Category Archives: Family

Cinnamon Girl’s Birthday | A Favorite Day Of The Year

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unnamedToday is The Cinnamon Girl’s birthday and it is truly one of my favorite days of the year. I hope she knows how I feel about her every day of the year. I hope she knows how much our children love her. I hope she knows what an amazing person she is.

The Cinnamon Girl is a person

  • who is shockingly intelligent and quick witted and funny…
  • whose laughter makes me so happy (it’s a goal of every day of my life to make her laugh)…
  • who is beautiful in every sense of the word…
  • who understands the world better than I ever will…
  • whose deep rooted compassion for others has inspired her to change her life over-and-over again…
  • whose confidence makes others confident, too…
  • who is an incredible role model…
  • who is brave and strong…
  • whose very presence in my life makes my life better…
  • who we get to celebrate today.

She is most often the smartest person in any room, able to speak on any subject. She is an engaging story teller, a raconteur. She is the kind of person people want to emulate, people old and young. She makes those around her better.

She is an extraordinary and engaging person and, as I have said many, many times, the only flaw I see in her is that she foolishly selected me as the person with whom to spend the rest of her life.

I am going to hold her to that.

Happiest of birthdays, my love. I am glad we take today to celebrate you!


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Mom And My Sisters – Mother’s Day 2019

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A Mother’s Day collection of photo gallery of my mom and my sisters… Happy Mother’s Day to each of them! They are wonderful moms and have wonderful children (that seems a bit self serving when talking about my own mother, doesn’t it?

The Mater is and has ever been the most fierce supporter of her children and her grandchildren. I mean this. Don’t cross her on this. Don’t get in her way. She is such an example of unconditional love that her picture should be in the dictionary by the term… it was amazing to grow up with such a mother; it is amazing to be an adult with such a mother.

Hotel California, my older sister, in a very real sense, raised my children when they were very young. We spent so much time together when our four kids were small that, sometimes, I think the kids didn’t know who their parents actually were (that sounded weird)! My kids are blessed to have her as their aunt.

Wookie Woman, my younger sister, will do anything for anyone. She is simply that kind. What that means is she does so much for her nieces and nephews and, in point of fact, for our kids, she has taken them to concerts (Taylor Swift, anyone?), babysat them and chatted with them about their lives as they have grown older. There is no one I’d rather they talk to if they want to learn lessons about love. No. One.

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Filed under Family, Hotel California, Mother, Mothers, Mothers Day, Wookie Woman

YOU Did This | A Mother’s Work

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It’s possible that last year’s Mother’s Day blog about my incredible wife and the mother of our children cannot be equaled, so I have included it below, primarily because my idea for this year’s edition was a sequel to last year’s.

Simply put, we have 3 grown children, each confident in who they are, each making their way in this complex and ever-changing world, each sure of the Cinnamon Girl’s love and devotion.

What I want my wife to remember today (and I hope she knows it EVERYDAY) is that she did this. She made them who they are. She gave them the support, the grace and the love.

She is an amazing mother. Our kids are so very lucky (because you don’t get to choose mom) to have her. I am lucky to parent with her.

Caroline in Snow

How do I know this? I know this because I live with The Cinnamon Girl.

We have three children and I can write today – with no fear of being contradicted – that each of our children has become the strong, young adult they have become because of her love for them.

For them, love begins and ends in her motherhood.

I wonder what they would say about The Cinnamon Girl if you got them talking, it they could identify what really makes her so special in their lives. What might they say? I am not certain, but I do have some guesses.

HJ jr might remark about how his mother has never let him down and always, ever and forever, has his back. He might say she has been his confidante and champion. He might say she is always there for him. He might say that she has made him a stronger and better person.

He might say all of that.

Stretch might say that The Cinnamon Girl taught him not too take life too seriously. He might say she taught him the so critical gift of irreverence. He might say she showed him through humor just how much she loves him.

He might say all of that.

Sous Chef might say that The Cinnamon Girl is one of the best role models for growing up into a strong and confident woman she could have ever had. She might say that she loves it when they cook together, or talk about make up together, or talk about life together. She might say that The Cinnamon Girl helped her become the amazing young woman she is.

She might say all of that.

As for me, I would say I have learned more about parenting (and about life) from my beautiful wife and partner than I ever would have thought possible. I learned it even more as I watched her mother her mother in the last stages of my mother-in-law’s life these last few years. What love and what grace my wife showed. What love and what grace she has.

2012-07-11 11.56.08

They are so different now. If you look carefully, you can see CINNAMON GIRL in the background…

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Filed under Cinnamon Girl, Family, HJ jr, Mother, Mothers, Mothers Day, Sous Chef, Stretch, The Cinnamon Girl

22 Years of Stretch – And One Important Year All But Done

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In honor of my son’s birthday today – his 22nd and it’s as difficult to believe that he is 22 as it is to believe that he is only 22 – and in commemoration of the first year of teaching that he will conclude in just a few short weeks, I share this true story which happens to have accompanying, photographic proof.

Stretch is in the University of Notre Dame’s ACE Program which places teachers in schools around the country and is concluding his first year of teaching high school English (I begged him not to follow me into the family business!) at a Catholic School in Oklahoma City. By all accounts – his, his principal’s, his girlfriend’s, his roomates’ – he has had a great year. I am sure Stretch is a gifted teacher and coach. He loves his students. What could be more important?

He was home for Christmas Break in December and he had work to do, assessments and grading.

He dove in with relish, sitting at the kitchen table on which he used to do his own homework as a student, and attacked the pile energetically. As time passed, his affect changed. His enthusiasm waned. He pulled on a hoodie. Then he pulled the hood over his head.

He could be heard to mutter “I don’t think I taught these kids anything…” and The Cinnamon Girl (a teacher herself with two decades of experience) and I laughed, having been there so, so many times. 

I have no doubt Stretch taught his students he cared about them, he was pulling for them and he loved them because that’s what he puts out in the universe, always.

Stretch went into the family business. I couldn’t be more proud and his school and students couldn’t be more lucky.

Stretch at Work | December 2018

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Evergreen Easter: Constant Renewal

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First published in spring of 2014

The Cinnamon Girl asked me when we were on our evening walk yesterday – Good Friday – what my childhood memories of Easter are. This was in the context of us discussing whether or not the Easter Bunny would visit HJ, jr, Stretch and Sous Chef. They are all “too old” for the Easter Bunny to come, but The Cinnamon Girl and I realized that whether the kids are too old for the Easter Bunny is immaterial. We are not too old and we are not ready to give up that tradition before we have to do so. The Easter Bunny will track us down Sunday morning as he has done for years.


As to my favorite memories – Though many of them revolve around my father’s life as a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, I am completely taken with the recollection of the fact that the Easter Bunny would always leave my sisters and I one, Christmas-like gift in our baskets – a toy or a book (I have, for some reason, great affinity for the illustrated Lord of the Rings story book which went along with the Ralph Bakshi’s arresting (to me) animated film – see my favorite song from it HERE) – along with amazing jelly beans, chocolate rabbits and cream filled candy eggs from Russell Stouffer’s candy.  Funny, the Easter Bunny now leaves my kids almost exactly the same thing – amazing how that works.

Holy Thursday often brought with it a Seder Supper. This was the early to mid 1980s and our parish, built in the mid 1970s, did not have pews. It had plastic chairs which made configurations of the worship space relatively easy. The Seder reconfiguration made the place look like a dining hall with plastic chairs pushed up to folding tables. During the Seder, the clerics of the parish – including my dad – sat at a “head table” on the raised dais where the altar of the church was situated normally. We would read the parts of the Seder Supper aloud, eating the food – the lamb and hard-boiled eggs and bitter herbs (parsley dipped in salt water) – as the tables all around the church followed suit.

The Seder Supper I most remember was the one wherein I decided I really, really liked the bitter herbs and took a massive portion of them onto my plate. I think I did it just to make my older sister laugh. For some reason, I felt pressure to eat all that I had taken, be it the star power of sitting at the head table or an admonition of my parents I don’t remember, and I knew that I would never be able to choke down all the parsley I’d piled, Roy Neary-like, into a mountain in front of me. Subtly and oh, so cooly, I shifted the Mount Bitter Herbs into the pockets of my brand new sports coat.

They weren’t discovered until the next time I wore the thing. Months later. I recall my mother being thrilled.

My mother, sisters and I spent many a Holy Saturday night at Easter Vigil’s, listening to the readings – the many, many readings – while waiting to hear my father read the Gospel. As he was an Associate Pastor at our parish, he seemed – at least to me, his hero-worshiping son – to out rank the other deacons at the parish and to get to be the “main” deacon (if there is such a thing) at major celebrations. But, after Dad was done with the Gospel, the long service seemed only to get longer and, by its conclusion, my sisters and I had usually drawn the ire of my mother for conducting miniature sword fights with the tapers we’d normally be given before the start of mass.

And that was when we were kids. When we were adults and attended an Easter Vigil or two, I clearly remember one of my brothers-in-law, Looks Like Dean Cain, craving his taper into a giant tooth and pretending to spit it out of his mouth repeatedly at the most inappropriate times of the liturgy.

Without a doubt, my favorite Easter Vigil was the one when The Cinnamon Girl came into the Roman Catholic Church and I got to serve as her sponsor. Beautiful, radiant and stunning, she looked like an angel to me and to the congregation as she was confirmed and had her First Communion. My parents, her mother and brother, our children, my sisters and their families, The Magister and his wife and kids were all on hand as The Cinnamon Girl made these sacraments.

Whether or not The Cinnamon Girl and I have always made it to church every Sunday since (spoiler alert – we haven’t) and whether I’ve always felt as close to Christ as I did in that moment, I can say that, this Easter, as I think about the resurrection and the mystery, I know I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have all the questions.

I do have these memories – many of them involving my father – and I remember what The Mater has been telling me since my dad died. She’s said, time-and-again, Dad’s not worried about anything now. He has all the answers.

I shouldn’t be surprised. On this Easter, I remember that my Dad always had all the answers.

Even if many of those answers were not quite right… That was part of his charm.


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Lessons from Dad on His Birthday

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I have reflected on my dad many times in my blogs but I have been reminded of this blog and these thoughts about him for months. Perhaps it is because I am a school leader again, but, man, this metaphor holds up.

I love you, Dad.

img_20170812_0192It rarely occurs to me, at the end of a gathering at church, a meeting at school or a conference break out session to leave whatever room I have been prior to all the chairs being picked up and put away. I often grab the chairs near me, break down the table at which I’ve been sitting, throw away the trash, recycle the recyclables.

It feels very built-in. It’s pre-programmed. It’s automatic.

I know from where the impulse comes. It’s more a nurture thing than a nurture thing. It comes from my parents.

It comes from my dad.

Mom and Dad would take my sisters and me to all kinds of church functions when we were kids and, inevitably, after each one, we’d have to wait for them to clean the place up and to pick up the chairs. As I got older – big enough to handle a chair or two on my own – I began to pitch in. Over forty years later, I haven’t found a reason to stop.

Today would have been Dad’s birthday. (You can see other thought about him HERE, HERE and HERE). I think about him daily and I could blog paragraph after paragraph about the lessons I learned from him. But somehow, in some simple way, staying to move the chairs, long after everyone else had made the gate sums up who my father was.

Dad always stayed to move the chairs.

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Grateful 2018

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Again, on this Thanksgiving as I do on most others, I share this with you:


The Cinnamon Girl and I have more than we could ever enumerate.

We have 3 wonderful children.

We have two careers we love.

We have a roof over our heads.

We have 5 lovely pets.

We have cars to drive, food to eat, pillows under our heads.

We have family we love.

We have friends we enjoy.

We have a God who loves us.

We have more than we deserve.

We are grateful.

We are blessed.

We are loved.



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Filed under Cinnamon Girl, Family, Holidays, Thanksgiving, The Cinnamon Girl