Pleasant dreams with dad

I had the dream again. It’s the same one I’ve had for months. I’m walking on one of my favorite wooded, running trails. It’s Autumn. The trees are a bright orange, red, and yellow. Every curve, every twist, in the trail brings out a new colorful surprise. Large antlered deer, rabbits, and other wildlife run and play in the woods.

And, I’m walking with my dad.

This is probably a good time to say: my father died more than 13 years ago.

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My dream: a hug and a vision of peace

I’m flawed.

I get angry and fly off the handle easily with little warning. I’m selfish and impatient. I hold grudges and write others off for the smallest of offenses. I can be mean and disagreeable. I curse and swear and would sooner run over you than let you sneak in front of me on my way to work.

I criticize and complain. I focus on myself instead of helping others. Despite my many flaws, I look up to find Mary, the mother of God, waving to me to come closer. I shake my head and squint my eyes. She’s dressed in a long robe and her arm is definitely motioning toward me. I have to be seeing things. This can’t be right.

No, it’s clear as day. She’s got a bright smile that wraps around her entire face and is pointing and waving to me. I take a hesitant step forward. I look behind me. Is she waving to someone else? No, there’s no one there.

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Ten years from now, will this matter?

I came out of the classroom and wanted to scream. I had spent hours studying for the Econ 101 test, but I felt like I had been lied to by the professor. His test included a number of questions on topics that had been barely covered in class or our textbook and other content that had been discussed ad nauseam was barely even mentioned. Of course, I struggled on the exam and feared the worse.

I started walking back to my dorm, but I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry, scream or throw a punch. Instead, I stopped and sat down on a bench under a small row of elm trees. The sun had set and it felt much later than the time. The black, starless night matched my mood.

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God’s gift: A little perspective

I pull into a parking spot and before I cut-off the engine and walk into work, I look at the inside of my car, how it’s aged, and then outside again at the sleek new German sports car in the adjacent spot. I marvel at the new car; everything about it seems to sparkle and shimmer. I stare at the car and imagine engineers hunched over desks with detailed blueprints working to give the car both precision design and speed. I remind myself that I need to get into work and reach for my messenger bag from the back seat. I  step out of my car and instantly wince at my “wreck-on-wheels.” My car is far from being a traveling wreck or old clunker, but nonetheless, I’ve started to call it one.

bmw-918408_640A little later in the day, I notice a new spot on the sleeve of my dress shirt. I wonder where it came from and how long it’s been there. I’ve been eyeing up some pricey new shirts online, and, maybe even a sports jacket or two, but I keep hitting a make-believe “pause” button.

Finally a little later, while cleaning up some things on my desk in my bedroom, I notice a bill that came earlier in the week for a recent visit my son had to make to the emergency room of the local hospital. My son was fine, but, when I sift through the charges, the dollar signs on the bill still catch me by surprise.

“I could’ve flown to London, Paris, Zurich, and maybe even made pit stop in Rome with how much they’re charging for a few small tests,” I complain to no one in particular.

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Finding myself in the silence

The long tree branches block out the sun’s hot rays — and on this day when the mid-day temperature hits the mid-90s, it is most certainly hot — but I’m most appreciative of the gentle breeze that runs through the woods.

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I tread carefully through the wooded area, moving from tree to tree, watching where I put my foot down. I take a step or two, stop and look around, and then then start up and take another few steps, before stopping again.

I’m walking as quietly as I can to see what I might find, perhaps a doe and it’s fawn or even squirrel or two rustling through the trees, but I’ve really come to get away. In my job, I’ve been running lately from busy meeting to busy meeting, conference call to conference call. And then my weekends seem to be filled up with trips and excursions, never really giving me any down time.

I’ve come for the silence

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The wisdom of Solomon

In the Bible, God comes to King Solomon in a dream and offers him whatever he wants. The mind explodes with possibilities: wealth, jewels, power, fame, and status all come quickly to mind.

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If in Solomon’s position, knowing me, I’d probably snicker or take on the “doubting Thomas” role, suggesting that God’s offer had to be a joke.  I would more than likely say something sarcastic like: “God asking me what I want? Yea right, when pigs fly.” I would assume it was a mixture of insomnia and a very active imagination.

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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.