Sixteen Years and Two Big Lessons

     I married my wonderful wife sixteen years ago on June 27, 1998.  We changed careers four times total, had eight places we called home, learned to pull out of life’s valleys, and overcame health challenges both to ourselves an our seven children.

     Yes I said seven children.  See we have four with us, and three who passed in miscarriages.  I believe those three are in the embrace of God as I write this.  My wife chose the photo above to remember each one of them this past April.

     In this voyage between 15 and 16 years of marriage losing a child at nine weeks of pregnancy delivered us the worst emotional pain we’ve endured as a married couple.   The reason this became the worst pain stemmed from three major factors.  First we know we are nearing the end of our time to bring children into the world.  Second we never grieved properly for the first two lost children many years ago.  Finally our spiritual growth growth over the last several years of homeschooling made us more aware of God’s calling to participate in creation by raising children to know and love the Lord.

     As painful as the time was, I know God’s care for us surrounded us in a hundred ways.  We met two women who had four and five miscarrages before having two children make it to birth describe the joy they had when they held their new arrivals.  We had family and friends pray so hard for us, that when I started to collapse on hearing the bad news I could literally feel them holding me up in prayer.  Melanie Levergood responded to a prayer request with “Absolutely! Storming Heaven.  What do you need?”  It was amazing to get notes from the His Light team: Nick Coury, Jim Begley and Bill Fortney out of the blue filled with prayer hours just after the bad news.  My wife received good health care, and she is doing as well as ever thanks to a good doctor and his team.  I also had supportive bosses at work, in the midst of a few critical incidents, let me run to my wife’s side to care for her and the children.

     Equally important to us was the fact that two clergy from church provided blessings and sacraments to us with love and compassion.  Over the last few years my family gained a greater understanding of the form and meanings of prayer and sacraments.  As a result, we were fully open to receiving the graces they offered in our times of need.  For all the bad press people hurl at our Catholic clergy, I wish they could see the millions of good people beyond the few bad apples. Without those two men (Father Mario and Deacon Joe) ministering to this family, I know my family would still harbor damaging grief and pain.  They follow in the tradition of my good and faithful friends who minister with love and kindness (yes I’m looking at our wedding priest/friends Father Mark Spring, Father Ed Kacena, and my Army Ukrainian Orthodox friend Father Peter Dubinin).

     So after sixteen years of marriage I will offer the two greatest lessons I’ve learned.  The first is that both parents must make our first priority for the house to stand with the Lord in heart, mind and action.  This creates a foundation for love to grow between each family member and God.  The second lesson is that when we travel through life we need to be attentive to the messages God sends us.  God sent us those women, friends, doctors, my job to pay the bills, and clergy to help us get through the pain.  By choosing to embrace the goodness God sent our way, we left bitterness behind and rejoined the community of life he wants us to travel in.  Now we are ready to help someone else at God’s beaconing.  

    Oh…and I do love my wife Carrie Anne Baker Wojtkun more now than ever.   


June 28, 1998

June 28, 1998

Study in Light

Light Study

Light Study

I was testing out a new camera and I observed these lights in the dining room.  I wanted to see how the sensor would handle the bright filament.  Would it totally destroy the photo?

Well…it did not.  Instead I got a very nice study in light my naked eye could not see!  The study I enjoyed the most was the “bent” light coming from the glass around the filament.  I enjoyed the curves above and below the lights, and the built in vignette coming from my focus on the bight light at the heart of the photo.

So the moral of the story here is to remember that glass is a very helpful element in a photo, but sometimes you just have to take the shot and adjust based on the elements composing your photo.


Hardship and toil…they saw it too…

Through hardship and toil they persevered through faith in God's stewardship

Through hardship and toil they persevered through faith in God’s stewardship

This weekend my church celebrated the Holy Family.  It is my wife’s favorite mass of the year.   It is a very personal theme for us, and gives us as a role model family to look up to.

This statue sits outside our church, and on the cold rainy we saw today it reminded me of their challenging life together.

Here we have a man and woman, given the mission of raising Christ.  They are displaced from home during the pregnancy, chased into exile by a homicidal king killing every male child from Bethlehem, go into Egypt a country alien to them with nothing but their clothes and talents, and finally they lose their child in the temple together.  They fought hunger, exposure, heat and other men to survive.  Any way you chalk it up, this family faced hardship, toil and challenges matched by the most unfortunate in this world past and present.

Through all these challenges, and the madness of trying to keep their family alive, they still found time to listen for the direction God sends each of us for these adventures.  The most prolific messages came from angels, but I often wonder how many were just whispers in the wind of the desert or the guidance of old proverbs.

Our pastor today at mass reminded us, the last words we hear attributed directly to Mary are at the wedding in Cana.  There she instructs the servants to do whatever her son directs them to do.  This in a manner was the culmination of the Holy Family’s stewardship of the Son of God.  The love of Joseph and Mary ensured the people of the world have the word of God no longer confined to angels and prophets.  We actually have it now available to us in the first person.  The words of Christ in the bible direct our hearts and actions on the way to communion with the Father because of their faith.  It is the Holy Family’s eternal gift to our past, present and future.

So this year, I challenge myself and anyone else out there to 1) Read the words of Christ and 2) Meditate on those words.  Just then maybe out hearts will hear the whispers of wisdom directing you through life’s challenges in the fashion Jesus directs.

Who knows…we just may find ourselves following the footsteps of the Holy Family!


P.S.  The inspiration to write this came from the image of the stature I saw at church, and the many friends and family of mine of know of in crisis.  Please pray for them and all those you know of in need as well.

So much to learn!


Today I attended my cousin’s wedding in ST. Petersburg, Florida. The last few weddings I attended had photographers who I must say did not “inspire” me. Today was just the opposite. I saw a husband and wife team led by Corey Conroy, and they inspired me! They even let me come along as they made some very artistic photos and help as a human flash stand.

I learned a great deal. I saw Corey and his wife create shots of the wedding dress, the groom review an invoice, and then work the wedding and dance floor. I then saw how today’s photographer is licensed to make some art with the couple rather than be tied to the official itinerary. That is if the couple allows it, and my cousin and her husband embraced the opportunity.

All along I did see in practice the concepts Roberto Valenzuela and Tony Corbell discussed about lighting. I learned some things about their business model and pricing…and how hard they have to work and create forty weeks a year. All in all it is amazing! I also saw how much more I need to learn to be a pro.

I’m glad Picture Perfect Practice arrived so now I can strait doing my exercises! So there is my project!

Check out Corey Conroy Photography!

If you need a photo in St. Pete or Tampa you cannot go wrong with them!