Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Daddy Day Camp

To my son Tommy,

Your mom and your aunts headed back last night.  They wanted to be there in support of your Uncle Raymond who is having crohn's related surgery today.  Our hearts and minds and prayers are with your uncle.  But this does mean we are sans mommies for a day or so and left to our own devices.

Last night we just had cousin movie time on the second floor and then everyone was in for an early bedtime.  Think we were all sacked out by 10:30.  This morning Na and I watched the kids as Uncle Chris set up the beach base camp.  We got the kids fed though I am not sure if your cousin Gabe was pulling my leg saying he was allowed pretzels for breakfast, but Na vouched for him.  Then we got everyone beach ready.  It is moments like remembering everything in the beach bag that I really miss and appreciate mommy.

When we got down to the beach, we bee lined to the water.  You really love the waves.  At one point, I was kneeling down in the sand and waves and you were sitting on my bent knee and pulled my arms around you to make yourself feel safe.  You told me you could stay there forever.  I'll tell you a secret, so could I, well except for the fact that sand and salt in the suit irritate daddy parts.  We made some sand castles (an activity that daddy gets into more than you) and hit the water some more.  Only two applications of suntan lotion but it looks likes you missed out on the burn.

You decided you were done with the beach early and we headed back to the house around one.  The whole process of cleaning a super sandy four year old as well as yourself is yet another time I really missed your mother and appreciated how easy she makes it.  But you are cleaned off and eating some Cheetos for snack as you watch Sesame Street. I am trying to convince you to eat some pasta or some yogurt but you did have a pretty big breakfast.  Time to bribe with rides or walks or ice cream.  Just waiting for the office (yeah I had to work on vacation) to say the monthly financials are closed and they don't need me to remote in to fix anything before heading onto our next adventure.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Like A Fish

To my son Tommy,

When we came down in June, we were pleased to see you had gotten over your aversion to sand.  You would even allow yourself to be buried.  This trip, you completed your beach going repertoire by getting over much of your aversion to the ocean.  In fact you are to the point that if you are down the beach you want to be in the water.  As soon as we get down I hear a "Daddy? Now we can go into the water?"  We wade into the shallows about Tommy-knee deep and wait for the big waves to get over your waist and occasionally a wave sprays up and hits your face.  "Wow that was a big one! It slapped us in the face Daddy!"  When I convince you to go back up and have some sand time, you are on the immediate lookout for another adult to bring you back to the ocean or any sign that I am ready to head back down to the water.  Who would have thought you turned part fish in the past month or two.  You don't trust the waves too far yet and won't let me carry you out deeper, but from your point of view even a two foot wave is over half your body height.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Buried Treasure

To my son Tommy,

It is all in your point of view.  To many it seemed like a four year old haphazardly following his father and his Pop-pop and occasionally digging in the sand when the metal detector beeped.  To you it was a pirate treasure hunt filled with buccaneers and doubloons.  You had the attention span for five coins but to you the sixty six cents was a million bucks.  When you got to put on the headphones and hear the beeps to find your own coin all by yourself, you had the biggest smile and it didn't even dawn on you that you may have already found that coin earlier when daddy was working the detector.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Future Tour Guide

To my son Tommy,

Well we got down here and settled down.  All unpacked and we were able to turn our attentions to the necessities last night.  We hit Angelo's and it was like an old friend welcoming us back.  Later that night we hit the rides and your amusement park bravery has risen, perhaps past your dad's comfort level for letting you ride certain rides.  We hit putt-putt today with Poppop and hit the boardwalk arcade.   We also hit the ice cream shop up the corner.   In fact the only staple of our beach trip that we still need to do is actually hit the beach.  The weather was overcast and I guess that pretty much discouraged us a bit.  Plus we would have had a late start to the day because we went to 10:15 mass.  No matter.  We have plenty of vacation left and many more memories to create and live.  What impressed me most is your capacity to remember every little thing from our past trips.  You remembered landmarks and are already to the point that you could be a tour guide for OCNJ.  I can imagine it now "Yes, those are the helicopter flying goriilas...keep up stragglers...And up on your right we have a talking parrot and an alligator named Albert and another named Chewie...though Chewie might be a croc...and we are almost to Castaway cove."

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Incomplete Vacation Checklist

To my son Tommy,

This might be the only post that will have to be edited with addendum after addendum.  I don't think it will ever be complete but I figured I'd give it a shot.  Here is our vacation check list.  This is in no particular order and by no means comprehensive.


  • Mow Lawn - Need to make sure the house looks lived in and since we are not hiring someone to mow in the middle of the vacation.
  • Secure backyard
  • Oil Change and Car Maintenance  - When you and your mom went to do this at Jiffy Lube, you cried thinking the guy was stealing the car.  But we have to make sure we get down there without
  • Notify Neighbors - All told and all looking out for our house.  Keys given out to a couple people to make sure they can access our house.  
  • Stop Mail - Along with the stop make sure someone checks out for this as I never trust a bureaucracy 
  • Stop Paper - ditto from the stop mail note
  • Turn off AC and electronics in our bedroom.
  • Turn off AC and electronics in Tommy's bedroom including baby monitors
  • Turn off light bathroom
  • Dump any old SD cards and clear them for the trip.
  • Get donuts and coffee for day of pack and travel (large caffeine boost)
  • Trash out - and arrange for pickup or someone to put it out on the corner for you.
  • Decide what goes down in your Poppop's truck
  • Lights off in basement
  • Turn off air purifiers
  • Give the living room a once over and straighten so it is nice to come home
  • Feed fish (and hope they can last since we didn't make other arrangements but since your mother is coming back for a couple days during the vacation for your Uncle Raymond's surgery we have another feeding)
  • Clean out car
  • Pack car
  • Flip flops
  • Belt
  • Sneakers
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Basic Cltohes
  • Bathing Suits
  • Church outfit
  • Pajamas
  • Daddy's hat
  • Mommy's Hat
  • Tommy's Hat
  • CPAP - we once left without this and daddy spent a couple sleepless nights before he could get it.
  • Sunglasses clip-ons for mommy
  • Sunglasses clip-ons for daddy
  • Tommy's sunglasses
  • Johnson's PopCorn empty containers - cheaper to refill
  • Blow Up Bed for Tommy
  • Bed sheets
  • Towels
  • Pillows
  • Little Cooler to Bring to Beach
  • Deck of Pinochle Cards
  • Rosary

  • Mommy's School Computer and powercord and mouse
  • Daddy's Work Computer and powercord and mouse
  • Apple TV and powercord and HDMI connection cable
  • Two iPads and two powercords
  • Daddy's phone and charger
  • Mommy's phone and charger and car charger
  • Camera and SD Cards
  • DVD's for you (we aren't quite to the all digital world and still cart around CD's and DVD's)
  • Tommy's Portable DVD player
  • Tommy's ear phones
  • Nail clippers
  • Toilet Paper
  • Feminine Product
  • Lysol Wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Hair Brush
  • Suntan Lotion
  • Q-Tips
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Tums
  • Body Wash
  • Toothbrushs
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines
  • Allergy Medicines
  • Bug Spray

  • Three stuffed animals - we made the mistake of no stuffed animals before and this "Desperation" the towel lobster was born.  We want to avoid that again. :)
  • Tommy's Pillow
  • One Barn Lunch Box of squinkies and various characters
  • Rubber ducks (about 3 this time)
  • Two toy cars to pack your squinkies and characters in
  • Various Dress Up Outfits including Doctor and what you call police officer and pirate
  • Various Dress Up Accessories including doctor kit, ninja knife, pirate sword, binoculars, monocular spyglass, flashlight..etc

FOOD - We shop the deals the week or two before and bring to save money
  • Soda 2 liters
  • Snacks
  • Tommy's Two Water Bottles
  • Cookies to share - your mom made 48 dozen for the house
  • Tommy's Basics - pasta, oatmeal, nilla wafers, cheetos, grahams
  • Yogurts
  • Humira
  • Drive mommy crazy with this list
  • Roll down windows in car so it doesn't heat up when we are waiting for Poppop
  • Worry about what we missed
  • Get Wallets
  • Get Phones
  • Last Minute Pack
  • TV Off
  • Computer Off
  • Grab Road snacks and drinks
  • Potty
  • Downstairs AC to 80
  • Pray for an easy and safe trip.
  • Remember to bring Tommy!
Well there it is...a basic checklist to use next year.  Your mother is really all you need for a checklist but this will give you am idea of a quarter of the things that go into a vacation.  But it is definitely worth it!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, July 26, 2013

Value In Past Letters

To my son Tommy,

I am perusing letters I wrote to you last year around this time.  I was able to go through all the vacation posts and realized the value of these letters.  Having a reference, having something to compare, seeing what was new or newsworthy last year, these are invaluable.  I was reminded about you going around and asking people "What is dirt?" and your cousin Ryan calling big waves "Eighteen wides".  I remember the first real time we went to Angelos.  I have picture of you wrestling down your cousin Gabe and was reminded of an unfortunate event with you sitting on your cousin Emma's back sans pants...we didn't get a picture of that thank goodness.  I read about your excitement as you first met the talking parrot and alligators on the boardwalk.  Even things I didn't write about came flooding back like watching Willy Wonka and Uncle Jimmy singing the Golden Ticket song.  I do lament that I thought last year to make a checklist for our vacation and save it somewhere...but I don't think I actually did that.  Oh well.  That would have made things easier but your mother is once again amazing in her ability to plan and think ahead.

Hopefully you will have years and years of these letters to look back on, but some of the most valuable will be from our family vacations.  It will instantly spark memories of boardwalks and beaches, but more importantly it will instantly bring back that feeling of love and family.  I am excited and I know you are too.  We will get haircuts today.  We will wrap up loose ends tonight.  And just like the past couple years...we will leave when we leave with no artificial deadline to make us feel rushed or harried.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fallacy Of Social Media

To my son Tommy,

As always, many of my letters are inspired by you through Jimmy Buffett lyrics as is today ...

You're caught up in that internet.  You think it's such a great asset, but you're wrong, wrong, wrong. All that fiber optic gear, still cannot take away the fear like an island song. Holiday by Jimmy Buffett

I often find myself caught up in the internet.  Nowadays, even taking a holiday is no guaranteed escape from the internet.  It just creates a tempting chance to break away and enjoy some waves and sand.  Of course in today's age, you bring your nook or your ipad down to the beach with you.  Plus it won't be long before everyone is stealthily connected to the internet by wearing Google glasses.  Often this means you lose contact with those people right next to you.

Some say this isn't true and that you actually have more connections and deeper connections with people.  They point to the fact that they can see what so and so had for lunch and which friend's kid is newly potty trained and who is in a relationship or fresh out of one.  People's entire lives are out there on the internet and many say this proves we are becoming more connected.  But there is a major fallacy in this train of thought.  It assumes people care and bother to engage.

Every person has a different center of their world and for the most part that center is themselves.  Even if the center of their world is shared with politics, or religion, or family, or hobbies, or other interests, or a four year old son...people tend to post about their center.  Frankly, most readers don't care about someone else's center and only a few updates are ever allowed to sink in.  Each time we hit send or post or publish, it is like sending out a bunch of meteors.  For the most part they will zoom by most planets harmlessly unseen and unknown.  Some might give a diversion and light up the sky with a nice meteor show, but that is quite fleeting.  Occasionally one will fall down to a planets surface making a nice ding but leaving the planet for the most part unchanged. Rarely one will hit a planet dead on and change that planet forever.  Yet the original poster thinks everyone is reading their posts and updates and following along with the posters life.  They assume that everything they send out in this universe his hitting everyone else dead on or at least worth a look see like a shooting star.  But we all have our own lives that we have enough trouble following along and keeping up with.  It is luxury to sit and watch for falling stars when there is so much work to be done in our own world.

To be honest this is not just an internet thing but a life thing.  People always want to talk about themselves and very rarely engage in what is important to someone else, which is of course their self.  When this type of exchange happens face to face, we call it narcissism...when it happens on facebook, we call it sharing.  As if that weren't enough, we have our narcissism offended if we meet in person and the other guy has no idea of everything we "shared" about our current life.

So remember, as you engage people, be it in person or on the internet,you are not the center of the world...they are.  Use that to your advantage but do not abuse it.  Actively listen to people.  Ask questions to people so they can tell you about their center.  Don't constantly bring it back to you and your experiences.  And for Pete's sake disconnect from the internet and engage face to face from time to time.

As for the center of your world...change it.  Make your center about love, about family, about serving others, not about yourself and then act accordingly.  And don't decide to post letters to your son everyday of your life as it may be just feeding some narcissistic tape worm.  I really hope I have risen above that and truly am reaching out to you, one of the most important centers of my life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bad Joke

To my son Tommy,

I asked you today to quick tell me a joke.  I expected you to be flustered and I could teach you a knock knock joke or something.  But you hit me right out of the gate with a joke.  At least I think it is a joke.  It had the rhythm and patter of a joke.  I believe it was "Why did the chicken lay an egg? .... Because he eats the macaroni!"  but I had to capture it on video to make sure.  Sometimes it sounds like the chicken is "beating rock-a-moni" or some other nonsense.  Evidently this passes for humor in a four year old's world.  And it sure passes for humor in the world of a daddy of a four year old even if it doesn't quite make sense.  As for the rest of them, well you have a while to go and much work to do on your material before you sell out a stadium for your stand up routine.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Murphy's Law

To my son Tommy,

There is one law of the universe that constantly boomerangs back to hit me in the face.  This concept is expressed as Murphy's Law and can be summed up as "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."  Though the history of this adage is up for multiple debates, and there have been many spin offs expressing how Murphy's Law works in specific areas, this is one of the truest natural laws I have found.

Take for example this morning.  Your mother was headed off crabbing with PopPop and I had responsibility for you.  While at work the day before, I had made a couple changes to our custom program to make sure a few recurring problems would not recur anymore, especially while I am on vacation.  These changes were great and I thought to myself, "one less thing that can go wrong."  You might be thinking that my changes failed but that is not the case.  Instead, the third party server for the service I am using up and fails at 5:30 in the morning.  I at first thought my changes were to blame but again not the case and the downtime was purely coincidental, if you believe in coincidence.  I personally imagine some Irish being named Murphy looking down on me and saying in a thick brogue, "Ah you did a good job there with that programming technical ballyhoo!  That should stop that problem from happening.  But what happens if I send this your way.  Didn't plan on a server outage here, did ya Mr. Cocky?  And to top it off I will send it your way when you have to take care of the wee little lad all by your lonesome.  By the way, that third party Canadian company starts work at 8 and not a minute earlier."

I took things in stride and somehow managed to get you dressed and fed and finally out the door to Bwam's house all as I was working on the problem.  By 8:30 the servers were back up and work life continued as normal.  I have been once again humbled by ye old Murphy for probably the 5th time in the past month.  They say the people who pick on you just really love you.  If that is the case, Mr. Murphy thinks quite fondly of me.  Here is my favorite saying inspired by Murphy's Law is..."The light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train."

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 22, 2013

Big Push

To my son Tommy,

I normally have the art of doing nothing, or at least of doing nothing important, down to a tee.  Some how even my best of intentions are thwarted by the ability to let time slip without accomplishment.  I know i have preached just the opposite to you in these pages but that is more in hopes that you develop better habits than me.  But this week is going to be different.

As we ready for vacation, there will be no rest for the weary.  Every waking moment of this week will be spent doing something because there are way too many "somethings" that have to be done.  There is no slacking off and sitting on the couch.  There is no wasting time by the proverbial water cooler, or in my company's case the snowball machine.  It is just going to be work, work, work, work, and work.  Life will be filled with packing, cleaning, tying up loose ends, training, explaining, prepping, etc.

I guess this is how life really should be.  If there are things to do, I should be doing them!  Sadly, I often end up idle, occupying my time with diversions while the real work sits and waits.  But here comes the big push, the full court press that will make this vacation all the better.  Vacations are for idle down time and diversion and if we can just make it through this week, we will be all set!  Hopefully i won't get off track.  Oh, look, a new iPad app....

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mixed Worlds

To my son Tommy,

A four year old does not compartmentalize.  Aspects of everything they know bleed through those imaginary walls that adults put up.  You are no different.  This allows you to intermingle toys from different shows and different themes effortlessly.  A pirate can be found cooking in the kitchen for his dinosaur friend and Oscar the Grouch.  Imagination and creativity pushes the envelope and is unhindered by any of societal norms.  It is a such a pure unbiased and prejudice free way to be.  I wish our world would strive to this school of thought and expand it from toys all the way to people, and countries, and just about everything.

Occasionally the mingling of ideas just make me laugh and aren't quite the ideal.  For example, you have taken to the movie Annie recently and consequently you have orphans on the brain.  At mass today you somehow ended up with the mixed up notion that altar servers are orphans and professed this fairly loudly.  "Look, here comes the orphans!" you said excitedly.  What is a father supposed to do but shake his head and laugh.  It is an innocent mistake and a simple crossing of lines in your head and not meant to be malicious, but I am not sure how they would appreciate being called an orphan.  It sure made your Aunt Lulu and Uncle Pat laugh.

Trying to remove these mixed up concepts is going to be difficult.  You will argue to a standstill that the altar servers are orphans, and that isn't the only mixed signal we are trying to uncross.  We are still working on trying to convince you that a group of the munchkins represent the "lollipop guild" and not the "lollipop jail".  You also think "coca cola" and "Oklahoma" are pretty much the same thing.  You are sure that all young kids your age are your cousins and I won't even get into the whole pronoun mix up.  If these are the worst of your mixed up thoughts and the extent of worlds colliding in a mishmash to make a much more creative world, then you are doing pretty good.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Enough To Make A Grown Man Cry

To my son Tommy,

As I have mentioned before, I have started working out in the gym again.  Mr. Drew and I had a session this morning.  When we work out, we don't leave anything in reserve.  We don't temper our first exercise just so we have enough for our last exercise.  Each machine, we give it our all.  This means we are lucky to lift about anything on the last exercise.  Today was no different and by the last machine, which today was the arm curls, we were lifting half of what we normally do.  Every session we change the order of the machines so next session we will start with the arm curls just so the don't get discouraged with our numbers there.  But the point is after we are done, we are done and it is all we can do to get ourselves home.

When I got home from the workout, you and Mommy were still asleep, so I had to unlock the doors.  My keys fell.  I stood there, whipped and exhausted, staring at my keys.  I stood there staring for much longer than anyone would.  I had worked out so hard that the prospect of picking up these keys and opening the door became a major problem in my life.  All the world's problems melted away in the heat and the moment and the only questioned that remained was "Can I?".  A tear came to my eye as I squatted down and reached deep for one last rep.  After I unlocked the door I laughed and cried as I had to make that mad dash to disarm the alarm that now felt five hundred yards away.

I guess the lesson here is that it is okay to give it your all when you are trying to better yourself.  Even if it makes life difficult for awhile, even if it makes you almost incapacitated for a bit, that all will pass.  You don't gain in your comfort area and you got to push yourself.  If I had anything in reserve, if I wasn't drained, that would make me cry even more than dropped keys and a sprint to the alarm.  Hopefully, I will recover enough in an hour for when you wake and want to play.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, July 19, 2013


To my son Tommy,

Thank God it is Friday.  And what better way to spend a Friday in July that happened to have at least a 103 heat index than in your Uncle Chris's recently filled pool with family.  Your mother told you "No swimmies now because they won't fit in your car seat!" but by the picture you can see how well you followed that instruction.  As you sit there trying to blow those up, there is thunder in the air.  I hope the weather clears for your swimming.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Differences Of Opinion

To my son Tommy,

From time to time I like to renew my knowledge.  Books that some people consider archaic seem to hit my library list.  It is a welcome refresher, and because I have read them before, if I get interrupted I don't feel slighted because I know how it all works out.  It is the perfect pastime for when I hit compile on a computer program change and the programs are running through making the machine code given me a little bit of downtime.

So I decided to re-read the Federalist Papers.  They were letters written by some great minds of the time and published in newspapers to convince New York (and others) to ratify the U.S. Constitution.  It is a brilliant exposition of the whys and whats of the Constitution.  People always say the Constitution is so vague and ask what the founders were thinking when they wrote this or that, and I just point them to these papers.  

I wasn't even halfway into Federalist #1 written by Hamilton on 27 October 1787, when I came upon this quote...

“So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society.”
Excerpt From: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay. “The Federalist Papers.” iBooks. 

I thought that was so apropos to today.  It lays down the base for civility in disagreement.  It is a nice way of saying "hey even though you are wrong, doesn't mean you are a bad person."  Even the wisest of wise can fall victim to those who try to sway you so they can achieve power or profit or prestige.  Or perhaps I am that good man who ended up on the wrong side of right because someone played upon my insecurities.  There is a bunch of that going on today in about every corner of the news.  People are out fear mongering and hate mongering just to serve their own purposes, to cash in on their fifteen minutes or someone else's.   We have lost our sense of philanthropy when it comes to events of today.  Too many do what only benefits them or are swayed by and preyed upon by others who only seek gain.  They don't consider our best interests, "our" of course meaning our society as a whole.

“Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good.”
Excerpt From: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay. “The Federalist Papers.” iBooks. 

Some may think these ideas archaic, and find me strange for figuratively (because I used iBooks) knocking the dust off papers a couple centuries old,  but I believe the sentiments are right on point.  There are some questions of great magnitude facing us and many people are approaching them filled with someone else's rhetoric.  You can't let fear, ignorance, jealousy, prejudice, and loathing dictate your position on events of the world.  You ca't let someone else tell you that you should be mad or afraid.  You have to look at life and our world with pure intention and with pure heart and challenge your own silly learned biases.  I hope you end up taking this same approach in every aspect of your life.  And I hope, just like your father, you will knock the dust off a few ancient tomes in your lifetime.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

AC Monster

To my son Tommy,

"When you are done, will you come back and protect me?" you asked in a pathetic voice this morning around 5:30 am.  My heart sank because though I really did have to go potty I was determined to make an exit from your bed and back to mine so I could be well rested for work.

Maryland is in a little bit of a heat wave.  The forecast says hot with more chance of hot on top of hot for the next week or so.  If the weather doesn't get extreme we can survive with just two window shakers, which is what I affectionately call our AC units.  But two nights ago your mother deemed it too hot in your room and moved you in to sleep with us.  She said you were soaked with sweat and miserable.  So last night, after spending a night with a four year old foot in my back, we put in the AC in your window.  You did fine for most of the night but you woke up this morning EARLY to a strange sound and got yourself all weirded out and said it was too loud.

Adjusting to new things in life can be scary.  I can see how waking up to a noisy "monster" in your window when you are four years old can be concerning, but the situation isn't unique to youngsters.  Human nature seems to follow the rule of inertia and resist change at all costs and in the face of any logic.  This is unfortunate because the laws of the universe seem to say change is an absolute.  Thus we, as a species, seem forever embattled against nature.  We fight change.  We fight growing up.  We fight the ultimate change of all death.  Yet all these things are inevitable and absolute.  And that my son, if you excuse my French, scares the ever living crap out of most of us.

But as time marches on and changes come with new discoveries and growing continues, I will be there to help you through it.  Sometimes I will cuddle with you to comfort you from the new scary air condition monster.  Sometimes I will encourage you to face your fears and let Daddy go sleep in his own bed. Sometimes I will compromise and do both.  You have lots of new changes, new experiences, and new discoveries ahead.  Try your best to embrace each as a new challenge with excitement and fervor and overcome the fear.  And Mommy and I will try our best to help you navigate the inevitable ups and downs and new experiences of life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One Year Ago

To my son Tommy,

One year ago I started writing you these letters.  That day I sat and watched your three year old self with amazement and wonder and wanted to journal all our ups and downs and impart a few life lessons upon the way.  So I started on a virtual journey through blogging to collect my thoughts and hopes for you.  Maybe you will find a nugget of wisdom here but I think I learned more from you and writing these than you will when you read these. I tried to fill each letter to you with love but I couldn't even come close to the amount of love in a simple hug from you.  A year later you are still wonderful and amazing to me and I still have much more to teach and chronicle.  I also have much more to learn from you.  The circle begins anew.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 15, 2013

Feeling Old

To my son Tommy,

In an effort to clean out some crap from your grandparents' house, I grabbed my old skis.  I was scouring the basement for stuff to get rid of, stuff that I wasn't likely to use any time soon, and these seemed the perfect candidate.  One pair were completely unbound and still in the wrapper, a nice pair of √Član MBX R3C 200 cm that were primo back in 1992.  The other two pairs were pretty beat up and included one crappy unbound pair and my work horse bound pair of K2 185 cm that were really the only skis I ever tried.  The K2s have been through so many mogul fields and done plenty of aerials which, depending who you ask, were for the most part successful.

So I figured I'd try to unload them.  At first I thought I'd just give them away but since the one pair were in mint condition I pondered the idea of selling them.  I found a second hand sports store that bought and sold stuff and, listed skis on their site as one of the items they deal in.  I had no delusions about making millions but I figured these mint condition relics would garner twenty bucks or so and if they took all three sets for twenty, they certainly would have a deal.

Well of course I wasn't in the right season, the store doesn't consider ski equipment till October.  But the real shot to the heart was hearing the guy say no straight sticks.  Nowadays skis have a parabolic shape that evidently makes skiing much easier.  My ancient sticks were straight edged and much like the Atari and Texas Instrument computer I found them next to in the basement, are pretty much worthless and outdated.  Oh well, hopefully Goodwill won't tell me that they are just going to throw them out before they accept them from free.  My prime has definitely passed.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who Is My Neighbor?

To my son Tommy,

Who is my neighbor?  Whom should I love and respect and show compassion for?  These questions seem so poignant to today's world just as they were in the time of Jesus.  We have major events in the world of today that beg this question to be answered in the hearts of every person.

The parable of the Good Samaritan suggests that everyone is our neighbor.  Jesus specifically picked a Samaritan, one of the most unlikely and vile choices for a hero in a story told in Jewish company.  This shows racial profiling existed over 2000 years ago and beyond.  Jews would go out of their way to stay out of Samaritan territory.  If a Samaritan traveler came into Jewish territory they would be watched and eyed suspiciously or perhaps even confronted.  Yet it wasn't the respected priest or the respected Levite that stopped to help, it was this hated Samaritan who was moved to act with compassion.

Too often we settle in our groups.  We choose who we help and who helps us.  We have a "get off my lawn" attitude when outsiders walk through our neighborhoods.  Yet the Gospel today reaffirms the respect for life of everyone.

The other day a verdict of not guilty was given for the George Zimmerman - Trayvon Martin trial.  I did not follow the facts nor the case and have the luxury of not having to determine blame or guilt.   From the facts I do know about the case, there was only one man who had a gun and only one man who didn't follow what the police told him to do or not to do, so I find it difficult to reconcile the verdict.  Hopefully the court system was not fooled, but I have to think that if George Zimmerman had learned to accept that everyone is his neighbor the outcome would have been different.

I often worry about writing to you about some of the current events like this as it is so politically charged.  My hope and dream is that when you grow that events like this would be a memory of the past that may be worth forgetting.  But yet as it was 2000 years ago it is still today only the names of the groups have changed.  So many people are sounding off on both sides of this case.  I hope that people realize that spouting hate on either side of the divide will do nothing to bring us closer together as neighbors.  When will we learn as a society to break down the differences and truly accept every person, every life, as our neighbor?

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lawn Work

To my son Tommy,

Doing yard work always seems to be a humbling experience for me.  I am not talking about the basics like mowing the lawn, though the front hills can be challenging.  I am talking about all the other tasks that aren't usually done.  

Today I was trimming the box hedges in front of the house and I earned a respect for all those landscapers who make it look so easy and do it so well and so quickly.  Your mother said it looked good and thanked me, but seeing the uneven wave in the hedges and knowing that was not my artistic side showing itself, I think she was just being nice and complimenting the effort more than the result.

I also started trying to reclaim some of the sidewalk that hadn't been edged in what seemed to be centuries judging by the distance the grass had grown over the sidewalk.  It isn't a highly visible area but that is no excuse for the lack of attention.  Armed with my trusted square spade, it felt like I edged a football field worth of edging.  It actually was maybe twenty feet and the heat and humidity soaked my shirt.  Very humbling indeed.

Perhaps that is what this country needs, more people doing their own yard work.  More people being humbled by the extreme heat and getting down and dirty instead of hiring others to do it for us and then even looking down on them.  People always talk about better values of the old days and maybe the loss of some of those values coincide with how may generations we become removed from our rural roots.  This country used to be filled with farmers.  Even people who didn't consider themselves a farmer knew how to grow their own food and work the land.  And they were no doubt humbled by the experience, learning about the value of hard work and self reliance.  As we progressed into a society where maybe one in ten could survive if they had to grow their own year long food supply, we have lost that respect for working hard.  With each generation removed we lose more and more.  I am not suggesting everyone has to go and become Farmer Fanatic and grow everything we eat, but a little time down in the dirt with sweat on the brow might just help re-instill some of that respect for a job well done...or in my case a good sporting attempt with lots of effort no matter how wavy the hedge line seems or how little work I actually did.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mommy Birthday

To my son Tommy,

It may seem odd to take a day off when I have a small crisis at work.  But let's face it, there is always a small crisis at work.  Today is your mom's birthday, and taking the day off to make sure she can sleep in and you and I can do some special crafts for her is well worth it.  I specifically skipped taking off for my birthday last week or the Friday after July 4th so I could take off for your mom today.

So you and I woke up and headed to CVS and let you pick your own card for your mom and bought her a candle.  You picked a monkey card and an apple strudel Entenmann's candle which you said smells like red.  Then we came home and we made a coupon book for your mom.  On an originality scale we are probably at a negative score.  Most mommies like candles and the coupon book is a bit trite.  Some romantic but broke guy somewhere in this world made the first coupon book filled with promises.  Since then every clueless husband and son have just followed suit.  We probably didn't score high on the craftiness scale either, but the cuteness scale might save our final score on your mom's b-day score card.

Remember work will always be there.  Birthdays come but once a year, and though we should celebrate those we love every day, it is always nice to go the extra mile on the birthday anniversary.  Also remember that just because it has been done before, doesn't mean it is less special.  There is a reason the tried and true became the tried and true.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hand Pile

To my son Tommy,

I have been despondent to say the least this week.  My development environment hard drive crashing put me in a major hole that seems overwhelming to dig out of.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.  But I have to hold on to hope and just keep working.

I have been doing my best to not bring this home with me, but frankly my efforts to leave it at work suck.  That is why our little game at dinner was such a welcome diversion.  I am not sure what you would call it, but I suppose hand pile is fitting. It is the little game where everyone piles there hands alternating on each other.  Then the hand at the bottom is pulled and slapped on the top of the pile ad infinitum, or at least till the backs of our hands redden.   Thank you for taking my mind off of work, at least for a little.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Three Pillows

To my son Tommy,

Your mom and I are three pillow sleepers.  I have one pillow under my head.  I have one under my arm as I sleep on my side called the cuddle pillow. Then I have one pillow for between my knees affectionately referred to as the crotch pillow.  Your mother has roughly the same configuration.  It keeps us comfortable.  It helps our backs stay rested and aligned as we slumber.  And most importantly it keeps us somewhat stationary as we sleep.

I only bring up our sleeping technique because I can't wait for you to learn it.  I learned last night, as you were scared and weaseled your way into our bed, you have a much different sleeping style.  Evidently you need to maintain constant contact with your foot to the center of my back.  From time to time you would substitute the foot with the pointy crown of your head, but for the most part you used your foot.  You even once went so far as switching directions in bed so your head was closer to the foot of the bed just so you could accomplish this task. You tend to toss and turn more than the Cornelia Marie in an arctic storm.  Of course when you do, you lose blanket coverage and wake us up to demand recovering.  I also cannot understand how someone of your size and stature can push two grown adults to the edges of their side of the bed.

I have told you before some tips for a happy marriage with respect to sleeping.  Sleeping in the same bed with someone night after night and actually getting a good nights sleep is a learned art and one of the challenges of getting married.  It is a precarious balancing act between your sleeping needs and your wife's needs and is filled with the art of negotiation and compromise.  But when you throw a four year old into the mix, you never know what you are going to get.  You can get one of the most restful cute adorable snuggle sessions or you can get what we had last night which made me think you were Torquemada reincarnated.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Dub You

To my son Tommy,

I wonder if we will ever grow out of your baby talk.  For certain you will, I am referring to your Mom and Dad when I say we.  You would say "I dub you" or "I dove you" or "I wub you" when you were trying to say "I love you".  Now you have moved on and grown in your pronunciation and annunciation, leaving your parents in the dust.  And that is just one example.  We still just say "Sounds great idea?" when asking approval for a plan.  The brevity of the query keeps that one around.  One saying of yours that did disappear (thank goodness) was you saying "Sock, sock, sock, sock..." as you would do every time we came around the corner in the car as we came home.  Now your mother and I never did found out what exactly you meant by that, perhaps you were counting signs or light posts, but I guess that will just have to remain a mystery for the ages.  For now, just know that your mommy and I will always "dove" you.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 8, 2013

Own Advice

To my son Tommy,

There are many ironies I deal with day to day.  I find it ironic that my company is an HVAC company and we have horrible air flow and cooling in the office.  I find it ironic that I one time used to run all the plumbing in a house but I still rely on my father to come over and change out pipes and fixtures like hose bibs.  And the biggest irony, that kicked me in the butt in the past week, is that I am an IT guy and I didn't have a good back up of my own hard drive.

I got the system backed up.  I got the servers backed up.  I make sure others back up.  But when my hard drive took a dump, I realized I didn't have a good back up from that laptop.  When my go to guys couldn't get a good recovery, this irony of no back up felt like a gut punch.  I am now spending the week trying to recover my entire development environment which spans about 15 years and some seriously old programs that I was planning on upgrading.  I am scouring every nook and cranny for old install disks and searching through old email archives for downloads and such.

So when you find yourself preaching about doing this and doing that, make sure you step back and follow your own advice.  Had any average joe had this problem, it would have been understandable.  It wasn't any average joe, it was the computer guy.  Handing it to the computer experts above me knowing there was no back up is the nerd walk of shame.  Cross your fingers that I don't go crazy trying to re-establish my powers and IT prowess.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Got You Seat

To my son Tommy,

You have been playing a game lately.  You jump in someone's seat or spot and then delight in pointing it out with a bit of gloating.  Usually your mom and I play along and thus you think it is appropriate everywhere.  Like all games, you have to learn the limitations and when it is or is not appropriate.  Tonight we found one of those lines.

Your Grandmother Roro has MS so she tires easily.  She also has her usual chair set up for her.  It was funny for a minute or two when you took her spot.  She sat in a little wooden chair next to you in her chair to play along.  That little wooden chair is great for four year olds but not so much for adults especially for grandmothers with MS.  The humor dissipated after a couple minutes.  When your mother and I tried to correct you, and make sure you learned that you should give up your chair for your elders and for women, your grandmother said "Oh no, he is fine."  Like many grandmothers, she would rather suffer and sacrifice than get their grandson in trouble.  The problem is this certainly was sending you mixed messages from the adults in the room and pitted you and my mother against me and your mom.

I finally had to raise my voice at you a bit to get the point through how serious I thought this was.  You moved and ran off to be by yourself.  You often need some time alone when you get reprimanded.  Your grandmother, to prove a point, refused to take her seat.  After about fifteen minutes of self induced solitary, I tracked you down.  I explained the whys and whats and got through the grumpy "Leave me alone!" attitude to give you a big hug and remind you how much I love you.  For her part, when we finally returned to the main room with an apology to your grandmother, the stubborn old broad was still sitting in that little wooden seat.  I couldn't keep a straight face later that night when I told your mom, "Thank goodness neither I nor Tommy got any of that stubbornness that my mom has!"

There is a time and place for jokes.  What gets a laugh for the first couple minutes, may start getting people upset or downright angry if you over extend the joke.  It is all confusing to a four year old, I am sure.  I know so called adults who don't understand these subtleties or intricacies.  So learning when, where, and how long a joke remains funny is a big step in your growing up.  But I am not too worried, because the key to mastering social graces lies in a good intentioned caring compassionate big heart.  You definitely have that!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Is It Time?

To my son Tommy,

I wonder if it is time to hold people accountable for what they write on the Internet.  I see link after link to half truths and full on lies.  People don't take the time to find out the truth because they want to believe the lie.  The lie fits in with their argument and neither veracity nor accuracy or lack of either will stop them from blindly accepting the "facts" of the story.  I really don't care if they lie to themselves but when they spread it around, that is what gets my ire up.  People refuse to hold themselves accountable and to a higher standard, so again I wonder if it is time to hold people accountable and how.

Bloggers world wide have asked and claimed press privilege.  To do so though means we need to begin holding all bloggers accountable for any misinformation, deception, falsehoods, or inaccuracies.  Then we would have to go a step further and hold all users of social media accountable no matter if they call themselves a blogger or not.  What distinguishes one person on the Internet from another when it comes to their soapbox?  Doesn't matter if they blog consistently or use status updates or tweets.  What is the difference if you create the lie in a thousand words or you do it in brief?  If you share a link to someone else's lie without researching it out, are you any less culpable?

The problem is I cannot fathom a way to accomplish holding people accountable for falsehoods posted or shared on the Internet.  I guess technically the current justice system allows for prosecution of the most heinous of these, but this has limitations.  First, the laws were written before people could conceptualize today's Internet.  This basically makes the web the equivalent of the wild Wild West, complete with gun fighters except their guns shoot pixels and acronyms instead of bullets.   Secondly, the sheer volume of people who post inaccuracies that should be reprimanded in some way or another make trying these cases impossible.  And finally it would be cost prohibitive to try and convict "Mr. Conservative" for posting a "news story" as breaking news when the source of his story seems to be a blog with dubious and made up sources from 2010.  So we are left to other alternatives.

Some try to educate by posting the truth or researching the veracity many of these urban legends and myths and stories people claim as fact.  Whole websites and organizations have sprung up with the honorable goal of dispelling lies and finding truth.  But like I said in the beginning, people want to believe the lie and thus will not accept the truth.  If they accept the truth they may have to admit they were wrong, admit they were duped, and, worst yet, change or at least challenge their own specially guarded and dear point of view.  So the people who try to educate, often fail.  The old saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink" comes to mind.

So some others have gone on to vigilante justice.  Groups like Anonymous and other white hat and grey hat and even black hat hackers have taken it upon themselves to teach people lessons.  The problem with vigilante justice is that the power of judge and jury and executioner is often too much for any one person.  Even within a group, if not regulated by law, the people become more of a pitchfork wielding mob than a proper jury.  So where does that leave us?

It leaves us back to hoping that some day people will just do the right thing.  The answer lies in teaching our children to always tell the truth.  We have to teach them to see through the haze of confusion we have created.  Hopefully we will get to that generation that will value truth enough to stop the present course of our world.  If not it may become impossible to distinguish truth from fantasy or fiction or lie.  And hopefully by the time you read these, your generation will have found a way to deal with such inaccuracies without having to create a fascist social media police squad who is armed with the censorship abilities of the Chinese government.  And hopefully you will read through my letters to you and find that I was somewhat successful in upholding my own standards that I ask for with a dedication to the truth.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ever Vigilant

Pilots have a large checklist of things they must do before take off.  It is written down and gone over one by one and checked off to make sure nothing ges wrong.  It is too important to trust to memory so they entrust it to pen and paper even though many can recite it.  Unfortunately, often in life we must rely on habit and memory.

You must be ever vigilant in your actions.  For certain the moment you relax your standards, forget to do something, it will come back to bite you in the butt.  We live in a world you have to lock your doors every time you get out of the car, no matter how good you think your neighborhood is.  We live in the world where you must put on the house alarm even if you are just running to the local store.  We live in a world where walking in the wrong kind of neighborhood can get you hurt or worse.  It really is a shame that the onus is on each individual to protect themselves from wrongdoers rather than the responsibility lying with each and everybody to try not to do wrong.  But that seems to be the way things have become.  In the absence of the criminal, the victim receives the blame for making themselves an easy mark.  We yell and point fingers at people for leaving something in their car with unlocked doors, as happened recently with a coworker and her stolen iPad.  Just because the victim added to the temptation or made it easy, doesn't take blame away from the real culprit.  "They just made it too easy to..." is the poorest excuse for doing wrong that I have ever heard.

So be ever vigilant in your actions to protect you and those you love.  Then go the extra mile and try to teach people to do the right thing.  Teach them through word and example and raise your child or children and your friends and your children's friends, and anyone that you can reach, to rise to a higher standard and to do what is right.  

This upcoming August 28th marks the anniversary of Martin Luther King's most famous "I have a dream" speech.  NPR is asking for people's dreams in preparation.  It may be simple, and certainly not on the level of Dr. King, nor does it tackle great social injustices of our time, but I have a dream.  I have a dream that some day people will once again pride themselves on doing the right thing, no matter how easy it would be to do otherwise.  I have a dream that some day people can once again leave a door unlocked without the world proving their faith in the honesty and integrity of their neighbor was naive and plain wrong.  Some will call this dream nostalgic and saying I am calling for a return to the old days, and perhaps they are right, but even Mayberry had a sheriff.  I just wish everyone could go to bed not having to ask themselves if they locked the door.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, July 4, 2013

You Took Your Hat Off

To my son Tommy,

When the first color guard came by in the Catonsville parade, I took my hat off to cover my heart and asked you to do the same.  You did it without question as if you understood the significance.  Afterwards I explained to look for more flags and that it was a sign of respect.  As the next flags were the little ones attached to a float or a car, I had to adjust the instructions to only do it with full colors displayed by proper color guard.  Otherwise we would have been carrying our hats more than wearing them.  But every time the different color guards came by, you removed your hat and covered your heart, and once even beat me to it because I was still watching the Shriners on their three wheelers.  You made me proud to be an American, but more proud to be a father of such a great little man.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


To my son Tommy,

If you look at it, birthday anniversaries are quite a silly thing.  What are we celebrating? That I racked up another 525,600 minutes.  I should probably give my mother a birthday party on my birthday.  She did all the work.  Or perhaps my father, because pretty much every year after I was born, he made sure my mother didn't kill me for the stupid things a kid does.  Or the Mrs. because without her who knows where I would be today.  Or perhaps I should give you a party as you are the best accomplishment of my entire life.  The list goes on and on through family and friends.  The fact that I have 39 years under my belt today has less to do with my efforts and much more to do with the efforts, acts, love, and kindness of the other people in my life.  I think the only thing I may have contributed is dumb luck.  Either way I made it to 39 years old today and wanted to give a special thank you shout out to all those people who helped me along the way and continue to help me as I continue on this journey.  And remember, (to blatantly steal concepts and lyrics from "Season Of Love" and rearrange them a bit) a year should not be measured in that 525,600 minutes, but should be measured in love.  Remember the love and the 525,600 moments so dear!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Phrases Nobody Hears

To my son Tommy,

Today's commute in to work was all kinds of special.  If I were to give people the benefit of the doubt, I'd say they were preoccupied with the short work week due to the upcoming holiday.  But, more likely, it could simply be that they are big stupid heads.  Either way, I find myself talking to these guys as if they can hear me.  Here are some of the top phrases that nobody hears as I drive on my commute.

You see that little stick behind the wheel, that controls your blinker.  You should try it sometime.

You should try tapping the white cane out the car window if you are that blind.

No, no, those white and yellow lines are just suggestions.  Why should you follow them?

Do I have cut me off written on my license plate?

You are the reason that people like me hope karma exists!

My bad.  I left too many car lengths between me and the guy in front, which was too much of a temptation for you.  How dare me follow the laws of the road!  Please, go ahead and squeeze in between my front bumper and that guys rear bumper.

15 miles per hour under the speed limit?  It is the pedal on the right!

The shoulder is not for passing everyone else that is stuck in the traffic!  There is a special level of hell for people like you!

I hope the reason you're speeding so much is not to get to the doctor.  The prognosis isn't going to change.  There is no cure for jerk!

If I shoved that cellphone where the sun don't shine, do you think you could stay in your own lane?

I wonder what you are compensating for? I guess you think an eighty thousand dollar car makes up for your lack of driving ability.

All that to get ahead of me by one car? We got to work on your risk-reward ratio.

Yeah go ahead and park in that handicap spot.  Is your handicap not being able to read signs or interpret symbols?  Or perhaps your handicap is having your head in your butt?

Don't get me wrong, I am actually a forgiving driver and I don't usually get too bent out of shape.  My road rage is limited to my voicing of my thoughts as driving is way too dangerous for any other actions.  Sadly, the people that should hear these phrases go on with their lives, unaware that the earth doesn't rotate around them and that their driving effects others.  I guess they think when they hear that horn honking that it must be someone they know trying to get their attention.  When you get to driving age, I will teach you how to be patient and kind and courteous while you drive, along with some of the better hand signs I learned through out the years.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strong Bonds

To my son Tommy,

NPR recently ran a story about carbon scrubbing the air.  Being curious this sent me on an admittedly topical review of all the science.  My browsing of the internet on this topic brought me all over, from submarines to space stations, from chemistry to botany, from soda lime to activated carbon, and just about everywhere in between.  I was trying to get a grasp on the concepts and challenges on cleaning up the air.

Like the wandering mind of a naive child, I brainstormed that the ultimate scrubbing of CO2 would end up with the by-products of diamonds and oxygen.  I knew this to be most improbable if not impossible and it would be the equivalent of an ancient alchemist trying to change iron to gold.  From a very simplistic point of view, diamonds are made of carbon and if you remove the carbon from carbon dioxide to make a diamond you are left with only oxygen.  It was a much more profitable, but less sweet, fantasy than adding extra carbon and oxygen and sprinkling in some hydrogen to get sugar, which is the other idea I had inspired by a post of a license plate by one of your mom's cousins.  Neither idea is practical but I don't let realities of impossibilities or impracticalities impede my brainstorming and research.  I only let common sense seep in after my exploration and impede implementation.  So I headed off (in an world wide web sense) to learn about soot and graphite and bucky balls and diamonds.

Studying the four allotropes of carbon was interesting.  I learned how structure really changes the value.  If it is amorphous carbon, it is basically dirt and worthless, aka soot.  As you add structure and organize and rearrange, you get more and more value.  Graphite (which is/was used most commonly for a writing object called a pencil in case the pencil has gone the way of the feathered quill and iron gall ink by the time you read this) has strong covalent bonds between carbon atoms on the same layer, but breaks down easy between layers.  They slip easily upon themselves which makes great for leaving carbon behind as you write or for reducing friction in mechanical contraptions but little else.  Fire a high powered laser at graphite and the crystalline structure gets harder and the structural composition shapes up like a soccer ball.  They call those bucky balls.  Take all these carbon atoms and throw them in the center of the earth or even in a lab under high temperature and high pressure and the covalent bond gets even stronger and forms the ever valuable diamond.  The process of creating a diamond from carbon atoms in carbon dioxide is theoretically possible, it would require much more energy and produce so much more carbon dioxide then it would ever remove, but my research wasn't totally fruitless.  Besides being slightly more knowledgeable in a bunch of new aspects, the word covalent bond kept ringing in my head and reminded me of a totally different topic

At mass yesterday, Father talked about contracts and covenants.  A contract is when each party agrees to their duties and responsibilities and if either party fails, the contract is broken and ends.  Many people approach God and marriage and life and all aspects of life with this attitude.  It is the "What do I get out of it?" mentality. Father suggested that a covenant is much more than a contract and is a bond formed that is not based on conditions being met.  The Gospel reading from yesterday warns us that things aren't all smooth sailing and your relationship with God should be a covenant of unconditional love rather than a contract with conditions.  A chord struck with what I was learning about carbon allotropes.  If there is just a contract, if the bond is not strong, your basically in an amorphous state that is best compared to soot.  If you have a better bond but still have some weakness between the layers you could be compared to graphite and when pressed may break down and leave some of yourself behind.  Add some heat, add some pressure, and the bond keeps forming and getting stronger and stronger building on itself and changing from graphite to bucky balls all the way up to until you become that diamond.

I know, I know, you are probably thinking "There goes dad, getting all religious again" but when you grow up you really have to look at your relationships and this can be applied to many aspects of life.  In this country we have one of the highest divorce rates, because people consider marriage a contract and do not strive for the bond like a diamond.  I think nowadays the diamond is associated with the 30th anniversary but it used to be the 60th.  Think of all the heat and pressure in 60 years of marriage to make that diamond.  Think of all the contracts broken and renewed over 60 years but the covenant, the covalent bond, remained and kept getting stronger.  This is what we need to strive for in our lives.  This is the standard we need to apply to our love, our family, our word, and yes our relationship with God.

I know it is a great leap to start off trying to solve an environmental challenge and end up with an epiphany about contracts and covenants, but your father's mind works in weird ways (but of course by the time you read this you will have figured that out).  The best ideas and concepts and solutions often come from unrelated areas.  My mind jumps around from idea to idea working much faster than my ambition or capability of acting or implementing or even investigating all the possibilities.  But rest assured that no matter if I am trying to brainstorm ways to save the environment or comparing covenants and covalent bonds, you are always on my mind and our bond is strong like a diamond.

Sincerely with love from your dad,