Christmas in Caspian, Michigan
As I sit in my living room reminiscing about Christmases celebrated a long time ago (over 55 years ago to be exact), I remember vividly my family shopping, attending mass, decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, and preparing the traditional Christmas meal of homemade ravioli, noodles, and ham. Back then, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, life seemed so different. For example, we would travel from Caspian, where I lived, to Iron River, a distance of around three miles. In those days, traveling to Iron River felt like going to a large city, and it was!
When we traveled to Iron River during Christmas, we would stroll up and down the main street, stopping at various stores to look at toys and other items. Sometimes, we just looked at the displays in the windows. All of the time, we would hope that Santa would bring us the presents that we selected.
Along with the shopping, I remember the streets decorated with Christmas lights and ornaments. Sometimes in our household, money was scarce, and so our celebrations were tepid and had to be adjusted. I remember the time when the kindergarten classroom in the Caspian Elementary School discarded their tree before leaving for the Christmas holiday. Well, that tree, minus a multitude of needles, ended up in the Paul family’s living room. All of us decorated the tree with tinsel, lights, and ornaments; we were so thankful that we had a tree.
As I stated before, money at times was very tight and we had to make things for presents and could not purchase gifts that were priced beyond our means. I remember receiving a sweater from Shwartz’s store in Caspian. My feelings were of disappointment, but no one noticed and those feelings quickly transformed into thankfulness and appreciation for what I had received.
Then came the meal of homemade ravioli. We (my brother, sister, me, Mom, and Dad) would gather around the table to make the ravioli. It took literally hours to complete, and unbeknownst to me, we were creating good memories that would last for my lifetime, and an event that I could pass on to another generation. By that, I mean today we are making raviolis at my son’s home with my two grandchildren. This is with a different twist, as I am making the raviolis in the mold of flying saucers, reindeer, and elephants which the children really enjoy.
Gone are my father, brother, and sister but the memories that we created continue, and with their families as well, because they make ravioli too. Enjoy this Christmas, and future ones as well, because what you do will last long after you are gone.
Remember, it is not about the expense of the gift or even the gift itself. It is about families being together and celebrating the birth of Christ. So, let’s put Christ back in Christmas and from the Dan Paul family to all of you, have a Merry Christmas!
Newspaper article link:
Cries in the Night
“Where’s my mommy?” asked a little 2-1/2 year-old girl through tear-filled eyes and sobs. The grandmother, grandfather, and father wrestled with struggling emotions on how to tell and explain to the child that her mother was with Jesus and that she would not see her again in this life. As they struggled to tell her this, she responded by saying, “Tell Jesus to send her back.” Thus began the on-going explanation of her mother being with Jesus and of God.
They could not tell nor could the little girl comprehend that her mother was killed in an automobile accident by a drunk driver, nor that not only was her mother killed but also the child she was carrying. The girl’s father was badly injured in the accident, and while he was recuperating, he graciously allowed the grandparents to care for the little girl.
Words cannot give justice as to how it tore a huge hole in the fabric of the family, forever altering the course of so many lives in the immediate family, in-laws, friends, and relatives—the dreams, hopes, memories dashed in a split-second, from what could have been to what never will be.
So, it goes for many of us when unexpected life experiences produce so many unintended consequences. We get caught up in the minutia of life, failing to see the big picture of savoring the immediate time together. We are often unaware, oblivious, as to how the unexpected, instantaneous curves in life affect and shape us.
To avoid serious, unintended consequences, we should begin our new year by taking the time to re-evaluate our driving decisions. Driving while texting, talking on cell phones, drinking, being under the influence of drugs, or when tired or exhausted are all choices that may impair or affect judgment. We should commit ourselves to eliminating these potentially hazardous driving habits in our lives. Doing this may have a tremendous positive impact on many lives, including our own.
Today, almost fifty years later, I can still remember those mournful cries in the night. As my eyes begin to well up with tears, I relive the past tragedy and ponder what might have been. So, let us all make positive, meaningful choices in our lives this year and have a Wonderful and Blessed New Year of 2017!
I just read an article in our local paper about a little 2 1/2 year old girl losing her mommy to a drunk driver. Below the article it says to write comments on your web site, I see nowhere to do so. So I am enclosing my comment here to you. You may put it on your web site, or where ever you wish, as I try desperately to make others aware & make them think. (hopefully).
I hope anyone who reads this will take it to heart and also will share it with others to read. Thirty years ago I lost my sister, who was only 20 years old, to a drunk driver. Sadly,the child I was carrying, her nephew, was born that same day, just hours after her accident. She was declared legally dead the same day I brought my baby boy home from the hospital. She went home to heaven, I went home with my new baby boy. She was now free of the pain and suffering of her horrible head injuries. I now sat home trying to figure out how I would deal with my pain & how my entire family would deal with theirs. I too cried many tears, I held my newborn and rocked him mindlessly for hours, I ached inside with an ache that has never left me. My family now was one less. One beautiful soul who brought smiles to all who knew her. We all had to learn how deal as a family with this awful thing that had happened. We all have to deal with the pain each year when her birthday, Christmas, or any other family gathering takes place and she is missing. I have to deal with the nightmare each year on my sons birthday as the memories of getting to the hospital to deliver him and finding out my sister was already there in the E.R. being prepared to go to the trauma center.
So please, read these stories from those of us who know the pain of losing someone to anothers irresponsibility . That pain never leaves. The picture I carry in my mind of the last time I saw my beautiful sister and she patted my huge pregnant belly saying " hurry little baby, your auntie wants to snuggle with you ". That day never came. She never got to see him because one lady chose to drink all day and drive that night.
Please pass this on. Not because me or my family want your sympathy, but because we dont want you to ever feel this pain.-----------
In Search of America
“Oh, my gosh, Mr. Paul! The Twin Towers fell, with all those people in them!” I remember my students saying this as the news filtered out from the media about the horrendous events that unfolded about the Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon, and the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. Close to 3000 Americans were slaughtered that day and many others became widows or widowers, and thousands of children were suddenly without a parent or parents. Many more loved ones and friends grieve at their loss. The entire country was on edge, not knowing what would happen next.
Rising from the ashes of that day was a feeling of unity. Our differences in race, religion, and income were no longer important; we were (and are) Americans, united against those who would do us harm. We talked and supported each other, resolving that we would not go quietly into the night. All of the previous conflicts, concerns, and disenchantments were swept aside.
We realized that we were more united than we were divided. Well, what a difference fifteen years makes. The goodwill and spirit of togetherness back then is now replaced by indifference; political, economic, and racial divisions gnaw at our core values.
In their various actions, our terrorist enemies are challenging us around the world and at home in America. And yet, some of us worry about our own self-interests, not about our future as a country. American values are still alive for many; but for others these lie dormant, yearning to be reignited by another tragic event.
Before this takes places, why not re-engage yourself by becoming more informed about the founding of our country? I have personally begun reading “The Federalist Papers”, which preceded the creation of our Constitution, and relates the struggles and visions our Founding Fathers had for our country—not just for their generations, but for generations to come.
In the same framework of being informed historically, we as a voting electorate need to be better informed about current politics. By that, I mean whatever your political affiliation; you should take the time to research all of the candidates, the issues they supported in the past, and their values. This should be done not by just watching or reading the news, but visiting their websites and doing independent research of their previous stances on issues, and core values. Then, compare/contrast their vision for our future and select which issue or candidate best aligns with your core political and personal values. After this is completed, go VOTE!
Our Armed Forces have sacrificed so much so that we can enjoy our freedoms, one of which is the right and privilege to vote. God Bless these United States of America and all of the men and women who have and will be serving our country.
This article is dedicated to my nephew, Dustin Paul Napier, who was killed in Afghanistan in January 2012.
Newspaper article link:
“School days, school days, good ol’fashion rule days!” Usually, by mid-August I would be awakened by my father singing this song around 7 a.m. every day. He even sang it during the day (maybe he was happy that I would be returning to school and not be such a pest, as I had such innate potential to be).
Oh, how I longed for it to be June once again and I could stay up longer and sleep later. That was not to be. So, as August zoomed by and that first day was around the corner, my dread began to turn to excitement. The excitement of meeting many of my friends I hadn’t seen since June, and possibilities of new students attending the Caspian elementary school.
I guess even though that occurred over a half-century ago, times really haven’t changed. The students still feel much the same as we did when we were young. As parents, you are given a special gift, a child. You are entrusted to love, guide, protect, and give direction as he/she grows into an adult (I might add that it never stops). So, here are a few examples in how to prepare your child for the up and coming school year.
I know many adults who will not sleep much the night before school starts, because of excitement of the start of a new year. So, to all of the teachers, students, staff, and administrators, have a great and successful start for the 2016-2017 school year.
Newspaper article link:
Random Acts of Kindness
A man is crossing the street with bags of groceries in both hands. A car stops and allows him to cross before they proceed down the street.
At a checkout counter at a local grocery store, a lady in line with a full grocery cart offers to the person behind her, with only a few items, to go ahead of her.
Another person offers to open a door for an individual, whose arms are full with items, so that they wouldn’t have to struggle.
On the other side of town, a person wakes up after an overnight snowfall. She finds that her sidewalk has been shoveled by someone.
A stranger passing another person wishes them a good day. After that is said, it is followed by a huge smile.
These acts of kindness are repeated daily, not only in our communities but throughout the United States. For the recipient, it uplifts them even when the days are long and lonely. The message they are receiving is that someone cares. On the other hand, for the one who is giving it, it is also rejuvenating. For, in that act, whether small or large, you know that you’ve attempted to reach out and make a difference in another’s day. Through this act, maybe they in turn will help another person.
Now, I am not going to give you suggestions on what ways to be kind to people. You know in your heart the right thing to do. What I am going to tell you is that it makes a difference to people. It is what Jesus would want us to do. By the way, thanks to the ladies who helped me on the street and in the grocery store.
Today, students are involved in a number of organized afterschool activities and sports. These afterschool programs are very beneficial to the students as they enable them to be physically active and positively challenge them in other areas.
However, something very good can be overdone. When students participate in these activities until 6:00 p.m. every night, it takes time from the family, especially when the students are involved with multiple activities.
Sometimes, out of great intentions, the students begin to feel stressed and the love of the activity turns out to be a chore. Families begin to drift from the lack of communication because there isn’t the time to communicate.
As a coach for multiple sports, I understand as many others do, about family time. If you are encountering some of these stressful situations, maybe these following suggestions can be helpful.
As she was preparing to return to her military base for additional training, she stopped to say goodbye to her grandmother, who is 97.5 years old. As they hugged through tear-filled eyes and large sobs, her grandmother said to her, “When you return home again, I will be watching you from heaven. Do not give up on Jesus because he doesn’t give up on you.” The last memory of her grandmother as she was leaving, was of her watching and waving to her as she walked down the hallway.
It is so hard to say goodbye for long lengths of time, because of the love and close ties that have been nurtured and developed between friends and loved ones. As my mother experienced, so did I, that same day when my daughter was boarding the plane. Emotions cascaded through me from extreme sadness, loss, and fear, to transformations of being proud and uplifted.
The same feelings are mirrored by all of us to one degree or another. So, how do we cope with these feelings? Here are a few examples of how I have developed these skills.
Please keep our Armed Forces, police, firefighters, and all their families in your thoughts and prayers!
The Call of Distant Bugles
ISIS, Al Qaeda, beheadings, butchering of Christians and other religious minorities, the San Bernardino slaughter of innocent civilians, and turmoil throughout the world: This is what precipitated a 34-year-old woman who turned 35 during her Basic Training to enlist in the Army. You see, she wanted to make a difference, to stand for freedom and protect our homeland.
The story is quite similar to many of the enlisted servicemen and -women of today and in the past. Their commitment of placing their lives on the line and dedication to our country’s survival is paramount. Without this, we would never enjoy the freedoms that we have or the country that we all hold dear to our hearts.
While fulfilling their commitment, these military personnel have witnessed and experienced the brutality of mankind at its lowest level. Many have returned carrying the emotional (internal) and physical (external) scars of battles. Some have never returned home. Memories of them are etched deeply in the minds of their loved ones.
So, to all who are currently serving or have served in the past, or have given the ultimate sacrifice, God bless you! We, as a nation, can never thank you enough.
As we celebrate July 4th, our Independence Day, let all of us continue to keep in our thoughts and prayers our servicemen and -women. (The servicewoman in the article is my daughter, who enlisted in December 2015.)
If you have any questions, comments, reflections, or personal stories related to the subject of this article, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Culture of Lies, Deceit, and Irresponsibility
As I have mentioned in previous articles, while raising children, we teach them positive values not only through words, but also by our actions. By actions, I mean modeling various ways one can demonstrate values. One example is when we are confronted by a decision we have made: Do we take responsibility for our decision and consequential action or do we shirk it off on someone else?
As I mentioned about teaching positive values, we as adults also hold the power to teach negative values. If, by our actions, we teach our children to lie, be deceitful, and not to take responsibility for our decisions, we are increasing the likelihood that they will exhibit the same negative values in one degree to another as they go through their own lives.
Some parents would argue that the children do not know that they have emulated these negative values. On the other hand, children are like a tape recorder. They absorb a lot of information and observe much more than we might think. They may, as they grow older, pick up on these nuances and flaws in character, and begin to assimilate them into their own value systems. They ponder points such as “If it is okay for Mom or Dad to do it, then it must be okay for me.”
As taught either directly or indirectly by the parents or parent, these negative values create a family culture of lies, deceit, and irresponsibility. . If this negative culture is not changed in the children, then their lives will be laced with the same lies, deceit, and lack of responsibility that the adults have modeled in their lives.
If you see yourself in this situation and want to change, now is the time. However, if this applies to you and it does not resonate with you, then you quite possibly may reap what you have (intentionally or unintentionally) sown, and will be held accountable for your actions.