Autism awareness can lower a few raised eyebrows

I knew very little about the autism spectrum back in 2006, when I met the young boy who would become my son. My wife and I had been dating for several months when we decided it was time to introduce each other to our children. She explained that he had Asperger’s Syndrome and likely wouldn’t make eye contact — and to not take it personally if he avoided any physical contact like a firm handshake.

“And whatever you do, don’t tousle his hair,” she instructed with a squeeze of my hand. “He really doesn’t like that.”

Autism is a neurological developmental disability with symptoms generally appearing before age 3, impacting the development of the brain in areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function.  Continue reading

Because the women in my life make every day worth celebrating

imageSitting on the edge of the bed this morning, I looked over at my wife’s slowly stirring figure. I watched her stretch beneath the blankets and finish with that little squeal that means it was a good stretch. She yawned, covering her mouth with the back of her hand like she always does. Her eyes focused and she slowly smiled at me.

I smiled back, knowing in that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be in my life.

Before heading to work, I slipped a note into her lunch:

You make every day better because of loving you.

It wasn’t until arriving at work that a Facebook post informed me it was National Women’s Day. It made me think of how the women in my life — especially my wife, daughters and mother — are a constant inpiration, and how the gift of their presence is something worth celebrating every day.  Continue reading

For Dr. King and the love shared by Rufus Valentine

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(As editor of a small community newspaper, I feel we have a responsibility as journalists to inform readers as well as inspire conversation about the things that matter to us as a community and as Americans. To this end, we have devoted a large portion of today’s edition to Martin Luther King Jr., offering perspectives on his message, his legacy, and how the echoes of his speech from 51 years ago are returning to us with even more relevance today. Along with columns from other local writers, activists and letters from readers, I’m offering this very personal piece that is equal parts inspiration and regret…)

As I’ve mentioned here before, I lived in the South for 10 years, with six of those years spent in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, I was a restaurant chef operating in one of Georgia’s largest shopping malls — three stories of glass, sale banners and merchants spanning six football fields’ worth of mall space.

As you can imagine, I’ve dealt with as many personalities as there are seats in a 280-capacity dining room. The fact that Rufus Valentine dug such a deep groove in my memory should tell you a little something about the man’s character.  Continue reading

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

A blogger friend named Randall Willis once posted a beautiful poem that I’m always reminded of this time of year. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience that I tell each year around Christmas. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments.

That said, my sincere thanks to all of you for sharing the magic in your own way, every day…
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imageHe looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.

“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and what’s-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”

The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”

For the first time, the man’s fingers left the keyboard, just long enough to wave his son to silence.  Continue reading

Ten years ago, love overlooked the fact I drove a mini van

imageTen years ago tonight, I had my first date.

I was 40.

It’s not that I hadn’t been on other dates in my life. It’s just that, from the very first moment we took each other’s hands, none of the others seemed to matter anymore — Because nothing compared to this one.

The best one.

The last one I’ll ever want.

Both of us were recently divorced after long, unhappy marriages. We both had two children at home. And both of us had joined a dating website a month earlier within a few days of each other. Fate, it seemed, had already set things into motion.

10 years and one pair of wedding rings later, I’m still thanking fate each and every day.

But especially for this night, when the amazing woman I now call my wife was able to overlook the fact that her date drove a mini van.

Here’s how it all started…

[Insert gauzy time-travel sequence and harp music here]

Continue reading

Because she gives me “crazy love”

As I mentioned earlier this week, today I am celebrating the gift of sharing the past eight years with the amazing woman I get to call my wife. We’re keeping a low profile for our anniversary, spending the day in quiet appreciation of each other. However, I wanted to surprise her with this expression of my love, and share with you the many reasons why I treasure her…

Eight years ago tomorrow, I was exactly where I was meant to be

imageEight years ago tomorrow, I stood at the altar, watching as my wife crossed the courtyard toward the church. I remember smiling so much my cheeks hurt; I remember the pride and appreciation I felt knowing I was about to be her husband; and I remember a momentary breeze lifting a strand of hair away from her face, like God’s finger gently brushing it aside as she entered the chapel.

As with any rare occasion when we don’t enter a room together, our eyes found each other immediately. So much was said to each other during that long walk to the altar, not in words, but spoken between our two hearts — in a language we had been fluent in from the moment we met.

Oct. 28, 2006:
My search for a red rose after making the hour-long drive to Salem for our first date had put me behind. Coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been on a real date in nearly 20 years, had lost 23 pounds since my divorce several months earlier, and was driving a Plymouth Voyager mini-van, I technically had four strikes against me already. Plus, after several weeks of chatting together on Match.com and long evening phone calls, she had finally posted her profile picture. When I saw it, I realized I wasn’t only in danger of striking out before our date even started:

Heck, I was batting out of my league. Continue reading

The women in my life make every moment matter

imageSitting on the edge of the bed this morning, I looked over at my wife’s slowly stirring figure. I watched her stretch beneath the blankets and finish with that little squeal that means it was a good stretch. She yawned, covering her mouth with the back of her hand like she always does. Her eyes focused and she slowly smiled at me.

I smiled back, knowing in that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be in my life.

Before heading to work, I slipped a note into her lunch:

You make every day better because of loving you.

It made me think of how the women in my life — especially my wife, daughters and mother — are a constant inpiration, and how the gift of their presence is something worth celebrating every day.  Continue reading

Please join me for #ourweekofpeace (and I don’t mean the kids are gone)

imageIn early July, when Kendall F. Person first invited me to be a part of the annual #ourweekofpeace, I of course said “Yes” for many reasons, not the least of which was because it’s an opportunity to collaborate with other artists — writers, musicians, poets, singers and photographers — in a week-long tribute to peace in our world. Little did I know how, within just a few days of our conversation, the world would seem to come crashing down in Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Dallas and, most recently, France.

Once again, we have a reason to mourn senseless tragedy.

The importance of expressing our thoughts and the need for peace is crucial right now. I’m humbled to join artists from around the world Aug. 1-7, when The Public Blogger presents its annual Our Week of Peace collaborative, coincidentally during a time when we need it most. I hope you’ll join me, along the dozens of other artists, as each of us presents our own perspective on peace through our art. Here’s a snippet of what it’s all about…  Continue reading

There shall be no eye rolling on Father’s Day

Child rolling her eyesI am a father with three teens. As a result, if a priest were to visit my home and witness the amount of eye rolling that occurs, he would schedule an exorcism faster than you can say “The Conjuring.”

I realize this is a teen thing, and that it’s not easy going through physical and emotional changes generally reserved for a full moon. I understand how the Molotov cocktail of hormones created during this time makes everything annoying, particularly when I say something insensitive such as, “Hi.”

However, come Father’s Day, I will remind my them about the recently discovered 11th Commandment, in which God said unto the teenagers of the world: “Thou shalt not eye roll thine parents. Tis truly annoying.”

They will immediately Google it and discover I’m making up this Commandment, at which point the whites of their eyes will begin that slow, exaggerated roll they know drives me nuts… and then they’ll remember:

Oh no, It’s Father’s Day.  Continue reading