December 22, 2012

The Tea Party

The Power of a Daddy's Love

I heard an amusing story the other day, and thought that if told right, it would give you a glimpse into just how much children mean to their daddies. Biology may be able to make a man a father, but it is love that turns him into a daddy.

So please enjoy this little story about Mark, and the little girl he loves.

Mark and Amy were a typical young married couple, and when Katrina was born, their family became complete. Mark adored his Kitkat girl, and she was perfect in his eyes.

One Saturday morning, Amy had to do some shopping, and since Katrina was not quite four, she could be a handful. Mark jumped on the chance to play house-dad, and with Kitkat in his arms, they shooed Amy out the door ...

When Amy returned home that afternoon, she found Katrina sound asleep inside a makeshift tent in the middle of the frontroom, that had been created with the bedspread from their bed, strung up between the couch, the recliner and a kitchen chair.

Mark was sitting at the kitchen table, with a queasy look on his face, and tears standing in his eyes ..

"Honey, what's wrong?" The worry in Amy's eyes and the concern in her voice just seemed to make Mark hang his head in shame.

"Well, Kitkat and I had a lot of fun today," he said. "We watched cartoons, had a PB&J picnic in the back yard, and then we had a tea party."

"Sounds like it was fun," said Amy, with a growing curiosity. What had made Mark look so ill?

"It was. When we sat down at the coffee table, and she brought out her little tea set .. she called me Prince Daddy, and told me I was her Kite in Shyding Armor.
She then proceeded to fill our cups with water from her teapot. I sipped my 'tea' and told her a story about my magic adventures in Wonderland. When the tea was gone she jumped up and raced off, and returned with another teapot full.
It was only after the third cup that I realized I hadn't heard any water running, and it dawned on me that she's so little, there was only one place she could reach water anyway ..."

Amy could feel the laughter bubbling up inside her, but stopped herself from actually blurting it out. Mark looked as if he were in intense pain.

"God help me," Mark said, "but she served SIX rounds ..."

This story is one I made up, but the emotions are so very real. On the day I went from husband to daddy, my whole world changed, and so did my concept of love. My kids have always been a source of inspiration, pride and motivation in my life, and this message is for them.

Guys ... I'll drink your tea with you anytime, regardless of where it came from ...

From Grandpa's Heart ...

December 10, 2012

Swept Away!

Let's Take A Trip

One of the goals I had when I started this legacy of messages, was to also share some stories from my past. I know that my grandpa never told me much about his childhood, and I wish he had.

So follow me into the way-back machine. Buckle your seat-belt (oh wait, there aren't any), and hang on, as I share with you a true-life adventure of yesterday, and a tale of the boy I used to be  ... 

The Great Outdoors

When I was young, long before the days of the internet, cell phones or video games, we were forced to find ways to entertain ourselves. Color TV was only for those who could afford it, and there were only 3 network channels on our little black and white set. Besides, that  little video window on the world only truly held appeal on Saturday mornings (cartoons), right after school (Sesame Street), or at midnight on Friday (monster movies).

This means that when it wasn't raining, and I didn't have a good book to take me away, I spent a lot of time playing outside. We moved around quite a bit when I was young, but having a father with 8 brothers and sisters meant that whenever we lived close enough to one of them, there were always a lot of cousins to hang out with.

The Expedition

In the fall of 1969, I was five, and still looked about 3. I was always small for my age, but that didn't mean I was going to be left out. During one of our visits, two of my older cousins decided that they were going for a hike through the woods and fields near my aunt's house, in a little town called South Prairie, in Washington state. Mickey was 8, and was my buddy that autumn, and his older brother Bobby was about 13 .... which meant that he was one of those mysterious BIG kids known as teenagers.

As we went exploring through the trees, we came upon a roaring river. (Okay, it was actually just the South Prairie Creek). It had been raining for days previously and this normally quiet little stream was swollen and the churning water was racing, carrying twigs and debris along as it bullied its way to the Puyallup River, some 10 miles further downstream. In my little-guy's eyes, it could have been the Missisippi.

We Have To Cross

Bobby and his other teenage friend who had joined us, both headed right into the turbulence, and waded, with a little effort, through the water which came about halfway up their thighs. They kept on going, leaving Mickey and I to get across somehow. Mickey looked at the fast moving water, and then at how little I was, and told me he had an idea. He would just give me a shoulder ride, and we would wade across together, the water was no deeper than his waist after all, and I was light.

I remember being nervous, but since I couldn't swim, there was no way I was going to be able to get across the river, which was about 10 feet wide, but looked to me like it was a mile or more across. So in one of those moments of childish faith and adventure, I climbed up on his shoulders, and we set off ...


We actually made it about 6 steps across, and had almost reached the halfway point, when Mickey's foot slipped on a smooth rock, and we both went sprawling into the rushing, frothy water.To this day, I can feel the icy water enveloping me, tossing me this way and that, and tumbling me over and over. I remember trying to get my face out of the water, and gasping a huge lungful of dirty tasting air each time I was able to break the surface.

The swirling river carried me downstream for almost a half mile, scrambling for something to hold on to, before I finally saw a low hanging tree branch, brushing the surface of the water. I grabbed it with one hand, then wrapped my arms around it in a death hold ... and I waited. I prayed for someone, anyone, to come find me, but I wasn't really terrified. With the total faith of the very young, I knew that I would eventually get home, but it was a long, cold vigil, as the river flowed past me and through my clothes.


After minutes that seemed like days, I heard Mickey's voice, full of terror and worry, screaming my name. I was shivering so hard that I could only croak "Over Here!" in a voice that sounded way too quiet in my own ears. He emerged from the trees, dripping wet, with eyes as big as dinner plates, and ran to the branch where I clung, With a little work, he was able to climb out on the branch and haul me out of the water.

As we lay together in the grass, shivering and letting the adrenaline fade, I still remember him looking at me and saying "You're a lot heavier than you look ..." This of course made is both start laughing, and we got up and slogged our way out of the woods, about 2 miles from the house. We trudged along the road, and cut through a neighbor's  field, wondering if they had started a search party for us.

Home At Last

When we finally got to the house, fearing a scolding or worse, we found Bobby and his buddy on the porch, eating lunch. "Oh, there you guys are." ... No one even knew we were missing! After a change of clothes and some laughter about our adventure, Mickey and I got our lunch, and decided that next time we would just climb trees instead.

As a parent and grandparent, I'm glad that they never told our parents. I'm sure my mom and dad would have been frantic, had they known the truth. I had an angel on my shoulder that day, and amazingly I never developed a fear of the water, nor even had bad dreams afterward (though I remember that day very clearly). So remember, sometimes even when someone has you on their shoulders, they might slip and fall ... and even if you end up in fast moving water over your head, just look for that branch and hang on ...

From Grandpa's Heart ...

December 4, 2012

The Seasons Of Our Lives


A Very Special Message

A dear friend of mine, who I am proud to consider a brother in my heart, lost his mother last year to illness. During her life she wrote some amazing and wonderful bits of prose, but none more moving than the following essay. I am reprinting it here with permission of her family, and I hope you are all as deeply touched by it's truth and ephemeral beauty as I am.

The Seasons of Our Lives
by Launa Janousek.

     Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. In the spring, seeds can be planted in the rich earth that has been melted from its icy winter hardness into a receptive and fertile field. In the spring, we feel the surge of new life, the urge perhaps, to begin new projects and relationships, or to see the old ones in new light. After the long, dark, cold winter, we feel the hope and promise of warmer days, as the earth readies itself for the celebration of summer and the coming to fruition of all that has been carefully and lovingly sown.
    Summer is a time of ripening, of coming to fruition. All the energies of the universe now favor abundance. The days are long and warm, the nights rich with all the fragrances of the earth. The seed that was planted in the spring comes to term in the summer; the heat of the sun alternates with the softness of the rain to bring the earth to its apex of fulfillment. Summer is also the time of relaxation and appreciation; it is the traditional vacation season, when we put aside our duties and cares to make room for rest and rejuvenation. At the end of the summer, we taste the satisfaction of the fruits of our labors, as what we have put our energy and faith into can now be realized.

   Autumn is the season of harvest. As such, it is tinged with a bittersweet quality, for it involves both maturity and decline. Traditionally, harvest time is a  time of gathering of both crops and people, all come together in joy and goodwill to help one another pick the fruits of the earth and share in the bounty. But even as we rejoice in the gifts and beauty of fall, we are aware that the glorious colors of the changing leaves have already begun to fade. The dusk is coming sooner, the air growing colder. So autumn contains both joy and urgency as we harvest and we store, making the necessary preparations that will give us sustenance during the long winter nights ahead.
   Winter is the season of reflection and challenge. In the rhythm of natural cycles, it corresponds to that part of us that must conserve our resources, draw inwards, and allow ideas and situations to hibernate and awaken in their own time. Winter is a time of opposing forces that teach us beauty through harshness. The cold both chills and invigorates us. The snow and ice can be fierce in their fury or breathtaking in their pristine purity. The long hours of darkness make us yearn for the day, while appreciating the stillness of the night, the warmth of the evening fire. Through winter we learn the art of patience and the joy of discovering new inner strengths, as we wait for new growth to emerge.
   As human beings, we need to stop and look at the trees through the seasons of our lives. Trees are magical and spiritual symbols. The tree of life and the tree of knowledge are bridges between heaven and earth with the branches reaching high to the heavens and the roots traveling deep within the earth. Without trees, life on earth would be barren and uninhabitable. Trees filter our air; the roots secure the topsoil we grow our food in; we use trees to build our homes; trees to shade us from the hot sun and provide windbreaks; we burn trees for fuel to cook with and keep us warm, and many foods, medicines and countless other useful items that we take for granted come from trees. Do you remember, or have you ever noticed how you or other children are naturally drawn to play in or around trees?
   Trees have guardian spirits, and we can learn many things from sitting quietly near a tree and communicating with its energy. Find a tree that you enjoy, stand back so that it is in full view and take your eyes to the top of the tree, admiring the space where heaven meets earth. Then look at the details of the tree, the beauty of its branches, the strength of its roots. Trees can teach us about strength, dignity, peace and giving.
   There is a season for us all, for the time to go. Death comes not in terror but in gentleness, and always on time. Death is a part of the natural process and everything has its allotted time on earth.
   If you have faced the loss of someone dear to you, imagine this was or is that person's time to go. It is the right time, the perfect time. The best way to send your loved one on is to release them in peace and total trust to the expertise of the angels. Accept the timing of the universe in death as well as in life.

A Legacy Of Love 

Launa was a very amazing woman. Though I never got to meet her, she left a big impression on many people's lives, and her spirit lives on, not only in her written words, but in her family.  She passed along her sense of wonder and beauty, and helped to create one of the nicest, and most deeply caring men I have ever known ... Her son Jeff.

Jeff and his better-half, Sharmell, have been a vital and important part of my life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren for more years than I can count. They were both present when my youngest daughter was born, and have been uncle and aunt to my kids their whole lives. They have been beside us through the good times and the bad, and I feel blessed to count them as family ... I love you guys, and will owe you more than I could ever repay, as long as I live.

As I write this, in the autumn of my own life, I am looking at the tree outside my window with a new appreciation.  As I watch the raindrops fall from its moss covered branches, I feel as if a little bit of Launa is with me, and that the trees are crying for her passing as well. Thank you, sweet lady, for sharing your beautiful view of this trip we all make through the seasons of life.

<dedicated to Launa Janousek and her family>

This message for us all was reprinted here by permission and with love,

From Grandpa's Heart ...