Count your blessings…

I know you’ve all read or heard many times by many people what I’m about to say, but I’m feeling especially sentimental for some reason this year, so here goes…

I’ve felt very blessed this year as I’ve watched as the number of presents grow under the tree, especially since I know that my daughters have been contributing to them with their own money and time. As I sit here in a few moments of near-silence this Christmas morning, I can hear my family beginning to stir upstairs, and I’m feeling very blessed by those sounds, as well. I recognize that while we’re very far from rich, we are very fortunate. My daughters have grown up with both parents, most of their grandparents, and even many of their great grandparents. We’ve always had a house to call home with a strong, stable family, and have all enjoyed good health, for the most part. We’ve not had many years that we needed to “wipe the year away” as George Michael sang about in ‘December Song,’ but we do still dream of Christmas. I hope it will always be a time for our family to gather and enjoy our biggest blessing, the love we have for each other.

Peace to you all!

December Song:

Touriga from Keswick Vineyards

Made from grapes used for port, Touriga has a smoky full taste that gives me a happy, warm feeling.  It’s the first bottle of Thanksgiving 2016…with many more to follow.  Cheers!

Open Letter to My Daughters on New Year’s Eve 2012

Dear Sweet, Beautiful, Loving Daughters,
This is the first year that you’re both starting the new year at an age of double digits…one of you having just turned ten and the other soon to be twelve.  What’s the significance of this?  Not much other than puberty is looming large, if not already beginning to take hold of you.  As it sets in and your hormones start raging throughout your bodies, I expect there will be many, many, many emotional days, ranging from happy, to sad, to angry, to head-over-heels in “love” with some guy?  History, science, and Hollywood can only prepare your mother and I so much for what you’re about to go through, and all the best research and advice we can find may not apply.  Parenting isn’t science.  There’s no blueprint.  No flowchart to follow for each situation.  We’ll have to wing it.  Armed with good (hopefully) advice, patience (sometimes), love (always), and your best interest (whether you believe it or not) in mind, we’ll struggle through the coming years with you.  Along the way, we’ll support and encourage you, teach and mentor you, fight with and punish you.
The reason for this open letter is so that you, along with everyone else, can see and understand that our goal is to help you become the best people you can be.  If no arguing and fighting take place, we’ll be the luckiest parents in the world, but we’re assuming there will be plenty of bumps in the road.  We’ll deal with those as best we can.
I’d be lying if I said that I never expect to hear “I hate you!”  Whether to my face or through a slammed door, we know you won’t really mean it.  How do I know that?  I was a teenager once, too.  I’m not that old that I can’t remember what it was like.  So if I do hear that, I understand it’s said in a fit of rage and that you’ll cool off eventually, but I promise you’ll never hear those words from us.  We love you.
I assure you that we’ll make mistakes, real or perceived, by you, your friends, others, and probably us, as well.  We’ll be too strict sometimes, too lenient others.  Your mother and I won’t always see eye to eye on every topic, but we’ll figure out OUR position and enforce it together.  You already know it’s trouble if you try to play us against each other, so don’t expect that to change.
If we could, we’d set you a path, have you follow it, and everything would be happy happy, joy joy for the next decade or so.  That’s not realistic, though.  Instead, we’re going to travel your roads with you.  We’ll give you the best shoes we can, help you pick the best routes, and try to smooth out the road bumps.  Sometimes, we may have to backup and re-route, but that’s okay.  We’re in this together, helping you become strong, intelligent, healthy young women…which is why I am writing this now.  I want you to hear this while you’re still our sweet, beautiful, loving daughters, and not after any potential clashes have begun and you think we’re just trying to smooth things over.
Some bits of advice before I close:
1.  Be optimistic.  Don’t dwell on the bad.  Look for the positive side of things.  Your attitude has great influence on situations.
2.  Be kind.  Don’t be a sucker, but understand that there are times when a kind word or deed can make a difference.
3.  Be a leader.  It’s okay to be a follower sometimes, but in order to get where you want to go, you have to take charge, but don’t mistake being bossy for leadership.  A leader doesn’t always have to tell people what to do.
4.  Do smart things.  Whenever possible, think before you do…and it’s almost always possible.
Again, your mother and I love you very much.  We’re here for you and you can ask and talk to us about anything…whether it’s embarrassing for you or for us.
Dad the Overprotective

Music Monday – Many Thanks

As Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. happens in  two days (yes, I’m a day late for the Music Monday post again), I decided that songs of thanks were appropriate.  The songs I found don’t cover quite all of the things for which I’m thankful, but they cover a couple:  the love of my life and humor.

Here’s my short list of things I’m thankful for

1.  I’m thankful for my wife…who loved me when I was pretty darn broke and still loves me now that I’m, well, not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but no longer broke.  She accepts me for who I am…(the very few) faults and all.

2.  I’m thankful for my beautiful, creative, intelligent daughters who both love sci-fi and fantasy like their parents.

3.  I’m thankful to have/had parents who raised me well.

4.  I’m thankful to have a job, esp. one that I mostly enjoy that also provides me the opportunity to play the sport I love (see number six) a few days a week during lunch.

5.  I’m thankful for my in-laws.  They rock.

6.  I’m thankful for the friends I have that I don’t get to see often enough.

7.  I’m thankful for soccer…that I get to play it, watch it, coach it…and that my daughters like to play it.

8.  And, yes, I’m thankful for social media…for the Facebook friends I have (many with whom I have a bond that none of us really understood until years later) and those who follow and/or comment on my blogs.

On to the videos…these first two are for my number one…my wife, my anam cara.

Bon Jovi’s “Thank You For Loving Me”

Sly and The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

Finally, a little fun for Turkey day with Adam Sandler.  While not quite as funny as his Hanukkah Song, The Thanksgiving Song is still pretty funny.

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

The Best Doctors in the World

…apparently don’t work at the hospital where my father-in-law just spent almost two weeks.

Shortly after dinner two Mondays ago (13 days) Phil [Not his real name, but father-in-law is long.  I could acronymize it to FIL which sounds like Phil, so there you go.] developed stomach pain which because vomiting which wouldn’t stop.  A visit to the ER became a night in the hospital.  Tests the next day indicated a “hot pancreas” which they had to cool before they could remove his gall bladder.  [I may be skipping steps in here because I can’t recall all the tests and because all the steps aren’t overly important here.]  Tuesday turned into Wednesday which turned into Thursday and into Friday when his level (that had to do with his pancreas) had dropped enough for them to do the surgery.  Sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday, one doctor said he could drink water, another said he couldn’t, and the two of them had to Indian leg wrestle over which of them was right.  The starvation diet plan doc won which was probably why Phil was able to have the surgery on Friday.

By the time my wife and I visited Friday afternoon, he was back in his room recovering from the surgery and concerned that he was naked…under the hospital gown…and blankets. Since he was a little out of it and mostly sleeping, my wife, mother-in-law, and I left my brother-in-law in the room and went for coffee.  He found us downstairs a while later and said the doc had come by and checked on Phil and said he could eat anything he wanted and could be released as early as the next day.  We all thought that sounded too good to be true, but the docs must know what they’re doing, right?

My wife and I left shortly thereafter and came back home.  Saturday rolled around and Phil wasn’t being released.  He was in pain.  Okay, he’s no spring chicken, so maybe it’s just taking a little longer to recover.  Sunday comes.  He’s still in pain and doesn’t want to leave yet.  Now we start wondering if he’s milking it.  We don’t doubt he’s got some pain, and we don’t really want to believe he’s just groovin’ on the meds, but there’s that little tickle in the back of the mind saying “the docs say he’s ready to go.”

Turns out Phil wasn’t just enjoying his hospital bed.  By Monday he had a lot of gas (internal bloating–he wasn’t stinking up the room) which may have caused some of the pain.  He also had a raging infection.  I think maybe he knew something was wrong, but just didn’t know how to articulate what the problem was.

We don’t know if this infection had just never quite been killed off before the surgery or if it was contracted after/due to the surgery or because they let him eat rich and greasy foods like pot roast and grilled cheese so soon after the surgery…maybe a combination of a couple of these, but it took most of the rest of the second week in the hospital to eliminate the fever and get all his levels back down to levels that were normal, or at least sufficient to be discharged.  During this period, the infectious disease docs were brought in and they took and tested his blood.  At one point, after the fever flared up, visitors had to wear contamination suits to ensure they wouldn’t catch what he may or may not have had.

Yesterday (Saturday),  Phil was cleared by his regular doctor to be discharged today, but there was some real doubt as to whether that was going to happen because the infectious disease doctors don’t work on the weekend.  As late as this morning, they were hooking him back up with IVs because they didn’t think he was going to be discharged and then, miraculously, my wife got a text from her mom this afternoon that Phil was finally getting discharged…after almost two incredibly long weeks in the hospital.

If we have the best doctors and the best hospitals in the world, as we’re constantly told, I’d hate to imagine what would have happened if Phil had gotten ill while on vacation in another country.

You Can Pick Your Nose, but…

…you can’t pick your family.  Well, I guess you can kind of pick your in-laws based on who you choose to marry, but your parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, etc…nope.

Growing up an Army brat, I never got close to my cousins.  We lived near them for about eighteen months when I was around eleven years old, so my brother and I got to play with them more regularly.  After moving back to the area years ago, I found that I can get along with most of them for very short periods of time…like the family gatherings at Granny’s house, but I don’t have a lot in common with them and am not really interested in getting to know any of them any better for any of a number of reasons, including the way they live their lives, their preferred topics of conversation, and their personalities.

Maybe they feel the same way about me.  Maybe they think I’m snooty and that I think I’m too good for them.  Maybe they don’t and they wish I’d make it a point to show up to more of the family gatherings.  That’s not going to happen, of course.  I simply have no desire to interact with most of them which is why I also don’t have any of them as friends on Facebook or LinkedIn or anywhere else online.

Also, I don’t buy into the “family will always be there for you” line of crap.  I don’t believe that I can count on the majority of my relatives to “be there” if I needed help, nor do I expect them to.  I would not turn to them for help anyway.  I’d turn to the few real friends I have.  The friends I’ve chosen.

Happy New Year! (P366D1)

Happy New Year!

My wife and I helped ring in the new year at a party with some friends last night.  Some had a little fun, some had a LOT of fun, and, at least one poor guy, had waaaayyyy too much fun.  Luckily for him (maybe), his point of bursting from the excitement came after midnight, so he was able to welcome the New Year’s arrival with the rest of us.

Resolutions:  None, other than continuing to spend time with my family -raising two awesome daughters with my wife, being thankful for a job that I enjoy…mostly, and playing soccer as much as I can.  Oh, yeah…and successfully completing the Project 366.

For those who are making/have made resolutions, I hope you’re able to see them through.


One more thing I plan to do more of in 2012

Project 366, Day 1

Parenthood – TV and Real Life

I am a big fan of Parenthood. It is one of those rare gems that is well-written, well-acted, and realistic. If you haven’t seen the show, it stars Craig T. Nelson (who I loved in ‘Coach’) and Bonnie Bedelia (who I remember as Holly McClane from Die Hard) as the parents of their four children all of whom have children of their own. The story is (mostly) all about their interactions with each other and how their relationships are affected by outside forces in the different family members’ lives. Every now and again, there’s an episode that’s ho-hum, but for the most part, every episode is engaging and I frequently find myself thinking “How would I deal with that?”

Most recently, the big issue (in my mind, anyway) has been the 16 year old daughter dating and having sex. At first, the parents wonder if the deed is going to be done, then they think they hear it over the phone (yes, that was cheesy), then the mom just confronts the daughter and asks. The daughter initially denies it, but then comes clean to the mom who then tells the dad. He tries to accept it and not say anything to her, but comes off like he’s mad or judging her. At a subsequent chat with his sister, whose daughter is out of control, the sister tells him that when the kids act like they don’t need you, that they think they’re grown up, that they’ve got everything under control, that that is the time when they need you most and to be there, to fight for them. Dad then shows up for the end of her soccer practice, she goes over and he bandages up her cut elbow and tells her as he finishes putting the bandage on he “just doesn’t ever want to see her get hurt.” Fantastic!

My daughter just turned ten this Monday. While I can hope and pray with all my heart that she waits for marriage before she has sex, I know that’s got to be some astronomical odds these days. My better, more realistic hope is that when she does, she is safe about it, and that she does it because she’s ready and wants to do it –her idea, and not because some ass pressured her into it. Even then, I have no idea how I’ll handle it when I find out… and parents always find out… it’s just a matter of time. I hope by then, and hopefully it’s a long then, her mother and I will have instilled the strength to make her own choices and not let peer pressure influence her.

Her sister is just a year and a half behind her.

I am so not looking forward to the next decade. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe the “I hate you” and “You’ve ruined my life” moments will be few and far between. I hope so.

The one thing I know for sure… no one has all the right answers all the time when it comes to raising kids. All I can do is love them, be there for them, and make sure they know I love them, and that I’ll always be there when they need me… whether they realize they need me or not.

Thanksgiving 2010 – A Proposal

This will be the first year that I can think of that my family will be the only ones at our table.  In the nine and a half years that our older daughter has been with us, we’ve always hosted relatives, gone to relatives’ homes, or, once, to the home of good friends.  This year, it will only be us.  While I enjoy visiting with relatives and friends, I am thankful that we’re going to spend this one together alone.

Nowadays, I think we (Americans) spend too much time trying to cram everything into our lives –work, school, extracurricular activities, frequent visits to/from friends and family– and we don’t spend enough quality time with our own immediate family.  We don’t spend enough time telling our spouses, sons, and daughters that they are important to us and that we love them.  We don’t plug-in to their lives.  Sure, we see them almost every day, drive them to their activities, school, what-have-you, maybe even ask “how’s school going?”, but, too often, we don’t really listen to their responses.

So, here’s my proposal for Thanksgiving this year:  Whether you’re having it at home with just your immediate family, or with friends/family/etc., make sure you take a few moments, talk one-on-one with each of you family members, and tell them how thankful you are that they are in your life.  Simple.  Don’t plan a speech or rehearse what to say, just do it.

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