How to Navigate the American Heart of Darkness

Dad died three months ago.

A few days before he passed, I got to spend some precious time alone with him; it was a hard, painful, beautiful day of reckoning and reconnecting.  For the first time ever, Dad was fully transparent with me about his joys, regrets, hopes, doubts, and his many fears.

I drove home at the end of that day, sat in my truck and sobbed like a wounded child.

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YOUR CONTROL ISSUES ARE THE PROBLEM (#EmbraceTheChaos)

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.

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When Hoda Assaulted Me (and revealed a teachable moment)

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.

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The Door … #BeTheDoor

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.

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Unknown Caller (#SarahMatters)

“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.

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Die Hard Is Not A Christmas Movie …

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.

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Reclaim Your Life (…and be #FreeToFail)

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.

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Moms and Dads, When You’re Feeling Judged, Consider The Source

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).

Gone.

Left behind was a note, telling us not to worry, that he would be okay, but he just couldn’t take this life anymore.

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The Shocking Truth About That Jerk Online (#CoffeeWithTheEnemy)

“You’re going to get shot at your coffee meeting,” my oldest son, Ben, texts me.

“Maybe,” I reply.

He’s been following my dialogue with a stranger on Twitter.  I fired off a snarky comment about a local news story that was getting national attention, and this guy challenged my knowledge of the situation.

“This is my hometown,” I shot back at him.  “I know everyone.”

He immediately returned my volley (like any dehumanized bot).  “Mine too, big deal.”

At that point, I had him.  He couldn’t be a local—I just knew it!—so I called his bluff.

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When Lin-Manuel Miranda Called Me Racist

My family is rich with the world’s beauty.  Among my loved ones, you’ll find that Native America, Europe (East and West), Asia, Africa, Central and South America are all well represented.  And I LOVE that.

That’s why I was taken aback when Lin-Manuel Miranda called me out for my racism.  He didn’t realize it (he wouldn’t know me from any other subway stranger), but that’s exactly what he did.

The worst part?  He was right.

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