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Originally posted on Harvey Millican: Raising Your Kids Without Lowering Your IQ:
I took my son to his first karate lesson tonight.  Boy was he excited!  And I was excited for him and with him.  It’s been raining here in…

Family Game Night

One of the things I’m already enjoying about being “temporarily out of work” or “between jobs” or “finding myself” or some other such shit is the sense of peace and calm that has come over me.  A scant six hours after leaving my former job for the last time I endeavored to use this newfound tranquility of soul to my advantage.  Since I didn’t have to worry about answering a work phone, checking email, or trying to accomplish things that I’ll have time for tomorrow I thought a fun family game night would be in order.


The Commodore (Cornelius Vanderbilt) would be proud. I think Lionel Ritchie would be too

I may have mentioned on these pages once or twice that my children have inherited from me some rather desirable traits such as a quick wit, stellar vocabulary, and devastating good looks.  OK, two out of three ain’t bad.  Armed with these gifts we sat down – Mommy, Daddy, and the two kids – to play a family favorite.  It’s called Ticket to Ride.  The board features a map of the US circa 1850 and lots and lots of “routes” between pinpointed cities.  Along these routes players build railroads by collecting and then distributing cards.  The player who successfully builds the railroads on his route cards typically wins the game except that there are bonuses.  For instance, a player receives a bonus for having the longest continuous railroad.  Why, you might ask, would anyone invent such a riveting game about antebellum transportation?  Clearly Parker Brothers had beaten them to the punch on their original concept – a board game about the triangle slave trade for players 8 and up.


Can you believe people once traveled by tiny plastic?

About ten minutes into the game I had amassed a handful of cards with different routes on them.  My prospects looked good at completing a transcontinental takeover.  “I’m going to drive the golden spike!” I thought as I approached Salt Lake.  How fantastic…  My wife even encouraged me to use a little known maneuver and collect even MORE route cards.  “Listen,” she said, “You’ve already laid a lot of track down.  It’s very likely you already have completed routes that you could claim.”  Seemed like a good idea.

My son, meanwhile, was studying the map like a champ.  “Daddy,” he said, “I thought you said there was NOTHING in Kansas City.  Why would a railroad go through there?”  Perceptive, that boy.*

Looking across at my wife, my brow furrowed as I saw her suddenly begin to claim route after route in a rapid succession of turns.

“Daddy,” asked my daughter, “I’ve never seen that much white around your eyes!”

“Sorry, sweetheart,” I said.  “Daddy’s just been screwed over by Cornelius Vanderbilt,” I said as I pointed toward my wife.  None of them got the reference.

“Captain of industry?  New York Central Rail…, you know what?  Never mind.”

I looked at my cards.  There was still hope.  Not only did I have a few moves left to complete all of my routes but I remembered that this was only a game.  A game with tiny trains.  On a board.

On her next turn, as I was relishing the sweet taste of accomplishment at the thought of finally connecting Nashville to St. Louis, my daughter metaphorically punched me in the gut.  Placing two cards down she reached across the board and neatly positioned two locomotives between those cities.  Hey, she didn’t know.  She was just doing what made sense for her hand.


She took my route!

“WHAT!?” I blurted out.  “Uh, um, you sure you want to do that?  I mean nobody goes to St. Louis anymore!”  “But Daddy, they’ve got that pretty arch and anyway it’s my only move left and then the game is over.”

My wife, realizing what had happened, stepped in and tried to persuade our little girl to make a different move.

Nothing doing.

I had to think fast.

“Sweetie, did you watch the news earlier this week?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Well, it was very sad…”  I proceeded to tell her about the history of train derailments, demonstrating with her Nashville line by toppling her plastic engines off the board.


Daddy just “derailed” your dreams, sweetheart.  Consider it practice for life.

Unfortunately, she continued the story by insisting that a crane had come in to re-position the trains.  Where did she get that from?  It’s like the time I played Battleship with my son and he figured out I had been moving my battleship.  “What, son?” I asked.  “My ship was under attack.  I would have been derelict as caption not to move her.”

And with that it was game over.

Next time we’re playing Trivial Pursuit.


She’s Amazing

Believe it or not, I do not like to write about my wife very often.  It’s not that I don’t love her or think the world of her.  I certainly understand more than most husbands the imbalance between myself and her.  My dad didn’t dispense marriage advice to me often.  He just lived the life of a dutiful husband.  He placed my mom on a pedestal, adoring his “child bride” for the 60 years of their life together.  The way he treated her – loving, honoring, and truly cherishing her – was more than enough for us to see what being a husband and father meant.  But he was fond of saying, whenever the subject came up, that “all women marry beneath themselves.  They marry men.”  And it’s certainly not that he thought ill of his sons, simply that he recognized the inherent beauty, dignity, and grace of woman.  Let’s face it.  Men are brutish, boorish, and hairy until a woman graces us with her presence.  Even then, we’re still pretty hairy.  But it is in the instant that a young man discovers a woman who’s taken an interest in his potential that he radically alters his life to become the “man” God always wanted him to be – a strong, providential, gentle, patient, and loving man capable of raising a family.

No, I don’t write often about my beloved for the same reason that I never mention students by name and I use my own photos rather than images grabbed from the internet.  The people and places involved in the re-telling of my life never asked to be the subject of a blog!  While it is true that I can talk about my life all I want, I am always mindful of crossing the line and exposing someone who might enjoy some of the privacy the entire human race enjoyed before the online world took over our lives.

That being said, I have to relay something the wonderful Mrs. Harvey did for me today.  A month and a half ago I resigned from my job as a school administrator.  I had worked so hard and long for this opportunity.  But when the moment came, not too long into this job, and I realized it wasn’t working out, I decided it was time to move on.  The past few weeks leading up to my last day have been strange for me.  I’ve had very little to do but show up.  When I wasn’t at work I was starting to get depressed.  You see, I’ve never been in this position of having no prospect or idea of where I’m going to wind up.  I’ve been reflecting on lack of marketable skills other than teaching which I think is impressive but most people think of as a joke.  In fact, I think I want to go back to teaching but it’s mid-year and there aren’t too many teaching jobs available.  I’ve struggled with self-doubt, lack of confidence, and a feeling that I had failed – not just myself which would be tolerable enough but also the woman I vowed to give my life to and the children she’s given me.  And through it all she’s been so gracious to me, encouraging me, helping me to see the situation for what it is, and doing it all without losing her mind.


Don’t laugh at the diet tonic.  I like my gin and I don’t want all the extra carbs.

So today I finished up at work and drove home.  When I walked in the door my wife and kids were out running errands.  As I opened the door from the garage I noticed a large gift basket on the counter in the kitchen.  This basket was filled with, well to put it gently, booze.  Knowing my wife’s tendency to purchase such baskets at gala auctions I almost walked right past it.  But then I stopped and read the card.  It read something to the effect of “I’m so excited to start this next chapter of our life together and I love you.  Now drink up.  You’re on vacation!”

I’d like to think that I could ever be as amazing as she is but I know that’s not likely.  I will spend the rest of my life searching for a way to make her as happy as she makes me.  In the meantime, I’d better do as the lady says…

Cheers everyone!

Keep the Prayers Coming

I really enjoyed our online novena last week.  It was nice to know that I was being prayed for and to pray for others, not just my own intentions.  It was also especially gratifying to spread devotion to St. Rita.


St. Cajetan (Gaetano) the Theatine, patron of the unemployed and job-seekers.

Things started to move on the job front, if only slightly.  You have to understand that I’ve never been in this position.  I resigned from my job and I am 100% positive this was the right decision.  I know God is asking me to trust Him right now.  I know He will lead me somewhere better.  Tonight I had a meeting with the principal of a phenomenal school.  We spoke openly and honestly and it certainly looks like there might be a job for me there.  Next school year.

So that leaves me with next month…

It will be interesting for sure.  I will probably have to take non-teaching work in the meantime which is not something I was looking for.  So for the sake of humor I will now walk through a few possible scenarios.



Everyone’s favorite government agency is ALWAYS hiring.  Lucky for me I have a MAJOR airport five miles from my house.  The up side?  I love airports.  The down side?  I hate putting my hands on other guys’ legs.  True, I could have some fun with the X-ray machines imagining things that aren’t really there and then calling them in.  Also, I understand that people in these kinds of jobs are generally not altogether there.  With a pinch of ingenuity and a pulse I could be a real standout.  Unfortunately I don’t look good in blue.



Actual Nordstrom where I worked years ago.  Or not.  They all look alike.

When I was in college I worked in a Nordstrom department store.  My customer service skills are top notch.  It also helped that I worked for the only retail outlet on the planet where they say the customer is always right and then actually mean it.  I remember one time I took a return.  It was a $1000 leather jacket that had not been purchased in a Nordstrom.  We know this because we had never sold that jacket.  Furthermore it was 20 years old, frayed, and had a dead rat in the breast pocket.  Apparently Mr. Nordstrom believed it was better to have a satisfied customer in the store with cash in his hand than to upset the delicate flower.  I remembered those words as the customer was quickly exiting the store with a thousands bucks in hand laughing at the security camera.


This could work.  I like to eat fast food.  By that logic, though, I should work in a liquor store.  Let’s come back to this one…


You know I used to work as a writer and producer in this exciting medium.  If I was any good I’d have been the breakout star of 2005.  Still, there are several large media outlets in my neck of the woods.  Unfortunately not only can I not get the Texas drawl down but I can’t seem to shake my Jersey accent.  I’d be a bigger fish out of water than that large fish a friend of mine caught.  Wow that was a really bad literary device.



See… I couldn’t get this huge if I tried.

I’d consider the FBI if I weren’t too old.  I’d consider a police force but my back injuries would probably rule me out.  I’d consider the fire department.  Let’s think about this one.  1) Every fireman I know is ridiculously huge – like GI Joe proportions only taller.  Yes Grady, even you.  There isn’t enough protein in the world to make this frame that size.  2) Having lived through a multiple-fatal house fire as a child the psychological trauma of running into a burning building would make it impossible for me to do my job.  3) I can only imagine the first time an alarm rings and I have to shimmy down the pole.  I would think of a TV segment I produced for a news program in New York.  It was about a new workout called “the stripper workout”.  Seriously.  The mental image of our aging anchor dancing around a pole would make me incontinent with laughter and I would fall through the hole in the floor breaking multiple bones.  Thus I would be rendered incapable of fighting fires that day.

So there you have it.  Looks like I’ll have to get creative.  I’m open to suggestions so let’s hear ’em.  Or you could just continue to pray for me.  Otherwise I’m going to get real familiar with Wendy Williams and Kelly Ripa.  That’s a fate worse than death.

Impossible: Day 9

Well friends, we are there!  We have reached the ninth day of our novena.

The prayers, as always, are found here.

I don’t know how this one will end – for me or for you.  Know that I have been praying for your intentions as well as my own and that I am grateful for all of your prayers for me.

I will share that many years ago I prayed this exact novena for a special cause.  On the ninth day in the evening I stood face to face with the woman I would marry.  And yes, I knew at that moment that my prayer had been heard and answered favorably.

St. Rita, advocate of impossible causes, pray for us!


Impossible: Day 8

linoln tunnel

What will it be?

There is a point when driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, well past the mosaic tiled state line divider that always amused me as a boy, where the bright fluorescent lights mounted to the ceiling give way to the grayish light gently streaming into view in the distance.  It is exactly and not proverbially the light at the end of the tunnel.  Even though the tunnel lights are somehow reassuring – bright, constant, warm – in contrast to the uncertainty of the “natural” light ahead, there is a real sense that the light ahead is just that – natural.  Whether it be bright sunshine densely packing a deep blue sky powered by high pressure or faltering light struggling to find the room to breathe in a sky choked cold with winter’s thin and biting air; that light is still natural.  Natural is always preferable to artifice.  As I reflect on the sentences preceding this one I am struck by how forced and formulaic they are.  My apologies.

state line


St. Rita, pierced with a thorn, pray for us!

The novena we’ve been praying, found here, is drawing to a close.  The thing is that the light at the end of the tunnel is scary.  I’m confident it will be natural but what will it look like?  I have a vision in my mind of what I want it to look like but God painted that sky and it might be nothing like what I’m looking for.  It might even be darkness dotted by even more man-made lights.  And that can be pretty too.  Many times I emerged from the Tunnel at night to be surrounded by high rise buildings lit up like Christmas trees.  There’s a real beauty in that.

The point is that ultimately I’m still going to drive forward.  We shall see what awaits us.  Until the end, though, know that I am praying your light will be as impossibly marvelous as mine will be.

Impossible: Day 7

Posting a little late…

On day 7 of our novena to St. Rita, found here, we continue to pray for my intention and yours.


Mom, my niece (named after my mom), and my son with St. Rita standing guard.  From an elevator in the National Shrine of St. Rita, Philadelphia.

The reason I’m posting the next morning is because I was out at the airport last night picking up a very special guest.  My mom flew into town for a few weeks.  And there’s a big connection here (other than the obvious).

My mother it the one who first introduced me to St. Rita!  The story she always tells is that when she was about to make her confirmation way back in 1946 she was searching for a saint to take as a patron.  Wanting to impress her mother, she took the name of a visiting aunt who happened to be named Rita.  There are worse reasons to pick a saint.  The point is that many years later when I was in 8th grade I read a story about St. Rita in a book on Catholic world culture and remembered my mom’s connection.  Years after that, with both of us having a “fascination” about the saint of the impossible we discovered that her national shrine was a mere hour and a half away from home.  We took a trip to visit and the devotion was established.

St. Rita, help of those in need, pray for us!