An Open Letter to Georgetown

Nine years ago, my wife Val and I moved to Georgetown with our almost one year old identical twins and yellow lab into the house with the white picket fence and with a naive albeit innocent optimism that this was the beginning of something special.

Little did we know that not only did our lives take on a new and profound purpose with the arrival of our son two years later, but we had in fact embarked on a journey that would ultimately enrich our lives so much more than we had ever expected.

It started with a town.

When your kids are younger and you are new to town, it can sometimes be hard to meet new people and make new friends.  This was certainly a challenge for us as well and those first many years we maintained a few close friends within the confines of our respective neighborhoods.  We were both working full-time and traveling to Boston everyday while trying to raise 3 young kids.  We didn’t sleep.  We didn’t go out.  We did our best to survive a life of semi-controlled chaos.

We didn’t know many people in town and honestly didn’t know much about the town itself either.  But, eventually, when we began to venture out to American Legion Park and any other park in the area to find a few moments of quiet sanity on a park bench while the kids played, we began to recognize faces.  At first, a simple ‘hello’ and then eventually there were playdates and coffee.

Slowly but surely, our circle of friends widened outside the neighborhood.  The kids started school, played sports, joined dance class, cub scouts, girl scouts and an endless stream of Monkey Joe’s birthday parties.  And then the Donohoe 5k.


The circle expanded and we finally felt we were part of a community that we loved so much.

Today, we continue to be fully entrenched in this town.  We are active with the GEF (Georgetown Education Foundation) and support the PTA and the GAA as much as we can.  We support local businesses and take pride in what this town embodies and the quality of the people that call it home.  We have a wealth of great friends who we count on every day to help keep our sanity and every trip to the park, baseball practice, or community fundraiser is always something we look forward to.

We are invested 110% in Georgetown.  This is where our kids play, learn, and make friends.  These are our streets, our schools, our Fire & Police departments, our selectmen.  These are our parks, our Town Hall, and our soon to be Senior Center.

We care about this town as do you.

On Monday, May 9th, our town will hold elections.  There will be ballot questions that are important to all of us.  Please come out and support this amazing town and community we all share and love.

Your voice matters.  Your opinions matter.  What you have to say is important, valid, and why we are lucky enough to call Georgetown our home.

I’m not as eloquent as Big Papi, but he is right about one thing.

This is our town.  This is your town.



Year In Review – 2015

Merry Christmas! And I’m glad to see you made the Christmas letter list this year. I know last year, we got a little lazy and didn’t publish one and you may have thought we forgot you but look at what a difference a year makes!!  Welcome back to the list! Just remember that your receipt of this letter infers no recognition of your naughtiness or nicety so make sure you’re good with the fat dude in the red suit before 12/25.

So, 2015 – what a year it was!  The end.

No, I’m just kidding. The Durneys were busy as usual and while not always up to any good, we (almost) always had fun.  We had our challenges as we all do which seems ever more prevalent when you share your home with the short people with an inherent obsession with leaving blue toothpaste on the sink (and mirror) each morning.  And for the love of God, please close your mouth when eating!

I digress.


Connor continued quite successfully in his quest to torture his sisters.  But he also played baseball, basketball, football, and is now working on getting his badges in Cub Scouts.  He is disturbingly obsessed with his bike and now insists he needs a “gear bike” so he can “go FASTER and ride over rocks and stuff.”


So while he has shown promise for the X Games in daredevil bike riding, his football career is probably short-lived as his playing style is very similar to the Patriots’ special teams as of late.

That all being said, he continues to do well in school and has established himself firmly as a knucklehead and of course, he loves to write random stories and thoughts in his notebooks (maybe his IS my son!).  Now if we could just get him to read for more than 90 seconds…

Ava is a bike rider!! Hooray! She did it! It was certainly a challenge for her but she stuck with it and then, POOF, down the driveway she went.  Last weekend she actually went on a ride through the neighborhood with Val.  Something tells me that girl just opened a door to a whole new world and we couldn’t be more proud.  Determined, competitive, passionate, and full of conviction – she continues to impress us every day.  Ava also still loves to dance and is taking Ballet classes (first time without her partner in crime Zoe).  Holiday show is tomorrow night on stage!

Zoe is still working hard on learning how to ride her bike but she also has decided to take a break from her impressive dancing career and play some basketball and perfect her roller skating – watch out Derby Girls!  Zoe got to go on her first real field trip to Plimoth Plantation “on buses with a bathroom and TVs!!”  Ava got to go too.  Zoe continues her love affair with animals and can always be found sitting with Preston and making sure he’s happy.  I think that relationship is reciprocal for sure.

Ava, Zoe, and Connor also attended summer camp for the first time.  They spent a week at Camp Christopher at St. John’s Prep (dad’s alma mater) and a week at the Audubon Society in Topsfield both of which they loved! They are starting to find solace in autonomy and exploring the world we live in without Mom & Dad – exciting and scary for both of us at the same time (but mostly because Dad doesn’t have answers to the increasingly difficult questions!).

Preston had a rough year for sure. Last winter he tore is ACL and went through two surgeries. Unfortunately, while he’s doing better now, he still is only at about 50% of his old self. Now if I could only just get back 50% of what it cost for those surgeries I’d be happy.  Unfortunately, it’s one of the first hard lessons in life for the kids knowing that he is fragile and the thought of one day losing him is almost for any of us to handle.

Running continues to be Val’s first love besides me of course. She finds her happy place with two blue ear buds, a Spotify playlist, running shoes and the road. We have both been able to run several road races together which is certainly a confidence booster for her while simultaneously justifying to course officials the necessity for  having an ambulance close by for when I arrive towards the end of the pack.

Val also loves going to yoga with her supremely awesome friend Denise and joining the local moms for a Tuesday “coffee club” which is obviously a secret women’s society.  The Dads don’t know what really happens on Tuesdays and we have made a collective decision to just not ask.  Instead, we have “coaches meetings” at the Spot.  Touché.    

Val took Ava & Zoe to the Museum of Science for an overnight stay with the Girl Scouts this year which was a huge hit with the girls.  They slept in the museum. On the floor.  With hundreds of kids and snoring moms. #motheroftheyear

For me, 2015 was a wonderful year filled with meeting new friends, curating old friendships, and finding ways to deal with the often debilitating stresses of life and parenthood.  We spent a great deal of time together at Crane Beach that is simply the kids’ favorite place on Earth.  It’s where they lose themselves and just laugh and giggle and are truly happy.  And as a parent, is there anything more to want?

I continue to support the GEF and PTA in town and help to coach basketball for Zoe, & Connor.  My office moved from Cambridge to Fenway adding to an already stressful commute although we now have a sick roof deck that overlooks Fenway Park (concerts!).  Unfortunately, I now have to wear glasses to read the flirtatious texts that Val sends me ALL the time or see the old person food on my plate.  In other words, I’m getting old.  And fat. And bald. So I, like many of you I’m sure, in a bitter attempt at defying the inevitable, have begun to take better care of myself.  I want to be around for my kids as long as I possibly can much to their displeasure at bedtime.  So I have recently subjected myself to another round of CrossFit.  But this time, I’m working on getting a discount for the comedic value of my workouts for others to witness.  Seems only fair.

It was a year of firepits and marshmallows, Crane Castle Concerts under the summer skies with glow sticks and ice cream, sleepovers at Nannie & Grandpa Bob’s, taking Griffin to his first concert with Peggie to see U2 at the Garden, amazing summer nights with great friends, sunsets on the beach, our Annual Christmas Party with the Erie 4 Fire Department and Santa, Zac Brown at Fenway, First Night in Portsmouth, SNOW, and the best part of all, Val and I went to Bermuda for 5 days to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.  I can’t begin to describe how amazing and rejuvenating it was not only for our souls and stress levels, but to be reminded, without interruption, just how much I missed those subtle conversations we had on the beach or at a quiet sunset dinner.


2015, albeit with its substantial challenges and stresses, was a year of remembering what’s important in life and then finding the scarce time to make it happen.  Life’s too short not to be happy.  Embrace it.

Happy Holidays to you all.


K, V, A, Z, C, & P

A Moment In Time Coming of Age Dads Parenting Sons

Winter Stars

10298900_10152461131596349_2506598118229131661_nWhen I got home last night, the kids were already in bed. It was about 8:30pm and Val told me that she thought Connor was still awake so I headed upstairs to check and hopefully be able to say good night.

I walked into his darkened room quietly so as to not wake him if he were in fact asleep.

“Hi Daddy.”

“Hi Buddy. Why are you still awake?”

“Sometimes when you aren’t home I have a hard time falling asleep.”

“Well I’m here now so it’s time to hit the sack my little friend.”

He protested mildly with “But it’s so hot in here.”

It was pretty warm outside so his room was a sweatbox. He’s the type of kid who’s always hot even if it’s 62 degrees in his room.

“Why don’t we open the windows for a few minutes and look at the stars?” I offered.

He jumped out of bed and knelt on the floor next to me. We opened the window and rested our crossed arms on the windowsill with our heads poking out into the night sky.

It was very quiet.

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“Look at all those stars Daddy. How many are there?

“A lot. But see that one there? The really bright one? Notice how it doesn’t twinkle? That’s because it’s a planet!! “

“Wow! Really? So I just saw a planet?”

“Yup, you did.”

There was a long pause as we both stared up at the stars from the window of his second story bedroom window. He eventually rested his head against my shoulder.

“Look at that star Daddy!! It’s blinking blue!”

“That’s an airplane Connor.”

He laughed heartily.

“I wish I had a flashlight right now so I could shine it up to the sky. A flashlight that had wings and could fly up to the stars! That would be so cool.”

“That would be cool. When I was a kid, I always had a flashlight next to my bed just like you do, although it didn’t have wings. But when you wake up in the morning you’ll be 6 years old! Maybe you’ll get a new flashlight as a present.

“Grandpa Bob is getting me a wheel barrow.”

“Oh, ok.”

We sat in silence for several minutes staring at the winter sky and Connor’s head resting against my shoulder now with his arm entwined with mine.

“I love you Daddy.”

“I love you too buddy. Happy almost birthday.”


“Tickle Fight!!” he exclaimed.

“Tomorrow buddy. Tomorrow when you’re 6.”

“Is tomorrow a Dude Day?” He asked excitedly.

“No, tomorrow is a school day but it’s also your birthday!!”

“Ok, good night Daddy.”

“Good night Connor. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

A Moment In Time sports

Why Did I Run the Falmouth Road Race?

I am not a runner.

In fact, there was a distinct possibility that I would finish last in the “race” and would require reflective gear for when the sun set and I would be crossing that finish line.  But with a little encouragementFalmouth Road Race - 2014, some oxygen, and with the knowledge that the funds that I helped to raise just might – or WILL – save someone’s life is all I need.


I dare say we all live pretty good lives.  And we all take life for granted to some degree.  Lives can change in an instant and sometimes, sometimes, people are given a new chance at life as a result of organ donation.  And other times that chance never comes because there just aren’t enough to go around.

I am not a runner.  But I ran my heart out trying to do my part because if that was my kid who needed a transplant, I need to know I did everything I could to keep that hope alive.

Maybe it’s our turn to give back.

And thanks for offering to pick me up off the ground at about mile 6 and reminding me of this message.

It wasn’t pretty but I did it.  I did it!

Thanks to you all who supported me.  It means the world to me and to all those waiting for transplant.

A Moment In Time Family Holidays Life Tragic Events

A Modern-Day Love Story

Recently, I sadly lost my grandmother.  Of course losing someone you love is difficult and tragic but the strongest emotions I felt were not of sadness and loss but rather of appreciation and gratitude.  In fact, it was rather a time to to celebrate her life and the family she created with my grandfather.  She was an amazing woman and, well, her story is a modern-day love story to be shouted from the rooftops near and far as we all could learn a thing or two.

I was asked to write and share a eulogy at her funeral.  The priest later asked for a copy so that he could share it with newly engaged couples as to him, it represented the epitome of how to love and the importance of being a ‘family.’

So for what it’s worth, I wanted to share it with you as well and hope that it reminds you, in some tangible way, to always remember that family is everything – including that crazy aunt of yours.

Whenever we lose someone who has had such a significant impact on our lives, we of course, grieve and mourn that irreplaceable loss.  But when I think of Nana, I can’t help but realize just how amazing this story is – the story of her life.

She was born in Nova Scotia but grew up in Everett.  Eventually she settled here in Melrose where she has lived since 1951.  She met my grandfather shortly after high school and they have been together ever since – for more than 71 years.

I don’t know what it takes to make a relationship like that work so incredibly well and for so many years, but I do know that the love they shared was real, it was tangible, it was infectious, and it was the epitome of the modern day love story.

Nana loved to swim at the Y, bowl, and spend time with her two best friends – her sisters Clara and Anita.  I never had the chance to bowl with her but I heard she was a force with which to be reckoned.  In particular, she loved to go on long walks exploring the nooks and crannies of Boston with her sister Clara.

She loved her friends and her family but most of all, she cherished her one true love, my grandfather.

They raised 11 amazing children: Pam, Paul, Charlie, Peter, Tommy, Pat, Chris, Maryellen, Peggy, Jimmy, and Johnny.  Some of them left us far too soon, boldly reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of living for today.

I often think about what that must have been like growing up with that many siblings and who got the shower first, or who shared a room with whom.  I myself have 3 young children at home and can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have lived in a house with 11 of the short people.  But somehow, I’ve been told, Nana was able to keep the peace – relatively speaking I’m sure.

I have vivid memories of the house up on the hill with the 862 steps from the street.  At least, as a kid, it seemed like that many.  And I always seemed to be the one that had to run down to the car to get something!  But I didn’t care.  It was in that house on the hill on East Wyoming where all the holidays took place and where many of our precious collective memories were born.

All the kids were there.  All the cousins were there.  Beevo was there.  Grampa was there.  And Nana was there concocting those delectable aromas from the kitchen – the gravy, the meatballs, the desserts.  I can almost smell them now.

When the kids were older and moved out on their own, Nana & Grampa moved to a smaller house on Orris Street.  And then some of the kids moved back in but that’s a story for another time.  They made it their new home, their new castle, and again, the de-facto meeting place for all holidays and family events.

Nana and Grampa would often sit together, always together, perched up on the back porch, a king with his queen, and proudly watch the relentless stream of kids below running through the yard, rolling in the grass, splashing in the pool, and occasionally stepping on a flower much to the chagrin of my grandfather.  But Nana always just smiled and basked in the joy of what she held so close to her heart: her family.

She would greet us with that smile and wrap her arm around our chests with that quiet but assertive demeanor that made you feel safe and always feel welcome.

And she offered us food because that’s what grandmothers do.

Nana dedicated her life to her family.  All of us.  Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, anniversary, and Thanksgiving we gathered because family was everything to her.  She understood that, and taught us the same.  It’s now up to us to keep that spirit alive.

This is her love story and she has shown us how to live exceptionally:

To have fallen in love with the love of your life and have lived that dream together for over 71 years.

To have 11 amazing children who stood by your side and never forgot the importance of being a family.

To have been blessed with 21 grandchildren and to have loved them the exceptional way you did.

To leave behind a legacy of 17 great-grandchildren who will no doubt treasure the stories and lessons of your life as they begin their own.

And most importantly, to amass the most impressive collection of those short Hilltop martini glasses this side of Melrose.

We are the lucky ones; the ones with which you shared your friendship, compassion, acceptance, and love.  And we are forever grateful for having you in our lives.

Of course, we will miss you.

But today, we celebrate all that is you.

Well done, Nana.

Well done.