Growing Up

My twelve-year-old granddaughter Anna is growing up and our relationship is changing. We discuss books she’s read. I marvel at her intelligence, poise and thoughtfulness. She has enlightened me on the finer points of the musical phenomenon, “Hamilton”. She shares her arts-and-crafts projects with me; looking for approval I suppose, but confident in her abilities. I study her beauty which emanates from within a deep place in her soul. I listen with intent as she describes her love of horses and riding, while never sharing that I am frightened of the beasts. I am delighted to see her in the kitchen with her Nana; learning and sharing the joy of cooking that completely escapes me. In my eyes she is ageless and fearless and flawless. I am equally astounded and amused when her mother or grandmother seem to take over her body with their words and actions, as I am transported to some distant place and time. She is already a nurturer, protector and enforcer as are all the good women before her. Her younger brother is often the recipient of her caring, her teaching, and her demands, after all, someone must be in charge. She has no idea of the power that she possesses.

I’m carrying a secret little sadness concerning Anna. I fear that I am becoming unnecessary – still loved and respected but not needed to hold a hand, wipe a tear, fix a toy, or mend a torn page in a favorite book.

She’s impatient, as she should be. She needs to explore more, give more, learn more, and experience more independence. She is growing up. She is finding her wings. She is finding her way.

Our relationship is changing, and I need to learn to adapt. I’ll get there, but some journeys take detours. And some journeyers stumble along the way.

Recently Anna climbed onto my lap, as she often did when she was much younger. She’s still tiny and easy to hold. So, she climbed up and I held on for dear life. Perhaps she sensed that I needed her affection and her tenderness. Maybe she knew that I needed her loving embrace. Or gasp – maybe she needed me! I wanted to hold her forever. Even in my dotage, I am still able to remember how I once felt when her mother was on the verge of abandoning childhood. I remember the panic, the sense of loss. I was frantic and sad and angry all at the same time. Thanks to memories still intact, I can take comfort in the knowledge that age doesn’t equal apathy; growing older doesn’t mean growing apart. As Anna continues to mature, I’ll try to behave maturely as well, knowing full well it won’t be easy.

Our relationship is changing, but we can cherish our past and we can look forward to our future. That day when Anna crawled on my lap I asked her, “Do you think that someday you won’t want to call me Pawpaw anymore and that maybe you’d prefer a more mature sounding name like, Granddad or Grandfather?” She looked at me in disbelief and said, “I don’t really like the way that sounds.”

As a tear escaped and a prayer was answered, I thought to myself, “Neither do I, Anna, neither do I…”



Who Is Worthy?

Pope Francis’ message is LOVE above all else. He strives to strike a conciliatory tone while some conservative bishops and cardinals appear to be focused only on the LAW. Sadly many American bishops display some of the harshest criticism of our Holy Father. Instead of reaching out to those in need of Christ’s love, they prefer to remind us of our sinfulness; our unworthiness. Instead of finding ways to evangelize and share God’s love, they prefer exclusion and divisiveness. It’s sad that in a world aching for reconciliation and peace these bishops have chosen a very narrow view of Christ’s Gospel.

Recently Archbishop John Myers from New Jersey has given a directive to his parish priests concerning those ineligible to receive communion. He seems to be primarily concerned with those “guilty” of sexual sins. So once again another bishop has decided to “police” the Eucharist. So who is worthy to receive Christ? The publicly pious person who refuses to support legislation that will serve the poor? The folks who attend weekly mass but find no time to serve those less fortunate in their communities? What about the priest who makes it abundantly clear that he has no time for pastoral care but reminds us weekly that we are sinful?

And who are the unworthy? Only those guilty of sexual sins? Ironic that a clergy still plagued by the sexual abuse of the most innocent among us is seemingly obsessed with contraception, homosexuality and infidelity. I am dismayed that many Catholics flock to protest at abortion clinics yet remain virtually silent about the abuse of minors by priests. When was the last time members of a parish stood outside a bishop’s residence protesting the grave sins of pedophile priests at the urging of their parish priest?

Some progressive Catholics have suggested that we boycott communion. Some have suggested that we band together wearing our rainbow attire in support of our gay brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. Others have just decided to walk away. None of these options will bring reconciliation to our church.

imageHaving lived in Europe for a year, I’ve seen the empty churches; the cathedrals and abbeys that are little more than museums today. How sad that some American bishops seem to be working feverishly to empty our churches as well.

Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the Earth! And when you’re done with me, maybe you could work on a few priests and bishops.




Mom, I love you. And Mother’s Day seems like a good day to thank you for all that you’ve done for me.

I'm sure I was listening then...

Mom & me – circa 1955

Thank you for giving me life.

Thank you for teaching me about God and how to pray. Your example of faith lives on in your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Thank you for loving Dad (and by the way, he adores you, too). I also appreciate that I inherited your energy and sense of humor – even though Dad thinks he’s the funny one (and we all know he’s not the fast one).

Thanks for throwing or kicking a ball, running bases and always joining in whatever game was being played in the backyard.

Thanks for being a good cook and for always having a dessert with every meal. Also for never making me clean my plate as a kid – your mantra “just take one more bite” saved me from some otherwise torturous mealtimes.

Thank you for always keeping a clean house and having clean kids (even though we often resisted your nearly constant need to wipe our messy hands and faces).

Thank you for being a ‘force to be reckoned with’. At 85 years young you can still work circles around the rest of us.

Thanks for laughing so hard at times that you cry. And for crying when you are sad, hurt, or heartbroken (and for allowing us to cry with you).

Thank you for teaching me how to do addition in my head – no one can do it as fast as you!

Thanks for teaching me how to drive a car, too and for never losing your patience with me while I was struggling to learn.

Mom & me

Mom & me – circa 2014

Thanks for staying beautiful and up-to-date in your appearance and attitude. I’ve always been so proud to be seen with you Mom.

Thank you for loving Debbie as much as your own daughter. And for always saying that you couldn’t have picked a better daughter-in-law yourself.

Thanks for loving our children and always making time at Gram’s house special for them. Two words: blueberry muffins!

Thank you for always keeping a toy box in your sewing room. And for letting the grandkids and great grandkids sometimes take a toy home.

Thank you for being you. And for surrounding our family with your love.

Happy Mother’s Day!









Things I’ve Done For Money…

I started working as a kid. I had a newspaper route when I was 12 or 13 years-old. I rode my bicycle and threw newspapers, ideally on to front porches, but more often into shrubberies or the occasional gutter. I think I earned about $30.00 a month and because this was a daily paper, I suppose I was making about $1.00 a day. I had several other part-time jobs while in high school which according to my parents would build character and net some savings. No real savings were ever realized and as for the character, well let’s just say that I met a few characters along the way.

As an adult, I’ve had some less than stellar jobs but the absolute worst job was as the T.V. man at our local hospital. Deb and I had just had our second child and her part-time job became more part-time. Because we had a new baby and a not quite two year-old I decided to take a second job and work a few evenings a week to make some additional money. I found a job in the ‘Help-Wanted’ ads and the “no experience necessary but a clean appearance and a good personality, a plus” seemed tailor-made for me.

Because our local Catholic hospital didn’t have the funds to equip rooms with televisions, there was a company that provided this service for a fee. My job was to “sell” television to the patients. Let me explain: for $2.00 a night I would turn the television on in the patient’s room with a special key. It was the 1980’s and this was not cable television just the 4 or 5 local channels. Maybe 6 channels if you counted UHF. The lady that owned the television business was scary (think Cruella Deville) and because this was a CASH ONLY business I was responsible for any shortages which would ultimately be deducted from my paltry paycheck. Further humiliation resulted from the gold blazer that I was forced to wear which was 2 sizes too big. This blazer made me look a theater page but identified me as THE T.V. GUY. Many of my customers in fact looked forward to seeing me. I suppose recovering alone in the hospital without your soap operas or “Price Is Right” or “Dallas” would have been a struggle. Of course there were some sad nights, like when someone didn’t have the $2.00 and my ‘magic key’ would have to darken their room. Or any night in the ‘Psych’ ward. Truth be told, I sometimes turned on T.V.’s for folks that couldn’t afford the fee.

HumilityBecause this was the local hospital in my hometown I often encountered people who I knew. Trying to explain why I had sunk to such a lowly position in life could be quite humiliating. One particularly awkward evening was when I encountered my best friend’s wife in labor (the fathers-to-be were always good customers – they looked forward to any distraction from the business at hand). I will always remember the night my friend’s son was born with a smile.

I only kept that job for a few months. We figured out how to better manage our meager incomes and I got to spend more time with our little boy and our infant daughter. Thinking back, I believe that the greatest benefit of that job was the lesson in humility that I learned. Certainly we needed the money but that was soon gone. The lesson in humility remains to this day.





I like to think of myself as a ‘Do It Yourself’ kind of guy but the reality is that I’m really more of a ‘Try To Get My Son-in-law To Do It’ kind of guy. Let me explain. My son-in-law Travis is a handy guy. He likes to take on projects and he’s not afraid to tackle any home improvement.

This works out well for me. I have lots of projects that I would like to get done. I’m somewhat aspirational in my approach (“I would like to accomplish this task, but…”). Travis is more concrete in his approach (“I have the tools; when do we start?”).

The Home Depot® loves guys like me. I buy the material and Travis installs it. And if I buy more than I need, I just pile it up in the basement. I know that I can return extra materials later but I almost never do. I keep the stuff for future projects (most of which never happen).

I help with ‘my’  home projects but Travis is the one who does the lion’s share of the work. At times I get to be the superintendent but my wife is ALWAYS quality control. Deb also takes care of any color, design or material selection. I have an idea of what I want and Travis knows how to get it accomplished but Deb has final approval. It’s a pretty tightly run organization.

I know that ‘my’ home projects aren’t really mine but I’m okay with that. And so far Travis keeps coming back for more. And Deb keeps coming up with new ideas.

That’s the beauty of family. We are never alone. We anticipate one another’s needs and provide support (and love) as required. Rarely do we have to ask for help. Help is there.

It’s reassuring to know that I am in this life together with my family and my friends. At times I’ve tried to do it all. To carry it all. Whether it be a home project or an emotional or spiritual burden. When someone else helps with the lifting the burden becomes lighter. And as the burden is divided, the blessings are multiplied. Such is the joy of a life shared.

So I’m a ‘Do It Yourself” guy. It just happens to take a village…



Noah Boy

Tomorrow is grandson Noah’s second birthday. It’s hard to believe that two years has passed since that miracle occurred. But here he is: a two year-old!

Noah is all-boy. He is fascinated by airplanes, trains, trucks and helicopters (real ones and toy versions). He loves to kick or throw a ball; climb a wall (or a hill, or tree, or table, or railing, etc.). He loves to run, and play rough & tumble. And he always has a smile on his face. When he gets hurt (which is more often than not – a side effect of rough & tumble play), he usually shrugs it off, picks himself off and moves on to the next challenge. He’s undaunted. He’s joyful. He loves to laugh – and does it often. He is absolutely tireless and runs at full-throttle.

Noah is also a lover. He worships his big sister Anna. Of course he loves his Mommy & Daddy, too. He even loves the often unlovable (me) and can make the hardest heart melt away with his sweet-boy charm. One of his hugs and sweet kisses can sooth the crankiest of beasts and turn a lousy day into a vague memory (I know this from personal experience).

Mostly Noah is just Noah. In two short years he’s managed to carve out a special place in our hearts that only he can fill. I can barely remember life before him and can’t imagine what life would be if he hadn’t been born. Fortunately I don’t have to. He’s my grandson and I’m his grandfather. And our souls are entwined.

And life is good…

Happy birthday Noah Boy! I’ll be home soon and we can share some birthday cake.




In October we will be returning to our home in the United States. This means of course that we have one month left here in England. Yesterday while in Cirencester, the market town nearest our home, I began to feel melancholy. It’s a strange range of emotion: so happy to soon be back home with family and friends and at the same time sad to be leaving the home that we’ve made here.

But time marches on. Now we must box-up and pack-up our life (once again) and head for our new (old) life in America. And even though we are moving back to what is familiar and what is “ours” nothing will be the same. Our lives have changed and our perceptions about life abroad have been shattered. This is all good. I now have an even greater appreciation of our place in the global community.

I imagine that England will always feel like my second home. I have loved (for the most part) my time here. We have been blessed with this experience and I believe that we have become better persons from having lived here. Certainly I have gained a greater appreciation of world events. On a more personal level we have made friends here and have shared times that will last forever in our memories. Of course there have been castles and abbeys and cathedrals aplenty but I think the things that will remain in my heart are the memories of the people: my work mates, our neighbours, the Sweet Shop Ladies, June  the lady who often shares a pew with us at tiny St. Peters Church and Ann & Mike who have given Deb nearly weekly tours of the Costwolds.

For me it’s usually the little things that last: the cup of tea made just right, the Steak & Stilton pies, the (countless) sticky toffee puddings, the fields of rapeseed in spring, driving down some unknown ‘goat road’ looking for someplace that Deb thought was “just around the bend”, learing what “nicked” and “nackered” means and ‘discovering’ the Tesco Super Store after driving past it for a couple of months unbeknownst to both of us that it even existed (inspite of repeated adverts on the telly).

I am also thankful for our visitors that have come to share part of our lives here and I will cherish those memories, too. Not least of which is Anna & Noah at a nearby farm playing with the bunnies, feeding the lambs and milking the goats and splashing in the mud puddles. I will relive that day time and time  again.


Of course we’ve had big moments here, too. We’ve celebrated along with everyone else the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and cheered on the athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 2012 has been a great year for Britain and we have been here to enjoy it as well.

But it’s time to go home (and leave this home). So packing and goodbyes will soon commence. I’m sure that there will a tear (or two) shed but life goes on…

And isn’t it grand?



Make A Joyful Noise

My son-in-law is not a very good singer. No, that’s not quite accurate; he’s a really bad singer. Poor guy couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But you what? He sings. He sings out loud. He sings with his kids. And most importantly, he sings in church. He makes ‘a joyful noise’!

Sing out your love!

Travis is an example of how children learn by modelling their parents’ behaviour. Both of Bess and Travis’s children love music and grandson Noah really loves to sing. He loves to sing in church just like Daddy. In fact, he so loves church singing that while he was in England every time we entered a church or abbey or cathedral Noah would sing Alleluia. Of course at 21 months old his ‘alleluia’ sounds more like al-lay-loo-la. All the more beautiful and endearing! Somehow a baby singing al-lay-loo-la at the top of his lungs has a transformative power. And Noah has brought joy to many with his vocals. Recently at Mass back in the U.S. he asked the song leader (and our good friend Tracy) for “more loo-la; more, more loo-la!” And together she and Noah made ‘a joyful noise’.

So God bless Travis for singing his heart out heedless of being off-key and for remaining confident that God loves all voices; perhaps especially those that struggle with melody, lyrics, tone and rhythm.

Granddaughter Anna likes to say “that’s the way God made me” or “I’m still learning.” Usually she invokes these sentiments when she has failed to meet some challenge or doesn’t want to try to learn something new. Example: “I’m sorry I didn’t pick up all my toys but I’m not as good at that as you are because I’m still learning” or “I can’t reach the pedals very well on my bike because this is way God made me” (meaning short). But Travis doesn’t seem to care if he is singing is off-key and maybe he celebrates his singing because that’s exactly the way God has made him.

Regardless, his example of ‘joyful noise’ has reverberated in our worship and made an impression on my grandchildren that will last their lifetime. And I thank God for his gift to them and to me. I’m not a good singer either (although I’m better than Travis) but I now sing out  loudly in church, too. Travis and Noah have taught me how to ‘make a joyful noise’, and let go of my fear of not sounding good enough. I’m still learning to love my own voice (warbles and all) and I’m reminded that it’s okay because this is the way that God has made me.



Nothing Lost in Translation

Two of our grandkids are in England. They arrived here last week and they don’t leave until next week. That’s three weeks of grandparent time! Anna is now four and Noah will be two in September. For the record, they brought their parents along but this week Mommy & Daddy have taken a little side trip to Scotland. So it’s just Anna, Noah, Deb and me at home this week. It’s sublime.

My favourite times with them are the quiet times. Like when Noah sings “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or when Anna tells me, in a whisper, that she has been missing me very much since I moved to England (pronounced Ing-Gull-land). This morning I got Noah out of his crib and his sweet sleepy morning smile nearly made my heart burst. And last night Anna curled up with me on the couch while Deb got baby brother to sleep and gave me kisses that would have melted the coldest of hearts.

The active times are fun, too. Probably more fun for Anna and Noah. They are happy, loving, active children – with an emphasis on active. Noah is like a baby Houdini. He can escape any high chair or car seat and climbs, jumps and runs (even indoors). Anna is a girl who has a lot to say – a whole lot. She often engages in a running commentary and is very well-informed about things beyond most four year-olds’ grasp. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I cherish every moment of our time together. It’s just that I realize now why God gave us our children when we were younger.

Last night I was greeted in the garden by both of them running toward me when I got home from work. You can’t buy that kind of love. Tonight we played in the back garden while dinner was being prepared. It takes quite a bit of energy to keep up with these two. But it’s worth it. They’re worth it! I love them so much.

Angels at Winchester Cathedral

And they’re funny, too. In our family we say, “funny trumps all” and we have shared lots of laughs. Noah thinks it’s hilarious when I make a funny noise (and of course it’s only truly funny when he then mimics me). After being presented with “Union Jack” pinwheels, Anna informed us that they’re called “wind-blowers in her country.” And she thinks that English Olivia is very humorous (Olivia is an animated pig who speaks American English at her house and the Queen’s English on our telly here). This evening Noah dipped his little hand in the bird bath next door, made the ‘sign of the cross’ and started singing Alleluia. O holy Noah! Have we visited too many churches and cathedrals?

We’re having a big adventure with our grandchildren. And we’re all learning some new things. And confirming some things that we already knew. Like how much we love one another. And how it’s okay to be apart for a while because we’ll always be connected.

Nothing is really lost in translation. Love is universal and is not bound by geography, custom or language. Children are called by many different affectionate names in Britain. They might be called dear, dearie, flower, love, chicky, duckie, or wee ain. I like to call my grandkids ‘Tunia & Buster even if their given names are Anna & Noah.  After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare that said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?



International Man of Mystery

My job requires travel. I visit factories, construction sites, and customers wherever and whenever necessary. In the last three weeks I’ve been to Portugal, Germany and France. This week I travel to Spain. Next week perhaps a return trip to Germany or a quick trip to Italy. Based in England most of my travel is one day trips – one L O N G  D A Y ! I’m not complaining (well maybe a little bit) but traveling the way I do requires leaving my house here in England at 2:30 or 3:00 AM to catch a flight and spending most of the day traveling (planes, trains, and automobiles). Then I return the same day at midnight (or 1:00 or 1:30AM – technically the next morning) only to repeat the process the next week or several days later. Eventually it catches up with you.

Of course on the weekends Deb and I like to see as much of England as we can, so we stay busy traveling around here, too. And I love it (mostly)!

You won’t find this in any Holiday Inn Express Lobby

My continental travels are almost always comical at some point. Like the time in Spain I was looking for a rest room: “Donde esta el bano, por favor?” only to be directed to the swimming suits or bath towels in a major department store. Turns out ‘aseo’ is the Spanish word for restroom – seems I was asking where I could take a bath. Or in Portugal when I spread some kind of creamy cheese all over my bread thinking it was butter. My hosts were quite amused – apparently you eat it with a spoon like yoghurt. In Germany I have stayed in a hotel (?) that looks like something out of Grimm’s Fairytales. I got busted taking pictures of the dining room and lobby. The proprietor must have thought I was some kind of corporate hotel spy: “Was ist los!!??” I just thought the place was quaint but didn’t know a way to politely tell her without sounding insulting.

So I stumble along, nodding, smiling, pointing at items on menus, signs, and maps. God only knows what kind of idiot I must appear to be to my “new friends”. But even though most of my international travel contains much mystery, I occasionally learn something new along the way and try to remember it for next time. And I pray that my guardian angel is multilingual. I miss the ease of traveling in the U.S. but sometimes even that can be challenging, so I tuck my ‘Rick Steves Guide to Europe’ in my briefcase along with my Google Translator app and trudge along. How lost can I get?

Safe Travels,