Category Archives: Family

Getting Grandmother Connected

My sister had a great Christmas present idea for our grandmother who is 93 1/2 years old. Presto makes a device that allows people who don’t have a computer to receive emails, photos and etc. through a special printer that connects through a regular phone line.

We went over to my grandmother’s apartment tonight and set up the device and connected it to the phone line. Within 30 minutes the setup had been configured and my grandmother received her first two printouts. One was from me and it was a simple photo of my daughter eating oatmeal today. The other was a written email with a photo of my sister’s family.

Wow! Our grandmother was overwhelmed (in a good way), felt joy at getting some photos and then shed some tears because she understands how she will be more connected now to the entire family.

You know, we all have the same desire and that’s to know that someone, somewhere is thinking about us and cares. Our family is spread all over the country which makes it hard to get together all at once. So, now, my grandmother’s world just expanded exponentially and she can more easily stay connected to the rest of the family who takes technology for granted.

It was a wonderful evening. :-)

Thanks sis for the great idea!

Michael

Having Fun

The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. – G K Chesterton

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. – Robert Louis Stevenson

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. – Katherine Hepburn

It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our family had some fun today!!!! The kids opened a few more presents this morning. We all worked hard to prepare the traditional Christmas lunch/dinner. We played a few games, mainly Rockband 2 for the Wii. The movie, Yes Man, was our pick for a holiday movie. It was light, fun and nothing too heavy.

After a small dinner we started a tournament with the Wii. There were eight of us and six competitions; 1 from Rockband 2 and the rest from Wii Fit. The competition was fun but the main point was to do something together. We don’t get to see each other as much as we would like over the year, so we make sure we do a lot at Christmas time.

Lots of laughter, fun, more laughter, conversation, more laughter, competing in the events, more laughter. Did I mention that we laughed a lot?

We played. It’s that simple. No worries. No drama. No work. Just play. Adults don’t play enough. We need to re-learn that lesson from our children. It’s so important to psychological health. It’s vital for our growth and mental stability to just let go and be silly sometimes. No one will care.

Break out of your routine. Stop following your rules and routines for short periods of time. It will keep you fresh, happier, open and most importantly, increase your periods of fun. You’ll start living more and therefore have more to give others.

Why not start right now?

Michael

Merry Christmas

There is probably a word for what I experienced last night. It is similar to an epiphany, the word that James Joyce revived to describe a transformational moment, in which you suddenly experience a profound insight about yourself and your life. It can hit you unexpectedly and without warning.

Last night, after my wife cooked a delicious dinner for a small group at her parents’ house, we came home to wrap presents. The three of us each took a room, Nina in her bedroom, Sarah in her study, and I in the living room with the Christmas tree. I turned on a CD of Diana Krall singing Christmas carols, plugged in the lights on the tree, and sat on the floor to wrap stocking gifts.

When I had finished wrapping, I put away the paper, ribbons, and tape in the attic and returned to the living room to sit in a chair and listen to the music. We live on a quiet street without street lights, and the neighbors at the back were away, so outside was silent except for the steady rain.

I sat right in front of the tree and gazed from one ornament to another, lingering mostly on the hand-painted, ceramic figures that my stepdaughter’s great-grandmother sent to her, every year at Christmas, and also at the hand-made ornaments that Nina herself brought home from school as a small child.

Christmas tree ornaments have a special, evocative power over me. They appear every year for a week or two and recall other Christmas Eves and Christmas mornings, first in your own childhood and then in your children’s. They are celebratory and colorful, and the best of them are simple. These favorites of mine are tiny reminders of our family’s joy and love.

The word I am looking for describes a brief, personal experience that allows you a sweet, simple appreciation that you are who you are, that there is nothing you would change.

You might call it a blessing.

Thinking About Family

Tonight was the night where we sat and opened presents from each other. I have always loved this tradition. There is a lot of laughter and many special moments. It’s fun to watch someone get what they were wanting and seeing the joy in their eyes.

I was thinking a lot about family tonight. We are all so unique but we share a very strong common bond. We all have our peculiarities, eccentricities and quirks but the focus is on the positive aspects of each other. Accepting someone means accepting everything about them, both positive and “negative”. The differences can be celebrated just as much as the similarities.

These lessons in unconditional love can easily translate to other things in our world. Instead of focusing on what we don’t like about someone or what we disagree with, why don’t we find what we do like instead? For example, maybe their political views are divergent from ours, but they have a great sense of humor and do a lot of charitable work. Or maybe someone has religious views that we don’t subscribe to, but they exhibit fantastic family values.

Look for the good things, the positive things and the things that make us happy in people. If we spent our time focused here instead of complaining, disagreeing or disregarding then the world would dramatically change. We can start right now making a difference by being just a little bit more tolerant.

Have a great day!

Michael

Holiday Traditions

My sister and her family arrived today. So, everyone that is getting together in our group this year is together. We have several traditions that we follow year after year. I love our traditions and I love the thought of traditions in general.

Traditions are important in several ways. They create points of sharing across time. They bring groups closer together by the thread of the experiences that occur within the tradition. They bring a level of excitement and anticipation that gives meaning to all who share. Most importantly, they are fun!

Some of our traditions are:

  1. We have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve containing more food than could be possibly eaten in one evening.
  2. We open our presents on Christmas Eve evening.
  3. The kids get an additional set of presents from “Santa Claus” on Christmas morning.
  4. We have a large family breakfast on Christmas morning.
  5. We have another large meal (some time around lunch) with everyone.
  6. We go see a movie together on Christmas Day in the afternoon.
  7. Some years, several of us go and play pool at a local hangout.
  8. We play games together with a little friendly competition. In the past, we have played dominoes, video games (DDR, Guitar Hero, Wii sports), card games, Pictionary and etc.
  9. We go take a walk or hike near or on Louisiana State University.
  10. We take a trip to get some authentic beignets (sort of like a doughnut) from Cafe Du Monde.
  11. We have as much fun together in the time we have as humanly possible.
  12. We usually go out to eat at least once to one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

The traditions have already started. I’m glad to be a part of them again this year.

What are some of your traditions?

Michael

Avery Island

TA BASS CO Statue

TA BASS CO Statue

Around mid-morning we left Baton Rouge for Avery Island, the home and birthplace of Tabasco®. It’s about 85 miles southwest from where my parents live. It’s a fascinating area full of history.

Avery Island (Wikipedia link) is one of five salt domes that can be found in Louisiana. It is approximately 5 miles (3 km) long and 2 ½ miles wide. Our guide told us that that the dome is deeper than Mt. Everest is high. Wow! It has one of the largest salt mines in the world. The indigenous American Indians were probably the first humans to extract the salt from the dome through evaporation of brine water.

Today, the island (it really is an island), in addition to the salt mine, houses the manufacturing facilities for Tabasco® brand products (Wikipedia link), has a rich botanical garden and a bird sanctuary.

Buddha

Buddha

We toured the Tabasco plant first. I grew up with Tabasco. It’s a staple in Louisiana and is typically found with the salt and pepper on every table. The ingredients are simple: Tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), salt and vinegar. The peppers and salt are ground up into a mash and aged in white oak barrels for up to 3 years. The vinegar is added and stirred for about a month. The sauce is strained and then bottled. That wonderful flavor comes from three ingredients!

After the tour, we tried many of the Tabasco products in the country store. We also shared some crawfish etouffee, hot link sausage, boudin, Tabasco ice cream and Tabasco soda. Hmmmmm! All were very good.

We toured the Jungle Gardens which is a huge botanical garden built up with exotic plants and local species by E. A. McIlenny (Mr. Ned for short). The best time of the year to go is March as many of the species are blooming at this time. Today we saw multiple species of camellias, bamboo forest, very old live oaks covered in Spanish moss, cypress forests and many palm varieties. Unfortunately, the alligators that live there were buried in the mud because the sun wasn’t out.

Bridge Near Buddha

Bridge Near Buddha

In 1936, friends of Mr. Ned gave him a Buddha statue from China that is centuries old. It now stands in a beautiful area of Jungle Gardens surrounded by water on three sides. Very unusual. It must stand 8 feet high.

Another amazing part of the gardens is Bird City. Mr. Ned found this bird colony around 1895 to save the white egret which had been hunted to near extinction for its plumage. He raised 8 birds here and then released them for the fall migration across the Gulf of Mexico. They returned the next year and brought some of their friends. The colony now hosts numerous bird species that return in the early spring to roost.

I highly recommend this unusual place. It’s close to New Orleans and Baton Rouge and makes for an excellent day trip. Try to visit during March or April.

Michael

Final Prep for the Holidays

I have finally completed all I needed to do to prepare for the Xmas holiday next week. All the presents I plan to give have been gathered. All the preparations have been made for traveling this weekend.

I start looking forward to the holidays about a week or two before they happen. I start remembering all the fun things we have done in the prior years. I remember all the gifts that were given and received. I remember all the movies we picked to see on Xmas day (It’s a tradition for us).

I remember the piles of food that were consumed. I remember the new additions to the family experiencing Xmas for the first time. I remember holiday decorations brightening up the rooms. I remember that some years were really cold while others were almost summer like. I remember the games we played as a family.

I remember feeling content just being in the same room with everyone else. No need to do anything. No expectations. Only enjoyment in sharing another holiday with the people you care about.

I’m ready to add more memories to the wonderful ones I still carry.

Michael

A Good Day

More and more often, I’m finding that a good day includes successes in more than one area of my life. Today there are four areas to feel great about.

1. Job. I had to pull together a group of 7 people on very short notice to take a meeting with some people who had traveled half way across the country to meet with our company. Many of my colleagues pushed back their own priorities to accommodate the visit. I was grateful, and the company that traveled to meet us was grateful. There is nothing like a spirit of cooperation to make a group of people feel great.

2. Writing. Michael and I spent the late afternoon and evening working on a writing project that we have underway. Michael is great at organizing us, and he put together a chapter schedule for us a few weeks ago. Tonight we realized that we are a few weeks ahead of schedule. So far so good. Both of us have a sense of progress, and I have the satisfaction of not being a source of frustration over lateness. Another double win. I like getting the project done, and I like living up to Michael’s expectations.

3. Christmas cards. I may write an entire blog post on Christmas card writing. It’s often a two-month-long ordeal for me to get all of my cards written. In fact, it’s been 3 years since I finished an entire set. Last year I didn’t write any, though I did leave the stack of cards I received sitting on the floor of my study for 11 months, in case I was inspired to answer them. The great news is that I finally realized I could answer them by starting early on this year’s cards. So starting November 30, I’ve been writing two cards per night, before bedtime, and mailing them in the morning. Tonight I’ll write two more. At this rate, I will have made a good bite out of them by Christmas. Not only will I feel good about reaching out; I will also feel good about cleaning the pile off my floor for the first time since January.

4. Finances. Thanks to my wife, we had some good financial news today. She works hard and is very clever with money. She is always taking the pressure off us with her hard work. So often, I find myself thinking, my wife makes my life so easy and so pleasant.

Oh, and there was actually a 5th great thing. Last night, an old, dear friend of my found me on Facebook. I had been trying to think for a couple of years how to track her down and catch up with her. Last night, lo and behold, there she was in the Friend Requests. I was thrilled and have already swapped notes back and forth with her.

The good news snowballs. I love that any time, and especially this time of year when the days are short, and we’re starting to gear up for winter.

Getting Ready for Xmas

Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons. – Ruth Ann Schabacker

Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  And today?  Today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present. – Babatunde Olatunji

I love this time of year. Last night, I spend some time looking for gifts for friends and family. The entire gift giving adventure is fun to me; looking for the gift, getting it wrapped and then giving it to the person. That’s the most fun.

The most important gift is always spending time with family and friends, especially those you don’t get to see very often. I look forward to seeing my daughter since it’s been a couple of months. I haven’t seen my parents or sister for many months. It’s been way too long.

Each day we get to share with each other is gift. I plan on unwrapping mine everyday. :-)

Michael

Going Home

I used to dread heading home from vacation. The pressures of daily life just seemed far too heavy to enjoy. But I’m ready to go home today, and not only because we will be back in Palm Desert in February for a week. We just packed in so many great experiences to the last 6 days that it will be fun to head home and share them with our family and friends.

My stepdaughter’s hockey team played really well and nearly won their tournament pool. More importantly, though, they worked well together and treated each other and the parents on the trip really well. They were friendly and upbeat and sociable.

Thanksgiving dinner for 1,000 hockey players and their families, in the massive ballroom at the J. W. Marriott was a highlight. All of the girls dressed up, and for those of us used to being home with families, it made the even seem special.

The parents were terrific too. They appreciated the planning that went into selecting a hotel. All helped drive girls to meals, and the conversation was friendly and easy.

In all, it was great fun to spend the holiday with a group of determined young people and the parents who love them. More things for which to be grateful.