Anna Turns Seven

 On Tuesday Anna turns seven. Seven? Where did the time go? So much about her has changed in just seven short years. She still lets me hold her in my arms but I’m afraid those days are numbered. tunies.jpg

The name Anna means gracious and merciful and indeed she is! She has gone from being a helpless infant into a bright, confident, loving first grader. She’s a big sister who dotes on her little brother. She’s a sweet daughter who loves her Mommy and adores her Daddy. She’s a kind and caring friend who shares her time and attention (and her toys). And she’s a granddaughter who brings so much joy that sometimes my heart aches from the sheer beauty of her little soul.

I want to tell her how much she is loved but she already knows that.

I want to tell her that she has changed my world but I suspect that she knows that, too.

I have thanked God for her each day since she entered our world – with a song in her heart, a smile on her lips, and a twinkle in her eyes.

On Tuesday as she blows out her birthday candles I’ll be making some wishes, too. Here are my wishes for Anna:

  • Even when others are unkind. Stay true to your loving spirit.
  • Dream big. If you can dream it; you can do it!
  • Pray always: with words, with deeds, with your smile, with your tears.
  • Travel the world; have great adventures, but remember to always carry Home in your heart.
  • Never forget how much that you are loved. Especially by God.
  • Dance like no one is watching; sing your song to all who will listen.
  • Question authority; shake things up; make some noise for justice and peace.
  • Laugh out loud. A lot.
  • Be tough but caring. Be compassionate but strong.
  • Be the smartest person in the room but never be arrogant or unkind. 
  • Love without fear. Give yourself to others without regret.

anna pawpawI have one wish for myself, too. I hope that Anna lets me carry her in my arms until old age or weakness makes it impossible. And then I hope that she will carry me.

Happy Birthday Anna. Pawpaw loves you more than words can say!

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

I Fell In Love Ten Years Ago

Our oldest granddaughter Charlise is ten years old today. Ten years! It seems like yesterday that she was born. I suppose all parents (and grandparents?) look back on the day their child was born with feelings of nostalgia and wonder.

Charlise was born a month early and even though Deb made a quick trip to Florida shortly after her birth, I couldn’t get away from work as quickly. We went back to Florida together by the time she was nearly a month old. Of course I had seen hundreds of photos by then but I will never forget the first time that I held her in my arms. It was love at first sight. She was this tiny, beautiful, precious, baby girl. Her skin was so soft that I could barely feel it with my rough hands. She was everything I’d ever hoped for and I prayed that one day I would be a grandfather worthy of such a miracle.

CharliseWell that was ten years ago. Today my girl is more beautiful, if that is even possible. She is a sweet, smart, funny, caring girl who never stops amazing me with the love she shares. I may be prejudiced, but I believe if you met her you would agree that she is just simply a good girl. Every teacher is happy to have her in their classroom. Every coach wants her on their team. Every scout leader wants her in their troop. Every parent is happy for their kid to call her friend.

At times it makes me a little melancholy to think about how fast she has grown. I can already see the kind of adult she will be: Strong, confident, loving, kind. She will make her mark in this world. Her love of others will always be a guiding force and she will surely be successful in all of her endeavors. I hope that I’m around to see the woman she will become. I know that she has some scathingly brilliant ideas!

But that will all have to wait. She’s remains my little girl even though she’s a BIG ten year-old! There are still times when she climbs up on my lap and hugs my neck and I’m carried back to that moment ten years ago when I first fell in love…

Happy Birthday Peanut!

Love,

Pawpaw

 

 

Noah is Four

Today is our grandson’s birthday. In four short years he has carved a hole so deep in my heart that I struggle at times to remember life before Noah. He is my golden boy!

Of course he’s smart. And of course he’s beautiful. His smile can melt the hardest of hearts. He has his Daddy’s boundless energy and his Mommy’s loving spirit. He may even have inherited a little bit of this old man’s temperament but with good parenting and lots of prayer that will hopefully be overcome.

Noah is fourWith leaps and bounds he has become a four year-old! Church, preschool, swimming, soccer and Little Gym® are all part of his life now. With a twinkle in his eye and a bounce in his step he is both fearless and completely disarming. His neighborhood friends and his backyard fort reign supreme. Swinging a bat or kicking a ball and running provide endless hours of fun. And when he asks me to play, I can never say no (but then, why would I?). Building things with Legos® or playing with blocks or scraps of wood captures his imagination. Playdoh® or construction paper, crayons, and markers feed his artistic spirit. He loves music and cannot help but dance or sing along when he hears a song that moves him. 

Noah is a lover. He is Mommy’s heart and Daddy’s soul. Keeping up with big sister Anna remains his number one priority (this will likely be a lifelong goal) and there are occasions when he nearly surpasses her. Witnessing the love that these two share is a slice of heaven.

Noah brings joy. There are people who carry joy with them wherever they go. Any encounter with these joy-givers always makes you feel better; better about yourself; better about your situation; better about the world. Noah has that gift. He gives joy to all who meet him! And I have been the lucky recipient of that joy for four blessed years.

Happy Birthday to my little man!

Peace,

Denis

 Noah found favor with the LORDGenesis 6:8

My Sweet Boy

I have one grandson. His name is Noah. He’s almost 4 years old now. For me it was love at first sight. I’m pretty sure he likes me, too. Turns out that Noah and I are alike in many ways. We both have blue eyes (although mine are more blue-green). We are both fair-haired (although mine is more white than blond). We share a favorite color – blue. We both love chocolate. We’re both very funny (really – we are!) and we like to make other people laugh. We both adore his Mommy, his Nana, and his big sister. And we love his Daddy, too.

noah and me 2I believe that Noah is mature for his age and understands some very adult concepts and this may be why we are so simpatico. But truth be told, I suppose I am more comfortable acting like a four year-old most of the time and this is the real reason we get along so well. We like to play the same games – cars and trucks or Legos® or Playdoh®. Building things and imagination are a big part of our playtime together. And we love the girls. His sister and his cousins are always welcome to play with us (and we will even endure tea parties and such).

We’ve enjoyed reading books together, playing in the park or backyard, and he loves for me to tell him stories about when I was a boy. “Pawpaw, tell me again about when you were little.” So I’ve taught him a few things along the way and shared lots of stories and I have been amazed at times at just how beautiful he truly is.

And now he is teaching me. He just started preschool and on the second day he was awarded two stickers for ‘good listening’ and for ‘singing’. Another student in his class received no stickers and was very disappointed. Noah, without being asked, gave one of his stickers to the child that had received none. Noah freely gave what was his to relieve the other child’s sadness.

How often have I held on to what was MINE? How many times have I turned a blind eye and a cold heart to those in need? A simple act of kindness can heal a wound; repair a broken heart; forge a friendship. Noah taught me that.

There’s not much that makes me happier in this life than when Noah runs to me, jumps into my arms, and wraps his arms around my neck. The fact that now I’m learning from this little man is just sublime!

Peace,

Denis

 

The Lesson I Learned Watching National Velvet

Recently two of our granddaughters spent the night. Part of the requisite for a sleepover is a movie. Usually it’s some Disney® or Pixar® animated “new release” but this time my wife suggested a classic: Elizabeth Taylor’s National Velvet.

What a treat! Not only was it a nice diversion from the usual fare but it is a beautiful film from 1944 that tells the tale of a girl who, against all odds, wins the British Grand National Steeplechase. Our granddaughters were mesmerized. First by the fact that they love horses; secondly by the fact that Velvet, the young girl played by Elizabeth Taylor, was disqualified because she was a girl (only boy jockeys were allowed in 1944). The girls were both delighted and outraged. They know full well that they can do anything boys can do.

My own little equestrian

My own little equestrian

But the message of the film was not lost on them. Velvet’s success in training and racing her horse and ultimately winning the race was what mattered. The recognition and prize money were less important. Velvet loved and believed in her horse and her reward was knowing that together they had achieved greatness regardless of what society deemed worthy or acceptable.

Of course I love my granddaughters but my pride in seeing them embrace a film that is not cutesy or Disney-fied is hard for me to put into words. They might have struggled with some of the British accents and some of the antiquated ideas from the 1940’s but they followed the story and cheered for Velvet and her horse. They both spoke later about how the important thing was that Velvet never gave up on her dream. Pretty profound for a six and nine year-old.

I’m guilty of sometimes dumbing-down stuff for my grandkids. I try to take some of the harshness out of reality. I want every day for them to be all sweetness and light. And I always want them to have rainbows and fairytale endings. But that’s not really such a good idea after all.

The girls taught me a valuable lesson the other night. I know now that they are tougher than I thought. They will be able to handle disappointment and heartache in life because they realize that they are surrounded by love. And they are capable of tremendous compassion. I’m certain that they will be winning their own “championships” someday and that their gains will be in character, faith and love.

It seems certain that there is much more they will be teaching me in the future. I can hardly wait…

Peace,

Denis

My Journey Continues Today

Every journey is supposed to have a beginning and an end but it’s what happens along the way that fills my soul. Of course there are wrong turns and detours and setbacks as I plod on to reach my destination. I’ve discovered some unexpected surprises and realized anticipated milestones as I’ve reached them. I might feel lost or stuck at times; not sure how to go on or which way to turn. Time marches on and sometimes I struggle to keep pace. And yet I continue today. I simply have no choice. I continue.

My constant reminder to myself: Love more. Hurt less. Give more. Take less.

This is it. My only journey. And it won’t really ever end. I’ve decided to forgo focussing on the destination and relish the journey. I’m letting go of the false-starts and missteps; the disappointments and regrets.

I’m not sure where my journey may lead. And I’m grateful for the days that I’ve had and the ones that I hope to have in the future. I’ve seen some amazing places and known some extraordinary people. I’ve had moments in this life that have been heart-breakingly beautiful and some filled with such desperation that even the memory brings back the pain. But I’m embracing this day. TODAY.

Today I have a wife and children and grandchildren and we share an ordinary life. We work. Clean the house. Mow the lawn. Pay bills. Buy groceries. Prepare meals.

But more importantly: We play. We pray. We sing. We laugh. We cry.

imageFor me it’s always been the simple pleasures: Holding Deb’s hand. A tender kiss on  the cheek from a grandchild. A giggle from an oft-told joke that never stops being funny. Praying at mealtime. Hugs. Hearing “I love you”. A favorite song. Comfortable shoes. Sunshine. Blue skies. Fresh snowfall. Warm summer nights and dinner on the patio. The sound of rain on the roof.  A call home. A friendly voice. The smell of supper on the stove. A job well done. A goodnight kiss.

As I journey, I don’t need to “get somewhere”, I’m already there. This journey is not about arriving somewhere in the future, it’s about being here now.

Every kiss. Every tear. Every joy. Every heartache. Those are mine to share. TODAY.

Peace,

Denis

Mom

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!

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Know That You’re Old When Your Toys Are Antiques

PlayRecently I was watching “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS. There was some guy who had brought vintage toys for appraisal. Apparently calling old stuff “vintage” is better than calling it old. Anyway, I realized that one of the vintage trucks that he had was similar to one I played with as a boy. Furthermore, I was certain that I still had it in a box in the basement. And to my delight I found my Buddy L® pickup truck and trailer.

I thought that my grandson Noah might enjoy playing with my old (vintage) metal truck. And he in fact loves it! It brings back happy memories for me, too. This truck and trailer must be over 50 years old. My friends and I would “drive it” through the empty lot across the street when we were boys. We imagined we were on a huge construction site and would play all day with our trucks and cars in the dirt and weeds. Our beloved empty lot finally gave way to a new home and eventually my friends and I grew too old for toy cars and trucks. Luckily mine was safely boxed away only to find a new life as a vintage toy.

Buddy LHappy to have rediscovered one of my toys, I am still a little troubled by the “antique” label. If my toy is antique what does that say about me? My Buddy L® truck is 100% metal except for the rubber tires. It’s heavy, has sharp edges and is likely coated with toxic paint. To my knowledge, no safety tests have ever been performed. No recalls ever issued. This truck has only been boy-tested and it passed that test long ago with flying colors. It has careened over countless hillsides and carried scores of plastic Army men and farm animals.

Today she is a little rusty and worn (hey – so am I). But Noah has given her new life. When my granddaughters join in, the truck is sometimes reduced to carrying Polly Pockets® and Pretty Ponies®. But Noah and I are mostly purists and we like to haul “boy stuff” in her bed and trailer. So we have plastic farm animals and safari animals to load up now. We also sometimes carry his Uncle Blake’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® (which I suppose are not quite yet vintage).

Old toys can play hard. My antique Buddy L® has proven that.

But I wonder how often I discard things that were once purposeful but now considered obsolete? How many times have I written something off as useless or unnecessary? And what about people? Do I view elderly people as a burden? Because they are old, are they not worthy of my time and attention? Do I overlook the beauty, wisdom and experience of a life well lived? Antiques are treasured for the very fact that they are old. But I fear in our society we often dismiss our older citizens for that very same reason.

I know that my truck can still play hard and I’m learning that grandpas can play hard, too.

Noah, thanks for letting me come along for the ride! I think that Buddy L® and I still have a few good “vintage” years left.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

Hippity Hoppity, Easter’s On Its Way

The origins of the Easter Bunny are unclear, but he is mentioned in early German writings. The first edible Easter bunnies appeared in Germany in the 1800s, and were made out of sugar and pastry. As a kid I often wondered what the Easter Bunny had to do with eggs. Polish folklore has the Virgin Mary offering eggs to the soldiers guarding Christ on the cross, as she begged them to be merciful, her tears left stains on the eggs. Eggs and bunnies and candy. There are so many conflicting images that all seem to converge at Easter in some pastel menagerie with chocolate and jelly beans thrown in for good measure.

EasterRecently I’ve read commentaries by some Christian writers complaining about the commercialization of Easter; how Easter is demeaned by the purchase of candy and greeting cards, etc. In 2013 the average consumer spent $145.13 on everything from Easter candy to new clothes. But wasn’t Easter originally a pagan feast to celebrate spring? Painting and dying eggs pre-dates Christianity. It seems that early Christians just conveniently supplanted what was already a festival. Sort of, “Hey, we already have a party – let’s make it about Jesus!”

As a Christian, I’m not really bothered that Easter was formally a pagan feast day. I’m equally undisturbed with the Easter Bunny sharing the day that celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we find new life in Christ, why not celebrate the new life around us? And if you’re not a Christian, I still hope that you can enjoy a dyed egg and a chocolate bunny (or whatever means springtime to you). According to the National Confectioners Association’s survey 87% of people create an Easter basket for their kids. This just makes for happy kids. It needn’t diminish the importance of Easter. To the contrary, it should emphasize the joy we share. Why not “wear your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it?”

For Christians this is our Holy Week. This is the most sacred time in our Church calendar. We celebrate and remember the passion and death of Jesus. We begin this week with Palm Sunday and continue through Holy Thursday and Good Friday, as we journey with Jesus to the cross. On Saturday at the Easter Vigil we celebrate His rising anew. Through His death and resurrection we are saved!

This year I’ve decided that instead of being annoyed with the secularization of Easter, I will embrace the world that God has given us. Whether I encounter those who are thankful for a Savior or folks who are just thankful for spring weather, I will try to share their joy. As some of my friends celebrate Passover and others are looking forward to a long weekend, why create conflict? Instead of looking for something to be angry about or focusing on our differences I will try to bring peace and reconciliation to those I meet.

I believe that God created a world big enough for all of us. So I’ll be singing Alleluia on Easter and later if I spy a bunny in my garden or a jellybean should find its way to me, so much the better.

Peace,

Denis

 

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.

Peace,

Denis