I found Mom sitting outside crying this morning.
Dad recently died, and she’s been adrift without him. To be honest, we’re all struggling to find our footing in this new reality. However, that’s not the point of this tale … or maybe it is.
“Danny, what’s that on your ankle?” my wife, Laura, asked our fifteen-year-old son as he walked barefoot across the patio. Panic washed over his face and settled in with a frozen, awkward grin. He first looked at Laura, as if trying to devise an answer, then to his older sister who was staring at him with an uh-oh expression.
“Gotta blast!” Katie Jo exclaimed as she launched out of her chair and abandoned her little brother to his fate.
I was minding my own business, trying to enjoy my coffee and a few moments of peace before starting my day.
And then it happened.
I was watching the Today Show—a bit about Drew Brees’s donation to help fight the devastation of Covid-19—when Hoda Kotb crashed through the television screen and shoved a rusty knife against my neck. Her accomplice, Savannah Guthrie, stood off to the side—glassy-eyed, but watchful—making sure I didn’t make a run for it.
They had me cornered and I—a well-planned, cautious, control freak—never saw it coming.
Hoda pressed her face against mine, violating our new social distancing ethos. “Don’t move,” she whispered. “Give me all your feelings.”
I had no choice. So I cried.
Savoring my morning coffee and a few quiet moments before facing whatever awaits me on this day, I find myself staring at our back door. I’d left it open after letting the dogs out to run.
(Yes, it was me. I let the dogs out.)
We live in my wife’s grandparents’ old house. They built this place in the 1950’s. One of them—Laura’s grandfather—even died here, slipping peacefully into that next life after another busy day at the hospital. He was a doctor. A healer. In more ways than one.
“Some people are just jerks,” my daughter says, telling us about her most recent shift at a telemarketing call center. Home from college, she and her older brother needed temporary, part-time summer jobs. The call center gig fit the bill.
They could set their own schedules, work as much as they wanted, and earn a decent hourly wage. The only drawback was the job itself—reading a scripted survey for hours and hours to strangers who were either unlucky, lonely, or irritated enough to actually answer the phone.
If your phone rang this past summer at dinnertime or when you’d just settled down to watch a movie, it might have been one of my kids calling. I’m sorry about that. However, I’m not sorry for what the job taught them … and me.
*(Adapted from X-Plan Parenting, published by Simon & Schuster’s Howard Books)
Little League All-Stars. District championship game.
Bottom of the sixth. Tie game. Winning run on third. My son emerges from the dugout.
Standing with friends on a hillside above center field, I sigh heavily. I turn away from the field and drop my head onto a buddy’s shoulder. Anxiety and prayer come together in a moment of desperate hope.
Please, God. Let him have this one.
Is Die Hard a Christmas film?
For years, I’ve observed this debate with an overwhelming dose of ‘Who cares?’ Truth be told, I’d not watched the movie since college. In fact, it wouldn’t even sniff my list of favorite films. However, for reasons I can’t explain, I recently found myself wondering about Die Hard’s murky status as a Christmas movie.
In stores, I see Die Hard in holiday movie displays, alongside Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol. However, I also see several outspoken Christian leaders on social media poo-pooing the notion. On a whim, I decided to revisit John McClane and Hans Gruber at Nakatomi Plaza with an open mind … and what I discovered rocked my world.
Die Hard should never be called a Christmas movie … because it is, in fact, THE Christmas movie.
I am frozen in fear.
What if I make a mistake? What if this turns out awful and I’ve wasted all of this time and effort?
What if I fail?
Nearly fifty-years-old, I’m still haunted by ‘what-ifs’—the crippling terror of being wrong—and I’m sick of it. This is not the adventure I once dreamed of living.
My father-in-law once convinced his young bride that she was a terrible cook. She was so inept in the kitchen, she couldn’t even make Jell-O. After mixing up a batch, she’d stick it in the fridge and later discover a panful of colored water.
Just four months before the release of my book, X-Plan Parenting, my wife and I awoke to a living nightmare on a beautiful February morning.
Our teenage son was gone.
Not left early for school (as he sometimes did). Not asleep on the couch instead of his bed (another norm).
Left behind was a note, telling us not to worry, that he would be okay, but he just couldn’t take this life anymore.
As another school year winds down, I find myself remembering those teachers who taught me far more than their subject matter—lessons about an unknown world full of challenges and possibilities, and things about myself which they saw but I couldn’t.
My college-age daughter once shared with me a handwritten letter from one of her high school teachers. She’d held on to it, not just because the words are precious and true, but because they came from a man who remains passionate about stirring the hearts and minds of young people.
That’s something we should cherish.
I’m sharing this letter (with permission) because it offers something we need more of right now. It’s an awesome reminder for teachers, parents, and students about the lessons that are—ultimately—most important.