Tag Archives: love

If you love somebody…set them free

As a parent you want to help your kids – it’s only natural.  But take a step back once in a while and they might just amaze you.

Each of my kids has recently given me cause to rethink their limits and be blown away by their abilities.

It started a few weeks back when my 13 yr old was making a music video for a school project.  He had already selected his music, found a karaoke version and written his own lyrics.  He asked for help mixing his audio on top of the music but then refused any other help.  A few days later he showed me the finished result – all his own work – and I was totally blown away.  You can see the results of his efforts here and I’ll let you be the judge.

ImageNext up…my eleven year old daughter.  Her old iPhone would no longer hold a charge and so I ordered a new battery from iFixit.com.

I was all set to replace the battery – not a task that Apple makes easy – when she asked me not to start without her.  She then proceeded to take on the entire procedure, following the on-screen instructions in a calm, methodical manner that would have been beyond many adults.  30 minutes later she had a fully restored iPhone and I was in awe of this young lady.


Finally my older son has been helping out with a local charity shop by taking pictures for them every weekend and posting items for sale on their website.

ImageWhen he started this he was all fingers and thumbs.  He was shy, awkward, forgot the camera once and turned up with a dead camera another time.

Yesterday he strolled into the office, picked up the camera and checked it over with a practiced air.   I had a little time so I went with him to give the dog a much-needed walk.

When we arrived at the store I was amazed to see the calm and easy way with which he interacted with everyone, and how warmly they received him.  This wasn’t my little boy anymore, this was a young man making his way in the world and I couldn’t help but feel proud for him.

It’s easy to forget that the role of children is to push limits.  For them limits change on a daily basis – one day they can’t reach the faucet and the next they can.

Challenging limits; physical,mental or imposed by other, is not only normal but to be expected.  Think on that they next time they challenge your authority. Children need boundaries or they feel adrift, but as parents we have to recognize that those boundaries change every day and we need to change with them.

The next time you are doing something for your kids take a step back and consider whether by “helping” them you are actually them holding back.  I guarantee they will blow your mind if you would just let them.


Filed under Children, Education

The Dog Walking Diaries


A few weeks back my Daughter asked me to come with her as she took the family Shih Tzu for his regular walk.  I reminded myself that these opportunities won’t last forever, put down what I was working on and we set off in the rain.

She likes to chat and was quickly updating me on her latest craft projects, exploits of friends, books she’s reading and stories that she’s writing.  For my part I can’t help but look for lessons everywhere so, as she spoke, I asked questions such as how she thought she should deal with someone who was being mean or why things worked in a particular way.  Listening to her tales from school I then provided some stories from my school years and she was able to draw parallels with her own experiences.

Before I knew it we were deep into a discussion about a book I had just finished reading.  The book (Change of Heart) has a dilemma in it – should a dying eleven year old girl receive a heart transplant from the man who murdered her Father and Sister and, if she doesn’t want it, should her Mother force her to take it.   Despite being only ten we had a very mature chat about this, explored things from different angles and, in the blink of an eye, we were back at the house.

Since that first walk I’ve taken the opportunity to head out with my kids when I can and each time I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the one-on-one time together.  The talks don’t follow any particular theme.  Yesterday my Son and I started by talking about why salt melts ice, which lead to discussion about what he is learning in school about valance electrons.  Back at home we were taking the lead off of the dog when he said to me “Who knew that talking about chemistry could be so much fun!

I’m really enjoying these moments.  The lack of screens, phones and other distractions leaves us with little to do but actually talk to each other which, in today’s modern world, is a rare and precious thing.


Filed under Children, Education, Life - or something like it

Happy Birthday Mum

On July 29th this year my Mother passed away.  

It was strange to finally lose her physically since she had suffered from advanced dementia for several years. Since we live so far away this effectively killed the little communication that we did have by phone.  Fortunately my brother and sister-in-law were close by and went above and beyond to make sure that she was cared for and had every comfort possibmumle and we (both Mum and I) are eternally grateful for that.

I said that I would speak at the funeral.  I felt it was important but didn’t realize just what a monumental task it was going to be.  I’m no stranger to public speaking but struggled to get through it.  Delivering that eulogy was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Today would have been her 86th birthday so, instead of the usual call to my brother’s to chat with her while she had someone there, I thought I would say just a few words instead.  Most of this is pulled from the eulogy but might not have been spoken with enough clarity so, for those there the first time, my apologies and thanks for bearing with me.

Like so many families Mum was the cornerstone of our lives.  I was going to say I see it in the small things, but when I think about it those things are really not that small. They speak to the core of who I am and what I believe in, and I’m a better man today because of that. 

Mum grew up as part of a generation for whom the phrase Keep Calm and Carry On was more than just a cool saying posted on Facebook, it was a way of life.

How she managed to raise two boisterous boys almost single-handed with so few resources is amazing to me. Even more so now that I have a family of my own.

Things that would have many people shouting about the injustices of life just caused her to look people in the eye and say “Well…you’ve gotta have a laugh”.

While Mum didn’t have much in the way of formal education she was a true student at the University of Life and could make a pound stretch so far that it was almost magic.

She was also stubborn and proud…but in a good way. 

I remember a conversation I had with her when I was about 15 years old.  I had realized that the amount of extra money Mum gained by working was only fractionally higher than the amount she could have claimed on the dole and I asked her why she bothered when so many of her peers just stayed home.  Her answer was both simple and profound.  All she said was “I just wouldn’t feel right taking money without earning it.”

This came back to me when I left school at 16.   Given a choice of working in the city on a Government funded job or staying at home for the same money I took the job.

Simple core beliefs such as these have enable both John and I to do well for ourselves and I think Mum can rest easy knowing that on the subject of raising contributing children hers was a job well done.

Mum’s core beliefs showed up in many other ways big and small.

She didn’t show her emotions openly, even though she felt them quite strongly.  Love was always there but without the need to constantly prove it.  We knew the score but this did sometimes cause a little confusion.

The first time my wife met Mum is a good case in point.  Living in America I hadn’t been home for over a year and she had never met Joanne.  So imagine Joanne’s surprise when Mum opened the door and, instead of hugs and outpourings of affection she simply said “Oh hello dear, come in” and disappeared inside to put the kettle on, leaving the door, and Joanne’s mouth, wide open.  I had to explain to Joanne that this was all perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about.

Mum could also be superstitious.  One of my favorite examples is her conviction that crossing two knives meant that there was going to be a huge argument.  The situation would often go something like this.

  • Someone would put down knives in a way that made the blades cross.
  • Mum would see that and immediately say “Arrghh!  Don’t cross the knives!” 
  • She would then walk around in a foul mood for the rest of the day which would eventually lead to a big row with someone
  • After the row she would explain to the offender of the knife rule “You see…that’s because you crossed the knives”.  And who could say she was wrong?

While Mum could be generous to a fault but this was not the case with all things.  For example fudge.  Mum liked fudge.  It wasn’t that she didn’t want to share it.  It’s just that it never lasted long enough to share.  This led to the interesting situation in later years when she would forget that she had eaten it. The only evidence that there had ever been a fudge delivery would be the empty boxes and wrappers of which she claimed no knowledge.

Mum was a true survivor and the world is a little poorer today.  But someone once said “To live in hearts we leave behind us is not to die”.  I can tell you that Mum is here with us today.

Happy Birthday Mum!

Rest in peace…you certainly earned it.


Filed under Children, Education, Life - or something like it

The Secrets of Women and Motorcycles

Since the beginning of time (I assume) men have a hard time understanding the way women think, particularly when it came to more ‘intimate’ matters.

But I read something recently which finally put things into terms that I could understand and allowed me a peek into the strange world of women’s desires, and here it is…

Men view sex as a goal – a destination to be reached as quickly as possible and by the shortest route.  Women, however, see sex as a journey – a set of experiences to be savored along the way.  The destination is nice, but it is the journey that counts.

As an avid motorcyclist this was something I could totally relate to.  Motorcycling is all about the journey.  The destination (be it great ribs or a classic bike show) is, more often than not, just an excuse to get out and ride.

The same split can be seen in other activities too – take shopping as an example.  Women will happily spend hours at the mall, completely immersing themselves in the entire retail experience.  Men, on the other hand, “hunt shoes” – grabbing the first pair that fit the need, and heading home triumphant.

Sadly the introduction of children often makes it difficult to spend sufficient time on the journey – which no-doubt explains why many mothers find themselves in a state of low libido, and their husbands in a state of frustration.

But the first step to solving a problem is knowing what the problem is.  Now that I finally get it I will be trying harder to focus on the journey, and I would suggest that you do the same too.

“Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.”~Unknown

Enjoy the journey!


Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition, Travel

A Valentine’s Day Message for My Wife (but you can read it too)

Fifteen years ago today I scared the bejesus out of Joanne by talking about “our future” over a romantic dinner.

Since we had only been dating for a few months Joanne panicked and, after dinner, held long, torturous phone calls with her mother and sister.  Here every word and nuance was examined in minute detail; numerous scenarios were teased out, discussions were held on whether she was being honest with me…or herself, and whether she should stop seeing me.

Obviously, being a guy, I was oblivious to this – which can be best explained by reading this.

Two years later, almost to the day, Daniel was born!

I’m not sure who said what in those conversations.  But I am certain  that I’m eternally grateful that those post Valentine ’s Day conversations went my way.

Valentine’s Day is a double-edged sword for me because Joanne can be terribly difficult to buy presents for.  She doesn’t need much in the way of material things (she isn’t particularly interested in jewelry), and my fashion sense is so poor that I would never think of buying her clothes…unless they came from Frederick’s of Hollywood or Victoria’s Secret.

On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is one of those times when I stop taking things for granted, at least for a few hours, and actually let her know how appreciated  she is.

Joanne is the heart that beats in the center of our family – a constant source of love, strength and common sense that we all rely on to a ridiculous degree.

Our paths were so different that I really should never have met her – but I am so glad that fate intervened, because I have found my soul mate.  She is so much more than a wife.  She is my lover, my mentor, my confidant, my best friend, and the best mother my children could possibly have.

In the fifteen years since that Valentine’s Day dinner I have learned an incredible amount about life, love, family and, of course, Joanne.  I have discovered Joanne’s two evil twins – the fun one that appears after the third screwdriver, and the sharp-tongued one that appears when her sleep is disturbed.  Along the way we have collected memories and stories that made us cry with sadness and cry with laughter.  I wouldn’t change any of it.

I believe it was Theodore Hesburgh who said “The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”  Fortunately Joanne makes this so easy to do.

A few years back I bought a book for Joanne called “Six Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak”, which contained the following:

Scared her a lot.  She stayed.

I’m so glad she did.

Happy Valentine’s Day     !!!


Filed under Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

Two types of people

There are two types of people in the world:  Those who listen to song lyrics and those who don’t.

OK…everyone listens to song lyrics at some level, but some people REALLY listen to song lyrics.  For those people (and I count myself in that camp) the lyrics are so key that they dramatically alter their perception of the song, and often much, much more.  A great song lyric can change their mood, alter their opinion, or drive them to action.  Lyrics are not something to be treated lightly to a Lyric Listener.

If you want to communicate with a Lyric Listener at a truly personal level, the best way is to use a carefully selected song to deliver your message.  The music will penetrate the reptilian part of their brain to the point where they will not only hear the message, but the emotional content that goes along with it.  It will, quite simply, reach parts of them that ordinary words never could.

Good lyrics not only turn a bad song into something the Lyric Listener is happy to listen to, but a good song into something they will beat people over the head with until they finally agree to listen to it.  This last part can cause problems because if the person they are beating isn’t a Lyric Listener then they will really only be humoring them, and that’s fighting talk.

Some examples would probably help here.

Great Lyrics/Iffy Song:

Almost anything sung by Billy Bragg fits into the category of Great Lyrics / Iffy Song. While I appreciate Billy’s contribution to the music world, I am also grateful that there have been covers of his songs by people who know how to sing.

Lullaby, Shawn Mullins

Songs that Have It All:

One of Us, Joan Osborne

Imagine, John Lennon

Come Back to Me, David Cook

Your results may vary, but if the lyrics in these songs don’t touch you, then you have no soul.

Those who know me know that I have pondered how music changes people in ways that they’re not aware of.  A great example of this is the theory that the music you listen to actually affects the taste of wine – you can read an interview with Clark Smith about that here.

Personally, I buy into the theory – but the real question  is whether it is the music that is changing the taste of the wine, or the change in your emotional state?  If it is the latter, then I can see a lively song with sad lyrics getting a different reaction from a lyric listener than from a non-lyric listener.  Not sure what I mean ?  How about the chorus from I Write Sins Not Tragedies?

As a person who listens to the lyrics, I honestly believe I could help ‘heathens’ connect with their lyric listening partners.  In fact, I have an idea for a new service around this.

Imagine this scenario:  You are dating a lyric listener and want to send her a special message.  No problem! Answer a few simple questions, such as her favorite artists, genres, age and the message you want to send.   A playlist, complete with lyrics and with the important items highlighted, will be sent to you.

Once you approve your lyrical love note, delivery to your loved one is via a variety of means (iTunes gift, flowers with a CD, singing telegram – who knows!)

Hmmm…I think that one might even have some legs.  What do you think?


Filed under Life - or something like it, The Human Condition