Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Remembering my dad on Father's Day

I’ve been thinking about my dad lately. Father’s Day is approaching and even though my pop died more than 20 years ago, I still think about what kind of gift he might like to have for Father’s Day.
Dad had a weird sense of humor and wasn’t particularly helpful when we asked him for gift suggestions. Each year it was the same.

Me: “Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”

Dad: “A new butt. Mine’s cracked.”

My dad is in the center wearing sunglasses. This  picture was taken 
at a Cub's game  at Wrigley Field in 1960.

This was the same response for Christmas, birthdays and other gift-giving occasions. I don’t know which was sillier, his corny response or the fact that my siblings and I continued to ask the same question.
That is not to say that we didn’t come up with some good gifts over the years. My brothers Terry and Dennis took him to ball games, my older sister, Diane, bought tickets so he and mom could go out to a show, my sister, Tina’s fiancé bought him a new television and VCR (back when the technology was new.)  My sister-in-law, Joanie, always bought him a new pair of slippers. Dad wore slippers all the time so he needed replacements on a regular basis.

However, the gift that I think he enjoyed the most was a nutcracker my spouse, John, and I bought him. It wasn’t any ole nutcracker. This little marvel held the nut in place and a weight (released from a rubber-band-type launcher) cracked the pecans perfectly in half. 

My dad loved nuts and we had three pecan trees in the yard. Having grown up in the heart of Chicago but probably being a country boy at heart, my dad loved it that he could go outside, gather nuts and pick fruit (especially citrus) and make something from scratch. Even during his years of dementia he never tired of making fresh squeezed lemonade or cracking a bowl full of pecans. 

What made this gift special is it was directly related to his passion. Now cracking nuts is not MY passion, but it was something my dad loved to do. So rather than buy him Old Spice or another useless tie, we hit the mark with the nut cracker that year.

But now that my dad is gone, I still think of how I might have done things differently.  What my father (and I think most fathers) want is to spend quality time with their children. As we get older we have the money to purchase bigger and better things, but finding the time to spend the day with dad is sometimes more difficult than cracking a nut without a nut cracker.  It makes me think of the Harry Chapin song, “Cats in the Cradle” song chronicling the busy life of a father and son.

It can be difficult to find the time to spend an entire evening or afternoon with dad, but there are options - even for those of us who are time challenged. Why not ask dad to come and join you for a simple errand? It could be a trip to the post office, a walk to the store, or you could even ask your pop to ride shot gun while you pick up the kids from school?

I miss my dad, but when I think of the corny things he used to say, it still makes me smile. The other day I was helping my granddaughter with her toilet training. She goes to preschool and she is obsessed with naming things.  She pointed to her butt and said, “What’s my butt’s name?” I told her “Briannah’s butt.” If she would have said “I want a new one, mine’s cracked” I would know that my dad had reincarnated back into our lives again.

Briannah is the ghost on the left and her sister, Rosannah, is on the right.

Of course she didn’t say that, but when she smiled at her question (she knew she was being funny) I couldn’t help but think a new nut was born.  And with her budding sense of humor it would seem the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

If you’re interested in a unique gift for your dad, consider buying a copy of my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. You can buy it through Amazon, Smashwords or by contacting me through this blog. For more information about the book go to

Monday, May 29, 2017

Whale Tale Rerun

This blog is a summer rerun from a year ago, but hopefully you will enjoy it anyway.

It was the day after Labor Day and my spouse, CB, and I were headed out for a whale-watching adventure. During our drive we saw plenty of school buses packed with children ready to start the first day of school. Some of the kids looked excited, others nervous. I can appreciate both sentiments.

As a child I started off the school year with one of two new outfits I would wear that year. I remember wanting to put my best foot forward. I was a scruffy-looking kid, but a new outfit managed to put a coat of varnish on my otherwise rough exterior. My family wasn’t exactly impoverished, but we weren’t well off either. Plus, I did not take a lot of care in how I looked. My mom made sure my hair was brushed before I left the house, but I never gave it another thought the rest of the day. And as a kid who loved to play outside, hang upside on the monkey bars and chase other kids around the school yard, I’m sure I was a big mess. Actually, I have school pictures to prove I was a mess, but I digress.

When a new school year begins, I feel a nostalgic desire to learn something new. However, over the years I have found life’s lessons do not always come as a result of traditional education. While I do enjoy reading, taking classes and watching documentaries, I have found that some of my most valued lessons have come from observing nature. 

However, fun, rather than education was my goal that September morn.  We hopped into the truck and set off to the dock where we would take our four-hour tour. If the theme song from Gilligan’s Island comes to mind, remember that their ill-fated journey was a THREE-HOUR tour. That extra hour makes a big difference and we suffered no shipwrecks.

We enjoyed learning about the geology of the nearby terrain, history of area, as well as information about the mammoth Stellar Sea Lions. However, what impressed me most was s story our captain told us about orca whales.

These creatures (also named killer whales) swim in pods. When one of the females is about to give birth, the other females surround her and buoy her up so she is able to take in some oxygen. Once the calf is born, the entire whale community celebrates with breaches and tail slapping. One of the resident grandma whales in the San Juan Island area (reported to be more than 100 years old) recently had a new great, great grandson and researchers saw that the old matriarch was showing the little guy the ropes. The other whales chipped in doing what they could. The male orcas let the youngster ride on their backs. 

I found this whale tale inspiring. I know humans are supposed to be the superior species, but I think all of us could learn something from the community spirit of these sea mammals. 

In school, in our spiritual communities, work and our daily lives we have the opportunity to be a part of a supportive environment, or we can turn our backs on others. We can offer words of kindness and encouragement, or we can gossip, tease and humiliate others. Ironically, a child’s introduction to the latter is often in a classroom or playground. I’ve even witnessed snobbery, prejudice and cruel remarks snickered about others in a spiritual setting where some well-dressed hypocrite feels the need to measure some “poor unfortunate’s” worth by their bank account or the cost of their apparel.

That is why I was impressed by this quote from Daisaku Ikeda from the August 2012 edition of Living Buddhism magazine.

“Religion must contribute to the elevation of the human spirit. It must be a force for developing the inherent goodness within us with the aim of happiness for all. It must be a force promoting respect, wisdom and personal empowerment.”

I find this quote profound, but not unique to the teachings of spiritual sages and philosophers. I learned about it from an orca and I hope you will pass this whale tale on to others as well.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hopping, Shopping and Music Popping Fun to Kick Off Spring

I am all about free concerts (and free things in general) so I wanted to pass this info on to my followers. Please spread the word.

Spring has sprung at the Village at Arrowhead Shopping Center, 20050 N. 67th Ave. in Glendale with music, raffles, wine tastings, an Easter event, and more.

Music at the Village, a free outdoor event, will be held Friday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. from March 17th through April 7. The music will kick off with the 360 Sound Machine on March 17th followed by The 8-Racks on March 24th and 31st and the spring concert series will wrap up with the Classic Example Band on April 7th

Seating is limited and attendees are encouraged to arrive early and bring a yard chair. Also, during the duration of the concert series, AJ’s will conduct free wine tasting inside the store from 3 to 6 p.m.

The fun will not stop when the concert series ends. There will be an Easter party on Saturday April 8th from 12 to 4 p.m. Children can get their picture taken with the Easter bunny, decorate Easter Eggs, and create a festive Easter hat. There will also be an Easter raffle to benefit Juvenile Arthritis.

“There will be bunny hopping, shopping, and music-popping fun this spring at the Village at Arrowhead Shopping Center,” said Mary Walker, president of Power Promotions and event coordinator for The Village at Arrowhead. “We have our Music at the Village with free concerts, and a great Easter Party. Be sure to mark your calendar and join in on the fun.”   

The Village at Arrowhead offers specialty shops that provide the ultimate shopping experience with distinctive fashion, home furnishings, restaurants and personal services in one of the most architecturally unique and aesthetically pleasing shopping centers around.

For more information contact Marks Public Relations at 480-664-3004.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Sign of Creativity

     Board & Brush Creative Studio, the fastest-growing wood-sign entertainment chain in the nation recently opened at the Village at Arrowhead Shopping Center, 20022 N. 67th Ave. in Glendale.
      The 1,100 square foot studio fills a unique niche – providing a venue to create a custom-made home décor sign from scratch, with a bonding experience that can be shared with friends, family, or even co-workers.
      Board & Brush’s staff guides individuals and groups through all phases of the sign-making process to create a sign that looks like a vintage heirloom. In addition to instruction, Board & Brush offers work stations, pre-cut wooden signs, different stencils, seven types of stains, and 50 different colors to give each sign a customized look.

      “Board & Brush is a great place for a ladies’ night out, an imaginative refuge for moms who need a break, or even a creative alternative to a traditional bachelorette party,” said Denise Clark who co-owns the business with Glendale resident Kristyn ZumMallen. 
      Other occasions for a Board & Brush DIY wood-sign get together includes: private parties; children’s birthday bashes; corporate events and fundraisers. The store is a perfect complement to the unique offerings of the West-side shopping center. To sign up for a workshop or view Board & Brush’s calendar of events visit or call 602-281-3531.
     The Village at Arrowhead offers specialty shops that provide the ultimate shopping experience with distinctive fashion, home furnishings, restaurants and personal services in one of the most architecturally unique and aesthetically pleasing shopping centers around.
     For more information about events and activities at the Village at Arrowhead Shopping Center contact Marks Public Relations at 480-664-3004.