A Poem on Freedom

A cool breeze just faintly brushes my cheek.
The coffee perks my mind just a bit,
To a greater awareness of what I have,
And why I’m even allowed to have it.

I have freedom because of so many people;
People I didn’t know, but who didn’t care.
They cared only for the right of those after them,
To live in a country where you can enjoy a cool breeze.

You enjoy it because you don’t fear oppression.
You enjoy it because you choose your own path.
You enjoy it because it comes to you on your own land.
You enjoy it because on that breeze is Freedom.

No longer controlled or oppressed by a King,
Our Founding Fathers and Mothers must have smiled.
But inside were they fearful of what was to come?
Fearful of what would befall them?

On July 4, 1776 they could not have known.
We celebrate that day because of a Declaration,
But it took a lot of work, suffering, and bloodshed,
For the reality of Freedom and Independence to come.

So that now, 243 years later I can sit on my porch,
And write about the cool breeze on my face.
I have not suffered, nor have I worked or bled,
For the Freedom and Independence I celebrate today.

This morning I close my eyes and transport myself,
Back to another morning 243 years ago.
When a man sat on this river bank and sipped his coffee,
Willing to fight, and bleed, and die for my right to do the same.

I am grateful for this Freedom.

Family Time

momdadkids oct 2014

I have a handful of friends who are fortunate enough to have their parents or spouse’s parents living close enough that their kids get to see Grandma and Grandpa on a regular basis and they are there for the emergency school pick up or a spur of the moment Saturday night dinner out. I am envious of those friends and often remind them to be thankful for their parents’ proximity, even when it comes with the occasional meddling or parental advice that seems annoying.

My parents are 6 hours away from our home in Charlotte and my wife’s parents are 16 hours away, so the luxury of unplanned, unexpected, or spur of the moment family time is not a part of our lives. Being this far away from immediate family is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Before World War II, if a young man left his small Southern Illinois town to get his medical degree (as my Great Grandpa “Doc” Parmenter did), he’d hurry back to his hometown or a small town near there when he was done with school to practice. He often married a girl from the same area and they raised their children in the shadow of all kinds of family that would get together on a regular basis and help each other out as needed. It was the generally accepted way of life all over the country. When the next generation of young men went off to war in the early 1940’s, they returned with some different attitudes. Suddenly, farm boys from Kansas who had been globetrotting around Europe for 3 years decide to move their young families to California and live a different lifestyle; and young men from New York City came home and headed South to places like my hometown of Charlotte where the climate was more like where they’d been fighting in Southern France. All of a sudden, families started to spread out, and the dynamics of the extended family changed.

Over the past week, however, I was reminded of the importance and value of finding that family time, regardless of miles. My in-laws made the long drive to spend the week with us last week and help my wife out while I was gone on a business trip. The kids got off the bus for a few days to a waiting Granny and learned plenty of new things (good and bad I’m sure) about their maternal grandparents. Most importantly, they were reminded that there are other adults who care very deeply for them and want to encourage them to grow mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, strong. This weekend, we packed up the car and met my parents in the mountains of North Alabama (picture above) for a few days of relaxation and time together. Along with my mom’s never ending supply of songs, my kids saw yet another peek into what makes them who they are and felt the love and caring of their paternal grandparents who gave them all the attention they wanted. It was also a good chance for me to talk out thoughts and ideas with the only two people who have been a constant presence in my life.

I am so grateful for both my parents and my wife’s parents for the sacrifice of time and money that they make to spend time with us. We haven’t chosen to live in the same town as either of them or even close enough for regular visits, but it is important enough to both of them to have family time that they are willing to carve out time and resources to make it happen. Who knows what extended family life will look like as our kids grow up, but I have learned from the example of my kids’ grandparents that I need to set as a priority time with my children when they are adults and their kids when that time comes. Family time isn’t always neat and tidy, but it is an important connection to who we are and an informative look at the people who have shaped us. If you are fortunate enough to have your parents or in-laws close by, you should tell them thank you. If you’re like us, you should do your part to make family time a priority.

Hometown Appreciation

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I love to travel and fortunately, I get the opportunity to travel quite a bit. However, today I’m thinking about some Hometown Appreciation.

I live in the Lake Norman area of Charlotte. Lake Norman is made up of the four small communities of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and Mooresville. It is a literal ‘vacation spot’ 18 miles from downtown Charlotte on the state’s largest lake. It is a great place to live and raise a family.

This morning, I got a 5 mile run in on a portion of the Carolina Thread Trail that runs through Davidson about 4 miles from my house. It was a beautiful day for a run and there were quite a few people on the trail for a Friday morning. Today while I ran I didn’t think about anything deep or profound, just tried to dwell on the things I have to be thankful for…and they are many. 

Along with my appreciation for where I live, and the obvious thankfulness I have for my family, I am grateful to work for a company that gives me a generous amount of Paid Time Off so I can take a Friday like today and enjoy a very long holiday weekend; I’m thankful for friends who remind me that the path I have chosen and the quietness that I seek are in themselves ‘where it is at’ and not some means to other things; and I’m glad to have a creative mind that seeks ways to express itself in various parts of my personal and professional life.

So, today, and this weekend, I’m going to savor a little Hometown Appreciation – I’m going to do a little local grocery shopping and bike to get my haircut, I’m grilling out for the extended family tonight while the kids play in the neighborhood, and we’re going to WALK over to a new restaurant on the lake tomorrow after a few hours at the neighborhood pool. Happy Memorial Day weekend! I’m grateful for my father-in-law and all of or veterans who have fought to give us the freedom to live this life in our hometowns.