• Joe

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. The magical day of romance with our significant others. The Roses. The Chocolates. The Dinners. The Pajamagrams. The……... (I’ll let you fill in the blank). So much love in the air today.

I found myself thinking about some other things to make sure we love today……and every day.

Let’s start with the kids. Face it, without you they would not be here. From the moment they were nothing more than a microscopic cell, they have counted on you, believed in you, trusted you. They are not a perfect reflection of you. Nor should they be. They are growing their own way and leading their own life, and they are doing the best they can. But you are in there and they appreciate it. Somedays these kids make you laugh and somedays they drive you nuts……… Just like you did. If you don’t have your own kids, don’t underestimate that you might be that aunt or uncle who has the opportunity to make a lasting, loving impact just the same. No matter how big, strong, smart, successful they are, they look up to you and love you. The role you play, and the love you give, is unlike any other they will have in their lives.

Now that we looked down the family tree, it’s time to look up. Where would you be without your parents? Face it, without them you would not be here. From the moment you were nothing more than a microscopic cell, you counted on them, believed in them, trusted them. Their teachings are in you and whether you agreed with them or you didn’t, you learned from them. Oh, and yes, so many days they made you laugh and so many days they drove you nuts……... Just like you did. Physically or not, rest assured they are here and still teaching you, guiding you, listening to you, rooting for you, loving you. It is unlike anyone else.

Where would this post be without the “appreciate the little things in life” paragraph? You know, those microscopic moments that pass us by in a blink. The moments we know we should take notice of a little more, but we don’t. When your phone pings when that someone you hoped would text you, actually does. When it hits you that you were actually not stressing over that thing you always seem to be stressing about. When the point comes that you complete a task, any task. When you arrive at home, your home, and a shitty day finally ends. When the light hits your eyes in the morning and a new day begins. When it dawns on you that your feeling of nervousness is really the feeling of excitement. When you finally make that decision to face your fear and take a leap. (Now that I re-read this, these microscopic moments are not little at all.)

There is one common thread in all of this. Do you see it?

You are making an everlasting impact on others. You are building relationships. You are taking chances. You are overcoming obstacles. You are learning from when you succeed. You are learning from when you fail. You are achieving goals, both large and small. You are surviving bad days. You are celebrating good days. You have quite a life.

I hope today and every day, even for a microscopic moment, you love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Someone asked me last night if I was going to do any writing today. The weather was going to lend itself to a day inside with a coffee and a computer.

“I’m not sure,” I responded. “I’m looking for an inspiration.”

I had been spoiled lately. The past few weeks were kind of easy with a jolt coming from the passing of certain celebrities. Nothing like a major event of those types to make someone pause and reflect a little.

But no such “punch-in-the-face” events this week, so I felt stuck. And I was beginning to feel that my self-imposed schedule of a biweekly posting was in serious jeopardy.

So, with no writing topics to debate, we talked about the upcoming weekend. She was spending hers with her kids. The genuine joy in her voice of watching their soccer and wrestling matches was obvious. Back and forth from the field to the gym with not much time in-between to breathe, let alone eat and it all sounded like the best weekend possible. She would be working extra hard today so she could focus on the weekend activities. I couldn’t help thinking of the “my kids come first” mantra that we hear proclaimed from the mountaintop. Her kids come first.

I woke up in the middle of the night not only to the sound of some pretty harsh wind-driven rain but also to the blaring sirens of the local volunteer EMTs racing from their garage down the street. I groaned as I peered out the window, watching them race down the street, knowing that it would take me a while to fall asleep again. Lying down again I couldn’t help but think of these volunteers, racing in the cold rain at three o’clock in the morning, to help someone they didn’t know. I bet they would much rather be in bed in their own home. I

wondered if I would lose that bet.

Getting to the gym in the morning is hard enough but with interrupted sleep, it was bordering on unbearable. I forced myself as the guilt of not going would surely be worse. My usual spot on the cable pulley machine was open so I claimed it and set the weight. On the other side of the machine was this disabled kid who I’ve seen from time to time. He fastens this hook contraption to his right arm so he can grip the bar above and pull. Asking for help when he needs it, he never really seems to stay very long, but at least he goes is what I always conclude. Whenever I see him, I notice the hook and get back to my workout. This morning I noticed something else. A smile. Happiness and accomplishment at conquering twenty pounds. I don’t think he saw me staring as he pulled the hooked bar down to his chest. At least I hope he didn’t. I raised the weight on my end, took a deep breath, and pulled.

Today is Michael’s birthday. My middle son turns twenty and that alone still amazes me. He’s a quiet kid who never asks for anything which makes things like birthdays and Christmas a bit of a challenge. Another unique quality is his unwavering commitment to his younger brother. Making sure John brings his headphones to the mall, Michael’s on it. Ensuring the iPad is charged, taken care of. Verifying his brother brushed his teeth since dad went to bed before them, no problem. He was never asked to take on any of these responsibilities, it just came naturally. The impact he is making in the life of his brother is unlike anyone else’s. And I mean anyone! Just watch the look in John’s eyes when Michael is around, and you know.

The rain let up, so I decided to come to my favorite spot in Barnes and Noble. A venti coffee and my computer on the table in front of me. I will be doing some writing today.

I was looking for an inspiration.

I have to stop looking so hard.

  • Joe

I’ve been on one helicopter.

It was a chilly mid-winter night in 2007 and, as part of a program to get to know my new hometown better, I had the opportunity to accompany the Philadelphia Police Aviation Unit on one of their helicopter patrols. With hundreds of airplane flights under my belt, I was well prepared. I greeted my female classmate and boarded the aircraft for the 90-minute tour.

We took off at dusk and the setting sun complimented the emerging lights of the Philly skyline. Cruising at such a low altitude provided a unique vantage point of the city. Close up fly-bys of the art museum and city hall contrasted perfectly with the up and coming Comcast Center. A beautiful night for such a relaxing trip.

About thirty minutes in, a call came over the radio of a police pursuit in need of air support. As we made the jump to light speed back towards Northeast Philadelphia, I realized that I was not prepared for the relaxing trip embracing its true purpose of a police patrol.

In no time we were over a dark section of the city, far removed from the sparkling lights of downtown. Communicating with the ground the pilot turned on the spotlight, quickly locating the active pursuit. To provide optimal lighting we tightly spun over the streets and back-alleys. And we spun. And we spun.

“Are you ok?”my classmate woke me from my blank stare out the window. She was having a grand old time and my feeling of embarrassment was only surpassed by my feeling of nausea. From the front, the second in command reached back to me with a smile and a plastic bag. I looked away from my classmate and tried not to think of how pitiful I looked with my head buried in the bag.

The pursuit ended and we went back to base where I was directed where to dispose of my self-made souvenir. We laughed at the limits of my masculinity, took some pictures and said goodbye.

It was the only time I’ve been on a helicopter and I may never go on one again. Reflecting on that experience is a great memory for me, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I have one daughter.

It was a warm late-spring night in 1998 when, as part of growing the family in accordance with the plan, I first met Catherine. With three years of fatherhood under my belt, I was well prepared. With two more brothers to follow, my routine of paternal process was well instilled and operating effectively.

We regularly ventured out to the usual family destinations. The mall, the restaurants, and the occasional vacation. Her energetic, confident and talkative personality contrasted perfectly with the more reserved style of her brothers. A mini version of me that was easy for me to relate to.

About fifteen years in, the door to her room closed more regularly. As she made the jump to light speed, I realized that I was not prepared for my daughter embracing her true purpose of becoming a woman.

In no time we were far removed from the fun little trips to the mall. I learned that communicating with someone who was so much like me was not always easy, and we often fought over the rules and responsibilities. And we fought. And we fought.

“Ok”, my daughter responded when I asked if she wanted to share a cheesesteak. I was driving her home from a party and it was the only courageous way I could break the silence. We sat on the hood of my car and she reached to me with a smile and half a cheesesteak. I learned how pitiful I was to bury time with those fights.

The father-daughter date ended and we went back to base where I was less insulted now when she closed the door to her room. We talked and laughed that night for the first time in a long time, shared things about our lives and said goodnight.

Catherine is my only daughter and I will not have one again. She has given me so many great memories and I can only imagine the wonderful memories she will give me in the years ahead.

I wouldn’t change a thing.