Dogs Love to Play

I turned 54 recently and my dog Jack, 14; that translates to 72 in human years. I am grateful we’ve had the last 14-years to spend together. He has brought an immense amount of joy to my life.

20170729_200806We are both growing older. Jack spends the majority of his time sleeping on the couch, rising and finding a different spot to sleep. We still go for walks but they have become briefer. Instead of inspecting the neighborhood and everything, and I mean everything in it; we cross the street where he does his business and returns home. Gone are the days where he would sit outside with me while I read or completed therapy notes on the laptop. He does remain excited about the “walk around the house” Sunday morning when we retrieve the morning paper.

It is a sad thought that at some point he will no longer greet me at the door with his nub tail wagging but we will all reach that point in our lives. Death is one thing which we will all encounter. What we are unaware of the when.

I have learned so much from Jack. He has been an amazing teacher. Like so many moments which take place every day, there are those pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from the sea of life. Too many of us choose not to take the opportunity to see them as lessons.

Jack has taught me and then reminded me of the importance of “taking it easy” and gratitude for the things which I have

Life has a tendency to slow down as we get older. The things which we once saw as being on the list of “need to do” are often relegated to “maybe.” We begin to review our priorities seeing what is truly important and what no longer matters or matters as much. As a therapist, I feel sad for the individuals I see on a  regular basis both in my practice and simply traveling through life who don’t take the opportunity to slow down and reflect. We use this excuse “I don’t have any time” too much. We’re all busy but are we actually accomplishing anything or are we just busy?

One of the greatest gifts we have received in life is time and since we don’t ever know what our expiration date is, it behooves us to take every day and the see the beauty which it beholds. This morning as I was making coffee and getting ready to leave for work, my wife in the shower and my daughter had left already, I heard my grandson say, “Play with me Popi.” He was sitting at his little table and chair playing with his play-doh. I poured my coffee into a thermos and took a seat next to him playing make-believe with his play-doh. This ranks as high for me as sitting outside the other night watching the Notre Dame game with my son while enjoying a cigar.

Make sure you make time for those things in your life which are truly important. You’ll regret it if you don’t and no one likes regrets. Oh yeah, don’t blame others for the time you feel you don’t have and the time you don’t take for yourself.



Balance & Gratitude

A Beautiful Moment

With palms together,

I wish you all a Good Evening.

I left the office at 6 PM. I completed a staff meeting 60-minutes early and let my staff retire for the day. The week was a difficult one; busy but productive.

I sit alone in my backyard, laptop on my lap, three fingers of Bulleit consumed, journal written and a cigar burning in my hand as I type. My only company are the cicadas and crickets as they compete for the coming darkness and the solitude which is provided. A cool breeze which has all but erased the humidity from the air providing a comfortable evening in which to sit in stillness and in silence. The time is 8:04 PM. Darkness is descending quickly as we approach the second week of September. My son and I have tickets to the Notre Dame game the weekend of September 26. I look forward to spending this time with him.

I am thankful for the 7-mile run this morning. A run which started my day. It is my running, my early morning runs which remain one of the keys to balance in my life.

I love rising in the stillness of the early morning. I run with no one else around with the exception of the few passing cars of those souls who begin their workday. I ran across the bridge which spans the Erie Canal and sweep the light of my head torch to the left. The light is reflected back to me in the eyes of several deer; resting peacefully before the light of day reveals their sacred position.

This run this morning, while anticipated was one which I thought several times of abandoning. The thoughts of abandoning are quickly pushed to the side as I remain motivated to complete this run. My legs struggle to find a comfortable cadence, the humidity striking me and reminding me this run will not be an easy one. Thoughts of my favorite runner, Rob Krar also come into play; his silent encouragement helps to keep me going.

I complete this run with mixed emotions. I sit on my porch and cool off, sweat dripping in this humid environment. My only company are the crickets which break the silence. A glance to the East and my eyes meet the brightening sky. The color remains pale but also provides hope the sun will shine.

Happiness in my life is ensured because it is what I make of it. A helpful quote by @iamthecitymonk…”What you focus on expands. Look at the beauty and virtues of others all the time instead of their flaws.” I extrapolated the content of this quote to everything in my life. Daily, I look for the beauty in everything and everyone around me. Most of the time it is found and when it is, I am allowed to see the beauty within. See your beauty every day.


Notre Dame

I began writing another post about my recent visit to the campus of Notre Dame. My son sent me a text telling me about the following post on the Huffington Post website. The following was written by Tom Cramer and the following comment was written by my son Stephen. I could not have written either piece any better.

I grew up on the Southwest side of Chicago in the 1970s, a neighborhood home to many Irish Americans. A few doors down from me lived a family that became a very important part of my life. The mother and father were born in Ireland. Their youngest child, Patrick, was the only boy and he was a couple of years older than me. I looked up to him, and he took me under his wing. His older sisters used to babysit me. Patrick’s mom was an angel, and I always felt safe in her presence. His father scared the hell out of me. Not that he was ever mean — I just couldn’t understand a word he said. He had a very deep, gruff voice, and the thickest brogue I’ve ever heard, so no matter what he said, he sounded angry. The family’s love for each other was apparent, even when they were all yelling. They used to take me along to huge, all-Irish picnics in the Cook County Forest Preserves, where I would observe the sports of “soccer” and hurling being played, and overhear largely unintelligible conversations. While the family didn’t really follow “American football,” they sure helped me connect with my heritage.

My mother’s parents were also born in Ireland, in the same county. Although they only lived about 10 miles apart, they didn’t know each other. They only met after each had independently arrived in Chicago. They married and started a family. Two of my mom’s sisters became nuns. Another sister married and moved to South Bend, where they started their family. When I was still an infant, my mother became ill, and my aunt came to Chicago and took me back to South Bend with her for an extended stay. As a child, I would spend a few weeks every summer with my cousins, and we’d often visit the Notre Dame campus. Later, one of my siblings became a Brother of Holy Cross, also in South Bend. He started taking some classes at Notre Dame. He eventually chose to leave the order, but continued classes and graduated from ND. The progression was complete.

So it was natural for me to love the Fighting Irish. It seemed a birthday was not a success unless I received a new Notre Dame T-shirt or sweatshirt, a banner to hang on the wall or a ceramic figure to put in my bedroom. There were plenty of other kids in my neighborhood who grew up the same way. If there was a pick-up football game in the park, the odds were high that each kid wore something from either Notre Dame or the Chicago Bears — many times both.

As a young sports fan, I learned about football by watching Notre Dame. I remember a family party when I was 7 when we were gathered around the TV before kickoff versus USC. Everyone was explaining to me how it’s one of the best rivalries in college football. USC was extremely good, but I could feel the hope and anticipation in the air. The tailback for USC scored 6 touchdowns, two of them on kickoff returns, and I felt all that electricity leave the room. USC went on to win the national championship. The next year, Ara Parseghian led the Irish to the title, although I was in third grade and didn’t really understand what that meant. When I was in seventh grade, Joe Montana led Notre Dame to an upset over Texas in the Cotton Bowl to claim the crown. Not only was I now old enough to understand, I really enjoyed it.

Years later, as an adult, I stood in the rain and watched the Miami Hurricanes humiliate Notre Dame 58-7. Two years after that, the Irish beat the Canes 31-30, in the infamous “Catholics vs. Convicts” game, and went on to win the national championship. I was ecstatic. In 1993, #2 Notre Dame beat #1 Florida State to claim the number one ranking. The next week, they were upset by Boston College in the rivalry dubbed “The Holy War.” ND has given me the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

It was my friend’s birthday recently. He was born in Ireland, but came to the States at a young age and adopted all the American sports. He chose to celebrate this birthday by inviting friends over to watch the big game, ND at Oklahoma, and enjoy a home cooked, authentic Irish breakfast. The Fighting Irish came through with one of the biggest wins of my lifetime, and proved to many that this year’s team is for real.

College Football is my favorite sport, and Notre Dame is my team. Love them or hate them, the sport generates more interest when the Fighting Irish are relevant.

-Tom Cramer

I am 20 yrs old from Buffalo, NY. When I was younger, my father showed me the movie “Rudy” and ever since then I have been in LOVE with the Irish. When I was in middle school two of my cousins were accepted to Notre Dame and my love grew even more. I got to attend a lot of games when they were going to school there because it was easy and more affordable to get tickets. Notre Dame is very unique and unlike any other place I’d ever been. The unity and family feel on campus is like no other. My father and I just attended the Pitt game that went into triple overtime and after the game we sat on a bench in front of Touchdown Jesus just to relax and take it all in. Every time I go back I am just in awe and when I look at all of the tradition, tears will occasionally start to run down my face. I have been to about 6 or 7 games now and each time I come back it is like I’m visiting for the first time again. There truly is no place like Notre Dame.
-Stephen (Kujo) Kijowski




The game was played

The game was played. The roar of the crowd firmly trapped in our short-term memory. We walked and reminisced the plays which secured the Fighting Irish their ninth victory and solidified their unbeaten streak.

We walked through the darkness of the campus, sidewalks illuminated by lights and the energy of the fans. The echoes from inside the stadium are now memory. As we walked we laughed because neither of us wanted to come to the realization that our time on the Notre Dame campus was coming to an end.

We instinctively walked toward the Grotto knowing each candle would be lit and those faithful would be saying a prayer of thanks for another Fighting Irish win. As I stood by the Grotto, tears running down my cheeks; I stood in silence, eyes closed feeling the warmth of the candles on my face. I knelt down, clasped my hands together and lowered my forehead until it touched my hands. I contemplated the victory, my families health and happiness, our presence here on the campus and all that is good and right with the world.

After what seemed like an eternity, we silently rose and made our way up the eight steps to the walkway which led us to the cathedral and the golden domed administration building. We rounded the bend in yet another sidewalk knowing our walk was coming to an end. As we approached the Hesburgh Library more commonly known as “Touchdown Jesus”, I looked to my left and right and couldn’t find Stephen. I stopped and heard Stephen’s voice saying as his hand patted the seat of the park bench which he was already occupying, “Come here dad.” I sat beside him. We both drank in the solitude of the moment. Stephen said, “I don’t want to leave.” I nodded my agreement. As we continued our vigil beside the reflecting pool, the silence was momentarily broken by the shouts of adolescents as they accompanied their peers and their parents back to their waiting car. A quick look to the left and it was clear the lights of the stadium were still brightly illuminating the playing surface and I thought what it must be like to stand outside the stadium and to hear the roar of the crowd as a game was being played. Was the sound as deafening as it was inside the stadium? We sat surrounded by the silence of the solitude before the realization that it was time to leave struck both of us like the big hammer on the carnival show of strength game. We walked the remainder of the distance to our car in silence; the skyline of the Notre Dame campus shrinking in the background.


Notre Dame Football

I have been waiting for this trip for the past twelve months. It’s Mecca for Stephen and myself. We make the trip to South Bend, Indiana every year to watch the Notre Dame football team go through their paces in an open practice. I think I enjoy walking the campus and seeing its beauty more than I enjoy the practice. Spending time with my son and enjoying the conversations we have is really what I look forward to.

We rose at 4:30 AM, showered and drove to Tim Hortons where I ordered an extra large black coffee. I love this time of day and woke easily.The smell of the coffee made me smile with anticipation. I drove to Erie, PA where I left the driving responsibilities to Stephen. This is difficult for me as I do not enjoy being out of control of my surroundings. As I settled into shotgun, I allowed our conversation, the music and my reading material to be my company.
We arrived in South Bend only twenty minutes before the start of the practice. We stopped first at the hotel where I found it necessary to change into long pants. I find as I grow older I am also less tolerant of colder temperatures; especially sitting in them. Meanwhile Stephen decided to remain in his shorts. We took the short drive to the campus,parked the car and enjoyed the walk to the stadium where we could hear cheers erupt. The Notre Dame fight song hung in the distance. A smile crossed my face and tears began to well up in my eyes.
Since the practice is general admission we had the opportunity to sit anywhere we liked. We decided a seat somewhere in the sun would be the best option as  the cool breeze quickly reminded us that the calendar still read April. The weather this year remained better than last years where we were pounded by incessant rain; a rain which removed the fun from the practice.
Once the practice finished we strode across the campus to the Hammes Bookstore, purchased the 2012 “shirt.” Anyone who has any amount of familiarity with Notre Dame and ND Football understands the importance of “the shirt.” We had heard that 20 thousand shirts had already been pre-ordered prior to the unveiling. The campus bookstore is one remarkable model of efficiency. An individual first entering this store and seeing the throngs of people as well as the line which snakes through the shelving would immediately turn around and leave probably mumbling under their breath, “There’s no way I’m going into that store.” The check out line which one would anticipate would take at the very least 60-90 minutes to navigate took less than 10. Success! We headed toward the Basillica and the Grotto where a prayer was said for our safe arrival and safe return. We headed back to the hotel to decided where dinner would be eaten.
After dinner at Five Guys we patted our full stomachs and returned to the hotel. I exited the shower to find Stephen snoring on his bed. I sat on the edge of mine and watched him sleep, much as I had when he was a baby. A baby he is no more. I wrote in my journal and thought of our conversation and pondered where the last 20 years had gone. I woke him briefly before my eye lids began to flutter with the weight of sleep closed for the night. We agreed to wake at 5:30 the next morning and take a 6-mile run to the Notre Dame campus. I couldn’t wait to show him the beauty and the solitude of the campus at this time of day. I knew it would remain unspoiled by the noise and busyness of the day..
We woke Sunday morning and ran toward the campus stopping briefly to take several photographs. As we entered the campus through the main road pass the cemetery in all of it’s eerie darkness and silence. as we continued down the main road aptly named “Notre Dame Avenue” the golden dome of the administration building came into view. We stopped, the dome lit like the beacon that it is. We walked for a few minutes and pondered the souls lucky enough to attend such a university. Stephen had applied two years earlier and despite his grades and awards had been rejected as a prospect. We continued our run in silence turning down one of the sidewalks which ran in the direction of Notre Dame Stadium. Touch Down Jesus was now in full view; it too lit like the icon it is. Minutes later we had exited the campus; the brilliance of the golden dome fading behind us. Conversation found us and we ran back to the hotel in anticipation of a hardy breakfast and a return to the campus for more photographs.
We enjoyed breakfast together. Stephen didn’t know I enjoyed his company and conversation more than I did the meal. We walked the campus a final time enjoying the warm sun as it rose higher into the spring sky. Stephen pointed out several vantage points for photographs of different buildings. He has an amazing eye and he sees more than most people his age. A brief stop for a coffee for the ride home and we were on our way.
Stephen confidently drove the entire distance home and as we drove through Cleveland we knew approaching Erie that Buffalo would be our final stop. The sky had changed from sunny to mottled grey to a damp, dark rainy grey. We pulled into the driveway, emptied the car and enjoyed dinner with our family.
Another trip was in the books. I was excited to edit the hundreds of photos I had taken and share them with Stephen.