Teaching Me How


There are few things like watching a child grow up to remind one of how fast time marches by. My “boy” is in his early 30’s now and it seems like only a few years ago he was eight and playing street hockey in the driveway.

Although my son is still finding his compass, I am very proud of his free-thinking ways and determination to live his life his own way. He pays his own bills, is in a meaningful long-term relationship and is loved by family and friends. To stay in school and be nearly done with a PhD has taken determination I don’t have. Way to go Nick!

During a visit this past weekend my son and I talked about how dreams thought up behind us, look very different in the present. We agreed that it is far to easy to get down because things did not turn out the way we once hoped. Coming to believe that is okay was something we saw eye to eye on.

The simplistic idealism of being 21 is a marvel to see in one’s son. Even more impressive is when a child has grown fully into an adult with a much broader perspective. The only thing that concerns me sometimes is his (and his generation’s) cynicism about the future. Once in a while I wish he had a little more of the idealism of a decade ago.

For, after all, you do grow up, you do outgrow your ideals, which turn to dust and ashes, which are shattered into fragments; and if you have no other life, you just have to build one up out of these fragments. And all the time your soul is craving and longing for something else. And in vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, raking them over as though they were a heap of cinders, looking in these cinders for some spark, however tiny, to fan it into a flame so as to warm his chilled blood by it and revive in it all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins, that drew tears from his eyes, and that so splendidly deceived him! From “White Nights: And Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I am grateful that I grew up with my son to be a pretty decent Dad. I made plenty of mistakes, but did a good bit well also. I know today I am a better Father than ever before. I thank my son for teaching me how.

I believe that what we become
depends on what our fathers
teach us at odd moments,
when they aren’t trying to teach us.
We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.
Umberto Eco

Unrestrained Innocence


When we are children we seldom think of the future.
This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can.
The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.
Patrick Rothfuss

Before there was maturity, adult ways, sexual attraction and worries of the world the uncorrupted simplicity of childhood filled me. A good while prior to “liking” a girl, studying for tests, giving book reports or choosing sides on the playground was the beautiful naivety of a child.

I am reminded of myself long ago by stories I am told by my best friend about one specific grandchild. This young man daily exhibits the unrestrained innocence of the first few years of life better than most. One particular habit of his is laughing fits before bed, brought on especially when he is tired. Over time it’s been noted when a strong laughter episode overtakes him before bed he sleeps even better than usual. I suspect the world would be a better place if all of us had a genuine laughing fit before nodding off each night.

Clearly I recall how ‘grown up’ and happy I was to take breakfast to my father. I was four years old. My Dad, Mom, little Brother and I lived in the country where my parents operated a small store and gas station. The little two room house where we lived was down a dirt road about a hundred yards away. That day I had the honor of walking breakfast over to my Father who opened the grocery very early each morning.

In a small box with the sides cut down to about four inches high my Mother had placed a plate with aluminum foil covering scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Black coffee was in a pint canning jar. I was told to be very careful and walk slow. That’s exactly what I did and felt so very proud to be trusted with such an honor as taking my Dad his breakfast. Carrying the box hid the immediate view in front of me and I stubbed my toe badly. I dropped the box and the coffee jar broke. I was so disappointed and humiliated plus my toe was hurt and bleeding.

The breakfast was held on the plate by the foil and that is all I arrived with to give my Father through my tears. No one got on to me. I was not in trouble. I was only disappointed with myself. It was the first of such a feeling I can remember and a little of my innocence was lost that day.

I am grateful to remember…

I miss so much the person
that I was before the world
tore me up in so many places.
C. Joybell C.

Any Family With More than One


In late 1925, a newspaper in London published a story by A.A. Milne titled “The Wrong Sort of Bees”. The tale introduced a bear named Winnie the Pooh who would become the lead character of one of the most successful children’s stories of all time. Inspiration came to A.A. Milne’s from his son’s meeting at the London Zoo of a black bear from the wilderness of the Canada. The son was named Christopher Robin Milne and the bear was called “Winnipeg” or “Winnie”.

In his stories Milne endeavored to make his character’s less than perfect with the belief it made them more loveable. Most of us have been familiar since childhood with Pooh’s forgetfulness, Tigger’s mood changes and Piglet’s fear of just about everything. Here in plain terms is a list of the dysfunctions I believe A.A. Milne’s gave his characters of Hundred Acre Wood to make them have human likeness.

Pooh Bear – suffers from an eating disorder and food (honey) addiction, episodes of dementia and exhibitionist tendencies (reluctance to wear pants).

Tigger – mood swings from irrational exuberance to despair combined with narcissistic behaviors and A.D.H.D. evidenced by his inability to ever be still.

Piglet – General Anxiety Disorder with a variety of phobias including creaking branches, small streams, gusting wind, his own shadow and other irrational and delusional fears.

Eeyore – clinical depression and feelings of inadequacy driven by his lack of a tail and his need to overcompensate by wearing a fake one made from fabric and a nail.

Owl – narcissistic personality approaching delusions of grandeur fed by anti-social tendencies and an over inflated ego with an irrational need to always be correct.

Rabbit – obsessive-compulsive personality with a side helping of neurosis exhibited by his incessant, exacting attention to his gardening, cooking and keeping things orderly.

Even the Christopher Robin character, patterned after A.A. Milne’s son, could be said to have “issues”. Some have surmised that in the story his playing in the woods all the time while talking to stuffed animals could be looked upon as either just a kid’s story or a form of psychotic hallucination.

You may or may not choose to think it is fairly apparent the benign messaging of story shapes the consciousness of children in a healthful way. I choose to think the characters are not just entertainment, but art in the way the writer poured emotion into their creation.

Having been in depression recovery for years now I can readily think of people I know in self-help groups that match each of the Pooh characters. I am grateful A.A. Milner created such deep characters and meaningful stories that have more significance today than when they were written. To smile, be entertained and be touched, all at the same time, is truly the mark of great work.

You know the definition
of a dysfunctional family,
don’t you?
It’s any family with more
than one member in it.
Sarah Pekkenen

Based on articles found at:

I Finally Got Even


Once upon a time there was a little boy. Although his family was poor, life was good and he enjoyed his life. His Mother and Father did not get along well, but he did not notice much.

One day his Daddy ran away, leaving a note that read, “I’m gone for good. Don’t try to find me”. The little boy did not understand. He was very sad and became even more confused when his Mommy told him, “You’re now the man of the house. You gonna have to take care of your little Brother”.

After getting divorced his Mother was not around much, even though the little boy and his brother lived with her. His Father never came around. Mom was either working or going out with boyfriends all the time. The parade of different men confused the boy.

A man the boy did not like became his stepfather when he was ten. Mother said, “_____ has asked me to marry him and I’ve said yes. Is that okay with you?” So badly, the boy wanted to say, “No, he is a bad man.” but instead because he loved his mother and wanted her to be happy he replied, “It’s okay”.

Life for the boy and his brother worsened. His new “Father” was mean and treated the two boys as just being in the way. He got angry about the smallest thing and dished out painful physical punishment almost daily. The boys lived in fear and were made to work long hours every day after school, on weekends and during the summer.

The boy was growing up to be a man. Just before he was sixteen the new “Dad” drew back his hand to hit the now teenaged boy. Having had enough, in great anger the boy said “Go, ahead. I’ll stomp you until you’re a grease spot”. He meant it and would have tried to hurt the stepfather as badly has he could have.. Fortunately the older man saw that, never touched him again, but threw the boy out on the street to fend for himself three weeks later.

The teenager was homeless. With money enough for only two nights in a motel, he called the birth Father he barely knew saying, “I have no place to go. Can I come stay with you?” His Daddy said “yes”. And there he lived for a year while he and his Dad made the best peace they could.

Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they choose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them. If the first woman they passionately loved, the mother, was not true to her bond of love, then how can they trust that their partner will be true to love. Often in their adult relationships these men act out again and again to test their partner’s love. While the rejected adolescent boy imagines that he can no longer receive his mother’s love because he is not worthy, as a grown man he may act out in ways that are unworthy and yet demand of the woman in his life that she offer him unconditional love. This testing does not heal the wound of the past, it merely reenacts it, for ultimately the woman will become weary of being tested and end the relationship, thus reenacting the abandonment. This drama confirms for many men that they cannot put their trust in love. They decide that it is better to put their faith in being powerful, in being dominant.” Bell Hooks

A walk though the majority of his adult life shows the boy became like the description above. How could he have known the effects of surviving childhood would have so much to do with shaping his life? If we are born without the colors of life already painted, then it is childhood where the adult we become gets colored in.

I was that boy and I am that man. My gratitude overflows that in recent times I have been able to let go of most of it. And I finally got even with my evil stepfather; I became happy in spite of him!

You know all that sympathy that you feel
for an abused child who suffers
without a good mom or dad to love and care for them?
Well, they don’t stay children forever.
No one magically becomes an adult the day they turn eighteen.
Some people grow up sooner, many grow up later.
Some never really do.
…just remember that some people in this world
are older versions of those same kids we cry for.
Ashly Lorenzana

Image by Ruby Blossom

Edge of Discomfort

k-bigpicWe are born helpless and completely dependent on others to stay alive. From a lack of love and nurturing many never overcome this need to be taken care of. Such people grow up with a fear of being alone that can be crippling.

For those of us with childhoods spent in dysfunction homes, by adulthood the belief was we had a decent handle on what we wanted and didn’t want; what we liked and don’t liked. But the unacknowledged under-pining was a feeling of incompleteness especially when we’re alone. Life can feel barely worth living by one’s self. We needed someone to “complete us”, if you will.

The problem is that we don’t talk about being alone. We avoid the conversation as if aloneness were vaguely shameful and – hopefully – a temporary state of affairs before we can be subsumed into relationships again. Rather than applaud other people for their ability to be alone, we feel sorry for them. We assure them that – sooner or later – relationships will come.

A baby with an attuned, attentive a parent gradually internalizes the presence of that parent, no longer needing him or her to be physically present for the baby to know that it’s not forgotten and, in that sense, not alone (Winnicott 1958). The theory goes that with enough of this early experience, a child is likely to grow up to be comfortable with his or her own company. Nick Luxmoore, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/young-people-close/201305/daring-be-alone

There lies the root of many of our adult problems with love and relationships. We don’t recognize the conditioning that began as a baby’s unfulfilled need to be loved, to be cared for, to be liked, to be admired and so on is the root of our incompleteness and inability to be alone. This merry-go-round is one of the reasons for so much wide-spread discontent in under loved children.

Success is only significant when compared to failure and without knowledge of both neither is particularly meaningful. If a person does not have the confidence of finding their way when lost, they will never truly know how to find their way. Each polar opposite experienced widens a person and makes him or her more able to handle both. If a person is unhappy alone, he or she will be just as discontented in the company of another.

Slowly learning to be by myself felt as if it was going to kill me at first. How well I remember my first “Thanksgiving for one” and the martyred feelings I had at the time. Now I am grateful to be able to look back and see I learned a lot from that experience and others like it that taught me to be content in my own company (at least most of the time!).

It’s on the edge of discomfort
where the magic happens.
panic turns to a pleasant,
high and you know you
can tackle the world.
Kirsten Stubbs

The Beauty of Love

baby_handFlying home at the end of a business trip yesterday, I was seated across the aisle one seat back from a twenty-something mother with a tiny infant in her arms and kindergarten aged boy seated next to her. Watching them touched my heart.

The young man by his mom was well-behaved. He was seated quietly looking at books most of the flight and would often reach over and put his arm on his Mom’s. Seeing him lean over and kiss the baby on the head a couple of times was touching. It was easy to surmise where he learned to express love the way he did.

During the two-hour flight, at least a dozen times the young mother softly kissed her tiny baby. At other moments she would softly touch the baby’s face or caress a hand or a foot. Even the way she held the little one showed she loved her child. While most infants seem to get noisy at some point during a flight, this one barely let out a sound. Mom knew the correct moment to take out a bottle just before the tiny bundle cried from hunger. It was obvious the younger mother knew her baby intimately.

It truly was a special gift to be allowed to observe this young mother and her children. She was calm the entire flight and never for a moment appeared stressed or hassled, nor did either child. At arrival when it came time to get off the plane, the young woman calmed gathered up her purse, a diaper bag and another canvas bag. Then with the infant in a baby sling carrier she helped the little boy into the aisle in front of her and the three of them made their way calmly down the aisle.

What I witnessed was the openly expressed true love of a mother for her children and of them for her. The young mom likely learned what she was expressing to her kids from her parents when she was growing up. Love begets more love. How we express love and even our ability to know and feel it is mostly learned in childhood.

Somewhere in the town I live in there is today a young mother and two children who are no longer complete strangers.  I am glad for the insight into what is in their hearts and am grateful yesterday they came across the path of my life. I am certain all is not perfect for the three all the time but know without doubt the bonds they share will last a life time. I am honored to have been a bystander to the beauty of the love they share.

If I had two wishes, I know what they would be
I’d wish for roots to cling to, and wings to set me free;
Roots for inner values, like rings within a tree,
And wings of independence to seek my destiny.

Roots to hold forever, to keep me safe and strong
To let me know you love me, when I’ve done something wrong;
To show me by example, and help me learn to choose
To take those actions every day to win instead of lose.

Just be there when I need you, to tell me it’s all right
To face my fear of falling when I test my wings in flight;
Don’t make my life too easy, it’s better if I try
And fail and get back up myself, so I can learn to fly.

If I had two wishes, and two were all I had
And they could just be granted by my mom and dad;
I wouldn’t wish for money or any store-bought things
The greatest gifts I’d ask for are simply roots and wings.

“A Child’s Bedtime Song” by Denis Waitley

Inspiring His Father

530916_10101173850880323_104345909_nIf a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn . . .
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight . . .
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive . . .
If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself . . .
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy . . .
If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel envy . . .
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty . . .
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient . . .
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident . . .
If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative . . .
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love . . .
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves. . .
If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is . . .
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice . . .
If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal. . .
If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous. . .
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him . . .
If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live . . .
From “Children Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspire Values” by Dorothy Law Nolte

My son will turn thirty-one years old a little later this year, and while I can see his imperfections, none of them keep this Father from seeing the perfection in him. Watching the joy in his discoveries and successes enrich my life. While the bright newness of life wore off for me a good while ago, seeing my son experience it awakens those old feelings within. Through observing his young adult life, old yearnings come alive and dreams from way back drift frequently into thought.

The son is now inspiring his father as he and I more closely connect as adults making the full circle of what we share more complete. There is no love greater than a parent can feel for a child. I am humbly grateful my life journey includes such a wonderful gift as my ‘boy’.

Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
Kahlil Gibran

The Bad Seems So Much Smaller Now

poverty-is-1 filteredWhile the resolution of the image above is weak, the message it carries is strong. Many children not having enough to eat is a common reality. And it’s not only in some foreign country. Statistics say around 1 in 5 kids in the United States don’t get enough to eat each day. I hate to see adults suffer, but little children doing without food tears at all my emotions from sadness to anger. Have we accepted children going hungry as a fact of life? I can’t and I won’t!

Every day, children in every county in the United States wake up hungry. They go to school hungry. They turn out the lights at night hungry. In high school, Katherine Foronda trained herself not to feel hungry until after the school day had ended. She wasn’t watching her weight or worrying about boys seeing her eat. She just didn’t have any food to eat or any money to buy it. “I thought, if I wasn’t hungry during class I’d be able to actually focus on what we were learning,” said Foronda, now 19.

Early on in high school, with her hunger distracting her from her studies, she failed an English class. Rather than repeating the class, she was given the option of taking an afterschool life skills course, which offered meals to attendees each day and sent them home with food supplies each weekend. She also gained new insight into the possibilities for her own future, learning from a mentor that college was within her reach, despite her family’s economic circumstances.

With food to eat and not just a little bit of hope, she started performing better in classes, and founded a program that offered food support to the student body in her high school. She won a scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she is now a sophomore. http://abcnews.go.com/US/hunger_at_home/hunger-home-american-children-malnourished/story?id=14367230

That’s one of the unfortunate beginnings that now appears to be headed toward a good life story. For many that is not the tale their life will write.

Growing up was not an easy time for my brother and me. Yet comparing our experience to what some go through, we were lucky. The poverty and mental, physical and emotional abuse we grew up in left its scars on us. However, we never lacked for clean clothes to wear, even if unfashionable and ill-fitting; a dry and safe place to sleep, no matter how humble it was; and enough food to eat, even if just basic and cheap sustenance. We were encouraged, even threatened sometimes, to do well in school. All in all the childhood my brother and I experienced made us far ‘richer’ than what many children are going through today.

This will sound a little strange to some, but I am grateful for my childhood. I am mature enough now to see the negative parts and not let them over-shadow the benefits I had. My start may have been rough by some standards, but the essentials for life were there that enabled me to grow into a functional adult who contributes positively to society. The bad seems so much smaller now and the good so much larger.

Hunger of choice is a painful luxury;
hunger of necessity is terrifying torture.
Mike Mullin

Living Messages

Having never done a word count on any blog I placed here, it surprised me to find the count is as high as it is. The low side is six hundred and high range is approaching eight hundred words for an average of roughly 700 words. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Using that premise each blog is worth around two-thirds to three-quarters of a picture. That does not fit what I am aiming for, so for today I have placed the equivalent of seven thousand words here!

It’s amazing the joy I feel now there was not apparent a half hour ago before I looked through images of happy children to pick ones to put here. I am grateful for the tenderly positive effect this little experience had on me.

Children are the living messages
we send to a time we will not see.
Neil Postman

A Little Positive Trail Behind Me

The innocence of a child can be especially touching. For me that’s true partly because some of my innocence was stolen as a kid and partially because living has softened me over time. While the story below is just that, a “story”, it illustrates how naively wise children can be.

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived. So he packed a backpack with Twinkies and six-pack of pop, then started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man with a flowing beard, sitting on a bench in the park just staring at some pigeons.

The boy sat down next to him and opened his bag. He noticed that the old man looked hungry. So he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at the boy.

His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again. So he offered him a can of pop. The old man smiled again. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling but never said a word.

As it started growing dark, the boy realized how tired he was and got up to leave. But before he had gone few steps, he turned around and gave the old man a hug. The old fellow gave the boy a big bright smile.

A short while later when the boy opened the door of his house his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that make you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God”. But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know, He’s got the most beautiful smile I have ever seen”.

Meanwhile, the old man, radiant with joy, returned home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and asked, “Dad, what did you do today that makes you so happy?”

He replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God”. And before his son could respond, he added, “He is so much younger than I expected”.

As the holidays approach I am grateful for a polishing of the sensitivity of my heart that parable gives me. I hope the refreshed shine makes me a bit more open to the humanity of others and helps me to show mine to them. To leave something of a positive trail behind me is my highest aspiration.

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
Edward Everett Hale