A dog’s life!

When she sees us pull up in our car, she gets on her hind legs and claws at the screen door like she hasn’t seen us in years. She’s absolutely giddy with excitement. I worry that she’s going to slice a hole in the screen, or worse, hurt herself. When the door finally opens, she races down the steps to race around each of our feet and then rolls over for a belly rub.

In return, we can’t wait to see Nittany, our tiny Bichon Frise – Lhasa Apso mixed dog. As we hurried home from our trip, exhausted from our hours-long trip in the car, we reminisced about the day we brought Nittany home and joked about how she’s been for my in-laws, who’ve kept her on this weekend trip. When we pull up, we jump out of the car just as excited to see her.

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Who’s got who wrapped around their heart?

In the short seven years since Nittany has come into our lives, she’s managed to worm her way into her hearts. We’re supposedly the human owners in this relationship, but she pretty much has the run of the place.

Who owns who?

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My own lil’ time machine

A friend of mine recently gave me a unique, one-of-a-kind gift. You can’t find one of these in an Apple store or on Amazon. You can’t even travel across the globe to a quaint little shop in some faraway country to pick up a gift like this.

My friend gave me a mini time machine that allows me to go back to an earlier time in my life. Think H.G Wells Time Machine, Doc Brown’s Delorean from Back to the Future,  the time traveling TARDIS from the Dr. Who TV show, or if you must, the hot tub from the Hot Tub Time Machine from more recent fame.

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Looking for a quick retort

I have the best of intentions.

It could be someone you run into in the convenience store or someone you see on the street, it doesn’t really matter. They say or do something rude and demeaning. I want to comeback with a one-liner or a quick retort that puts the offending party in their place and takes the tension out of the moment. 

Despite my best of intentions, I’m usually the one left grasping for words. I search for the right ones that will make everything right again, but they seem to run away from me. We’ve all faced these types of situations. Lately, I’ve seen to have my share of these experiences. 

When I do have a comeback or a zinger, it feels more like the proverbial equivalent of the neighborhood tattletale crying out in a whiney voice, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. 

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Fair season: For a good cause

My friends and I walked down the festival midway like we were a benevolent king surveying his court. It didn’t matter that our court was small in size, certainly less than a football field. We sauntered up and down each row like we owned the park.

We’d get there early and stay late. We’d walk down the middle of the fairway to volunteer or talk with friends. We’d come prepared for the festival, with a pocketful of pennies and quarters — saved up throughout the year — to try our luck at the various games of chance or to fill our faces with food.

As a kid, I looked forward to summer and the two firemen’s festivals in the community where I grew up. The first one would be held in mid-July and then the second would be held a few weeks later, usually around the first weekend in August at a local park.

The fire companies used the three-day festivals to raise money to help purchase new fire equipment, ambulance supplies, everything they would need throughout the year, and to keep their head above water. The festivals would run large raffles, have a local band for entertainment each night, and have small kiddie rides and games. They would sell barbeque chicken or chicken corn soup and a wide assortment of deserts and ice cream. Just imaging the Amish chicken corn soup makes my stomach rumble with hunger.

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A year’s worth of advice

When my daughter celebrated her first birthday, oh so many years ago, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Despite my clumsiness and failings as a new father, my wife and I and our newborn baby girl had managed to survive. In celebration, I wrote down everything I had learned.

My ramblings fit only a page or two, but they were still hard-earned lessons. I put them in a drawer and forgot about them where they sat for years and years on end until a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled across the worn pages. 

The lessons come across now as dated in spots, but still have the best of intentions. When I think of my daughter I still see her as that precocious one-year-old, even though diapers are a distant memory. In fact, in just a few months, she’ll turn 21. 

In any event, I hope you enjoy. 

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Get on the bus!

The bus went around the curve traveling faster than it probably should have and nearly sent me sprawling to the floor. I hung on tightly to the armrest to make sure the next curve or large pothole didn’t send me flying again. To top it off, the bus engine roared louder than a sell-out heavy metal concert, making it hard to concentrate.

My daughter has my car more than 350 miles away in another state so she can participate in a summer internship and my wife needed her car for the day, so I took the shuttle bus that my company offers to get to work. The ride lacked a certain smoothness ― or even pizzazz for that matter ― but I took away a number of positives from the trip. In particular, within a few minutes of sitting down in my seat, the shuttle bus took me back in my mind to my days as an elementary and middle school student.

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Leaving something for my son

We dropped my son off at college this past weekend. He graduated high school earlier this month and he’s taking two college classes over the summer to get a head start on his degree.

With his bags dropped off in his new dorm room, his clothes hung up and put away in his closet, his desk supplies prepared, and his laptop set up for the first day of class, I wanted to leave him something that would help him through any challenging times he might run into and to remember us over the next four years. I had been thinking about the question for weeks. We had dropped our oldest daughter off at college two years ago. I wrote about that day previously in “The Challenges of Move-in Day,” so I knew what to expect. 

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Finding the middle ground

My wife and I have much in common.

We like to take long road trips. We like similar music. We both like a range of singers and groups from U2 to Tim McGraw, Classical to Broadway, harder edged alternative to even metal. 

And we both like to read for enjoyment, her, mystery and crime novels, me, biographies, historical fiction, and fantasy.

We have one major difference.

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Living with the unknown, living with MS

We drove home in silence. My wife didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. We were stuck in rush hour traffic and I searched for the right words to break the silence, but they never came. We had seen the umpteenth doctor and we still had no real answers. We had sought answers. We left with more questions.

traffic-jam-688566_1280For the previous three months, my wife had been experiencing pain and loss of feeling in her arms and legs. She would be fine one minute, the next her leg would give out underneath her. She complained constantly of her arms falling asleep or simply feeling like 20-pound weights.

We went first to our family doctor, then to a specialist. They gave her one test then another, and another. In particular, each time they would ask her to close her eyes and touch her nose. Each time, she would miss completely, touching her eyes, lips, ears, but nowhere near her nose.

doctor-563428_640The search for answers

We continued onward in our quest to get answers, traveling to some to the most respected hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After one such visit, we finally got the answer we had been searching. The doctor walked in the room and let us know that he thought my wife suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.

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Love, laughter & tears each day?

The speaker droned on. His presentation lacked any real substance, I was already tired from staying up late the night before to take care of a work-related fire, and I was eyeing up the “X” button on screen to click out of the training.

And then he said something that caught my attention.

“You should always be willing to tell people what you stand for. They should know instantly what you believe in and what you’re made of and where you draw a line in the sand.”

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The point being that the stronger our believes, the stronger the presence and commitment that we give off.  He soon went back to into sales mode, trying to get you to sign up for his next talk, instead of offering any key takeaways and I once again lost patience and went onto more productive tasks, but I pondered the question for the rest of the day: Do people know what I stand for? Do I spell it out?

My answer: Sometimes I’m good about spelling it out, sometimes I’m not. So here it is, here’s what I stand for, for better or worse. Some full of clichés, some not:

  • My top four priorities are God (God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit), my family, being a “good person,” and my country.
  • I try to live my live ― not so successfully mind you ― with Christ’s commandment of “faith, hope, and love.”
  • I believe in the power of my wife’s hug to turn a crappy day into a memorable one. I believe too in the power of my daughter’s smile, my middle son’s laugh, and the twinkle in my youngest son’s eyes.
  • Each day I try to love, laugh, cry, and smile. I try each day too to learn something, to improve myself, and to take another step toward my life goals.

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  • I believe in working hard and making the most of your talents and opportunities; being authentic and who you say you are; living your life with virtue, including integrity and trustworthiness; honor; patience; fairness and justice; humility; charity and kindness to others; treating people the way I want to be treated; courage; perseverance, and humor. (Yes, humor. I’ve written it before, but I’m convinced that God has a sense of humor. At least that’s my hope.)
  • I believe in the written word and how it can move us to emotion ― be it laughter or tears, happiness or anger ― and then to action.
  • Finally, I believe in miracles. I’m convinced of them, because God gave me my beautiful wife and kids. They are infinitely more important to me, than I will ever be to them. They inspire and make me a better person. They challenge me and love me for who I am.

I stand for other things too, but these are what stand out today. I’ll leave the rest for another day.