Monday, September 30, 2013

So Out Of Touch They Should Lose Their Job

To my son Tommy,

The politicians are at it again.  They are playing political brinkmanship and acting like a bunch of four year olds.  Actually that might be an insult to four year olds.  The government is going to shutdown because people didn't get their way and are taking their ball home.  The problem is they are so out of touch that they don't even realize it isn't their ball to take home in a childish tantrum.  The power of the purse was a gift entrusted to these politicians and now is being held hostage for personal gain and private interest and not being used to serve the greater good.  Each side is pointing fingers and blaming the other but I am done trying to figure out the complicated game of who is doing whose bidding.  The only responsible thing is to not vote for any incumbent in our Congress.  Each and every single one of them must lose their job in response to their inability to do their collective job.  It won't be fair for some who in good faith are trying their hardest, but it might be the only way to move on.  Unfortunately, voting them out of their job is the only recourse we have.  I don't think we could successfully sue them for at least the amount of their salaries due to their incompetence and breach of contract and failure to do anything but line their own pockets and play to their own power hungry political aspirations.  There probably are more appropriate punishments for their failures but the days of public execution by the guillotine disappeared with the French revolution.  Nope, all we can do is attempt to take back the power that we the people, that they were supposed to represent, gave to them.  Sad and pathetic times for democracy and the tune from a Les Miserables song keeps coming to my head...
"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!"
Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Bond

To my son Tommy,

I often read parenting articles on the web.  I read and ponder the often abstract and theoretical advice and though I believe many of these articles were written by non-parents, I still give them their due consideration.  Occasionally one strikes a chord.

Recently one article suggested that ninety percent of being a parent is the bond and ten percent is leading and teaching.  This article was singing the praises of horseplay and the bio chemical response and how you should set aside ten minutes a day to roughhouse with you kid.  The actual science of it was quite interesting but it was in the simple suggestion that parenting is mostly about the bond that got me thinking.

If I just set out a bunch of rules for you, if I just lead without developing and maintaining a close relationship with you, chances are we would both fail.  The time just spent together, the time spent cuddling or rough housing or talking, the time spent on love is the foundation that allows you to raise a good father and me to raise a good son.

There are examples of this throughout the world.  Unfortunately, the easiest way to see this is in failed relationships.  Find a divorcee and ask them why they got divorced.  You will find many who had a partner who was great on the books.  They had a job, they weren't a drunk or an addict, they were faithful, they were hard working, they didn't abuse, they didn't forget birthdays or holidays, and in fact they qualify as an all around decent guy but yet here they are divorced.  The divorcee will often point to being in the same room yet so far away.  They didn't have the foundation of love.  The consequences are obvious.

You can see examples of this throughout your life.  People base relationships on other things than love, be it their relationship with friends, or with family, or with their significant others, or with their children, or even the relationship with God.  They base it on the rules, or material gains, or hedonistic pleasure, or temporal feelings.  If they instead focused on the bond, growing and strengthening the love, it might not make the other ten percent any easier but it sure will make it worthwhile.  It will also make forgiveness much easier to give and to accept.  I promise you that everyday I will work on our bond.  The rest of it won't disappear, you will still have rules and expectations and we will work it out as we go, but with our focus on love and strengthening our relationship, life with you and your mom is truly something to look forward to.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, September 28, 2013


To my son Tommy,

You have always wanted your own playset for you own backyard.  Today you are one step closer to that simple dream and tomorrow, if all goes right you will have the whole shebang.  So you owe thanks to many of your family and friends.  Your mom's cousins Aunt Carrie and Uncle Rob are first and foremost in line for thanks as they so graciously handed down this huge playset called the Pathfinder 6006 Deluxe.  It has a slide and a climbing wall and monkey bars and swings and a fort and everything a four year old likes.  We had to disassemble it to get it over and got most of it today but need to make one more trip tomorrow.  You also owe thanks to your cousins Matt and Eric.  Matt helped us load it up and Eric generously entertained you.  You owe thanks to Bwama and Pop-pop for letting us borrow their truck and to your mom who bravely and successfully drove the truck all loaded up thanks to Uncle Rob securing the pieces so well.  You owe thanks to the guys who helped me unload including your Uncle Chris and Mr. Brian and Uncle Dave.  Now if daddy can get the whole thing back in shape when we get all the pieces here tomorrow, you will owe another big thank you.  No not to me, but to God, because it will truly be a small miracle!

The point is so many friends and family were willing to give of themselves to make this happen for you.  You should always acknowledge how blessed you are and be grateful to have such dear loved ones who share of themselves.  Some might think the gift is a playset and some might even think a playset isn't that big of a deal.  They'd be wrong.  To you and your imagination, you were given the keys to the kingdom to defend against invading hoards for years to come.  But the real gift is much larger than any wooden structure, yet so much easier to pass on from one person to another.  And the only payment needed for this amazing gift is sincere gratitude.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, September 27, 2013

Attention For Baltimore

To my son Tommy,

Recently some big names have been weighing in on crime in Baltimore City.  You would think this is good and I suppose having a bit of the spotlight shining on our city's concerns is always welcome.  But it is also ironic and sad at the same time.  To some of these names, Baltimore is either a skeleton in the closet or a quick sounding board for more votes.

Our current Governor Martin O'Malley (and previous mayor of Baltimore City) has dreams of running for President of the United States in 2016.  The problem is his campaign crew most likely pointed out that he can't distance himself from the crime rate of one of the largest cities in his state.  It is like a boil on his bottom that any opponent can point out.  So he is pressuring the current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to "clean up this mess".  Just last year he penned an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun where he praised the current mayor (found here ) saying she did great following his Believe campaign.  Now in his lastest op-ed (found here oh my how much changes in a year) he says, and I of course paraphrase and put imaginary words in his mouth, "When I was mayor I just threw everyone in jail and crime went down" which is for the most part accurate but whether that made city life better or worse is certainly up for debate.  Usually people would pick sides on that debate depending on what side of the city line they lived in.  Mostly only those who lived outside the city with no real skin in the game were the ones applauding the effectiveness of these civil liberty abuses.  I am not sure I would lump myself in with the applauders because I have much more common sense, but being white and living in the county at the time I certainly didn't pay it much attention.  The whole concept sounds like a great idea in theory if you don't have to live it.  Either way the tactic was enough to lower crime rate (at least on the books) and make him look tough on crime and get him elected from mayor to governor.  Now he just wants to do it again long enough to get himself elected up the chain to POTUS.

To add to that, we are starting to gear up for another gubernatorial election with a couple declared candidates.  The current Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Attorney General of Maryland Doug Gansler both seem to say that if we elected them governor it would be better for Baltimore City.  I guess they think they can make some quick campaign promises and snag a few votes or preempt the current mayor from running for governor too.  I am not sure I buy it and think that once either got elected governor they would forget about the city until the next election.  To be honest though, I am only starting to look into who these people are and what they did so far.  I didn't even realize there was a third candidate declared, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Heather Mizeur.  But when it comes time to vote, rest assured, I will be better informed on any decision and not just base my vote on the media blitz that we are about to endure.

So all this renewed attention has once again focused on our lovely city.  Everyone has an idea of how to fix our crime rate.  There will be some grandstanding and maybe some big show and political arm bending and then everyone will get elected to wherever they are going to end up and we will see you all in four more years when we can yell and scream and point fingers for the same old problems that we won't solve andget re-elected.  I wish my letter to you could offer some real and concrete solutions for the city that you will most likely grow up in for the next 13 years till you head out to college.  All I can offer is some intuitive feeling that it somehow starts in the heart and soul of every citizen of Baltimore, be they cop or criminal or average joe, and that somehow starts with you and me.

 Of course, it also starts with me getting informed and realizing they redrew the legislative districts and figuring out just who I am anymore and who represents me.  We used to be Maryland Legislative District 41 but evidently now due to a redraw that took effect in 2012 because of the 2010 census are Maryland Legislative District  44-a, a fact that had eluded me until a recent (incorrect) twitter post of mine.  About 3 blocks down the street it is still district 41 if you are on the north east side of the street.  Sometimes they make it so hard.  I should have realized this change when I got my voting sticker last year but after waiting in line for so long I didn't give it much thought.  I guess that is the price we pay for living right on the border of the city and the county and some gerrymandering wasteland.  Oh well live and learn and learn again when they change it.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get By With A Little Help

To my son Tommy,
"What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends"
This is the song that played on my clock radio this morning.  Whether you attribute these lyrics to Joe Cocker or the Beatles, they are very true today.  Of course in my case today my friends are family that I relied upon and family that relied upon me.

Your Great Grandfather Leo fell again today.  It is the second time this month.  That happens when you were born in 1921 and have survive nearly 92 years.  Your Grandpa Leo can't get your great granddad off the floor alone.  He (your great granddad that is) has that large frame and good amount of heft to him and his legs don't bend.  It takes two to lift him.  So this morning at 6:50 I was woken up as I got the call to come over.

Any other day I run right out and speed up.  They make him comfortable while he is on the floor waiting, but I don't want him having to wait too long and the 20 to 30 minute drive up is already pushing the limit.  But today your mother had clinicals for her nursing degree and I was responsible for you and you are staying home from school because you are getting over your own health problems.  As I hung up the phone, my mind was all flustered.  What was I going to do?  Wake you up and take you with me I guess.  No that won't work.  My mind clearly was not as awake as it needed to be.  You weren't awake either which complicated things.  Still flustered I jumped up and ended up knocking over my clock radio and it came on to the Joe Cocker version of "Little Help From My Friends".

I was scheduled to drop you off at your other grandma's house at 8:00.  Thinking I could use a little help from my friends, I quick gave a call to their house and your Bwama immediately understood and got dressed to come down and save the day with you.  As I hung up the phone and started walking downstairs you called out to me, "I am up.  What's going on?" as if you knew something was amiss.  The funniest thing is as I grabbed you and hugged you and brought you downstairs and explained what was going on, you said to me, "Is there anything I can do to help?" which, as far as phrases you have picked up from your parents or extended family, has to be the best and cutest thing you have ever mimicked.

I made you a sandwich for later and got your clothes ready and dished out your cereal.  Bwama came down and she let me go and finished getting you fed and dressed and took you up to her house.  I sped up the road and got Great Granddad Leo off the floor using our two man system.  I set the alarm to the house remotely and headed up to work.

Things happen in this crazy world, things that are too much to deal with on your own.  If you compared it to the lyrics of the song, these moments are the sour note, the time when the world "sang out of tune".  Be it through their own fault and choices or through something out of the persons control like the natural progression of age, no one is perfect but we all "try not to sing out of key".  It is precisely at this moment that people need help the most.  We must all rely on each other and somehow, someway, we will "get by".

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


To my son Tommy,

You came home Monday from school with a fever.  The doctor says it is just a cold and you should be fine in a couple days or a week at most.  We kept you home the last couple days.  Your fever broke that day but you have had little to no appetite and even water can upset your tummy.  Yesterday and the day before we only managed to get about six bites of food in you.  You are showing signs of life today, and your appetite is starting to return, but you aren't going back to school tomorrow either.

A sick child, to everyone else in the world, is no big deal, but to a parent it is totally different.  Kids get sick, it happens, but when it is your kid...  I know we shouldn't worry and you will recover but what I know and what we do are not in alignment.  Our world nearly stops with worry for you.  It is as if we hold our breath until you are well again and then we can finally breathe.  You might not see it because we don't want to fawn or fuss over you so much that you enjoy being sick, but we really want to grab you up in our arms and snuggle the illness out of you.  Here is hoping you get back to your normal healthy precocious self as soon as possible.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who You Are

To my son Tommy,

At the start of a new session of just about anything, there is often a time when you go around the room and we are asked to introduce ourselves.  They say "tell us who you are and what you do" etc.  Usually you get up, mumble your name, say a few things that you think are pertinent, and quickly grab a seat.  When you say who you are and what you do, you tailor it to what you believe is useful to the group.  If it is a business meeting you mention the company you work for and what you do for a living and maybe your background experience.  If it is a church meeting, you mention how long you have been a member of your parish and a brief description of what you perceive as your level of faith.  If it is a community meeting, you mention when you moved to your present community and you point to people you know or have worked with within the community.  If it is classroom meeting, you talk about your education level and experience and perhaps what interested you into taking the class.  You basically attempt to paint a quick picture to allow others to get an idea of who you are based upon their own experiences with people they have met just like you.  You only share fairly non-personal nondescript information to give only the picture you want.  It is a list of qualifications on a verbal résumé that are given to either impress the others or to appease the others.  That is a shame.

Every person is so much more than who they just said they were.  You are more than your job.  You are more than your residence.  You are more than your age.  You are so much more and when people limit what they say they really share themselves short.  It would be amazing if somehow we could share a glimpse at our entire person in the few awkward seconds we are given to explain "Who You Are" to a group.  It wouldn't be practical, due to time constraints, but it would be an amazing gift.

Instead I offer you this advice. When you find yourself in that position, pick something "out of the box" that you are proud about and share that.  Be real, be honest, but be exciting and even a bit mysterious and vague.  Pick out something you are extremely proud of.  Then sit down without much fanfare.  Invite others to find out more about who you are or better yet who they are through your comments.  You aren't going to be able to express who you are in a sound bite mentality but you will be able to intrigue others into exploring who you are or perhaps even exploring themselves from your brief moment.  And don't limit yourself by the occasion either.  Just because you are in a business meeting doesn't mean that your profession should be the thing you are most proud of.  Here are a couple that would work for me.  They all would start out "Hi my name is Leo and I ...

  • ... am trying to be the best father I can to an amazing four year old boy who is currently busy trying to learn his own home phone number.
  • ... was a world traveler and an army brat and I lived in Italy for three years where once I saw an amazing human chess game.
  • ... am recently considering what organizations to volunteer my time to to best give back to my community.
  • ... once helped save people in an accident when a car drove into the bar I was working at doing approximately 100 mph (the car not the bar).
  • ... am interested in learning more about the problems facing Baltimore City and what I can do to change them and just started following some of the various policy makers and news reporters on Twitter to see what I can figure out.
  • ...  am married to the most amazing woman who, when she isn't stressing about an upcoming nursing exam or cleaning up after her messy husband, bakes amazing desserts.
  • ... am proud to say I have said a decade of the rosary every day for the past three weeks.
  • ... helped five people just today with solving problems on their computers so they can get their job done.
  • ... once wore flip flops and Hawaiian shirts for an entire winter because I was on a Jimmy Buffett fan kick.
  • ... read Plato's Republic twice by the age of 14.  
  • ... am so excited to learn about you guys that I can't think of a thing to share.
Be quirky.  Be original.  It can be things you have done or things you are doing or things you want to do.  Just be real and be true to who you are.  It might sound a bit like bragging but really it is a bit of salesmanship that may possibly open an entire world of sharing.  When people approach you later quickly change the focus off you to how what you are doing, or want to do, relates to them and then switch again to make sure you truly find out about them.  And anyone of these introductory phrases almost guarantees someone approaches you later and asks you about something unless you went completely inappropriate to the meeting.  Even if you did, it wasn't your normal mindless dribble and at least everyone will have something out of the norm to talk about, "Hey what was with the guy with the flip flop story?  That was completely random."  Remember, you are interesting, you are unique, and you have so much to share.  

You already do all this naturally as a four year old.  The other day we were getting into the car and said hi to someone passing by and you added, "Hi!  We are going to church! And I learned my phone number! Are you walking to get exercise?  I like walking too!"  which, though a bit non sequitur in your execution, seemed to me you shared what you are proud of and even topped it off with showing interest in the person you were meeting and how you guys relate.  Right on point.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Over Time

To my son Tommy,

Things don't happen all at once, or at least not usually.  Things happen over an ever changing fluid state of person to bring each of us to our own present situation.  Consequently, if you want to change a situation it may take a bunch of little steps building upon themselves to "fix the problem". I don't really like that term "fix the problem" and prefer to talk about changing realities or changing situations and circumstances.  "Fixing" seems to suggest there is an easy solution.  Many are under the mistaken notion that just make this one change, put some super glue on it, and all will be well.  They are lead to believe that years and years of little changes that brought us to the present realities can be erased in days with the right change, or the right politician, or the right act, or the right amount of contrition, or the right pill.  The reality is we must set a stable foundation and build layer upon layer to not only change our present circumstances but to make sure all the changes do not come tumbling down.  If we expect a quick fix we will only get discouraged and lose heart.  We must work to change situations the same way they were built, over time.

This thought occurred to me at my Sharing Christ course last night when the questions were posed, "When did you meet Jesus?" and "When did you commit your life to Jesus?".  I thought you might as well ask me "when did I get fat?" or better yet "when did I mature?".  Along the way there might have been moments that lead to me getting plump, but I can't say, "yeah it was thanksgiving 2002.  I had a double helping of turkey and mashed potatoes followed by too many deserts and boom I blew up like that Stay Puft marshmallow man."  But the comparison to maturity is probably more apt because who knows when they started being more and more mature and who really thinks they have hit the epitome of maturity.  Certainly not this fat fellow.  It is the same thing in my relationship with Christ, ever evolving, ever growing, no start, no beginning, no end.

That is why it is so important to understand that change comes with little steps or (to borrow from previous posts) gateways that lead each of us down our paths on the journey of life.  Sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes it is painfully slow, but the most important part is that we make sure the changes in our lives and our realities come from a good foundation. That way even if something comes by and knocks down all you have built, the solid foundation will allow you to build again.   I hope, my son, to give you that good foundation and build upon it layer by layer, over time.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, September 22, 2013


To my son Tommy,

Here is a picture of you looking thug.  The picture didn't capture the plastic toy ninja throwing knife in your hand nor did it capture the Little Einsteins episode that has you enthralled.  But it did capture your blatant disregard for fashion and norms like sitting in the seat of the car instead of on the roof.  The whole leg crossing thing is, as I understand, the equivalent of a PreK gang sign.

By the time you read this you will understand sarcasm.  I collect pictures like this just in case you really do start going thug on me.  I promise you it will be tough to continue down a thug life path if I post this type of stuff on posters or billboards all around our hood.  Stay good, my son.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sound Bite Mentality

To my son Tommy,

I was planning on writing to you about power.  I was going to suggest to you how if you are ever given power over people it comes with a whole bunch of responsibility and scrutiny. It all stemmed from a recent viral video that the media put out from a town hall in Towson discussing a new education change called "Common Core"

I am not here to debate common core or the merits or lack there of for the system.  But one parent at the public forum evidently was quite passionate about it and had a few "questions".  Instead of working within the framework set up for the meeting, this guy decided to break from the norm and exercise his first amendment right of free speech.  When he continued to be a disturbance to the proceedings, the powers that be exercised their right to remove him so they could continue to peacefully assemble.  An off duty police officer moonlighting as a security guard removed him. And someone caught it on video.  So far just about everything is okay, people exercising their rights and such, but the guy was arrested and handcuffed and faces a combined $5000 in fines and 10 years 6 months in prison which is where I took offense.  And it may seem that the police report includes a falsehood to justify the arrest.

The video shown to cause such outrage has been edited so much by different media outlets to serve their own purpose.  It is a common practice nowadays by many media outlets to pick out what they want to hear or  what they want you to hear or see or what they can use to get ratings to sell toothpaste (which is what it is all about).  It happens all the time from what this politician says to that politician to NFL game clips to the pope to you tube videos of common people to just about everything.  You can't believe what you see anymore without researching.  You need unedited versions to feed your curiosity and then make informed decisions on your own and not be led to whatever conclusion the "editor" wants you to reach.  I jumped to a judgement and for that I am kind of ashamed.  I call so many people out for jumping to judgement without the facts but this video caught my sensibilities of right or wrong square in the eyes and it didn't really matter at that time how edited it was.  I fell for for the "sound bite" mentality and I should know better.

Though I think the whole thing warrants looking into, and though I have no clue as to what the rules are for moonlighting with a badge, I re-learned how easily it is to jump to conclusions and get yourself all passionate.  If it weren't for some level headed minds pushing me to ask a few questions and perhaps watching some over the top reactions on twitter that made me look calm, I probably would still be in quite the uproar.  As it turns out I have recently been trying to diversify where I get my news so I can be a bit better informed.  But just know that no matter how diversified your news outlets are, no matter how educated and even minded you think you are, it still is easy to get caught up in the passion without the logic.  It can start fights and wars and false arrests and all kinds of mess when highly charged negative emotions lead the way.  What is tough in your life is to take a step back and say maybe there is something more to this and keep an open mind to all the facts.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, September 20, 2013


To my son Tommy,

I think your mom ruined you forever.  There may be no point in your life that you will let another person take your shirt off or put it on.  Your natural defensive reaction will kick in and that reaction is "PROTECT THE PITS".  Your mother, while changing your shirt that past couple months or perhaps longer, always threw in a last minute tickle.  Consequently, you will let us get a shirt over your head but then must put some space in between you and us to insure tickle free pits.  You have been even known to go into another room out of sight to get your arms into your shirt sleeves.  As far as things your parents are going to screw up in you or for you, I guess this is pretty minor.  I don't think ticklish pits will cause any long term trust issues, but you never know.  If it does, just remind your future therapist that tickling was just an expression of love from your mother!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Couple Quick Observations

To my son Tommy,

Thursdays are my usual day to make sure you get to school.  This morning yielded some memorable moments and quips that I thought I'd share for posterity.

When your Mickey Mouse Clubhouse alarm went off and I came dancing in your room to get you for some cuddle time, you said, "You're too happy and it's too early"

When we made sure you had your lunch box in your backpack and opened it to check to see what you had to eat for lunch, you said, "Hey I don't see any cheetos.  That's not right.  Can you make sure there are some cheetos in there?"

When I told you to jump on up into the backseat of the truck so I could get you in your car seat, you said, "No daddy, it is a truck seat."

When I pulled up into St Agnes parking lot and was waiting our turn to get up to the old school where traditionally the younger kids are let out, you asked, "Can I get out here and walk over to my school just like the big kids do?"

You are growing up so fast.  I let you out and you shouldered your backpack and started walking.  Your teacher was walking across the lot too, so she motioned you over and you joined her for your big boy stroll.  But I still inched up the line watching out of my truck window till you got close to your building, just like I will the next time and the time after that.  You may be growing up fast but you are still my baby boy.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More Or Less

To my son Tommy,

Everything you do in life, or have done in your past, should be evaluated using a simple equation.  Should I do this more or less?  It is simple enough.  If something is good for you chances are you should do it more, either more often or perhaps on a grander scale.  If something is bad for you, do it less until it fades out of existence.

It is a natural response and a natural instinct of human nature.  You see this when you do something you haven't done in a while.  If you read a good book, you always say to yourself that you should make more time to read.  If you volunteer for a good cause, you always say you should spend more time helping others and wish there was more you could do to help.  If you call an old friend or catch up in person, you always say to yourself that you should do it more often and not have such a big break in between visits.  The human soul often craves what is good.

But there are pitfalls.  When I eat some Ben and Jerry's ice cream, I always think I should do this more often, even every day!  This is my taste buds and pleasure centers talking and occasionally they need to be trumped by logic and what you know in your heart to be true.  A pint of day will definitely not keep the doctor away and load on the fat to my already overloaded frame.  So logic dictates that, though I can still indulge occasionally, the frequency needs to be much less.

Smoking is another good example of a bad trap.  The addictive properties of a cigarette will convince your mind and your body that this is what you need more of.  You have to dig deep into your soul to overcome such convincing arguments, but deep down you know it is bad for you and you will be better off for quitting.

Once you figure out the right things to do more of, you have to commit.  I saw a recent post that said something to the effect of ... commitment is keeping the promise you made even though the mood you made the promise in has long since vanished.  That sentiment rang true and actually struck a nerve with all those resolutions that I have broken over and over.  It is easy to work out for a couple weeks, or watch your diet in the beginning, or spend some quality times with family or friends a couple times, but it is hard to keep that going.  In fact as easy as it is to promise at the start, it is even easier to rationalize quitting.

So the challenge, my son, is to evaluate everything you do and commit to doing more of those things that make you a better person and less of those things that take away from you.  It is an easy challenge to say but a tough challenge to live.  But even if you fail occasionally and have to start all over again, you will be a better person than you were the day before and that is the only person you need compare yourself to.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Call Me Maybe

To my son Tommy,

It was the attack of the sight words today.  Your brilliant mother, acting on a tip from your equally brilliant grandmother, made up a bunch of words for you to tape to various objects throughout the house.  These little paper invaders will help you recognize more and more words.  You are great at spelling and reciting the individual letters of any word but you don't always know what you are spelling.  For example, you taped a word to the boob tube and started spelling T E L E V I S I O N and then informed us that spells TV.  You also spelled S T A I R S and told us that spells steps.  Thankfully, if your Irish stubbornness doesn't get in the way, it only takes one correction and you get it immediately.  We also are attempting to teach your address and phone number.  When you recited the numbers taped up for you to learn your phone number you exclaimed, "phone number? Like call me maybe!" and ran off singing a pop song.  Your mother and I were floored that you knew that song and assume your cousin Emma taught you.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Shooting

To my son Tommy,

I cringe writing this letter today because, though I want to keep you informed on current events of your young life, there is another mass shooting today.  I feel like these come too often and too quickly in the world these days.  Details are still unclear and once again may never be clear.  So far the media has reported thirteen fatalities including the shooter and more injured at the Washington DC navy Yard.  It is also reported that another suspect is at large but that too is uncertain.  About the only thing I was sure of, by watching the news reports and Twitter feeds, is the media is willing to report unconfirmed accounts and rumor to scoop their competition.  Even when they got it from "the horse's mouth" they would still report it wrong.  But I digress because this is not a trial of all the media's mistakes as they are trying their best I assume.  Instead we should focus on the real issue which is yet another young man, in his mid thirties, decided that taking other people's lives was his best solution.  It wasn't.

There are few things in this world worth dying for.  There are even fewer worth killing for.  Life is too precious and there is enough death in this world without adding to it with a murderous rampage.  I am not sure what this young man's motives or reasoning was, but I am going to take a wild guess and say  it wasn't worth it.  There is no situation that is too hopeless and even if you find yourself with nothing to lose, it doesn't mean you should take the lives and loves of others out of spite.

I don't know why so many do not respect life and why they find it so easy to take another life.  Perhaps we were raised on too many action movies where the "hero" would receive respect and justice at the trigger end of a gun.   Maybe we needed a few more heroes like Fred Rogers and a few less like Rambo or Dirty Harry.  Some blame the government, some blame the lack of religion among our society, some blame the lack of parenting, some blame the economy, some blame education, some blame the seemingly never ending state of war in our world.  The amount of finger pointing directions abound.  But I wonder if there is something deeper that starts with a personal responsibility and a true respect for life.   I don't know how to install a sense to others of how precious each and every life is.  I just hope to install this love and respect for life in a four year old boy as he grows.  

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gateways Part 2

To my son Tommy,

I have been thinking more and more about the gateways and stepping stones that have brought me to this point in my life.  As promised here are some of those gateways that led me to a point in my life where I willingly go to courses and lessons to explore my religion more deeply and I attend daily Mass when I can.  These are probably not in order and any one of them alone can be a gateway to a deepened faith or at least another invitation to continue along the path.

  • Found the woman of my dreams
  • Learned what true love is
  • Decided to get married Catholic
  • Had to go to church to become a parishioner to get married Catholic
  • Had some great parish marriage sponsors who taught us more than they know
  • Had to go to a long overdue confession before getting married
  • Did not burst into flames during that long overdue confession
  • Got married
  • Had you.
  • Learned more about what true love is
  • Decided to get you baptized Catholic
  • Had to go to Sunday Mass more regularly to be part of the parish
  • Decided to go to confession more regularly
  • Watched you begin to grow
  • Learned more about true love as I fell more and more in love with you and your mother
  • Joined the St Agnes Mens Club because your Pop-pop was re-joining
  • Decided to start actively listening at Mass
  • Got upset about some people's point of view who share our faith
  • Argued and reasoned it out with some priests that showed more patience than I probably deserved
  • Looked deep inside myself and decided that other people's point of view will not keep me from a relationship with Christ.
  • Started to say prayers with you at night
  • Learned yet more of what true love is when we had and lost Sal
  • Learned about loss and heart break and suffering like I never had before
  • Got angry with God
  • Started talking to your Grandpa Leo more about faith
  • Started going to church daily sometimes to yell at God sometimes to pray for His comfort
  • Considered the sacrifice of His only Son and looked intently at a cross and learned more about true love
  • Started attending Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Began praying the Rosary
  • Took more interest in Saints and read a book about Padre Pio that your Grandmother Roro gave me
  • Started blogging, in an effort to pass on any useful nugget of wisdom about life that I might have to you
  • Realized writing letters to you is more about exploring life and myself, and by exploring myself and life with you through these letters I have the most potential to pass on something worthwhile
  • Continued to watch you grow and decided to send you to St Agnes for school
  • Started praying before meals with you leading us in the singing grace prayer you learned at school sung to the toon of Frère Jacques 
  • Asked you to start leading grace even when we were out at other houses for meals like at your Grandma Roro's house
  • Added the prayer to Michael the Arch-Angel at night to go with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be we already were doing.
  • Made a self-commitment to go to confession almost weekly if possible
  • Took a Discovering Christ course to look deeper in my faith
  • Discovered I can email my questions and concerns to priests in our parish and they would actually read them and reply with (once again) more patience than I probably deserve
  • Looked upon and deeply examined the examples of your grandparents and great grandparents for their faith
  • Started attending more special events like Missions and vigils and courses and such
  • Heard a homily on how to pray in conjunction with God's will
  • Started using that prayer "technique" and even became witness to the power of prayer in my daily life
  • Continued to grow in, and learn of, true love with you, your mom, and Christ
As you can see, there are many steps that have brought me to this point in my life.  And trust me, this point in my life is far from some of the depths I had reached in my past.  Many would laugh incredulously if I told them I go to Mass all the time and pray daily.

Some steps are obvious progressions.  For example you have to attend church to have a chance of hearing anything.  The more you attend, the better the chance you learn, the more you learn the more you want to attend.  Another example is prayer.  It started with praying at church again.  Then it moved into our home with prayers at night and then to prayers with dinner.  Now it has grown to the point where if I have any free time or just a lull in the conversation that I might spend that time in silent prayer or you might even see me with my hand in my pocket working through some Rosary beads.

Some steps you would think were a setback and some gateways honestly could have brought me in either direction.  Losing Sal was a big turning point in my life and I think to most people it would make more sense if I had decided to turn away.  But I didn't and my faith has actually deepened.

Surprisingly the biggest hurdle was dealing with other people's views and how politics and laws and misinterpretations of the Catholic religion (both theirs and mine) and even pink ribbons can distract the most devout from their true mission of sharing Christ.  But again, I didn't let that stop my growth in my faith.  It actually solidified in my mind why I was seeking this path.  The similar sentiment was echoed in a recent letter by Pope Francis in which he writes, "Believe me, in spite of its slowness, the infidelity, the mistakes and the sins that may have and may still be committed by those who compose the Church, it has no other sense and aim if not to live and witness Jesus"  If the Church ever becomes about other people, or even about your own dad, and not about your own relationship with God you may have to re-evaluate.  People will fail you. Clergy will fail you.  I, despite my best intentions, will fail you.  So make sure your foundation is based on Christ. 

The one thing that I am convinced is the ultimate stepping stone, the ultimate gateway to all good things, the one thing that has been a recurring theme in my life, even though I often did not see it, leading me in the right direction no matter how hard I tried to resist, is true love.  I learned more about religion by looking into my heart and seeing and feeling the love of family and friends and the love of Christ.  That is why it is so important to share of yourself and to share true love so that other people can have their hearts touched and, just maybe, open a few new gateways for each of those that we touch.

Sincerely with love from dad,

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Battle Of Baltimore

To my son Tommy,

Today is the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore.  We went down to Fort McHenry the birth place of our National Anthem and a key to our ability to defend Baltimore during this battle in the War of 1812.  We went down with your grandparents and aunt and cousins.

It always helps to know what your forefathers had to endure and sacrifice to keep us free.  We have a great opportunity living so close to such history.  The National Park Services have done very well at the fort and created some moving tributes.  We got to see demonstrations of canons and muskets and got a small glimpse of what war was like back then.  This really struck me today for some reason.

For a moment I could be transformed back to the fort.  I could hear the tremendous canons booming and imagine bombs bursting above my head raining down shrapnel.  I could imagine holding a line,  shoulder to shoulder with my brothers in arms, armed with a musket and only relying on our courage and our beliefs to make up for that weapons inaccuracies.  For a moment I realized how horrific war must be.  Then the presenter said something that made it worse.  He compared how inefficient these weapons being shown were compared to modern day weapons.  My heart sank thinking of all the war after that war and all the war that still might come.  When will we learn?  

I think every politician should be required to go once a month to one our nation's monuments for our brave and for our fallen and for our dead.  They should go not to instill a sense of rah-rah nationalism, but to go and hear the whispers of the ghosts that lived through the horrors of war.  They should go and remind themselves of the sacrifices of the past.  Those who sacrificed before did so for a very clear and lofty reason, the defense of freedom.  If the cause du jour is of lesser merit, perhaps the true American spirit will touch their heart and influence their decisions.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, September 13, 2013

Million vs Two Million

To my son Tommy,

As always I try to keep you informed of current events of your life for posterity purposes.  I picture you reading these letters twenty years from now and getting a better picture of what was going on in the world.  Often however the media chooses what we see as current events.  This would be fine if they weren't so ready to create drama and manufacture tension or outrage or compassion for the sake of ratings and profit.  They aren't the only ones who exaggerate or blow things out of proportion for their own ends.  A current event is a perfect example of this.

A couple days ago, on 9-11-13 in our nations capital we were supposed to have a couple demonstrations or marches.  I think it despicable that people try to use the memory of this date to emphasize and underscore whatever message they are selling, but you got to love this country who protects everyone's right to speak their mind every day of the year no matter the circumstance.

The first was the "Million Muslim March" whose name was later changed to a "Million American March Against Fear".  The second was the "Two Million Bikers To DC" ride.  The bikers were supposed to be an anti protest for the Muslims.  They were denied a no-stop permit which meant if they did do their ride they would have to obey traffic signals.  I am sure the permit was denied because you can't close down major roads in the middle of the day with DC traffic but the media and some small minded people jumped on the fact with race bating tenacity.  There was a bunch of politics and a bunch of hype and media trying to set this up as a show down.

The only thing this really showed us was neither of these groups can mobilize and neither of these groups can count.  For the "Million American March Against Fear" there was evidently a whole twenty person turn out.  For the "Two Million Bikers To DC" ride the turn out seemed to be much harder to count with the lowest estimate around three thousand and the highest estimate around seventy five thousand.  I suppose it is tough to count bikers as they ride around in circles through DC streets.  All sides tend to exaggerate their numbers but it is tough to lie about a couple dozen people standing as opposed to thousands driving around.  I guess the bikers "won" if you consider winning intimidating the twenty person turn out from the other side.  I might have missed the entire point but to me, if you say a million or two million...and you mobilize less than twenty five will not be taken seriously.  Perhaps neither group had a good enough message.  I am not sure what the real message was on either side.  Had the bikers just rode to remember the souls we lost, I would have thought this admirable.  Instead the media played it out as an anti protest and I am just a person who thinks anti-protests fall under the "two wrongs don't make a right" category.  And the media totally left me in the dark about the message for the other march as did their own groups vague description and name change.  But honestly it doesn't matter.  A couple months ago someone took a ruler to a foot long sub they bought at Subway and it was ten inches.  You should have seen the outrage on the internet.  That sub could have been the tastiest sub ever and it didn't matter.  Well these groups, or the media, just promised a foot long and a six inch sub and delivered a one inch sub and a crumb.  Just like the Subway sub isn't judged on taste, it doesn't matter the groups message at that point.

I am not sure which lesson I want to give you here.  Do I warn you against falling for media hype?  Do I point out how many media outlets will resort to most anything to keep up ratings and profits?  Or do I focus in on the lesson that when you oversell your message and under deliver you lose all credibility no matter how good or bad your point is?  No, I think I want you to focus in on how people in this country, whether they can pull two million or twenty, whether they are protesting for a good cause or out of spite, no matter which date they choose, each and everyone of them has the right to assemble and speak their mind.  You can disagree with either side or both sides but in our advanced and complicated democracy, we defend their right to say whatever it is they have to say.  God willing, the worthwhile messages prevail, even if the media can't sell it for ratings.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, September 12, 2013


To my son Tommy,

There is currently a youth curfew in Baltimore city.  I believe it is 11 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends.  Recently, in the wake of some serious violence, there has been a suggestion to change this to an earlier time.  I think the proposal suggest 9 pm for the younger groups and an extra hour for some of the older groups.  This has stirred a bit of debate in Baltimore city and has politicians and cops and experts and citizens weighing in.

Luckily I am not here to debate curfews.  I am not here to argue if they are effective or not.  I am not here to talk about if it is an oppressive move that wreaks of desperation and lack of real solutions.  I am not here to disagree with experts who say the U.S. is the only place to put curfews on their young when a friend of mine living in Egypt recently posted  about being worried if he would make it home by curfew.  I guess he is an adult so the government is not singling out kids and it is more considered martial law, so the expert is technically right.  What I am here to do is promise you will never have to worry about this.

Don't get me wrong, you will have a curfew to worry about, just not one set out by the city government.  No.  You will only have to worry about the curfew set by your parents which will probably be a full couple hours earlier than any municipality mandate.  If you decide to break a curfew, you might consider dealing with the cops might be easier.  I don't want government to have to do my parenting for me and think it is a failure of our society that it even gets to the point where the government has the chance or sees the need to get involved.  And when I say our society I am not blaming some vague group but pointing to each and every individual parent and their own level of culpability.  I am sure this will be easier said than done and I might be a little naive since I am not yet dealing with a head strong teenager and only am dealing with a head strong four year old who for the most part still respects his parents' authority.  But I am up for any challenge you send at me because I love you.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Once Again

To my son Tommy,

Once again we have reached the horrific anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01.  Once again I offer no answers as to why those tragic events happened just as I had no answers last year.  Once again I offer my thoughts and prayers to those who lost their lives or lost their loved ones on or because of that fateful day.

As I went to church this morning to remember and pray, I wished I was only praying for stuff that happened in the past.  I wish we had learned and grown past the violence.  But, once again, my prayers for peace extend to the future as well, as the drums of war seem to beat ever loudly in the middle east and in Syria.  Once again we seemed destined to repeat past mistakes over and over again and try to solve violence with violence.

There is hope though.  We may have all been witnesses to the ultimate weapon for peace.  This ultimate weapon is not some impressive battleship or tomahawk missile. It is the weapon of prayer.  Many joined in solidarity Saturday to pray with Pope Francis for what seemed a hopeless cause.  It seemed inevitable that we  as a country would be adding to the violence and opening a new gateway to new levels of war and discourse.  So we prayed.  Much to our surprise a more peaceful resolution presented itself.  What made John Kerry throw out a long shot ultimatum?  What made Putin and Assad seize on that comment and agree that is a workable solution?  Some say it was through the real threat of force that this opportunity for diplomacy came about.  Perhaps, but flexing our muscle in the past sure never dissuaded any of the other countries in the region.  Maybe something bigger was at work here?

So as we once again remember the lives lost before in senseless violence, we continue to pray for peace in the future.  To those who went before us, who lost their lives in the 9-11 attacks and all the consequences that followed, we will never forget.  The only way to honor your sacrifice is to pray and work towards a better peaceful future.  God graciously grant unto us peace, not only in the sense of an absence of war, but that peace which truly touches the heart and soul of every person.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


To my son Tommy,

Chirp, chirp, chirp ... My eyes bolted awake at 5 AM
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... You got to be kidding me?
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... A cricket?  Maybe if I ignore it, it will just go away.
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... Arrghh I NEED my sleep!  I will just pull this pillow over my head.
Muffled chirp, muffled chirp, muffled chirp ... For the love of all things good and holy!
Muffled chirp, muffled chirp, muffled chirp ... Through a pillow?!?  You must be the loudest cricket ever!
Muffled chirp, muffled chirp, muffled chirp ... I jumped up, tore off my cpap mask and threw on the light.
Silence, silence, silence ...  Oh I am not falling for that!  Where are you, you little $&%+
Silence, silence, silence ...  I know what is going to happen if I don't find you.  Show yourself!
Silence, silence, silence ...  I turn off the light.  Put on my cpap mask and lay down.
Silence, silence, silence ...  I start to doze off thinking maybe I can get another hour of sleep.
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... GAH!  Maybe if I take the time to focus my mind on something else I can block it.
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... Maybe if I pray.  Our Father, who art in Heav...
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... Okay that isn't working. Maybe if I think of gateways and stepping stones and blogs.
Chirp, chirp, chirp ... Who could think with all this racket?!
Chirp, chirp, chirp ...  You win!  You win!  I am up!  I am up!
Silence, silence, silence ...  I get up and get in the shower.
Silence, silence, silence ...  I turn the water as hot as I can stand and as I relax, my eyes start getting heavy.
Far off chirp, far off chirp, far off chirp ... All I can do is shake my head.  Off to work.

There will be times in life that something will annoy you to no end.  It will distract you from the task at hand and no task will be able to replace this irritating stimulus.  It will be infuriating and it can even threaten your own sanity.  Don't let it.  Remain calm, learn to deal, and appreciate the humor in the situation.  I had to deal by removing myself from the situation this morning, a short term solution at most.  I plan to hunt this cricket down with bug bombs and cleaning, but I won't let it consume me. I have already allowed this insect to alter my day, it won't become my obsession.  But if you find me sleeping in your room will know why.  Got to go, my cell phone is better not be the cricket!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gateways Part 1

To my son Tommy,

They say that cigarettes, booze, and marijuana are gateway drugs.  Once you open that gateway, you are presented with a bunch more doors that are much easier open, and most of those doors are filled with vice and despair.  There is no certainty that you will open all or any of the other doors when you go through one gateway, but it does make it easier and more likely.  My job, as a father, is to warn you about these bad gateways and the path that certain ones may lead you down.

But not all gateways are bad.  You can read a good short story and that can open up a great literary world and next you know you are reading novels.  You can take a basic computer course and he next thing you know you have an entire career in programming.  You can take one bite of one of your mother's delicious deserts and decide that baking will be your life.  These are the type of gateways I need to steer you towards.

I can lead you to the door. I can bore a peephole so you get a glimpse of what lies behind, but only you can unlock the door and twist the handle and go through.  Just like I can't completely barricade a bad gateway, I can't drag you by the scruff of your neck through a good gateway, no matter how much I would like to do both.  My job is to help you make the right decisions and choose the right doors, but it is still your choices that matter most.

What got me thinking about gateways was a "Sharing Christ" course I am taking at church.  Yes, here your father is going to go "all religious" on you again.  The seven week "Sharing Christ" course is a compliment to the "Discovering Christ" course which I probably haven't mentioned by name before but inspired such thoughts and letters as Unconditionally and Quests last year. This new course examines how we share Christ in our lives and with others.  I began to think of all the gateways that I have gone through to come to this point in my life.

To be honest, I did have a good foundation.  When I said you can't be dragged by the scruff of your neck, I meant you can't be dragged forever and sooner or later you have to want to make the choice.  Usually the dragging ends with college, though the guilt may never end from your parents.  I was dragged, kicking and screaming at times, in my young life to Mass.  I was forced to spend Sundays attending school to learn about my religion when I would have rather been out playing.  I was taught the prayers and received the Sacraments.  I was what you would call a cradle Catholic.  But I am not sure that I ever bought into the whole shebang.  My father brought me through these gateways so if I ever decided to go through those doors again, I would know the combination to the lock and be somewhat familiar with the area after I opened the door.  When I turned 18 I promptly closed any of those gateways and doors and turned my back on what I had known.  I began opening up gateways that would lead me far away from the path of Christ.

So how did I return?  How did I end up in a point in my life where I am voluntarily spending an extra two hours on a Sunday evening at a church course?  And even writing about it and thinking about it through the week?  Perhaps that is best explored in another letter, maybe tomorrow or later in the week after I ponder that exact question myself, but I can tell you that you and your mommy and love figure prominently into those choices.  For now, just know that I hope to show you the right path, the right doors, the right gateways, that lead you to a full and happy life with and in Christ.  I am just now opening a few of these doors myself and it is pretty amazing to see what can be in store for you as well.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Seen It Before

To my son Tommy,

I have seen it before.  I have seen everyone watching and wondering what the other guy is going to do.  I have seen the posturing and the threats and people being backed in corners with their own words.  I have seen spectators itching for a fight to start so they can jump in or root from the sidelines with blood lust in their heart.  I have seen the over righteous, without knowing all or any of the facts, ready to jump in and protect the little guy by raining down punch after punch.  I have heard all the lies and preemptive excuses of why the fight needed to happen meant to relieve culpability after the first blow.  I have seen bluffs called and all out brawls break out.  I have seen all this before, but it was in a bar with a bunch of drunk idiots.  I didn't expect this from entire nations and really hoped that we as a species had grown up more than some bar flies fighting over who had next game on a pool table.

That is why yesterday, Saturday 7 September 2013, I joined in prayer and fast for peace in Syria.  The Pope had asked everyone to join and I did what I could.  I didn't spend as much time as I planned but when I had time, I went to the church to pray and when I had other responsibilities I just prayed silently when I could.  I fasted from food (though not a full black fast as I had one meal) and social media (though I did have to break this once to look up times that the church opened) and that is why no letter yesterday.  Even as I write to you, nations on all sides prepare for war as battleships and aircraft carriers position themselves for optimal strikes.  Propaganda and threat levels increase world wide.  This could be very bad and prayer was and is the only form of hope for what seems an inevitable outcome.  May God, one day, grant each and every one of us the wisdom that violence is never the solution, and may that day be today!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, September 6, 2013

Football Returns

To my son Tommy,

NFL football started up again last night and everyone had a buzz about them.  I have been disenchanted with professional football (and for that matter all professional sports) for some time.  When I was a bartender, I lived and breathed football.  Being able to talk and understand and follow along with the games greatly enhanced my tips.  Even the fact that I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan didn't hurt me because everyone needs a foil, someone to increase the drama and talk trash to, in the world of sports and bars.

Many people wonder how I became a Steelers fan.  Many don't realize I am not Baltimore born.  I was born in Utah because your Grandpa Leo was stationed at an army base in Tooele.  Being an army brat doesn't lend itself to team loyalty since you move around every two or three years, but since your Grandma Roro was such a die hard Baltimore Colts fan as was her father, I considered myself a Baltimore Colts fan.  Then in 1984 the city lost its team to Indianapolis.  My family was headed overseas to a station overseas in Italy so for the next three or four years I would just immerse myself in local soccer teams as it was much more readily available and the only American professional sport I would watch was when the Armed Forces Network broadcast an occasional Orioles game.  When I came back to the states to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, I had to pick a new team.

Football fans in the area seemed to go one of three ways.  You either became a fan of the Steelers, the Redskins, or the Eagles.  I picked the Steelers as they had a great history and I admired their working class fan base.  My pick was definitely not the bandwagon pick.  Most were on the bandwagon with the Redskins who won the Super Bowl that year and repeated the feet a couple years later.  The Steelers would take some time before they started getting good again and then when they started making the playoffs finally, they would break your heart.  It wasn't until 2005 that they would put a ring on it while I was a fan.  But for years we could only point to the 70s and talk about old curtains and wipe our tears with our terrible towels as Coach Cowher would get us to the dance year after year but the ring would slip away.  It could have been worse, I could have chose the Eagles who always seemed to get to the playoffs but have yet to win the whole show.  No my choice was definitely not bandwagon.

Then in 1996, after almost a decade of rooting for the Steelers, Baltimore finally gets a football team.  And who do they get?  The Browns who were one of the Steelers' most hated rivals.  I had the choice to jump ship to the new team or remain loyal to a team that had broke my heart so many times in the past.  I am loyal to a fault.  And despite all the gruff I would get, I chose to stay a Steelers fan.  It didn't hurt that many of my friends were Steelers fans and I worked in a Steeler friendly bar.

But ever since you came along, I could care less and less with regards to the NFL.  Being a fan and living and breathing football seems to bring on problems.  It brings on drama; it cause family discourse; it eats up precious time; it requires effort; it can create sadness and disappointment; and it costs money.  It just doesn't seem worth all of that to be a fan of any team much less an out of town team.  So much so, that I even mentioned to your mom that it might be time to switch to being a Ravens fan.  At least then it would be less discourse and I would receive less flack for something I am losing interest in anyhow.  She looked at me with what I can only describe as "divorce" eyes.

Well the Ravens had a bit of a rough go of it last night losing 49 to 27 to Denver.  That, in and of itself, would never dissuade me from switching my loyalty.  Winning doesn't matter much to me.  I stick by teams no matter their record, as proven by my loyalty to the Baltimore Orioles.  What did disturb me was the buzz on social media.  Assumed true Baltimore fans turning on their team in one game.  I understand being upset and unhappy.  Your team lost and having a 37 year old (which supposedly is too old for a super bowl level quarterback unless your first name is John and your last name is Elway or Unitas) go for 462 yards and 7 touchdowns is a bit gut wrenching.  Still the level of abuse that the Ravens receive from fans is extraordinary.  Even Steelers fans don't talk that bad about the Ravens team.  Then to see the infighting between Ravens fans, yelling and screaming through their posts about who should be fired and let go and who doesn't know football etc etc.  That made up my mind that I don't want to be associated with that hot mess.  I decided to not jump from frying pan to fire by sticking with my current team.

As you grow up, you can pick whatever team you like to root for.  Your mother will suggest the Steelers but I will probably confuse you and suggest you pick your hometown team even though I root for another.  Your Grandpa Leo will tell you to pick the Packers but that is because he thinks the cheese head is the coolest fan apparel out there and he likes that they are a community owned franchise.  But whatever you do, whatever team you pick, whatever the reason, don't let it cause you any misery or grief.  Remain loyal but remember that in essence you are watching grown men play a game for millions of dollars.  If they win or lose really shouldn't effect your life as there are so many more important things, so even after a rough loss, stay classy.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sharing Life

To my son Tommy,

There are times when two people will see the same thing and both will come out of the experience with totally different views of what they just saw.  Two people can live basically the same life, go through the same experiences, yet see things completely different.  Two people can be taught by the same teacher and taught the same lesson and have learned completely different things. Their perceptions, their values, their priorities, all effect how people see things.  In essence they are living overlapping lives.

I often do not see things the way others do.  That is why I write to you in these letters.  I want to share my life with you not just coexist in the same place.  I am trying to show you how I see things.  I want you to learn what I find important and learn my priorities in life and give you some insight into why.  You don't have to come to the same conclusions as your old man (because he is often filled with bull) but I am trying to arm you with the ability to find out what is true and right.

I want you to know what is truly important.  I want you to respect life.  I want you to learn how to love.  I want you to actively listen instead of waiting for your turn to talk.  I want you to give of yourself and attempt to share your life with your friends and family and beyond. I want you to share your hopes and dreams and soul with your future wife and kids.  I want you to really share life's experiences and not just happen to live through them with someone.

No two people in the world will perceive any event exactly the same way but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to share.  When we fail to share and to fail to live with compassion and understanding and just assume others are of the same mindset, this is often when the world's problems occur.  Only through love and an honest effort to rise above our overlapping experiences and truly share of ourselves will these problems disappear.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

That's My Order

To my son Tommy,

You have been on a roll lately with your sayings.  The other day when your mom asked you what you did at school, your answer was "ummm...I just did the pre-K thing".  You also have been throwing back my common advice phrase of "First things first" when either of us gets ahead of ourselves.  You picked up "dog gone it" from your Great Aunt Lulu and we have been working on the appropriate use of that lament.  A parent of one of your classmates told us you are so pleasant in the morning with a "Hi Madalynn, Good Morning Madalynn's mom!" which makes us very proud.

But tonight, tonight you took your own life in your hands with a quick quip.  Yesterday, you made a stride in your food challenges and ate 7 or 8 bites of spinach and fish and mashed potatoes.  We were elated.  In attempt to repeat the experience tonight, even though we are substituting chicken for the fish, we started some pre-dinner discussions.  After some wheeling and dealing and cajoling and such we agreed on 11 bites of each of the three foods and you escaped adding carrots to the mix.  As you mom was walking said, "11 bites of spinach, and 11 bites of chicken, and 11 bites of mashed potato.  Yep.  That's my order." with the same attitude a (not so gentlemanly) guy would demand a "sammich".  I thought we had escaped any incident but your mother came back in and asked incredulously, "Did he just say that is his order?!?"  All I can say is it is a good thing you are so darn cute.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Disrespectful Eyes

To my son Tommy,

I would like to share a quote of a quote I found in an article written by crime reporter Justin George for a Baltimore Sun website about the violence this year in Baltimore.  (it may have been in print to but I found it on the web)
Owens said he knows what’s causing the violence. It’s not drugs or money, though they are fuel. Triggers are pulled over “respect” — and it doesn’t take much.
“It can be words,” he said. “It can be eyes. Eyes can be disrespectful. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.”
Turn the other cheek today and someone will take advantage of you tomorrow.
“At the end of the day, if someone feels disrespected, what’s the first thing they think about?” he said. 
I thought this was very telling and gave more insight than I could ever find about the problems that face our city and our community.  The quoted young man has lost three of his friends to violence in three years.  His story and the story of his lost friends and the insight from his words made me extremely sad.

The media and the politicians and the police force all point to this and that and that and this as the cause of our problems and tell us how they will solve it.  But my question is how do we cure it? How do you reach into someone's heart and teach them that true respect starts with respect for themselves and respect for life?  How do you show someone that you don't need to posture and be tough and have street cred to survive when they have a million examples of just the opposite?  Prisoners who are just trying to survive their time learn to always look down and not make eye contact in case someone misconstrues disrespect.  Are the Baltimore streets no better than a prison?  How can we teach that you don't need to kill to seem strong when our own nation is considering missile strikes so it doesn't seem weak?  I don't know the answers to these questions but I know as a society and a community these are the questions we should be focusing on, instead of which child actor is twerking her dignity away.

I promise to raise you with enough self-respect that you won't even consider taking a life for the disrespectful (real or imagined) way someone looks at you.  You will respect God, the law, life, and most of all yourself more than your pride or how others think of you and how you look.  You will not throw away your life or the life of others because you thought you would seem weak for inaction.  If we could get every father in Baltimore to make this same promise, this same pledge, perhaps then we could start to make a difference.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, September 2, 2013

No Labor Labor Day

To my son Tommy,

Once again we successfully celebrated Labor Day by skirting work and shirking most responsibility.  We started slow and amused ourselves in the morning by burying each family member in stuffed animals.  Later we hit the movies down in Arundel Mills mall to watch Despicable Me 2.  After the movie y took a train ride around the mall, and we also hit the Lego store and bought a kit to make a police helicopter.  We got home and bribed you into a back to school bath by promising you to make the kit.  Somehow we got you to bed at 7:30 after what has become a habitual game of hide and seek.  In fact a late night run to Planet Fitness was my closest thing to working.  Below are a couple snapshots from our escapades.  All in all another successful no work holiday.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, September 1, 2013


To my son Tommy,

There is many a reason that most Catholic churches fill the back rows first, but today's Gospel is probably one of the most cited.  The reading warns us not to seek a place of honor above our station.  The parable challenges us to be humble in our pursuits.  It also challenges us to do things without seeking reward or repayment.  We are promised the humble shall be exalted

Humility is a tricky thing.  Many are filled with a false sense of humbleness that is used to game the system.  Many think humility is thinking less of yourself on purpose even though you don't believe it.  Some go off fishing for compliments and flattery by purposely downplaying an event.  They receive their fleeting temporal reward soon after. True humility is far from these examples and is based in intention and service and sacrifice and love.

Intent is a big part of humble action.  We sit pretty close to the front of the church now.  It isn't because we think we deserve to be sitting in front of others nor to draw attention to ourselves.  No, we sit there because Nansy with her wheelchair likes to sit in the alcove there.  It is not pride or ego that drives us to the front rows but a desire to join our extended family as we worship.

Service is another part of living a humble life.  We must live to serve others and serve our fellow man.  We must not raise our pride above any job that needs doing and we must do these jobs serving humanity with a smile.  Often in this world people believe certain jobs below their status.  They won't dig ditches or pick up trash or mow lawns because that would be beneath them.  Ask yourself, who would effect our lives more if they stopped doing their jobs? the high priced well respected business man or the often looked down upon trash man?  I think I could live without the suits.  The humble trash collector does more of a service for us yet rarely receives any thought or praise.  If there is a job to do, even if it stinks, get out and do it and do it with a smile and pure intention in your heart.

As you serve with pure intent, you will find you may have to sacrifice.  Humility demands a sacrifice of pride and ego, but the sacrifice doesn't necessarily end there.  I think of the destitute father who sacrifices his own meal to feed his child.  I think of that struggling mother, who kids are not wanting for anything, who always finds a couple dollars for the poor box by sacrificing her own luxuries.  I think of the police officer who just lost his life serving a warrant in our neighborhood who, along with his family, sacrificed so much to try and protect our neighborhood.  All these people sacrifice so much for others.

Those who sacrifice and serve and do it with pure intent show us how to love.  That is why humility is a concept and virtue in most every major religion throughout the world.  Some think it a challenge to lead a humble life but their real challenge is to learn how to truly love, for if your heart has true love living within, humility is second nature.

Sincerely with love from your dad,