Posts Tagged With: daughter

Homeward Bound

Having been in New England for ten of the past sixteen months, I’ve thought a lot about home.

With respect to Robert Frost, home is the place where they’re glad to take me in.

Sally, Jenna, and Julie are home to me, wherever they are.

Home is sleeping in my bed with my wife.

Home is our cat, Caesar, loving me as if I’d never been gone.

Home is grilling salmon on our patio. Home is our bright red Japanese Maple tree.

Home is a hug from the lady at the dry cleaners who missed me. Home is friends at Kathwood Baptist Church welcoming me back.

Home is my Grandson Lake showing up at our house at 6:45 a.m. wanting blueberry muffins on Thursday morning.

Home is my shower, my pillow, and my favorite coffee mug. Home is iced tea with mint freshly picked from our garden. Home is my bookshelves with my books with my favorite passages underlined. Home is being surrounded by memorabilia from Charleston, Cooperstown, Scotland, Italy, Turkey, Kenya, and Romania.

Home, for me, are tigers, tigers everywhere.

Home is driving on familiar roads and walking on familiar sidewalks.

Home is my Dad’s picture on the wall and my Mother’s baking sheets (which we still use to make chocolate chip cookies) in our kitchen cabinet.

Home is my back porch where I eat breakfast and drink coffee as many days of the year as possible, January through December. I love it, especially the sound of the birds singing, the toot of the railroad train not far away, and the kids waiting for their school bus. When Sally, Jenna, Julie, sons-in-law Thorne and Tom, or friends join me, there is no better place in the world.

Home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

An appeal from my son-in-law…

On October 23, 2016, I will be running the Newburyport Half Marathon. I am asking my friends, family, and anyone else who might be so inclined to help me raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (aka the CCFA).  I have never done anything like this before, either the running or the fundraising, so I am pretty nervous about it. So if you could help me out with a donation and/or some words of encouragement, I would be really appreciative.
I want to tell you my story and why I’ve chosen to run this race. As you may or may not know, my wife Julie has suffered from Crohn’s disease and/or ulcerative colitis (collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease of IBD) since before I ever knew her. Julie is kind, funny, giving, caring, whip smart, and the most thoughtful person I know. She is also one of the hardest working people I have ever met. But Crohn’s and UC aren’t easy diseases to deal with, and they often lay her low. She had major surgery when she was 21 and has had regular doctor’s visits ever since.
She’ll run out of energy out of no where, be stopped in her tracks by pain, or be unable to function seconds after feeling okay. She takes innumberable medications, including weekly shots at home and regular visits to the hospital for drug infusions. Julie is also really tough, both mentally and physically, but the combination of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms really take their toll. It is incredibly hard to have to watch her go through it. I try to help out as much as I can, but there really isn’t anything I can do about the condition itself. To say it can be frustrating or even maddening would be a serious understatement.
But I know who I married — like I said, Julie is supremely tough, she hates to lose, and she hates to give up. The fact of the matter is she has no choice but to fight every single moment of every single day. She doesn’t settle for good enough either — she is always fighting for more, for a better life, for one more activity, for one more hour on her feet or out of bed. But when you’re sick, when you have Crohn’s or UC, sometimes you can’t fight for yourself anymore, and (to paraphrase the late Stuart Scott of ESPN, who died of cancer a few years ago), when you are sick and you find that you are too tired to fight, go lay down and let someone else fight for you. So that’s what I’m trying to do — take my fight for Julie and other IBD patients to another level. I will never stop fighting for Julie on a daily basis even though I don’t think I can ever fight as hard as she does for herself, but I wanted to do something more to raise awareness and make a realy difference. Because the doctors, scientists, and researchers will only be able to find a cure to this “cruel and devious” disease unless people raise money to fund their research.
So please, donate a few dollars to help me try and put an end to Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. I will be ever thankful for whatever contributions you might provide.
For further reading, I recommend this article by Joe Posnanski, a writer for NBC Sports who covered the Olympics this past August: http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/joe-posnanski-kathleen-bakers-crohns-disease-isnt-curse — Posnanski has been open about his daughter’s recent diagnosis with Crohn’s and became close with Kathleen Baker, a multiple-Olympic medal winner for the USA in Rio. The article is touching and occassionally difficult to read, but he says a lot of things better than I ever could (I stole the description of Crohn’s as “cruel and devious” from him).
I also think you should read the description of Crohn’s and UC below, which was given to me by the CCFA when I set up this page:
About Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both major categories of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). IBD affects an estimated 1.6 million Americans. These chronic diseases tend to run in families and they affect males and females equally. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract and may affect any part from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition limited to the colon, otherwise known as the large intestine.
The Mission of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America is: To cure and prevent Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis through research, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these digestive diseases through education and support.
Again, to anyone and everyone who can and does contribute, thank you so, so much from the bottom of my heart. I am going to train hard and run the best race that I can on October 23, 2016, and it would be great to know that I was bringing a lot of my family and friends along for the ride.
Tom (Julie’s husband)
How to contribute:  http://online.ccfa.org/site/TR/TeamChallenge/Chapter-NewEngland?px=1591715&pg=personal&fr_id=6380
Categories: Family, Health | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Aging in New Hampshire

“My name’s Alexander Hamilton and there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait…” lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Friends and strangers are mystified by why I would abandon semi-tropical South Carolina in the dead of winter to freeze for six months in frigid New Hampshire. Minus seventeen degrees this morning! The lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (above) are a clue. I have a lot of life yet to live. I’m still curious about a million things.

I don’t want to offend anyone who has chosen a different path, because there are a lot of fine ways to live a life, but I don’t intend to sit in my home slowly fading into death for the next twenty years.

Of course, I have no control over random disease or tragedy. But I do have choices. I can choose not to turn on the television during the day. Instead, I choose to stir around a bit and continue to meet interesting people in interesting places.

Just think of all the books I have yet to read, of the places I can visit, of the cookies and pastries out there still to be tasted. There are national championships to be enjoyed, waterfalls to find, a grandson to mentor, churches to help, jokes to hear and retell, and thoughts to think.

My wife shares my enthusiasm for life, though her interests don’t always coincide with mine. She loves to sew and I love baseball. But our lives do intersect in a hundred other ways—adoring our daughters and sons-in-law, dinners with friends, Thanksgiving, the occasional trip, and, not least, supporting one another when one of us is ill.

Last night, in a suburb of Boston, daughter Julie and her husband Tom hosted a Murder Mystery party for my birthday weekend. Great experience. Wonderful food. In what world would I rather vegetate in front of a computer than be surrounded by a host of young, new friends?

What’s next? Who knows? I would not have predicted Murder Mysteries for parties, or the Internet, or blogs, or Facebook, or Harry Potter, or Downton Abbey, or being a campus minister at Dartmouth.

Next thing you know, I’ll have a grandson driving… Oh, that’s next month.

Life keeps happening, and I love it.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Quotations, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Tonight’s Big Game

This is how sports fans think. (By the way, neither Jesus nor Buddha approved this message.)

Since Clemson plays Alabama tonight for the National Championship, I am in Big Game mode. Though I am not a superstitious person, I have certain clothes I have worn on each Game Day this season and we have a 14-0 record. Why take a chance? The socks are covered in tiger paws and the underwear is orange. The clothes, unlike those of seriously superstitious folks, are clean.

I traveled to Framingham, Massachusetts, to watch the game with my daughter Julie and my son-in-law Tom. This event is not to be watched alone in New Hampshire.

This morning, as always, I took a walk. As usual, I found money. Since I haven’t walked on these roads and in these parking lots in a while, the pickings were plentiful. Pennies here and there. A nickel. A couple of dimes.

28 cents, then,

33 cents, then, I began thinking like a sports fan. What if Clemson scored a point for every cent I found?

33 points? Not sure that was enough, I kept walking. 34, 35, 36 cents. 37, 38.

Ordinarily I love finding quarters and five-dollar bills. But I thought such gaudy numbers might invalidate my thesis.

Then I saw a dime. Perfect. 48 cents, 48 points. Sounds like enough to beat even Alabama.

That, for you sad souls who don’t follow sports, is how sports fans think!

Categories: Family, Football, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

New York City: The Fourth Leg: July 2015

My grandson Lake, age 14, wasn’t so sure about going to New York City. He likes his familiar world of friends, soccer, soccer, and more soccer. One of my theories of childrearing is that adults are supposed to be smarter than kids. So far, so good.

Our itinerary called for us to come home from Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C. to Columbia, SC. Researching soccer venues for the relevant dates, I discovered that the New York Red Bulls were playing the New England Revolution in Harrison, New Jersey, a short subway ride from Times Square. So I bought the three of us, Jenna, Lake and me, tickets to the game. I didn’t care much about the game, except that I like most sports, but the decision gave Lake some buy-in to this leg of our trip. The journey to the stadium required a subway ride, which was also part of my agenda for a New York experience, so win-win.

The first 15 minutes in New York City were hairy. Jenna was driving and the traffic was, well, New York City traffic. Our hotel was near Times Square. After checking in, we walked there to catch the subway, and Lake was bowled over. Who wouldn’t be? A cowboy wearing a guitar and a jockey strap. Women wearing only body paint. Bright lights. Big city. Sensory overload. Tens of thousands of people.

We ate a very late lunch at Hard Rock Café which made Jenna happy. This was, after all, her vacation, too. Then, we had to catch a subway. The game was in New Jersey.

The home team won the game, but I learned Lake was pulling for the Revolution. Jenna and I didn’t care.

The next day we went to the observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Good way to see the city. We never made it to Central Park or the Statue of Liberty, for example, but we could had a panorama view of the entire city from that height.

We bought tickets to see the Lion King. The challenge had been which Broadway play would appeal to a 14-year-old boy. Lake liked it. I’m the one who slept through the first act.

In New York City, just walking down the street is a hoot. We went into soccer shops, cigar stores, shoe stores and, best of all, a random retailer that sold magnificent rock specimens—up to half a million dollars for a rock—and it wasn’t even a diamond. Beautiful, but I didn’t have that much money on me, so we just looked. We had supper and ate sushi with friends Chris and Bryan. We discovered Insomnia Cookies.

I think Lake will go back to New York City. Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow: Washington, D. C. The Fifth Leg of my summer excursions

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Happy Birthday, Jenna

Our Daughter’s 40th Birthday!

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“Watchin’ for Rainbows” Guest Blog by Steve Vassey

My daughter Anna came running up to me today after church, her latest creation of crayon and construction paper clutched in her outstretched hand. “Look what I made in Children’s Church,” she said, placing the artwork between us.

It was a page of cream-colored paper, folded in half, with bright red writing across the width of the page. “A Pocket of Help,” it said boldly.

“These are the things I can do to help you next week,” Anna declared proudly. And with the practiced motion of a salesman opening his portfolio, she flipped open the page.

Glued inside the fold of the page was a small paper pocket decorated with flowers, grass and a cloud-bedecked sky. Inside the pocket, their lobed tops peeking shyly over the lip, were three paper hearts: one orange, one red, and one blue.

Anna plucked the hearts from the pocket and began to eagerly explain each one. On each side of each heart she had drawn a picture representing her proposed helpful activity. She displayed each one carefully, announcing its intended purpose: “Feed my babies,” she said of the drawing of the baby bottle. “Help you vacuum,” described the stylized upright vacuum cleaner. “Brush my hair . . . , pick up the trash . . . , clean the dishes . . . ,” she continued, pausing with each announcement.

Then we came to the last picture: a small, meticulously drawn rainbow spanning the blue paper heart. “And watchin’ for rainbows,” she said with a final determination.

It was at that moment I realized wisdom presents itself in a multitude of forms, many of which are utterly unexpected. Here before me was a beautifully balanced week of life: a time for work, a time for play, and a time to sit back and be amazed by the world God has put before us.

Anna is still fascinated and amazed by the world around her. A bird’s feather or a dandelion tuft are sources of excitement and wonder. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost that ability. I can’t recall the last time I sat in awe of the beauty of something or marveled at the complexity of the life around me.

I gratefully accepted Anna’s “pocket of help,” especially in watchin’ for rainbows. I can use the advice of an expert.

***

Steve Vassey is a writer of blended fantasy. His first novel, The Centaur on the Stairs, will be available through Amazon later this year.

Steve began writing by recording vignettes of the small, but special moments in life. From there, he began a short story that “didn’t know when to stop.” He’s been writing novels ever since. A past president of the South Carolina Writers Workshop, and retired from careers in environmental science and information technology, Steve lives with his wife, Jody, in Cayce, SC, along with an outspoken cat and a forty-five pound lapdog.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guest Blog: “Golf: Walking and Riding the Terrain; Enjoying Nature” by George M. Rossi

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 I am reminiscing already as the one-year anniversary of the PGA golf tournament approaches. The PGA was held at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, last year. A work colleague made it possible for some of my family and friends and me to attend each day.

 

Kiawah in the middle of August is not for the faint of heart. It was sweltering hot and the fire ants and crowds were an occasional challenge. Of all the pictures we took I am especially fond of the one where my daughter Heather and I were photographed with the scorekeeper of the threesome that included winner Rory McIlroy. We took the picture at the end of the tournament as we were leaving after a long day sitting on the edge of the 18th green. Rory smoked the field and won by 8 strokes!

 

The other picture is a close up of some sea oats that keep the beach from eroding on the edge of the course where it meets the ocean.

 

Golf courses are fascinating. The Ocean Course holds the record as the longest in yards for the PGA tournament. The course is obviously sandy. There is the occasional and much appreciated southern Live Oak that dons the course, and of course Palmetto trees abound with pampa grass. There are ponds and water hazards that look rather mundane like any other golf course. Yet, to the east there is the Atlantic Ocean with wave after wave rolling onto the grayish-white soft sand of our beautiful coast. I hope one day to play the Ocean Course but for the time being the memories of walking the course with my kids will suffice.

 

Sitting between the 8th and 9th holes (if I remember rightly but not sure) gives a patron the opportunity to watch the tee and green play from two different holes, which is double the fun. Between two holes we sat and stood on the sand dune that faced northwest. The wind blew from the east and from the Atlantic. My shoes filled with tiny grains of sand as the wind blew them around and world glass golfers played on some of the most beautiful greens in the USA. Golf courses have a spiritual feel for me—at least when I make par or an occasional birdie!

 

Golf is a great way to exercise, to recalibrate one’s soul, and to enjoy nature. I asked my playing partner if he had seen any snakes on our local course recently and he said, “One or two, not many.”  Next time you are on a course, take time to soak in all that Nature and God’s creation has to offer. A refreshed soul will be the result.

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The Gift

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For the past 15 years, I worked for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.  It was the best job in the world.  I will write about that another day. 

 

Knowing how much I love to travel, CBFSC gave me enough money for a retirement trip to just about anywhere in the world.  There was even enough money for Sally to come back to South Carolina!  (Just kidding…  The gift was very generous!  There was enough for us both to return to South Carolina.  Thank you, CBFSC!)

 

I have never had a “Bucket List,” but tend to go where opportunity allows.  There is something in the Bible about the Spirit blowing in unexpected directions, so, without really trying, I have travelled to Mauritania, Morocco, Bali, Thailand, Malaysia, Kenya, Brazil and a dozen other faraway places. 

 

I have also ridden the buses on the backroads of South Carolina, but that also is a tale for another day.

 

On this Gift Trip, I wanted to go somewhere I had never been.  In addition to my wife, Sally, I wanted to take my 12-year-old grandson, Lake, who is at the perfect age to marvel at the wonders of this world.  Jenna, his mom, my oldest daughter, decided to go with us.  We ended up with a party of four.

 

I let Lake choose the place (which is consistent with my theme of going where the wind blows).  He had a geography teacher this year (a young man formerly in the Peace Corps) that Lake really liked. Lake asked him to suggest five South Americancountries that would be fun to visit.  PERU came out on top.  The Amazon Rain Forest fascinated Lake, and Machu Picchu is one of the 10 outstanding Wonders of the World, however you configure your list.  Lima has a soccer (football) team, and Lake is nuts about soccer/football these days.

 

We paid our money, and set off on July 9, 2013, for Lima, Peru, South America. 

 

This story will take 10-15 days to tell, so, hang in there.

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Categories: Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Reflections on Disaster

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, I was in a bad wreck.  The people at the scene of the accident could not believe that I survived my car taking a direct hit from a logging truck.  But, thankfully, I did.  A week after the wreck, I have only one small scratch remaining.  People told me how “lucky” I was.  They mentioned that I had been protected by my guardian angel.  “God is not finished with you yet,” was a frequent phrase.   I don’t intend to argue with any of those sentiments.

My primary thought and emotion has been one of gratitude.  During my career as a pastor, I heard how many dumb things people say after a tragedy.  They may be well-meaning, but there is a lot of bad theology that surrounds heartbreaking disasters.  Be careful with your words in times of crisis.

The two sentences that made the most sense to me are these:

  • I say my Alleluias softly, and
  • God is present.

I am happy to be alive.  I am grateful that on July 3, 2010, I was able to walk my baby girl down the aisle and present her to the man who is now her husband and my son-in-law.  All four of Julie’s grandparents are dead and my best friend, her second dad, passed away this past year.  I am grateful that I was there for Julie and Tom, and not in a hospital room or in a grave!  I am glad that I am still here to cuddle with Sally at night.  I am thankful I can still take my other daughter and her husband and my grandson to a baseball game.  More than ever, I appreciate peach cobblers, roses, jazz, waterfalls, and good books.  I love my friends.  I am grateful to be alive.

But I do say my Alleluias softly, because everyone who has been in a wreck did not survive and/or thrive.  Many sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, dads and best friends have been seriously injured or even died in tragic accidents.  I don’t think God loves me more or that my prayer life is better.  Anything that credits my survival to my goodness is probably bad theology.

As I was sharing this perspective with two friends, I discovered that one of them, my seminary buddy Don Garner, had indeed lost a son in a car wreck about a decade ago.  God loves and loved Don and his wife and their son as much as God loves me.  Don told me that their “lesson” during their awful grief is that God is always present.  God is present when I survive my wreck, and God is there when Don’s son did not survive his wreck.  God is present. 

Those are lessons enough for me.Imagek

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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