have the best interest of humanity at heart.  Two quotes come to mind.  The first, from 1 Corinthians, "And I will show you a still more excellent way," and the second from Chesteron, oft quoted by yours truly, "Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls, but they are the walls of a playground."  I would argue that I'm the one living more freely, and I long to share that with those who would dare to try.

Second, a brief note on the political side of things.  There is a lengthy article from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (which you can read here) that details a logical defense of the traditional, or conjugal, view of marriage.  One of the more interesting things I think it addresses is why the State should get to be involved in upholding that definition (or in redefining it as the case may be).  Read at your own risk, it is a long article, but I think it's important to be educated and to understand why you believe what you do, rather than just taking a moral relativity stance (which, if we're being fair, is a little lazy and a very slippery slope).  If we define marriage as centuries of cultures have done before us, as a conjugal union between one man and one woman, to be comprehensive, monogamous, oriented toward children, etc, then marriage as an institution is critical to the success of society, and therefore I would argue, can be regulated (to an extent) by the government.  If, however, you subscribe to the revisionist view of marriage, which defines marriage as a relationship between two romantically loving and caring persons who share the burdens and benefits of domestic life, then it doesn't really make sense for the government to be involved at all.  There is nothing in that definition that hints at marriage having an impact on the common good of society as a whole, or really upon any person outside that partnership (or trio, or foursome, as the tendency may now trend).  Marriage, by this definition, also struggles to stand firm against further, more egregious, modifications.  The article comes to some pretty definitive conclusions.

"First, marriage is not a legal construct with totally malleable contours—not “just a contract.” Otherwise, how could the law get marriage wrong? Rather, some sexual relationships are instances of a distinctive kind of relationship—call it real marriage—that has its own value and structure, whether the state recognizes it or not, and is not changed by laws based on a false conception of it."
"Second, the state is justified in recognizing only real marriages as marriages."
"Third, there is no general right to marry the person you love, if this means a right to have any type of relationship that you desire recognized as marriage. There is only a presumptive right not to be prevented from forming a real marriage wherever one is possible."

Ultimately, the conversation comes down to the definition of marriage, which is where we have to start.  Not by talking about what's fair or unfair, not by putting all those in defense of traditional marriage under the umbrella of bigotry, not by proclaiming our support in rainbows, not by being silent.  There is the law of God and the law of man.  And I hope that in the pursuit of "progressing" one, we don't trample the other.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Who Writes These Lists?

Someone commented the other day about the plethora of lists on Facebook, "best of this", "top ten that", etc, and how nobody who writes the lists seems to have definitive expertise on the subject.  While I don't claim expertise, I will certainly claim enthusiasm for Denver's growing beer scene.  I've been asked before to name my favorite area breweries, and I always have a hard time putting them to paper.  I've visited over 50 Colorado breweries and tried beer from at least 20 others, so it was hard narrowing down the list.  I chose either ones that I consistently return to, or ones that were so amazing on my first (and only) trip that I would recommend them solely on that experience.  So here goes.

My Top Ten Denver Area Breweries (in alphabetical order):
Brewery Rickoli- gluten-free for those who care, and some of the best-tasting hoppy beers around; *Recommendation: Social Lubricant Scotch Ale or Monolith Stout (barrel-aged if you can)
Bull and Bush- not necessarily stand-out beers, though several are very good, but I dig the food, the atmosphere, and the fact that they have an amazing Scotch list if I'm not in the mood for beer; *Recommendation: Tower ESB
Chain Reaction- I judge breweries by beers and staff, and they both are great here, the owner bought everyone pizza on my first visit; *Recommendation: Pink Peppercorn Saison
Comrade- making waves on the scene in their first year, great beer names, consistently good beer; *Recommendation: Superpower IPA, Koffee Kream Stout
Copper Kettle- great staff, local feel, always something new to try; *Recommendation: Snowed In (if you can), Basil Blonde Ale, Puppy Charlie's with Raspberries
Dry Dock- probably the most widely distributed of the list, they hit the mark on both flagships (vanilla porter, HMS Bounty) and seasonals (pumpkin!); *Recommendation: HMS on Nitro
Epic- an impressive taproom, solid bottle offerings, wide variety, lots of big beers; *Recommendation: Brainless anything, Fermentation Without Representation, Sage Saison, Big Bad Baptist
Former Future- I have high hopes for this one as they have excellent beer and a friendly owner; *Recommendation: Salted Caramel Porter, Bonny Ace
Lone Tree- older than most of these, they can and bottle, which is a big plus when choosing camping beer, and they have consistent food trucks; *Recommendation: Peach Pale Ale
Wit's End- the smallest of the bunch, but offering some of the most interesting flavors (Belgian-oatmeal-IPA), my only beef is their limited hours; *Recommendation: Wilford, Ugly Sweater

I intentionally stuck to Denver-area, rather than Front Range, even though I know there are a lot of really amazing breweries in FoCo, Boulder, Summit County, and other surrounding areas.  I give honorable mention to New Belgium for an amazing tour, and Upslope for having one of the widest varieties of taps and also one of my favorite tap-room finds (Barrel-Aged Brown Ale).

I also want to give a shout-out to some amazing beer bars around Denver, for when you can't decide on a single brewery:
Jake's Brew Bar- hands down, one of my absolute faves
Hops and Pie
Historian's Ale House
Lowry Beer Garden

On the list to try soon:
Black Shirt
Kannah Creek
River North

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Better Late Than Never

Stealing the idea from multiple others, I present to you my list of 14 things I accomplished in 2014 and 15 things on my list for 2015.  If I complete even half the list, I think I'll succeed in my traditional New Year's resolution of 1 new place and 3 things that challenge my comfort zone.

2014 saw me do the following:

  1. PALS re-certification
  2. *Finish a half-marathon (in sub 2-hour time, I might add)
  3. *Kiss the Blarney Stone (and many other Ireland adventures)
  4. Be a patient (it's miserable)
  5. Win 2 flag-football championships
  6. Host a book club
  7. Hike Twin Sisters with the twin sister
  8. Camp...TWICE!
  9. *Play Pato Pato Pollo (and many other Nicaragua adventures)
  10. Wear a Halloween costume (this one's a BIG deal)
  11. *Learn a song on guitar
  12. Be submerged in a giant mud puddle (part of the Warrior Dash)
  13. Drink Jack Daniels at the Bluebird in Nashville
  14. Hike RMNP
The items with asterisks are my one new place (Ireland) and three things outside my comfort zone (mission trip, guitar, half-marathon)

I'm hoping 2015 will hold the following:
  1. Go on a retreat
  2. Attend a new sporting event (lacrosse, college football, etc)
  3. Hit confession every month (already got two months down!)
  4. Hike a new 14er
  5. Eat a Palisade peach in Palisade
  6. Present a poster at PPAG
  7. Listen at an open mic night
  8. Take Dad's bike for a spin (the Kawasaki, not the bicycle)
  9. Put music to one of my songs
  10. Go on a picnic
  11. Hike the Maroon Bells
  12. Read something by von Balthasar
  13. Watch the leaves change in New England
  14. Watch a sunrise
  15. Remodel a bathroom
There you have it- this year's version of a resolution, or fifteen.
I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.