Oh Buster!

My grandson is named Noah but his nickname is Buster. And more than a few times I’ve heard some responsible adult exclaim, “Oh Buster!” Sometimes in exasperation or fear, but most often in amusement. Such is life with Buster. He is a two year-old dynamo!

Winning a ribbon for what he does best - jumping, running and tumbling

Winning a ribbon for what he does best – jumping, running and tumbling

Noah has one speed – fast! And he is fearless (well he’s not afraid of me). He’s the kid that leads you right up to the precipice and then beams that beautiful smile while you tumble head-over-heals into his abyss of toddler silliness. I have snatched him out of harms way more than a few times (nearly running into the street, jumping off a too-high platform, grabbing a knife off of the counter, dragging the dog by her tail). He’s NOT a bad boy; he’s a TWO YEAR-OLD boy. He knows how to do a lot of things; he doesn’t understand the consequences of most of the things that he does. It’s this delicate balance of danger and freedom and joyfulness that is fascinating to him (and maddening to his beleaguered grandfather). Oh Buster!

Still I love it all. And of course I love him so much it breaks my heart every time he gets a new bump or bruise or gash on this perilous road to self-discovery. He is undaunted and usually just picks himself up and brushes himself off and moves on to the next challenge (danger). Always with a bounce in his step and smile on his face.

Proudly displaying his bandaged gash!

Proudly displaying his bandaged gash!

Of course he’s a lover-boy, too. There are plenty of hugs and kisses dispensed by my little man. I suspect he knows just how disarming his smile is and he employs it as a defense mechanism. It’s hard to be angry over his minor transgressions when they are accompanied by a twinkle in his eye and his beaming smile. And few things sound sweeter to me than when he and I are walking somewhere together and he announces, “Pawpaw carry you!”, which is two year-old for “Pawpaw will you carry me?” And of course I will!

So we’ll be buddies as long as he allows. It’s such great fun! His spirit of adventure reminds me that usually it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. So I’ll do what I can to keep us both out of trouble. And I’m certain that we’ll hear the occasional “Oh Buster!” but we’ll just keep smiling.

Peace,

Denis (Pawpaw)

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.

Love,

Pawpaw

Fear Not

In his first Inaugural address Franklin Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That was nearly 80 years ago and sadly today our nation seems to be more fearful than ever. Shouldn’t life in America be better than it was in Roosevelt’s day? Advances in medicine alone should make life today less fearful – no Polio or Rubella or Small Pox. Technological improvements make communication instantaneous – my mom will tell you about writing letters to my dad 60 years ago while he was overseas and not getting a reply for months. My blog is free but you might have spent 5 or 10 cents on a newspaper in the 1930’s to read drivel like this. So life is better today! Then why do so many people live in fear?

Politicians seem to be great fear mongers. So are media personalities, insurance sales persons, and some clergy. Fear can be a powerful tool; just look at any political ad. Listen to any talk radio loud mouth or attend a church service and you likely be warned about some impending evil – life is scary but if you vote for me, buy my product, or follow my religion you will be safe (or safer anyway). Fear is an excellent marketing tool.

Fear has fuelled hate and prejudice. Fear has gotten us into wars. Fear begets fear. Be afraid – be very afraid!

But I for one refuse to be ruled by fear. I will not vote for you because you want me to be afraid of your opponent. I will not buy your product, listen to your propaganda or read your book because of some vague threat of evil or danger (despite your warnings). I will not buy into your fear game. And I will not follow your religion (and your rules) because of some fear of hell.

Instead I will hold my head up high and embrace the good in this world. I will take an active role in promoting peace and justice (if only in my small circle of influence). I will love God and be thankful for life in all its forms.

I want to be a role model to my grandchildren. I want them to explore the world and all its wonder and be forces for good. I want them to be ambassadors of good will; agents for positive change; lovers of justice and protectors of our planet.

Sometimes we have to stand up for what is right. And shout down the hate and inequality in our lives. Some of us will take the lead, some will follow and still others will stand silent.

But fear should never motivate us. Love should.

Peace,

Denis

P.S. Emeli Sande’s song speaks to triumph over fear – give it a listen or better yet, let it be your anthem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFXRQKYFbXE&feature=related

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”?

Cheers,

Denis

A Different Lenten Journey

This year my Lenten journey has been different from any year that I can recall. It’s not just because I’m living in England (although that has something to do with it); it’s that I’ve made a conscious effort to find God in all things – even the shitty stuff.

Each year I look at Lent as a time to cleanse my soul; refresh my spirit; and let go. This year I’ve decided to hold on. I’m holding on to grudges, hurts, disappointments, and hate and ‘staring them square in the eye.’ I’m forcing myself to encounter my own sinfulness. I’m examining the times when I have failed to love. Self-examination is not for the faint of heart but I’m reminded that God is always with me. Even during my lowest points I have not been abandoned.

Often when things don’t go my way I want to cry or scream or cuss (or all three). But usually the bad things pass or the disappointment fades or the hurt heals and I realize then that I could never survive without my faith. The faith that is nourished by my family, my friends and my community. The faith that sustains me during life’s heart-breaks, setbacks and disappointments.

It seems that disappointments come in all forms. My 18 month-old grandson Noah attends a gym class. Said gym class consists of running around on padded mats, swinging from bars, throwing the occasional ball and following some limited instructions with a bunch of other 1 or 2 year-olds. It’s great fun! This week while doing his “routine” he spied an obvious grandfather watching through the visitor’s window. Occasionally he would stop and wave at the man. At the end of class while Noah was walking toward him, the grandfather scooped a little girl up in his arms (apparently his own granddaughter). With that, Noah sat right down and cried. I’m not certain if he mistook the man for me but that’s what my daughter suspected. Maybe he just wanted to be held – don’t we all? Maybe he was wondering why he wasn’t the one being swept up into his Pawpaw’s arms? We’ll never know exactly what was going on in Noah’s little heart and mind.

Of course after hearing that story, I nearly sat on the floor and cried, too. Why did I leave my grandkids to come to England? Why must Noah cry? Why does the separation have to hurt so much at times? What can I do to make it right? At that moment I desperately needed Noah in my arms and still today I ache for his touch. On Easter I will have the joy of holding him and his sister and his cousin. Until then I will just hold on to the bittersweet thought of his disappointment. Poor Noah – poor me!

Jesus’ victory over death on Easter Sunday is our victory, too. But perhaps first we must embrace our own suffering to be truly joyous on that glorious day. I know that I will be beaming on Easter with Noah in my arms. Until then, I will have to continue my soul-searching and confront the pain and disappointments in my life. And remember that God will never abandon me.

Peace,

Denis

Saint Isidore and Other Miraculous Interventions

Saint Isidore is considered by many in the Catholic Church to be the Patron Saint of Technology and the Internet. Which is interesting since he died in 636? I guess he wrote a bunch of stuff and people read it, therefore he was an information provider; hence the connection to the World Wide Web of information. Whatever the rationale, I am grateful for the internet and not opposed to praying for his intervention.

Having grandkids in America whilst we’re here in England is at times heartbreaking and has evoked more than a few tears – I miss you Charlise, Anna and Noah! But we have been blessed to have ‘Skyped’ and ‘Facetimed’ and talked each week (sometimes multiple times in one week). And I think of the generations that have gone before me that left home and family to build a new life or fight in foreign wars with little more than the hope of a letter from home. A letter that could take months to reach a loved one and months more to receive a reply. How they must have cherished those missives.

Even though technology makes leaps and bounds every day, the human heart and soul remains unchanged. We need one another. We need to love and be loved. And we are connected spiritually even if we’re not always connected physically or electronically. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Internet, e-mail, Wi-Fi, and all the other stuff that I don’t really understand the workings of (and don’t want to) but that I use daily. After all, I’m even able to post my blog and reach my friends, family and followers almost magically.

But it’s not just technology that keeps us connected. It’s the bond that we create with the ones that we love that allows us to feel their joy and their pain even when we’re worlds apart. It’s the shared experiences and memories that keep them in our hearts always.

“It has a spot on it”

I have a silly game (sort of) that I play with my granddaughters. It goes like this: If they’re wearing polka-dots, I will say “I like your shirt (pants, dress, etc.) but it has a spot on it!” – this is particularly funny when you’re a little girl who likes to indulge her grandfather. I always say it; and they always feign annoyance (their giggles giving away their true delight in our little joke). It’s just our thing.

Recently my younger granddaughter, Anna, asked her Daddy to pretend to be Pawpaw and to tell her that she had a spot on her shirt. That moment to me was better than any Skype or Facetime or Internet connection. It was Anna connecting to me and my son-in-law being generous enough to be my proxy in ‘our game’. So I think I’ll thank St. Joseph (the patron saint of fathers) for that intervention, too. And send hugs and kisses to Anna and Daddy Travis…

Peace,

Denis

To Market, To Market…

I love nursery rhymes. I loved them as a kid. I loved reading to my kids. And I love reading them to my grandkids. I’m heading to the market this morning and this keeps banging around in my head…

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

It was only until moving here to England that I’ve realised that so many words used here are from those beloved nursery rhymes. I pass signs on the Carriageway that bring them to mind.

Gloucester…

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

And York…

The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had 10,000 men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And Surrey, and Leeds, and of course London (where Pussycat went to visit the Queen…)

Just the other day I was walking along a footpath and came upon a stile (a sort of stump that you use to climb over a fence) and immediately…

 “I saw a crooked man; who walked a crooked mile; he found a crooked six-pence; upon a crooked stile.”

A stile! A crooked stile! A bloody crooked stile!

We drove two hours north yesterday to visit a factory in Leicester and every sign seemed to trigger another rhyme in my head. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get these nursery rhymes out of my head? And I wondered if my work associate could tell when I was drifting in “nursery rhyme mode”. I can’t seem to stop myself!

Maybe it’s a coping mechanism. There’s so much new here (or old if you will) and trying to absorb it all is a bit overwhelming. New words, new phrases, new places, new foods, new people. So perhaps the nursery rhymes are my comfort zone right now. It brings the familiar to an unfamiliar place. Maybe it’s not madness; it’s just a way of  processing tons (spelled tonnes now) of information.

It has helped with some of the melancholy; I imagine I’m sharing those nursery rhymes with Charlise or Anna or Noah. Or back in time with Tyson or Bess or Blake…

Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird’s nest.
They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in,
They all took one, and left four in.

And somehow it all feels right.

Peace,

Denis

 

Packing Boxes, Checklists, and Deadlines, Oh My!

There’s a lot to get done this week. The Week. The one before we leave for England. In my mind this week was going to be much easier. We had mapped out everything very carefully: Housing – check; Rental Car – check; Passports/Visas/International Drivers Licenses – check; Banking – check; Airline tickets – check. But now it’s here. The Week. The  Last One. And all of a sudden it all feels a little overwhelming.

We still have lots to do and taking time to blog isn’t helping get any of it done. But I just needed to clear my head and write a bit. Usually I take a few moments at the beginning of each new year to think about all the possibilities that lie ahead. This year even more so.

We will be living in the United Kingdom and hopefully we will be traveling all over Europe. Certainly we will be making a trip to Paris in April (already booked) and hope to see Rome in the summer or early autumn and perhaps a trip to Munich or Madrid (or both). Of course we will spend lots of time in London and the English countryside as well.

But packing for nearly a year and working out details here before we leave is exhausting. Plus the whole point of moving to England has to do with my job and those responsibilities have increased exponentially because now I am V.P. of Operations for North America and Europe. So this isn’t actually an extended vacation – no matter what some of my staff may think. I will be working and ‘watching them’ from across the pond.

A Pawpaw and his girls

Then there’s the emotional aspect – perhaps being busy with the packing and planning is a good thing. It gives me less time to think about how much I’m going to miss my children and grandchildren. This holiday season has been especially wonderful with Charlise and Anna and Noah around for extended periods of time. Last night while some adults were out partying, Nana Deb and I had a pajama party at our house. Noah scrubbed up and sweet-smelling happily went to his crib. After their baths, the girls and Deb and I watched “Madeline” (a family favorite). Deb made pancakes this morning before Mass and this afternoon we went to the indoor pool/water park. Later the whole family had dinner together which included Deb’s trademark black-eyed peas (there’s some superstitious hokum about needing to eat them for prosperity or good luck in the new year). All in all, it was a great New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day.

Rocking Noah to sleep in my arms last night I had ‘a moment’. And I got choked up today at the pool watching the girls splishing and splashing. But I’m determined to stay positive and not get too sad or overly emotional before we leave for England even though my heart is heavy.

I don’t why but this evening the girls doled extra bedtime kisses. It felt like a gift from heaven. Maybe my granddaughters knew that their Pawpaw needed a little something more tonight (or maybe it was just those damned black-eyed peas).

Peace,

Denis

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

I’ve had a little drummer boy at my house this year (and two little drummer girls, too). There’s something about having the grandkids around that makes Christmas that much merrier; that much happier – the giggles, the silliness, the excitement. It’s all pure joy!

Come Let Us Adore Him

But then there’s been the “holy” moments, too. Those kind of sneak up on me:

This morning Charlise’s Polly Pocket® and one of her friends have decided to join the Wise Men at our Nativity scene. Why wouldn’t Polly want to “come and adore Him”?

On Christmas morning at Mass Anna sang “Joy To The World” very loudly and to the delight of the parishioners sitting nearby – a solo choir of angels!  (Thank you Assumption Parish Pre-school and Miss Ashley)

And somehow Noah seems to find those times, when I’m feeling especially nostalgic, to run to me and wrap his arms around my neck and wipe away any melancholy – my little drummer boy!

This is one of those special Christmases when all three of our kids are home – Tyson home from Korea and Blake from Wisconsin and of course Bess and Travis here in town. It’s especially wonderful because next week Deb and I are leaving for our big European Adventure. And exciting as it is, it means more separation from our loved ones – so it’s bitterweet.

So this morning I’m having a quiet moment and thanking God for my blessings. And looking forward to some more family time (so rare; so precious) and along the way there’ll be lots more love and laughter and maybe even a tear or two, but my little drummer boy (and girls) will be there to wipe them away – pa rum pum pum pum!

Peace,

Denis

Be Prepared!

Be Prepared! That’s the Boy Scout motto. It’s also good advice for most situations in life. We all know how to be prepared: put on clean underwear, check your oil, look both ways before you cross, replenish your First Aid Kit, take cover, get insurance, wear protection, know your escape route, fuel up, put your head between your legs, etc., etc., etc.

But sometimes even the best laid plans fail. And we have to “pick up the pieces” and move on. Or we can just sit and cry. I usually prefer to cry while I’m “picking up the pieces” but that’s just me.

Our son Tyson, who is in the Air Force, was due home from his tour in Korea on Thursday but his flight was cancelled due to equipment failure. So what was supposed to be travel on Wednesday/Thursday became travel on Thursday/Friday. Of course we were all disappointed and some plans needed to be scrapped and others amended. But Ty’s home now and that’s the important thing. Still none of us was prepared for the travel interruptions – ugh!

Last weekend I really needed to get some things done on Sunday afternoon but my grandson woke up from his nap with a loud cry. I rescued him from his terror and held him close. Soon he was back asleep in my arms. Listening to Noah’s sweet breath sounds and feeling his tiny heart beating in rhythm with my own, suddenly all the important things that needed to be done weren’t so important or necessary. Holding him was all that mattered.

During Advent we’re reminded to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”. I’ve decided that preparing for God is exactly opposite of preparing for an earthquake or tornado or any other calamity. There’s no ‘stocking up’ or ‘hunkering down’ required. Preparing to receive God in my life requires that I just be. That I find the peacefulness in my soul. That I stop doing. And that I just let it happen. It’s in the darkness that I see the light. It’s in the quiet that I hear the song. And it’s in the stillness that I am moved.

Oh, I know that I need to be more prayerful, more loving, more giving and more tolerant but that will only happen when I allow Jesus to takeover and I stop planning my next move. So right now I’d just like to hold Noah again and let it be.

Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Luke 1:38

Peace,

Denis

P.S. I suspect that Mary was no more prepared when Jesus was born than I am today and still He comes…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPbV_HTpyx0