My uncle Richard has been sick for many months, the kind of sick where people are quite clear early on it’s not going to end well.  He’s been back and forth in the hospital as well, sometimes for several days or weeks at a stretch, sometimes for a few hours.  Recently, he was in the hospital and the situation was bad enough that the doctors were resigned to the fact that they were simply going to be the maintenance crew, not players.

My family is full of many boisterous and unique voices.  His was among the quietest, if not the quietest, because he was content to be that way.  Well, that’s how he’s been for the past decade that he’s been in our lives again.  Growing up I didn’t know him, partly because my immediate family lived in South Jersey for the first big chunk of my life (while my mom’s family, including Richard, lived in North Jersey).  I remember actually seeing him at one of our family’s functions (I think it was a baptism but I could be wrong) in 2006 or 2007.  I honestly didn’t know who it was, but I remember looking and saying, I know that guy.  I don’t know where from but I know him.  He probably expected that, or perhaps he was just being nice, but he didn’t look away or give me a dirty look when I looked to the back of the church and saw him a few times.

I don’t know what he spent his life doing between when he stepped out of the family’s life and when I saw him at that event, and it really doesn’t matter.  I do know, in broad strokes, that he led the hardest life of anyone in our family, but I don’t remember him actually trying to blame anyone or get upset about it – but again, I didn’t ever really talk to him myself.  I asked him a few times about problems with my home (as I held more trust in him to come over and help out with home projects than another handyman family member), and he did help clear out issues we had with our bathroom, but I didn’t really make the time to speak with him at parties or family events.

I think that’s what really got to me.  I kept telling myself, whatever’s wrong, he’s in the hospital, family is around him all the time and they are all able to do far more for him than I could.  I’m a computer technician and a white-collar guy by trade – Richard was a handyman and as blue-collar as they come.  I wanted to do more to make time for him and go visit – the hospital he was at was very close to the light rail in Newark, which is steps from my workplace.  But I kept getting wrapped up in other things – my wife’s classes, making time for my kids and helping them out with their bedtime routine – and the idea that, again, what real comfort could I give to him?

A little under two weeks ago, at my brother’s twenty-first birthday, we gotry t an update on Richard’s situation: he was being discharged from the hospital and sent home to await God’s call.  “Home” was my aunt’s house in Newark – Richard had been staying with another aunt while he was sick, but he had no formal living arrangements.  I don’t know if this was by choice or not but he made it a point to help out wherever he was staying, including the shelters.

The word went out to family all over: his prognosis is not good and he is not likely to last more than a few days, perhaps a few weeks.

I decided to tell my wife when we got in the car that night that one night that week I intended to go straight over to that aunt’s house and visit with Richard.  She had heard the same thing and had intended to tell me that I was going to take whatever time I could to go visit with him.  God love my wife, because while I hadn’t anticipated an issue with this, I just don’t ever try to ask for things like that, and I didn’t know what the response would be.

January 20th was the night.  I wrapped up things at work and left as soon as I could around ten after six; my wife, having already been nearby for some errands she was running with our boys, was ready and waiting for me, and drove me over instead of letting me take the light rail or bus over to my aunt’s house.  I told her I’d be in touch about getting home, but didn’t leave her with an idea of what time I’d be coming home.  My aunt Susan, whose home I was visiting, seemed surprised to see me, I think largely due to the fact that I haven’t been over to visit too often (to my own detriment).

Walking in, I found Richard laid up in a hospital bed set up just that day in Susan’s dining room.  The air was neither celebratory nor deeply solemn; it was calm and even, slightly lively even. My aunt and grandparents were keeping watch by his bedside. A TV, VCR, DVD player and cable box had been moved in and were mounted on the dining room table, which had been moved towards the front of the room to allow room for Richard’s bed.  Richard seemed alert; however, due to the complications from the cancer which had ravaged and raged inside him for months, he was unable to move around.  Communicating with him was quite difficult, at least for me, because of these complications.

I sat down next to him, hanging my coat on the back of his chair and trying to take up a small conversation with him.  It was awkward and in fits and spurts.  I did what I could to help him with a drink, and as I sat there I realized how incredibly similar he was to my grandfather.  Pa is closing in on eighty years and looks about twenty years younger, and Richard, at 50, looked nearly the same.  My grandmother and I talked for a little bit, mostly about how Richard was doing, how my kids were doing, and other things like that.

I got up after a little while and moved into the kitchen; Richard was trying to get to sleep and we all wanted to give him the time to try.  It was especially hard for him, given his breathing issues and overall pain from his condition, but he did get some rest.  Before I left, I helped him to get his headphones on and his CD player, playing Styx’s Paradise Theater, on and working.

In the kitchen were Susan, her husband Dan, and my cousin Mary-Kate.  MK was studying for an upcoming test and praying for snow, and Susan and Dan were putting the finishing touches on dinner – meatloaf and baked potatoes.  I’ve found that some things are always true about my family – they are all, without exception, born cooks who cannot make bad food, and that they all turn to cooking in times of trouble.  It’s horrible for waistlines but fantastic for drive and focus.  If you’re keeping a close eye on the oven, you can’t really let the sadness from your relative’s situation into your head.

In any event, we talked. I can’t do much else but I can talk and I can make people laugh, so that’s what I did.  I talked with MK about her scholastic career and where it was going – apparently she was considering my alma mater, a decision I quickly dissuaded her of due to its high prices.  I talked with Dan about goings-on at my old job, and how one of his closest confidantes is likely leaving soon – upsetting an extremely good and long-lived working relationship between himself and two other co-workers.  I talked with Susan about a recent injury and about my sons, her great-nephews, whom she doesn’t get to see very often and enjoys greatly every time she gets to see them.  I talked with Grandma about the time she had to roll her eyes as her own husband, post-surgery and full of meds, had threatened annulment if she blocked him from leaving the hospital (mind you, this was after all of their 16 children had been born) and about the priest who had come by to give Richard the Last Rites and an apostolic blessing, granting him absolution from all sins and pretty much ensuring an express lane to Heaven.  I talked a little, but I wasn’t trying to talk.  I was trying to listen. As for Grandpa, he spent the evening going back and forth, between Bill O’Reilly / CBS’s Blue Bloods and keeping a fatherly eye on his increasingly weaker oldest son, his namesake.

It was getting later, and soon a new group of siblings came in to help make the most of what would be Richard’s last night on earth.  We spoke with him for a few minutes and he decided that he’d love to watch the movie, “Major League”.  After a few minutes of research to find out what service actually had it and another few minutes of Dan and I working on getting Dan’s Wii hooked up to the TV, this was done and everyone settled in around Richard to enjoy a good movie.  After my sister arrived later, I checked and realized that I’d accidentally left my phone set to “Ignore” while I was sitting with Richard, and that my wife had left me a few messages.  Thanks to my sister’s generosity, I was able to get a ride home (as it was really late, and my kids were all asleep).

I gave Richard a careful hug and kiss, and left not knowing if this would be the last time I would see him.  I went to sleep that night with Dan’s words ringing in my head, a casual reminder he’d given me that no matter how long Richard survived, someone would be here with him when God called him home.

The next morning, I had gotten up and tried to proceed as though it was a normal day.  Twenty minutes after ten, I got a call from my brother Joe.  Richard had passed on into God’s waiting hands.  Joe knew I was at work, and told me that it wasn’t necessary to come home at the moment.  I can’t tell you how much I wanted to leave, but I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do anything for anyone.  I said a quick prayer, made arrangements at work to take off for Richard’s funeral, and tried to throw myself into my work.  I honestly think I did more that day than the past week combined.

The day of the funeral came.  We got the kids ready, packed them into the car, tied up the dog and made sure she had plenty of food and water, and set out. We helped guide Richard home one last time at a beautiful funeral Mass, and gathered with the family at my parent’s home.

I wrote this because I wanted someone to know that Richard died happy and in comfort, surrounded by love, that he would be deeply missed and sorely grieved by his family, by his parents, siblings, son, stepdaughters, nephews, nieces, great-nephews, and friends.

Rest in peace, Richard.  God bless and keep you, today and always.



My youngest aunt, Bridget of Life at Le Rheims, once dispensed some advice to me which was both somewhat pointed/hurtful, and utterly honest and correct.  More honest/correct though.  

“You don’t really have too many friends; just acquaintances with whom you spend more time than others.”

She meant it, as with most of the things she says, in a particularly helpful way, though as I said it did feel more hurtful than it should’ve.  

I took what she said and tried to fix it, because she was right – most of the people that I knew at the time were simply people I had met and had known through shared experiences such as classes, groups we were involved in, and things of that nature.  I’ve tried to move past the “acquaintance” stage and to friendship with many people.  

It’s… been more difficult than I’d imagined.  Initially I had focused on building up some acquaintances who were closer than others, though life does make it harder by pushing people in many different directions.  Sometimes your paths cross again; sometimes they don’t.  People say Facebook and services like it largely eliminate that sort of thing by ensuring that your friends are always a ping away (in the literal and metaphorical sense).  I don’t believe that, not for a second.  Social networks tend to just allow you to be more impersonal, cultivating what I’ve heard in other, better blogs called a stalker mentality, with your average person having around 130-150 people who have the potential to see what you say or what you post at any given point without the usual social interaction required.  You don’t have to ask someone what they did today; they put out a public statement or pictures to nobody in particular and you know that way.    

*insert random privacy concerns*

*insert panic*

*shrug it off since it’s not relevant to my point*

I have maybe 1/8 of my friends that I actually talk to on Facebook.  Of those, I probably talk to less than 1/4 of those on the phone or in person once a week.  Twitter’s even worse; I have about 1700 followers and I follow 2000 people; do I know any of them in person?  Have I ever talked with them on the phone?  Apart from the family members and handful of friends who are both Facebook and Twitter friends, nope.  The vast majority of them, on Facebook and Twitter, are those with whom I share political beliefs (generally a dislike of Obama and his policies, though there’s plenty of other fights I’ve gotten involved in).  I love talking with them, all of them, even the ones I strenuously disagree with, but I feel like I’ve spread myself thin and haven’t given any of these proto-friendships (acquaintancships sounds too silly lol) anywhere near enough attention.  I don’t want to turn my back on any of these people, so I continue to keep them on my friend lists, and continue to be inundated with all of the information going back and forth.  On Twitter, I get 15-20 new tweets every ten seconds.  On Facebook I don’t have nearly that many updates coming through but I don’t see everyone’s updates, either, since Facebook trims back the updates you receive to those you interact with most often.  Either way, I feel like I’m losing track of people, restocking the acquaintances and losing friends.  

Am I going to trim back?  Probably, but not all at once, nor all that much once I do decide to proceed.  What I’m going to do is talk.  It’s not just a one-way street, friendship.  It’s two-ways, no turn on red, plenty of parking (though not between 12 and 4 on Wednesdays and Thursdays).  

And it’s friends who follow up and talk and call after reading something like that, instead of just laughing quietly to themselves and moving onto another item.  


(By the way, my birthday is tomorrow.  Just saying.)


Ed. note: I posted this initially back in 2008 on my old blog.  I’ve tried to eliminate last names. 

I woke up later than normal.  It was a Tuesday morning, and I had a College English II class at 10.  Bridget, however, had things to do on campus, and Danielle needed to be at her on-campus job, so unless I wanted to use the Newark Light Rail and the 31 bus to get to school, I was getting up and going with them.

I got my shower, I got dressed, and hurried down the stairs and out the door to jump into Bridget’s car.  The drive over was as it always was – happy and pleasant, chit-chat about nothing in particular, jokes about Danielle’s spaziness, with background music provided by The Scarlet Pimpernel and Godspell (sing-a-longs were quite frequent, especially with Godspell – “OH BLESS THE LORD MY SOUL!!!”).

Danielle went her separate way, and Bridget and I went over to the Pirate’s Cove, the campus coffee bar and secondary social center (main one was the Caf, downstairs from the Cove – however, it was also rather cold down there, and the Cove at least had heaters venting onto the tables).  Bridget sat down with me at the table closest to the side entrance and proceeded to break out the books.  I stepped away to get us both hazelnut cappuccinos at the coffee bar and came back and started up my laptop.  By now it was about 9 AM and various friends had started to congregate around us, including Bridget’s best friend Steph J.  Steph started up her laptop and both of us noticed something on the Drudge Report about a small plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  I didn’t really think anything of this, mainly because just a week before I’d read somewhere about a plane or a dirgible crashing into the Empire State Building and that being the reason the docks on the top of it were no longer used.  It was, as far as we could see at the moment, just another piece of news out of The City that didn’t affect us Jersey folk in the least.

That’s when Adam B., a senior and the man I credit with giving me the swift kick in my ass that I needed to stop screwing around and start taking my scholastic career seriously, IMed us and asked us to try to get to another website, and it was extremely slow, on both our machines.  Network traffic, it seemed, was at a standstill.  As Steph needed to take care of a registration problem (she was trying to get into another class with Bridget, I believe), she asked Bridget if she wanted to take a walk over to Bayley Hall, across the campus.  Bridget was reading, and since the computer wasn’t working, it seemed, I said I’d go.
We took the walk over to Bayley and I remember there was something markedly different about the center of the campus that day.  There weren’t any folks going back and forth to classes or the Caf, which was odd for that hour of the morning – most people, like me, had realized after the first semester that 9 AM class was always a bad idea, so they opted for the 10 AM class this time around and spent that extra hour, bleary-eyed and zombie-like, staggering from their cars or dorm rooms and getting as much coffee as their weary bodies could tolerate (20 oz styrofoam cups with ten sugars and whole milk, wow I hated my body..).
It’s not often that you can pinpoint the moment your world changes, nor is it often that you remember certain moments with HD-quality, 100,000 megapixel resolution.  The moment I said goodbye to my friend Brian as I got into the car and headed up to Newark as our family followed my dad’s job north, the moment I held my driver’s license in my hand for the first time and realized what great freedom I had now, the moment I read my letter of acceptance to Seton Hall the day before my eighteenth birthday, the moment I looked into my wife’s eyes for the first time, the moment we said “I do.”, the moment the doctor told us we were going to have a baby, the moment I held Little Artist in my arms for the first time and realized how real fatherhood was… these are the moments I remember like that.  And walking into Bayley is, unfortunately, one of those moments.
Bayley is the administrative hub of Seton Hall – any financial decisions, registration issues, et cetera get handled there.  It’s also the starting point for the orientation tours and as such had been outfitted with several TVs, usually tuned to an orientation-only channel, but hooked into the campus’ DirecTV system.  This morning, each and every one of the TVs had been changed to WNBC, channel 4, and local meteorologist Janice Huff was calling in from her home in New Jersey, relaying what she was seeing to Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Ann Curry and Al Roker (having worked for so long at 30 Rock, I can tell you that unless you are on the 46, 47, or 51 floors, you really couldn’t see anything going on downtown).   The cameras usually positioned at the Lincoln Tunnel were turned downtown, as were many other cameras I would imagine, and Chopper 4, in the middle of a report on the Turnpike and so in a perfect position to capture history, had been turned towards Lower Manhattan and was watching while the debate raged as to whether this was simply an accident, since people had been reporting seeing a plane, but most had misidentified it as a Cessna.
It was watching, as were all the employees, students and administrators, when the second plane hit.  I watched it turn its wings slightly downward and level off as it slammed through the building.  And everything stopped.  For a moment, no one spoke.  No one said a word, made a move.  The raw impact of what had just occured smashed through our brains with the impact of an atomic bomb.  Everyone knew now that this wasn’t an accident.  The debate ended, everyone blinked for a second and started to look around.  We awoke as though it had all been a dream, a terrible nightmare, but only a look at the television could shake us from that.  Steph and I headed back to the Cove and told Bridget what happened.  Others had gathered near our table and were finding out around the same time we had found out.  The Internet, despite hiccups, was continuing to provide information to the campus about the situation.  Not knowing what else to do, and being only the second week of the semester, I decided to go to class.  Bridget, having left her laptop at home, went with Steph to the nearest computer lab, in the Arts & Sciences building.
My class was in the basement of what was then known as Kozlowski Hall but is currently called Jubilee Hall because Seton Hall is afraid of associations with people who are accused of things.  I got there with about five minutes to spare, and tried to focus on getting into the appropriate frame of mind for class.  Push it out, James.  Leave that gruesome image behind – there isn’t anything you can do about it, so just try to focus on your work right now.  Ten minutes after class was to have started, the professor popped her head in and asked us, “Are you seriously unaware of what’s happened?  Please, go home!  There’s no reason for you to be here today.”  I grabbed my bag, stood and went to find Bridget and Danielle.
I managed to track them down in the computer lab and it was at that point that we all heard, at the same time, about the attacks in Washington.  Well, yes there was only one attack that day, but you must understand that the amount of confusion and speculation was unbelieveable.  People were saying that a bomb had hit the Capitol building, that a nuke had been set off in New York City, that we were at war with some other unnamed nation.  We knew very few pieces of information, considering cell phones weren’t working and IM seemed to be the unshakable juggernaut of communication.  We also heard that the planes had been international flights, but there weren’t many other reliable facts at that point – and we were more concerned immediately because Maryann, at the time living in the same neighborhood as the rest of the family, had managed to tell everyone that her husband Brendan was on an international flight and had been scheduled to arrive early in the morning on a trip back from Ireland.  We found out later that his flight had simply been redirected to Newfoundland when all flights were grounded and that he was perfectly fine, but it only added to our fear and sadness to know that he might be among those victims across the Hudson.  We wanted to go home but other reports indicated that roads were clogged with people trying to get away, as fast as they could, from New York.
I remember wanting to help out with whatever I could, and not knowing what else to do, heading over to Corrigan Hall, center of Seton Hall’s IT department and for a while my workplace.  At this point it was almost noon, so I asked if anyone needed help manning the phones or the computer labs, and I was told initially yes, but when I tried to leave my gear in the office, I was told that the campus was being shut down for the rest of the day, and classes, from initial reports were being cancelled for the remainder of the week.
I wandered over towards the Cove again, and while I was out on the campus green I noticed what looked like a 747 being escorted by two small jets and I realized how quiet the sky was.  People outside the Newark/New York area might not realize this completely, but when you live near several of the busiest airports in the nation, you get used to hearing the sounds of planes overhead constantly.  It’s such an ingrained part of living here that no one really ever stops to say “oh there goes a plane..” – but when you have two hours go by and only one plane flies overhead, that’s when you realize how bad things are.  I wandered down to the freshman dormitory, Boland Hall, and walked into the basement lounge just as one of the towers collapsed on live television.  I couldn’t sit there.  I got up and left.  I wandered across campus to the upperclassmen dorm, Xavier Hall, and took the elevator to the seventh and highest floor.  A crowd had gathered near the only public window facing Manhattan and had watched the first tower fall.  I must state now that I’m not sure how much time passed while I wandered – I know that it had to have been a lot, because when I got to the window, I watched with others gathered there as the second tower fell and sent a massive plume of dust, dirt, smoke and debris into the air.
The remaining community, those who had opted to stay behind or who had nowhere else to go, had gathered on the center of the campus green with the campus priest community and were expecting some form of support and news.  Msgr. Robert Sheeran, a man whom I believe doesn’t belong leading a major Catholic university, at that point helped unify the Seton Hall community and led a prayer for solace and peace, not tempered by any political or other leanings, and advised the gathered crowd that yes, the campus was closed, effective immediately, and that classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week, and advised anyone who was able to do so to return home for the moment, as there was nothing else to be done.  We took up the offer and decided, traffic jams or no, we needed to get home.
The roads were surprisingly empty, though we were not on major roads and took back roads home in the event that we were wrong.  Driving on roads paralleling the Garden State Parkway, we realized that this major artery, normally full of traffic, was empty.  There was no one on that road, in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.  We got home and managed to get the facts sorted out, and let the pain of what had occured seep in.
I don’t remember much else from that day, thankfully it’s mostly greyed out in my head, but I know that that’s the day that the defense of this nation and all she stood for began to matter to me.  I took comfort in the fact that whomever these evil men had been that had committed murder on such a scale, they were dead and could do no more against us, and their compatriots were easy to identify and target.  And they had jumped into America’s sights with both feet.
God help them, and God bless America.


Some people live decades and barely register an impact.  Some live only a few short years and can be felt forever.

Such a person is Nick Riley, aka Nicky, Nick Knock, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., among others.

This little boy lit up our lives for two short years, then was called home to God one cold November morning.

He was surrounded by joy, peace and happiness his whole life. Our family did not care how he arrived in our midst; as with all babies, we only sought to outdo one another in the time-honored sport of making him laugh louder.

His father, a relative douchebag whom I won’t waste further time on, had left my sister, Nick’s mother, a few months before he was born (culminating in a likely coincidental but still oddly timed service of divorce papers to my sister, while Nick was but a few hours old). As a result, her short stay at my family’s home in Newark became a longer-term arrangement, where the family (of which I’m the oldest, my sister is second, and there are another eight kids – two other girls and six more boys) took care of Nick by day and my sister would care for him upon her return from work and school, typically late at night. As grandparents and aunts and uncles are predisposed to do so, they spoiled little Nicky as much as possible. His mother did the same, staying up late watching Spongebob and eating candy, just to spend time with him, giving up precious sleep to squeeze out every second of time she could with her little man.

Due to some very tough financial circumstances, my wife and I lived with my family as well for a few months. Wifey helped watch over him, and cared for Little Artist and Nicky with the same love and affection. As they slept in the same room for several months, Little Artist was as close to Nicky as he now is to his own brothers.

Thanks to a falling out between my parents and I, we moved out and didn’t see Nicky during his last few months among us.

I remember the morning he left us. I was on the train into the city, passing through Secaucus and about to enter the tunnel leading to New York Penn Station, which would cut off cell service for about ten minutes. The train slowed down and stopped, which isn’t unusual as rush hour in that tunnel is pretty congested, so I sat back and waited, nodding off until the train prepared to enter the station. My personal cell started going off, and when I answered, it was one of my younger brothers, bawling, incoherently at first, telling me Nicky was dead, having simply not woken up that morning. The train started moving towards the tunnel, but I kept him on the line as long as I could. Since this was a packed rush hour train, most of the other passengers in my car heard the whole thing. Several of them gathered and figured out what train and track I’d have to take to get back to NJ as fast as possible. After disembarking, I called my boss and gave him a heads up, then headed to the return train and called Wifey, telling her to get the kids ready to go and filling her in on what had happened.

We arrived at my parents’ house and found everyone waiting outside, as requested by the police who were wrapping up their investigation. After they finished and let us in, the calls began going out. Some knew and were already speeding up the highway as fast as possible, others had no idea, and still others remained unreachable. Within hours everyone would find out, though.

After an hour of this, we were given the opportunity to say goodbye to Nicky, who had been taken to the hospital in the hopes of reviving him, and who now lay lifeless in the ER, having hours ago awoken to his new life with God. Wifey, the boys and I arrived last, and we found my parents and siblings surrounding the bed, while my sister lay curled up, still dressed in her jogging outfit that she was wearing when she found Nicky hours earlier, beside her little buddy, giving him as many hugs as she could before he was taken from her for the last time. We each gave Nick a big hug, then left and spent the rest of the day trying to help my sister and coordinating the arrangements for the funeral.

It was a beautiful funeral. The church was packed and everyone was dressed up. Friends and far-flung family we hadn’t seen in ages came to pay their respects. After the funeral ceremony, but before the procession, my brothers, uncle and cousins began leading us, first in the theme to Nick’s favorite show, Spongebob Squarepants, and then to Elmo’s World, and finally in an acoustic rendition of “Thunder” by Boyslikegirls. The whole church sang along with the first two, and my brothers and their friends led with the last one.

The procession out was escorted by the Knights of Columbus Color Guard, and a separate color guard consisting of every Irish step-dancer our family knew (being that apart from myself and Nicky’s mom, my siblings are all competitive Irish step-dancers), dressed in full regalia, wigs, makeup and everything. The line of cars appeared to stretch out for at least two miles in each direction, with a full police escort across three towns to the cemetery.

I remember afterwards a family friend pulled me aside. He knew about the situation between myself and my parents, and he told me that, regardless of how right or wrong anyone was, that things were different now, and that it was up to one of us to make the first move, to take the first step towards healing both our relationship and the raw pain from our collective loss.

Nicky is now our Little Angel. He has been up in Heaven, watching over us, taking our prayers to God, and, we expect, playing with his great aunt and uncles, his cousins and Our Lord in eternal happiness.

Nicky Knock, we love you and miss you, today and always. Please help your mommy get through today. Please keep watching over your cousins, my own Little Warrior and his brothers, and know that we’ll see you again soon. God bless, little man, and happy birthday!


In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

WHEN in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the Present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People; unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

He has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

He has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislature.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule in these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Powers to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic Insurrections among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

Nor have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
(source: United States Declaration of Independence, Wikisource)

Kate Smith sings Irving Berlin’s iconic “God Bless America”:

Madison Rising puts a wonderfully awesome rock spin on our National Anthem: 

Ray Charles rendition of America the Beautiful has always struck me as haunting and beautiful, but never more than when he did it at the first World Series after 9/11.

It’s fictional but it’s the most patriotic and inspiring speech I’ve ever seen in a movie.  

God bless America, from now to forever, from sea to shining sea.


At work, I’m required to send the head of our department a report every day basically acknowledging that someone’s turned the lights on and checked the messages for whatever happened overnight.  I like to personalize the message a little, both for aesthetic reasons and to prove that I haven’t just set up an automated… thingy… to send the same message day after day.  As a result, I’ve been gathering quotes from Chesterton and Lewis for some time (I didn’t think it was possible to have as many substantive quotes as these two but holy cow…), and the other day I came across one that spoke to me:

“Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

— Clive Staples Lewis

To be honest, I take this to mean Lewis has zero problem with me playing with my Star Trek Micro Machines or M.A.S.K. toys, but he’s getting at something more fundamental here.  We don’t need to be so focused on the concerns and worries about the external trappings of adulthood; just because someone appears to be older does not necessarily make them any wiser (a fact my Aunt and Uncle, the proprieters of Life at Le. Rheims and Harvey Millican respectively, would absolutely agree with considering the incredible amount of foolishness we all encountered in college from people who were advertised as wise, elder-statesman types).  I’ve certainly seen it many, many times in life since then, especially in the last election, but that’s getting into politics.. something I’ll reserve for its own post.

In any case, maturity and age aren’t mutually exclusive, nor are they so easily defined, and frankly, that makes things just a bit more interesting, don’t you think?

Why does it strike me today especially?  It’s my birthday!  30 years of awesomeness has resulted in a loving Wifey and three Little ones, a beautiful home and a fantastic life.


It’s been four months and two days since someone decided to make an appearance.  Little Warrior has been growing at a slow and steady pace, getting bigger and bigger every day. Today, he went for a checkup and we found out just how big he really is at this point: 10 lbs. 8 oz.  Last week he had an eye exam and his big beautiful eyes are as healthy as can be.  Our LW is happily cooing, watching us, examining everything around him, and dropping the stankiest farts around (stuff that yellows the paint and has people calling in the HAZMAT team).

Isn’t he adorable??? =D