My wife Catherine and I recently moved.

I realized I had something I never knew I had.

Thirty-four years ago, I carried my wife in my arms over the threshold in our home.  Thirty-four years ago.  From newlywed days to witnessing our babies go from little girls to young adults.

So many great memories in every inch of every room of our home.

I didn’t think I was ready to ‘downsize.’  What an awful word.  I liked walking through our girls’ bedrooms and still seeing their stuff on the walls and on the shelves.  I liked our backyard.  I liked imagining our kids coming down the steps every Christmas morning.

We put it on the market, it sold in a couple of days, and suddenly ever had and knew – out.

Every night I found myself saying goodbye to our backyard, to our garden of roses that Catherine would till and trim, to the sidewalk where the girls drove their Barbie cars and learned to ride their bikes, to our front lawn where we hosted tons of talent shows with all the kids on the block – and the red swing on the front porch.

We found a condo in town and started lining up our ducks of what we were keeping, and what we were tossing.  We vowed, if we’re going to do this, we weren’t putting anything in storage.

I literally threw out half my stuff.  Half.  Half of the furniture.  Half of my clothes, books.

And the big one… way more than half the boxes in the attic.

The attic was more than an attic.  It held our stories.  Every thing in every box, every framed picture – was a story.

After we gave away almost all of the living room furniture, we split the room in half and brought down everything of the girls from the attic and their rooms.

We invited the girls over, handed them a cocktail and said, “There’s good news and bad news.  We’ve saved all this stuff; your outfits, drawings, dolls, skates — for you.  It’s now yours.  The bad news, whatever’s not gone by Friday at 10 in the morning, it’s getting chucked in that giant green dumpster in front of the house.”

The girls thought we were Mr. and Mrs. Satan. But they went through it, and that Friday, most of it went out the front door and right in the dumpster.

I filled the entire dining room with boxes of all my old stuff.  Grade school stories and pictures, report cards, birthday cards, trophies, you name it.  Boxes of old plaques and diplomas and just stuff and stuff and stuff like that.  How could I throw any of this out? I may as well have been throwing me in the dumpster!

But this little jerk on my shoulder kept asking — what are your kids going to do with all this a week after you’re six feet under?  They’re gonna chuck it all out!

Here’s the crazy thing.  The more I threw stuff in there, the easier it got.  And I started to kind of like throwing it up and over in that thing.  I started to feel lighter.


And we moved in a half-the-size condo – and the oddest thing happened.

It became our home.

A picture here and there on the wall, Catherine’s favorite pieces of furniture, all her knickknacks in the bathroom.  We blinked, and it looked and felt just like us.

And then I found that thing I never knew I had.


I had enough.

The wild thing was that having less – actually opened the door to so much more.  More in my personal life.  More in my career.  More in everything.

All I have to do is look in the eyes of my two girls — and they take me back, every time, to the most beautiful, colorful, emotional scrapbook I could ever dream of having.

All I have to do is hold my wife’s hand, and it hypnotizes me back to kissing her for the first time, falling in love with everything she did, seeing her in that hospital room holding our first baby for the first time.

It sure seems there is so much more to see, and feel, and be – if I have the courage, if I have the will to shape a life that’s just…




— Yours,


Jimmy Dunne



My wife and I have a morning routine.  We make our coffee, I get to eat something that tastes like wood, Catherine toasts up her chocolate croissant — and we sit and watch the news.

Then the adorable anchors tell us today’s ‘breaking news.’

Let’s see what’s today’s wonderful stories were to kick off the lovely day…

“Gas Prices Continue to Soar.”  “Relations between US and China are Increasingly Intense.” “Inflation Climbing to Record Heights.”  “Russia Confirms Anti-Satellite Missile Test.” “Covid Cases up 17% This Week.”  “Woman Arrested for Punching Southwest Airlines Employee.”

That’s fun.

Thanks for the scoop.  That just got me all pumped up for my day ahead.

This isn’t the pep talk we need in the morning.

Here’s my take.

We’re all just trying to make a little bit a difference in the sandbox we play in every day.

Maybe they’re not the biggest sandboxes, but they’re our sandboxes.  And we love all the people in our sandboxes.

And those  ‘breaking news’ items aren’t in our sandboxes.

So I tried something today, just for kicks.  It worked out great.  Might want to give it a try.

Turn it off.

Just turn the damn news off.

The coffee suddenly tasted so much better.  And Catherine was in such a good mood she gave me a corner nibble of her chocolate croissant.

When your car radio starts in on a need-to-know story about some guy in some town in Arkansas that laced meth in three local salad bars?

Turn it off.

When folks at a cocktail party who think they’re the next Rene Descartes and are sweating too much start beating the meter at some end of the political dial?

Turn it off. 

Take you and your happy drink – to the next table.

And when I’m catching the evening news tonight, maybe I’ll see how good that fast-forward button works.

And the newspaper tomorrow?  I’ll read it – but I’ll just skip all the stories with the tagline of “Life as you know it for you and your children is absolutely toast.”

And if we did things like that all day long, I’ll bet life will give us a little prize.

A little bit of time.

Time for us to do something else instead of listening and reading and watching all that.

Maybe time to take a short morning walk with my wife.  Maybe she’ll let me hold her hand on the way back.

Maybe time to stop during the day, close the door in my office and the world, and take a little 15-minute nap.

Maybe time to call my kids and tell them about some little moment from a long time ago that reminds me how extraordinary they are.

And maybe time to look in the mirror and remember how absolutely beautiful…

Our sandbox is.


— Yours,


Jimmy Dunne




Once upon a time…

In an idyllic family town, blanketed between the majesty of the mountains and muses of the warm blue sea – something, one day, remarkable happened.

This is that story…

The town was buzzing.  New stores and restaurants were popping up everywhere.  The schools and the businesses were bustling with life and activity.

Many people of this family town chipped in together to reimagine a wonderful new place – they called it “Veterans Gardens.”  It was a beautiful new place, with five ‘gardens in the park’ to picnic, to read, to take in the quiet and the romance of the day.  A centerpiece were three spectacular courts to play the game of bocce; replacing worn, decades-old picnic tables on a buckled slab of cement.

Veterans Gardens had a lovely flagpole near the entrance with stenciled words on a cylinder at its bottom.  You couldn’t really read it at night.  Who doesn’t love a flag.

The town prepared a fabulous opening day party for their new addition.

One night, a mysterious, unwelcomed, aggressive guest came to the town.  Covid.  A virus so wicked and mischievous that the wonderful people of the town were unknowingly spreading it to their very own friends and family.

It shut down the opening party – it shut down everything in the town.

Jobs.  Restaurants.  Schools.  Vacations.  Stores.  Churches and synagogues.  Movie theatres.  Traveling.  Even holidays were hardly holidays at all.

The town got bitter.  Grizzled.  Negativity sifted up through the soil, permeating and hardening everything.

Mouthpieces of the media and politicians on the far-left and the far-right divided everyone in the town.  It pricked relationships with friends.  Even with family.

The town’s senior citizens (the fastest-growing group in the town) got hit the worst.  They were all stuck in their homes for months and months and months – with nowhere to go and no one to see.  They couldn’t even go to their churches and synagogues.

Some people in town even died.  When they did, their families and friends couldn’t even be by their side.

The long days of a spring, and then a summer, and a fall, and winter slowly chipped away.  The town, and its heart, was chipped away, too.

A long year passed.  The people in the town had enough.  Many of the people took an action to try to run Covid away.  It was working.

Sure enough, the soil began to thaw.  And slowly, so did the people of the town.

The owners of stores and restaurants began to open their doors.  People came out on the sidewalks.

And at the town’s Veterans Gardens?  It patiently waited for its guests. It was announced bocce leagues were starting on their yet-to-be-played-on new courts.

The most remarkable thing happened.

It was the morning of the lunchtime league, and senior citizens arrived one by one at the park. One hundred and sixty from the town; with their spouses, with a friend, and many by themselves — many in their eighties and nineties.

The same thing happened at their Thursday Evening League.  One hundred and thirty more from the town!

When they first arrived, very few knew each other.  Only a few knew the rules or had any idea how to play this game of bocce.

It was a breathtaking smorgasbord of folks from the town – from every neighborhood and every possible financial status, every race, creed, shape, you name it.

Teams were formed, in many cases, with complete strangers – with only the town that connected them.

But like bougainvillea vines, they naturally intertwined – creating the most delightful team bouquets.

And then they realized something they never knew.  They didn’t come to play bocce at all.  They came for something else.

To be touched.

Touched by a team of new friends – that cared about each other.  That rooted for each other.  That really, really liked each other.

They realized they didn’t want to talk about politics, or religion, or world affairs.  They wanted to talk about whether they should go for a left-railer – or set a nice sweet short one down the middle.

They were touched by the kindness.  They were touched by the compliments.  They hugged.  They cuddled next to each other for pics on the benches.

And after a great shot, some even danced.  All by themselves.  With the purest, childlike joy.  They were the most beautiful dances you’ve ever, ever, ever seen.

Seniors, that never knew each other, stayed after to have picnic brunches with their new friends.  Seniors that weren’t able to play — were coming just to watch.  To cheer something on.

And the players?  They got good.  Folks picked up the game and the court strategy at a speed that even Darwin would have been impressed with.

And one night at twilight, as the slight breeze of the ocean’s mist danced against the sweet aromas of the town’s mountain air — the flagpole spoke.

The players came over to look at the flagpole’s cylinder.  It was stunningly lit with a golden hew, and its stenciled words that no one saw before – streamed out on the ground around the flagpole.

The players said the words as they saw them appear.  Family.  Dreams.  Integrity.  Humanity.  Courage.  Heart.  Hope.  Community.

And then, and only then, they knew what they meant.  They knew why they were there.

The words told the story of the town.  Of the best of all of them.  And the best of what they dreamed to be.

And the words told the story of those from the town who came before them to protect those very words.

They thought about themselves.  And their children.  And their children’s children.

In the quiet of that moment, they hoped, as days and years would pass, more might stand here at this spot.

To see, and feel, and know the wonder and beauty of what a town means.



— Yours,


Jimmy Dunne

The Barbershop Chair



I took a walk this morning into town.

I don’t know if I’d call it a walk; I was multi-tasking on my phone, yacking away through the mic in my earbuds while, at the same time, knocking down as many emails as I could on that iphone screen.

I don’t even know if I knew where I was walking.  How I got through crosswalks without even looking up was a miracle.

I walked by the Palisades Barber Shop on Antioch.  I was overdue for a haircut on my phone’s nagging to-do list.

I stepped inside.  One of the town’s favorite Palisadians, owner Joe Almaraz, invited me to put my phone away and hop in his too-comfy chair.

I took a breath as I sunk in that chair and as he wrapped me in a haircut bib.

Joe’s been the barber there for 59 years.  He walks to work everyday from his home in the Palisades.  It’s a ‘family-business,’ where next chairs over are for his daughter-in-law Lucy, Lucy’s husband JR, and Joe’s son Tony.

I’d describe the interior design style of the barber shop as “late sixties.”  Lots of wood paneling.  A flatscreen TV on the wall (that only plays Dodger games) is the only ‘tell’ that Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza isn’t likely to walk in.

While you get a cut in Joe’s chair, you can’t help noticing that every single person that walks by the storefront window smiles and waves to their favorite barber.

You don’t have to tell Joe what kind of cut you want.  He knows.  And you’re not going to see what your head looks like until he’s done and he spins you around to look in his hand mirror.

But when you do look, you always feel a little cleaner.  A little better.  About your head and about your heart.

We covered a lot of ground while Joe snipped away.  I don’t have a lot to cut.  I think he pretends he’s snipping half the time just so we can have a nice chat.

And don’t let his ‘awe-shucks’ air fool you.  He’s had everyone in that chair; from Elon Musk, to Tom Hanks, to Buzz Aldrin, to Vin Scully, to Billy Bob Thornton and every politician and celebrity and big shot in-between.

A theme Joe likes to talk about is that he’s drawn to the ‘good old days.’  Of the Palisades.  Of America.  Of life.  Days of family-owned, ‘mom and pops’ in town.  Days when phones plugged in the wall and when you couldn’t leave a message.  Days when ‘streaming’ had to do with catching a good fish.

And the more Joe talks in that calm, relaxed voice – the deeper you drift back into that bottomless chair and into a hypnotized daze of ‘way back when.’

And then Joe takes off your bib, and up and out you go.  It’s not just the bright lights that smack you when you walk outside – it’s the buzz of the street that snaps you back.

Here’s my take-away.

The world’s moving fast, and you gotta keep up.  You gotta pay attention.  If you don’t, you spin right off the merry-go-round – and there’s nobody there to catch you.

But let’s call it what it is.  The merry-go-round is fun.  It’s exciting.  And I really do love it.  And lots of days, I really don’t want to get off.

But, from now on when I do get off, I’m going to look for a chair.

Maybe on a friend’s front porch who I haven’t seen in a while.  Maybe a stump on a walk up in the canyon.  Maybe in a chair I never knew was even there in my own home.

And when I get up from that chair, I’m gonna look in a mirror.  It might be in the eyes of a friend.  Or in the river on the creek along the trail.  Or in the laughter of my wife.

And who knows who I’ll see in that mirror.  But I’m going to guess I’m gonna feel a little cleaner.  A little better.

About my head – and about my heart.


— Yours,


Jimmy Dunne




I stopped by the home of a fantastic Palisadian couple; Ann and George Smith.  Ann invited me to see her wonderful butterfly garden.

Ann and George are on the back sides of their lives; yet, more than ever, jumping headfirst into so many pools to selflessly make the world a better place.

Ann showed me her milkweed plants where the caterpillars spend their days with all their caterpillar pals checking out the garden looking for more fabulous meals on the leaves.

Life is pretty dandy for a caterpillar.  Great digs.  Great outfits.  Lots of buddies.  Getting fat and happy.

And looking at those caterpillars I was thinking about how, in the second half of their lives, the caterpillars do something absolutely wild.  And daring.  And full of adventure.

They reimagine everything.

The caterpillars create this cocoon for themselves where they go inside and dream.  About whom they want to be for the rest of their lives.  The caterpillars dream about places they’d love to visit.  About how they’d love to lose some weight.  And how they’d love to do something that’s always been on their ‘bucket list’ – they’d love to fly.

Why not?

The caterpillars want to let the world see the very best of who they have the potential to be.  And they know – now’s the time.

And they line up all their ducks to make it happen.

They say goodbye to things they thought they needed – and away they go on a new life adventure.  They drink well.  They travel with their best buds.  They spend time with the love of their life.  They look and feel great – flapping their new-found wings.  They make the world a better place.

All in the autumn of their wonderful lives…

Watching a bunch of butterflies flying around Ann’s garden, I was thinking about so many friends in town who have chosen to be butterflies.

And one thing I know.  Their beauty isn’t in the color of their backs – it’s in the good they do with those wings.

Maybe that’s something I’ll dream about tonight in the lovely cocoon of my home.

Being a butterfly.


— Yours,


Jimmy Dunne

Monet’s Garden


monet’s garden

Like a bird that flies south not even knowing for sure why he’s doing it, every spring around the end of April I hop on plane and head to the SMU campus in Dallas.

I started an event a bunch of years back for the seniors in a fraternity that’s at my daughters’ campus. “Senior Night” has evolved into a wonderful tradition in this house where every year about 40 seniors and their dads, in coat and ties, have a ‘father and son’ graduation a few weeks before the university’s pomp and circumstances.

Every year, it’s the same rhythm. It takes place in a quiet, elegant room in a private Dallas dinner club. Each of the seniors stands up during dinner and make a toast to their best friends, and to their fathers – on who they were, who they are, and where they’re going.

For many of the seniors and dads, it’s wonderfully very emotional.

Every year it’s so interesting to watch these young men (and many of their dads) express things at that moment they may have never said out loud to their friends, fathers, or sons before.

In the ‘cool down’ drink after the event, a senior came up to me thanking me for ‘moderating’ this event and asked a simple question.  He said, “You don’t have a son in this fraternity, and you fly down here to do this for a bunch of strangers?  How come?”

He asked me a real question, and I’m sure I said something brilliant like, “Because you guys are the greatest,” with a shit-eating grin on my face, and probably gave the kid the fraternity grip.

So here I am, sitting on the plane heading back to California, thinking about what the answer should have been.

I think I go there each spring to fill a bit of a hole in my soul. At the time, when I graduated from college at U. of Kentucky, I had no interest in sitting on the 36 yard-line with 6,765 other graduates in rented costumes and listening to somebody I never heard of yakking about how I should reach for my dreams.

So before that was going to happen, I just hopped in my puke-green, rusty-old Mazda GLC with a zillion miles and memories – and drove away.

I drove away from the home of so many incredible buddies that shared such a rich, wild and full ride of college life. I drove away from a girlfriend that taught me about how spectacular it is to love somebody, and for someone to love you back. I drove away from a place that was a bottomless treasure chest of learning that ripped open my mind to the wonders of science, literature, mythology, the behavioral sciences — and the arts.

The gears were shifting down as I went from the hustle of packing up and shoving my life in that clunker car, to backing out of my fraternity house driveway, to passing my university out the car window – and to smelling and tasting and hearing the green grass whistling in the wind under the white picket fences of the Kentucky horse farms.

As the horse farms disappeared and as I merged onto the highway, after a moment – it emotionally hit me.  I didn’t know why I was so overcome, but I knew something was profoundly shifting in my journey.

By the time I drove into my home town eight hours later in La Grange, Illinois, I had cut the umbilical cord from my childhood — and I found myself being swept up in the air of an arctic stream that would be my muse to carry me to the next world of my adventure in California.

Back to the answer to the question the kid asked me.  Why did I get those kids and dads in a room?

I suppose it’s because I didn’t have a definitive moment to let go of my college relationships, and I’m hoping this event opens the door to that for these young men and their dads. I think there’s value in definitively letting go of things; forcing you to stretch out for new branches and see if they can support you – when, often times, you don’t even know those branches were there.

I suppose it’s because I believe saying goodbye to places, and people and experiences are nature’s first steps, mortality’s baby steps, to subtly prepare us for ultimately saying goodbye to life.  Maybe it’s first steps to ultimately letting go of this amazing, rich, fun, painful, exciting, rewarding roller coaster of life we’re so incredibly lucky and blessed to ride.

If we take the time to recognize endings along the way, and if we’re willing to emotionally digest the fragility, pain, and humility in these moments, maybe we’re tasting truths about who we were, who we are, and where we think we’re going.

I recently was a voyeur to watching my father-in-law, that I adored, drift over a few days into a coma – and imagined how, in those last lucid moments, he was handicapping the odds of if there was a God and where he would be about to board a wonderful train –or whether the last stop on this trip is in an urn on a bookcase.

My feeling is that no matter what you’re saying goodbye to – whether it’s an important relationship, an important chapter in your life, or to a tie that’s had its days – on some level, we’re yanked out of the race of the day and slowed down to appreciate how nice the trip has been.

When we say goodbye to a tie, we’re not saying goodbye to the tie.  But to who we were when we wore it.

I’m reminded of standing on the bridge in Monet’s backyard in Giverny, France, and hearing about his perspective on describing what he tried to draw…  He was fascinated with how the rays of light between our eyes and an image are what we actually ‘see’ – and how what we see has little to do with what the image actually ‘is.’

That’s why he said he enjoyed drawing the same images over and over again.

He said he wasn’t trying to capture what the image looked like – but trying to capture the rays of light in the space between his eyes – and the image.

I supposed we do that naturally – when we look at old college pictures, or ties – or urns.

So when that kid looked at me in his coat and tie, and gin and tonic in his hand, and ask me why I do it – I suppose the answer is because I’m trying to draw the rays of light – that look, and smell, and taste and feel very different from what’s going on in the room.


— Yours,


Jimmy Dunne



kaitlyn’s birth

kaitlyn’s birth

The day this girl was born changed everything for me.

I never had any idea about what the love of a child could possibly mean.

I’ll never have the moment back of seeing Catherine’s face with her firstborn in her arms that first day. Of Kaitlyn falling asleep between us in bed.

I’ll never watch her skating with such joy in a competition, or running behind her on her first bike and then letting go.

I’ll never see the look in her eyes when she found out she got into the college of her dreams, or feel her pain over the phone living so far from home in a first job across the country.

Last night, as I closed up the house, I did what I do every night during the Christmas season.

I go up to our Christmas tree — and rub a branch all over my hands to get the smell of Christmas. I do it to stop for just a moment, just a little moment — to take Christmas in.

I saw an ornament that Kaitlyn made many, many moons ago. I thought about that same night heading to the hospital on the eve of her birth.

A child. It is the wonder of life. It is the gift of Christmas.

Music Novella

Thousands of kids and families all around the country are watching this “Music Novella” of The Shepherd’s Story as a part of Virtual Christmas services — all around the country.

Written by Jimmy Dunne, the song version of The Shepherd’s Story was performed by nine incredibly talented kids from LA Country School of the Arts.


La Grange “Treasure Hunt”

La Grange, Illinois made The Shepherd’s Story into a town event!  After there was incredible town buzz all over social media swimming around about a shepherd-looking guy lurking around La Grange for a week, he was discovered on a Ring Doorbell video delivering the ‘first clue’ to the ‘Shepherd’s Treasure Hunt’ to one of his favorite towns.

There was a line around the block trying to get into the first store on the Treasure Hunt — where kids and families went from store to store, getting new clues and encrypting their code!

So much fun…  Great for the town, great for the stores, absolutely great for kids and families.

Here’s a story in “Chicago Tribune Doings.”