...here in northern Illinois.
And it FEELS like winter too. I just got back from getting dragged around the neighborhood by the Big Black Dog.
Brrr! I thought. It's cold out!
And then all of a sudden I was a kid again, walking up to the hockey rink at Garden Park with my brothers, our hockey sticks and skates slung over our shoulders, on a bright winter day. We never even noticed it was cold back then.
And then Blackie was yanking me over to another tree again. But, almost magically, it didn't seem cold anymore. Just wonderfully beautiful.
But it's going to REALLY feel like winter when it gets down to zero tonight. Looks
like I am going to have to hang some blankets over the bedroom windows!
Anyway, I thought I'd take a minute to give you an idea just who you are dealing with
So I guess it won't surprise you when I tell you I went to a Catholic grade
Our Lady of Grace in Edina, Minnesota, to be exact, where I walked to school
every day in my blue uniform shirt and necktie, and those blue corduroy pants that
made that one-man-band sound when we all walked in line down to the cafeteria to eat
our bag lunches ("Please let there be a Hostess cupcake, please let there be a Hostess
cupcake..."). This was back when the nuns wore long, black and white habits, and
us kids all wondered if they really had hair under there, or if they were completely bald.
This was a LONG time ago! Back then I was an altar boy, the Mass was said in Latin.
...a man named George Carthage came to our school.
He came with the unlikely idea of forming a boys choir. And, as it turns out, to absolutely change my life.
A room in the basement next to the janitors' break room became the "choir room," and class by class, all the boys were lined up and marched down to audition. One by one, Mr. Cathage had us stand by the piano. First he played a short series of notes and asked us to sing them back. Then he played a three note chord and asked us to sing the middle note. Then another one lower on the keyboard, then another one higher. At least that's how I remember it! Somehow I managed to squeak in. And I do mean squeak. I am sure this was entirely by the grace of God. I knew nothing of music and didn't have a clue what I was doing (much like now!). I started out as a soprano, eventually moved down to alto, then down again to tenor,
and finally down to bass. I couldn't actually SING bass when I was in eighth grade,
but it was too wimpy to be a tenor.
It must have been some time in seventh grade when Mr. Carthage (or we could call him "sir")
had an encounter with God that changed his life - and ours. He began teaching us
what he was discovering, and I came to know God, and what Jesus has done for us,
in a whole new way. When we graduated from OLG in 1968, George started a weekly Bible study
for us kids. I went pretty much every Monday night until I was 20 or older.
...I moved on to high school, where I eventually became known
as the "Guest Student." I guess you could say I was never in any danger of ever
achieving a "Perfect Attendance" award.
I carried these same academic skills on to the University of Minnesota, where I was
supposed to be an Art History major. Mostly I majored in not studying very hard
- and singing in the University Chorus, where there were some 200 voices - most of
them female. Suddenly it wasn't so bad being a tenor!
And then, in a moment of insanity (what other time in life will you find yourself
seated every other day in a room full of beautiful, talented, single women?), I decided
to leave college to become an "Artist."
Well actually, to take a job as a designer at a liturgical design company called Sacred
Design. This was hilarious. We designed church bulletins, and one of the major
strengths of the work we did was the use of color - and I am color blind! Somehow
I managed to fake my way for almost a year. When I finally admitted I had no clue what
I was doing when it came to color, somehow no one seemed surprised.
But it was a wonderful place to work, and probably the best job I ever had.
I got fired.
...I tried my hand at freelance illustration. This involved renting an office in
an old building in downtown Minneapolis and spending most of my day exploring the
skyway system, and thinking how cool it was to have an office downtown. I don't
remember doing a lot of work however.
Okay, so that wasn't working (or I should say - I wasn't working).
And then I heard of an organization that trained young people to do youth ministry.
The idea of going into ministry had always been in the back of my head. This was
a two year program, so it seemed like a good way to try it out.
So, when I was 26 years old, I found myself in a car, driving east on I94 from Minnesota,
and off to a life in Illinois I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. I
wonder what life would be like, if you could actually SEE just what it is you are heading
...of my two years as a youth minister was that nobody died.
It was a bit of a disaster - well, as I saw it anyway. At least I figured out ministry
wasn't what God had in mind for me!
But there was one good thing that came from it. My very first visit to Immanuel Lutheran
church, I met Danette. We fell in love, I ended up staying in this small town in
Illinois, and in 1985 we were married.
Life went along pleasantly uneventfully for a few years, and then we said, "Enough
of that! Let's adopt five children!"
...that's not exactly how it happened. A few years after we were married, we
decided we were ready to start a family. But I guess God had something else planned,
other than the method we had in mind!
When it became clear that we weren't going to be able to have children the usual way,
we slowly began to consider the idea of adopting. From the start we were thinking
of a sibling group. Two or three. No, better make it two. We could never afford
And then our social worker told us of this sibling group of five. Five? Five???
But then she sent a picture of them - all standing in a row, all about the same size - and then a video -
and we were hooked.
But five? That was crazy! So we told ourselves, "Okay, we will pursue it - there
are a whole lot of hoops to jump through - if God doesn't want this to
be, something will stop us."
One foggy day, in July of 1992, we barely
made a plane bound for South America.
Four weeks later, we were back at O'Hare airport with five tiny kids.... and they
WERE tiny. The first time we went to the grocery store, we could fit all five of
them in the grocery cart, AND our groceries!
...seven years later, I started getting these funny little nose bleeds.
Saturday morning in February, I came down with a fever that eventually landed me in the hospital
with pneumonia. But there was something else wrong. Something strange about my
blood counts. Blood counts? Who cares? They are just numbers on a piece of paper you wouldn't even know about if you didn't take the test in the first place! But my doctor was determined to figure out why
things weren't right.
A few days later he came into my hospital room and said, "Paul, we think you have
"Okay," I said, "when can I go home?"
And then he started saying
something about how I should consider getting my papers in order.
The most upsetting thing about that was realizing I didn't HAVE any papers to get in order. It wasn't until I got home, and looked up multiple myeloma on the internet, that I
realized just how much trouble I was in.
If I didn't get a bone marrow transplant right away, chances were I would be dead in two years....
but then, there was a 30 percent chance the transplant would kill me too.
And though it TRIED to do me in a couple of times, it
All of that was back in the summer of 1999. I first posted this page on a winter's day in 2003, and now here it is, a steamy day in July, 2012 - 13 years later - and I am still hanging around... at the age of 58, still trying to figure out what to do with my life! And our family has grown. We have three adorable granddaughters now. My, how time flies!
I am unable to work at a regular job because my immune system is mostly interested
in killing me. About the only thing I CAN do these days - aside from chasing grandbabies around the house and washing stacks of dirty dishes - are these web pages.
So, these pages are what you get!
My prayer is that they will be a blessing to you in some small way, and that we will all come to know so clearly how great and wonderful our God is.
Thanks for stopping by, and may God bless you in amazing and wonderful ways!