I remember a teacher in grade school saying, “Tonight for homework here’s what I want you to do…draw a picture of your family and then tell me what family means to you.


Over the years (thankfully) I’ve lost the memory of the exact picture that I drew…but I do remember writing F A M I L Y- means Father And Mother I Love You.


You see, as a child back in grade school the world looked much simpler to me…I was sure a mom and dad and my brothers is what made a family.


For a while, growing up, that was my understanding…my position…until I realized that F A M I L Y has so many different definitions.


I’ve seen families with single parents…just a mom or just a dad…where everyone was happy with the one parent that they had.


I’ve seen families where the parents have died…or given up…said…I can’t…where the children were being raised by their grandparents, uncles or aunts.


I’ve seen families with adopted children…with instant sisters and brothers…I’ve seen families with two dads and families with two mothers.


And in a world that is still filled with mysteries …. Still brimming with miracles and surprises I’ve seen families with parents of all different colors, shapes and sizes.


Why I’ve even had friends throughout the years…friends who have been so close to me that I see them as my brother or sister…I consider them family.


The older and wiser I become…I realize how better off this world would be…if every person thought of every other person…as part of their family.


Today if I was asked to draw a picture of my family…I’d draw the Earth from up above…and when asked what F A M I L Y means to me…I’d simply answer…LOVE.

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Another baseball season begins and as teams vie for fortune and for fame…I’m reminded of the time I tried to teach my children….




It was years ago when we took our children to the ballpark on a bright and sunny day.

We wore baseball caps, sat in the stands and watched grown men at play.


We’d been sitting for a few innings when I heard my daughter exclaim,

“Daddy, this is boring...what do you like about this game?”


It seemed at their young age my children didn’t share my baseball adoration…and I was sure they weren’t quite ready for a lengthy explanation.


As we basked in the sunshine eating hot dogs with ketchup and mustard on our buns…I could have explained the rules of the game, about strikes and balls and runs.


I could have taken that opportunity surrounded by my children and my wife to explain how baseball, if we let it, can teach us about life.


I could have pointed out, although it is individual player’s name we scream, baseball teaches people to work together as a team.


That baseball teaches humility…for no matter how hard you work, or what path you in life you choose…sometimes you’re going to win...and sometimes you’re going to lose.


That baseball teaches perseverance, determination, tenacity and grit…that you shouldn’t worry when you strike out because you’ll get another chance to hit.


That you must endure the slumps in life and the havoc they may wreak…If you’re also to enjoy the jubilance and the joy of a winning streak.


I wanted to say no matter how many bases you run...no matter where you roam…that life will circle back and you’ll always feel safe at home.


All these thoughts went through my mind as we sat in the park that day…wondering what to tell my children as we watched grown men at play.


“What do I like about baseball,” I said smiling for suddenly I knew “What I like best about baseball...is sharing it with you".


Our children are all grown now and, as far as baseball...that’s a shame…because I never got to explain to them the intricacies of the game.



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When we were younger and we’d dream…Debrah and I would agree on what size and shape and color…our perfect house would be.


It would be a bungalow with room for our family…and more…the kitchen would be big and modern…there’d be bedrooms on the second floor.


There’d be a huge yard for our children…with a garden that would bloom in Spring…

A porch would stretch the entire length…with rocking chairs…and a swing.


Our first house was not a bungalow…but we felt it’s bones were strong…and we thought it’d be a great place to start…until our dream house came along.


It was a cozy little house with oak trees on the land…but it turns out saving up for our dream house was not as easy as we planned.


We realized quite early…as I’m sure many of you can relate…with children to feed and bills to pay…our dream house would have to wait.


Something was always breaking or there was something else we needed to buy…and so a year…and then another…and then another year went by.


Our children started growing…we were following an old familiar theme……and it seemed the dream house we first dreamed of…would forever remain a dream.


But we grew to love our house and neighborhood…it’s been our home…our haven…our retreat…our children grew up playing in this yard…riding their bikes along this street.


This house has seen us through all our dramas…every comedy…every tragedy…it’s where our children learned to laugh and love…it’s where we built our family.


Life is often unpredictable…for the more we live…the more it seems…happiness is just a matter…of rearranging dreams.


Because now we wouldn’t dream of living in any other house…

but this house…

the house we’ve grown into…

It turns out our dream house wasn’t the house we dreamed about…

It’s the house where our dreams came true.

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That old blue chair doesn’t look that special upon one’s first perceiving…but, as often is the case in life, looks can be deceiving.


There’s a reason we keep that old chair in our house…a reason it will always be there…you see it has a history…it was Deborah’s great grandmother’s chair.


That chair has been in Deborah’s family for years…ours is just the latest house in which it dwells…If you chance to sit and listen…oh, the stories it will tell.


Sitting in a chair like this you realize…this chair is not just yours…as you rest your arms on the same arm rests where Deborah’s great grandma rested hers.


Memories in that old blue chair run through its frame…run deep…close your eyes and you can feel Deb’s great grandma rocking her to sleep.


Keep them closed and you can feel as she listened to her old phonograph…you can see her smile as she watched her family…you can hear her cry…her laugh.


That old chair is more than just a chair…through all these years it has survived…and the memories stored within it help keep a family’s history alive.


That chair will one day be handed down again and again and in other houses it will dwell…and to those lucky enough to sit in it…oh, the stories it will tell…


No doubt people will say that old chair doesn’t look so special upon their first perceiving…

until they sit down…

close their eyes and realize…

looks can be deceiving.


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On my walk this morning I felt particularly blessed when, after hearing, chirping from the tree above me, I watched two birds leave their nest.


I saw the two little birds look back to their mom and dad…then look up at the sky…and I’m sure I saw pride on the faces of their parents..as they watched their babies fly.


I don’t know how birds think…but I think I could have guessed…they were wondering what to do now as they stared at their empty nest.


If I could talk bird I would tell them…don’t worry, don’t fret…don’t cry…for I had the same feeling when I watched our children fly.


I would tell them all parents wonder if our children have learned the lessons we have taught…how today you think your nest is empty…but tomorrow you’ll realize…it is not.


Because there’s something every parent knows…every parent understands…that no matter how high our children fly…eventually they have to land.


And wherever their wings have taken them…wherever they come to rest…they will visit us with questions as they begin to build their nests.


Yes, if I could talk bird here are two more things I’d say…that though their children have left the nest…they have not flown away.


I wold tell them to get ready for all the excitement…

all the adventures they have in store…

I would tell them their nest is far from empty…

it’s just grown much larger than before.


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My parents found the perfect way to make me behave on each step of the life I’m notching…they told me whatever I do good or bad to remember…my ancestors are watching.


They said I am the product of many ancestors who were on this Earth before me…and how each ancestor is but one leaf upon our family tree.


Wherever I go I carry the branches of my family tree…it’s how those who came before are watching over me.


It’s been a rather easy way to keep my life in sync…because before I do or say anything, I ask myself….what would my ancestor think?


I have felt my ancestors all my life…since I was a little boy…I have shared with them my sadness…I have shared with them my joy. 


No matter where’ I’ve gone in life…no matter how old I’ve grown…I’ve always had this wonderful feeling…that I have never been alone.


Whatever actions I’m about to take…my reasoning is always the same…

I want to honor those who came before me…I don’t want to cause them shame


And I look forward to the day I get to meet my ancestors…and they get to meet me…when I find my branch and take my place upon our family tree.


Where I can smile down on my great great grandchildren and the lives they will be notching…knowing from my place upon our family tree…along with my ancestors…I’ll be watching.



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One of my favorite parts of Christmas is not the joy and merriment we make…it’s not the presents…or the food…it’s the family photo that we take.


Our yearly Christmas photo, a gift that can’t be bought…shows the changes within our family another year has brought.


Change is subtle…occurring gradually throughout our days and nights…our Christmas photo, capturing a moment in time, brings our changes into the light.


Some changes are easy to see…they don’t involve a lot of thinking…like how our children and now grandchildren have grown taller…while Deborah and I are shrinking.


It is easy to see the changes we’ve all made physically…but each year our Christmas photo makes me think of the changes I cannot see.


What were our highs and lows this year…who had joys…who had heartaches along the way…who finished school, who changed jobs, who came home…who moved away.


But my favorite part as I view those who in this years photo are cast…is the moment I take this years photo and compare it with Christmas photos of the past…


Looking back…I can see all the changes in our lives that have taken place…but I still see the same smiles…the same love on every face.


I think that’s why I love our Christmas family photos so much…why they give ma such a thrill…because I can see the things about us that have changed…and the one thing that never will.

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When I was young there were many joys of Christmas and one of the biggest joys for me was opening up my presents I found underneath our Christmas tree.


I’d hold the present in my hand with a smile a mile wide, then rip the wrapping paper off to see what was inside.


When I grew a little older my focus shifted off of me and I found my joy in the presents for my family underneath our Christmas tree.


I’d see them hold their presents in their hands with smiles a mile wide then watch them rip the wrapping paper off to see what was inside.


When I grew a little older still…my focus underwent another shift for when it came to Christmas every year I wished for but one gift.


It wasn’t the presents I’d give my family or the presents they’d give to me…it was the presence of my family around our Christmas tree.


Children grow, they move away…that is what families do and it gets harder and harder every year for my one wish to come true.


But when it does you can see me all night with a smile a mile wide…having opened up my present to find my family inside.



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Have you ever read a book to your child, back when they were young and more carefree?

They pick out a book, brings it to you, then climb up on your knee.


With your arms outstretched holding the book you and your child feel safe and warm…and you realize at that moment a perfect circle has been formed.


Your arms forming a circle with your child in the center.

A circle so intimate that for a short time…no one else can enter.


I hope we’ve all been blessed to be the center of a circle just like this…which usually ends with a sigh or a smile...perhaps a little kiss.


Soon that child gets too big for our knee as they grow into a woman or a man…and so we find ourselves searching for perfect circles where and when we can.


There are moments around the dinner table when you smile because you’re aware…as you scan from face to face to face…that the perfect circle is right there.


There are moments around a campfire where laughter is the norm…while kneeling down toasting a marshmallow you feel the warmth of that circle form.


You find these circles in instants…the fun is never knowing where they might be…when they’ll be captured by your heart and imprinted in your memory.


We hope our children and grandchildren remember when they sat upon our knee

We hope the circles we form extend out…like ripples on the sea


For, that is the beauty of the circles we create amidst our family and friends…once formed, that circle is unbreakable...

because a circle never ends.



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