Tag Archives: children

Going Home

I get to go home tomorrow.

Hopefully.

Assuming the weather cooperates.

I’ve been on the road for five days. If all goes well I’ll get home late tomorrow evening.

Five days is probably peanuts to a lot of the “road warriors” out there that travel for their jobs, but I’m ready to go home. I drove to tonight’s stop for 2.5 hours through a mixture of blinding, white-out snow fall and slick dangerous roads, to short periods of sunny skies and clear roads. It would switch from one to the other about every couple miles, typical of Michigan or probably any other place in North America in the winter these days.

I’m in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for the night. My knuckles are still white from the two hour grip on the steering wheel as I tried to avoid sliding off icy roads. For dinner I ate a McDonald’s Southwest Salad and I’m drinking a cheap bottle of wine scored at the local Wal-Mart a ½ mile away. ( I suddenly wonder how often the word “wine” appears in my posts?!?)

‘Cause remember, work travel is a romantic and sophisticated thing!

The blood is slowly flowing back into my knuckles.

Not to get back on the local motel thing, but I’m in the most adorable little local motel I’ve ever stayed in. I may have to get on Trip Advisor and leave a five star review. Outside there is an epic snowstorm, crazy, blinding, accumulating snow… at least the last time I looked. In the back of my mind I’m thinking if there were anywhere to be stranded for an extra day this would be a fine place.

But I’m ready to go home.

I’m seriously ready to go home.

I want to sleep in my bed. I want to hug my wife. I want to see my kids. I want to see my goats.

In a few days I’ll have forgotten anything about this trip like so many before. The next one will be on the horizon to prepare for. This was a successful trip and the next one will be too.

That’s what I do.

The hardest part for me is the leaving, the walking out the door.

Sometimes I have to talk myself up, like Stuart Smalley.

“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it people like you.”

Once I’m on the road though, literally five minute later, driving down the road, the salesman shows his big handsome face and I’m like “YEAH BUDDY LET’S GET THIS SHIT DONE!”

So I get it done.

Can you say “Jeckyl and Hyde?!?”

A loud dose of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” through the car stereo helps. There isn’t a set of car speakers out there capable of playing this song at an adequate volume.

When I’m gone, I don’t think it’s easy at home. My wife definitely notices, suddenly a single parent for several days. My kids? With their crazy teenage lifestyles, sometimes I seriously wonder if they know I’m gone.

I hope they do. I really do.

But when the time comes I’m always ready to come home.

To sleep in my bed. To hug my wife. To see my kids. To see my goats.

I get to go home tomorrow.

Hopefully.

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The Tree of Life

Two years ago, just about this time in early October, I wrote a post called the Tree of Life and dedicated it to my son. It was on a day similar to today, the onset of autumn and days filled with deep, healing breaths of cool, crisp air and the beginning of falling leaves. I stood this morning in my kitchen, staring out the window, with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand and watched a leaf fall from the large Maple tree that sits outside our house. That same scenario, an autumn leaf falling from a tree was the spark that got me to my keyboard two years ago to produce what is one of my favorite posts on this site.

My kids both have milestone birthdays coming up in November. My son will turn thirteen and finally be a teenager and my daughter will turn “sweet sixteen”. I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve become. Of course, what responsible, loving parent isn’t proud of every step forward their children make in life? But also, like many of you reading, years of guiding our kids in so many directions can take a deep toll on our levels of patience, understanding and compassion.

I’m not always at my most compassionate these days. My wife Kim used to say I had “the patience of Job”, whoever Job is… and she was right. I did and many days I still do. But I’m also a “You’re injured? Wrap a bandage around it and quit moaning”, kind of parent. Last evening my son was an absolute train wreck after weeks of seventh grade classes, daily football practices, Boy Scout events, and on top of that not feeling well. I wasn’t mean or angry with his “call for help”, but I certainly didn’t offer up what would have been most helpful; a strong hug from Dad and some therapeutic compassion. We got home about 8:30 pm and he laid down directly on the mattress of his unmade bed and was asleep in minutes.

Children are resilient little beasts and this morning, all was well again and he was mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as much as a twelve-year-old can be at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Shortly after the kids left for school, I stood by that kitchen window, with my steaming cup of coffee and watched that leaf fall. It reminded me of my Tree of Life post and reinforced to me that although my kids may be rapidly approaching adult hood, they are still just kids who are trying to find their way in the world, trying to please their parents and teachers and friends and looking for guidance from the adults in their lives.

They are kids climbing the Tree of Life in search of that perfect autumn leaf that they can ride to bigger and better things. As adults and parents, we are that tree and though we often have to fight through the storms that life throws at us, it’s those storms that remind us, always in a most timely fashion, when to dig our roots in just a little bit deeper.

If you weren’t a follower back in 2011, here’s my story: The Tree of Life. I hope you enjoy it.

The Tree of Life

Once upon a time there was a tree.
And it grew in a beautiful place in the country.
The tree was tall and had deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
And it was a proud tree.

One day a boy began climbing the tree.
And he knew that he wanted to climb until he reached the very top.
So the tree carefully guided him from branch to branch, higher and higher.
And the boy felt safe and loved.

The boy continued climbing the tree, a little higher every day.
And as the boy climbed the tree, the tree provided comfort and protection.
Its leaves gave the boy shelter, its branches gave the boy structure.
And its roots gave the boy a solid foundation to build on.

Then one day the boy finally reached the top of the tree.
He was excited and the tree was very proud of how far he had climbed.
But the tree knew that the time had come.
To let the boy go.

So the tree said to the boy.
“My leaves are changing colors and the wind is starting to blow.”
“Find the biggest leaf you see and climb on it and close your eyes.”
“And the wind will take you wherever you’re supposed to go.”

The boy looked to his right and to his left and up above and down below.
And finally, at the very, very top of the tree on the very highest branch.
The boy saw the most perfect leaf he had ever seen.
And he climbed onto the leaf and closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.

Soon the wind picked up and the boy could feel his leaf trembling.
He grabbed on with all his strength to be sure he wouldn’t fall.
And then he watched as the stem of his leaf began to break free.
From the tree that had nurtured him for so many years.

The boy was excited to be free and on his own.
And as the strong wind carried the leaf high up into the air like a magic carpet,
The boy turned around and waved goodbye to the tree.
And it was a proud tree.

Soon the boy was far enough away that he could no longer see the tree.
So he turned back around to watch where the wind might be taking him.
All around, the boy saw the amazing opportunities the world had to offer.
And he settled in for the ride of his life.

The wind carried the boy to mystical places and magical lands.
On exotic adventures and extraordinary challenges.
Through happiness and sadness and love and hate.
And wins and losses and successes and failures.

As the wind carried the boy he felt exhilaration and freedom.
He began to learn to control the leaf and take it where he wanted it to go.
And he grew and gained knowledge and insight and experience and wisdom.
And felt as if he could fly forever.

But eventually the boy grew weary and wished that his leaf would finally land.
And he remembered what the tree had said when he was first set free.
So he closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.
And the wind began to slow down and change directions.

When the boy opened his eyes, the wind had carried him back to the country.
There was the tree with its deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
As the boy smiled at the tree, the wind blew one last burst.
And he landed safely right at the base of the trunk.

The boy was happy to finally be on the ground.
He knew that his leaf had fallen right where it was supposed to have fallen.
And when the tree looked down and noticed that the boy had grown into a man.
It was a proud tree.

For my son, who is climbing his own tree and will someday have to be let go.

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The Dad Store

A little boy named Jonny, got tired of his Dad.
He went into the Dad Store, to see what else they had.
The choices were so many, of every shape and size.
All with different skill sets, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

He stood there in the Dad Store, feeling sort of lost.
He didn’t know quite where to start or what a Dad might cost.
His confidence was waning, he turned back towards the door.
But in his way, a salesperson said “welcome to our store!”

“I’ll help you find a Dad today, let me show you ‘round.”
“‘Cause when it comes to Dad Stores, we are world-renowned.”
“I’m only here to help you, I don’t work on commission.”
“I’ll help you find a Dad today, just give me your permission.”

Jonny said “I guess so, please show me what you’ve got.”
“I didn’t bring much money, I just can’t spend a lot.”
The salesman looked at Jonny, a big smile on his face.
“We’ll work within your budget, you’ve come to the right place!”

“Let’s start here with the athletes, the ones who teach you sports.”
“The ones who’ll have you spend your days on fields and rinks and courts.”
“They’ll teach you lots of lessons, to take one on the chin.”
“And why it so important, to always try to win!”

“Over here’s the wealthy Dads, the ones with tons of money.”
“They’re always at their offices, on rainy days or sunny.”
“They’re mostly not around much, not when you want to play.”
“They’ll buy you lots of stuff though, new gifts for every day.”

“This aisle is the Brainy Dads, the ones who’ll be your buddy.”
“When hanging out means books and such and lots of time to study.”
“Report cards with a load of A’s, your only affirmation.”
“They’ll push you to a 4.0, a Harvard education!”

But Jonny didn’t want these Dads, with all their quirky rules.
He didn’t want that pressure, of money, sports, or schools.
“I only want a Dad” he said, “who’ll love me every day.”
“Regardless of the grades I get or all the sports I play.”

“I want a Dad who’ll hug me, when I’m feeling down.”
“I want a Dad who’ll make me laugh by acting like a clown.”
“Who’ll teach me to be brave enough to try things on my own.”
“Who’ll be the closest friend I have, when I feel alone.”

The salesman looked at Jonny, digesting what he’d heard.
He paused for just  a moment, before he said a word.
“I’m sure that we can find a Dad, the one you just prescribed!”
“With all those special qualities, the ones you just described!”

Then Jonny said “I’m sorry but I think I know who’s best.”
“I think I know a Dad who’s so much different from the rest.”
“That’s the Dad I have at home, who’ll stand so far above.”
“That’s the Dad, no matter what, the one I’ll always love!”

Happy Father’s Day to ALL the amazing Dads out there! Whether we realize it or not, we provide an integral part of the package that helps our kids grow into caring and responsible adults. Thank you  for being a loving, involved father to your kids, you ARE making the world a better place!

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When I grow up I want to be a… Dreamer?

When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist…

I spent about ten hours over two days this past weekend shoveling, raking and roto-tilling the area where our garden will be. I could barely move Sunday evening. This will be the second year we have had our garden in this area, but we expanded it by about 1/3 this year and we are working on putting up decent fencing that will keep the goats out. It’s now about 15’ wide x 35’ long, not a huge space, but enough for us to grow some fresh food.

We live on an old property. Our house was built sometime around 1890. Our three small barns are newer but I’m guessing were built in maybe the 1940’s or 1950’s. There has been A LOT of people that have lived on this property and I have learned, in the twenty years that we have been here, that if you dig a hole, you will inevitably find something.

We’ve never discovered anything valuable or terribly noteworthy. It’s usually just pieces of rusty metal, nails and small pieces of farm equipment, but we are always joking about finding “artifacts.” There are, seemingly, pieces of pottery and porcelain all over the place, buried a few inches under the ground, hidden history of the one hundred plus years of home owners that came before us. For awhile I was collecting small pieces of what seemed to be a brown pottery bowl, thinking I could glue it all back together, but eventually gave up.

This is what I found while digging around in our garden this year:

archeology

My imagination runs wild when I find something, so I think we’ve obviously either uncovered an old civil war camp or the site of an alien spaceship landing… or maybe just a place where previous residents used to throw some trash. Yes, that is Naughty’s (one of our goats) name tag you see there in the center, probably lost within the last few weeks. When I looked down and saw that shiny circle, about 1/3 of it peeking out from underneath the freshly tilled soil, I thought “this is it, I’ve finally found the Holy Grail, a valuable 19th century coin!”

Alas, just Naughty’s name tag… oh well, maybe next time.

What is it about boys and digging up stuff? Yes, even at 45 years old, give me a shovel and let me dig a hole and in my mind there is sure to be buried treasure if I dig deep enough.  In fifth grade, a friend of mine lived in a very old house, much older than mine, near Smithtown, Long Island, New York, where I grew up. It was a sprawling 18th century home, sitting up on a small bluff next to a marsh of the Long Island Sound.  Deep in the woods on their property they had discovered an old trash burial site where we would go dig up cool old things, mostly chunks of glass and pottery and rusted metal that was unidentifiable as to its purpose in a previous life. We never found anything terribly noteworthy then either, but I do remember one day digging up an old rusty can labeled “tooth powder” and figured that was what people used to brush their teeth with back in the day.

I never became an archeologist…

Like most people, there were lots of things I wanted to be as a kid that I never pursued.  When I was in elementary school I wanted to draw cartoons for the newspaper. My claim to fame, as a cartoonist, was a six frame cartoon that in the first frame showed a house with a Garage Sale sign in front.  I don’t remember all the details, but as the frames progressed, a Giant shows up to the sale, apparently does some intense negotiating and ends up carrying away the actual garage.

Get it… garage sale? Hilarious!

So I never became a cartoonist either…

After that, for a period of time, I wanted to be a Writer. I didn’t really know anything about writing and I rarely wrote, but my grandmother, who wrote poetry and, over the years, columns for local newspapers and magazines, put that thought in my mind so I went with it. I never really wrote anything consistently until I started The Brown Road Chronicles, but now it’s become a pretty regular part of my day to day life so perhaps I shouldn’t cross this one off the list yet.

When I was in high school I wanted to be a Park Ranger.  In my high school yearbook I was voted something like “most likely to go off into the woods and live like a hermit” or maybe it was “most likely to become a Park Ranger.” Or maybe it was some combination of the two. I can’t remember the exact quote and I don’t know where my yearbook is to look it up.

But I never became a Park Ranger… or a hermit…

The list goes on and on. I never became a Professional Cellist or a Ford Fashion Model or a Graphic Artist or a Custom Furniture Maker or an Antiques Dealer either and I can say, to this day, I still really haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Professional writer, homesteader, goat farmer is probably the latest on the list…

Kids have that amazing ability to dream about wanting to pursue “careers” that seem unique and glamorous and fun. Then we become adults and realize that the odds aren’t very good to make a living as musicians or artists or authors… or archeologists… or homesteader, goat farmers. There’s a limited number of “slots” for every career and some of us have to fill the other slots and sometimes those slots aren’t as interesting or glamorous or fun.

But the point is to never stop dreaming about it whether those dreams are realistic or totally unobtainable.  Because if you stop dreaming, you stop living and of all the things I’ve taught my children, some good, some not so good, some still to come… the one thing I hope I’ll be most proud of when I send them off, wings spread, into the world of adult hood…  is that they’ll be dreamers too.

Now,  I think I’ll go dig a hole. I’m sure that coin is out there somewhere.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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