Tag Archives: Family

My Favorite July Birthday – Over the Moon

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Today is The Cinnamon Girl’s birthday which makes her astrological sign Cancer. I don’t know how much you know about astrology and signs. I have learned a lot in these wonderful years I’ve been married to The Cinnamon Girl and what her sign implies is powerful.


I have learned that Cancers are guided by the moon and The Cinnamon Girl surely loves the night and the moonlight and looks beautiful on our walks when it is full.

She looks beautiful all the time…

Cancers are tenacious. My amazing wife has passion and drive and when her brilliant mind takes hold of something, she does not let go. Ever.  She’s a woman who used to bill her time in 15 minute increments. She knows how to get the job done.

Cancers are highly imaginative. The Cinnamon Girl’s creativity so often plays out like those images of someone writing feverishly on a window with a dry erase marker. It plays out fast. It plays out richly. It plays out in breathtaking fashion.

Cancers are loyal. My wife’s loyalty might be her most incredible quality. When she takes you in, it’s forever, friends. You want to be taken in.

Cancers are sympathetic and The Cinnamon Girl’s sympathy is as boundless as anyone I’ve ever met.

Today, on your birthday, remember those who know you know all of this about you. It’s why they celebrate you and praise you, want to be near you and give you gifts.

It’s why I am the luckiest man in the world to celebrate and praise you and give you gifts.

Here’s the truth: The Cinnamon Girl is the real gift.

Happy birthday, baby.

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Happiest of Birthdays Today – HJ Jr

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There are very few people I know who are as concerned about the next steps in life as HJ jr is. He has made plans and kept them. That’s ever impressed me. He has done so all his life with determination and drive. He has looked to the next step – the next place he wants to be – and has worked to get there. He has decided what he wants and how to achieve it. Each time I speak with him about his goals and his dreams and I hear how far-reaching they are, I want to remind him: you’ve got time, amigo. You’ve got plenty of time.

Today on his 23rd birthday, I can say this: Each year is the happiest, the best. And I hope that he experiences that this year!

I know that he will…

Happiest of birthdays!

I know you’ll hit the jackpot!


The Happiest Age
Poet: Wilhelmina Stitch

What age is happiest?
Had you asked me,
I would have made this plea:
the Now is best.

What joy to live with zest each newborn day;
and from the Moment wrest what Life will give away.
The Past is but a guest who came and went,
and left this one behest: to be content.

Think how To-day is blest!
We’ve eyes to see Nature in Beauty drest for you, for me.
What matter that the crest of Youth is past.
Youth lives within the breast with joys that last.
The will to do our best, and hands for giving.
Oh! Now’s the happiest, best time for living!

What age is happiest?
Oh! hear my vow, for I have put the test –
the happiest’s Now.
Sweet sighs and kindly jest for warmth and cheer;
and Love’s most high bequest to crown the year.

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Four Thanksgiving Blessings

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What I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving 2019 can be summed up in four pictures all of which were taken long ago. The Cinnamon Girl, HJ jr, Stretch and Sous Chef are blessings no one deserves… I am grateful to God for them today and every day.

And this remains all I need to know and all I must hold in my heart:




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A Letter To My Daughter On Her Birthday | Sous Chef Turns 21

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Today is Sous Chef’s 21st birthday. If you will allow me a moment, I’d like to write her a quick note. It has to be quick, because her schedule – even in this last year of college, is insanely packed. When she isn’t in class, she is working. When she isn’t working, she is volunteering. When she isn’t volunteering she is taking photos of the food she and her roommates cook and posting them on social media in a fashion that should make Martha Stewart jealous…

Simpy put, she is who I want to be when I grow up.

To My One and Only Daughter,

It is shocking to me how fast these years have flown. What is not shocking is what a wonderful young woman you have become. You are someone I want to be like, someone I want to live up to, someone I strive to emulate. You are caring and compassionate, wise far beyond your years, talented and smart. You have ever known what you want and how to go about getting it. You are confident. You are laugh-out-loud funny. You are lovely.

You are the gift today on your birthday, the true and real gift.

We would be lost without you.  

We love you, kiddo. As your uncle once said when you were a toddler running around a party: “Put a helmet on that one. She’s the only hope of this generation.”

If we had more people like you in this world, it would be a far, far better place.

Happiest of birthdays! We couldn’t love you any more than we do.

Sous Chef Through the Years – 21 Shots

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The Essential Story of My Mother on Her Birthday

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To honor my mother’s birthday this year, I thought I would share the essential Mom story, the one that really captured who she is as a mother and a person, how she made me the man I am and what her life has meant to me, to my sisters, to her grandchildren and to those who are lucky enough to know her.

I set to work outlining a few ideas about this, jotting down notes and memories to share, searching for the best one – the quintessential story.

I made a list that included her laying beneath my sisters’ and my cribs and shaking them with her feet to entertain us, putting a toy with a suction cup on her forehead to make my sister laugh before Mom and Dad were going out to a public event and pulling it off – leaving a broken circle of blood vessels, always talking to me about superheroes and Stars Trek and Wars, coming to all of my plays, listening to songs I wrote as a kid, being my best supporter in romance young and old, listening to every story of heartbreak I endured and enduring them with me, always being my biggest supporter, reading the novels I have written, sharing laughter and tears, sharing in the birth of my children, in my marriages, in my life.

But here’s the point: there are too many stories, too many notes, too many memories that are wonderful and perfect about my mom. There are too many moments to choose just one that is truly quintessential.

Here is what is essential: I have, always and forever, known the true, deep and abiding emotion of unequivocal love. There is no greater gift I could ever have received. Mom’s love made me who I am and it’s a gift I try to share.

And I love you, Mom. Forever and unequivocally.

Just like you.

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Dad, We Didn’t Really Lose You… Why Are You Laughing?

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g-sxgs2uEight years ago today, my father passed away. When writing about Dad on this anniversary, as I have done each of the last 8 years, I typically have the impulse to type “we lost Dad” but I hear the joke forming in my subconscious – a joke Dad would have loved – that it’s pretty careless to lose ones father.

That’s fair. And funny.

Dad loved jokes.

My sisters and mom and I and his grandkids and children-in-law learned much from him and all carry parts of him with us. I suspect they, like I, think about Dad each-and-every day. I know that I do.

There are occasions, though, when I hear my voice bouncing off the back wall of a classroom or when I catch my reflection just right in a mirror or when I have a thought pop in my head whose origin I quickly recognize as coming from him, when I feel so very close to Dad, when it feels – in some real and palpable way – like he is not really gone.

Our minds and our emotions are funny like that, aren’t they?

It’s 37 years ago and I am opening brown paper grocery bags full of DC Comics superhero cups that Dad collected for me.

It’s 32 years ago and during a blizzard and Dad is among fewer than 25 people in the audience of a play in which I was acting.

It’s 25 years ago and the family is gathering in the mountains of Colorado – mountains Dad said blocked the view – for the first of many, many weeks spent on vacation together.

It’s 24 years ago and Dad and I start work on a remodel of a bathroom he estimates will take 3 days. 10 days later we finish.

It’s 21 years ago and Dad and I are at Coors Field watching the All Star Game.

It’s 12 years ago and Dad is speaking about love at my marriage.

It’s 8 years ago and I am just leaving work with my wife and daughter hearing that Dad has died.

It’s 2 minutes ago and I feel closer to Dad than ever.

We haven’t lost him. But Dad would have loved that joke…

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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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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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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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