Teen Birthday? Whatever, You’ll Always Be My Baby

I’m one of those moms who tends to go overboard with my kids’ birthdays.  Elaborate cakes, carefully planned parties, and that oh-so-perfect gift.  That being said, I had a little epiphany today–today being my son’s birthday.  As the memories came flooding back of the day he was born and the tear drops started forming, my left brain made a striking realization.  Turns out that my “overboard” approach to celebrating these special days, has a lot to do with my own personal fear of my children growing up.  So, to borrow a phrase from my mommy handbook…”you may not understand now, but I have my reasons.”

My little boy came bouncing into this world three weeks early after a healthy pregnancy turned troublesome.  I was so ready following a month of bed rest, a week of being repeatedly induced, and swelling that made me practically unrecognizable.  Our little bundle was gorgeous and perfect in every way.  And despite some post-pregnancy bumps, we finally settled into parenthood and the real fun (work?) began.

Sean was an easy baby except where sleep was concerned.  That kid hated to sleep and when he finally did fall asleep, it was never, EVER for long (a phenomenon that still holds true.)  His saving grace was his sweet little brown eyes that sparkled in the most amazing way.  Excuse my “mom-gush”, but that boy’s eyes “smile.”  Even to this day, he will be as ornery as any boy can be and follow it up with this look that could melt just about anything…especially my heart.  (Let it be noted that while these smiling eyes occasionally get him OUT of trouble, it’s the same smiling eyes that serve as his TELL when he’s trying to put one over on me.)

Like most kids, Sean has inherited qualities from both my husband and myself.  He has a terrific sense of humor like his Dad.  He’s such a funny kid with a quick wit and the ability to turn a phrase…especially when you least expect it!  Fortunately, he’s a good student like his Mom and manages to keep his clownishness at a reasonable level and not get into trouble at school.  Sean is a huge sports fan like his Dad and has enough good sense to choose the Kansas Jayhawks over every other team (like his Mom.)  Sean loves to build things and has a knack for figuring things out sans instruction booklets…that’s a Dad thing.  At the same time, he likes to watch ridiculous comedies (Kicking & Screaming, Even Stevens Movie or Christmas with the Kranks) over and over like his Mom.

So here’s where it comes full circle.  I don’t just love my son.  I really, truly like him, too…and thus, the overboard birthday parties.  I enjoy baking him extra special chocolate birthday cakes, I like creating and planning parties that reflect his favorite things, and I put a lot of thought into his gifts…all to purposefully mark the day when God blessed me with his precious child, a child who despite my objections, continues to grow up.  Let’s face it, time is ticking.  And while I am perpetually celebrating my 22nd birthday (lol), my little boy is racking up the birthday candles and moving ever closer to birthdays that I won’t be able to plan.  And it’s all coming too quickly.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with a gift more wonderful than anything I could have asked for.  Happy birthday, Sean.  I love you.  You are my sonshine…cheesy, but true.

Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart.  ~Author Unknown

Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22

Fav Baby Photo

Everyone is the age of their heart.  ~Guatemalan Proverb

I didn’t do anything as gaudy as send myself a birthday bouquet but I am about to break a few social mores.  That’s right, I’m saying it, “Happy birthday, to ME!” and I’m going to post photos of ME, and I’m writing a blog about ME 🙂  But I hope you’ll give me a pass…mostly because I AM the birthday girl.

Okay, to be clear, I’m not trying to solicit birthday wishes and/or gifts…but I just had to share a few thoughts about turning “the year before THE year.”  What????  Doesn’t make any sense?  Well, check this out:  Most of us know that turning 40 it’s a pretty big deal…as in it’s a pivotal moment (and not necessarily in a good way.)  And while I won’t be 40 until next year (2015), I did have a friend tell me that (NEWSFLASH)  turning “the year before THE year” is actually a pretty big deal, too!  I had no clue.  39 is a BIG thing…really?  Since when?  I guess…since now.

39 has been called the “creepy-creeper” birthday.  This connotation suggests that 39 is both undesirable and sneaky? Maybe even a little scary?  Sort of like you’re walking along…minding your own business…when this dreadful number jumps out from behind the bushes and boldly states, “Warning.  You’re about to cross over into old age!”  Or something like that.  Supposedly, at 39 this is the last year that I can be considered somewhat “young.”  I’ve been told that I’ve now entered the final months where it’s even somewhat socially acceptable to wear my hair long, paint my fingernails any color other than matronly mauve, or wear jet black mascara (among a great big list of other taboo items.)  If there is a distinction in adulthood, apparently 40 is the line for women and so I’m left with this one little year in which to kick up my heels and behave accordingly.  365 measly days left to be young!  I can hardly believe it…it all went so fast!  Actually, I find all this to be pretty funny.  Funny for two reasons:  1) because I think when I was in my 20s that I actually believed these rules and 2) especially funny because in my heart of hearts the first number that pops into my mind whenever someone asks me how old I am has ALWAYS been 22!

Photo (4) fixed

Birthday gathering with friends 🙂

Yes, I know.  It’s been a long, LONG time since I was 22, but you have to hear me out about this.  So when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to be in double digits.  10 is a BIG deal.  The next milestone age is 13, right?  Because now you’re a teenager.  Followed by 16…the year you can get your driver’s license.  The next biggie is 18…no curfew, you can vote, live on your own, etc.  And finally 21.  The BIG ONE.  That’s right…all the sudden you’re able to do all the things you’ve been told REAL grown-ups do. (?)  I know, we all know…most of them are very OVERRATED.  So when 22 rolls around you figure, okay…that’s it.  Nothing to see here people and I guess I just stopped counting after that.  Ridiculous, right?  I know…but that’s the house that I’ve been living in.  Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s still MY house.

At this point, I’m sure you’re laughing at me and I’m actually laughing at myself, too.  It’s been ages since I’ve been carded, had a night life, or gone on any adventures that don’t involve having my two kids in tow.  I’m not up on the newest trends, nor do I drive a hot car, or keep up with the latest movies or music.  I don’t really do any of the things that would lump myself in a category with anyone who is actually 22, yet that’s still the number that sticks in my head.  I always imagined that someday I’d graduate to a new birthday number, but it just never happened.  So now that I’m turning “the year before THE year,” I thought I’d better do a little research and see what the hubbub surrounding the number 40 is really all about…I mean, since I don’t want to be caught off guard (again) and I’m headed in that direction anyway.

It appears that there really are a lot of resources out there concerning the Big 4-0.  Countless books, websites, blogs and articles about embracing the “new and improved” you.  As I enter “the year before THE year,” it might behoove me to start reading up on some of these expectations and societal norms.  Here’s what I’ve gathered from the headlines so far:  40 is magical.  40 has attitude…it’s called “fortytude.”  There’s also a rumor that 40 can be fabulous (but I caution you, there are a lot of caveats to this one.)  40 is the first year a woman can qualify as a “cougar.”  40 is something that needs to be figured out and faced…it also makes you fierce and a force to be reckoned with (don’t you love all the alliteration that comes with 40!)  You can also be fit and forty at the same time (who knew?)  For those who truly believe in stressing themselves out about the number 40, there are a few websites that offer up 40 things you should accomplish by the time you reach 40.  And, by the way… in case you haven’t heard, forty is the new “F” word.

That’s a lot for one girl to take in.

All of this aside, here’s where I’m at.  It’s MY birthday and all I really want to do is thank God for another day, another year, and another reason to celebrate life (while eating Dairy Queen cake, of course.)  I don’t really get wrapped up in all this aging stuff.  I’m sure the day will come when the wrinkles and the gray hairs will win out, when my body doesn’t cooperate like it used to, when people stop asking me just how old I really am (and just start assuming I’m OLD!)  Until then, I’m just going to keep chugging along…making up nonsensical songs with my daughter, teasing my son by repeating hip phrases that sound anything but hip when I say them, wearing my hair as long as I want to, and sporting nice, bright nail polish as the mood strikes.  I’m not going to worry about figuring out or facing 40 or even reading up on the 40 things to do before you reach this supposed milestone.  While society might find my lack of alarm annoying or unheard of,  I think the psychological term is called “self differentiated.”  That’s right…who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new words.  And by the way, I’m going to stick with the age 22 for the time being (especially since Taylor Swift makes it sound so fun!)  Sure I’m a long way from it (and you really couldn’t pay me to go back,) but mostly just because it’s a nice number and like I said before… I still have a house there.  (Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s MY house.)

Here’s to 365 days of “the year before THE year!”

I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience.   Author unknown

The Other Birthday Brother

It’s my other brother’s birthday and I’m all smiles.  I asked my sister to find some photos of our brother for his birthday blog and this one stole my heart.  Look at that toothless grin, HUGE ball cap (did you borrow that from Dad?) accompanied by a tiny body, lefty baseball stance, and sporting a look of sheer determination!    And you were way ahead of your time with that stylish flat bill…LOL!  Under that hat I imagine that you’re sporting the same haircut you run around with today and that’s one of the things I love about you…you always know what works for you!  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I wish I could remember you when you were little, but I was little too and so we’ll have to go with what I’ve been told…brace yourself.  According to unnamed sources (our Mom), I loved to give you a bottle.  Somewhere I must have learned that happy babies are well-fed babies and so you were constantly having milk shoved in your direction.  As the story goes, it didn’t really matter if you needed or wanted your bottle, whether you were crying or not, I seemed to know what was best for you and as your older sister I decided that was milk.  So, I was a dairy pusher in your early days but don’t worry, you had your revenge later in life when you decided to dump a bowl of melted ice cream on my head immediately after my bath.  Yuck, and it was chocolate almond.

I remember when your tiny hand was all burned from hot coffee and the photo that exists somewhere of you on a picnic table sporting a sweater and a diaper with your paw all bandaged up.  You were small and cute and yes, other fun photos of you exist with your red-tinged hair!  Most of my childhood memories involve you and our youngest brother together.  You were each other’s best friend and worst enemy.  When you added in the neighborhood crew…well, the adventures never stopped.  There were many years of toy trucks, baseball, football, BMX bikes, basketball, track, lawn mowing, weightlifting, and even one season of soccer.  There were so many good times and it seems like only yesterday when we would all stay up late, watching Nick at Nite and playing monopoly for hours in the basement of our parent’s house.

Today, I tell my kids stories about you and our other siblings, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared two of my all-time favorite stories about you and I.  Interestingly, they both involve a ghetto blaster (now if that doesn’t send you way back…I don’t know what will!)  First, I remember the time when we tried to convince our little brother that he snored when he slept.  So, after he drifted off to sleep we tried to record him snoring.  But he slept silently, peacefully, and soundly.  No snoring…and I’m not sure if he really ever snored at all.  But we had a mission and the mission was to prove that he snored.  In my bedroom we secretly created a recorded a tape of our little brother sleeping–a FAKE obviously.  It started with a few grunts, groans, some snoring sounds then morphed into a symphony of noises that could only come from a barnyard.  Bogus as it was, we seemed satisfied and waited until morning to play the tape and reveal that yes, indeed our little brother was a big time snorer (not!)  I’ll never forget how much we laughed and how hard our little brother cried.  He told Mom, we were busted, forced to admit that we made it all up, and probably punished (but I tend to block those memories out!)  Ahh…good times.

My other fave story also involves the same ghetto blaster (remember how Dad carved our names into it?)  We were huge fans of the Karate Kid (I and II) and watched those movies over and over.  We were also two broke little kids who didn’t have money to purchase the movie soundtrack…yet we LOVED the Peter Cetera song The Glory of Love.  Nevermind that we were too young to understand the song, that part was irrelevant.  So determined we were to get a our own copy of this beloved piece of music, we decided to request it on the radio.  So, phonebook in hand my brother called the radio station and made the request.  As soon as he hung up, I called the radio station to make the same request.  This pattern repeated for at least an hour as we sat with our hot little hands on the record button waiting…and waiting….and waiting.  I’m sure the DJ was at his breaking point when the song FINALLY played.  It’s amazing what determination, concentration, hard work, dedication, and the sheer act of annoying the heck out of some poor guy who works at the radio station can do for two pesky kids on a Friday night!  Just like the Karate Kid…we were victorious!

Today is my brother’s birthday and I’m proud of the man he has become.  The qualities that I liked about him as a kid are the same qualities that I love about him today.  He is fun, hardworking, dependable, strong, reliable, honest and incredibly loyal.  He is the one who will listen, come up with a plan, and help you out of whatever kind of nonsense you’ve managed to get yourself into.  He’s a wonderful son, brother, father, uncle, son-in-law, brother-in-law, cousin and FRIEND.  Wishing you the happiest birthday ever.  YOU ARE LOVED!  BTW, I requested this song for you….

A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 NIV

Fried Chicken Evangelism…or Happy Birthday, Steve!

I think I’ve met my match where birthday blogs are concerned.  I’ve been wanting to write this one for days, but I’ve had two things stacked against me.  First, trying to write this blog and keep it a secret from my husband (BTW, it’s HIS birthday) and the difficult task of condensing a relationship that means so much and expands a great deal of time into just a few paragraphs.  It’s a story whose chapters continue to be written quicker than I can type.  Yikes!

I could start with when we met.  Now that was funny.  I was interviewing for a reporter job in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  As I was meeting various staff members, off in the distance I could hear this loud, booming voice.  Upon turning the corner in the newsroom, I could see that the source of this voice was “holding court” in the center of the room.  I clearly remember that he was in the middle of telling a story, when he stopped and said, “You’re from Kansas?”  If memory serves me right, I think the look he gave me spoke volumes.  I’ll sum it up by saying that I’m certain he was searching my smile for a shock of wheat and wondering if I wore socks with my shoes, maybe even if I wore shoes at all.  You see, HE was from California…which explains his loud, all-about-me nature…which I would later learn he referred to as the “wonderfulness of Steve.”  This brief encounter concluded with various Kansas jokes…I’ll spare you the details but they had to do with telephone poles and cow patties.  Somehow this was the beginning of our love story.

Fastforwarding, I’ll share another one of my favorite Steve stories:  Our honeymoon.  Let’s just say we took a wrong turn back to the hotel following a Hawaiian midnight Christmas Eve mass (we sure know how to have fun don’t we?)  Down this dark, semi-spooky street we happened to walk past a woman.  Being the naive Kansas girl that I am, I just assumed she was waiting for her ride.  Turns out she was waiting alright…but her attire didn’t suggest she was on her way home from church.  As we moved past her and down to the street corner, Steve suddenly decides that he has to speak to her.  Maybe it was because she was all alone on a dark street, maybe it was because it was Christmas Eve and maybe it was because we had just come from church…regardless, Steve just had to go over there and talk to her–leaving me alone, standing on a dark (somewhat seedy) street corner!  I wasn’t privy to the conversation with this “lady of the night,” but anyone watching would have thought this scene was hilarious.  A man leaves his bride of less than a week, on a street corner, in a strange town, in the middle of the night, to minister to a prostitute.  As if this scene wasn’t hilarious enough, you should have seen the send-off she gave him…let’s just say she told him where to go and how to get there!

I should mention that my husband is now a pastor.  It’s his calling that has taken us from Arkansas, to California, and miraculously back to my home state of Kansas.  Before you think a pastor’s family life must be boring…let me tell you we’ve had some great adventures and God has blessed us with some incredible opportunities.  At the same time, Steve’s calling tests my skeptical nature on a regular basis.  Nevertheless, he continues to serve others in a variety of settings and throughout all hours of the day.  One of the things that I’ve really had to get used to are the constant phone calls.  Did you know that someone is always in need?  I had no idea.  But when your name is printed in the phone book and/or is associated with a church, many times you are the first person that people call.  Steve has given money, boxes of crackers, high-priced danishes (inside joke,) and arranged transportation and motel rooms for those who have come across hard times.  I’ll never forget the time he told me he was leaving the house to take fried chicken to a guy holed up in a motel room who didn’t have any money for food.  Don’t ask, it’s a really long story.

I’ve often thought of writing a book about Steve and his faith walk…gushing about how wonderful I think he is and how much I love and respect his story.  He’s a big part of bringing me to this point in my life…not just physically to this place, but mentally and especially spiritually.  I fell in love with Steve because he makes me laugh.  I  continue to be amazed by the depth of his heart and how much he genuinely loves and cares about people.  I admire his strong faith and the inspirational way that he seeks to share God with me, our family, our church, our community and just about anyone he meets.  If you know Steve, you know I could go on and on.  When I do write that book, I already have the title picked out…Fried Chicken Evangelism.  Happy birthday, Steve.  YOU ARE LOVED.

A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.  Proverbs 15:17 NLT



“Angels” in the school Christmas program 🙂

Most friendships don’t span a decade, let alone three and counting.  Some can’t believe it when I tell them, others say we’re lucky, and still some might wonder how we’ve managed to stay in touch for so long.  All I really know is that I couldn’t ask for a better friend.  We’re truly blessed to have each other!

Today is Amy’s birthday.  I can’t really remember the exact circumstances that brought us together.  We met in kindergarten and the way we tell the story is that we were the two shyest girls in the class and that was a good enough reason to start up a friendship.  I remember Amy’s long blonde hair and her quiet voice.  Her mother managed to snap a photo of the two of us side by side in the Christmas program…and we’ve probably taken hundreds of photos together (sans the angel outfits) since then.

The details escape me, but I image we had a funny little friendship in the beginning…if you’re the shy type, this might resonate with you.  I have grade school memories of sitting next to each other (not really talking, we were shy remember), softly laughing together and of course, playing “mystery” on the playground… but not much else.  Fortunately, our friendship became a lot more animated in junior high–passing notes, trying to arrange classes together, going to the movies, dreaming about driving and staying over at each other’s houses.  Eventually, her family became my family and vice versa.  Thinking about afternoons at her house reminds me of putting Chex mix inside sandwiches, munching Cool Ranch Doritos, avoiding her cat (my parents were dog people so cats were totally new to me) and the awesomest (is that a word?) phone in the world–it was CLEAR!  Amy was so cool!


Today…solving the world’s problems over coffee!

Back in those days we talked about boys, rattled on and on about teachers, and took several classes together.  We were partners whenever a school project came along.  And when we couldn’t be paired up, we  took our show on the road to the public library and managed to do our school work there together (with lemons in tow!) I can remember going to football/basketball games and school dances, all the typical things that fill up a tween’s life.  Along side that, I remember jumping out of Mr. Sherwood’s classroom window, the 9th grade water balloon fight (poor Mr. Adams) and telling Amy’s mom that she just might need glasses (poor thing couldn’t read the blackboard–does that date us or what?)

High school was much more fun, so much that I can share very little about our adventures 🙂  Let’s just say that we managed to have plenty of good times and maintain straight A’s…oh wait, there was that B in geometry.  Nevertheless, it was all basically harmless and good-natured and thank God no one ever got hurt!  We spent countless hours driving around in her little blue Dodge Shadow, stopping daily by Sonic, and making plans for the weekend.  Amy is the reason why  I agreed to go  to the prom, the ONE person I would go watch in the school plays, and the only reason I got through speech class without getting sent to the principal (“You want me to squawk?” You must be kidding me!)

And alas, we graduated high school and moved away to college.  We chose two different universities (approximately an hour away from one another) and the fun continued, but on a less frequent basis unfortunately.  I loved visiting Amy and she likewise.  We maintained communication via phone (no cell phones or text messages back in those stone ages!)  Her friends became my friends and my friends hers.  And the discussions continued… about boys, teachers, classes and now–OUR FUTURES.  Amy had big plans for us to study in Europe–her in France, me in Spain.  I on the other hand wanted to adhere to a four-year college schedule and find a job ASAP!  We both stuck to our plans and still managed to stay connected despite being an ocean apart.

I loved hearing about her adventures overseas.  Her new friends, college life abroad, and the French lifestyle.  Amy traveled and in some ways I felt like I was going along for the ride.  A terrific pen pal, I received loads of postcards and photos.  Through it all our tiny, Kansas hometown remained our connecting point.  When we couldn’t see each other during visits home, we often ran into each other’s parents or siblings.  One of my brothers would tell me that they saw her with her sister and that she hadn’t changed a bit.  I, likewise, loved running into her family and asking how she was doing and when her next visit would be.

Our friendship eventually moved bi-coastal with me on the west coast and her living on the east.  Still, she made the trip out to San Francisco to be the maid of honor in my wedding and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As I write this I can’t help but smile.  There’s so many stories I could relay, so many memories that I wish I could share and there just aren’t enough pages for me to tell you all the things I love about Amy.  Her kind heart, her loyalty, her fun-loving nature, her sharp mind, her perspective, her ambition, her courage, her faith and the list goes on.  I know that I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t met my yellow-haired friend all those years ago.  Amy always says that we live parallel lives, and it’s my favorite phrase to describe our friendship–and “Amyism” if you will.

Today we still live hours apart (but both in the Midwest) and visit each other whenever we can.  Our life paths have crossed, intersected, gone off in different directions and yet, whenever we get together it’s like no time has passed at all.  I LOVE that!  In many ways, life has changed and moved in directions that neither of us ever would have (could have) anticipated.  And in other ways, we’re the same little girls who met all those years ago in kindergarten.  Except that now, while we both maintain our “shyness,” if and when we get the chance to sit together, we can easily talk to each other for hours and hours… only the laughter between us today is much, much louder!  Happy birthday to my dearest friend, YOU ARE LOVED!

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

The Birthday Brother

I smile because you’re my brother.  I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it.  –Author Unknown

Little brothers are g-g-g-great!  If you can swing it, I highly recommend having one…and I can say that now because I don’t live with mine and haven’t for years.  And I am especially reminded of how great it is to have a brother because today is my littlest bro’s birthday.  (Insert birthday horns here!)

I dont’ remember the day my youngest brother came on the scene.  I think I might have been three or four and those kinds of things don’t really register when you’re little.  What I can honestly attest to is that I can’t remember a day in my childhood when he wasn’t around.  His cute little, round-cheeked, skinny self running around the house…usually right behind my other brother.  To this day I still refer to them as “the boys” (notice the plural) because they were always together!  And together they managed to get into all kinds of adventures.  But this blog is an ode to the birthday brother so I’ll try to stay on task.

My memories include all the regular little brother stuff like how he would play with toy trucks, get dirty, play sports, get dirty, bother me, and get dirty (of course it didn’t help that our backyard at the time was nothing but dirt.)  But he did other things, too, and some of them still put a grin on my face to this very day!  I remember the summer he wouldn’t wear shorts.  I’m not sure of the real reason behind this abnormality, although I have my theories, but he just flat out refused to wear shorts one summer.  Instead he opted for jeans!  Jeans in the hot, dry western Kansas heat.  I can remember it was a family effort to try to convince him to wear shorts.  It was a battle we lost.  I can still picture him on the sidewalk in front of the house with a pair of black jeans on…and his little shirt was tucked in!  But those jeans were the least of his worries.  During one of the summers when he did wear shorts that boy had more mosquito bites than the whole population of GC!  He had welts the size of ping pong balls and they always got infected.  He practically bankrolled the Campho-Phenique corporation that summer!  The mosquitoes sure must have thought that kid was sweet (I’ll throw him a bone, after all it is his birthday!)  Other summer memories include his obsession, or was it superstition, with Gatorade gum and sunflower seeds.  (Upon a recent trip home a story was relayed to me that he is still crazy about sunflower seeds.  A little bird told me that he uses his prechool-aged son as a pack mule for carrying around three different flavors of sunflower seeds at a time.  If you’re ever in need, check his boy’s backpack for sustenance!)

My littlest brother was also a bit of a clown and could be counted on for a laugh or a quick remark at anytime.  This orneriness landed him in trouble once or twice (ha ha) and he was lucky that he was such a cute little boy– it was his saving grace!  As a consequence of his cuteness, little girls were always buzzing around, going to his ball games and calling our house.  Not sure if he’ll admit it, but I think he secretly liked all the attention.  Things got weird in high school when girls my age were asking who’s “that guy” and it turns out they were pointing to my kid brother!  It got even weirder when a friend of mine called and I started chatting with her when she interrupted me to say that she was actually calling to talk to him.  Awkward.  But as fate would have it, he is now the father of two beautiful girls and a darling little boy and I can’t wait to see how he handles the consequences of their “cuteness.”  I can already hear him saying, “Well things were different when I was your age….”

I could go on and on about my littlest brother, but I will stop short and relay my two favorite stories.  The first takes place in Allen Fieldhouse during a Jayhawk game.  I remember him sulking because he had to accompany my folks on a weekend visit to see me in Lawrence.  Poor guy!  He happened to be in trouble (again?) and my parents were afraid a typical grounding would be ineffective if they were out-of-town.  I’m sure the house party invites were already out by the time my folks told him he had to go with them on their road trip.  He was not very happy.  So while thousands of Jayhawk fans were screaming at the sight of the Jayhawks and Jacque Vaughn running through the tunnel, my brother sat sulkily in his chair sucking on a soda.  Nevermind the awesomeness of seeing the Jayhawks play at home.   Nevermind being on the hallowed grounds of basketball history.  Nevermind that it’s next to impossible to get tickets to a Jayhawk game.  As the saying goes, “Beware the Phog,” but that afternoon it was more like the Phog should beware him.  Hell has no fury like a boy who lost his house party!

And my all time favorite story takes place back in high school.  He was a freshman (I was a senior) and he was having a hard time relating to his math teacher (and that’s putting it nicely.)  As I bounded around the corner in JDA, I almost fell over myself at the sight of my brother sitting in the hallway.  This floored me for two reasons:  1) I didn’t know teachers put high school kids in the hallway and 2) I wouldn’t have imagined that if a teacher did put him in the hallway that he would have actually STAYED!   Okay, you’re thinking what is so exceptional about this story?  Well here it is.  I used to tell my friends that my brother was destined for great things, if only he would put all his energy into good instead of evil.  It’s a little dramatic, but I think it was right on.  As a kid, my brother was a good-hearted, funny, spirited, adventurous people magnet…what he didn’t realize was that he was also thoughtful, kind, intelligent and a born leader!  Today, my dearest little brother is a TEACHER and works at our old middle school where he also coaches football and freshman baseball.  In a twisty sort of tale that is all his own, he found his way out of that high school hallway and made his own round-the-way path to success!

He’s no longer the round-cheeked, skinny fella tagging along after my brother.  He’s much more than that.  He’s a terrific son, brother, friend, cousin, husband, father, uncle, son-in-law, brother-in-law, child of God and TEACHER who puts his energy into good and making a positive difference in the lives of others. He’s the teacher with a story that even the orneriest child can relate to.  But let’s not kid ourselves here, it is a little funny to know that as a 30-something year old man you can still find him hanging around in the hallways at school!

On your birthday, may you find joy, blessings and lots of laughter, little brother.  Enjoy your day.  YOU ARE LOVED.

A brother is a better defense than a strong city.  Proverbs 18:19