Category Archives: Parenting

Grandma’s Hot Chocolate

There’s something special about grandma’s hot chocolate.

It doesn’t matter that she boils water and pours in the envelope of instant powder like the rest of us.

It’s what she does while the water’s boiling.  The questions she asks while stirring-in the powder.  The way she stops stirring to listen to your answers.

Grandmas have that way of listening, even to the stuff we’re not saying.

It’s the way she adds the right amount of milk to “thicken it up a bit.”  Nobody else gets it exactly right like grandma.  She knows just the way you like it.  In fact, she’s the only one who does.

It’s counting out the right number of baby marshmallows.  Enough to sweeten things, but not so many that they get in the way.

It’s the way she squeezes your shoulder as she places the cup on your placemat.

It’s the way she sits to enjoy it with you.

That first sip is such a treat.  Is it the taste of the chocolate, or seeing grandma’s warm smile across the table that makes it so good?

It doesn’t matter.  Your loving journey to the bottom of this cup of wonder is just beginning.

Funny how the simplest things in life are transformed when they’re mixed with grandma’s love.

A love she teaches us to bring to the simple things in our own lives each and every day.

Photo by Salome Alexa on Unsplash

Momma’s Song

I have a friend.  I haven’t seen him in at least 40 years.  Though all these years have passed, I have nothing but fond memories of our childhood together…usually in the desert, climbing on rocks, playing in the dirt, getting too close to the campfire.

His name is Jack now, but he’ll always be Jackie to me.  Just like I’m Bob now, but I’ll always be Bobby to him.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard Jackie’s wife had died.  It was sudden and unexpected.  There he was, facing this tragedy, trying to tell their daughter where her mom had gone.  I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak.

For some reason, each time I thought about Jackie and his daughter, I couldn’t help thinking about playing momma’s song and singing along.  I had no idea what any of it meant, but still, this refrain continued…singing along to momma’s song.

A couple weeks later, I was sitting in an airport (as I often do nowadays) waiting for a delayed flight to take me home.  I decided to pull out a yellow pad and see where this refrain about momma’s song would take me.

Here’s what was on that yellow pad when they finally called us for our flight:

Momma’s Song

Looking back…

We were so complete

Everything was sweet until that day

we heard the news.

Our silence grew

How could this be?

 

We never knew until that day

The doctor said it was too late

Her momma was gone, all too fast

There was nothing the doc could do

He shook my hand and held me close.

 

My only thought was of her song

That one I used to sing along

It was our Endless Summer

It had just begun

And now, alone, I faced her setting sun.

 

Oh Lord, please won’t you play her song!

I only want to sing along

You know the one I need, won’t you help me sing along!

 

And there she was, our sweet Lorraine

I could see through all her tears

All she felt was numbness and pain

Who would ever play her song?

Especially now that momma’s gone.

 

Oh Lord, please won’t you play her song!

She only wants to sing along

You know the one she needs—won’t you help her sing along!

 

We sat and cried

I held her close

I felt so weak, but it was our sweet Lorraine

Who gave me strength.

There we sat, I had no plan

What should we do now that momma’s gone?

And there it was, her words so sweet

The melody we knew complete

She was singing to us once again

The sun was rising, her new day was born

We could feel her in those words

We couldn’t help but sing along.

 

It’s been many years since that day

It’s our sweet Lorraine’s wedding day.

As we started to dance the Father’s dance, my daughter cried

Oh Daddy please won’t you sing her song

The one momma used to sing

I only want to sing along

You know the one, won’t you help me sing along!

 

And so we danced, and her momma sang

Her words so clear, she’s singing now and that’s all we can hear

Oh, momma, we can hear your song

We’ll always sing along!

Photo by Olivier Fahrni on Unsplash

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.

Christmas_1988

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:  http://youtu.be/wGe96bEL7B8

 

Father-Daughter Dances

JulandJenWeddingPhoto

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:

http://youtu.be/9wP00Fozwjk

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: http://youtu.be/e-ZWXzvScAo

Flash Mob Demonstration Video: http://youtu.be/2cdLW_1LXEE

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: http://youtu.be/3G89QiP8Qus

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

ProFlowers

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:  ProFlowers.com

 

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.