Category Archives: First Presbyterian

Lent, Thomas More, and Kevin McCarthy

We kicked of Lent last week with a fun and busy cross-section of activities that included politics, a fish fry, and plenty of time outside enjoying some spring-like weather.

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On (Fat) Tuesday night, I got dressed up to attend the Thomas More Society dinner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish Center, courtesy of the Saint Paul VI Institute, which bought a whole table for me and my co-workers. I knew almost nothing about the Thomas More Society beforehand, and I got hear from founder Tom Brejcha talk about their legal work defending pro-lifers — particularly their right to protest.

The keynote speaker for the evening was David Bereit, founder of the 40 Days for Life campaign. He actually had a surprising connection to the Saint Paul VI Institute — his wife was actually treated for infertility by Dr. Hilgers many years ago and had two grown children now thanks to him. That was certainly surprising news to everyone at our table.

It was a lovely evening, and I even got to take home a tiny Mardis Gras mask for Hannah’s doll in honor of Fat Tuesday.

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Ash Wednesday kicked off that Lenten season, and that means it’s time for fish fries! Our friends the Simpsons invited us along with them to St. Charles Borromeo for their annual fish fry. It was the first time our kids have had the “full line experience,” but they got to run outside a bit and then played a keep-away game with mommy as we shuffled our way through the line waiting to dish up.

The fish itself was probably the best of all the fish fries I’ve attended — fried fresh, crispy and golden — and even Hannah wound up stuffing herself with a filet or two. (Gabriel helped himself to his mom’s mac and cheese.)

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Vivian and I had a night out planned on Saturday, so we made a point of getting the kids outside to enjoy some of the lovely 60-degree weather. We had a picnic lunch in the shelter together and then burned off the PB&J on slides, the teeter-totter, and rolling aimlessly down the hill. Hannah also brought along her doll “Suki” to chase Aaron around the playground in-between rounds of play-fighting.

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Then that evening, Grammy watched the kids as Vivian and I dressed up and headed off to the Elephant Remembers dinner downtown. It’s the second time we’d been invited to this annual gala fundraiser, which meant we got to rub elbows with some of the typical Republican friends I bump into at town halls or parades (looking at you, Stephen). Scott Voorhees played emcee, and introduced a chain of speakers, such as Mayor Jean, Mike Foley, Ben Sasse, and Don Bacon. The keynote speaker was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who gave an stump speech about entering politics as a young man and his optimism about Republicans taking back the house in November. McCarthy received a few gifts before he left the stage — a bottle of whiskey from local distiller Soldier Valley, and an plaque naming him Admiral of the Nebraska Navy (an apparently annual joke I have yet to understand).

The honorees of the evening were Lee and Robyn Terry, and there was a nice table of Terry campaign memorabilia set up in the lobby for everyone to see as they came in. Bacon’s wing-man James Wright introduced Lee and Robyn, who both said a few words before being awarded a Nebraska baking pan by DCRP chair Theresa Thibodeau. There was one more award to Young Republican Spencer Head and a few words from Bacon’s second-in-command Kyle Clark to wrap things up. Naturally, plenty of folks stuck around to meet-and-greet a few of the speakers (and get photos), and I got to briefly shake McCarthy’s hand and told him I looked forward to him being the next Speaker. I also wound up taking a group photo of the Terry Team on my way out the door — always happy to lend a hand with my lens whenever possible.

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We had a nice and quiet Sunday, unexpectedly bumping into our friends the Lenarts at church over donuts. Then that evening we took the kids by First Presbyterian to play outside (and let Hannah try out her scooter) in the gorgeous weather before enjoying another one of their movie nights. This time it was 101 Dalmatians, a Disney classic I’d actually never seen, which we watched while eating Hot Dogs, sloppy joes, and Scooby Snacks of all things. They had some fun crafts afterward that included Dalmatian head bands, and Hannah made her own Dalmatian out of Play-Doh before we called it a night.

Movie and last pump it up

It’s been a groggy start to the new year, getting used to a regular forty-hour work week after having a fortnight bisected by Christmas and New Year’s. Vivian’s been making use of her new KitchenAid mixer, whipping up some homemade pizza and sticky buns that have definitely been a treat.

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We spent Saturday taking down our Christmas tree and decorations, bringing an official end to the holiday season (and introducing the kids to Mr. Bean and Punky Brewster in the process). Then on Sunday, we dropped by First Presbyterian for another movie night. We arrived early enough to get in some quality playtime outside, playing hide and seek with the kids on the playground and then inspecting a tree stump to determine its age.

Then inside, we got some chili dogs with a few of our friends for dinner before watching Homeward Bound, the 1993 live action animal Disney film that Vivian and the kids have seen multiple times, but I never had. The kids got to break out their sleeping bags as well and get a nice view right up front.

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Then on Monday night, we had one last bouncy trip to Pump it Up. We’d gone to multiple outings at this inflatable indoor park, all hosted by the Autism Society of Nebraska. Hannah and Aaron have both loved going up and down the big slide and hopping across the giant balls over an inflatable pit.

We’ve even come to know a few familiar faces after coming month after month, but unfortunately Pump it Up will be closing its doors at the end of January, so this was our last trip. We didn’t tell the kids, and I hope we’ll find a new bouncy venue for them to hop themselves down once again.

We may be having a quiet week or two coming up, which will be just what we need to get the house ready for another Hors D’oeurves Party at the end of the month. Stay tuned for that!

Bookin’

Summer’s now on a downward slope, with a week of muggy hotness and scattered days of showers, with time for some house painting, VBS, and a few visits from politicians in-between.

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On Friday, it was Cory Booker who dropped by. About a hundred people came to the Gathering Room to see the New Jersey Senator and Presidential Candidate (polling around 1.5% nationally). He was introduced by three local Democrats and then gave a brief stump speech focused on “values” rather than “policy.” He had a great deal of enthusiasm and energy, which made for more interesting photos than most other candidates I’ve photographed. He also seemed to enjoy making a number of “dad jokes,” asking me personally during the Q&A if I were walked on as a child since my name was “Matt.”

My question was a bit more seriously, as I briefly relayed the assault of journalist Andy Ngo by Antifa in Portland and asked Sen. Booker if he would condemn them for it. You can read a partial transcript of his answer here, but he essentially condemned the violence but not the group itself, saying he wasn’t familiar with the situation. I thanked him afterward (during selfie time) for the question and said that the sides these days are not so much right and left but fringe versus mainstream, and we all should be OK with calling out the fringe, no matter which side they think they’re on.

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In the meantime, our kids were having a week of VBS at First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, learning about Jesus healing lepers, washing feet, and being a servant in many other ways. We went to the church for service on Sunday so they kids could stand up front and (almost) sing a song or two from their week with their little friends. Our friends the Mills were there as well, and we stuck around afterward for fried chicken and some playground time before dragging the kids home.

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Then on Wednesday night, I dropped by a town hall with Jeff Fortenberry, who actually represents my district here in Nebraska. It was a packed house, and as usual the crowd seemed to be peppers with members of the opposite party. Things stayed mostly cordial, though one lady seemed to want to talk over everyone else during their questions before being told my another audience member, “We came to talk to him, not you.” Another woman wanted to argue with Fortenberry over the words “climate change” and seemed uninterested in his actual proposals on green energy and reducing carbon emissions, and another wanted him to condemn President Trump’s tweets (which he did).

A few more people had more serious questions, such as a woman whose parents died of carbon monoxide after their car, which had a key-less ignition, was accidentally left running. There was also a blind veteran who talked about the difficulty deaf veterans have getting help at VA hospitals when nursing staff have to deal with calling “711” and TTY machines. It was a good exchange overall, and it was especially nice to be able to have a back-and-forth with someone who will actually be on my ballot next year.