What’s in a Name?

12 12 2013

Today I write with big personal news! My soul-mate, my closest friend, my lover, my bride has changed her name.

I wanted to write this to honour this change, this milestone.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose.
By any other name would smell as sweet;
William Shakespeare

Using prose and lyric from popular culture, I’ll share with you this latest, triumphant, victorious chapter in my wife’s life. I’ve written of her before. If you’ve never met the love of my life, feel free to read a bit about the woman formerly known as Brandee, in a piece called “She Rises.” http://earthtourist.org/2013/05/18/she-rises/

So, every Christmas, we create a video Christmas card. This year, we recorded our own version of “Where are You Christmas,” and during production, a few of the lyrics stood out as especially honouring of her continuing journey.

After two years of intense pain & emotional loss, of which I won’t go into detail here, Brandee has chosen a new name. As we planned out the song, it became apparent that the time had come to make it official.

Just as the holiday season was beginning this year, my wife commented, “I hate Christmas.” She was speaking of the constant reminders of loss and separation from people she loves and who once loved her. We honoured that pain, but also faced it head on by recording our video Christmas Card.

Where are you Christmas?
Do you remember the one you used to know?
I’m not the same one, see what the time’s done,
Is that why you have let me go?

The other night, we took our girls to see Disney’s Frozen. What a beautiful film. The soundtrack includes an incredible song called “Let it Go.” As we watched & listened, my wife was inspired to the point of tears.

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small,
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.
Up here in the cold thin air I finally can breathe,
I know I left a life behind but I’m too relieved to grieve

The name she was born with, Brandee Leigh, has simply accumulated too many painful memories, and she couldn’t bear the burden anymore. When she told me it was time, I trusted her. I wasn’t sure how well I’d adjust, but learning to love her with a new name is the least I can do.

She is her own beautiful, independent woman, flourishing in her own way. She has taken a new name, a new identity.

Brandee Leigh is now Veronica Belle.

Her name means Victory. Her name means Beauty.

Beautiful Victory.

Veronica knows that it may be hard for people to get it right. Maybe some will feel stubborn and some will just forget and some just won’t refer to her by name. She’s prepared to respond with grace as it will take time to adjust. But if you know her and you love her, please do. It breathes life into her heart and puts a sparkle in her eye.

I’ll wrap up this announcement with a couple of lines from Elvis Costello’s song, Veronica:

They call her a name that they never get right and if they don’t then nobody else will.
But she used to have a carefree mind of her own, with devilish look in her eye
Saying “You can call me anything you like, but my name is Veronica”

Enough of my words. Veronica says it all so much better here:

A dad to his daughters

16 06 2013

From the first moment our eyes met, I knew this love would never end. As my best friend (you know her as ‘mom’) and I held you at birth, we prayed that you would flourish and thrive during the years we would raise you and the years to follow when you break out in your own.

It’s been an amazing experience to say the least, my girls. You’ve thrilled me, you’ve loved me, you’ve broken me, you’ve captured my heart.

I can already see such strength in you, and in time I know you will become amazing women filled with potential, ready to lead, to succeed and to love.

I’m teaching you about love in the way I love your mom, and the way I love you. I know you will eventually want to share your love with another, and I know, I trust that you will have been loved so well that the special person you choose won’t need my approval, because your choice in a lover and life-mate will be guided by the example of love we set for you.

I know that as you mature in life, you’ll make decisions that will be difficult, and I’m sure that as your dad I’ll wrestle with the choices you make as you experience life on your own. But, sweetheart, I’m your dad, I’m the guy who believes in you more than anyone in the world. I’m in your corner, kid. I’m your biggest fan.

I will love the ones you love, I will stand against anyone who hurts you, I will protect you for as long as you need me to.

My love isn’t based on your performance, your choices, the amount of time you spend with me…it is unconditional. I love you, and I always will.

I will respect you as you mature, yes, you’ll always be my little girl, but I’ll be so proud of the woman you become. It’s all you baby, I don’t take credit for you. You were a gift from God, and I am and always will be in love with you.

Happy Fathers Day to me, indeed.

I love you Topanga & Tehillah!

PS-To the little girl out there that we will adopt as our own someday (soon I hope), this goes out to you too sweetheart!

Afterglow: The Day After Valentine’s Day

15 02 2012

I love observing men on the day after Valentine’s day. In the trucking company that I manage, I have a unique opportunity to have several conversations with our drivers in the morning while their trucks warm up. Likewise, I get to converse with these drivers at the end of their work day as well.

All week I’ve been hearing the guys gripe about having to pick up flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s day, but to hear them speak the morning after, you’d think that it was their favorite holiday of the year (secretly, it probably is).

Some went out and some stayed in, but each of the men I talked to this morning had a mischievous grin – proud to keep secret (most of) the details of the night before, a treasure to protect and cherish.

What other annual event is geared to bring you close to the one you love? Birthday’s are selfish, Christmas is a gong show (even though it shouldn’t be) and every other special event is just about having a good time. Nothing against all that, but Valentine’s day, commercial as it may be (what holiday or event isn’t), is about bringing us into oneness with our lover, the one person who knows us and is known by us like no other.

From her shoes to her hair to her dress and her underwear, everything that she put on was chosen to make her man stare. Even as we sat in a restaurant by the beach, there were a hundred beautiful women dressed to attract the attention of their lovers, and yet each man really only saw one. His.

I greatly enjoyed being in the middle of a room full of people tending to fires of love, starting with paper, kindling, and slowly adding fuel to the fire until it was blazing hot. Some were rekindling old flames some were igniting something new, but all were lost in the eyes of one.

Every provocative gesture, every double entendre, every cheesy rhyme; every touch, every kiss, every longing glance – all part of an elaborate dance that draws lovers together for one special night.

And oh, what a night!


Beautifully Broken

19 11 2011

I haven’t posted anything to this blog for a while, as I’ve been spending every free waking moment (and more than a few half awake moments) writing my new book, which is nearly finished! For the past four months I have lived and breathed this work, and I am so excited to share it with you! I’ve sent the manuscript out for review to a very select number of trusted advisors, close friends and family members. Once I get their feedback, it’s time for another round of revisions, and then it gets sent off to my editor. So exciting!

All the while, I am doing preliminary research work for my second book, a fresh look at the arts, faith, culture and the church, and the relationship between each. So, another awesome year ahead.

Hold it. As I wrote that last sentence, I almost lost my breath. Another awesome year? If you took a close look at the year that Brandee and I just had to go through, you might ask what I’m trying to pull. Who am I trying to fool? It’s okay, I just asked myself that same question. Over this last year we faced several very complicated and very painful life situations that caused us to loose friends, family members and sometimes our faith.

Along the way we’ve learned that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s alright to hurt, it’s alright to cry. Sometimes you just can’t put on that brave face and pretend like nothing is wrong. Today I went back for listen to a song that feels like it has become like an old friend to me:

“Beautifully Broken” Ashlee Simpson

It seems like yesterday that my world fell from the sky
It seems like yesterday I didn’t know how hard I could cry
It feels like tomorrow I may not get by
But I will try
I will try wipe the tears from my eyes

I’m beautifully broken and I don’t mind if you know it
I’m beautifully broken and I don’t care if I show it

Every day is a new day I’m reminded of my past
Every time theres another storm I know that it wont last
Every moment I’m filled with hope
cause i get another chance
But I will try I will try
Got nothing left to hide

Without the highs and the lows
Where will we go?
Where will we go?

I am beautifully broken, I am beautifully broken
I am beautifully broken and I don’t care if I show it

Everybody hurts. To be human is to feel. To be human is to be real. To be human is to hurt. To be human is to heal. When we are wounded, we bleed, but our bodies are designed to heal themselves. If we are healthy, our bodies will tighten the blood vessels in and around the injured area and send platelets to the torn vessel, effectively plugging the hole. Then, clotting proteins form a net (a scab) that keep the platelet plug in place, permanently stopping the bleeding. Next, the blood vessels that were constricted now dilate, bringing white blood cells to fight infection by destroying any germs that may have entered via the open wound. Finally, fibroblast cells gather at the site of the injury and produce collagen, and skin begins to migrate across the wound, under the scab.

It’s an amazing process, but one that is very dependent on the overall health of our bodies as a whole. If our body is unhealthy, for example it’s fighting a virus or disease or it is being contaminated by an unhealthy outside substance (i.e. smoking), then it is much less effective at healing itself.

We have to maintain our physical, spiritual and emotional health to be whole. I am convinced that to be whole we must be broken. It’s one of those paradoxes that I don’t understand yet, but I am working through. Our wholeness encompasses the scars of our brokenness.

Once the body heals, a scar almost always remains, a reminder of the painful wound but also of the miracle of healing. A balance, celebrating the healing and yet acknowledging the memory of the pain. Remembering painful situations, and not just “moving on,” helps us to calculate risk and avoid serious injury in the future. Of course, sometimes the risk of pain is worth the reward.

Above all this, we are all beloved children of God. When the hurt is too great and the pain too intense, He is all we need. This song tells of the hope we have in these desperate situations, and is always on mind during those tough times:

“Healer” Michael Guglielmucci

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You

I believe You’re my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my Portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me

Jesus You’re all I need
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

I am healed and whole and yet beautifully broken. Some who read this will understand. You know. You feel it. Embrace it and just love. May our hearts love and be loved, full of God’s love and the love of the people around us.

The Joy of it All

17 11 2010

This morning at Starbucks I was served by the most pleasant barista, and given the fact that I show up for my morning coffee around 5:00 am, I give extra credit to anyone who can not only function that early in the morning, but do it with a smile.

As she punched in my order for a Venti Skinny Hazelnut latte and Holiday Turkey Sandwich, the total came up, $12.10. She said, “that will be eleven dollars and twelve…” flustered, she continued, “no, twelve dollars and eleven…twelve ten!”

She went on to say how tired she was, and explained that she’d been up since 1:30 am, because her husband gets home from his shift at that time, and she wanted to make him dinner, as they don’t get to see each other very often.

As they ate bacon & eggs together in the middle of the night, she was just beginning her day with coffee and orange juice, and his was coming to an end with a beer, but they found some time to be together. “It’s a crazy life,” she said, “but we have a daughter, the joy of it all.”

It was that statement that has stuck with me as I write this. Clearly, the most important thing to them is each other, and their little family.

Last week I was able to take my sweetheart out for coffee with me early in the morning before work. We’d had a crazy week packing, moving, renovating and cleaning, and that’s on top of our regularly jam-packed schedule. Yes, it took some coaxing to awaken her while the clock still read four-something, but we had found a brief window to spend a few priceless moments together, and we took it!

It’s hard to balance work, school, bills, budgets… life; however, in the midst of it all, we find joy in the morning…for some, at five am, for others, it’s bacon and eggs at one-thirty.

It’s a crazy life…but we have each other, and our daughters, the joys of it all.



You’re Bringing Me Down…But His Love Never Fails!

19 10 2010

You can’t count on people to help you make your climb to the top; however you can expect them to try and knock you down once you get there.

I’m replaying Pixar’s short film, “For the Birds,” in my head, and remembering the story.  You’ve got a little bird who lands on a wire, and feels pretty good about himself. He’s subsequently joined by others who take the spotlight off him, and he becomes visibly annoyed, expressing his displeasure to the other birds around him. Once the little birds are joined by a big bird, who is “different” than them, they turn their attention to him, channeling their frustration, pecking at him and eventually knocking him down off the wire. What the little birds didn’t realize was that the big bird was weighing down the wire, and once he fell off, the wire sprung back and hurled them through the air like a slingshot causing physical harm and much embarrassment to themselves. Find it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it.

All the while as the little birds pecked at him, the big bird was unaware of their disdain for him, even blissfully so. This is one of the aspects from the story that I connect to the Father, and his love for His children; even when we are being attacked, he works everything out for our good!

It’s usually at our highest, happiest points in life, on those mountaintop experiences where we feel like we could just jump off and soar, that we can expect people to bring us back down to earth. Perhaps it’s a misguided intention to keep us from becoming too proud. Or perhaps it’s simply jealousy. Either way, when people bring you down, it hurts.

Ever overheard a conversation where someone was putting you down behind your back? Or had someone use a weak compliment as a means to deliver a hurtful, thinly-veiled criticism, right to your face? It hurts. The sad part is that usually the people that we allow closest to us are the ones with the ability to hurt us the most.

What entices us to bring down the ones we love? I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they are delivering those painful blows, believing that causing hurt isn’t their true intention, but an inadvertent reaction to an underlying issue, rooted in jealousy, pride or hurt of their own. It is this belief that reminds me again of 1 Peter 4:8; And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

Love never fails. Love calls forth a maturity that causes us to put away our childish ways and wisely reason with faith, hope and love. Our spiritual growth can be stunted when we allow hurt to take root and become an obsession, leaving us to function from within that obsession in an immaturity based on hurt, pride and jealousy. Love is not just a word, or a way to qualify a condemning or criticizing point of view; rather, love is a mature action that calls forth “the best” in people, without the predetermination of what “the best” is for them.

Peace & Love.


Offensive Love: Disarming Weapons of Mass Emotion

8 10 2010

I am a guy living in a house with three women. Two of them are under the age of five, the other is my beautiful wife. As I clumsily navigate through a minefield of emotional needs of the females in our home, I’ve observed both the joyous thrill of successfully deactivating and disarming an emotional bombshell, and the devastation of inadvertently detonating an explosion of hurt, anger and tears.

When a conflict arises, for the most part, I don’t think either party expects war to suddenly break out. I think the general intention of each side is to be heard and in good faith negotiate a peaceful settlement. Where this “peace process” becomes derailed is when there are fundamental, uncompromisable differences or when emotions come into play.

Usually at the first hint of emotional war I go to “DEFCON 1” and prepare to defend and protect my pride and dignity, while simultaneously going into damage control mode, attempting to capture and disarm all of the emotional missiles of hurt, pride, fear or anger before they can be launched, and wrap up the conflict before any major damage can be done by either party.

One of the biggest problems with this defensive strategy, however, is that by preventing the explosion nothing changes. The landscape, the politics, the economy all continue as they were, and any discord simply simmers below the surface until the fragile cease-fire is broken and the full arsenal from the previously-averted conflict plus new ammunition is unleashed with a greater ferocity than the last attack.

A proven strategy of averting war is to maintain a positive presence during peacetime. Countries will often have troops on the ground in humanitarian or peacekeeping roles, developing a relationship with the locals, understanding their needs and assisting wherever possible. This is a good example of a peaceful one-on-one relationship as well, staying engaged with each other’s day-to-day needs so that we can understand each other’s perspective when conflicts do arise.

I call it “offensive love.” Rather than choosing the selfish, defensive route, take to the offensive, spending time intentionally tending to the emotional needs of the people closest to you, and be reminded that we aren’t adversaries, but allies.


1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”


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