Through The Eyes Of A Child

Do you remember the anticipation of Christmas as a child? For me it was always an exciting time. I tried to patiently wait through the Advent season for the miracle of Christmas.

There were some certainties: practical gifts wrapped in white tissue from my great-aunts (usually socks or underwear), Christmas cookies baked by Mom, Christmas Day gatherings at my grandparents where all my aunts and uncles and cousins would be together.

And of course there were uncertainties: would I get the Erector Set® that I so desperately wanted, and the transistor radio like my brother’s (the one that I not-so-secretly coveted)? Rarely was I disappointed.

St. NickI loved Christmas presents but I knew even as a child that Baby Jesus was always at the center of it. We were raised to believe he would come (again) each year at Christmas. We set our crèche under the tree with all the characters (except baby Jesus of course until Christmas morning). We lit our Advent candles each week. St. Nicholas would come on December 6th and fill our stockings with an orange and some nuts, a peppermint stick and one Hershey® bar (thanks Dad!). At school we would pray and sing carols, collect money for the missions and go to daily Mass. My little Catholic world was secure. And there was abundant joy!

It brings me great comfort in knowing that my wife and I carried on these traditions with our kids. Now our grandkids are celebrating Advent and Christmas in a similar way. Of course they are excited about potential new toys but they also focus on the mystery of Christ’s birth and they pray and sing carols and go to Mass. St. Nicholas paid a visit to them on Sunday morning. They light their Advent wreath and wait. They wait in hope and joy and love.

I still have uncertainties in my life: they are more adult now, more complex, more troubling. Often it is hard not to become overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel desperate.

But I have certainties, too. I have people who love me. I have friends who are making our world a better place each day. My children and grandchildren give me hope for our future. So I light my Advent wreath and I pray for change in our world, in our church, in our city, in our home, in my heart.

I know that Christ will come again this Christmas. I wait with my grandchildren in hope and joy and love. And for just a little while I can see Baby Jesus through the eyes of a child. And I am blessed.




Learning About God From Children

Recently our (almost) 5 year-old granddaughter Anna was discussing Easter with her Mommy. She was talking about Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead. She knows that we live forever in heaven even though our bodies remain on earth after death. She wants to know if Grannie is an old lady in heaven or has a ‘zero baby’ body. Also she’s super excited that Sophie (our aged Maltese) might someday be a fuzzy puppy in heaven and that we’ll all be with her and Grannie someday. But “not for like a hundred years”.the-story-of-easter

Pretty profound stuff.

Anna’s conversation with our daughter reminded me of a time years ago when our younger son Blake was 4 or 5 years old and was attending ‘Pre-school Sunday School’. He was learning about Jesus and Easter and Salvation. And of course as anyone with a preschooler knows, there were lots of questions:

Why did Jesus have to die? He died to forgive our sins.

Is God Jesus’ Daddy? Yes.

Why didn’t his Daddy save him? Because God knew that Jesus needed to die to so we could live in heaven forever.

I’d rather live here than in heaven. You would save me, wouldn’t you? Yes.

Do you have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven? I’m pretty sure that you do.

What about Greg (his older brother’s Jewish best friend)? Well I’m not sure. Ummm, can we talk about what the Easter Bunny will bring you?

A few days later he woke me up in the middle of the night. “Blake why are you awake?” “I’ve been worrying about Greg, but just I figured it out!” “What’s that Buddy?” If God made Greg Jewish then that’s what he should be – God wouldn’t be wrong!” “So Greg can come to heaven, too.” “Oh, okay Pal, can we go back to sleep now?” “Sure!”

Blake fell fast asleep that night. I on the other hand laid awake for hours amazed at his insight. Great scholars and theologians couldn’t have spoken more eloquently.

And then I just stopped pretending to have all the answers. In fact, I realized back then (and still know today) that I had few of the answers.

What I do have is faith. Faith in the unknown; the unseen; the unproven. I’ve been blessed to have glimpsed heaven a few times through the eyes of a child.

As we enter Holy Week may you stop looking for answers and rest assured that God already has them all.




The trend today is to ALWAYS make our children happy (at all times; at any expense). Recently I encountered a young family at Chik-fil-A® (I don’t agree with their politics but they serve a great chicken sandwich and my grandkids love the place!) who were cajoling Junior into eating his nuggets with the promise of ice cream and the indoor playground – so far so good. But when Junior was presented with the ‘free book’ that came with his meal, he threw it at the beleaguered mother and screamed, “I don’t like this one!” The frazzled father promptly promised to stop on the way home and buy him a different book after he had his ice cream and play time. I then promptly gave my grandson a ‘don’t even think about look’ while he was taking all of this in.

Now I’m compelled to share my wisdom as a service to all young parents out there (even though my own children would likely tell you that all their scars are emotional). So here in no particular order are my Rules for Parenting :

  1. Stop trying to be the perfect parent; they only exist in your mother’s imagination.
  2. It’s easier to negotiate with a terrorist than a two-year old.
  3. Don’t try to be your child’s friend (be a parent; it’s more rewarding in the long run).
  4. When doling out punishment, don’t flinch; once they see your weakness they won’t let up (give up, shut up) until you cave in.
  5. When they’re old enough to walk, they’re old enough to pick up their toys.
  6. Stop buying them so much stuff; love is free and it’s worth so much more.
  7. Be silly sometimes; be serious when you must.
  8. Pray (even if you’re just praying for sanity).
  9. Pick your battles; no child ever died because he didn’t clean his plate or take a proper nap.
  10. Reasoning with a preschooler can be like trying to nail JELLO® to a tree; it’s okay to just say NO (and mean it).
  11. Close your door; give yourself a TIME OUT when things reach the boiling point.
  12. Remember who the adult is and behave like one.
  13. It’s okay to be angry; kids can sometimes really piss you off. (But use your inside voice when you’re angry).
  14. Go outside; get some exercise and breathe some fresh air (and take the kids with you).
  15. You don’t ALWAYS have to have all the answers; it’s alright to say, “because I said so; that’s why!”
  16. When in doubt trust your instincts; my parents did and look how well I turned out.



Lucky Man

The past several weeks have been particularly challenging. Work has been crazy – staff performance issues; vendor failures; unreasonable customer expectations. The tension in our office is palpable. On a personal level several friends are facing serious health issues – some of which are heartbreaking and completely hopeless. One aunt recently suffered a stroke and another slips further into the murky waters of Alzheimer’s each day. Our friends who are consecrated religious sisters are facing a showdown (of sorts) with church hierarchy in St. Louis. Our beloved priest here in England has been hospitalized with serious mental health issues (and he seemed to be the most sane priest I’d met in years!). A trip to Rome for Deb’s birthday had to be canceled/rescheduled due to the chaos at work. The hostility between friends and family members over the upcoming November elections in the U.S. is escalating. And I miss my grandkids desperately.

Lately I have not been in a happy place.

I spoke to a friend in New York the other day and she said, “I’m just so tired!” “I’m tired of politics; I’m tired of the people I work with; and I’m tired of always trying to be the voice of reason.” “I just want to tell everyone to go to hell and leave me alone!” I share her pain.

I must admit that burying my head in the sand is appealing at times but I just can’t do that. So I pick my battles. I stay quiet (yes I do!) at times. I encourage those that I love. I influence those that I can. And I thank God for what I have been given. And I realize how lucky I am.

I have been blessed with an amazing wife – who has given me an amazing life. And we still love each other (some days I make it hard for her) after all these years.

I have been blessed with remarkable children, who are kind, loving, responsible adults. They have learned compassion from their mother and determination from me.

I have been blessed with beautiful  grandchildren who are as loving as the parents who are raising them. And the joy that they bring me is boundless.

I have been blessed with a family that surrounds me with love. We are connected emotionally and spiritually even though we are physically apart.

I have been blessed with friends that have NEVER let me down. They have stood the test of time. They are the “family” I have chosen.

Things may not always go my way. And some days go ‘from bad to worse’. But I have a wife who supports me; a family that claims me; and friends who stand by me. And a faith that sustains me.

Sharing this crazy life with the one that makes the crazy fun…

For the most part, I believe that we make our own luck in this life. Things don’t just happen – we make them happen. The choices we make; the opportunities we take (or don’t) all determine what life holds. Even the disasters, hardships and setbacks that we face are ours to deal with (or not). We can ‘be lucky’ if we choose to be but we can’t do it all alone – we need our family, friends and faith. Sometimes we just need to readjust our perceptions.

So I know that sometimes life can be tough but I am reminded every day that I am still a lucky man.



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!



Big Girl Now

My granddaughter Anna is officially a “big girl” now. She’s in preschool two days a week. (She thinks) she’s in charge of baby brother Noah. She knows (better than I) how to use the DVR, iPad, and just about any other electric gadget placed in her hand. It used to be that our granddaughter Charlise was the “big girl” and Anna was the “little girl” but that has all changed – now they’re on pretty equal footing. Of course Charlise is 3-1/2 years older just don’t tell Anna that!

And it’s not just that her knowledge has grown – she’s physically grown, too. Her baby face is being transformed into a kid face before my very eyes. And she’s getting taller too (taller for her anyway). All of this growing up stuff is a little unsettling for me. But I will learn to cope. Time marches on. And babies become kids and kids become parents and parents become grandparents and on and on…

All the more reason to savor those precious moments of life. Sunday night Anna regaled us with songs that she’s learning at preschool – Jingle Bells and Joy to the World. And she really SINGS! Sings her little heart out. And even though this is big girl territory – learning songs at school – her innocence and pure delight in mastering something new made my heart leap for joy. Joy to the World indeed!

Not too big for Daddy's lap

So I’ve decided that this old Pawpaw will embrace the big girl who Anna needs to become. I’ll struggle at times when she asks to “do it myself” or not hold my hand on the sidewalk “because it’s safe here Pawpaw” but I will accept her need for more independence. And along the way we may learn some new things together.

But deep down she’ll ALWAYS be my baby girl. That’s just a grandfather’s prerogative. Maybe the part that’s scary for me is that as Anna grows older so do I. We’ll just have to help one another with the challenges of getting older.

God will take care of the rest.




I love summer! Sunshine. Hot weather. Swimming pools. Cool drinks. Baseball. Watermelon. Picnics. Patios. Barbeque. I love it all.

My love of summertime started as a kid. NO SCHOOL! My best friend and I would meet up after breakfast and literally play all day long. On most summer days we would pack our lunches so that we wouldn’t have to be home until supper and then we would resume playtime again until dark. There were only a few rules in the summer:

  1. Be home in time for supper.
  2. Be home again before dark (and that could be bypassed if you had a pre-approved backyard campout at your friend’s house).
  3. Go to Mass on Sundays.
  4. Take an occasional bath (especially prior to aforementioned Mass).

Summertime and the livin’ was easy! Lena Horne sang it and we lived it…

Hunting "Wild Chihuahuas" on "The Hill"

Of course times were simpler back then and maybe safer, too. Certainly parents didn’t have the fears then that they do today. The only helmets that we had were our “Army helmets” that we wore when we played soldiers. We swam in creeks. We drank out of those same creeks. We played in open fields. We ate wild berries. And we somehow survived.

Today begins the 4th of July weekend and I’m determined to let my grandkids be a little adventurous today. We won’t be drinking creek water but maybe we’ll drink from the garden hose when the “adults” aren’t looking. Maybe we can run around barefoot in the backyard. Or perhaps we’ll “hunt for wild Chihuahuas” up on the hill in our overgrown garden. I love that my grandkids encourage my need to be a kid.

I hope that you get to have some summer fun, too!



Watching Time Fly

My sweet boy!

Deb was holding our grandson Noah the other night and I walked up and asked, “Noah, do want to come to Pawpaw?” He put his little arms out toward me – it was wonderful!

Just over seven months ago he came into this world and now he has two teeth; he’s crawling; he likes to pull his sister’s hair and no one can make him laugh harder than she can; he’s a known earring snatcher; he can pull himself up into a sitting position; his ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ are CLEARLY known; and his personality has already been established – he’s a happy, sweet, curious, boy who is easily distracted AND doesn’t like big noises. (The being easily distracted and disliking big noises might be hereditary).

Lately I’ve been marveling at how much his big sister Anna has grown (okay maybe not in stature but certainly in intellect – besides we like petite in our family!) and everyday she seems to know something new. But Noah’s changes are equally amazing and every day or so he has accomplished a new feat. And their relationship is growing each day as well. From the start Anna made it clear that Noah was HER brother but now he seems to know that she’s HIS, too. Their interactions are something to behold – they already seem to have a special understanding that is uniquely their own.

All this ‘watching the grandkids grow’ business has got me thinking about how “time flies”. It seems like only yesterday that our kids were crawling and playing together and learning new things each day and now they have kids of their own. My Mom would tell you, “the older that you get, the faster time flies”. Wow! And now I know it’s true – I’m watching my life go whirring past at record speed. Part of me wants it to S L O W D O W N and another part of me is excited for the next phase; the next adventure; the next milestone.

Big Sister ~ Little Brother

So what can we do? Well, we can’t do anything about time. But we can do everything about how we spend (or mis-spend) it. I’m going to try (once again) to quiet myself and listen to God. I’m going to continue to exercise and eat right so that I can get down on the floor and play with Noah, Anna, and Charlise AND then hopefully be able to get up off the floor without assistance. I’m going to remind Debbie how much I love her and thank her for loving me, too. I will (try) to take time and be patient with my parents and in-laws (more prayer will be required for that one). I will try to be a better husband, father, brother and friend. I will try to be a better employee, boss and colleague. I will try to be a better citizen. And I will celebrate MY LIFE and whatever time God allows me to have here on this Earth.

In the meantime, I need to learn how to “crawl like an animal; not like a baby, Pawpaw!”. That was a recent request – so I guess I’ll be learning something new everyday, too.


We Ran Away From Home And Joined The Circus

Nana and her circus “performers”

It’s fun to escape reality sometimes and the Circus seems to be the perfect place to “get away from it all” and be a kid again. After all nobody knows how to enjoy a fantasy like a child. And the Circus is one BIG FANTASY. Where else can you find grown ups that play with tigers and entire families that “fly through the air with the greatest of ease” and contortionists and monkeys in polka dot underwear and elephants that do tricks. What better place to find all those things than at the Circus – plus some “not too scary” clowns. The fact of the matter is, running away from home and joining the circus seems pretty attractive at times. I could so be the guy getting shot out of the cannon – most days I feel like that anyway!

So yesterday Deb and I “ran away” for a little while and took our granddaughters along for the ride. I have to admit that this ‘Circus thing’ was new to me. Or at least enjoying the Circus was new to me. Deb grew up going to the Circus each year with her grandparents and LOVED it. I went once as a kid with my Godmother and HATED it. Not sure why; maybe I was scared of something or maybe I was bored. Whatever the reason it left me with a negative impression of the Circus. Deb on the other hand had been waiting a long time for this day – “And if no one else wants to go, I don’t care!” “I’m taking the girls to the Circus!” (Imagine hands on her hips and maybe a little foot stomping).

So we went. And it was magical! Not the Circus actually but watching Charlise and Anna and Nana relishing every moment of every performance. And while watching them I was transported to another place and time and I could see little Debbie Dobbs clapping and waving at the Circus performers. And I knew that I had waited 50 years just to be in that moment. That moment when Nana was a little girl again and there were no wars to fight; no hunger; no disease; no injustice; no heartaches; no sadness – only smiles. The only tears were tears of joy. And I was blessed to be along on her journey.

Running away from home and joining the circus won’t make the problems of this world go away but they may help put it all into perspective. On one magical Saturday my girls and I took a ride to that fantasy land. And I came home refreshed and ready to take on another day as an adult. And now I firmly believe that all adults need a little ‘Easter Bunny’ or ‘Santa Claus’ or ‘Tooth Fairy’ once in a while; not to mention leprechauns, elves, magic potions and ‘cloaks of invisibility’.

Just imagine the fun that you will have…



It’s December 26th and I’m thankful for another beautiful Christmas. I’m a little sad that it’s past but thankful, too – no more rushing around trying to get things ready or keep things moving. Now I can just savor the memories of the last few days and look forward to some future memories, too. This morning I’m thankful for so much. So in no particular order ~ here’s what I’m thanking God for today:

Deb whose love embraces our whole family (especially during the holiday) ~ you are my Christmas angel.

Snow that fell on Christmas Eve (all 2-1/2″ of it) that helped our son-in-law Travis relive happy childhood memories of snowy Christmases in Wisconsin.

Skype (that mystery in our computer) that allowed us to have Tyson “with us” for a while on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day even though he’s in Korea and lives 15 hours in the future. Stay safe Master Sergeant Bubby!

Anna in her “Christmas Princess Party Costume” AKA her Christmas dress because she kept asking to go “Trick or Treating” ~ I love 2 year-olds!

Charlise who was “playing piano” at her Great Aunt’s house in California when we spoke with her last night ~ her giggles were pure joy!

Noah with his sweet smile and little baby laugh ~ my sweet boy!

Noah and Pawpaw

Christmas Cookies (that Deb and Bess baked) and Egg Nog…

Bess who hosted the family gathering yesterday and was giving out orders while nursing Noah and wearing a shower cap because she’s a real multi-tasker. (Sorry Bess but that just had to make the blog!)

Blake because he managed to stay awake all day even though he’d only had about 3 hours sleep on Christmas Eve and an early flight to St. Louis on Christmas morning.

American Airlines for getting Blake here on time yesterday.

The Love that I received from my family and my new wool sweater that’s keeping warm this morning.

Time to share with family and friends and time to be thankful for both.

Hope you have time today to give thanks for your blessings today, too.