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Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes Dad






The Napkin Notes Blog

Dogs never die

WGarth Callaghan

Dogs never die. They don’t know how to. They get tired, and very old, and their bones hurt. Of course they don’t die. If they did they would not want to always go for a walk, even long after their old bones say: 'No, no, not a good idea. Let's not go for a walk.' Nope, dogs always want to go for a walk. They might get one step before their aging tendons collapse them into a heap on the floor, but that's what dogs are. They walk.

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My dear Noel

WGarth Callaghan

Noel and I didn't have a special relationship in the beginning. I didn't really want another dog when she arrived in our home. She was actually afraid of me. We could tell that she had had a hard life before coming to our home. She was severely underweight and malnourished. Much of her fur was missing and she had scabs over her body. She had recently birthed puppies. And she was in a shelter which euthanized dogs after 60 days. She had a lot of quirks: she didn't like to go into rooms if the ceiling fan or television were turned on. Even up until the time of her death she avoided our central hallway like it was a lava floor. 

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The Throwaway Toy Lightsaber

WGarth Callaghan

My toy lightsaber has been in the backseat of my truck for more than a few weeks. I have been slowly purging unwanted items since the summer. Some things are thrown away, but a few things are earmarked for donation. The lightsaber was in great condition, but it was only a toy. I never used it. I have two really nice lightsabers I use for events. I didn't want or need a cheap third.

I was dressing and gathering my gear to go hand out toys at the Children's Museum celebrating RVA Different Abilities Day / International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an event organized by Project: Just Like You.

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The Promise

WGarth Callaghan

Four years ago I made a promise, and the direction of my life would change. More importantly, Emma would know how much I loved and supported her, even if I wasn't able to be here.

I had just been diagnosed with cancer for my 3rd time (a 4th was coming up, but I didn't know that.). My doctors started to talk...

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WGarth Callaghan


But having a good attitude about cancer? It was a test. Who wanted to have that word thrown at them at 42? Let alone to tell their 12-year-old daughter what was going on.
A few days after my diagnosis, I knew it was time to tell Emma what was going on. I didn’t know how much she knew about cancer or if I should even use that word. I wanted to spin this in a positive way, and make sure that I had the right attitude about it, so I could keep her from being too scared. I kept reminding myself we really didn’t know what we were dealing with yet. Keep it vague and she’ll never know what deeply this scared the shit out of me.
Lissa and I discussed for hours how to best have this conversation. Should we be together, or should I do it on my own? Do we keep it from her? But I knew she could sense something was going on. I felt, in the end, that it would be better to explain to her as best we could, rather than have her feel left out and confused.
I couldn’t help but think back to when I’d told her about Lucy. As I’d guessed when she was a baby, Lucy passed away when Emma was 8. While it was definitely a conversation I didn’t look forward to, when I’d thought about it before, I hadn’t taken into account how devastated I would be. I was just thinking about Emma. But when Lucy died? Wow. I was a basket case.
Lucy was the first dog I ever had. I never grew up with animals, and so when Lissa broached the idea of adopting a dog, I was reluctant. I didn’t really know what this relationship would entail.
We visited several area pet rescues without any progress. I knew what I didn’t want in a dog, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted.  And then, one day, we arrived and I saw Lucy. I don’t know how to describe it except that I knew the moment I saw her that she was the dog for me. She was a German-Shepherd-Rottweiler mix. An enthusiastic puppy. Every time we took her to the vet, he would look at her paws and say, “Oh, she’s going to be a big dog, probably 40 pounds.” But each subsequent visit, he would add another 10 pounds. Lucy topped out at 100 lbs.
After mellowing out after her puppy years, Lucy was the perfect dog. She was well behaved and never even needed a leash when I walked her. If I stopped, if she was ahead of me, she’d turn around and come sit by my side. She hated strangers and had a vicious bark, but if you crossed the threshold of our house, she was your best friend.
She was my dog. She always wanted to be next to me. I didn’t realize how much a dog could give you. The amount of joy they express when you come in the door whether it’s been 5 minutes or 5 days.
And Lucy and Emma? They were truly sisters. Lucy was so patient with Emma as she grew up, got bigger, and wanted Lucy to be her playmate. There was one Christmas morning in particular that Emma received a toy hair styling kit for Christmas. I walked into the living room with a cup of coffee to see my massive, 100 lb. dog patiently getting her fur blow-dried and curled with the pretend tools.
When the summer of 2010 rolled around, and Lucy was 15, she started to slide downhill. Sleeping more, eating less, having accidents in the house. We knew the time was coming.
That August I attended a Star Wars convention with my 15-year-old nephew in Florida. We were gone 5 days and when I got home, Lissa approached me as I was unpacking my bags, still on a high from my experience. She sat down on the bed.
“I didn’t want to ruin your time but things aren’t going well with Lucy.”
I immediately stopped what I was doing and listened to Lissa talk about the vet visit and that Lucy was dealing with liver failure.
“What did he say?” I asked. “Is there anything we can do?”
Lissa shook her head, her eyes filling with tears. “We could spend thousands of dollars on surgery but it would buy us a few months at most.”
I sat there, looking at my hands. I hated that it had come to this. But I knew, I just wanted to help Lucy. If she was so uncomfortable, we needed to do this now.
I went to the vet that afternoon and said goodbye to Lucy.
Emma was in school and while I knew that it would be hard to explain that Lucy was just gone, I didn’t want her to have to say goodbye. In so many ways, I thought that would make things even harder.
Then it was the moment I had been dreading for 8 years. I had to sit down with my daughter and explain that Lucy wasn’t here anymore. I had to break my daughter’s heart, when mine already felt shattered into a million pieces.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
Emma was now 12, truly growing into a young woman. She’d been exposed to the heartbreak of life more that I wanted.  Just a few months before my diagnosis, my dad had unexpectedly passed away. He’d gone in for a biopsy to make sure he didn’t have lung cancer, and a couple days later, his lung collapsed, he went into a coma and never woke up. Ironically, the biopsy came back clear. But it was too late. Pops was gone.
It hadn’t been easy sharing the news with Emma. But her grandfather was old. She’d had friends who didn’t have living grandparents and knew that it was something that happened. But a parent being sick? Did she know the word cancer? I knew that she would probably grasp more than I expected. I just needed to focus on the facts.
I sat down with Emma. I slowly broached my illness. I probably had cancer. I would have to have surgery. If everything went well, it would be cut out and that would be it. 
I definitely minimized my fears. She cried. I held onto her tightly. I told her it would be alright, knowing it might not be the truth.  
In the days that followed, I could hardly look at Emma, fearing for her potential loss. Yes, I was scared by the diagnosis and waiting to see what our treatment plan would be. But mainly I just kept thinking about Emma. About how young she was. Of how difficult it would be for her to grow up without a father. Of how much I would miss if I couldn’t beat this.
I consider myself a fairly even-keel person. It takes a lot for me to visibly show emotion. But I found myself standing the shower, sobs wracking my body. We were still waiting to learn exactly what we were dealing with.  The diagnosis was vague without a lot of positive options. All I kept thinking was that I could die within a year.  I hadn’t yet had a chance to make a difference in the world with the exception of my family. Was that enough? I didn’t know.  
I tried to remember all the quotes I’d written to Emma over the years, look through my list of favorite sayings. How could I dance in this rainstorm? How could I see a glimmer of light so as to see a rainbow, something I would never have seen if the rain wasn’t there? But I couldn’t find a glimmer of light. Anywhere.
Napkin Notes Available on Amazon:

Notas de amor 22.11.2016:

Digging Deep

WGarth Callaghan


I stared at the computer screen in front of me. How did this happen to me? I am only 42! 22 years younger than the average age of diagnosis! And the tumor that they’d discovered in me? 13 cm at its largest point. Which meant, that if it was growing at the average growth rate, I had had it growing inside me since I was 29. Essentially ever since I had become a father, I had had a ticking time bomb inside of me.
I continued to read. Kidney cancer is notoriously tough to defeat and even when everyone thinks it’s defeated, it tends to show back up years later. Kidney cancer doesn’t really respond to chemo or radiation. How on earth was I supposed to win this battle?
I didn’t want to feel discouraged. I knew, going in to my next doctor’s appointment on Monday, when they would do a number of scans to figure out exactly what we were dealing with and our treatment plan, that I needed to feel like a warrior. I wanted to be the best and most aggressive patient known. No treatment would be off the table. I would jump in to this crazy phase of my life and attack.
I am a self-described geek for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I am not afraid to admit how much I love Star Wars. I spent hours playing with Star Wars toys as a kid and as an adult, I belonged to the Rebel Legion, a costuming group dedicated to charity work while dressed as a Star Wars character. Every time I thought about this battle I was facing, lines from my favorite movie would pop into my head. 
I decided to not only wear only Star Wars t-shirts to each medical appointment, I would tell each member of my medical team why I was doing this. I needed to differentiate myself. Be a person, not just a patient number. I knew how many countless appointments these people had each day. But Garth Callaghan? Oh yeah, he was the Star Wars guy. They would remember me. I would stand out.  I would have brought a lightsaber to my appointments if I thought it would help.
I had a full set of scans on Monday: another CT, an MRI, and a full body bone scan. Lissa and I went to the hospital for the day. I spent the day laying on various tables and staying still. Yet it was exhausting. 
We went home. We had eight days to wait until we’d meet with Dr. Bradford and learn exactly what was going on. It seemed like an eternity. At least, we had Thanksgiving to celebrate to take our minds off things. My mom arrived. We really tried to not let cancer overshadow the holiday. It was already difficult as the first holiday without my dad. Mom wanted to stay past her planned departure so as to be there when we got the results from my tests. But Lissa and I had our anniversary to celebrate right before the next appointment. I was bound and determined to celebrate as if it were my last opportunity. Maybe it was.
Finally, it was time to meet with Dr. Bradford. This time I made sure Lissa was with me. I needed a partner to listen and absorb what was being said. Dr. Bradford introduced himself to Lissa. We discussed the situation and then the scan results. My bone scan was clear. The cancer hadn't spread to my bones. The MRI indicated that the "spread" we had seen on the CT scan was probably not cancer, but a cluster of blood vessels. 
“So this means…” I said, trying to decipher exactly what the doctor was saying. 
“It’s good news,” Dr. Bradford said. “While yes, you have kidney cancer, it doesn’t look like it has spread. So we’ll go in, and try and take it out.”
I looked at Lissa with a tentative smile. I was so excited to learn I ONLY had kidney cancer. We would schedule surgery soon, and if all went well, I would resume a normal life shortly after the surgery. 
As we gathered our things as the appointment wrapped up, I grabbed my bag and pulled out a gift for Dr. Bradford. It was a Star Wars Medical Droid action figure. He looked at it puzzled. I said, “This is the guy who saves the heroes.  It’s your job to save me.”  

Napkin Notes Available on Amazon:

Notas de amor 22.11.2016:

Perspective on My Cancer Fight

WGarth Callaghan

From August 7, 2014

I woke up at 5 AM today. It was dark and too early for me. I usually like that time of the day, but I have gotten used to sleeping past 7 lately. 5 AM was tough.

I had a busy morning scheduled. I had a 6:15 MRI then an 8:10 with my doctor. I drove to the hospital while yawning and remarked to myself how hungry I was. I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink until much later.

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Grit is silent, but strong

WGarth Callaghan

 Writing out 28 extra notes

Writing out 28 extra notes

Grit is usually quiet, but ready to be there when you need it.

Grit is getting up at 5 AM when you’re dog tired.
Grit is not paying attention to the headache.
Grit is just wiping away the nosebleed.
Grit is ignoring nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  
Grit is working through the fatigue and muscle pain.

Grit is handling your side effects to write out 28 napkin notes in the dark of the morning because it’s what you do. You’d never dream of sending your daughter off without notes. You’d never allow your side effects to get the best of you and stop you from writing over and over, until 28 were completed. Grit is ignoring the lump in your throat as you count up 28 notes, one for each day she’ll be gone.

Grit is overlooking the fear of sending your daughter away for four weeks because it will be a wonderful experience for her.

Grit is silent, but strong.


Click here to Donate or learn more:…/show-your-grit-2017/c118743

Show Your Grit

WGarth Callaghan

 Emma and Garth

Emma and Garth

I don’t feel particularly gritty. I’d actually rate myself a 2/7 on the grit scale. In any given week, I might have grit on two of the days. The other five days I just feel average, sometimes well below average. I certainly don’t feel it when I am stuck in the bathroom for no reason except my daily chemo is making my stomach wonky. I don’t feel it when I am waiting in line for blood draws or MRIs. I don’t feel it when I think of how much cancer has impacted my family.

Imagine my surprise when I received this email:

Good Afternoon Garth,

I wanted to reach out to introduce you to the ‘Show Your Grit’ campaign, a national fundraising and awareness initiative from the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF), that may present a meaningful partnership opportunity for you. In case you are not familiar, JWCF is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1985 by John Wayne’s children as a way to honor the memory of their father and the many others like him who have battled cancer. The mission of the foundation is to bring courage, strength, and grit to the fight against cancer by funding programs that improve cancer patients’ outcomes and save lives through research, education, awareness, and support.

They thought I had grit and wanted me to join in on their #showyourgrit campaign this month.


Huh. Me?


OK, I wanted to take stab at this. Yeah, I have been doing daily chemo for 3.5 years now. This has been the longest running, hardest thing I have ever done. I choose each day to swallow those pills, the pills which make me sicker than I have ever felt. It’s a choice and I still do it. Not only do I take them, but I take them with enthusiasm! How gritty is that?

One of my biggest focuses has been how I can raise Emma to become the strong, confident, young woman I know she has inside of her. I hope how I have dealt with the cancer diagnosis and treatment is an example for her. I hope she learns tenacity, perseverance, endurance, bravery... I guess, grit.

And you know the best thing about grit, it lasts for a long time. It sticks around. You don’t have to have it every day. It’s ok to only have grit sometimes because it carries you through to the next day.

Join me in the #showyourgrit campaign. Take a selfie with a cowboy relate item and post it. Better yet, make a donation to the John Wayne Foundation and help fight this darned disease.

Click here to Donate or learn more:

Spring. Renewal. Easter.

WGarth Callaghan


No, my life is much more mundane than that today.
It’s been 10 years since I wandered into the Virginia DMV to renew my license. I just received my notice.
When was the last time you thought about your driver’s license? I generally don’t speed or have a cause show a police officer. I can’t remember the last time I was asked for identification at the ABC Store or a restaurant. I only give it a thought when I travel. I have a heightened level of apprehension as I pull out my wallet and approach the TSA podium. I don’t resemble the picture on that piece of plastic one bit.  My ticket matches my ID, but my picture doesn’t match my face. Sure, both pictures show a guy wearing glasses, but there’s a 55 pound difference, and if you haven’t noticed, the hair color isn’t the same! I can see the TSA agent trying to assess me. The agent looks at my license, glances up at me, back down to the ticket, and repeats for a bit. I usually lean in and whisper, “Cancer.” Yeah, I am probably on some list somewhere. (Actually, I am. Did you know I was responsible for adding the word ‘lightsaber’ to the TSA database?)
Back to the issue at hand. My Driver’s License is expiring. Where was I in 2007??
Lissa and I had been married for 10 years.
Emma was 7 1/2 and in 2nd grade. She was on swim team and took martial arts lessons. She also
got her ears pierced while I was away for work. (I was NOT happy about that.)
I had just started my own IT support company.
I wasn’t really going to church. I think I acknowledged God, but He wasn’t part of my life.
I marched in my first parade dressed up as a Jedi.
I didn’t own any Star Wars T-Shirts.
My parents visited at Christmastime and played Wii Bowling with Emma.
It’s very likely I already had a tumor growing on my kidney.
I didn’t mean for this to become a virtual time capsule, but here we are. I am not even the same person I was in 2007. Thank goodness!
Our lives have radically changed in the last decade. I am sure your lives have, too. Have you reflected on that? Have you looked back and remembered where you were and how far you’ve come?
When I first started writing this post this was a minor complaint I was processing. My ID doesn’t match my ‘today’ face. I didn’t want to have to go in to the DMV to have a new picture taken. Come on, who wants to experience a multi-hour visit to the DMV and pay extra for an in-person visit just to have their picture refreshed?!?
I’ve been blessed with some memories which didn’t surface nearly as much as they should.
Maybe I need to reflect like this more than once every 10 years.
Many of you have seen my recent post about some of the ‘extra’ side effects I was experiencing and the minor dental crisis I had. I am well on my way to better health. My mouth is healing up. I still have 3 appointments ahead of me. I resumed daily chemo treatment about 10 days ago. Let’s hope for a better March than February!
Lissa, Emma, and I thank you for your continued support!

December 20

WGarth Callaghan


Excerpts from Napkin Notes:

I was quickly learning how much this battle would be a waiting game. I just wanted to get into the hospital and cut the cancer out of me. Instead, we had to wait until right before Christmas. I hated that this was overshadowing what was normally such a joyous time of year. My surgery was scheduled for December 20. Hopefully everything would go well and I would be back at home by the 22nd. It wouldn’t be a normal Christmas, by any means, but at least, God willing, we would be together. I purchased Christmas presents and helped to decorate the house.
One morning I paused as I watched Lissa washing dishes at the kitchen sink. I knew how heavily all of this was weighing on her. She was trying to be strong for everyone, keep the family running, and celebrate the holidays. I could tell her spirits were down. I walked over to her, hugged her tightly, and said, “I’m sorry. You didn’t sign up for this.” She replied, “Yes, I did. It was in the vows.” She didn’t even stop washing the dishes. Facing this would have been so much harder if I didn’t have Lissa by my side.
When surgery day arrived, Lissa of course accompanied me. As I was wheeled out of the pre- op room, someone put heated blankets on me. What a wonderful, cozy, and safe feeling! I was more than ready for this surgery. I was ready for this battle to be over. The surgery took longer than expected. The tumor had built a substantial network of blood vessels to feed it, and that network needed to be cut away. I woke up in the post- op room but was groggy. I was warm, and someone applied a cool washcloth to my forehead and neck. A nurse came by and asked if I had any pain. I apparently replied, as I pointed to Lissa, “Only a pain in my ass.” Thank goodness I was still under the effect of the anesthesia! But more important, I then realized I was still alive. Hopefully this nightmare would be over. I could go back to being a husband, father, son, brother, and employee. I was done being a patient.


WGarth Callaghan

Everyone has hurdles. My dad battled alcoholism for years. I grew up in a small town where many of the fathers spent hours toiling as loggers or farmers. I have a relative that struggles with depression. My mother and her sister haven't spoken in years. (You have to fix that, mom. Maybe by the time this book comes out …) I have cancer.
I’ve long been a believer that it’s not about the hurdle you face but how you overcome it. And that overcoming hurdles can teach you more than a flat stretch of road. You learn to fight. To go into battle to go after what you want.
The first battle I remember facing was during tryouts for the Port Leyden Baseball Farm Team. Small towns have tryouts. Not everyone gets to play. It's simple logistics as there are but so many uniforms. Players had to survive the cut in order to get one of the coveted positions.
I walked across town, by myself, for the first day of tryouts. I had a new glove and I was ready to play. Most of the boys in town were there, but the coach hadn't arrived. A few of the older guys were smoking. I thought that was weird and I didn't have any desire to smoke. Of course, they were all offering cigarettes to the younger kids. I refused and one of the guys promptly threw a glove into my face. It hurt like hell and I left, embarrassed. I shrugged my shoulders as I walked away. I knew I really wanted to play baseball. But the older guys clearly didn't want me there.
I didn’t even make it back home before I turned around. The big kids weren’t going to get the best of me. I marched back to the ball field and practiced anyway. I practiced every evening until the tryouts. I loved baseball and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I didn't make the team that year.
Although I would make the cut in subsequent years, I don't remember a single thing about those tryouts. Why? Because there wasn't significant adversity. Those later tryouts were unremarkable. I didn't have a battle to fight.
“A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” – Jack Dempsey
Cancer was the biggest hurdle I’d ever faced. As soon as my doctor put the CT scans on the screen, even I, with no medical expertise, recognized there was something very wrong with my scan. I didn’t understand the danger level completely, but “cancer” sent me into DEFCON 1. I was presented with a battlefield in which I was a complete novice. How could I become a remarkable cancer patient?
How could I assist my doctors and help them to save me?
From Napkin Notes, Chapter 2 Copyright 2014 by Garth Callaghan
Napkin Notes Available on Amazon:
Notas de amor 22.11.2016:

Noel - November 5, 2011

WGarth Callaghan

This took place on November 5, 2011.
I lost sight of her again. I was running but she was faster. I had to stay on the path, but she was darting through the trees and the underbrush. I could not keep up. The path was too twisted and uneven. I was running up, down, left and right on the dirt. The afternoon sun was beating down on me through the golden and red leaves. My wife and neighbors were well behind me, but we were all yelling her name. I was doing my best to run ahead but I was already short of breath. I was scared. She hadn't been on her own like this, with so much freedom. I had to keep her within eyesight. 
We were camping, an activity I didn't particularly enjoy. On a hike with our friends, our dog Noel had dashed off in pursuit of something and was nowhere to be seen. We had rescued her less than a year before. Noel had been in a local pet shelter for 59 days. This nearby county shelter was not a "no kill" shelter and after 60 days, the animals were euthanized. She was saved from that fate by F.L.A.G. (For the Love of Animals in Goochland). Noel barely looked like a dog when we met her. She was just fur and bones. The fur that she did have was patchy and sparse. 
Noel had clearly been on her own for some time. She was skittish around most people and appeared to be deathly afraid of me. Lissa and Emma were certain. Noel was the dog that we had to save. 
I didn't want a new dog in our home. Lucy was my dog. I had chosen her and loved my German Shepherd - Rottweiler mix for thirteen years.  Lucy had died just four months before Lissa and Emma ambushed me with rescue dog pictures. I was still grieving and didn't want to have room in my heart for another pet.  
I continued running even though my lungs felt like they might explode. Bailey, the neighbors' Golden Retriever, was keeping up with Noel and I could just see a yellow ball of fur up ahead. All I could hope was that Noel wasn't that far ahead. 
Finally I saw the dogs slow, some smell halting their joy run. I was able to catch up and put the leash back on Noel. I let out a huge sigh of relief, thankful that the rest of our weekend wouldn't be spent wandering the wilderness, hoping to somehow bring Noel home. 
Our neighbors, Mike and Sheryl Bourdeau, had invited us to spend the weekend with them camping. At least it was camping in a cabin and not in tents. I could handle staying in a cabin much easier than sleeping on the ground. We were celebrating Cheryl's birthday and that night Mike had a fantastic dinner of steaks planned. We toasted the birthday girl with red wine and ate gourmet cupcakes. We played games and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. The evening came to a close too quickly. As I was preparing for bed, I needed to use the bathroom. As I stood peeing, I watched in shock. My urine was sangria red. 
I couldn't begin to think what was causing this. There was no pain. There was no other indication that something was wrong with me. 
I commenced freaking out. 
I found Lissa and told her what had happened.  I grabbed my phone and tried to look up potential causes. There was hardly any signal. I stepped out on to the cabin porch, held my phone above my head and tilted it at just the right angle to get some data signal. Blood in your urine was called gross hematuria. I read through potential causes.  At the end of a very scary list were two causes Lissa and I hoped could be the answer: vigorous exercise and an excessive amount of beets. Not only had I been running earlier, trying to catch Noel, an activity that isn't a normal part of my routine, but Cheryl's birthday treats involved a Red Velvet Cupcake from a gourmet shop. Though I never would have guessed, Lissa suggested that the shop might have used concentrated beet juice to color the cupcake. We calmed ourselves down, enough to sleep, hoping that it was a freak occurrence and not something to truly worry about. 
The camping excursion ended without further incident and I was almost unconcerned about what had happened. We headed home and resumed our normal lives, until I saw blood in my urine again the next day. Although I am not one to worry about little things, even I realized I should head in to the doctor to have this checked out.  I made an appointment with my general practitioner, Dr. Morgan. 
To be continued...
From Napkin Notes, Copyright 2014 by Garth Callaghan

Join Us - 21 Days of Thankfulness

WGarth Callaghan

Nov 6 2016 Day 3.png

I have a lot to be thankful for, and so do you. Sure, there are dark clouds in my life. I always say everyone has a little crap in their life. I am no exception. 

But I have so much to be thankful for. Lissa, my wife. Emma, my daughter. Even Noel, our dog, who I know played an instrumental part in my diagnosis. Our family and friends. Our community. Napkin Notes. I could go on and on. 

This year we’re asking you to do something a little different. We’re asking you to think ahead, to plan. Get ready for giving thanks a few weeks earlier than normal. Be purposeful in your thoughts and actions. 

Join us this Thanksgiving as we give thanks for the people in our lives. 

Starting November 4th we will write a note a day until Thanksgiving. 

Follow our guide, choose a napkin or a note card and remember it is the thought that counts.
Write one note a day for 21 days. Easy, right? 

Why We Give Thanks

Because the people in our lives matter.

It is our responsibility to tell them that they do.

I chose a napkin. A simple way to connect with my daughter, Emma, at lunch every day - sharing wisdom, inspiration and encouragement. 

What I did not know is I would be diagnosed with cancer 4 times and how valuable these moments we two would share.

Use the hashtag #21DaysOfThankfulness

Download the easy peasy guide here: 

Join the movement and sign up for our newsletter: 

Step Up

WGarth Callaghan

Emma's Center (She goes to a high school with a special group of classes which focus on Humanities. About 1/2 of her classes are with the same group of students. It's called a "center") had a potluck last week so the parents and teachers could get together. Believe it or not, I am not entirely comfortable with forced social fun. And I wasn't feeling particularly well that night. It wasn't a good combination. 

I was approached by a parent of a freshman. She recognized me and asked, "Are you the Napkin Notes Dad?" I am never very good at these types of things, and I was a bit taken aback at being 'recognized', even in my own community. She commented that she could never do that. I had to assume she was referring to writing a note each day. I didn't get a chance to follow up with her and I regret it. I didn't have a good answer but thought about that interaction all weekend. 

I think this is a fear we all share. None of us, parents, managers and leaders, writers, and especially student, like to look at a blank piece of paper. 

If we were to commit to writing a note each day, what would happen when we failed? What would happen if we missed a day? How would it feel to let your child/employee/publisher down? 

The answer is simple. But I got the answer from something that happened about 20 years ago. 

Circuit City was soliciting a new ad/branding campaign. I was privileged to see a concept video from Chiat Day. The video took us through a brief history of how electronics have impacted our lives, and ended in the future, showing a clear TV hanging in the middle of the room, visible from both sides. I won't go into the full video details, but suffice it to say it was magnificent. One of my coworkers was tearing up in the conference room as the lights came up. 

The CC Executives decided they couldn't go in this direction. They explained, "Our stores are small, dirty, and dark. If we run with the concept commercial, we would disappoint the customers and not meet expectations." The Chiat Day team responded simply. "If you run this campaign, they'll forgive you." 

I've written a note each day for years. We've set the expectation. I have (shock!) missed a day now and then. I've driven to school in order to drop off a note. Lissa has picked up the responsibility when I couldn't get out of bed in time. That's what our family does. 

If I were to really drop the ball one day, yes, Emma would be disappointed. I would certainly expect a comment, possibly with a side of snark. She expects there to be a note, and she would definitely ask what was up with me missing a day.  

However, one day out of two thousand school days she's already received a note, she'd likely forgive me. 

Don't let the fear of striking out stop you from stepping up to the plate. 

Pack. Write. Connect.

36. Drive my truck around and allow Emma to sit in the truck bed

WGarth Callaghan

36. Drive my truck around and allow Emma to sit in the truck bed

Why did I put this on my Bucket List? It seems so trivial, small really. I remember riding around in the back of my dad's truck. It was a different time, a time without seat belts, safety tops on soda cans or even bike helmets. 

Emma has always wanted to ride in the back of the truck, and I knew that Lissa would never let her. Well, a few weeks ago in Nags Head, it happened! We had to take a short, slow drive to the Beach Access point, and everyone agreed this would be the time! 

Here's my Bucket List in full. I am updating it now by crossing off items I've completed!

Pack. Write. Connect. 

An Office Depot Surprise

WGarth Callaghan

Emma and I received the most thoughtful box from Office Depot today. You know I love their Foray pens and use them exclusively for Napkin Note writing. 

They sent us a "care package" with both the pens I love and some new ones to try out! Emma's box included pens, a pencil holder, a pencil pouch, gold re-enforced note paper, a composition book, folders, and a laptop case! 


Even better, there were handwritten letters: 

"Thank you for being such an inspiration for parents & children. Your journey tells an amazing story that so many of us can learn from." 

Double Amazing! 

Emma commented to me, "I don't think they know how much I like office supplies!" Yes, Emma, I think they just might! :-)  

Thank you, Office Depot Team, Rachel, Andrew, and Scott! I'll be trying out the pens first thing tomorrow morning! 

Pack. Write. Connect.

Echo Lake Elementary School Napkin Notes

WGarth Callaghan

What would happen if you gave a school a lot of pens and a whole bunch of napkins? We did just that! The students put their creative hats on and wrote out notes for their parents. They kept this project a secret, and then the parents were given the notes during a special Valentine's Day breakfast. Would you like your school to do something this special? Contact and we'll help you!

PS - We're not "releasing" this video on Facebook or YouTube until later. Enjoy it here exclusively!