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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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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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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Proving the experts wrong: Celebrating graduation

I like to go back and read the 25-page report.

It’s written in a medical, matter of fact tone. Large sections of the report are highlighted and my wife has written comments in pencil on several of the report pages. I read it over-and-over again and I remember the intense fear and worry we shared.

The report gives a full medical history, lists the tests the doctors gave and how my son fared, who was present, and finally a summary and recommendations. I’m barely a page or two into the report and my head starts pounding.

“(My son’s name) is still fairly young and so, needs intensive work in reading. He needs to be taught the basics, phonetics, and decoding skills.”

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When I get to this next part, my reading slows. I pause after every couple of words to take them in and ponder their meaning in my mind. They pack a powerful punch.

“However, we are not very optimistic about his ever acquiring these skills. The time will quickly come when we need to focus on circumventing the lack of decoding skills. He most likely will do better at sight word recognition and working to expand this skill. Also, he will need to begin using technology to essentially read and write for him.”

My breathing is deeper now. If I close my eyes, I can remember the doctor’s face when she handed us her preliminary report at the end of our visit.

“He will have trouble reading stop signs. He seems to be a strong listener, but he’ll never be able to enjoy a book, other than maybe a picture book, or function as a normal adult.”

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Babies are such a nice way to start people & other stories

My three kids have “big people” problems.

–Dad, I’m going to need a car to get around for my summer internship, what should I do?

–Dad, which meal plan should I choose for college?  I’m thinking about Meal Plan #3, but it costs $800 more than the other two. What do you think?

–Dad, I’m thinking of joining the marching band in the Fall, can you give me $150 to cover the middle school activity fee.

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A mother’s faith

When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of another day, a lifetime ago, when my mother picked me up from college and took me out for dinner.

It was a Friday. I remember being tired from staying up late the night before to finish a 10-page paper and study for a test. I walked out of the test thinking I had bombed it and felt pressured to use the weekend to come up with a plan, any plan, to somehow salvage my grade.

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I can’t tell you much else about the paper or the exam, but I remember walking to the edge of campus where my mother met me. She had called me the previous day and asked if I wanted to get together for dinner.

We went to Elby’s Big Boy restaurant, a chain long since shut down, where she fretted over me. I had lost more than 15 pounds since the Autumn and looked pale. She worried that something might be wrong. I shushed her. I told her I was just busy. I didn’t have time to be sick. (It would turn out later that she was right. I was anemic and doctors were able to get me back on the right track with the right prescription, but that’s a story for another day.)

In any event, my mom chatted me up and made sure that I ate, ordering me a fudge brownie sundae when I went to the restroom. She updated me on the local gossip and peppered me with questions about my classes and my friends.

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Parenting like royalty

Social media has a way of taking up our time and filling it full of mindless junk, but it still occasionally provides a nugget of gold.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I stumbled last week across a series of everyday pictures on the British Royal Family. I really could care less about the monarchy. I’m not a fan. I pay attention to them as much as I pay attention to The Real Housewives of Orange County or any other sensationalistic reality show, I know they exist, I know they have a large fan base, but I’m not one of them.

BlogphotoHowever, a picture of Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, pulled me out whatever I was doing and instantly took me back in time. The picture was of Kate and her two-year-old daughter, Princess Charlotte. In the shot, Kate looks like she’s had it. Who knows if that really was the case? Kate could have been trying to make a point or even playing a game. In any event, I choose to believe that Kate isn’t all that different from the rest of us parents, reached her breaking point and threatened the young princess with a necessary “time-out.”

My kids are long past time-out chairs and 1-2-3 warnings. I mention sending them to their room and we all have a good laugh. I grab my sons arms to look him in the eyes and I’m the one looking up. 

Despite the passing of time, I can certainly relate to Kate’s dilemma. With that one picture, my mind took me back to any number of times when I was exhausted from work or family commitments and the challenges of parenting had become enough.

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A mother’s pain: The day Christ died

In my December 2015 blog, Taking a walk in Mary’s footsteps, I posted some thoughts on what Mary might have been thinking about as she gave birth to Jesus. Last Easter,  I offered a glimpse of how I imagine Mary suffered, seeing her now-grown son crucified on the cross, and how she came to her faith in the resurrection to come. The Bible (and other writers) have described this story better than I ever could; these are just a few simple thoughts that help me personally to better understand the crucifixion story. With another Easter upon us, I repeat it here.

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I watched my son die today.

His name was Jesus and he died a horrific, unspeakable death for crimes he did not commit. He died for us.

My family and friends are urging me to rest. They’re worried about me. My sister Mary, Mary of Magdala, and John had to carry me from Golgotha, that awful blood-stained hill, just outside the city gates and later to Jesus’ tomb. I understand their concern. I’m exhausted and I know I should rest, but nothing will take away the image of my beaten, bloodied son stretched out and nailed to that cross. My son, the son of God, suffered and died today for our sins. I’m heartbroken. My beautiful, beautiful baby is dead.

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