My Favorite Thanksgiving

I was recently asked to share my favorite Thanksgiving memory.  As I am sure it would be hard for you, it was a difficult task for me as well.  I had so many to choose from.  I thought of the first Thanksgiving with my family as I brought my then new girlfriend and eventual wife, Deb, to meet my mom, dad and siblings.  I remember the stories we told around that table and the laughs we shared.  I of course thought of those first Thanksgivings we spent at our own home with my daughters and the traditions we started.  I thought of those spent with my brother in law and sister in law at their home in Wausau as we merged our families and the “cousin’s club” was formed under the basement stairs.

I eventually settled on one very different Thanksgiving.  It was Thanksgiving on a cold November day in 1985.  We were moving into our new home that next morning and my brother had come down to help us pack and move.  This would be his first Thanksgiving away from the family we had grown up in and he was letting me know how hard that was.  Since the kitchen, and whole house for that matter, were packed away in boxes, there was no way to have a dinner at our house.  We decided to go out to Crandall’s, a local restaurant, that was actually serving Thanksgiving dinner.  When we arrived, I took the waitress aside and explained our situation.  She recommended we take the home style meal being offered and she would do her best to recreate the family feel.

Dinner was served with heaping helpings of mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy.  The stories ensued and we were feeling better.  Eventually, the waitress slid by our table and asked how everyone was doing?  My brother complimented the food and then requested some more potatoes and gravy.  With out missing a beat, the waitress put her hand on his shoulder and said “They’re in the kitchen, I’m sure you can get them as easy as me.”  My brother’s look was priceless.  The slack jaw, the rolled up eyes.  The waitress smiled and said “Thought I’d make you feel right at home.”  Needless to say, she had performed perfectly.  It was if my mom had been there all along.

Ironically, all these years later, we are more or less in the midst of repeating the story.  My younger daughter and her boyfriend are about to move into their new home tomorrow morning.  It is amazing how life circles back.  We will all be together for turkey at our home and we will share the stories that we continue to pass down.  Today we will remember those Thanksgivings that have been and look forward to those yet to come.  I want to thank my brother and that waitress for one of my favorite memories.

So share your stories and your memories and remember,  there’s more turkey and gravy in the kitchen, go help yourself.  Happy Thanksgiving 2016.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016


Happy thanksgiving to all my friends and family, not that my family isn’t counted among my friends. Just being careful. I am thankful for my life. It may not always go the way we planned but each change and turn defines us and leads us closer to ultimately who we are meant to be. My life has been so full of wonderful twists and turns. My wife, my family, my career are all were met and added to my life along the journey. I will sit with my family today and reflect on a great life. We will tell and retell our stories and laugh and love together as we celebrate thanksgiving together. May you all feel as blessed and may you all feel the warmth of a loving family and a rich life. Happy Thanksgiving 2016. Now go watch the parade and eat some turkey

Thirty-six years….and counting

November 15, 2016

To my wife and partner of thirty-six years

Life is an interesting journey.  So many little things brought us together all those years ago.  Some of those things were good ones and some, unfortunately, were not but never the less they were the steps that brought our paths to the intersection where we met.  Not that you were ready for the likes of me.  You put up a fair share of resistance.  Fortunately, one of my traits was persistence and your resistance quickly wore down.

We started out small, dinner at the Checkerboard, Dutch treat as I had so little to offer you other than my wit and charm.  Nice to know we have outlasted the Checkerboard, long since gone.  We advanced to our first date, a movie left unnamed and attended by accident.  To eventually deciding that our feelings were mutual and it was time to stop being apart, if even for a day or even a few hours at a time.

We made it to Thanksgiving, our first holiday together.  There would be thirty-six more to come, many with distinct memories, apple cobbler served warm on a bed of concrete comes to mind, but none so remarkable as that first Thanksgiving.  I will forever refer to it as the Shepherd Inquisition.  How I survived is beyond me.  If I had been your father, I would have sent me packing.  But this is where your character trait came into play.  You are a strong person who when she knows she is right takes a stand that no one can move.  And so you fought for me.  This would be the first in multiple times that you would fight for me.  I am glad you have won every time.

I remember our first truly “big” date.  You know, the one where he surprises you with his willingness to spend way more than he can afford on a destination that is meant to impress.  Do you remember….the Top of the 95th in Chicago?  By the time we left dinner, the one with the lovely view of the kitchen, I barely had enough money to get us out of the parking garage.  But somehow you were impressed.  A trick I have managed to pull off countless times since and something I will continue to attempt far into our future.

Oh we have had our fights along the way.  Some trivial and others worth fighting for, but through it all we learned more about each other every time and we learned to fight nice, love more and laugh at life together.  When our careers distracted us, one of us always took on the role of supporter.  We soothed our frazzled nerves and reached out and pulled each other through.

And then there were children.  First Bailey and then all those years later, Kathryn.  We created them out of love and rededicated our lives to theirs.  We faced the challenge of raising two bright and beautiful, independent young women and we championed our efforts.  We learned the art of divide and conquer, the skill of compromise without losing sight of the goal and the pleasure only two lively intelligent girls could bring to our family.  By the looks of it, aka the last reality check, we have succeeded.

There are so many tales to tell, so little room to write them all down.  But at least a mention.  Our Christmas traditions, starting with that first movie, Pauley, and eventually growing into our dinners on the town and The Christmas Carol presentation.  Thirty-six Christmas mornings, thirty-two with children, one with a dog if I remember correctly.  The family trips; Italy, the Caribbean, Mexico, Yellowstone and Yosemite to name just a few.  So many wonderful memories and so many years together.

What has kept us together all these years?  Love and respect.  Sometimes just enough and other times more than enough to store for the years ahead.  Thank you for always fighting for me and for standing up alongside of me when I needed that support.  We are a partnership, forged in tenacity and built on a foundation of love.  I look forward to the future and if it is in the stars, another thirty-six years to build our continuing book of memories.

All my love on this our anniversary.


I Surprised Her!

Last night I decided to surprise my wife.  Stay with me, this doesn’t go off the rails with some “please don’t over share”.  I decided to make her dinner and have it ready when she got home.  To be clear, this was no small effort on my part as I had to race to the market for fresh fish and wine and then get it all together before she got home.  Good news, I pulled it off and she was somewhere between surprised and totally shocked.

Now that response, though it was what I had hoped for, left me asking “why was it so easy to surprise her?”  The answer of course was that I seldom if ever do this for her.  Not too good a track record.  For all the laundry, all the cooked meals, all the cleaning and effort to keep our home so beautiful, I am guilty of not even taking the time to cook her a meal once in a while.  Lesson learned.  And here is a request for the rest of you readers out there, take the time to give back the favor for your partner.  I am suspecting they deserves no less.  If you are one who regularly does this anyway, I am proud of you.  I know YOU exist, it was just that I didn’t.

After the gushing over the meal and the points in the bank; badly needed points in the bank, I knew what I needed to do.  Eggs over easy, dry muffin and coffee, all served in bed.  However, based on the additional level of shock, it might be best if I space this out.  What good will it do if I give her a heart attack.




Always give ’em’ options

When we set about teaching our daughters independence while at the same time keeping our relative sanity, we decided to give them options.  Now please understand, we were at least smart about it.  We would creatively come up with three options knowing full well that we couldn’t lose.  No matter which they picked, we could easily live with the choice.  Now all these years later we can see that it worked.  My daughter Bailey and her husband John, are practicing the same technique with our grandson Jackson.  Here in lies the story.

The other day, while visiting their house, John and I were attempting to watch the Packer game.  I say attempting because Jackson had decided to not watch the game and instead to get us involved in his own game.

Scene one, Jackson enters the room and asks in his 2 1/2 year old style, “can Jackson play tablet?”  After an explanation by his dad that he had already had plenty of tablet time, Jackson comes back with “then Jackson reads daddy’s favorite book?”  Strike two as John explains that he is trying to watch the game and he will read the book later.  Wait for it, Jackson is ready to prove the lesson and win the game.  Without so much as a deep sigh, Jackson reaches over dad’s lap and as he grabs it, says “then Jackson gets the nuk”.  Point, set, match, you’ve all been had by your own game.  And he’s not even 3.

As I explained to John that we had just been schooled, it became clear to me that Jackson is one sharp little guy.  Of course I am his Opa  and couldn’t possibly think anything less.  But then he did figure out the game; give them three choices, all of which are wins and you can’t lose.

So a little advice for those who will be the influences in their grandchild’s life, remind them of this wisdom and urge them to always give themselves options.  Options that can’t lose and that will only lead to success.

It’s all about one’s options.  Nice play Jackson.