Worst Mortgage Refinance Ever

At the end of January I finished the most arduous and stressful consumer experience of my life: refinancing my mortgage. When people would tell me that going through a refinance was difficult, I assumed it was normal difficult. Maybe for them it was. For me, it was an epic journey, like Frodo and Sam crawling through Mordor to Mount Doom, half-dead and expecting to be done for with every step. My Mount Doom was my mortgage and my Sauron was Freedom Mortgage.

I started this process in March 2015. Between that date and August 2015, I tried to close three times, but each time encountered sloppy errors in the paperwork made by their employees: spelling errors in my name, failure to include all parties, forgetting necessary documents. Once we got to the date of closing and I even had my certified check with closing costs in hand when they cancelled.

By then I was falling behind in my mortgage due to late fees and other issues and so I suspended the process until I felt ready to proceed again. I contacted Freedom again in March 2016 and everything proceeded until June when I was then told we couldn’t move forward because I had more than one late payment in the past year… Yes, due to their errors!

So I came back in September and once more encountered problem after problem. I was told one thing and then a week later told something else that contradicted it. Their several employees I had to deal with squabbled among themselves about who had responsibility for particular areas and even disagreed about necessary steps I had to take.

Each person I talked to gave me seemingly arbitrary demands for paperwork. One said I needed this document, another said I didn’t. And every time I talked to someone new I had to go through the same rigamarole of fixing mistakes in their records. For instance, they had a phone number for me that had been disconnected for 10 years in the system. Every time I talked to someone new, I had to tell them to take the old number out. This happened right up to the closing despite me correcting them a half dozen times. I even had the closing signing agent show up at my door unannounced because they had given her the old number.

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The $500 Drip

Last week, we started hearing a constant drip, drip, drip from the bathroom faucet.1 It wasn’t even a slow drip, but a quick one that I knew was wasting a lot of water.

So on Saturday, I wanted to go to Home Depot to get some replacement parts, but first I needed to determine whether it was the hot faucet or the cold one and what kind of faucet it is (compression, ball, cartridge, etc.). So I tried turning off first the cold water supply valve and then the hot one to see which one caused the drip to stop.

The cold water faucet was the culprit, but I couldn’t turn off the the hot water supply. I put as much torque into it as I dared, but it wouldn’t completely close. That would be bad if I ever had a real leak, but it wasn’t of immediate concern, so I left a message by email with our plumber. Then I put that aside and I took out the old cartridge from the cold faucet and headed to the Home Depot…

…where I was confronted with the wall of faucet parts. I need to let you in on one important detail: Before we bought our home it was renovated by a flipper, which means they used the least expensive “contractor special” parts available for everything, faucet included. So as I stared at all the replacement parts, I had no clue which to choose. I stood there for 20 minutes, comparing the original cartridge in my hand to every possible one I could find that looked similar. Finally, I just picked the one that looked the closest, although they weren’t identical, and prayed for the best.

I got home and put the new cartridge into the faucet, put everything back together and it fit!

Except the faucet was backwards. By which I mean when you turned it to the “on” position, the water stopped and when you turned it “off” the water flowed. It turns out I’d purchased the cartridge for the hot water faucet, which of course is reversed. But the drip had stopped! At this point, I wasn’t making another trip back to the Depot of Homes and so I just ordered the cold water version on Amazon.2 We could survive with a backward faucet until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the plumber got back to me and said he’d come by on Monday. That morning, as I cleaned out the cabinet under the sink for him, I noticed some of the items were wet. That was my next bad omen, but I was willing to take a trip up “de Nile” and pretend it was condensation or something. When he showed up, I explained why the faucet was backward and he had the professionalism not to laugh at me outright or shake his head at my idiocy. He did have a few choice words for the renovator/flipper’s PVC pipework under the sink, but he assured me he’d sweat the broken valve off quickly and put a new one in its place.

I went off to my office to work until he came to find me a bit later. It turns out that the drain stop was the source of the leak under the sink and while he was trying to fix it, the thing broke off. Normally, he’d have some bits and bobs of old faucet sets in his truck and he’d just pop one of those in there, but his less-than-brilliant assistant had cleaned out the truck. So now we’d need to buy a whole new faucet because you can’t just buy the drain stopper bit, and off he went to the plumber’s supply store.

Which means that the leaky faucet I’d fixed and whose (second) replacement cartridge was still on the way from Amazon was going away anyway. Meanwhile, after the plumber got back getting the new faucet in and dealing with the original Franken-plumbing took a couple more billable hours.

So here I am with a shiny new faucet, a replacement cartridge fresh from Amazon ($10), the other replacement cartridge the Lord knows where in the trash somewhere, and a bill for plumbing work for $450.

But no drip!

  1. Yes the bathroom. We are seven people in a small ranch-style, single-bathroom house.
  2. Because now I had a part number and manufacturer, which I didn’t have before.

Dyeing Easter Eggs, 2016 Edition

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We had our traditional Holy Saturday activity of dyeing Easter eggs. As the family has grown it has become a bigger and bigger production. Apparently, waiting for the eggs to dye sufficiently is too much for them to do at the table, so in between they would go outside and literally run around. Thankfully, it was a decent day. Not exactly warm out, but they went in shirtsleeves and long pants.

My new job, 2016

I’m happy to announce that my weeklong unemployment has ended and I have a new position. On March 14, I will start as the new Director of Community Engagement with Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the primary pro-life education and advocacy public policy organization in the Commonwealth. This is a new role for them and I will be responsible for advancing the mission of MCFL through the delivery of programs, services, and events related to grassroots advocacy and increasing the number of active donors to and supporters of MCFL’s work, as well as diversifying the demographics of supporters. The primary means will be through online media, such as web sites, email, social media, et al, although traditional media are part of it.

I’m very excited to be able to work for an organization that works for a cause that I can be passionate about.

It’s funny how it came about, too. On the same day I received the bad news about my old job, a friend was having a conversation with the president of MCFL, who was telling him that she wanted to create this position. When she was asked for the profile of the sort of person she wanted, she mentioned me by name. Later that day, when I told my friend about my circumstances, he immediately put me in contact with MCFL and off we went. Must be divine Providence.

I’m joining SQPN as it’s Managing Director

I’m happy to announce that I have joined the fine folks at the Star Quest Production Network (SQPN) in their Catholic new media ministry work and have been named Managing Director/Chief Operating Officer.[1]

I’m looking forward to helping Fr. Roderick Vonhögen and everyone at SQPN to advance the mission by creating even more new, wonderful content and growing the audience and community surrounding our shows. Stay tuned for all the great things that are coming and follow everything we’re up to at SQPN.com and the SQPN Facebook page.

I’ve been a part of the SQPN community for a decade now, going back before it even existed. I remember listening to those first episodes of The Catholic Insider with Fr. Roderick chronicling the last days of Pope St. John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. I also remember listening to Fr. Roderick outlining his pre-SQPN vision of a future network of Catholic media professionals creating first class content to serve a large audience with a variety of interests.

In 2010, I learned that SQPN might be interested in coming to Boston for its Catholic New Media Celebration, its regular gathering of the community surrounding the podcasts that it produces. Working for the Archdiocese of Boston’s newly created Secretariat for Catholic Media, I brought the idea to my boss of officially inviting them to partner with us to put on the CNMC. It went off great and many people still tell me it was the best one. As just one measure, we’re still seeing the fruit of seeds planted that weekend coming forth today. Then we invited them back again in 2013 for another phenomenal experience.

I do want to acknowledge the great shoulders I stand upon in my new position, including Greg Willits who helped found SQPN with his wife Jennifer and Fr. Roderick back in 2005 and Steve Nelson who picked up where Greg left off with a lot of the organizational work and putting together several CNMCs in his tenure.

The future of SQPN and Catholic media in general is pretty bright. We’re going to take some time to pray and think about our roadmap for the future, but in a general sense look for us to continue to what has worked well, while also expanding into areas that show great promise, like video. I hope you all will join us and give us your support.

  1. This is a part-time professional position and I will also be continuing my full-time work as Director of Communications for the Matthew 13 Catholic Collaborative in Walpole, MA.  ↩

My big news: I’m leaving my job


So this is big news.

In the coming weeks – we’re working on the exact timing– I will be leaving my position with the Archdiocese of Boston as Creative Director of New Media and Producer of The Good Catholic Life radio program. In the near future I will be taking a new position as Communications Director in the new Walpole/Sharon parish collaborative, comprising St. Mary Parish in Walpole, Blessed Sacrament Parish and School in Walpole, and Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Sharon. This is an exciting new role in parishes as part of the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan for the Archdiocese and I think it shows a great commitment to and realization of the importance of good communications as part of evangelization. Fr. Chip Hines, who I have known for several years and with whom I co-host The Good Catholic Life on Fridays, will be the new pastor of the collaborative when it stands up on June 3.

At this point, I do not know what the effect will be on the Archdiocese’s efforts in new media. I hope that they will continue to innovate and lead in this area as we have done for several years now.

As for the radio program that I produce, engineer, and sometimes co-host, The Good Catholic Life, I expect we’ll have an announcement about its future very soon and will post that when we do.

I know that I and my colleagues built something special over the past four years. We strove to make the Archdiocese of Boston a leader in Catholic new media and I am gratified by the many people who have acknowledged that we did. My hope had always been that we would enable the Church to tell her story in this new medium, to engage with people on the digital continent, and to help others to do the same. I’ve had a chance to meet and work with some amazing and dedicated people over the years and I’ve formed some relationships that I hope continue for many years to come. I have a heavy heart announcing this change, even as I look forward to a new opportunity, continuing to serve the Church.

This new role in Sharon and Walpole is very exciting because I hope that with the good people of those towns we can create a new model for how Catholic parishes and schools can best communicate the Good News using all available media to current parishioners, inactive Catholics, and those who do not know Jesus Christ.

The role of communications director, as I envision it, is not just an administrative function. I will have responsibility for how the parishes and school communicate both to parishioners and those outside the parish through all forms of media: web, social media, bulletin, mailings, email, perhaps even podcasts, video, and apps. And this communication is not just informational, but primarily evangelical. What is the Church, if not a giant communication entity? “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) The New Evangelization is about preaching the Gospel in new forms and new ways both to those in the pews and those not in them. As the first (so I’ve been told) parish pastoral collaborative communications director in the archdiocese, I have the exciting task of formulating just what this means and to create new models for how best to accomplish it.

Anyway, since Walpole and Sharon are not far from our current home, Melanie and I won’t have to move and we can continue to put down roots where we are. While my commute will be a little longer than it is now (it could hardly be shorter unless I worked from home), it won’t be very much longer. It will certainly still be shorter than my epic commute between Peabody and Braintree before we moved five years ago.

As I said, I can’t tell you my exact date of departure yet, but I would appreciate any prayers you can offer for me and my family and the Archdiocese during this transition.

photo credit: pamhule via photopin cc

St. Anthony come around, a Kindle is lost and can’t be found

My lost Kindle that was found

“OK, Google… Siri? … St. Anthony?!”

I don’t know what it is with me and Kindles. I am now on my third Amazon Kindle after having broken my previous two through various means of cracking the screens. And then tonight, I thought I’d lost my couple-months-old Kindle Paperwhite.

I hadn’t put the Kindle in my bag at the end of the day today as I usually do. I was in a hurry and had already packed everything up when I noticed the Kindle sitting on the desk, so I shoved it in my jacket pocket and went home. When I stopped for gas, I took it out again to read while I waited and then left it on the passenger seat. My second and last stop before home was at the convenience store to pick up milk and eggs.

Then when I got home, I couldn’t find it. There was the usual cacophony at my arrival followed by the unusual need to immediately sit and eat dinner because I was so late tonight. While I was clearing the dishes after, I couldn’t figure out what I’d done with my Kindle. It wasn’t in my coat or by the front door. I went and searched my car, front and back, and even under the seats. I searched the darkened driveway.

I finally figured I must have dropped it at the convenience store, either in the store (I really thought I hadn’t put it back in my coat pocket, though), or worse, on the ground outside the car.

So as soon as we got the kids to bed, I headed out again, driving back to the store where I quizzed the clerk (no luck) and the guys in the pizza place next door (no luck). As I walked out of the pizza place, dejected now because of the loss of yet another Kindle, I said a prayer to St. Anthony. No sooner had the prayer ended in my head than I got to my car door and what did I see? Well, if you see the photo accompanying this post, you’ll see what I saw. There on my car’s roof, right above the driver’s side door, was the Kindle.

Had I left it there and driven all the way back to the store with it on the roof? Had someone found it in the convenience store while I was in the pizza place and put it there for me? Or did an angel sent by St. Anthony drop it there? I’ll never know for sure, although the first option seems as miraculous as the third.

In any case, as soon I picked up the Kindle the bells at the Congregational church across the street began tolling its bells. At 8pm? That can’t be coincidence. Whatever the reason, I took it as divine reassurance of an answered prayer.

Such prayers aren’t spells or incantations, but I believe these little events are faith boosters–little gifts that reassure us that God is with us, loves us, and is concerned about our life’s little anxieties. And that St. Anthony is on the job.

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Snow Days

Snow piles up
Snow piles up
The February 2013 blizzard

When I was a child, lo those many years ago, a snow day was a big deal. It still is, I suppose. I don’t ever recall school being called off before the snow started falling though.

In anticipation of the storm coming today and tomorrow, nearly every school district in eastern Massachusetts has called off school for both days. It’s not supposed to be bad today, but the thinking is probably that the schools have been stone cold since before Christmas and if the storm is bad enough to cancel school on Friday, why fire up the boilers for one day, only to leave them grow cold over the three days until next Monday?

Another big difference these days is the way the closings are announced. I remember sitting breathlessly by the radio as soon as we got up, waiting for the long list of school closings to be rattled off: “Abington, Acton, no school. … Brockton, Burlington …” CANTON, YAY!!!! Now, you go to a web page or read a Tweet or see a Facebook update. It lacks a bit of the anticipation. Of course, for us homeschoolers, there’s none of that. I sometimes wonder what cultural touchstones I had that my children will miss.

So, yes, we’re expecting a big storm over the next couple of days. I’ve surveyed all the local forecasts and the consensus generally is that we’ll have at least 10 to 12 inchces by the end on Friday. Not the biggest storm every, but the biggest so far this year and one that will put a crimp in all plans. Luckily, the radio show is still in re-runs and I won’t have to worry about getting to the studio to broadcast a show. I’m dreading the day when I have to deal with that.

8 Life Lessons I Learned from Navy ROTC

After graduating high school in 1986, I attended Boston University and was a member of their Navy ROTC[1] program in a non-scholarship status. I only lasted at BU for a year (long story, short: I was not mature enough for college yet), but I learned some important lessons in that brief time wearing the uniform of our nation’s Armed Forces. Ironically, while I wasn’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of college, my ROTC experience did give me some valuable life experience that I’ve tried to keep with me in the intervening three decades.

The 8 Important Life Lessons I Learned from ROTC are:

  1. Don’t make excuses.
  2. Apologize sincerely.
  3. Get it done.
  4. Stick together.
  5. Earn your honors and respect those earned by others.
  6. Discipline leads to success.
  7. A quick wit can turn a negative to a positive.
  8. Ultimately, success isn’t always what you think it is.

Don’t make excuses

One of the first lessons I learned was to not offer excuses when confronted with an error or challenged by a superior. Rarely does anyone care why you did what you did, and if they do that’s a question that they will ask you later. What they want to hear from you in the moment is how you will fix the error.

The first element of my ROTC experience was indoctrination week. We were loaded on a bus outside the ROTC house at BU and transported to the US Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, about a week or so before the start of my freshman year. As we arrived, the senior midshipmen– the upperclassmen who have leadership roles in the battalion–greeted us by running us off the bus and into formation standing at attention through the effective method of yelling in our faces. That was nothing compared to what we experienced next, which was a real-life US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant[2], giving us an idea of the challenges we’d meet in the next week.

As for the lesson, I noticed right away that whenever even the smallest violation was brought to the attention of a 4th class (i.e. one of us freshmen), if the unfortunate soul tried to offer an excuse, the questioner would fly into an affected rage. “Bettinelli, you’re shirt is untucked.” “I’m sorry, sir, but I was dressing when you called us into the hall…” “WHAT?!!!! Drop and give me 20!” But if we just apologized and kept our mouths shut otherwise, well, we might still get punishment, but the reaction was milder: “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”

Even after Indoc week was over, and the boot camp atmosphere dissipated, the lesson was still clear. If you do something wrong, take responsibility and don’t make excuses. Even if it’s not your fault, suck it up and make it right.

In life, there are plenty of screw-ups who make excuses, but everybody remembers the guy who doesn’t make excuses, fixes his mistakes, and doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

Apologize sincerely

When you do make a mistake, make your apology sincere. Don’t just offer some weak, pro forma apology that crosses your lips without a second thought. As a corollary, just because you’re dressed down doesn’t mean you have to apologize. Sometimes the best response is “Yes” or “OK” rather than “Sorry”, if the apology would be unwelcome or meaningless.

I saw several instances where a midshipman crossed a superior or, heaven forbid, the Gunny, and when his response was a weak, “Oh sorry,” receiving a full measure in return because it shows such a lack of respect. In an attitude of respect there’s always a hint of fear, not necessarily fear of injury to your self, but fear of injury to the other. There should be a fear of offending, of letting the other person down, or of appearing not to give them their due. Respect is always earned and if you don’t pay what is due, then don’t be surprised if the person comes to collect.

On the other hand, a sincere and swift apology often mollified the offended party quickly, letting you go on about your business without further repercussions.

Get it done

A task or a deadline isn’t to be taken lightly. If you have a job to do, then do it. No excuses. You will be judged not necessarily on your capacity to do work, but on your willingness and tenaciousness in doing it.

This goes right along with making no excuses. My experience in NROTC was that the battalion’s midshipman officers expected that when you were given an order that it would be carried out. They didn’t come back to check on you to make sure you were doing it and when it was time for it to be done they assumed it would be. If you’re unable to finish the task, for whatever reason, then say so forthrightly, no excuses, with the proper sense of regret and apology.

Then if your failure to complete was the result of circumstances beyond your control, well, sometimes he didn’t care and took it out on you anyway. Life’s not fair, Francis. But don’t make excuses and make it worse. Certainly, don’t whine and snivel about it.

Stick together

No matter what, you stand with your teammates. One of the training games they liked to play was to find fault with one guy and make the entire squad or platoon do some sort of punishment for it. It’s not designed to make us resent the one who screwed up. After all, sooner or later, we’re all going to take a turn as the screwup. No, it tells us that we’re all in the same mess together and that we’re only as strong as the weakest among us so we better damn well make up for the weaknesses of each other.

There was one guy in my class who got under the Gunny’s skin for some reason. Maybe he was just a little too cocksure at first, a little too physically fit. Maybe Gunny just didn’t like his looks. Maybe he saw potential in him and wanted to test him. Whatever the reason, Gunny was constantly finding fault with him and that meant we all suffered a bit. But that didn’t lead to resentment. In fact, we ended up banding together behind him, boosting his spirits and helping him to overcome whatever deficits came his way.

I remember that on one of our last days in Newport, they marched us out to a field after a week of drills and standing at attention and not daring to express any emotion but eagerness. As we arrived, we saw a barbecue set up and we were ordered to “Have fun!” After determining this wasn’t just another training trick, we all fell to easy camaraderie and laughter. Pretty soon we were gabbing about our experiences and especially those of our classmate who’d suffered under Gunny. It wasn’t long before we were laughing hysterically over our friend’s misfortunes and vowing to stand beside him come what may.

That lesson would bear fruit throughout our year together as we helped each other, whether it was ensuring everyone got to drill on time, or helping with uniform troubles, or providing extra studying assistance in difficult classes.

Earn your honors and respect those earned by others

My goal when entering ROTC was to become a Naval Aviator and eventually go on to become an astronaut. When I was in high school, I found at an Army-Navy surplus store a pin that depicted the insignia of a Naval astronaut; which were the regular gold wings of the aviator with a comet flying through them. I put the pin in a plain ball cap and took to wearing it around as a sign of my ambition. Eventually, I just took it for granted.

So one day, I’m walking down the street at school and meet one of the officers in the NROTC unit, a US Marine major who happened to be a Naval Aviator. He gave me an odd look as he greeted me, but I didn’t think anything of it. Later on, I received a summons to a meeting with another of the officers. He asked me about the pin and showed it to him.

He explained to me that only those who’ve earned the right should wear insignia. I had not finished flight training, never mind been commissioned an officer in the Navy and so had no right to wear the wings of an aviator. Looking back now, it’s improper for stores to even be selling them.

It’s good to aspire to a goal and to have reminders that encourage you on the path, but that’s different from appropriating that which is earned by those who wear it. An aviator puts in many grueling hours of training to win his wings and then risks his life every day in the duty which they signify. An astronaut puts in even more training and takes even greater risks. If just anyone can wear those wings then it cheapens their meaning. When I see someone wearing the wings, it should be a sign of something.

A priest wears a Roman collar and it means something. If just anyone were to wear the collar, then it would lose its sign value. If I wanted to wear the wings, I would have to earn them.

Discipline leads to success

This was more of a negative lesson for me. My freshman year in college ended up essentially as a disaster, because the part of school I enjoyed and worked hard at was the military training, while the rest of my studies were neglected. In high school, I had skated by in my classes with only half efforts. I didn’t get all As, but mainly Bs, even though I know with more work I could have got As. Unfortunately, that didn’t work in college. You have to do all the work.

You also have to go to class. I was still living at home and commuting to school so it was a lot like high school still. But I was now responsible for myself. I had to get on the train and go to school. And once at school I had to go to the classes. I didn’t. I spent a lot of time in the computer labs on the primitive version of social networking they had in 1987. (One day I’ll tell the tale of how I romanced the beautiful upperclass girl through my words, and how shocked she was to find I was just a shy freshman in person.) I spent plenty of time reading novels and hanging out in the wardroom at the ROTC unit.

Eventually I crashed and burned. I flunked nearly every course. I was put on suspension from NROTC which didn’t matter because I also lost all my financial aid and had to drop out.

If I’d had the discipline and stuck to my studies with half the zeal I did drill and studied the military science topics, I might not have graduated at the top of my class, but I would have succeeded. I might even have won an NROTC scholarship.

A quick wit can turn a negative into a positive

One of the tricks the upperclassmen liked to play on the freshman during Indoctrination week involved some late night sneaking. As part of our formation as military men, each room of two freshmen on each floor of the barracks spent one hour per night on watch, walking up and down the empty hallway.

On this particular morning, my roommate and I woke up to something peculiar. There was trash all around me on my bed and on my roommate’s bed. Empty potato chip bags, candy wrappers, and soda cans. Even worse, our door was closed, which was a clear violation of regulations. In my sleep-addled state, I did recall that after our watch our door had been left open as required.

As we stared uncomprehending at the mess in our room, the door banged open and in rushed a gaggle of senior midshipmen, all screaming at us to stand at attention and then berating us for holding a party, for smuggling in contraband, for violating the orders about the door. Of course, this was all a ploy to rattle us and to have an excuse to mete out more disciplinary and character-building punishment.

It worked a little bit and we were on the verge of something unpleasant when one of the seniors asked me a fortuitous question:

“Do you deny all this, Bettinelli?”
“Yes, sir!”
“Really, so am I to assume instead that some Commie spies snuck in here last night, had a party while you slept, and left all this evidence behind?”
“That would be logical, sir!”

That was the fateful line that turned the day. While his tone remained outraged and perhaps his voice went up a few octaves, I could tell this amused the midshipman a bit.

“Logical! Who are you? Mr. Spock?” Before I could respond, he gave me an order. “I want you to grab the tips of your ears and go stand in the hall. And every time I call out for Mr. Spock, I want you to grab your ears and come running!”

And that’s how I was the first freshman to receive an official call sign, a cool nickname that could only be bestowed by an upperclassman. It’s a pretty cool call sign too, because often they’re determined by something stupid you do, a prominent physical trait, or even an embarrassing pun on your name. I thought being Mr. Spock was cool!

Ultimately, success isn’t always what you think it is

The most important lesson I learned comes from having dropped out of NROTC and college after all. For a long time, I’d had my life’s journey mapped. From the beginning of high school I’d known I wanted to become an astronaut and the way I’d do that would be by getting an engineering degree, becoming a Naval Aviator, eventually making my way to test pilot, then applying for NASA’s astronaut program, and so on. I didn’t even get out of the starting gate.

The next five years after that were not good ones for me. While all my friends were at college and then graduating, I was working in a factory in a dysfunctional work environment, getting drunk when I could, ditching work, barely socializing. I’d come home from work, and wouldn’t bother to change into something clean. I was wallowing.

After that, I got a job at a Christian bookstore and church supply store where my mother worked. That was a nice place for a few years, but I still wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t figure out what God wanted from me. I didn’t understand why He’d let me fail so spectacularly.

Let’s leap ahead to the end: If I’d stayed on my original path, I’d never have met Melanie and we wouldn’t have my five beautiful kids. My sister would never have met her husband and their eight kids wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have my job working in social media for the Archdiocese. I doubt I’d have had the time to discover a joy in writing and a talent for it that could be honed.

In my freshman year at BU, I thought I knew what success looked like for me. It turns out that God had a better plan for me, something that I couldn’t imagine, and although I had to travel a dark road to get here (and I still have a long, undoubtedly bumpy road ahead), it’s well worth it.

So why did I have to endure all that in the first place then? I figure it’s because I needed to learn these eight lessons from my time in NROTC. I haven’t always correctly applied them, but they’ve been helpful nonetheless. And while I still experience a tinge of regret now and then, I’m grateful to have had the experience and that my life took the path it eventually did.

  1. ROTC is short for Reserve Officer Training Corps, a program by which college students study to become reserve officers in the military while attending school and taking a normal course load.  ↩
  2. As part of the Department of the Navy and the Naval Service, the Marines train their officer-candidates alongside the Navy’s in the Naval Academy and NROTC, although they have a separate Officer Candidate School for post-college officer training.  ↩
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