Saturday, September 25, 2010


Dear Spike:

Whenever I travel, I am reminded of how fortunate our family is to have all of the many luxuries that life has afforded to us.

We want for nothing — and that is more than can be said of most people in this world.

I know that is can be easy to complain about things that are not was we might wish for them to be — and I am as guilty of this as anyone. But it really only takes a moment to step back and recognize how small our complaints often are, in the grand scheme of this world.

It's nice to count your blessing when life is easy — but it's better to count them when life gets hard. In the totality of human experience, we have it quite good.

And just remembering that often makes me realize how petty my complaints are.

I miss you.

(Sulaimaniyah, Iraq)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Dear Spike:

I parted ways with you and your mother this morning at the airport with a few good hugs and, fortunately for me, no tears from you.

You know I'm going on a trip — and that I'll be gone for a while — but you're excited about all the fun you're going to be having with your mother while I'm gone, so you weren't too sad to see me go.

And that's fine with me. Preferable, in fact. My heart strings are already pulled taut.

Now I'm on an airplane headed to Atlanta. From there it's off to Paris. From Paris, Amman. And after a night in Amman, I'll head over to Iraq.

It's sort of amazing, if you think of it. We live in a world in which you can wake up on one side of the world and go to sleep on the other. It's also a time in which, without too much hassle, I can flip open my computer and see you staring back at me, in real time.

It wasn't so long ago that nothing like that was possible. And that makes me wonder about all of the innovations you'll see during your life. For what once seemed impossible yesterday is a simple matter of routine today. So it stands to reason that what seems impossible today will be more or less commonplace tomorrow.

Let's hope it's all for the better.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Dear Spike:

You sobbed today when we talked about my upcoming trip. Two weeks is a long time for a little girl to be without her daddy.

But after I told you that you get to have two weeks of slumber parties with your mommy while I'm away, you perked up quite a bit.

Now you're feeling much better about things — but I'm feeling sad. Two weeks is a long time for a daddy to be without his little girl.

I'm proud of the work I do. And I believe it's worth the small sacrifices we make to help people in our nation understand the tragic consequences of war.

But my stomach churns when I think about being away from you. I'm dreading that final hug, that long plane flight to Iraq, that first night away.

I'll miss you more than I can possibly explain. But at least for now, I'll smile and tell you about how much fun you're going to have while I'm away.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Dear Spike,

Tuesday is ballet. Wednesday you've got gymnastics. On Thursday afternoon, your Chinese tutor makes a zhái shàngmén — a house call. And on Friday there's piano lessons.

Along the way, you've tried your hand at soccer (we're still working on that hand part) and you've managed to acquire an impressive collection of annual passes for the zoo, the aviary and several different museums. Meanwhile, you've become a rather passionate season ticket-holding supporter of the local professional soccer club and you've recently picked up season tix for the women's soccer club at the U, too.

I never figured us for the kind of parents that would need a Dayplanner just to keep our toddler's schedule straight. But I suppose I never figured that you'd actually want to do all of this stuff, either. For the moment, at least, it's clear that you're enjoying all of these things, and given that we haven't put you in preschool yet (I'm just not ready to give you up like that) it's probably not a bad idea to give you some opportunities to learn to socialize with other kids.

But no matter the good intentions, your mother and I are wary of the risks. And if we so much as suspect that you've become bored — or overwhelmed — by it all, we'll yank you from this rat race quicker than you can say Henry David Thoreau.

Alas, if you're anything like your mother and I, you'll probably thrive on — and even thirst for — busyness. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But occasionally — and maybe even often — it's important to take a moment...

... a minute ...

... an hour ...

... a day ...

... to be free of demands on your time, your body, your soul.

Take a walk without knowing where you're going. Take the time to watch and listen and be. Turn off your phone.

Turn off your phone.

Turn off your phone.

Be still.

The rat race will be there when you're done, when you're ready. And if one day you decide that you're not ready, I can assure you that the rat race will get along just fine without you.

I suspect that you'll find a comfortable middle ground in there, somewhere. Maybe your life will be a little more frantic or maybe it will be a little more still.

Just remember — always remember — that it's your life, not your Dayplanner's.


Friday, September 10, 2010


Dear Spike:

Your mother and I were sitting with friends on the front porch, enjoying some wine and chocolates. You were asleep — or so were thought.

Suddenly, the drapes flew open. Your tiny cherub face emerged at the bottom of the window. And at once, I could read your every emotion.

First, you were scared: You'd been wandering the house looking for us and you were beginning to panic. Next, you were relieved: We had not left you all alone; we were near. And finally, you were betrayed: We were having a party, without you.

In a heartbeat, I read that all on your face.

That's love, I think — when you know someone in that way. When you understand them so much that all it takes is the briefest of glances and you are connected to their emotions. Yes, that's love.

It was heartbreaking to see all of that in you, on that night. But it was so reaffirming. I felt good that I know you in this way. I felt like a good father.

In two weeks, I will be leaving you and your mother to go back to Iraq. In the grand scheme of things it is not a long trip; I will be gone for about two weeks. But I am frightened by all the ways in which we will miss each other while I am away. I am saddened to think that you might feel scared, lonely and abandoned. And I know you won't quite understand why I have to go away or where I have gone.

Already, I am wondering what I will read on your face when I return. Will it be joy? Relief? Fear? What will I know — in the blink of an eye — about the way you are feeling in that moment? And sadly, I suspect you'll be feeling a bit betrayed.

That's the trouble with love. It gives us immediate and vivid access to things that we are not always prepared to see, hear and feel.

Because, I think, you are starting to know me in the way that I know you, I probably don't need to tell you that I am going to miss you. Terribly.

And already, I cannot wait for the day I return. I cannot wait to see your face — whatever it may bring.


Sunday, September 5, 2010


Dear Spike:

I've made some mistakes in my life. I've hurt people and I've been hurt, too. I've screwed up. I've fumbled. And sometimes I've been just plain dumb.

But I don't regret any of it. I can't. Because everything I've done in life — every good thing and every bad thing, too — led to you.

You're going to make mistakes, too. You'll hurt people and you'll be hurt. You'll screw up. You've fumble. And sometimes you'll be just plain dumb.

It can be hard to live with our mistakes. But it doesn't do a tremendous amount of good to dwell on what is past, other than to learn a lesson or two for the future.

So, as best as you can, try to live without regret. Don't repeat your mistakes, but don't let them define you. And try to remember that all those trials and tribulations, all those mistakes and accidents, will someday lead you to something special.