Category Archives: Parenting

A Gentle Reminder

I recently witnessed a mom with her newborn.  It was feeding time.  Mom was ready with the bottle and within a minute her baby was content and eating.

Slowly but surely, the bottle was drained, and the effort seemed to exhaust the new baby.  She lay on her mom’s lap with a little dribble of milk around her mouth.

The neat freak in me said, “Hey, it’s time to wipe that kid’s mouth,” and my next move would have been to reach for a wipe.

This mom had the same idea but wasn’t in a hurry.  She remained still and put the empty bottle away.  She moved with a grace and fluidity that didn’t disturb her nearly-sleeping baby.

She then grabbed the edge of a soft towel and delicately wiped the milk.  She purposely took her time and continued to move with smoothness and grace.

The gentleness was amazing.  Her focus was complete.  The moment was silent.  This mother’s love and caring approach were there for anyone to see.  She took the time to be gentle and her reward was a moment of grace for her baby and herself.

When was the last time you purposely chose gentle as your first response?  To anything?

It’s easy for our lives to become a series of tasks, goals, deadlines, rules, disruptions and shiny objects that are anything but gentle.

Only our conscious choice to be gentle will make it happen.  Our desire to experience moments of grace and peace will bring them to us.

We control the gentleness we give to those around us…and to ourselves.

I, for one, am glad I got to see my daughter being so gentle with her new daughter.

It was a gentle reminder that I will not soon forget.

One Syllable Words

The assignment:  Describe the most dramatic moment in your life.  Easy.  But, there were two rules:

1) You have 15 minutes.

2) Only use one-syllable words.

That’s a little tougher.

Here was my entry:

“The rate is gone!”

“Turn her!”

“Code blue!” yelled the nurse.

All of the white coats on the floor were there fast.  Jan’s eyes showed her fear.  I was no help.  I froze and watched in awe.

One nurse pushed some drug in her arm.  One nurse held her hand.  Two docs barked new plans and the group worked their plan.

“Crash cart!” yelled one doc.

“We must go in.  The child may be lost!”

This was our first child.  We had been there for a day and a half, and now this.  What did it all mean?  Would our child make it out to see the world?

They ran down the hall on her bed with wheels.  There I stood.  The clock read five. The mess showed what was left from my child’s fight for life.  Where did they go?  I did not know so I stood there in the dark for at least three ticks of the clock.

“Sir, your wife is fine,” the nurse said.  She had found me and showed me to the room.  “Your child is fine.  Come in and see.  Would you like to hold her?”

Our girl was born!  From out of the dark, the world turned bright for us all that day.


Twenty-five years later, yet it seems like only a few minutes have passed.  Julianne made her dramatic entrance, and our lives have never been the same.

Happy (slightly early) Birthday, Julianne!


The Finest Gift

Bingo changed my life.  The Alamitos dorm held their annual bingo tournament in the Commons, and a friend told me I should go.  Sounded like fun to me.  What else was a college freshman to do just weeks before final exams?  But, we’d have to wait a few minutes for one of his friends who’d be joining us.

She can shop all over town, turn the gift shops upside down.
Finding something for her man with everything.

I noticed her eyes first.  Then her smile.  It was like a perfect slice of the sun walked in the room.

“Bob, this is Janet.  She lives in the girl’s wing on our floor.”  Suddenly, words were a little hard to find.  “She’s a CIS major too,” he said, breaking the silence.  Talking about your major was always a good ice breaker.

But it’s right behind her eyes and no matter what she buys
She’ll always be the finest gift she brings.

Playing bingo is similar to a movie from a first date perspective.  There’s not a lot of time for chit chat.  Not that this was a date.  After all, we just met.  I was starting to string words together again, just barely.  This was the one person who would change my life forever, but this was also bingo.  It all about the numbers.

I wasn’t thinking about anything except how to see her again.  Then it happened.  I got a BINGO!  The prize?  A week’s membership at the Jack LaLane Health Spa.  That was nice, but didn’t get me closer to seeing Janet again.  Lucky for me they had more memberships to hand out.  A few games later, with one of the memberships on the line, I could see that Janet was close to having bingo.  How awesome is that?

Every year it’s never missed, should be at the top of every list.
It can never be outdone, it’s the perfect gift for everyone.

I’m sure I was the most excited person in the room when Janet yelled, “BINGO!”  We had matching membership envelopes!  This was my opening.  We were only three or four weeks away from the end of spring quarter.  We’d be moving out of the dorms for the summer…Janet wouldn’t be living just down the hall.  I had to move fast.

It’s in everything you’ll see, scattered underneath our tree.
You can hear it in the carols that we sing.

The details are a bit fuzzy for me as I think about our visits to Jack LaLane’s.  I do remember sitting in the Jacuzzi (I presume, after we had done our workouts).  The more I talked with Janet, the more I knew she was THE ONE.  And yet, I only had a few weeks.  The abyss of summer break was fast approaching.  I had to stay focused, which was impossible whenever I was around her.

It’s the heart of love’s design and it appreciates with time.
And she’ll always be the finest gift she brings.

Janet and a group of her friends were planning a trip to the Griffith Park Observatory to celebrate the end of the school year.  I knew a few of her friends (some were neighbors on my wing).  But, I wasn’t exactly part of the Griffith Park trip plan.  What do you do in that situation  Invite yourself, of course.

We had a small convoy of cars that night.  I couldn’t believe I was in the passenger seat of Janet’s convertible as we approached the observatory.  This was like a date, but not quite.  We were part of a big group.  Everything was closed at the observatory (college students work the late schedule), but we walked around the grounds and checked out the stars for quite a while.  I remember how the lights reflected off Janet’s eyes more than anything else.

Our road trip wasn’t over.  We stopped at a Tommy’s Burgers on the way back.  My first chili burger, on my first (almost) date with Janet.

Every year it’s never missed, should be at the top of every list.
It can never be outdone, it’s the perfect gift for everyone.

Only six weeks later, we were in my parent’s Toyota 4×4 pickup, following my family down to Gonzaga Bay in Baja…about 100 miles south of San Felipe.  Why not go to the middle of nowhere in Baja, off road, with this (awesome) guy you met playing bingo?  Janet is an adventurer, to say the least.

Now it’s not in any store and she could never give me more
Then her promise of the finest gift she brings.

Three years later, we shared our first Christmas as a married couple.


Our adventure continues to this day.

The finest gift is truly the one I receive every day (including Christmas).

Her love.

I know her love’s the finest gift she brings.

Clint Black sure got it right:


Father-Daughter Dances


Call me biased since I have two daughters, but, the Father-Daughter dance is a great wedding tradition. It’s the “first chance” for Dad to dance with his daughter now that she’s married.

I’ve seen some solid dancing in Father-Daughter dances, but more often than not, they’re a bit slow. An opportunity for the father and daughter to have a nice chat about the events of the day while casually dancing around for a few minutes.

For Julianne’s wedding, a couple years ago, we unleashed a surprise. We interrupted the regularly-scheduled dance with some unusual songs and choreography:

The Circle of Trust for this surprise was five or six people, including Julianne and me. We worked out the songs, the timing, and the choreography a few weeks before her wedding. We enlisted Mike, a tech-savvy member of the Circle, to cut together the songs. We had all the pieces…except for rehearsal time. There are tons of details in any wedding, and the last couple weeks before the wedding are filled with them. Finding secret rehearsal time was a big challenge, but also half of the fun.

I remember our last rehearsal, at about 6am on Julianne’s wedding day. Everyone was sleeping when we made our final run-through (we had about 15 guests sleeping all over the house). There we were, dancing “quietly” in a crowded bedroom, making sure we knew all the moves and song changes.

I didn’t get much time to think about our dance for the rest of the day, until moments before we took the floor. As we started our dance, I wondered if I’d remember all the moves. Looking back, I have a better memory of our rehearsals than I do of our performance.

Fast-forward two years (just a week ago), and it’s time for Jennifer’s wedding. As soon as her engagement to Luke was official, we started talking about what we should do for the Father-Daughter dance. We could do something similar to Julianne’s, but that had already been done. We needed to take things up a notch. The perfect solution: a flash mob!

The logistics of a flash mob are a lot different than a secret set of dance steps shared by two people. We’d need to pick the songs, edit them, come up with choreography, recruit the members of the mob, train everyone on the dance steps, and rehearse as a group (would a group rehearsal even be feasible?) before the wedding. How would the mob assemble, how would they disperse?

The Circle of Trust would be huge! We had a group of about thirty-forty people in the Circle. Fortunately, the internet is perfect for communicating with such a big group.

Here’s the two flash mob training videos that we uploaded to YouTube about five days before the wedding (one for instructions, and the other a “live” demonstration):

Flash Mob Instruction Video:

Flash Mob Demonstration Video:

As the big day approached, we didn’t get an opportunity to rehearse. I did review the demonstration video a couple times. Our last chance for an actual rehearsal came the night before the wedding, at about 10:30pm. Five or six of us stepped outside into a grassy area and started up the song on Jennifer’s phone. We worked through the steps in one pass, and declared ourselves ready for the big dance.

With such a large Circle of Trust, greetings just before the wedding were filled with whispered questions about everyone’s readiness for the dance. “Did you get links to the videos?” “Did you rehearse?” “Are you going to rehearse just before the reception starts?” We were as ready as we could be.

Here’s the final product:

As you can see, our Circle grew into a Community of dancers. At least ten percent of the folks who jumped onto the dance floor had no idea this was a “planned” flash mob. They were just excited to join in the dancing. They didn’t know about the choreography, or the plans for dispersing at appointed times in the song. It didn’t matter. It added to the spontaneous energy and excitement of the dance/mob. I’m sure little Clyde was wondering what the heck was going on as everyone left the dance floor.

I remember looking up and seeing Jennifer’s smiling face, surrounded by friends and family who had joined our flash mob. It was awesome, and then it was over as quickly as it began.

Life’s journey is finite, but the memories and connections you can make on that journey are infinite.

Do you wanna dance?! Yeah!!


The Fallacy of Either-Or Questions

Lately, I’ve seen a number of articles and blog posts that discuss the profound choice parents, especially moms, are making when it comes to work in today’s society.  I’m not sure how “today’s society” differs from “yesterday’s society” or “tomorrow’s society,” but I’m willing to accept that.

Lots of famous moms have chosen to work, and excel at the work they do.  Marissa Meyer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Beyonce Knowles, to name a few.  Lots of not-so-famous moms have made the same choice.

Which brings me back to the articles and blog posts on this topic.  The prevalent theme of these posts is that moms must decide between parenting and working.  If they work, therefore, they aren’t parenting.  If they don’t work, therefore, they aren’t going to be fulfilled.

I have no quarrel with either side of the “work or parent” argument (regardless of gender).  Each of us gets to make our own choices.  I do have a problem with the premise that either you do one thing, or you do the other.  This Either-Or premise leaves a lot of dimensions out of life’s equation.

I’m sure everyone who makes the “worker or parent” decision has other important roles in their lives.  They may be someone’s spouse, a brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a tennis player, a backpacker, a writer (perish the thought!), a juggler, a volunteer at the local soup kitchen, a voracious reader, a hot air balloonist, a violinist, and a myriad other things that make up their entire being.

The truth is, we are like diamonds, with the potential for an infinite array of facets.  Some of us are uncut, yet others show countless angles from a lifetime of experience.  Whether we reflect, deflect, or absorb the light of life, depends solely on how we’ve allowed our journey to shape who we are.

Either we’re a multi-dimensional work-in-progress deciding what’s most important, or we’re a product of “society’s” Either-Or questions.  I choose the former.

For Mother’s Day


Who always roots for you, no matter what you try?

Who taught you the important lessons of life, long before your first day of school?

Who is proud of you, even on the days you may not be so proud of yourself?

Who hears what you’re saying, but knows from the tone of your voice, or the look in your eye, what you are really thinking?

Who knows the things that scare you, even better than you do?

Who makes your favorite meal, the one you had as a kid, the right way…every time?

Who thinks about you every day, even if you don’t make the time to call or visit?

If you are as fortunate as I am, the answer to each of these questions is easy. It’s your Mom.

A mother’s love is probably the most powerful force on the planet, and yet it can’t be measured. It is sustaining, and life-giving, and asks for nothing in return. It’s the secret ingredient in that special meal. The one that never tastes quite the same when you make it for yourself.

Mom, thank you for making me the man I am today. I don’t say it enough, but know that I love you and feel the warmth of your love wrapped around me every day.


Photo credit:


One Hundred Years from Now

I saw an inspirational sign over the weekend.  It said:

One Hundred Years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, nor what my clothes were like, but the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child. 

All of us are children, some just older than others.  We each have the capacity to inspire, and to be inspired.  We each have the capacity to challenge, and to be challenged.  We certainly have the capacity to teach, and to be taught.  

Our openness to both sides of the equation is what’s most important.

No One is “Just a…”

“I don’t know the answer, I’m just a temp.”

“I can’t authorize that refund, I’m just a cashier.”

“Clearly, nobody here cares what I think.  I’m just a worker bee.”

“I could probably help those wounded veterans, but I’m just a private citizen.  I’m sure there’s a government agency for that.”

“There’s no way I could ever do that job.  I’m just a high school graduate.”

Listen closely, and you’ll hear the “I’m just a…” phrase applied in many circumstances.  You may even use it yourself.  I’ve inflicted it on myself a time or two (or three).

Ownership is risky.  It requires personal responsibility, a willingness to step up, make hard choices, and be held accountable for your actions.  “I’m just a…” is a ticket to minimizing the expectations we place on ourselves.

The Dark Side

“Just a…” has an even darker side.  It can be used to limit the expectations we place on those around us:

  • “John’s a decent manager, but he’s really just a guy keeping the trains coming in on time.  I doubt he could step into anything new.”
  • “She’s just a summer intern, so I don’t expect her to light the world on fire for us.”
  • “He’s just a beginner, so we need to cut him some slack.”
  • “She’s just a kid.”
  • “He’s just a drug addict, so he will never amount to much.”

When expectations are minimized, minimized outcomes usually follow.

Applying the “just a…” phrase to anyone, including ourselves, ignores potential.  It ignores our ability to grow, change, improve, and amaze.

Happy First Anniversary!


Hard to believe that one year ago today, Janet and I had 16 guests and a bride-to-be in our house, getting ready for the Flather wedding that would start later that day.  The night before, they worked out a system of 15-minute bathroom assignments that began at 6am, and ended with the entire bridal party, and support crew, heading out the door at 9:30am for photos…all on schedule.

As anyone who has planned a wedding knows, they are events filled with countless details, and memories that last a lifetime.  One detail that I remember vividly is the Father-of-the-Bride toast.  Writing the toast wasn’t difficult.  Saying the toast was an entirely different matter.  Each rehearsal ended with me crying about halfway through.  I’d be doing great, and then it would hit me without warning.

Seeing my hopeless situation, Janet agreed to share in the toast duties with me.  She would take the most “troubling” parts, and we determined that we’d just “wing it” from there.  I don’t have a clear memory of the actual toast, but I know I couldn’t have done it without Janet’s love and support.

In honor of the Flathers’ one-year anniversary, and just in case we missed something during the actual toast, here’s the original text.  By the way, I still can’t read it all the way through without welling up, and I wouldn’t have it any other way:

When Steven stopped by our house on that fateful night, about a year ago, I think we had a pretty good idea what he wanted to talk to us about. He wanted to ask our daughter to marry him. It wasn’t a surprise to us, but that moment is certainly burned into our memory. Obviously, Julianne said Yes! And, we couldn’t be happier for them. Steven is quite a catch, and he comes from a great family that we’ve gotten to know quite well over the years.

I’m pleased to see that Steven’s tuxedo doesn’t have any grease spots…yet…and I’m sure it’s killing him keeping it clean!

This is the NASCAR section of the toast when I thank all the people who made this celebration possible. Let me just start by thanking everyone who came here last night (and this morning) to help setup this hall. We had around 40 people here yesterday afternoon and evening, helping us convert an empty hall into this wedding picnic wonderland you see today. But, even before that, we had numerous work parties at our house, addressing invitations, preparing the candy, the candle holders, and all of the flowers. If you are a friend of mine on FaceBook, you’ve seen the pictures and updates.  We’d also like to thank many of you in advance for volunteering to help us convert this wedding picnic wonderland back into an empty hall tonight!

Although we have a picnic theme going, we could just as easily call this a “barn-raising.” The same way a community comes together to help one family build their barn, we are blessed to have just about everything in this wedding come from our own community of friends and family. Thank you for all of your help. We will always cherish the time we’ve spent with each of you as we prepared for this wedding celebration.

Someone recently asked us how we’d feel on our daughter’s wedding day, giving her away, and all. We don’t look at it that way.  Instead, we are adding a very fine son-in-law to our family. As parents, we all strive to see our kids grow into solid citizens. I can tell you from first-hand experience, Steven and Julianne are VERY SOLID CITIZENS. We are very proud of both of you!

So, Steven and Julianne, we raise our lemonade high, in your honor. May your love for each other grow as you greet each new day together!

Life’s Been Good to Me, So Far


Songs have an almost magical way of transporting us back to another time.  One song in particular makes me think of my dad…Joe Walsh’s, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far.”  Every time I hear it, I’m about eleven years old, very early in the morning, on the way to Escape Country.  This song is playing on the radio.  I know my mom and brother were there too, but when it comes to this song, my memory only conjures up my dad.

Escape Country is long gone.  In the ‘70’s, Escape Country was a motorcycle riding park in Orange County, located about ten miles from Cook’s Corner.  I’m pretty sure Dove Canyon is built mostly where Escape Country used to be.

“I have a mansion, forget the price

Ain’t never been there they tell me it’s nice”

My dad has a way of focusing on the task at hand, while having fun.  In this case, his task was being the president of the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club, and this was our annual Gran Prix race weekend at Escape Country.  A series of 60-90 minute races with various motorcycle sizes and rider skill levels, ranging from mini-bikes to 500cc’s, and beginner to expert.

“My Maserati does 185

I lost my license now I don’t drive”

The president of the club has overall responsibility for the race, and works with everyone else in the club to create the best possible racing experience for the racers. On race days, one of my dad’s specific jobs was to line up each race at the start.  I was amazed by the way my dad was able to keep everything straight.  How did he know which bikes went where?  It was always noisy, dusty, and confusing to me.  And yet, he’d refer to a small piece of paper, look at the numbers on the bikes and immediately know where they were supposed to go.  I remember he’d often carry a wooden stake to use as a pointer.  He might as well have been an orchestra conductor in my eyes.

“I’m making records my fans they can’t wait

They write me letters tell me I’m great”

These were dead-engine, Le Mans-style starts.  The bikes were on one side of the track, and the racers were lined-up on the other side.  When my dad dropped the banner (which I helped raise and lower), the racers would run across the track, jump on their bikes, hope they started on the first kick, and, in a cloud of dust and rocks, they’d be racing down into the first turn.

“So I got me an office gold records on the wall

Just leave a message maybe I’ll call”

My dad took the time to watch about the first five minutes of each race, and then he was focused on preparing the start for the next race.  This meant re-making the white lines to delineate the starting positions.  I remember one of my jobs was to mark off the distance between the lines.  I know now that he probably didn’t need my help, but at the time, I was a key part of the process.

“Lucky I’m sane after all I’ve been through

Everybody says I’m cool (He’s cool)”

Amazingly, my dad always seemed to wrap up the start-line preparations with fifteen to twenty minutes to spare before the next race was to start.  This was enough time to jump on his bike and ride to various spots, checking-in with other members of the club to get a status from them.  We didn’t have radios or cell phones back then, so communications happened the old fashioned way:  face-to-face.  He also had time to watch a bit more racing, and then back to the starting area to coordinate the newly arriving racers for the next race.

“I go to parties sometimes until four

It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door”

My job during the down time?  Riding over to the sign-up area on our Honda Trail 50 to get the piece of paper with numbers that he used as the basis for setting up the next race.  Sometimes, while at sign-up, I’d get involved in helping the sign-up crew for a few minutes before returning to the starting area.  Again, I was a key part of the process.

“They say I’m lazy but it takes all my time

Everybody says Oh yeah (Oh yeah)”

When the last race of the weekend ended, the work was far from over.  Course markings, ribbons, barricades, banners, and everything else that we’d put up in preparation for the race had to be taken down.  Most of the items would be reused in following years, so the put-away process was almost as important as the put-up process.  I wanted nothing more than to help.  I wanted to be like my dad.  Doing anything other than working toward the goal of finishing the job never entered my mind.  I was part of my dad’s team and that is all that mattered.

“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame 

Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed”

Thank you, Dad, for always making me a key part of the process.  Thank you for always trusting me to be at your side.  Thank you for always knowing I could do the things you asked of me.  Thank you for having confidence in me, even if I wasn’t so sure.  Thank you for making me a valuable part of your team.

“I keep on going, guess I’ll never know why 

Life’s been good to me so far”   

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I love you.